New Capital versus Deeper Governance
It is a truth universally acknowledged that in the newspaper industry the quality of a newspaper is borne out by the EDITORIALS of the paper.
For this reason the very first piece I read of any newspaper that I get is the EDITORIAL – often times the editors go to town with a high display of verbal gymnastics.
It is a joy reading editorials.
You can, therefore, imagine how I felt when I bought The Chronicle on 12th January 2021 and at their editorial column I saw a publication arguing that Ghana needs a new administrative capital.
The main reason advanced by the editorial was that Accra is choking or sinking under the weight of TRAFFIC jams.
The tragedy of Accra, as a city, is that it is NOT planned like PARIS, ABUJA or others. Accra is just a boxed up hodge podge of several communities, linked up by roads!!!
You will not believe it, reader. In June 1972, after writing the last paper of our GCE O levels, several of the Form Five students, including me, from Achimota School went for an “afternoon jump” cassette record dance at St John’s Grammar School, Achimota. The jam ended at about 5pm, and the problem was transport back to campus!!
After standing there by the roadside in vain for hours, we decided to walk back, getting to Achimota long after 8pm. Apparently, the Headmaster of Achimota School heard of that leavers’ afternoon jam at St John’s, so he caused an emergency roll call in all the ten boarding houses in the net.
Today, fifty years on, the road in front of St. John’s Grammar School is eight lanes!!! And Accra is almost swallowing Nsawam. In 1988 when I built my hencoop in Kasoa, it was maximum 20 minutes drive to Accra, but today, even with six lane driveway, just from the Kasoa Toll booth it takes me two hours DAILY to come to Accra, and three hours in the evening returning home.
It is true; Accra is sinking under the weight of traffic. But is Accra the biggest city in Africa or the world? How do they deal with traffic problems? By moving the capital away?
Take the map and look at where national capitals are located – Washington, USA, is at the seaside, eastern point. Look at Great Britain – London is at the south eastern part, look at Democratic Republic of Congo – the capital seems to be in the “handle” of the country!
Merely moving the capital is not a solution to the problem – you can build underground rail tunnels as in Cairo and other jammed cities; you can widen the roads, BUT, ultimately the solution is TOTAL DECENTRALISATION.
Consciously shift power from the center to the countryside, so that no matter where you are born, no matter where you live in Ghana, you are so GOOD and as WIDE EYED as everybody else.
In Ghana today, everybody who is somebody wants to be in Accra; wants to have a house in Accra; wants to come to Accra for literally anything!
Take education – for a long time Accra hosted Legon, Kumasi Tech and Cape Coast UCC. Even today, as I write, why can’t there be universities in BEREKUM, NKAWKAW, HOHOE, SEFWI WIAUSO… what is the problem?
Take health – for a long time it has been only the Korle Bu, 37 and Komfo Anokye Teaching hospitals. Why not develop specialist hospitals in the countryside?
But, you see, human nature is such that people tend to go and flock in areas where there is food, employment, industry, movement, and constant action. It is called URBANISATION.
Take each of the American cities, or each of the European cities – they practice DEEP SELF GOVERNANCE so much that if you are elected President of USA or Prime Minister of Italy or French President – your beef is NATIONAL DEFENCE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FINANCE… not who should be appointed as District Chief Executive (DCE) for Savelegu or Jinjini or Akatsi. The Head of State has no business worrying his head about public toilets, bore holes, bridges over feeder roads, and primary school structures – that is the headache of the popularly elected MAYOR or DISTRICT GOVERNOR or whatsoever name you call him.
When I was a cadet officer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, UK, I met a lady friend who lived 20 miles outside London and she told me to my shock that she has NEVER been to London.
She looked at my amazement with incredulity and asked: “But what am I going to do in London? There is everything in this community.”
Here in Ghana today, if even the regional capitals do not have everything in their communities, then how about their district capitals like Tolon, Kumbungu, or Aseidu Nketia’s hometown, SEIKWA??
And if district capitals do not have everything, then how about deep isolated communities like BAYERBON and GAGADUKOPE or KAPIKROM…
I put all the blame on Kotoka and Afrifa for their military coup of 1966, which came to abolish all the gains of LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
But let us not cry over spilt milk. Let us start today. Elect all DCEs. Elect all mayors. Elect all Town Council chairmen. Slowly, we will make mistakes but we will build on them and get to a situation where, one day, Ghana will produce a President born in Kete Krachi, studied law in Kete Krachi, lived in Kete Krachi, Mayor of Kete Krachi, and now… President of Ghana!
Written by Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Chronicle’s stance.