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24.08.2005 Feature Article

Papa Samo Goes Home: Part IV

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…..For everything you do in this world, do it big. Think big, gamble big, and lose big….if you have to-Loraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun) So far, the Ghana that I know of remains basically the same. However, the people themselves have started thinking big. People are thinking big in terms investment, home building, home purchase, and business concepts in general. Accra for instance has been developed in such a way that you might not see any remarkable demarcation between the capital city and, say, Nsawam. Buildings have sprung up everywhere, and the government seem to be “doing” the roads, yet the red dirt on the asphalt-less surfaces are creating so much dust in the air. This in turn has caused a lot of allergies, catarrhs, and headaches. Thanks to the A/C in my car, I did not have to deal with the dust on the road.

Now, back to the road killers.

As a result of the war in Ivory Coast, and the unrest in Togo, almost all the landlocked francophone countries ship their products through the Tema harbor. This has opened Ghana up to countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The truck drivers of these countries drive lengthy miles to haul goods from the port. One thing is very remarkable with these drivers. They seem to observe the road rules better than their Ghanaian counterparts. The only snag is that, according to the Ghanaian drivers, these drivers can't to drive. When a Ghanaian driver says you can't drive, it means only one thing. You don't speed enough. So while I would have advised our heavy duty vehicle drivers to learn from the Monsieur of Mali, my “expert” driver asked me to just shut up and be patriotic about my country. Any time we ran behind a truck from one of our French neighbors on the road, my “expert” driver would curse, cry, and yell as if the spirit of God was upon him. He even at one time spoke in tongues.

The present government want the rest of the world to know how good HIPC has been to Ghana, so for almost every town, village, or city that we passed by, there was a signboard conspicuously painted on a school or a K.V.I.P building, to remind the world at large, those who care to read, and most importantly, the opposition to know how good and pleasant HIPC has been for our dear little country. The message on those buildings read something like this:

This facility was built by a HIPC fund.

Our roads, unfortunately, could not benefit from the HIPC generosity. There were potholes, some of which were the size of lake Bosomtwi; others were like the Volta Lake that could easily drown a whole mid-sized car. There were construction going on all over, but my only reservation was that, these roads that are being constructed are still the same old one-lane roads that have taken punishment from motorist in Ghana over the years. From my little point of view, we will be better of with at least a double lane road, just like the Accra-Tema motorway, for all roads joining each of the capital cities in Ghana. The roads will last longer, accidents will decrease, and the cost of maintaining cars in Ghana will also decrease. But who am I, a Papa Samo, to make this suggestion? You would think that since we are borrowing all the time, we would just go on for the kill, and get a larger amount of dough to better our roads.

The private sector on the other hand, surprised me the most. These individuals have managed to create wealth in such a way that, I firmly believe that if the “abongo” boys or girls don't show their ugly heads and faces in Ghanaian politics, and the press continue to put our elected “honorables” and “dishonables” on their toes, Ghana will move forward. All we need is that the citizenry will decide after each term whether the incumbent performed well or poorly. The citizens will then re-appoint the incumbent or give them the sack. We should not be deceived to think that a “double-looting”, sorry, a revolution, will in any way move us forward. We need to invest in our people to build the nation instead of those gun toting, trigger happy, and I-hate-the-rich type in our society. The rich always have one thing in mind-to get richer. This same philosophy goes for every one, including businesses, which have coined the word, “To maximize shareholders' equity”. Many of us unfortunately, term this as “kalabule”. But who in their right minds would want to start a business with say, one hundred million Cedis, and still have a hundred million cedis or even far lesser amount after being in business for say, three years? The business has to be government owned, Ghana Airways, or a department of our so-called ministries.

People have constructed student hostels, office buildings, modernized schools, and other businesses. These individuals may not offer the ultimate salary package to their employees, but in my mind, meager pay is always better than no pay. The private sector in Ghana should be given more help to build the nation. Our politicians have proved time and again that they are not worthy of trust. As a result, I suggest that the task of wealth creation should be given to the private sector. Years ago, there were a handful of banks in our nation. Now, they are sprouting like mushrooms. This sector has experienced growth and profitability, and the workforce involved is handsomely compensated. We need to find a way to include the other sectors so that the rest of the population will feel at ease.

Another improvement that I observed is how every body is willing to be an entrepreneur. These individuals may be working for someone, yet they see it as a must to be able to start their own businesses, and control their destinies. There is no guarantee of a success in any endeavor in life. Many of these aspiring entrepreneurs will probably fail, but the good news is that people have started to realize that they are better off with their own destinies in their hands. This to me is what the slogan, “power to the people” should mean. A concept whereby nobody waits on the government or a higher authority to achieve success has instigated a movement in Ghana to “do your own things”. There are many full-fledged and pseudo consultants in the country.

Businesses are also beginning to see the importance of obtaining a higher caliber management team. As a result, many “book-long” Ghanaians are now living very well. These people do not want anything to do with the government, could care less about Kuffour and Gizzele, and just want a very effective, efficient, and good political leadership. Some even pride themselves through the stickers pasted at the bumpers of their cars. I read many of these but the one that really caught my attention was:

“Technocrat”. Or “Teknocrat” Something to that effect.

Also, people are beginning to be proud of the secondary and/ or tertiary institution they attended. You see the banners and stickers proudly displaced in or on cars respectively. This tells me that to some in Ghana, education pays.

The same cannot be said about many “book-long” people in other fields. Take the teaching profession for example. According to some, there is no way to succeed in this field. A lecturer friend of mine at Legon bemoaned about being paid just two million Cedis a month. This he said, could not sustain him and his family, let alone buy petrol to fill his car, and also, take the car to the shop. He recounted about how he took his car to the shop, and after the mechanic had fixed the problem and charged him fifty thousand Cedis for his services, he had to beg the fitter to pay him the next day. It took him almost a week to come up with the amount. This, to him, is very disgraceful. I told him to diversify his talent. He told me to go to… you know what. No wonder there is always an industrial strike by the teaching profession.

The health care industry has two faces. The private sector and the government owned. Those who work at the private hospitals seem to be doing well, whereas those who work for he government always seem toasted, depressed, and angry. To better themselves, some work two jobs. No wonder there is an exodus of doctors, nurses, and health professionals to seek greener pastures elsewhere. How do you reconcile the thought of giving a politician who may not have had any education the privilege of a twenty thousand dollar loan to purchase a vehicle, yet a whole medical doctor could not get even a third of that amount? Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwaku Duah Berchie
Kwaku Duah Berchie, © 2005

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwakuDuahBerchie

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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