Feature Article of Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Columnist: Owusu-Mbire, Kojo

Postcard from Cape Three Points

I was in Cape Three Points yesterday. Being my second tour to the oil-rich Ghanaian community, I think it's fit and proper to narrate a few things I have witnessed on my 'privileged' visit to Ghana's black gold resource hub.

For starters, the name Cape Three Points actually came about as a result of the convergence of three separate and distinct but unique capes in the area. There is a first cape, a second cape, and then the third cape--thus the name Cape Three Points. Since the pre-colonial era, many historians have played up the significance of this small hamlet with a population of about 500.

It became even more significant to sailors in the early centuries when the first few sea voyages were made to Ghana. The three capes are a sight to behold, particularly from the lighthouse, but can be dangerous to the not-too-cautious sea vessel. Indeed, the lighthouse in the area, at the tip of one of the capes is testimony to the importance of this sparsely populated but deprived community.

Plodding through the dangerous winding patchy road to the village makes you feel you are on the road to either a journey of no return or worse still, on an extreme sport adventure! Your luxury 2 X 4 luxury car is no friend of this ancient road.

The road actually makes me reminisce an encounter with the handmade roads on the way through to some abyss in Eritrea. Note that after its segregation from Ethiopia and its subsequent independence and the ensuing protracted war, Eritrea a landlocked country, constructed some of its rail tracks and roads with the crudest of handmade tools.

The situation in some parts of Ghana's western region makes me remember prehistoric times. Reader, in case you don't know, prior to the discovery and subsequent production of crude oil in the western region, the region already prided itself as a major producer of gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, cocoa, and was also an undisputed leader in the production of rubber trees--the primary commodity for the production of lorry tyres and many polythene based materials.

This is where the story of the Cape Three Points comes in. The village has no good road. In fact, is has never had and may never have. As said earlier, yesterday's (April 19, 2012) visit was not my first. I was there in June 2011. Last year, I interacted with a lot of people including some Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA) officials at the light house. My latest journey to the area makes me believe that in Ghana, everything is rocket science. What does it take to provide decent drinking water to a community of 500 people? What does it take to give a small community like this, a well-stocked health post? Does it take aerospace engineering to provide a good school for a community like this?

I'm sure if you are a politician, you might be looking for your secret service chaps to dig me up from my hole and teach me a few lessons in patriotism, because I am trying to disgrace my homeland, by letting the entire world know that our public officials in Ghana have just started nursing Niger Delta annexe in Ghana.

The sad memories I brought from Cape Three Points makes me remember my young career years. Here I was on an assignment with some junior minister from Accra to Ghana's premier habour city, Tema. The bloke was in charge of sanitation. On reaching the sprawling Ashaiman town in an advanced car, I realised that a whole field was being made up. I mean earth moving equipment were brought in from nowhere at the behest of the then Tema metropolitan chief executive to level up certain 'unsightly' areas of the community before the minister's arrival – all in a bid for the junior minister to feel good.

Awed by the savagery of the metropolitan chief executive, I waited impatiently and when the minister arrived, during our interactions, I openly asked in the presence of all, why the metropolitan chief executive commissioned the work at that unholy hour? The man simply asked me albeit in a suspicious tone, not to the hearing of everybody of course, whether I wanted him sacked? Of course, I wanted him sacked!

Again, the story was told me of a sub-chief in Aboso, the bauxite mining community, also in the western region. Some so-called development partners wanted to provide some basic life saving physical infrastructure for the deprived mining community. So they asked the chief to supply them with photo shots of various suburbs of Aboso. The chief, I am told went to a place in Tema, got a professional photographer and asked him to take shots of the best planned Ghana's urban town. He packaged the pictures and sent them to the partners. The rest is history!

I followed the debate of the chiefs of the western region who were simply asking that 10 percent of all oil proceeds be committed to developing this distressed region. In the heat of the lobbying, an obviously half-educated or over-fed government minister exclaimed that, “oh, even the crude oil is not located in the western region”! Ignorance is a disease indeed.

So after paying homage to the Nana (chief) of the community with a few bottles of dry gin, and receiving Nana's blessings, I set out on my interview. I spoke with a few folks.

The first woman I spoke to went like this, "the big men always come from Accra. They come and talk big. They have even told us to go and look for another place to resettle, because they were about to build an oil refinery here. Well, so far, we can't even boast of a modest health post".

My second interviewee made me remember the day I lost a very precious one. She was heavily pregnant. To her left was yet another pregnant one. So, I decided to digress. Do you have a health post close by? NO, she exclaimed! The nearest health post is located about 50 kilometres from Cape Three Points, if my guesstimates are close. Well, it was built for that community, in memory of her mum, by a very popular Seventh Day Adventist tele-evangelist.

Should my question be too hard and induce an early labour, imagine what could have happened? There are no cars plying the road, because the road is impassable. In fact, on my first visit, my car was the only one which might have used the road that whole day. On yesterday's visit, we were fortunate to meet a tourist in a ford truck, just around the housing flats built by the Nkrumah regime for farmhands on a rubber plantation around Dixcove II.

Well, in my high school and undergraduate science classes, I never had any lesson in midwifery, so I decided to terminate my interview with the heavily pregnant woman. I got a male in her stead. "Boss, please take your gadgets to the beach. Can you see the aeroplane flying above?" he asked. I raised my head, and spotted a gold coloured chopper flying above the Cape.

He continued. "That is the only sign we see in the skies. But the only benefit we get is that our fish catch has become a nightmare. Our coconut trees defoliate and there is a dangerous shrub that is now carried from sea to our once beautiful beach. The sea water has also become darkened as a result of the oil production activity", said the thirty-something-year-old. I asked my interpreter to guide me to the beach.

My encounter at the beach is another story for a different forum. But I guess I saw a sense of industry and hard work in our people. That gave me a little pride as a Ghanaian.

Reader, please note that wars are not a given. They are always nursed. A people who are deprived for far too long are wont to embrace any idea, including wars, so long as it promises daily bread. Can we justify why the people of Cape Three Points must depend on only one hand dug out well provided by World Vision? Can you tell me why there is only one primary school, also provided by the same non-governmental organisation? Please tell me why the road is still terrible. Maybe, if you are a politician or a hireling of a sort, you will tell me about the Chinese Development Bank (CDB) loan. And my question to you will be why not give the oil fields to the Chinese? Is there any reason why these noble and hard working people cannot have electricity?

In case you have some answers for me, or some ideas or partnerships for development, please do reach me on my email below. I'm a positive pessimist so, I am pessimistic but I believe all isn’t lost yet. The only thing I know is that, in Ghana, everything is reliably unreliable!

Source: Kojo Owusu-Mbire