Some weeks ago, I wrote about the horrendous traffic jam on the Kasoa-Buduburam stretch of the Accra-Winneba road, Central Region.
If anybody had asked me then I would have said, without hesitation, that it was the worst traffic experience I’ve ever had.
Well, I’ve changed my mind.
To me, that dubious honour of “the worst” now belongs to another place, on the opposite side of Accra: the Miotso route, on the Tema-Aflao highway.
What my family experienced on that road last Saturday, December 8, on our way to the 17th Congregation of the Central University (CU) was beyond horrendous!
Reflecting on what I wrote about that Central Region traffic nightmare, in the issue of August 31, now I feel that I owe Kasoa-Buduburam an apology.
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We set off very early for Miotso, near Dawhenya, on the Accra-Aflao highway.
Miotso is the main campus of the Central University, reportedly established initially as a pastoral training institute by the International Central Gospel Church, under the leadership of Rev Dr Mensa Otabil.
Rev. Otabil, who is the Chancellor and Chairman of the University Council, is often referred to as the CU founder.
Although the CU is known to charge hefty fees, its reputation for quality teaching makes it a popular choice among the private universities.
At the 17th Congregation, more than 1,500 received various undergraduate and graduate degrees.
As indicated above, if the Kasoa traffic congestion I endured in August was terrible, the drive to Miotso was a traffic jam prize-winner!
Right from the Tema Motorway Roundabout, the indications of the developing madness began: a stressfully slow traffic, bumper-to-bumper.
For long stretches, some of the motorists exhibited indiscipline of the highest order, driving on the shoulders of the roads, not only on the right side, but also on the left, thus dangerously facing oncoming cars.
Those of us who were law-abiding, stressed in the correct lane, almost in a panic, wondering if we, too, shouldn’t join in the madness, since it looked like we were even going to miss the Congregation.
Occasionally, official-looking cars sped past with police outriders, sirens blaring, no doubt VIPs who were also going to the Congregation and who must have known about the traffic situation.
And where were the police during the frenzy of indiscipline? Nowhere to be found, of course! It was only after we had survived the snail’s-pace and reached normal traffic movement, that we saw police officers.
I kept wondering how it was that the Central University administration had not foreseen the traffic chaos and made appropriate arrangements to save everybody from that traffic bedlam.
After all, if it was Congregation Number 17, it meant that they had had the benefit of at least 16 such events to arrange and manage, so the traffic issue was not exactly unforeseen.
So why didn’t the University’s administration arrange with the police to manage the traffic right from the Tema Motorway Roundabout?
I found the Congregation arrangements, too, extremely disappointing, notably in view of the fact that this is an institution founded and headed by Rev. Otabil, a man whose very name connotes propriety.
My party of three had great difficulty finding seats in the auditorium and initially were even told by an usher that there were no more seats inside.
On entering the extremely crowded auditorium and seeing two huge screens on either side of the dais, I was relieved, thinking we would be able to see what was happening on the stage projected on the screens.
But I was in for a disappointment.
They turned out to be still picture screens, displaying the somewhat annoying message, ‘Graduation Ceremony’ in big letters – as if we didn’t know why we were there.
The seating was extremely poorly arranged; and evidently there was no raised platform for the graduands to be seen receiving the all-important piece of paper.
The audience heard names being mentioned, but obviously few were able to see what was happening up front.
Also, it appeared that there were as many people seated outside, under giant marquees, as were in the auditorium.
But why should a parent or a guardian, who has sacrificed to help a child or a ward complete university come to the Congregation, many presumably having come all the way from distant places, have to be content with sitting outside? Even if live coverage on screens of what was happening in the hall had been arranged, was that good enough?
There were some bright moments, but the poor arrangements made it difficult to appreciate them. For example, a young woman, Elizabeth Maame Esi Ewudiwa, was easily the star of the congregation: the Overall Best Student (winner of the Chancellor’s Award); Overall Best Female Student; and Best Student in Human Resource Management.
The Miotso experience brought to mind a university congregation I attended in London, UK, yeas ago, notably the fact that everything had been well planned, to the last minor detail.
We had no trouble with seats because, as I recall, the graduands had been given colour-coded tickets for their guests, so on entering the auditorium, we were quickly directed to our seats – and there were enough seats for all inside.
At Miotso, even after the ceremony was over, there was no one to direct the new graduates to the “Reception” written in the programme – and announced – , and which one had assumed had been included in the hefty Congregation Fee of more than GHȼ400.
(At one university, the Congregation Fee is GHȼ300; another charges GHȼ250.)
Anyway, probably not taking any chances about any “reception”, it looked like most people had come with their own lunch.
Soon the university grounds looked like a mammoth picnic, as people unpacked their food and sat down to celebrate their wards’ big day with family and friends.
Personally, I was quite disappointed. I had not expected such poor arrangements from an institution in which Dr Mensa Otabil has a leading role.
Given the great number of graduands, did they all have to graduate at the same time?
Why couldn’t there have been two or even three congregations a year, to avoid the stress and seating hassles?
Wouldn’t that also solve the massive traffic problem?
In summary, Rev Dr Mensa Otabil and the CU administration could, and should, have done much better, especially as it was a 17th Congregation.