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Opinion | Nov 29, 2018

Open Letter To The President - The National Cathedral; A National Priority Or A ‘Legacy’ Statement?

Open Letter To The President - The National Cathedral; A National Priority Or A ‘Legacy’ Statement?

Dear Mr. President,
Blessings and greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

As a candidate for the presidency in the 2016 general elections, you fueled hope among many Ghanaians that our best days were yet ahead of us. You like many others have dedicated your life to public service and to the common good of all Ghanaians which is commendable. I have observed rather with some shame how we keep drifting off the focus in this nation and mention can be made of much talk recently surrounding the construction of a national cathedral. You often end your speeches with the beginning lines of our national anthem; “God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.” Sir, how is building a national cathedral going to make our homeland great and strong? I earnestly hope that you give listening ear to the spirited words in this letter as have many others and reconsider your decision to go on with this project.

Mr. President, a fundamental principle you and I can share is that government or leadership exists to solve problems and as in the state make better the lives of its citizens. Tell me Sir, what problem do you seek to solve with the building of this edifice? How does building this national cathedral make better the lives of the ordinary Ghanaian? How does constructing a national cathedral prevent the comeback of ‘dumsor’? How does this project reduce our budget deficit, growing national debt and wean us of aid? How does building a national cathedral improve access to quality education and healthcare? Perhaps there is some vision of yours which we have not caught yet but again Mr. President, how does the construction of the national cathedral make your government more responsive to needs of the Ghanaian citizen especially ones involving protection of life? I do not for one second assume to know the demands of the office you hold because I have not sat at that desk (at least not yet) and I know the work of leading this country is no small and easy task. Nevertheless, it makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises. I will do well not to digress to other matters and keep to my main message.

Sir, I hear you say that you wish to do this project to the glory of God. I am a Christian same as you Mr. President, and a grateful heart at that. But how is the glory of God radiated when we have this huge structure and perhaps a few blocks away, you have homeless people? How is a national cathedral to the glory of God when that little child knows not where his next meal will come from? Are we truly glorifying our Maker when we have a broken social welfare system and cost of living for the average Ghanaian is unbearable? We will be hypocrites if we construct this building and cannot complete affordable housing projects started by previous governments to solve the housing needs of the ordinary Ghanaian, at least in part. We must be ashamed that millions of Ghanaians still languish in poverty, do not have access to potable drinking water and we have devoted huge resources to building a national cathedral. Mr. President, look at the cost involved. We are going to destroy houses built just about 5 years ago and throw in huge sums of money. Sir, please consider the opportunity cost of going ahead with this project and let us see if it is really worth it. The national cathedral can wait.

Your finance minister in his budget statement presentation articulates that we need more space for national events. Since when did we not have enough space for national events in this country? Since when was the independence square where you were sworn in as President not enough? We have only maintained a poor maintenance culture otherwise what is the Accra Sports Stadium doing there? What happened to our already existing poorly maintained national parks? Hon. Kennedy Agyapong comes out to say that the project will promote tourism. This is sad when the stretch of road from Cape Coast to the Kakum National park is in its sorry state. Are we really promoting tourism in this country enough and we seek to add more work? The tourism Minister has announced that we are spending $4.5m to organize the Africa Music Awards over 3 years. The benefits regardless, can we not channel such funds into revitalizing our dying tourism industry and not look to some cathedral to promote tourism? Mr. President, you come off as a visionary leader and I am sure you have travelled across states in the United States on the Federal highway listening to some jazz or country music. The feeling was great I believe. This was a project by President Eisenhower in 1956 but is of immense benefit to the American people still even this day. We have still not completed the Eastern Corridor road. President Lyndon Johnson embarked on the Great Society initiative in 1964-1965 to eliminate poverty and racial injustice at the time in the United States. What are we also doing, Mr. President? Gauging the high cost involved, look at all the other things we could do with those resources.

We could support my good friend Steward Bawuah Osei who has devoted his life to help give rural and unprivileged kids a better start in life. Steward is a graduate of the University of Ghana and founder of Childlift Africa Foundation. With all his good ideas, he has to rely solely on his associate partners and donors to raise funds to complete a project like the ‘Read Aloud School’ in Samankwa village in the Eastern Region. He is working to achieve goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals which calls on us to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. You are special envoy of the UN General Secretary on the SDGs, let us go beyond the talk and support people who are working to make others believe and have hope again, people who are giving others voice and putting smiles on their faces.

Mr. President, what do we tell our children and grandchildren? That we oversaw the construction of a national cathedral to the neglect of pressing national matters of bread and butter? I cannot look my kids in the eye and tell them that. Bluntly put, this project is nothing but a misplaced national priority in my view and one of many attempts to consolidate your legacy. I know that you mean well and you come off as strong willed but kindly reevaluate if this project will make a real difference in the lives of Ghanaians. We can do much better Mr. President.

We deserve better prioritization and leadership, Mr. President. I pray that God continue to strengthen you to lead this great nation in reclaiming its promise as the beacon of Africa. In this endeavour, you have our cooperation and support. God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong.

“If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable patience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything else in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than love for God, gratitude to our Maker and want for the good of this country, I beg God to forgive me.”

Yours Sincerely,
Witness Avutor

Avutor Witness
Avutor Witness, © 2018

This author has authored 8 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: AvutorWitness

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