“Work where you work and play where you play; That is the way to be cheerful and gay; All that you do, do with your mind; Things done by halves are never done right.” I hope I got it all right, but if I didn't please forgive me because it was one of the 'recitations' I learnt in my primary school days in the 50s.
Of course, at that time I didn't understand a word of it but looking back now, I see how much gratitude I owe my class one teacher for having forced me to 'chew' it by heart. It's only when I grew up that I realised how beneficial all these 'recitations' and poems we learnt in the primary school was for those of us who had our early education in the rural areas. Without them it would have been difficult for many of us to speak any English at all. Decades later, and with a clearer understanding now of what I used to recite like a parrot I've also come to appreciate the sense in what I learnt as a child and its relevance to developments going on in Ghana.
Looking at all the development projects that have been initiated in Ghana over the years and especially in the past two decades there can be no doubt that we should have gone much further than we have if we had paid more attention to doing what we've been doing well instead of doing them 'by halves'. After all, it's only by building on what we already have that we shall move forward not when we always have to start afresh. Evidence that almost 50 years after Independence we are still struggling to rebuild some of what we've once had instead of improving upon them is clear for all to see. Many structures and projects that have been built since Independence (e.g. Star and Meridian Hotels) have collapsed or have been demolished even when 15th Century structures (e.g. the Castles) are still standing tall.
Unfortunately, as a people, we appear to have this negative attitude which makes us accept mediocrity as being normal. This may be explained, for example, in a saying like “pintin biara ye omee” which may be loosely translated as “once the stomach is full it doesn't matter what was used to fill it”. In a society where such thoughts are accepted as normal you risk being labelled “too known” if you are seen to be finding faults with obviously poorly executed jobs. So, for example, a painter you have contracted to paint only your wall ends up spilling paint on your floor or furniture but he doesn't see he has done anything wrong. If you don't insist on it, he will leave without cleaning the mess created by his inefficiency. If you complain, you are “too known”.
The Airport Car Park
At the entrance of the arrival hall of Kotoka International Airport you are greeted with the message: “Welcome to Ghana, The Gateway to Africa”. Since renovation works at the Airport are still on-going, perhaps it may not be fair yet to state outright that referring to it as the “Gateway to Africa” is a bit too self-glorifying. But whereas it is an incontestable fact that we are the first Black African country to have achieved Independence I think we need to wait till all the renovation works are complete before we convince ourselves that our airport indeed qualifies to be labelled the “Gateway to Africa”.
Among the improvements at the airport so far is the construction of an additional car park where you now take a ticket and the gate automatically opens. But perhaps typical of the way we do our things we appear to have forgotten that not only vehicles, but also airport trolleys and suitcases make use of an airport car park. The end result is that on arrival at the Airport you may use a trolley to carry your luggage out but you will still require the assistance of “goro boys” to get them to the car park.
Our Road Design
In one of my earlier articles in reaction to the announcement that four major highways linking Accra and other parts of the country were going to be constructed I among other concerns, expressed the hope that we would make a clear departure from the practice whereby our highways also serve as town streets by locating them outside the towns and villages. From what I saw of the completed Achimota-Nsawam dual carriage, which is part of the Accra-Kumasi highway, I couldn't have been more disappointed in this particular regard.
The road surface and its markings may be as good as you'll find on any motorway anywhere. But the impression one gets of this stretch of a highway linking the two most important cities, and consequently the busiest road in the country, is that Nsawam is part of Accra and the road is only a part of the city's road network. I say this because I believe it's only on an intra-city dual carriage that there are zebra crossings and where vehicles can make a U-turn from one direction into the other. In other words, in the normal day-to-day activities of school children and mothers carrying loads on their head and babies on their back they have to cross a major dual-carriage highway. Meanwhile, we live in a country where the average driver does not know that at a zebra crossing it is the pedestrian who has priority! So just how many people should be killed on our highways before we realise that it is a bad policy to continue to use them as town and village roads? I can imagine that after a few people have died on the road someone, somewhere would consider it worthwhile to construct road ramps on it.
Tetteh Quarshie Interchange
No doubt the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange which was recently opened to traffic to replace what used to be the largest roundabout I had ever known is one of the most significant road projects executed in Ghana in recent times. Its usefulness on easing the traffic congestion that used to be at the roundabout is clear for all to see. It is disappointing, however, that we could not take advantage of such a huge project to completely modernise that part of Accra. It is as if all that we set out to do was to construct a road network so that was all we did. I wonder if the Ministry of Tourism & Modernisation of the Capital City and Department of Parks & Gardens were involved in any way with the execution of the project. If they were I would like to know what their input was. Some of the beautiful landmarks of many cities I know are in the form of bridges, squares and road intersections so I see no reason why the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange could not have been used to transform the project site into an especially attractive part of our capital city.
The Sunyani Cocoa House
By Brong-Ahafo standards, the six-story Sunyani Cocoa House is a “skyscraper”, a monument and a landmark since there's no other building like it in the region. Situated at a vantage location of the township it offers office accommodation to a whole lot of businesses in the regional capital. It was commissioned about 10 years ago by ex-President Rawlings at a time when the two lifts for the building – a first for the region – were still packed in packing cases.
My initial observation when I first entered the building even before its commissioning was the crude finishing of the wooden handrail along the staircase under which the rough edges of huge bolts were clearly visible. Ten years later, tiles on sections of the outside walls have begun peeling off thus giving the building an unsightly look. Sections of the staircase look more worn out than that of buildings I know that are 50 years and older. Perhaps we're waiting till the building itself shows signs that it is collapsing before we pay attention to it. So now let's compare the condition of the barely 10-year old Sunyani Cocoa House to centuries old monuments and landmarks of other countries and we may perhaps begin to appreciate what I'm talking about. One would have thought that since we know we aren't going to maintain them properly we would at least build them to last.
New Stadia for Can 2008
In our preparation to host the CAN 2008 two completely new stadia are being built in addition to the Accra and Kumasi stadia which are being renovated and expanded. It is gratifying to note that work is said to be progressing steadily on all the sites. According to a GNA report of 1st September and published on Ghanaweb, 80% of construction work on the Tamale stadium has so far been completed and the whole project is expected to be completed by October 2007. But there was something in this report that really saddened me. Briefing the Northern Regional Minister of progress on the project, Mr Mark Chen, the Project Coordinator, is quoted as saying that “work on a car parking facility for the stadium was not included as part of their construction work and the project for construction was therefore left for the government of Ghana to give the order”.
Does it sound real that with 80% of construction works on a 21,000-seater stadium completed we have no idea when or even whether a parking facility is to be constructed? Yes, in typical fashion we seem to be thinking that all we need is a stadium so when we have one then we are finished. So we may end up completing the project before we realise that we do not have adequate space for a car park. What happens for example, if after completing the construction of the stadium we realise that there are no funds left for a car park? Or what if in the process of constructing a car park later we destroy a few cables and pipes connecting the stadium? If the idea of a car park didn't come as an afterthought why was its contract not awarded together with that of the stadium? In other places including where stadia are even privately owned, management of public utility services such would be involved in their construction to ensure that once the project is finished it is indeed finished.
After hearing so much about the Kintampo Waterfalls I made it a point to visit the area during my last visit in July. I got there before I realised that there are in fact two separate waterfalls near Kintampo. The more popular one is off the main road leading to the North and there is a second one some distance away in a different direction. Both are beautiful and real potential tourist magnets. There was a lady in a booth to whom we paid entrance fees. So it was her we asked to show us where we could urinate before reaching the wet area. When she smiled shyly and said “sorry, Madam (addressing my wife) we don't have a toilet here” I could not help but ask the young lady “so where do you yourself go to toilet since you work here?” So there we were at one of the most advertised and indeed most attractive tourist sites in Ghana and there was not even a curtain behind which to urinate. In the light of this, therefore, I wish to commend the authorities of Buabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary for providing decent toilet facilities.
If we believe it is enough to invite the whole world to come and visit the beautiful sites we have in Ghana but not do anything to provide for their most basic needs then I don't think we can claim to be serious in our desire to promote tourism in the country.
We better do well anything we decide to do or we don't do it at all because I know that things done by halves are never done right!
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