The Political Siege At The Ohene Djan Stadium
Ohene Djan Stadium It is one story that has done its worst to shame this proud nation of ours in the eyes of the international community. “The Accra Metropolitan Assembly,” screamed the news item on the sports pages of dailies on the news stand and the world-wide web, “has reverted the name Ohene Djan Stadium to its original name of Accra Sports Stadium upon a resolution by members of the assembly.”
The news item, citing Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije, the combative Chief Executive of the AMA, explained the rationale thus: “This was due to the numerous petitions the assembly received from Ga-Dangbe Youth Association, the Ga Traditional Council and prominent Gas requesting it to change the name of the stadium.”
At a ceremony involving basic schools in Accra, the bearded Mayor of the national capital also talked about the abolition by his assembly of the shift system in basic schools in the metropolitan area. At the time he made the announcement, the abolition of the shift system had been in force for at least one term.
The interesting development from the abolition is that it was carried out without any addition to the infrastructure of the schools. The result, as pupils struggled to write their terminal examination to end the last academic year, was that both morning and afternoon classes were combined into one.
It is one of the interesting developments under the NDC administration of 'Prof. Do-Little' that a class of normally 40 pupils was swollen to 80 with desks and chairs for the original 40. To add to the confusion, two teachers sat in the same class trying to catch the attention of their original class of 40 pupils from the mess.
It is all in the cause of developing the roof-top advertisement of the 'Better Ghana' slogan that at a time solid waste is engulfing all parts of the city and the de-congestion exercise has become a spectacular flop, the AMA should concern itself with changing the name of a stadium over which it has absolutely no jurisdiction.
To add to the comedy, the neon sign advertising the Ohene Djan Stadium had been removed when I visited the stadium last Monday. There was no replacement. I therefore approached the Acting Chief Executive, Wolanyo Agrah, a long-standing friend of the President of the Republic and once upon a regime General Secretary of the Ghana Football Association, for an insight into the new development.
According to Mr. Agrah, who attracted considerable column inches in the national newspapers and air time on the electronic media in the dollars in a flower pot episode of 2001, he did not know that the signboard advertising the name of the stadium had been removed.
There are no prizes for guessing why the person who ought to be in charge of the day to day administration of the National Sports Council, the body constitutionally mandated with the management of the various stadia in the country and who normally commutes to his office through the main gate at the Ohene Djan Stadium, pleaded innocence.
In an unfolding drama at the head office of sports administration in the country, Kojo Bonsu, Board Chairman of the National Sports Council, has commandeered a permanent office at the stadium and is said to be rivaling the Chief Executive in the day to day administration of sports in this land of our birth. With a considerable leverage as a dyed in the wool activist of the ruling NDC, Kojo Bonsu is said to have carved a niche for himself as the most powerful person in the administration of sports in the Atta Mills government. He is said to be more powerful than even Minister of Youth and Sports Akua Sena Dansua.
At the time of filing this story, Kojo Bonsu was said to be taking virtually all decisions on issues affecting sports development in this country. Usually reliable sources at the headquarters of sports development in Ghana have hinted that the concept of sports orientation in the country is undergoing changes. Even the logo featuring the eagle is being phased out on the sole initiative of the Board Chairman, officers at the head office of the NSC claim.
I am told on authority that the board chairman's son is in the process of ordering new apparels from China to correspond to the changes he is bringing into Ghana sports.
This board chairman's son allegedly played a major role in the acquisition of accommodation facilities for mainly NDC foot-soldiers sent to South Africa as the support base for the Black Stars in the 2010 World Cup, for which the state forked out $97 for each of the 1,100 per day, for a four-person per room accommodation at a student hostel.
I can vouch at the peril of my life that the name change of the maiden arena for sports promotion in this country is being orchestrated mainly on tribal and perhaps myopic political basis. In a regime in which the majority Akan tribe is being marginalized, it appears anathema for those directing state policy from beclouded tribal spectacles for the national edifice to be named after an Akan. As a matter of fact, those vehemently opposed to the name probably believe that Ohene Djan was an Asante.
A columnist in state-run Graphic Sports newspaper even suggested that Richard Akwei, who tried to organize football in the pre-independent era, would have been a better choice to grace the premier avenue for sports promotion in this country than Ohene Djan. The logic in the argument is as sound as the events that led to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly calling the shots in an issue over which it has no mandate.
For the uninitiated, Ohene Djan Stadium owes its existence to events following the riots of 1948. The Coussey Commission appointed to investigate certain aspects of the riots established in its findings that lack of recreational avenues in the country contributed to the devastating nature of the riots and recommended the construction of a national stadium.
The immense interest in sports generated by the stadium convinced the colonial authorities that a new arena for sports promotion in Ashanti would aid the growth of sports in the country generally and convinced the United African Company, UAC (now Unilever), to construct a stadium in Kumasi as gift to the chiefs and people of Ashanti for huge cocoa sales to the company. With the two stadia providing facilities for sports promotion, the Gold Coast Sports Council was established by Ordinance 14 of 1952, seeking to bring various sports associations under one controlling body.
A Sri Lankan-born British, Mr. Hercules Joseph Ranandurai, was appointed to head the new council. The Sports Council set up the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Committee, the fore-runner to the present National Olympic Committee to prepare athletes for the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki and the 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.
No medals were won but the two games exposed the nation to the need to further develop sports promotion. On the attainment of republican status on July 1, 1960, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah established the Central Organization of Sports by a Presidential Proclamation to take over the functions of the Sports Council. Ohene Djan, who was then Secretary-General of the Ghana Amateur Football Association, was appointed the first native Director of Sports.
In 1957, Ohene Djan replaced Richard Akwei who was elected in 1930 to administer football in the then Gold Coast. The new boss of Ghana football affiliated the GAFA to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) in 1958. In the same year, he got a pharmaceutical company, Messrs R.R. Harding to sponsor the first Football Association Cup (Knock-Out) competition among the eight established football clubs in Ghana.
Kumasi Asante Kotoko won the ASPRO Cup by racing from 0-2 down at half-time to defeat Accra Hearts of Oak 4-2 in the finals at the Owusu Memorial Park. Ohene Djan organized the first national football league won by Hearts of Oak in 1959.
Following his appointment as Director of Sports in 1960, Ohene Djan worked hard to transform Ghana sports and in two years time, in 1962, Ghana became the best boxing nation in the Commonwealth at the Perth Games. In 1963, the Black Stars won the African Cup of Nations on home soil and successfully defended the trophy in Tunis in 1965 with a memorable 3-2 victory over Tunisia in the finals of finals. The rest, as they say, is history.
As you read this article, the NDC administration is allegedly putting immense pressure on Kwesi Nyantakyi to get rid of FA spokesperson Randy Abbey on the basis that he has failed to play according to the rules of the party in power.
At the time of going to press, a resignation letter had been prepared in the name of Randy, seeking to resign from the position of spokesperson and Chairman of the Meteors (the Under 23 national team) Management Committee.
At the time of going to press, the letter had not been signed. In the next article, hopefully before next week, I intend to bring the blow by blow account of the leverage exerted by NDC heavyweights in their diabolical attempt to take over the running of football in the country.
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