By Ruth Tembe Indah/Citifmonline.com |
Having heard that in the recent past, three of America`s most prominent Presidents had been to Ghana, I could not help but anticipate that I was going to land in a glorious land-a land full of honey that does not attract bees but attracts great people.
In my mind, Ghana stood as one of the flagships of African pride and this was the raison d’être of my choosing Ghana for the programme that brought me here.
AKWAABA –meaning “You are welcome”
An air hostess announced that my plane was touching Ghanaian skies and immediately my body became itchy and sticky. I was swayed with some kind of smell and with a watery mouth I exclaimed to my neighbor - "Oh my God, this country smells like fish!"He gazed at me and said; “you sure love fish huh?”
The plane landed and as I got into the lobby of the Kotoka International Airport, “Akwaaba” is the word I saw boldly written in bright colours. Later on, I found out that this word means “you are welcome.”
Trust me when I say I do not think communication in this country is a reason for mediocrity because I saw a plethora of mobile phone company logos. So many that are not found in the place where I come from.
Could this be a sign telling me that I have got no alibis to give if I fail on my mission to Ghana? Luckily enough, I left my country, bearing this in my skull; that “building alibis with which to explain away failure is a national pastime. The habit is as old as the human race”.
Anyway, we passed the immigration officers and my encounter with them was so satisfactory that I asked myself if I was in Africa because compared to other African countries I have been to, I always made sure I got my lunch box with me while waiting, because three hours is the minimum you would have to spend getting through the immigration offices. Here in Ghana no policeman asked for a dime from me – “Well”, I told myself, “let me get into the country proper and see if this continues."
Out of the airport I was awestruck, completely amazed. I stood still for two minutes asking myself why these people were so serene. There was no frenzy, no rush to carry bags because you will be thrown some dollars, just smooth ebony faces waiting for their strangers and the usual taxi drivers waiting to transport passengers to various destinations.
These faces expressed the peace and political stability and freedom that exist in the country, I guessed. My host (Evans) and I got a cab to where I had to rest my head.
As we drove passed the Labadi Lane, the smell of fish increased and the air had a salty taste. From my acumen I could guess that this country is surrounded by sea. Swimming being one of the favorite things I love doing when I am unwinding, the feeling could be nothing else than satisfactory.
Like any "Johnny Just Come- JJC” my eyes kept reeling from one end to the other as the cab took me home. A lot of billboards told me Ghana has got a heightened economic activity.
Then my ego got swollen like soaked Gari when on one of the billboards I saw the picture of the African icon, a four-time winner of the Best African Player title, Cameroon`s own son, Samuel Eto`o Fils. Then on another billboard were my players, the Cameroonian football squad (The Indomitable Lions). I exclaimed: “Wow! Cameroon has got one here! Truly we are the Brazil of Africa”.
Immediately, being a football fanatic, I was reminded of the 2010 World Cup that is to be held on African soil and like any other African, my greatest desire is to see the world cup remain in Africa. But then who`s going to keep it, is it Eto`o Fils, Drogba, Essien, Adebayor, Utaka, who else? I am anxious too, but let us all hold our peace.
As I talked so much about Samuel Eto`o Fils, Evans felt hurt out of jealousy and tried to compare the former to Essien, but we know that between these two there is no game. The Cameroonian is always on top. Just because this is his country and I am a stranger, I let Evans get the edge.
Finally I got home. Even before I said a word, I was warmly welcomed by faces beaming with smiles accompanied by a glass of water to quench my thirst. I was later told that this is the way strangers are welcomed in this country.
“Allow me rest this body of mine,” I said, even though with anxiety because I could not wait for the next day to discover more. My wish that night was to dream about myself in an engaging dialogue with Kofi Annan, discussing strategies to take this “Mama” Africa to the peak.
The Transportation System
My early days in Ghana were filled with excitement, burning desire and curiosity to know more, discover everywhere and everything within the shortest possible time. But, Accra is big, and with a population of over two million, I had no choice but to take it easy, calm down and go step by step.
It was a fine Monday morning, at the end of November, the Sun was over head, as my host and I got to a junction to get a car to the central town, I noticed a number of buses. Contrary to my country, the taxis here are fewer than the buses. Majority of the people take the buses which are called “tro-tro”.
I realized that the tro-tros are way too cheap. As a matter of fact, the amount of “pesewas” we paid for each drop does not even exist in the Cameroonian currency (francs CFA).
Believe me, for this is not a hyperbole and if you want to know more, know that Ghana is three times cheaper than Cameroon. Actually, the thought that has been sitting on my mind for a long while is whether I should go make much money in Cameroon and come spend it in Ghana!
The traffic was hectic, the heat was scorching which is characteristic of tropical Africa even though in the country where I come from, the heat still pampers the citizens. So I asked myself if the global climate change got a huge impact on Ghana.
I was in a “tro-tro” to Accra central when one of the passengers confirmed that the climate change indeed has affected Ghana tremendously because this year there has been no harmattan season. I wondered how the harmattan season looks and feels like. Anyway, there is a lot of "pure water” to calm the heat.
As opposed to the grandeur of this nation, I have noticed that in terms of road infrastructure, Ghana has got very narrow roads. Little wonder why there is always hectic traffic during the rush hours of the day and the evenings. I think this should serve as an impetus for the government to expand the roads and construct new ones.
As I have been commuting within the nation`s capital city, I have not noticed any fly-overs yet. Initially, I thought this was going to be one of Accra`s hall-marks, one of those things that proves that in Africa, Ghana rocks.
Anyway I learnt that the Chinese government will be liaising with Ghana`s Ministry of Transport to overhaul road infrastructures here. In Yaoundé, Cameroon`s capital town, thanks to the Chinese government it is as if Yaoundé has got a facial surgery. Yaoundé`s face has changed from the old-wrinkled face it used to have, to the young and seductive teenage face. As of now, the town is next to Paris.
Nonetheless, we still question the reason for the invasion of Africa by China. What do the Chinese people really want from Africa? Is this not queer? Thatforeigners suddenly invade a continent and begin to execute plans and projects here and there?
In other African countries, these Chinese people are being chased away because apart from the fact that they are driving the country`s economy down the drain by importing very poor quality goods, the girls marry our African men, the guys impregnate the African girls and leave.
In a part of Cameroon called Kumba, you are going to meet a lot of Chinese-Cameroonian kids. These kids form a new breed of cute Cameroonians. This is no swipe, but I am particularly curious, about the end results of this Africa-Chinese relations, hoping that at every rainbow end there is always a pot of gold.
The Christiansborg Castle, the Independence Square, aka "Black Star Square", the Labadi Beach, a plethora of futuristic company buildings and hotels, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, this name I only read about during my history classes back in my country as one of the pioneers of African Liberation. Now I am in his birth place, I touch his statute, I embrace it and I whisper few words into its ears, words of gratitude, acknowledging his outstanding nature, recognizing his unusual patriotism.
The Political Scene
Pardon me because earlier on I did not tell you what I noticed in my tro-tro. Everybody in Ghana, every Ghanaian is so concerned about the welfare of their nation that even the so-called layman got something to say about the political buzz in the country.
Everybody knows that it is their prerogative to determine what should be accommodated and what should not be in their country. To me I feel like in this country everybody`s opinion counts! On the radio stations, political debates are heated up and I realized that the most prominent political parties are the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the opposition party and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) the ruling party.
Coincidentally, I arrived in Ghana exactly one year after the President; John Atta Mills had been in power. Politically, there is some kind of tension going on which I cannot define. Some folks are expressing abject dissatisfaction over the ruling party, stating that the present regime is erratic and that the President has failed woefully in abiding by all of the promises he made when he was swearing in as President of the Republic of Ghana.
From a well defined source, I learnt that the allegations hold that President Mills has failed in executing successful strategies in developing the fuel and fishing industries, the oil and gas industries and the economy. In terms of the administration, the latter has been unstable, recording persistent rifts and discords between members of the government.
Other Ghanaians are tranquil, patient because they believe in and trust their Leader. As a matter of fact, they are convinced that all human beings are susceptible to external influences and that it is just a matter of time for “a maggot to develop into a butterfly”.
As I spoke with one of those in charge of Communications at the Presidency, he explained this to me, that President Mills has got the bull by its horns and that apart from the fact that he is surmounting and cleaning up the mess left behind by the preceding regime, he has made quantum leaps in uplifting Ghana`s image both in the local and international scenes. “The President is working very hard not only to fulfill the Ghanaian dream, but also to take Ghana to the next level in every domain”. He said.
But do you know what? After I listened to all of these political stories, I laughed. I laughed so loud that unconsciously I lifted my legs to the sky! Thank God I love putting on trousers.
Since then I have been asking myself if I am leaving a surreal life in Ghana. I am about to tell you something that will leave you in utter dismay. I am so shocked because in Ghana everybody has got the right to spit out what he got in his gut! Ghanaians express themselves so freely that I get scared that they will be arrested and put to custody, but this is not the case.
In the country where I come from, you just abide by the rules if you want to make a peaceful living. There, there is virtually no opposition party! Every opposition party that is about to sprout is mowed down immediately by the government. Guys are just concerned with their daily grinds because they do not want to end up in jail for speaking ill about the government.
Who even cares if the President has fulfilled his promises or not? We are not even conscious about that! Our President came into power barely one year after I was born and even as older as I get everyday, he is still there, and waning as time goes by.
Eventhough he pisses the whole nation off with most of his malpractices, the people are more concerned about their personal welfare. Is this not awkward?! Let me not get bitter here. I love the democracy that exists in Ghana and what else can I do but wish that every African country adopts and implements this policy in its fullness.
I very much agree with those who say “AFRICA IS THE FUTURE” but if every African nation ate the juicy, succulent fruits that fell from the tree of democracy in governance, then Africa will not only be the future, but a dreamland to the world.
To Be Continued...