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Opinions of Saturday, 1 January 2011

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The ECG circus and Dr. Gyan as Mr. Bean.

By George Sydney Abugri

You have probably heard strange tales of men dropping dead on their feet but what happened to this young man, who for the past four years has faithfully driven me around in my old motor car where ever I have gone, beats them all:

Kwasi Boateng 35 was a man of very few words indeed and often not inclined to communicate beyond a few syllables, the kind of individual Ghanaians often refer to as “a nice guy.”

On Christmas Day he came around beaming with smiles and bubbling with life. On the morning of the 27, I received a call from the Tema General Hospital saying he had been admitted to the facility that dawn.

His wife came over to see me at around 9.00 am. When she returned to the hospital minutes later, the young man was dead. How could that be?

This morning I stared somewhat stupefied at my motor car parked outside and with some of Kwasi’s stuff still in it. It hit me really very hard: He would not be coming to drive me to work this morning as he has done every day for the past four years. He would never be coming ever again.

That is the mortal being, Jomo: Hale, hearty and larger than life one moment and gone without a sound the next, just like that!

It is very easy to take all those around you for granted, until very suddenly a tragedy snatches them away without any warning, then you realize how valuable the people around you are and how you need to be careful how you treat them..!

Christmas 2010 was such a quiet, glum and gloomy one for the people of Tema, its numerous sprawling residential communities and the port city’s suburbs of Lashibi, Sakumono, Nungua and Spintex Road, thanks to the Electricity Company of Ghana:

In any race for the top 20 most fraudulent enterprises in the republic in 2010, the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company would most certainly sprint abreast ahead of the pack.

With its pre-paid meter swindle, the ECG naturally gets the eventual urge over the Water Company for naked fraud.

We purchased power units for the Christmas but the ECG only received our money and made us spend the most miserable Christmas in the memory of most people living in the East of the capital.

It all started on Christmas Eve, when at around 9.00 am, the ceiling lamp in the office corridor suddenly went off and computer screens went carbon dark. The lights never came on again on Christmas eve.

By noon on Christmas day, many residents of Tema and all its suburbs could neither make nor receive calls on mobile phones: Phone batteries had ran out, with battery strength markers below zero.

I called a gentleman in Accra who has such very strong political views and he was beside himself with rage: What the hell is this? On Christmas Day too? Are they trying to bring Mills’s government down?

He was screaming at me. Take it easy, old chap, I told him. I am not the bloke who cut of power supply to Accra East.

It was a strange Christmas without carols or bam bam music. There was no power to cook or refrigerate drinks, no domestic and street lighting let alone decorative Christmas lights. It was the perfect disastrous Christmas, thanks to the almighty ECG.

By noon of Christmas Day power had not been restored and most residents were starved of news. I whipped out my little, old transistor, fed in a couple of dry cells and worked the dial back and forth for a while.

Eventually I heard an ECG official doing his best to sound apologetic about the black out. To cut one of the strangest tales of a Christmas gone awry that was ever told, power was restored to consumers around 9.30pm on Christmas Day!

While the bizarre scenarios were unfolding, a government spokesman was up in the Volta Region assuring the nation that in 2011, all and sundry would have access to electricity. He added the usual bit about the government being in the process of securing a foreign loan for power generation in 2011.

Great piece of news there except that it takes more than expressions of intent and foreign loans to ensure a reliable source of electrical energy supply. If there is one sector that stands in dire need of government attention in 2011, it is certainly the energy sector.

A gentleman who returned from the Diaspora not long ago and built a factory off the Kasoa-Mallam road says he has deeply regretted having allowed himself to be taken in by a deceptive assurance by the government, that profitable investment awaited all Ghanaians in the Diaspora who wished to return home.

He says his factory gets electricity supply for about 12 days in a month on the average!

Jomo, whenever there is an important national exercise to be undertaken or programme to be implemented, I often predict that it is going to be botched or bungled and it often is.

Somehow, something always goes wrong with every national programme: From the conduct of university and school academic examinations and the implementation of a national health insurance scheme through the compilation of a national citizen’s identification register and the computerized placement of students in school to the conduct of elections, something always goes wrong.

The Assembly Elections held in Ghana this week only stopped sort of being a disaster: Electoral Commissioner Dr. Afari-Gyan seems to have gotten things upside down and thousands of voters across the country had no access to ballot papers! Voting had to be postponed in many constituencies.

The NPP accused the government of “trying to frustrate the Electoral Commission” and thereby, “reap an electoral advantage from the lapses in the conduct of the elections.”

The opposition also expressed suspicion regarding the motive for the setting up of a 40,000-mmeber task force deployed across the country “to protect the exercise” and added right out of blue, that “any attempt to get a renewed mandate through the back door {in 2012} will be fiercely resisted!”

See? The alarm bells are ringing far ahead of Election 2012. Hopefully, we shall cure ourselves of the tendency to bungle every national exercise, well ahead of 2012

By the way, Jomo, the District Level elections in Ghana are supposed to be non-partisan, but try telling that to the people of a nation so politically polarized that every stone, tree, cat, football club, journalist, musician and truck moving down the road, must be NPP or NDC.

The political philosophy behind the electoral provision of non-political partisanship in the elections is based on the concept of the Assemblies as non-partisan central government-backed, community based authorities for the collective mobilization of local resources for development, see?

Unfortunately our extreme political partisanship craves for a constitutional review to make the Assembly elections competitive for the political parties. What is your opinion?