Feature Article of Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
30th September 2012
Comparing Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to Lagos State? No way. It is like comparing a duiker to a whale or an elephant. All the same, it is instructive to know what improvements your neighbours are making to their estates and in their back yards. Nigeria and Ghana, two former British colonies and members of the Commonwealth of Nations, have from time immemorial, cooperated and exchanged notes. I cannot forget the healthy football rivalry which existed between us in those pre-independence and immediate post-independence days. The Nigerians had their Nwosus, Yakubu Yekinis, Onyawunas, Okallas, Mathematical Ogdegbamis, among others. We had our Tim Dabahs, C.K. Gyamfis, Salisus, Baba Yaras, Ofei Dodoos, Mohammed Polos, Ibrahim Sundays, Malik Jabirs, Mfums, Kwame Adarkwas, Edward Acquahs, Aggrey Fynns, Dogo Moros, Addo Odamteys, Obliteys, Dodoo Ankrahs, Addoquaye Laryeas, Opoku Afriyies, Naawus, Opoku Ntis, Agyeman Gyawus, Osei Kofis, to name a few. We used to have stiff competitions in table tennis, athletics, football and other sports disciplines.
Even in academics, we often compared notes on our performance under the aegis of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). Our soldiers, nurses, engineers, doctors and other professionals still belong to the same intra-regional professional bodies. In the New African Magazine issue No 520 of August-September 2013, glowing tribute is paid on pages 2 and 3 to the new kid on the block, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State, the 49 year old lawyer whose transformational leadership since 2006, has immensely transformed the face of Lagos. Lagos State has a population of 18 million and by 2030, it is projected to reach 40 million; Lagos City will become the largest city in the world. In the early 80s, when I went to the Western part of Nigeria, I lived in Ogun State for 2 years and then exited to Lagos where I lived for 8 years 6 months. I experienced the rule of state governors such as Lateef Jakande, Ajasin, Bola lge, Oladipo Diya, Olabisi Onabanjo and Omoboriowo, among others. I lived under the presidencies of Shehu Shagari, Buhari/Idiagbon, and Gbadamosi Babangida. Since leaving Nigeria in July 1991, I imagine a lot of water has gone under the bridge. According to the New African Magazine article, titled, ‘Lagos: Africa’s emerging powerhouse’, the opposition party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is making waves in the Western states of Nigeria, including Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, Osun, Ogun and Oyo. This is not new. In the 80s, when I was in Nigeria, the then Unity Party of Nigeria led by Baba Obafemi Awolowo, initiated some mammoth and egalitarian projects in the then western states of Ogun, Oyo, Lagos, Ondo and Bendel states (Egbe Omo Oduduwa). They included massification of secondary schools in every nook and cranny of those states, construction of new universities, paving of macadamized roads, construction of polytechnics and colleges of education, and other state-of-the-art infrastructure. I lived in Egbado North in Ogun State, where we had Ilaro Polytechnic, Aiyetoro Comprehensive Grammar School, Igbogila Secondary School, among others. The current Governor, Fashola of Lagos State, is carrying on the legacy bequeathed him by his illustrious predecessors from the stump of the former Action Group Party formed in 1950 by Baba Awolowo, and the erstwhile Unity Party of Nigeria. I am sure when I went to Lagos in January 1981, Governor Fashola was about to enter university, and he should have benefitted from the largesse of his fore-runners. Lagos State, with a population of 18 million, is said to be the 5th largest economy in Africa, after South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria. In this regard, it will be unfair to compare Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) to Lagos State in terms of financial resources. Governor Fashola has initiated changes to transform Lagos into the hub of West Africa. Among his exploits include greening the city through a massive tree planting exercise, installing 15,000 street lights a few months ago, construction of 13,000 new classroom blocks to decongest Lagos schools, construction of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, construction of the 10 lane Badagry Expressway, light rail mass transit routes, Mobile Intensive Care Units, massive clean up of Lagos and a humongous waste management plant, the largest in West Africa, Rapid Bus Transit, a new bridge from Lekki Pennisula to Ikoyi, construction of seven intra city rail lines. Governor Fashola has broadened the sources of revenue for Lagos and initiated many Public-Private-Partnership projects (PPP). Over the next decade, New African Magazine reports that a $50 billion dollar infrastructure upgrade project will be carried out. The Governor’s reign has seen the reduction in armed robbery by 80%, a recovery rate of 85% of stolen vehicles. He has not neglected rural roads, and he has earmarked a massive rural electrification project, as 500 communities have been lighted up. Four new waterworks are on the cards to pump 300 million gallons a day to ease the chronic water blues of Lagos residents. He has also initiated a mortgage scheme to provide affordable housing to residents. I think I will suggest that our own AMA boss, Dr Oko Vanderpuije, should establish a hotline between his office and that of Governor Fashola so that they frequently exchange notes. I am told on good authority that the notorious Lagos ‘go- slow’ or traffic jam or gridlock is gradually becoming a thing of the past. This is good news to boost tourism. I am sure Okada business will recede or decline.
From 22nd to 23rd November, 2012, there will be the Africa Urban-Infrastructure and Real Estate Summit in Cape Town’s International Convention Centre (ICC), courtesy of New African Magazine, and their website is: www.ic-events.net/africa_urbaninfrastructure. The contact email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. When the British PM, David Cameron, visited Lagos recently, he was said to have paid glowing tribute to Governor Fashola for his remarkable transformation of Lagos. If Governor Fashola was a British, I am sure he would have been honoured with a KBE or OBE.
In conclusion, I will enjoin our Accra city managers and planners not to relent in their efforts but to borrow a leaf from what is happening in Lagos. I am sure what Governor Fashola and his able lieutenants have achieved can be replicated in Ghana, if our officials become committed, transparent, incorruptible and they keep their focus and vision. My beef is that they can chew on the following questions:-
1. Has AMA got a masterplan for Accra? If it has, what is it? How is it going to be funded?
2. What happened to the Ministry of Beautification of Accra, under the Kufuor administration, which was led by Jake Obetsebi Lamptey?
3. What has come out of the collaboration between AMA and Columbia University as regards plans to upgrade facilities in Accra to make it a modern city?
4. What is being done to the running sore of Accra, the reeking Korle Lagoon, in terms of draining or dredging it of its fifth for it to either be converted into a Venice-like waterway or a pleasure resort?
5. What are the plans for increasing the flow of water to the more than 5 million inhabitants to Accra?
6. What is being done to the mass transit project which was proposed some years back?
7. What is being done to speed up the road construction works on the Accra-Nsawam-Kumasi road, and on the Odorkor-Awoshie-Fan Milk road?
8. What is being done to provide jobs to the mass of youth roaming the streets of Accra?
9. What is being done to increase the housing stock in Accra in order to bring down the cost of rentals?
10. What are the plans for efficient supply of electricity, water, sanitation and waste management services to the city? Zoom Lion alone cannot cope with garbage collection.
11. What plans are afoot to provide Accra a befitting bus or railway terminus, after the likes of the Rotunda in Johannesburg or the likes of mega terminals in New York (Waldorf-Astoria or London Victoria tube station? Our bus stations are, to say the least, hotbeds of bedlam, chaos, cacophony and planlessness.
12. What is being done to construct storm drainages in places like Accra- Russia or Sodom and Gomorrah to control floods?