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Feature Article of Friday, 24 August 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Warm Greetings from Ghana – My Impressions Part 2

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

17th August 2012

Whenever I encounter my cousin, Paa Kwesi Mintah, on Ghanaweb, I admire his prolific critiques and acerbic comments. I really admire his prolixity and breadth of knowledge. Coming from the same town with him, in fact from the same sector of Winneba in Ghana, I decided to write this article to fill him in or give him a lowdown on happenings back home because he plies his trade in the USA at the Big Apple, as a surgeon cum critic and social commentator. Cousin, if you are there, how una day? I throw way salute oh. How far? Ibe your obodo cousin who kuku tell you bit of toli wey happen for your village oh. I no be konkonsa on one of the FM stations in Ghana oh. But I sabe wey thin happen wey I pay 5 weeks visit to Ogyakrom.

The MP for Winneba and Honourable Minister for Natural Resources, Mike Hammah, met with some sections of the society and introduced to them, the Chinese contractors who are gong to build a fishing harbour at Winneba. The NDC government recently announced that “fishing harbours are to be built in” coastal towns in Ghana, some of them being Teshi, Otuam, Dixcove, Keta, Moree and Winneba. These projects will collectively cost 196 million dollars and they will comprise the landing wharf, cold storage facilities, schools and markets. The project in Winneba will commence in October late this year.

Furthermore, it is touted that the beach road from Penkye to Sankor (suburb of Winneba) will soon be constructed. The same applies to the Waterworks road which starts from Shell to Ateitu, where the Winneba Waterworks is. Currently, the road from the South Campus of the University of Winneba (UEW) to Sir Charles (Beach resort), to the Police Training Depot and Awuna Fishing Village, is being worked on feverishly as the drainages are in place and machines are on site, busily laying the road. Once the road is complete, it will boost tourist attractions because it leads to a nationally-designated bird sanctuary and the Muni Lagoon, in a pristine white beach area of much scenic beauty.

When I visited the Kwanyako Waterworks near Agona Swedru, I was impressed with how neat and well kept the place is, compared to the one at Winneba, which is overgrown with weeds. I wonder what the Winneba Municipal Assembly (WMA) is doing about it or what the station manager is doing. This waterworks at Winneba is a huge project of national importance and it attracts tourists and researchers from far and near. The area has a 360º commanding view of Winneba and its environs, and could well be a tourist attraction if it is well kept. Because of its location and beauty, the area has become the target of land speculators, especially from Ghanaian diasporeans. However, Nana Ateitu, my maternal cousin, is up to the task of preserving the Egyamba lands and he is on top of things. He was very happy when I paid a courtesy call on him at a time he was conferring with his elders, during the day the final funeral rites were being observed for our late President, Prof John Evans Atta Mills (MHSRIP).

From Ateitu village, one can see the vast sprawling built area north of Winneba at the North Campus of the University and Winneba Junction area. To the east is a huge green belt which has started having some estates being built. To the south-east is the Worababa Beach, where an Ashanti Entrepreneur has sited a salt processing factory. That beach area is also where we have the estuary of the Ayensu River, which is the main source of water supply to the Winneba municipality. Some Italian tourists have camped at the beach. Another university has been set up at the Winneba junction area (Ansaful/Pomadzi), known as the Pan African Christian University (PACU), offering courses in Theology and Business-related courses. Winneba township roads have been worked on and they are all tarred. These include roads at Zongo, Osakamu, Kwendurmu and Donkorenyiemu.

Arterial roads to the suburbs of Kweikrom, Ateitu, Osobonpanyin, Gyahadze and Mankoadze have to be worked on. Winneba township has drastically improved in sanitation as many old buildings along the principal streets have been given a facelift, and the Zoom Lion workers are working well, clearing garbage. However, they need to have more wheelbarrows as most often, the ladies who clean the gutters and drainages pile up the dirt on the edges of the drainages, without having them collected. Victoria Road, Commercial Road, James Meredith Road, King Road and others are all well maintained. It is the last stretches of Lancaster and Mary Roads (these are dear to me because I grew up near them) which are deplorable and impassable. I hope the assembly men for these areas will alert the MP to help lay up those stretches.

Apart from the main Government Hospital, there is now a new Winneba Specialist Hospital at the Low cost area for trauma victims. This area is towards the Winneba Junction area and it also has the Nurses Training College. There are also private clinics and hospitals such as Baptist Hospital at Sankor, Otoo Clinic at Low Cost, Klimovic Memorial Clinic, among others. A new clinic is earmarked for the Waterworks area. A new market is also on the cards for the area. Because of the presence of the University of Education in Winneba, there is high demand for accommodation by the thousands of students who cannot be all accommodated by the university.

Therefore, there is a booming business in the construction of massive hostel facilities by individuals and institutions such as SSNIT. The market gap is still there. There is also a market gap for a state-of-the-art publishing house, a laundry, a shopping mall, a well stocked bookshop and a sauna/beauty care. Many businesses in the service sector are lacking, so those who are entrepreneurial and innovative can take first mover advantage. I know of a friend professor, whose younger brother, an entrepreneur in Accra, has put up a massive state-of-the-art hostel opposite Sufflet House, on the branch road to the Anglican Mission Manse.

These are the sorts of investments we expect from Winnebarians abroad to help kick start jobs in Winneba. Winneba youths lack jobs. Currently, some of them have taken to what they call Sakawa or being internet café hobos. I frequently went to a particular café behind the Central Campus of the University. Every day, you will find these young male adults sitting at computers and conducting 419 businesses to dupe unsuspecting victims. Stories abound that those whiz kids have made millions off the sweat of their victims and they own posh cars and mansions. However, it is rumoured that some of them have gone to swear oaths to fetishes, so they have sold their souls to the devil and they usually die prematurely [superstition?].

Occasionally, you will find a middle aged or elderly person like me stroll in to check on emails or to conduct research. Many white tourists also walk in sometimes. Because of the terrible negative Sakawa image, many decent Ghanaians give internet cafes a wide berth. Hence, our Ghanaian population is suffering from disconnect from the global village. Many smart Ghanaians are now proud owners of laptops and advanced cell phones, with browsing facilities. Still Ghanaians to me, lag behind in internet use. However, internet is relatively very cheap in Ghana.

It costs only one cedi to browse for an hour, an equivalent of 50 cents. In Lusaka, Zambia, an hour will cost you two dollars or more. Taxi business is booming in Winneba, but not in the long distance transport business, as Kufuor Bus or mass metro buses have taken the wind out of the sails of local transporters. Many private long distance buses are idle and empty for much of the day. Only those plying Swedru can make some sales. Another area of business which is booming in Winneba is the hospitality industry. Many lodges, restaurants, motels and hotels have been set up such as Egyaa Lodge, Windy Bay Lodge, Lagoon Lodge, Hotel Acorn Planter, Sankor Beach Lodge, Sir Charles, among others.

These often cater to foreign tourists, as well as locals who often attend social functions at weekends, such as funerals and weddings. Winneba has become notorious for putting on lavish funeral ceremonies. This is, of course, not peculiar to Winneba but throughout Ghana. From Thursday to Sunday, the town is agog with people, as feverish preparations are made to put up huge tents and marquees, prepare take away foods, and to install musical sound systems which blast away gospel music on the massive speaker systems. How we have come far with our gospel music which is rocking like mad. What with the Florence Obinims, Ifeomas, Gloria Oluchis, Princess Darkos and Christian Loves of this world. They can croon you to sleep, if not to death! (joke)

Men and women spend lavishly on designated funeral clothes. Of course, booze is now controlled as I have observed that for some time now, Ghanaians drink moderately and responsibly, unlike what I am used to, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa. However, it will be better to reflect once more on why we Ghanaians cherish the dead more than the living, and we spend recklessly and frenetically on funerals. Are we sadistic or sarcophagous? Well, undertakers and event organizers have booming business when funerals are held.

At this point in time, let me divert into politics. Most people I talked to or sampled in Winneba are pro-NDC. NPP has a narrow support base among a few elderly people and intellectuals or successful business people. Most government workers and peasants are pro-NDC. Honourable Mike Hammah has been MP for Winneba for three terms. If he wins in the coming December 2012 elections, he will be going for his fourth term, perhaps, his last. He is being contested by a young upstart, Alex Afenyo Markin, a so-called businessman from the NPP camp. He does not seem to carry much clout as it is claimed that he cut his spurs at the feet of his opponent, Hon Mike Hammah. May the best party win in December 2012.

Schools which have sprung up to meet the high demand for both primary and secondary school places include private schools such as Uncle Rich (Considered the best), H & E, Ebenezer Secondary School, St Pauls, University Primary School (Unipra). Of course, we have some of the old schools such as Winneba Secondary School (Winnesec) and Winneba Business High School (formerly Ghunneybu). There is also Zion Girls High School. There are indeed other numerous private mushroom preparatory schools such as Bright Child Academy. Winneba has still vast land for expansion on the west, north and east and sooner rather than later, Winneba will become one of the leading towns in Ghana and a leading town for tourists and academics.

The main problem or challenge facing Winneba is the unresolved chieftaincy dispute between the Gharteys and the Ayirebi Acquahs. Hopefully, this age-long debacle should become a thing of the past for the town to forge ahead to become a focal point of development.

Contact: kwesiattasakyi449@gmail.com

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