Are the city authorities aware that the international media are coming to Accra in their numbers just next week?
I ask because I don’t see any signs that the capital city is being spruced up for the scrutiny of the sharp eyes and tongues of the international media coming to Ghana for World Press Freedom Day 2018. Its theme is: ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’.
The Day is observed annually on May 3, but there are also a number of activities taking place before and after. It’s a great privilege for Ghana to have the honour of hosting this UN/UNESCO event, but the city authorities need to get working – and it’s almost too late!
We’ll be lucky if the colleagues will restrict their reportage to only the conference discussions!
The dirty streets and gutters can be cleaned in a matter of hours; similarly the weeding can be done in no time. But what about structures which need much more time to make them presentable?
Take the issue of monuments, roundabouts and central reservations. Unfortunately, here in Ghana and in Accra, almost all our roundabouts and central reservations have been disgracefully neglected.
And to make matters worse, we have monuments built to honour important personalities in the country’s history but which have no signboards providing information about them.
In our highly polarized country, even the naming of public places and sites, too, has become a ‘political hot potato’!
Anyway, with the coming into office of the Akufo-Addo Government, I had been rooting for the seat of Government to have its original name restored, so the announcement from the presidency last month that it was once again ‘Jubilee House’ was a matter of great satisfaction to me.
In January, last year, I wrote:
“Among the (new Government’s suggested) priorities, the original name given to the presidential office-residence complex should be restored. ‘Golden Jubilee House’, or ‘Jubilee House’, with which it was christened by the Kufuor administration which constructed it, should now adorn its frontage in golden letters ….
“Or, if a reflection of past history and the present is favoured, why not ‘Flagstaff-Golden Jubilee House’? (issue of January 6, 2017, ‘Beyond the euphoria of the new era’).”
Jubilee House was built on the grounds of Flagstaff House constructed by Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Jubilee House, commemorating Ghana’s Golden Jubilee in 2007, was built by President J.A. Kufuor mostly funded with a loan from the Indian Government.
However, when President John Mills and the National Democratic government came into office they changed the name to Flagstaff House, to include the new presidential office and residence complex.
It is only fitting that, as announced by President Nana Akufo-Addo on March 29, the name ‘Jubilee House’ is back and, diplomatically, ‘Flagstaff House’, too, remains as a presidential museum.
There are three national monuments, all in Accra, which have nothing at all indicating who or what they represent.
The first is the roundabout near the ’37 Military Hospital, which reportedly is named after Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, Prime Minister of Ghana’s Second Republic.
The second is the roundabout near the Togo Embassy, at the junction of the road that leads to East Cantonments. It is reportedly named after President Edward Akufo-Addo, the ceremonial President of the Second Republic, and father of President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Indeed, both roundabouts host statues of the personalities they are supposed to have been named after, Dr Busia and Mr Akufo-Addo, but there is nothing there to provide any information about them to the curious.
Earlier this week, scouting around the area, I found both roundabouts in a deplorable state: weeds flourishing, broken fencing; generally unkempt. Are we short of labour to even weed the roundabouts?
Someone had even draped a huge Ghana flag around the Edward Akufo-Addo statue and the middle of its enclosure has evidently become a path for some irreverent pedestrians.
The third memorial of uncertain identity is the roundabout just before the Kotoka International Airport, said to be named after the ‘The Big Six’, revered in Ghana’s history as those who led the fight for the country’s self-determination.
Incredibly, there, too, no signboard and or plaque indicating the role these people have played in Ghana’s history.
Why the muted, seemingly grudging recognition? Why treat them like ‘Unknown Soldiers’?
Even the named and well-known Danquah and Obetsebi Lamptey circles are at present in such a shocking state that one can’t believe they are in the nation’s capital, and at such prominent sites, too!
If we can’t be bothered to take care of the places honouring people of historical importance, why do we construct them? In some countries, these are what are carefully tended to give the locations picture-postcard prettiness.
Not surprisingly it’s apparently not only in Accra that memorials are left in such a shabby state.
As I began to draft this article, by sheer coincidence, a friend forwarded to me, on a social media platform, a photo of a statue in Hohoe, Volta Region, of the first Miss Ghana, Monica Amekoafia. His comment: “But the stalls in the background of Miss Amekoafia’s statue in modern day Hohoe are a pathetic sight, if not despicable, to say the least.”
Indeed, in the photo, what is in the background of the statue looks like a number of dilapidated structures. And as far as I can tell from the photo, it is only the sash on the statue that says ‘Miss Ghana’. If there is a signboard, it is not captured in the photo.
Why does it seem that there is nobody in the government machinery in charge of such national memorial structures?
With the world press coming here next week, Ghana has a huge tourism-selling opportunity, free of charge. But what impressions of Accra’s environment – weeds, unmaintained central reservations and monuments – will the international media be reporting to their readers, listeners and viewers?
So perhaps the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, could take this matter up with the Accra city authorities.
In any case, immediate action is required!
After all, especially in the matter of monuments, what is worth doing, is worth doing well; what is worth celebrating is worth celebrating well!