An encounter with the bearded Mayor of Accra
Date published: November 1, 2012
Ebo Quansah in Tamale
It was certainly not the most comfortable time to undertake a journey. Antrak Air had fixed 4:20 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. for check in for the six o’clock flight to Tamale. And with office work the previous night ending at 8:30 p.m., one could not reach home until well past nine in the evening of Monday, October 29.
By the time the limbs were safely at rest, it was 23 hours in the night. With the check-in time, barely five hours away, sleep was intermittent, at best. When I first woke up, the time was half past one in the morning, certainly too early to start any form of preparation for the journey to Tamale.
The danger with continuing to sleep from then on was that a complete rest could prove dangerous. It might mean waking up at the wrong end of the time, and missing out on the flight. Sleeping was intermittent at best.
When the eyes were opened reluctantly at 3:00 a.m., there was no point going back to bed. By 3:30 a.m., man was like the obedient solder on the battlefield, ready for the airport. Snag was that the young man who had promised to be around before 4:00 a.m., to drive me to the Kotoka International Airport, had not arrived when the clock struck 4:20 a.m., the time when the check-in desk would have begun taking luggage and processing passengers for Flight No. 04 321.
Opting for a taxi was not without its trepidation. With stories about night passengers being robbed and molested by cab drivers and their accomplices, it took quite a while to decide to opt for commercial transport to the airport. Thank God, the new George Walker Bush Highway made it easier for the cab to taxi along without any hitches. In no time, man was at the airport. Check-in took less than five minutes to accomplish.
I was fastening my seat belt, when to my surprise, Dr. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, settled by the seat near mine. With the Mayor of Accra by my side, I promised myself that the flight was never going to be dull.
We had very animated conversations throughout the one hour and five minutes journey. So intense were we engrossed in exchanging ideas that when the flight captain announced the preparation for landing, we were both surprised. Apparently, we had spent the whole one hour talking to each other, and arguing on many issues of importance to the average Ghanaian.
Dr. Vanderpuije talked about the concept which has eliminated the shift system in basic schools in the national capital. He was proud that his idea of ensuring that pupils stopped playing the truant and blaming it on the shift system had ended in Accra.
The Mayor promised more of what he called Millennium schools in Accra to ease congestion and pave the way for the old school structures to be pulled down to provide more playing grounds for children in the city.
If the AMA succeeds in doing so, it would be a major achievement. At the moment, Accra is spreading without any parks and playing grounds for kids. Dr. Vanderpuije said the decision by the AMA to dredge the Odaw River and its tributaries had helped to stop the perennial flooding that was threatening to become an annual ritual in the rainy season.
I broached the topic of the AMA being caught in National Democratic Congress politics, especially with the decision to remove the name Ohene Djan from the signpost of the sporting edifice in Accra. Expect the bearded Mayor to defend his corner. He insisted that the changing of the name was in respect of the exercise of the right of the AMA to name streets and monuments in the national capital. I put it to him that the renaming of the Jubilee House to Flagstaff House was without the input of the AMA, and that when the Black Star Square became Independence Square the AMA never raised a finger.
I assured him that so long as some of us continue to live, Ohene Djan would be back. He threatened to summon me before the full assembly of the AMA to show why I should not be disciplined for flouting the rules of the assembly. I assured him that I was prepared to face the Sanhedrin.
Dr. Vanderpuije had one piece of good news for the residents of Accra. The AMA, according to its Chief Executive, was in the process of accessing a credit facility in the United States to the tune of US$540 million to complete the Korle Lagoon and Odaw beautification projects. The loan facility has been laid before Parliament, and hopefully, the National Assembly would approve it before they rise for the election campaign.
Before the aircraft touched down, I got one assurance from the Mayor. Dr. Okoh Vanderpuije promised to restore AMA’s advertisement to The Chronicle, which has somehow been cancelled. In some way, it was a lovely encounter with one of the most famous beards in national politics.
On touching down, the Presidential Debate fever was almost infectious. At the airport, we encountered a group of women activists of the New Patriotic Party waiting patiently.
Apparently, they were at the airport to welcome the wife of the presidential candidate of the NPP. Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo was expected on the next flight after our own. As I was told, Auntie Rebecca was arriving in the Northern Regional capital to offer support to her husband in last night’s debate.
All over town, Tamale has been buzzing and would continue to excite its residents for some time to come. The siting of the first Presidential Debate towards the 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections in the Northern Regional Capital has been a major boost to the political and economic rejuvenation of the metropolis.
Right from the airport, the visitor was left in no doubt that something special was happening in town, and people were excited and proud of being associated with it.
Young men and women on motorcycles competed with each other on the streets, displaying the colours of the party of their choice. The predominant colours were those of the ruling National Democratic Congress and the main opposition New Patriotic Party.
Throughout the metropolis, NDC colours competed with the posters of NPP candidates for space. Obviously, there were more NDC posters on display than those of the NPP. In Tamale, that is expected. But followers of the NPP are ebullient, following what they say was a mammoth crowd that welcomed the NPP presidential candidate to town on Saturday.
At the City Hotel in town, where Nana Addo Akufo-Addo and his entourage put up for the Presidential Debate, there was brisk movement of men and women in the party colours. The talk among them was that the NPP would match the NDC boot for boot in Tamale and the whole of the Northern Region in the December 7 polls.
The NPP invaded Tamale in their numbers. Party boss Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and his scribe, Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, were in town. I spotted Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Gabby Okyere-Darko, both leading members of the NPP Communications Team, ‘General’ Dan Botwe, Member of Parliament for Okere and the General Secretary of the NPP when the party won the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections. There was Adwoa Safo, NPP parliamentary candidate for the Dome-Kwabenya Constituency.
From the City Hotel, I took a cab to the Residency in Tamale, where President John Dramani Mahama and his entourage stayed, preparing for the debate. The motorcycles parked at the entrance, and party officials trooping in, indicated that the Residency had been kept busy by followers of the NDC. Sadly, I was not able to meet the President.
I was told that the President of the Republic was resting ahead of the storm expected last night. Whatever the outcome of the debate, Tamale is already a winner. Hotel rooms were fully booked and other economic activities were brisk.
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