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June 2008

A TALE OF MY CITY

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Accra frightens me. Its future scares me even more.

Our capital is growing. It’s expanding, and very fast too. But that’s not the problem. Because it means that lots of money is being pumped into the city. And it’s pretty obvious. The problem is that this growth is without direction. It has no symmetry. No order. No shepherding.

 

New, fancy homes are sprouting everywhere like weeds in a very rainy season.

But how can you invest in a 300,000-dollar home, and watch as a garbage dump rises to your left, a raucous drinking bar raises the volume to your right; behind, a dingy hotel with adulterous clients who check in with a ‘short-time’ agenda; and in front, a busy dirt road lined with container shops offering crap from China. And that’s your front-porch view. Plus it’s in the path of arriving airplanes flying so close to your roof you recognised your niece through the plane’s window when last she was returning from London!

 

Soon Spintex Road will become ungovernable, like Abeka La Paz. Abeka has evolved into an autonomous republic with its own grimy, maddening, cacophonous ethos. The main road which threads wearily through this urban wilderness is supposed to be part of the trans-west African highway! I can’t even laugh!

 

Many years ago, when you lived at Macarthy Hill you were, as the young people say, “all that.” Today, the spatial insanity that affects the suburbs below has crept up the Hill and contaminated its old-money marque.

 

Further west, the suburbs and the structures so defy any measure of aesthetics or order, they must have been designed by failed trainee barbers wearing blindfolds. The only decent home which was once ringed elegantly by royal palm trees has been encircled round the throat and overcome by more architectural horror and environmental folly.

 

Cantonment Road dares to be called Oxford Street after the famous shop-lined lane in London. It has lots of fancy shops and eateries, banks and ATMs, Internet cafes and bars. But the open drains that hem the tarmac offer a sordid stew of raw sewage, dogs’ rear-end deposits and fresh fish entrails from itinerant mongers. Dissonance is then defined when a Merc 500 SE glides by.

 

That, indeed, is the irony of Accra today. It’s a wealthy city streaming steadily astray. Its horrendous traffic is heading off a cliff. We build six-lane streets to move the traffic along, but then we throw a pedestrian crossing smack in the middle so that it halts the flow.

 

We asphalt a lane at half a million dollars per kilometre, and hand it over for the hawking of rotting tomatoes. That has to be the most expensive trading space in the world! Developers fence off lands earmarked for roads whilst we stand idly by.

 

The Mayor is well-intentioned, but he’s held back by politicians who think of impending elections but not of future generations. The politicians reckon that if they stop illegal hawking they’ll lose street cred. Still, they lost Odododiodoo.

 

We must elect our own mayors so they’ll answer to The People. We must elect our own mayors so we can release their Manhood from the clenched stronghold of short-sighted decision-makers.

 

The time to act is Now. Any further excuses and this city’s innocence, like that of Lagos, will be gone forever.

 

The time to act is Now. Or our children will one day point to our cities – and to All of Us – with Their Left Hand and tell us, deservedly to the face, what a generation of shameless and greedy idiots We have been!

 

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IN A DEMOCRACY….

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I’m trying very hard to locate a rhyme or reason to the President’s frequent reshuffles, but I keep missing the point. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng has hopped
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