Fifty Years of Nationhood-The Odyssey of Kitchen Air-Conditioners


In my part of the world celebrations of any kind are a big deal. We celebrate everything from winning a friendly football match, graduation from high school, election to political office, the birth of a new child, to even funerals. We are ready to pay arms and legs to celebrate even if clearly there doesn’t seem to be anything ‘celebratable’.

Such was the case when in 2007, in spite of all the social difficulties and economic woes; when we could not provide safe drinking water for the residents of the nation’s capital, when regular electricity supply remained largely a mirage, when doctors and teachers were embarking on prolong industrial strikes over conditions of service, the K4 administration voted a colossal amount of US$ 70 m for the celebration of Ghana’s 50th anniversary of (uncalled for) independence. A secretariat was quickly put up, headed by one of the nation’s worst administrators-Tarzan. Money was sourced from the local banks and elsewhere, not gratis. This would later be paid back with interest by the kelewele seller at Adjiriganor and the waakye seller at Laterbiokorshie. 

Series of projects were outlined, on which the money was to be spent; notably the building of Jubilee Parks in all regional capitals (most of them have been built), public toilets along the Accra-Kumasi highway (not a single one has been built), the purchase of a fleet of about 240 salon cars of various makes for the use of visiting dignitaries (we have since not heard what became of those cars), and a tall list of very useless others.

So many people at the time questioned the prudence of and the thinking that went into the decision to spend so much on a holiday celebration. Indeed, apart from the party in power and its followers, many people actually suspected that it was a means of ‘chop-chop’ for government officials. Characteristically, I smelt something more than one small stinking rat. A kangaroo-like elephant, you may say. I was teaching in a high school at the time, which had (and still has) not enough classrooms to accommodate its ever-increasing population of students. Minority opposition parties in parliament did have their say, but as usual, the majority had their way. Like they say, ‘let the dogs bark but the caravan should pass’.

Watching from a distance, I was so hurt for how low our priorities have sunk as a nation; that is if we had any. We were given a thousand and one reasons as to why we should all be jumping and clapping for such senseless decision to spend so much in the face glaring hunger and a collapsed socio-economic sector, on a needless birthday. Somehow, I knew it was just going to be a matter of time until someone was called to answer a few questions on their stewardship to the nation. Transient as life is, and all other things that go with it, the NPP loses power and that day of accountability finally dawned. 

Clearly, one of the things Ghana will remember the Atta-Mills government for, is his inexplicable penchant for committees and commissions. He probably formed many committees and commissions within the same time frame than any head of state of Ghana- past, present and maybe in the future. Some of them are absolutely unnecessary. I give him a thumbs up for the committee that is charged to look into the Ghana @ 50 celebration. That committee started off on a very jerky and confused note, but eventually gathered momentum and found its elements as the days wore on.

From here in the cold, I’ve been following carefully, the revelations of the committee’s sittings. So far, for me, the most painfully interesting revelations were those from my home region- the Volta Region. Kofi Dzamesi (the then regional minister), decided among other things, to use his share of the Ghana @ 50 money for his region, to install an air-conditioner in his kitchen in the Residency. How does that make you feel?

Here in the cold, I had a headache for three days on hearing that.

13-08-09. Worla.
NB: By the way, JJ Rawlings says he has not been listening to that part of news that NDC youth are going about seizing keys to public toilets across the country. How much credibility can we put on his statement? Watch out for more on this.

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