Who is to blame for this scandalous negligence?

BY: Ajoa Yeboah Afari

Interestingly, Monday, May 25, was a double celebration: a holiday to mark the end of Ramadan, the Eid-ul-Fitr, and coincidentally, also the observance of African Union Day, ‘Africa Day’. 

Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963 (now the African Union). The Day is observed as a public holiday in many member states of the AU.

However, evidently because of the coronavirus pandemic, the COVID-19, what would have been perhaps a memorable double celebration passed off rather quietly.

When I happened to pass through the Ridge area of Accra last Friday and on Tuesday this week, the sorry state of the African Union Roundabout caught my attention. Its unkempt appearance would probably be all the more conspicuous to informed observers, this being the week of the AU commemoration.  

Wasn’t it just last December when that roundabout, was being hailed as a ‘kra bԑhwԑ’ (a must see) attraction in the capital?

(For the record, it is also known as the African Liberation Roundabout. But maybe its actual name is the African Unity Roundabout, because the monument nearby is known as the African Unity Monument. Inexplicably, some also call it the ‘Ridge Roundabout’, although that should probably be the name for the traffic circle nearer the Ridge Hospital!)
Anyway, for now, never mind the name confusion. Hopefully, it will be settled some day!

Passing through that location, what I saw could be likened to a ‘Cinderella-after-midnight’ happening, the place shorn of all its decorations and beauty – just like the fairy tale Cinderella whose finery disappeared after midnight!

Was this the same place where as part of their Christmas 2019 treat parents were bringing their children to see the awesome ‘Christmas Wonderland’ it had been turned into?  

It was noticeably overgrown even from a distance, with weeds sprouting unchecked. And, not surprisingly, the nearby African Union Monument was in an equally shocking state.
So who is responsible for their care?

Of course, I wasn’t expecting the place to be festooned with Christmas decorations, in this month of May. But what about the use of a lawn mower or even a machete to cut the grass and give the two spots a reasonably cared-for look? Is arranging weeding with machete, too, beyond whichever body has responsibility for them?  

Why this total neglect of such important locations, part of the capital’s Ceremonial Route; why this scandalous neglect?

Does the virus outbreak mean that everything comes to a stop, including maintenance of public venues, monuments and structures? What are city authorities doing about such public areas?

Furthermore, what has happened to the ‘spruce up Accra’ collaborations? Probably a well-kept environment could help lift spirits in this pandemic-induced despondency.

Where are you, Light up Accra team: notably Ms Afi Amoro, CEO of Jandel Limited and Accra Mayor Mohammed Adjei Sowah?

Regrettable that ‘an after Christmas component’ was not included in the ‘Light up Accra’ initiative launched as part of the Christmas festivities. It was that campaign that saw the African Union Roundabout, in particular, becoming a true kra bԑhwԑ.

Anyhow, conceivably the situation is only a reflection of the lamentable absence of a maintenance culture which Ghana can’t seem able to change.

Another, related matter of considerable concern is the absence of interest in, and respect for, historical monuments, buildings and structures. This is why I was in absolute agreement with the editorial comment of the Daily Guide of last Saturday, May 23. The paper warned that Accra is losing its important historical relics.

It, therefore, called for “a joint restoration action by the Museums and Monuments Board, the Tourist Authority and the local authorities in Accra to identify these structures for the purpose of protecting and preserving them.”

The Daily Guide concluded: “Losing these relics and structures is tantamount to losing our history, a people without a past.”

Similarly, surely it should be a serious problem to the Government that a maintenance culture continues to be the bane of the country. Why do we spend money, taxpayers’ money, on structures which nobody seems to be responsible for?   And why such scant respect for old, historic buildings?

In other countries, not only are public venues highly valued and meticulously preserved. They also take pride in showcasing even private residences where the famous once lived.

As I suggested in this column a couple of years ago, an idea that Ghana could borrow from Europe is the institution of a commemorative or memorial wall plaques scheme to honour  deserving Ghanaians.  

“London has a ‘Blue Plaques Scheme’. Walking round the city, one comes across such memorial plaques on buildings. Where a famous or well-known personality used to live, there will be a simple plaque against a blue background with an inscription such as: ‘So-and-so was born in a house that stood on this site’; or, ‘So-and-so, the famous …. lived in this house’.  

“Sadly, in Ghana, most of our historic buildings have been left in a bad state or even pulled down. (Column of March 10, 2017 ‘Honouring the contributions of heroes and heroines’).”

Yet, preservation of historical sites and monuments is important because they, too, are part of our story. We need to cherish the signposts of our past because the past is the foundation on which the future is built.  

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