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Feature Article of Thursday, 4 October 2012

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.

The Death of Ghanaian Towns and Cities

By Kwaku A. Danso

As Ghanaian small towns and even cities struggle for entry into the civilized era with issues and need for the simple basics like water, sewage, schools under trees, poor or non-available electricity and communication systems, a Ghanaian lady called Jacqueline, a member of the NIA for Ghana Forum wrote:

“I once believe the Town Council had the right to take up these responsibilities such as maintaining the common areas of Housing and Development Board, Street maintenance and lighting, drainage, refuse collection, public cemeteries, infrastructure, parks and playgrounds, safe drinking water and you name them. Honestly I don't know which Town Council exist in Ghana now as I write this and effectively execute its task.” (Jacqueline A., NIA for Ghana, Wednesday, October 03, 2012 2:47 AM)

Let me use this to initiate a short dialogue and elaboration on the death of our towns and cities under misguided military and dictatorial rule in the last four decades, and how failure in leadership has killed our cities and towns.

After 30 years under the military dictatorship of the PNDC and the continuation NDC aura, Ghanaians as a people are today very confused. The 11 year rule under a dictatorship quelled the spirit of the people, and perhaps never got revived. There is a generational gap existing between those of us who saw some of colonial rule, some of Nkrumah’s rule and the advent of the capable black man and prideful marketable “African personality”, and some of you who may have seen and think “revolutionary talk” and insulting the white man is all we have to do as Dr. Kwesi Botchwey excelled in, to get grants and loans, and divert and share a large chunk of the money among top executives without delivering services to the people. Ghana lost a sense of ethics, sense of morality and a sense of direction. The shout for accountability was a sham! Most members of the PNDC settled down to getting whatever they could loot from the public service and connections.

When democracy was ushered in again in 1992 the aura of fear had not subsided till very late in the 8 year rule. Men like Kwamena Ahwoi made sure the PNDC boys would appoint all DCEs and Agency heads, and all towns and regions were totally neglected in the equation. Assemblymen of the towns, elected, were mere volunteers without pay. The people who are paid, with al the benefits and power, were and are all appointed by the President, more than 4,000 of them in Ghana! Is that democracy? The total confusion in leadership and management direction led to the atrophy of our towns since I saw it in the 1950s as a child.

Today even rich towns like my hometown Abetifi, and educational town with a Training College and a University, as I have written before, are confused. Some of our rich folks are donating money, and some of our Diaspora folks bring in gifts for the town clinic but nobody can sit and design a budget of what we need for say a public park, library, computers, schools, salaries and wages of workers and staff and a Town Hall building and vehicles. I have done all many simulated design on my computer. Such Arithmetic is hard to do by hand as to how much each household should pay to make this town sparkle like any other American town and bring jobs and the educated folks back home with pride!! I was going to my town almost every weekend or two in 2004 to 2006 I was in Ghana on extended periods. By 2009 when I went home I was sorely disappointed the elders and colleagues could not take my idea they all agreed on and work to create the town council and get their water system revived. The spirit in Ghanaian towns died over the last four decades. This water system had been neglected for about two decades since officials claimed there were leakages due to broken pipes. It was a beautiful water treatment system set up under Nkrumah in Nkwatia, 3 miles down the hill from Abetifi. The townspeople could easily have contributed to purchase whatever equipment was needed and fixed it for use by all. However there was no sense of organizational ownership. Every rich man in Ghana thinks he can live in a bubble with his wife and children. I was so downhearted and confused trying to figure out the “organizational intelligence” of the people I was born among,, many of who are so rich and successful individually but cannot see this simple vision that we don’t need the boys in Accra to do things for us and our children in the town!! I made a small slight of tongue in a 2008 conversation with the association Secretary and I wonder if that contributed to any reduced initiative. I said that “the government had failed us”, and I think the man may have taken it very politically that I was criticizing the NPP. He told me I was wrong and the government was in the process of getting water from the Affram Plains, etc. I dropped the matter and it’s been more than 4 years now! Oh! God!! In Ghana many cannot stand up and hold their own party accountable on not delivering on promises!

By 2008, 2009, and 2010, the light in my heart was dimming, and I had “given up” (temporarily, I hope) and did not visit my hometown again. I was sick to my stomach that even the computer I donated to the town,, they did not even acknowledge and the Chairman I understand travels to Worcester, Ma, in the US regularly and owns a Internet Café- meaning at least his children were computer literate and could have helped set up the database I proposed and they agreed on, to get started in building the city council!

I know many of my readers have a young hopeful heart and energy and we should always embrace hope. However, at my age, what am I going to tell my late grandfather when I meet him in the land yonder, when he asks me his favorite questions: “Despite all the education, you guys could not do this for the town? What kind of people are we? Are we animals?”

It will hurt me what to say,,, I just don’t know the answer, and perhaps you the young ones may give me a good answer for me to take to satisfy Nana Kwame Opong in the other world.

(Sometimes I even feel shy to use my PhD title)

Kwaku A. Danso

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