#3. God is a Ghanaian…….and other stories we comfort ourselves with when things get really bad
Accra is a lovely city – I like the ramshackle mix of old and new, wealth and poverty, development and dilapidated. I’m not fond of the sky scrapers and towers of cement and glass that are springing up because many of them lack basic aesthetic beauty. And there are not enough trees in this city to balance out this hi-tech ugliness. Dr. Adomako of the Institute of African Studies, UG, Legon once said Accra is schizophrenic and over the past couple of years, the reality of this statement has hit me over the head time and again.
That hit is especially hard when it rains. Everyone loves the rains that come pelting down with no regard for anybody or anything. Accra rain is tempestuous; we get so little of it compared to other regions that when it falls it makes sure it gives us all of the good stuff. (I have heard rumours of gods who hold the rain but I can’t confirm that …so….)
And that’s fine and dandy with me. Except that when it rains for even 20 minutes in this city, the raging chaos afterwards exposes the ineptitude of every city official.
There is such a clear lack of coordination between the Accra city authorities that it would would have been be hilarious if it wasn’t so painful to watch the results. The meteo agency know that climate change is becoming a pressing issue, urban planning knows that the number of residents outstrips the number of housing structures, water and sanitation knows that plumbing and regular water supply is still a dilemma, ECG knows that underground cables are the way to go, parks and gardens knows that Accra is fast becoming a concrete jungle and if not balanced with enough vegetation, we should expect more chaotic results after heavy rains, and civil engineers know that the antiquated logic behind the drainage systems in this city needs to be done away with quickly, and most importantly, the urban sanitation department knows that all will be for naught if Accra’s over 4,000 tonnes per day trash problem is not effectively dealt with.
But have they ever come together to see how they can put their collective intelligence together to make a difference?
Not only that – the rate at which people set up kiosks, shops and containers without basic foundations is alarming. It’s not a sign of a booming SME sector; it’s a sign that AMA isn’t doing its work properly. (But then again, how can it? Their boss – Mayor Oko Vanderpuije – went to stand for MP during his tenure as mayor and then won. The man who did not do his work effectively enough to prevent the death of hundreds during the June 3 disaster is now an MP. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry)
Last night’s rainstorm whipped off a section of the main chamber of parliament; the ferocious winds blew down billboards and pushed kiosks into the street; and the fierce rain caused several parts of Accra to flood.
Apart from parliament’s roof being ripped off and a section with a leaking roof dripping into the chamber….none of the above mentioned events are really news. The only catch this time is that no one drowned.
And when the sun shone bright and fierce and dried up the city as if nothing happened the night before, the heaps of garbage on the streets made me wonder how we had (once again) narrowly avoided a cholera epidemic of epic proportions. Accra is filthy and no one knows who the hell is responsible for keeping it neat.
And I ask – why is there no recycling system in place like the ones the Ministers see when they travel abroad? You go to a supermarket, put your plastic bottles or glasses bottles in the machines and after depositing it, you get a cash equivalent. (well at least that’s how it works in Norway) It’s not rocket science; after watching a lake full of plastic bottles alongside the road leading to the Teshie Nungua estates I asked myself two questions : why we are so unkind to the environment and when am I going to buy a recycling machine franchise so I could make a fortune from all this trash?
God must be at least 25% Ghanaian to put up with all our crap.