Frustration, desperation at 58
Curiosity drew me closer to a small crowd that had gathered in front of a roadside shop. As I became part of the crowd, I realised that the centre of attraction was a newly arrived 40-foot container whose contents were being unloaded.
The container was very big with varied items that caught the fancy of those present. There was furniture of different types and for various purposes - for the sitting room, the dining area, the kitchen, the toilet, the porch and the bedrooms. There was also furniture for the office.
Let me quickly say that all these items were second-hand. In other words, they had been used before being shipped to our dear country from wherever they were coming from. Some looked quite good and could even pass for new. Others were totally worn out and could at best be at the refuse dump.
More goods were brought out. This time, glasses of all shapes and sizes meant to hold water and all types of fruit juices and liquor. Then the bowls, plates, spoons, forks and knives, fruit blenders, frying pans and other cooking utensils.
There were electronics and electrical gadgets, such as microwaves, pressing irons, toasters, fridges, radios, video decks that are out of fashion even here, television sets and many more.
Another compartment was opened to spill out its contents of bedsheets, blankets, pillow cases, curtains, towels, pants, brassiere, socks, singlets, sleeping gowns, bathing robes, bathroom slippers, carpets, napkins, perambulators and many other household items that I cannot mention.
It was as if a community somewhere had relocated and the only items they forgot to bring along were the remnants of the last meal and drinks they consumed before embarking on the trip. But who knows, very soon, we shall enjoy leftover salad and spaghetti and wash them down with vintage wine some people got tired of.
The bare truth is that second-hand goods are not new to ours and we are not alone in this business. With the exception of a few privileged persons, including those close to the centre of political power, there is hardly a home in Ghana where one cannot find one second-hand item or another.
Frowning on secondhand goods
Many of us may frown on second-hand goods on the market, forgetting that our vehicle, electric generator, vehicle spare parts, floor tiles, suits and many more are secondhand.
This situation is going to stay with us for a long time or even forever. The phenomenon, however, is going beyond comprehension, with serious psychological implications. Once a people believe that their lives can only revolve around what others have used and discarded, it reduces them to secondhand species and takes away their self-dignity.
It takes away their fighting spirit and determination to move out of a bad situation. "After all, with a little effort, I could buy a secondhand fridge, pressing iron, or furniture, so why overwork myself?" is a likely question many would ask. It also takes away their self-esteem as a people in the eyes of the rest of the world. How do you consider yourself my equal when you thrive on my leftovers?
The second thing is that we may not be able to avoid secondhand items in the foreseeable future. Do we lack the resources to the extent that we cannot avoid the importation of some of the secondhand goods that have found their way onto our markets and into our homes?
If we are so poor and dependent to the extent that our children should wear secondhand shoes and socks to school, sit behind used computers and the few lucky ones go home to watch secondhand TVs, eat from secondhand plates with secondhand cutlery, what would give them pride as Ghanaians?
Ghana at 58
What are they to cherish about a country that has treated them worse than the colonial master, who, while taking away the resources, at least, realised that there must be good roads and railways to areas where the wealth was coming from?
At 58, there is no railway system, no airline to fly the national flag around the globe. We still have an educational system struggling for stability and an infrastructural deficiency that baffles even those outside.
Frustration is setting in but there are people who want to pretend everything is well. Last Saturday, there was a sign of what frustration could force people to do. The journey between Akrade and Juapong and beyond became chaotic and virtually uncontrollable. It began with an announcement that only one of the two ferries operating on the Volta would be on duty.
Out of desperation and the desire to cross the river early, vehicles from the direction of Juapong created their own dual carriageway. This blocked the path of vehicles coming from Accra. Finally, the ferry could not dislodge its cargo of vehicles brought from the Accra end let alone load those from the Juapong end. You could picture the situation.
Why we should allow such an important and strategic bridge to deteriorate to the point of total disrepair before taking a decisive action summarises how we have handled our political independence in the past 58 years.
What is there to celebrate? Maybe the new breed of masters who replaced the colonial masters and who find it fashionable to drive past fast in a long fleet of powerful fuel guzzling vehicles are the only symbols we can show with pride about our nationhood.