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13.12.2003 Feature Article

Letter From The President (XXX): Missing the beauty of Abuja

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Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I am glad to be back home after the summit of Commonwealth Heads of State in beautiful Abuja. You know Abuja is so damn beautiful that it makes the whole of Accra look like one big slum. It was after a similar visit to Abuja sometime back that I got the idea of creating a special ministry for the beautification of the national capital. As I was driven through the city of Abuja, I couldn’t help reviewing the report card of the first Minister for the Beautification of the National Capital, Okanta Otsebetsi. His immodest achievements so far have made me realize that, in the first place, I made a mistake by merging the Beautification and Tourism Ministries and putting the two portfolios in the hands of Okanta. He seems to be enjoying his Tourism functions more than the equally essential Beautification duties. Since his appointment, much of his time has been taken up by visits to tourist sites across the country. It seems to me that he wants to be known as the nation’s best tourist and in his bid to achieve this feat, Okanta has neglected his responsibilities in the national capital. In fact, the last time he said something about his plans for the national capital, he got me very annoyed. He announced at a workshop that he plans to get rid of all ‘trotros’ in the city. I gave him the chastisement of his life for making such a sacrilegious remark, remember? Instead of coming up with other fresh ideas for beautifying the national capita, Okanta has decided to turn a blind eye to state of the capital and now enjoys visiting already-developed tourist sites under the guise of ‘familiarisation tours’. I have also seen him opening restaurants and munching at doughnuts like an abandoned Somali orphan. I am very eager to host an international conference of Heads of State from different parts of the world or some major international sporting tournament before I vacate the Black Star Stool in 2008. At the current rate, I don’t think Otanka will be able to beautify Accra the way I want it to be beautified. I understand that some of his job specifications overlap with some of the functions of the Accra Metropolitan Authority and the Greater Accra Regional Co-ordinating Council. But herein lies the wisdom of my decision to appoint a minister to take charge of the beautification of Accra. I knew that people will insult me and call me all sorts of names for giving people jobs which seem to overlap. But I took the bold decision and did what I had to do because I thought that we needed, at least, three pairs of hands and brain cells from three different skulls to make Accra look better than Abuja. Alas, wishes are not horses for beggars to ride. So while my minister in charge of beautifying the national capital busies himself munching at doughnuts like an orphan, the city’s inhabitants are gleefully building at unauthorized places, littering the city ‘by heart’, defacing monuments and doing all sorts of things which make me wish I was staying in Abuja. It doesn’t make sense to me that in the national capital where existing laws are expected to be enforced to the letter, people build (and erect makeshift structures) anywhere, anyhow with impunity but without restraint. You know the issues already and a lot has been said and written about those issues so I won’t bore you by repeating anything. I have a serious beef with Okanta and those who have been barking about their determination to pull down illegally sited and unauthorized buildings without any desire or willingness to bite when the need arises. Almost a year after his appointment as the beautifier of the city, he has not demolished even a single unauthorized building. I get the impression that he is the only one in Accra who does not know the unauthorized buildings in the city are sited. Someone should please inform him that these unauthorized structure are on waterways and in some of the prime locations in the city. I am going to write Okanta a memo, instructing him to put an immediate end to his tourist adventures and get down to the business of beautifying the national capital. For starters, he should sit down with the Accra Mayor and the Regional Ministers for a discussion on how best to beautify the city. The main agenda for their meeting will be to draw up a concerted strategy for beautifying the city. A one-off meeting will take care of everything and so I don’t expect them to take more than one sitting allowance for meeting to discuss a strategy for beautifying Accra. As I have said everything is pretty straight forward. First, the garbage in the city should be cleared and wisely disposed of. People will have to be stopped from littering the city as if banana peels and useless plastic carrier bag are decorative material. There is a simple yet effective way of stopping people from littering. Those caught littering the city should have a truckload of ‘borla’ material dumped at his/doorstep. Anyone who spends a few days clearing a truckload of ‘borla’ from his/her doorstep should develop the sense not to litter the city. Secondly, the beautifier of the city should go to work demolishing all unauthorized structures, wherever they may be, whoever they belong to – no mercy for anyone. If I was Okanta, I would relish this job better than touring tourist sites. Special attention should be paid to the numerous kiosks which have sprung up in the city. They come in different shapes, colours and sizes. They even serve different purposes. But all these kiosks have one thing in common – they are very unsightly. I will like to see Okanta and his men take a firm decision on where and how kiosks should be sited and for what purpose. All those kiosks which are wrongfully sited should be broken down and the wooden remains used as firewood for the preparation of Ga kenkey. Proceeds from the sale of this firewood should go straight into the GETfund. Finally, Okanta and his men should realize that but for politics, they would never have had anything to do with beautifying the city. After all, they are not landscapers or architects. So if by political chance they have been appointed to do something they have no professional training to do, the wisest thing for them to do is to consult (like Mallam Issa did). People have ideas on how best to beautify the city. Consult them on how best to develop what they call ‘the built environment’. Then Accra will almost be like Abuja – a true national capital. When Accra becomes as beautiful as Abuja one of my major attractions for traveling outside the country would have been removed once and for all. Yours in need of beautification, J. A. Fukuor


J. A. Fukuor
J. A. Fukuor, © 2003

The author has 204 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JAFukuor

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