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Opinions of Sunday, 15 June 2014

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Country of Brain-Dead Leaders

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Before the Bui Dam went up on the upper reaches of the Volta river, Ghana's largest and longest, much ado was made by the fanatical likes of Mr. Kwesi Pratt, Jr., that if Nkrumah had not been so "inopportunely" ousted on February 24, 1966, by the Kotoka-led National Liberation Council (NLC), he would have since long overseen the successful construction of Bui and, with the latter, the rapid industrialization of the country to an enviable middle-income status like such remarkable industrial Asian economies as South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.

Well, $600 million later, thanks to the Chinese government, the Bui Dam is now effectively a white elephant (See "Confirmed: Bui Shuts Down" 6/11/14). We have just been informed by the CEO of the Volta River Authority (VRA), Mr. Kirk Koffi (he has since reportedly denied the same), that the shutdown has been necessitated by the fast-dwindling level of the Great Frau River. This is rather pathetic, because it appears that not much serious thought had gone into the sort of feasibility studies that preceded the construction of the dam. Or, perhaps, no feasibility studies were really conducted besides what had been on the drawing board, since 1915, when the immortalized British geologist Sir Albert Kitson made the first recommendations for the construction of both the Ajena/Akosombo Dam and Bui.

In the nearly one-hundred years since Sir Kitson made his recommendations to the British colonial administration and the Crown, a lot of changes have occurred on our environment, not the least of them increased population pressure on the land and water and forestry resources and, of course, significant climatic changes. And it is very disheartening to think that none of our expert climatologists appears to have advised the government of the day to find more productive alternatives to hydroelectricity.

But that such a decidedly wasteful venture occurred under the watch of President John Agyekum-Kufuor, a Danquah-Busia-Dombo ideological scion, is all the more to be pitied. This is what both Drs. Danquah and Busia were severally and collectively talking about, when the two most erudite and foresighted Ghanaian leaders of their time advised the inordinately "prestige-project-oriented" Mr. Kwame Nkrumah to focus more on the intellectual and cultural development of the country as a salutary prelude to its eventual industrialization.

There can, of course, be no gainsaying the fact that the country needed a major energy-generation plant to kick-start the foundations of our long-term industrial agenda. But the starkly embarrassing fact of the matter is that the Akosombo Dam, the most expensive of its kind at the time, was a virtual commercial giveaway to the Kaiser Aluminum Company that privately, albeit half-heartedly, underwrote the venture. This exploitative state of contractual affairs occurred primarily because of Nkrumah's rash and undiplomatic dealings with the capitalist West, the ultimate victors of the World War. It was partly meant to serve as a definitive deterrent to other emergent former colonial subject-countries whose leaders brazenly presumed to play with fire long before they had productively learned to harness the same to good effect.

While its hazardous environmental management is widely known to be rather intractable for the technological novice, nonetheless, nuclear power has been known to be relatively far cheaper and cleaner than the thermal power-generation plants on which Ghanaians leaders, irrespective of ideological suasion, appear to be so inordinately fixated. That the perennially erratic supply of electricity has almost effectively ensured, in perpetuity, that the steady socioeconomic advancement of the country is apt to be unduly prolonged cannot be gainsaid. This is the time for intellectual heavylifting on the part of Ghanaian leaders, technocrats and scientists. Are we ready to stand up, chest and chin up, to be counted?

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
Board Member, The Nassau Review
June 11, 2014