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Opinions of Friday, 2 August 2013

Columnist: Fiifi ofori

Fire down below!

I must confess that I have been waiting a while for another market or public square to catch fire. Shame on me, “won huro me, hoo!”.For the past few months almost all major markets or hubs including Kumasi Central Market, Kantamanto, Makola #2 and others have burned down. I have been patiently waiting to see Kotokraba and other major regional business hubs burn down to no avail; well until CMB proved me wrong. Again, shame on me!

As I watched all these commercial centers catch fire I was reminded of my childhood when together with some friends and playmates we would engage in the game of musical chairs. We were lucky enough to sometimes have songs beaming from our parents’ transistors to assist us in our pleasure. Nevertheless, on those occasions where our privileges would be curtailed, the regulator of the game and other observers would sing for us.

I can vividly picture one of the older pals singing “There is a fire on the mountain; run-run,” even as I jot down these words. As I read and kept reading about all these Apocalyptic Fires deciding to only settle on major markets in Accra and Kumasi(except Independence Square), I could not help but be wowed by this revelation. To date there has been no convictions of any persons in relation to this issue. We hear of the arrests of two people but since there have been no convictions I will consider it as an allegation.

The Presiding Judge is even threatening to throw out the case since the prosecutors are failing to mount any significant case against them. Various reasons have been ascribed to the phenomenon; from anarchists desperately eager to make a name for themselves to mischievous kids playing with match at the market to cigarette buds which were improperly put-out and finally some traders eager to secure financial settlements from Insurance companies, setting ablaze their stores, shops, kiosks and huts for which they have toiled for years to make successful.

I could see the argument for the last reason since few people in this world would forego easy-money. I know if I, the author of this article had a chance at some quick money legally, I would not hesitate to grab it. But the proponents lose me due to the fact that in Ghana, yes our beloved nation, even compensation for car accidents becomes a tug-of-war between victims and Insurance Companies therefore for hardworking traders whose daily bread typically come by way of buying and selling their various store products to really commit such financial suicide would be indeed dumb, and especially through these “hell-fires.”Thus far, I have heard of no Kantamanto traders, the first victims of this sudden event being indemnified so for anybody else to think otherwise would be quite foolish.

Rumor has it that a group of investors have been interested in the lands and surrounding environs of these business souks for quite some time and fortunately for them and sadly for these traders Lucifer could not have rained his fire at a better time for these investors. For now, they remain rumors and hear-says and must be treated as such but should it be that these “gossips” sipping through the grapevine are more factual than any of us care to know, we as Ghanaians would be curious to know the lobbyists on behalf of these projects. Let us be clear, that I am by no means assigning any form of malice to the current Mahama Administration for even I (this scribe) first heard of these tales during the early months of the Kufuor Administration. I am sure the most ardent conspiracy theorist would agree that rumors of such magnitude need not be given credence. I wish to imply though, that the degree at which markets in Accra and Kumasi are burning up is too coincidental for comfort, especially given the rumors. It is undeniably strange. If it were outside Africa one could possibly blame it on the “copy-cat syndrome,” where a devious act occurs and others want to follow suit. However, this is Ghana with no history of this syndrome hence having all these places catch fire with only a two-person arrest is incredulous and disbelieving. We are told of investigations being carried-out to ascertain the truth and hopefully catch all perpetrators of these devious acts. We pray God hears us, if not any other deity for that matter.

Growth in Ghana should not be concentrated in just two regions in the entire country;(read Mahama’s Hope City;ghananewsmedia.com,modernghana.com).Encouraging development in other towns and cities outside Greater-Accra and Ashanti Regions would contribute significantly to the country’s expansion and solve some of our major problems. Besides relieving Accra, Kumasi and Tema from being choked with people, buildings and vehicles, it will automatically slow down the rate of migration to Accra and Kumasi particularly.

Whiles some fellow citizens would still want to be in these two major cities, many more would happily move to other towns and cities should they find similar opportunities to move up the economic and social ladder like they might in Accra and Kumasi. Infrastructural improvement of the rest of Ghana including good driving roads would also promote commerce in these regions as investors could set up industries and shopping malls and plazas knowing they would find customers to patronize their goods. Entrepreneurs all across this world regardless of race or ethnic background are in business to increase their margins and that goes for Ghana as well, be it in a village in the Upper East Region or a small town in the Western Region.

Investors will have no problem taking calculated-risks in these regions but it would first take government embarking on a serious infrastructural operation mainly in the form of durable roads to facilitate the easy-movement of goods and people. Then companies and jobs will come, followed by malls and plazas. It will also help promote the “Better Ghana Agenda.”Ghana like many African countries nonetheless has the entire pyramid of upward mobility inverted. Our module for progressing as a country is turned upside down to the extent that it had to take the agitation of the youth of Ashiaman for an attempt to be made towards the construction of a better road for the town.

Rather than hinder decent-minded folks who just want to make some money to feed their families and take them to good schools and be able to afford some healthcare and not go broke should any of their kinsmen be taken ill, these politicians whose families are roaming about the better parts of this world and their investors should concentrate on developing the other parts of the country and bringing to book whomever is behind the unnecessary fires. Until then, I wish to state that this is Ghana, we are not fools! GYE-NYAME.

Fiifi ofori(fiifiofori@gmail.com)