The Great National Cathedral Debate
There is an Akan saying that can be translated as such: We do what is necessary before we do that which is nice.
Personally, I think the government’s enthusiastic campaign to raise funds for the National Cathedral is one of those incidences where we are doing the inverse of this proverb.
I live in a country where 1 in four people is suffering from mild to severe mental illness and where only 2% of people suffering from mental illness currently has access to professional treatment.
I live in a country where the three public mental health facilities need a cumulative total of around Ghc30 million per annum to run effectively and receives……..less than a tenth of this figure. And the Mental Health Authority receives this figure after either striking or threatening to embark on strike action.
The then governing NDC promised to build two more psychiatric hospitals in the country in its 2016 manifesto although the current facilities are in dire need of renovation and infrastructural development.
And in 2017, CEO of the Mental Health Authority Dr. Akwasi Osei urged the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to pay more attention to mental health in Ghana:
“Mental healthcare receives very little or no support. Our financial support has been very weak over the last few years. Indeed last year, for instance, there were no budgetary releases to the three psychiatric hospitals until agitations by the nurses led to some paltry releases.
“It would be said that, if we admit patients and we do not have money to provide adequate feeding to them, that amounts to state-sponsored human right abuse. The government is abusing the rights of the mentally ill because the government is asking us to admit them and yet do not give us money to feed them,” he said.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I haven’t written in detail about the staff of psychiatric units in district hospitals that are performing daily miracles to have their patients fed, bathed and medicated with little or no resources.
And I haven’t touched on the myriad of social challenges that Ghanaians face. For that, I have an excerpt from the brilliant article written by Nana Ama Agyeman Asante:
“It’s impossible not to be surprised that the idea of building a national cathedral on public lands came from the President Akufo-Addo, the same man who swore to protect the public purse. To do what the President Akufo-Addo intends to do, the State must demolish homes of judges and prime and historic properties at a cost to Ghanaians. Real estate developers estimate the land alone is worth over 70 million dollars, the same amount the State needs to build the Tema motorway interchange. The cost to Ghanaians will triple if we add the value of the properties and the cost of the demolition and the permanent homes for the judges. It should be immediately apparent to the government that a national cathedral is an unquestionably daft use of public lands and scarce national resources.
The Akufo-Addo government has had to borrow eight billion Ghana cedis to plug the hole created in the economy by the collapse of the seven Ghanaian banks. It plans to mine in the whole Atewa forest for two billion cedis worth of bauxite to get the Chinese government to fund road projects around the country. Ghana has only 55 ambulances for a population of 30 million, thousands of schools under trees, and entire communities living in poverty. It is an absolute disgrace that a cathedral is what a government struggling to raise funds for critical life-changing programmes has chosen to prioritize and spend scarce resources on.” (for the full article, click on this link:https://nnyamewaa.com/2018/09/04/a-cathedral-of-lies-waste-and-destruction/)
If this Cathedral is built it will break my heart but this is Ghana.
If something must kill a woman, I’m fairly certain that the near-daily heartbreak I suffer over the basic leadership fails this country endures, will surely take me to an early grave.