Thursday, 21 June 2012

Why we must elect the boss of ECG

I have an idea. In the last one week not a single day passes without power being cut in my house, sometimes for more than four hours at a time. My calls to the ECG "helpline" provided no help at all. Meanwhile, in all probability, the family of the ECG boss would be enjoying air-conditioning and wall-to-wall lighting. Why don't we set targets for bosses of public corporations in the same way that private companies set targets for bosses and their subordinates?

 Think about it this way: I don't know my MP, and I have to look up his name just to remember it. He had only a notional impact on my life. And yet we go to great expense and lengths to elect our MPs whereas people like the ECG boss whose performances have immediate impact on our daily lives are not accountable to us directly. Ministers are supposed to take the political heat for the non-performance of officials in ministries, departments and agencies under their watch but it doesn’t work like that.

My suggestion is that we have to have a say in the appointment of public sector bosses through direct elections. It can be done. However, before we get to direct elections we can have a halfway house situation in which Parliament would vet all top bosses of public corporations so that they go on the record about the benchmarks by which we can judge them.

Fear and Panic of Ethnic Tension in the Country

On Thursday 5, the United Nations office in Ghana organised a meeting with an intriguing purpose – to craft peace messages to be targeted at four information constituencies or publics (in communication-speak) before, during and after the elections. These targets are youth, media, women and political parties. They brought together people from the media, NGOs and individual communications experts. The subtext of the event and the choice of publics is the fear of election-related violence in the coming months.

It is a sensible attitude that commends the UN for acting outside the restrictive box of reactive thinking, and it is an approach that should be recommended to the government of Ghana, not because of the possibility of election violence but because violent conflicts have broken out in too many places at the same time in recent weeks. We can no longer pretend that this is a peaceful country; while it is true that armed hordes have not camped on the steps of the capital, it would be untrue to argue that all Ghanaians go to bed and sleep in peace. Not if you lived in parts of the Upper West, Central, Upper East, Volta and Northern Regions in the past two weeks.

In the course of researching a subject early this week, I typed the words “Ghana news” in the Google search and among the top 25 stories that showed up were the following:

·        Two people are feared dead with several others critically injured after renewed ethnic clashes in the Mfantseman West district of the Central ...

·        One dead; six wounded in Kokomba, Bemoba clashes

·        4 dead in clashes between two Upper East communities ...

·        Four people have been confirmed dead in renewed clashes between residents of Namoligo and Shea-Tindongo in the Talensi-Nabdam district ...

·        Central Region: Two killed in ethnic

·        Two people have been killed in ethnic clashes between Ewe and Fantse communities at Akumfi in the Central Region. The clashes ensued ...

·        Ekumfi clashes: Ama Benyiwa Doe appeals for calm

·        Tribal clashes in Central region: 2 shot dead, 1 beheaded ...

·        Hohoe clashes: Women; Children flee; one person shot dead ...

·        Clashes force Nakpanduri SHS to close

This is just a snapshot of clashes in the country from a single search; it is possible that violent clashes are even more widespread than what has been captured here, and of course this list excludes the usual suspects of Bawku, Dagbon and a myriad of chieftaincy disputes that erupt into violent conflict every now and then in several parts of the country.

What on earth is going on? On the face of it, these different instances of violence are part of the same syndrome, different aspects of interlinked causes and effects. The first possibility as a cause has to relate to youth unemployment in the country. The profile of the person who is most likely to pick up a weapon unlawfully is that of a male aged between 18 and 30, although of course older men and women are almost always stoking the fires from some unseen headquarters. So although the unseen heads behind the violence are likely to be older ones, the hands that actually wield the weapons are young and idle. That is the clue: idle.

Too many young people in Ghana are unemployed, of whom a sizeable percentage is unemployable, of whom more anon. Government spokesperson have claimed that more than a million and half jobs have been created in the last two to three years but despite this unconfirmed claim hundreds of thousands of school leavers go onto the job market every year with no hope of finding a suitable job or any job at all. You just have to visit the centre of every village, town and city in Ghana and what strikes you is the sheer number of virile young men sleeping under trees or hustling furiously between sleeps when hunger and the spirit move them. It is not a pretty sight.

Youth unemployment has been described as a time bomb, but that is an optimistic assessment insofar as it expects the bomb to explode sometime in the future. This bomb is active and exploding now; it has no future, neither do the rest of society unless it is tackled now. The irony is that although this is an election year and campaigning is in full swing, no political party appears ready to provide any working solution. This is not surprising. Across the world, youth unemployment is proving to be an intractable problem for governments and societies. However, unlike other places, we have no safety net to cushion vulnerable people to prevent them from crash landing into crime and other unsavoury activities. In that way, we have created a bumper crop of strong young men ready to do the bidding of anyone who has money or excitement to provide some diversion, even if short lived.

The situation has not been helped by the educational policy that does not appear to take the needs of the country into calculation. In any case, there are two or more educational “systems” running in the country but these can be grouped into two broad categories, which can be neatly labeled as rich and poor. The rich policy is tailored at preparing the children of rich people for plum jobs in the future. The poor policy is for the children of the poor so that they will continue to be poor. Of course, what I am saying will be denied and perhaps I will be excoriated for saying it. But this is the effect of our educational policy on the ground, as we say. This is the reason why despite impressive growth rates in several African countries over the past decade the gap between the rich and the poor is growing bigger. The wealth being generated by growth is not being shared equally but is being appropriated by those with access to it for the use of their families.

The mass unemployment of young people and the un-employability of a large percentage are feeding into the indiscipline that is engulfing this country. The idea that anyone can do as they please has become a cancerous growth on our social psyche and spreading venom through the body politic.  To put it bluntly, everyone feels entitled to do whatever they like without fearing or feeling for the consequences of their action. This is why violent eruption has become the major means of seeking redress to the extent that no one appears unduly surprised to see a group of young men holding deadly weapons marching up and down town and city roads protesting against somebody or something. It does not matter who gets hurt.

In the main, people get away with such action and sometimes do get their way as well, which then encourages more of such action. Somebody profits from every situation no matter how bad it may be for the rest of society. Some people are harvesting the bumper crop of unemployed youth for their own benefit, but the chickens are coming home to roost. The time has come for this nation to craft peace messages of our own to reassure the youth that they have a stake in the future of Ghana. More importantly, we need to find the answer to the creeping violence because while from an Accra perspective such violent acts appear to be happening in faraway places but when the reserve army of the poor is mobilized no one will be safe. This is not meant to cause fear and panic.

The Case for Leveson-Style Media Probe in Ghana

Three months ago, His Lordship Sir Brian Leveson was an obscure, albeit a senior judge on the British Bench but today he is one of the best known personalities in the UK with his face as familiar as a relative to people even outside the borders of the UK. Politicians and media people hang on his every word as if it were holy script because those words may have implications for people in high office. Mr. Leveson is the Chairman of an Inquiry into Media Ethics in the UK. The Inquiry was set up after it was revealed that some newspapers hack into personal phones of celebrities and people in the news in search of information.

The Leveson Inquiry is more generally a response to the public’s anxiety that there is something not right with the way media institutions and media people operate. This disquiet reached its height at the death of Princess Diana when it was revealed that she was being pursued by a hoard of photographers, collectively known as the paparazzi, when her car crashed into the tunnel in Paris. People believe that in many ways media people have overstepped an ethical red line for far too long. In the UK and other Western countries it is customary for governments to respond to such perceived institutional breaches with formal inquiries in order to find solutions to the wrongs that the inquiry unearths.

This is a sound method of government which is largely missing in this country; here such inquiries are not popular because they are often perceived as instruments of politics and likely to be denounced by the party in opposition as a witch-hunting exercise. We ought to change this attitude, and we can do this by setting up our own version of the Leveson Enquiry into Media Ethics in Ghana.

Perhaps such an examination is long overdue but it is now more urgently needed than ever before. Complaints about the media come in barrelfuls per day and these have become accentuated by the abuse of media by politicians and media people especially in election years, but the things that are wrong with our media go beyond politics and cannot be fixed with the usual calls on “the media to be circumspect in their reportage”, which is a nice-sounding but meaningless phrase at the best of times.

One often hears that the Ghanaian media is one of the freest on the African continent, which is true if by free we mean it operates in a free-for-all dog-eat- dog unregulated terrain. But free as an expression of quality and access would need to be looked at a bit more closely. As with everything in Ghana, what you see is sometimes completely different what really exists; the freedom of the Ghanaian media, even when used to mean insulation from government may not tell an accurate story. We do not know; which is why a full-blown enquiry is required.

The impression that the Ghanaian media is free comes from two premises. In historical terms it is valid to speak of two broad eras where the media is concerned; pre- and post- 1992. Contrasted with the pre-1992 era this is supposed to be the golden age of the media mainly because the excessive use of state power to lean on the state-owned media has been lifted by constitutional guarantees but whether this constitutional insulation has been effective needs to be discussed. Despite the presence of the National Media Commission a careful reading of the state-owned press reveals that editors and editorial minders still work under pressure, which may or may not be justified.

In many ways, saving the media from the state is the easiest of the many-sided nature of the Constitution’s purpose regarding the media. If for no reason at all, the state’s influence is both predictable and visible, if we care to look closely. What is more insidious is the influence of the practice of media corruption, commonly referred to in Ghana as “soli”, but which is more generally known as “brown envelope journalism” in media studies across the world. The phenomenon has become so pervasive in Africa that it now has its own academic discipline complete with gurus who pronounce on its every historical twist and development.

In Ghana we turn to treat “soli” as merely a sick joke or perhaps a moral failing on the part of journalists. But “soli” is a greater threat to the freedom of the media and expression than state officials and politicians abusing their positions. This is because whereas we all condemn state intrusion, which forces the state to find covert means of controlling the media, “soli” has a direct effect and does not hide its face. Indeed, you can meet “soli” everyday wherever a public event brings media people face to face with benefactors in the shape of events organizers. No amount of preaching against “soli” has shifted the ground one bit, so rather than condemn the practice blindly we need to delve into it, alongside the many other media ills, in a structured way.

You would notice that throughout this article I use the term “media people” instead of “journalists” because the former has become a vague and amorphous description of a whole lot of activities and occupations within the media landscape. In the olden days we had the “press”, and those who liked me reported and wrote news and features were known as journalists. In the course of the past 20 years this term, “media person” or its even elongated cousin “media personnel” is used to refer to disk jockeys, journalists, news readers, advertisers, actors and many others, especially in broadcasting. These are all important functions but the term “media person” is not only bereft of specific meaning but is adding to the confusion and anxiety about the media.

In addition to the above, a frightening development (I don’t know how long it has been) is the demand for “soli” money from journalists by their non-editorial colleagues who argue that because of their peripheral duties in the gathering news they are also entitled to “soli”. On the one hand, this we-are-all-in-it attitude makes sense; after all without the driver the reporter would not get to the assignment which yields the “soli”. On the other hand, this is a dangerous trend because it puts principled journalist under pressure. Last week a journalist told me about the time the driver refused to drive back to the office after an assignment without his share of the money she refused to take. She had to give him money out of her own legitimate earnings. As if that is not enough, apparently, typesetters and other ancillary staff at newsrooms all demand their share or else…

We cannot blame reporters or even drivers for being greedy because the story is far more complex. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have stories of newspaper owners telling their journalists that their business card is their pay. In other scenarios news editors are said to demand their share too before a news report is published. If you add all these to allegations that newspaper vendors dictate front-page headlines it is not difficult to conclude that what you are being offered as news today is a compromised product and not the result of the application of true news values. We need an official inquiry so that our media can be strengthened to play its proper role in our lives. To paraphrase a famous statement, the unexamined media is not worth our respect.

Who owns June 4th?

Something strange has happened to June 4th over the years since the day it was immortalised as an important historical date in 1979. Speaking on various radio stations in the run up to the controversial 33rd anniversary, Mr. Kofi Adams, the suspended Deputy General Secretary of the NDC who is also a Special Aide to former President Jerry John Rawlings, many times used the word “we” to denote what a group of people, including himself, had done in preparation for the Aflao celebration. For example, he said on Peace FM: “We have spoken with the Paramount Chief of the Traditional Area”, “We have already sought police permission…” Who exactly are the “We” in the Adams discourse?

On the face of it, the “We” should be the National Democratic Congress, whose Constitution claims June 4th as the Party’s provenance. However, as we all know, the “official” NDC, which suspended Adams, virtually dissociated itself from the June 4th rally at Aflao. This means that the “We” probably refers to either the Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings wing of the party or the office of the former President which employs Mr. Adam. The NDC will probably say that there is no Konadu faction but it will be hard to convince anyone that her faction does not exist.

It is now equally difficult to say that the NDC party as a whole agrees that June 4th continues to be as important as it was vaunted to be in the past. It now appears that former President Rawlings and his household and office, rather than the party as a whole, have appropriated June 4th as a personal symbol and resonance of what the former President claims to stand for. No one can blame President Rawlings for feeling protective of the legacy of June 4th, or even for feeling that the day belongs to him. In truth, he may not have claimed it; it has been thrust on him by default or national acclaim, for the annual ritual of “boom speeches” if for no other reason.

Back when the NDC was being formed, it must have seemed like a good idea to source its umbilicus to June 4th, although it is also possible that this idea could have been the singular brainchild of the Founder. It has served the former airman well by giving him a separate platform on which to extend his battery life beyond his constitutional mandate, assuming anyone expected Rawlings to shut up after his presidency ended. But until now, it was not obvious that this was more a personal and political platform for Rawlings instead of one that meant the same to the NDC as a party. On recent evidence, it can be said that June 4th was never a serious issue for most members of the NDC.

The question is this: How did such an important historical event come to be owned so exclusively by one political party, or even one political family? The answer can be supplied by one simple fact: June 4th has been misread as a historical phenomenon for a long time and in the process, June 4th myths have supplanted facts, and the wonder is how academia and the media have allowed this to happen.

This is not to argue that Rawlings was not central to the June 4th story. He was. Obviously, the motivation for the troops getting out of the barracks on June 4th was to free Rawlings from detention at the Special Branch (now BNI) for leading the aborted 15th May uprising. Obviously, therefore, Rawlings, despite being central to the drama that unfolded subsequently, could not have been the “architect” of June 4th. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea has taken hold in the public imagination that Rawlings planned and executed the June 4th Uprising.

The issue though is not about who planned and executed the Uprising. Rather, the focus should be on the historicity of June 4 within the country’s larger chronological narrative. What produced June 4? Did Jerry Rawlings and Co simply wake up one morning and decided to “do” June 4? Rawlings and Co caused the June 4th Uprising at the tail end of a relentless display of discontent by all sections of society against the political and economic policies of the Supreme Military Council (SMC).

In January 1972, Colonel Kutu Acheampong seized power from the Busia government and installed his National Redemption Council in power. This was composed of young officers who without espousing any specific ideology, made efficiency and the need to grow our own food the cornerstone of its policies. In 1975, the top brass of the military staged a quiet coup and put themselves in power as the SMC pushing out the mildly nationalist NRC into the background.

Things went pretty downhill, especially with the economy in tailspin. The reasons for this are complex but not the subject of this article. Under pressure, General Acheampong (he had promoted himself and all his cronies) decided to replace the known constitutional arrangement with something known as Union Government packaged to be an inclusive government of the military, police and civilians. A referendum was held to test public opinion on the issue. The referendum was a farce. If anything, it showed that Acheampong did not know how to rig elections.

Protests in the form of demonstrations, strikes and even sabotage ensued. Students, civil servants, workers, doctors, teachers, engineers, the business community, and all manner of people apart from the few who benefitted from the regime, joined the protests. The military mainly supported Acheampong and his cronies as far as we could glean from their public behaviour, although many soldiers privately were sympathetic to the dissidents. In July 1978, Acheampong was replaced in a palace coup by General Akuffo and it is instructive to recall that Flt Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was the young officer who led General Akuffo to inspect the guard of honour at the airport on the latter’s only foreign trip as Head of State to Senegal.

University campuses, not the barracks served as the cradle of the revolution that everyone expected. The People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice was formed in 1977 as a coalition of those who opposed the SMC. It was led by Professor Adu Boahen with Nana Akuffo Addo as the General Secretary but it was a broad-based group which had in its ranks people of all political shades and opinions. However, many groups operated underground on campuses, workplaces and in the military. Some were linked in a network although in the main, they were independent of one another. It was during this ferment that the late General Akwasi Afrifa predicted in a letter to Acheampong that one day soon all senior military officers would be rounded up and shot. Afrifa was not alone in prophesying apocalypse sooner than later. He was rounded up and shot.

In a sense, almost the entire country expected something to happen although no one could have known the form it would take. Obviously, a military solution was always in the offing and students in particular goaded and needled young military officers into doing something. The need for that something receded somewhat from early 1979 because the regime under General Akuffo had already announced elections to return the country to constitutional rule. June 4th was therefore a response to the people’s call for dramatic change. In the course of the tumult and agitation that preceded it, people confronted the regime in diverse ways and some lives were lost. By the time June 4th occurred, the political battles had been fought and won not by soldiers but civilians.

June 4th therefore is a very important date in Ghana’s history and significant because it was the culmination of a long period of protests by a large section of society, including many conservative elements who would normally baulk at the idea of revolution. Former President Rawlings and his friends are right to tie June 4th to the need for accountability because that was also the rallying cry of those who confronted the SMC for four years before 1979. The historical essence of June 4th should therefore be seen in a clearer perspective and not to be confused with what happened on that day and subsequently.

The nation must deal with June 4th in that way because although it is now a divisive issue, back then in 1979, even a bewildered nation knew why it had happened. June 4th had no political programme and the limited nature of its self-declared mandate can be gleaned from the term “house cleaning” which was used to describe its purpose. People who supported it are today found in all political parties, but more importantly, June 4th was the product of a historical period and process to which several people and parties can lay claim. Ghana and Ghanaians as a whole should own June 4th, which is perhaps the message of boom speeches past and present. Therefore, the idea is that the entire nation could observe June 4 as National Accountability Day.

Blessed are the Genuine Peacemakers

One of the easiest ways to get in the news these days is to become a peacemaker. It is really easy; just pop into any newsroom - radio, TV or newspaper – and announce that you want to sing, head balls, drive, shout, eat, just do something for “peace before, during and after the coming elections” and you are in. It helps to also “call on President Mills and Nana Akuffo Addo” to discipline their followers and stop them from using insulting language. Finally, you call on the media to be “circumspect with their reportage”. If you are lucky you will even get your photo published.

In most cases, nobody knows whether this sudden attack of peacemaking will yield any result or whether these self-appointed “peace ambassadors” really do anything useful because there is no serious monitoring going on, and in any case, this being Ghana, words have replaced action and so such people know we are interested in what they say and not what they do, This is why politicians and preachers get away with so much insincerity and broken promises; they know we are not really going to check whether they do what they say. This is not to say that people who say they are going to work for peaceful elections are insincere; not all of them anyway, but  becoming an instant peacemaker is a trend same as becoming an instant prophet or bishop.

The similarity between instant peacemakers and instant prophets is an interesting one, especially in the fact that this trend is mostly an urban phenomenon; you don’t find prophets and bishops outside the main cities and big towns in Ghana. Indeed, if I may be bold, I would guess that ninety percent of all prophets live in Accra and Kumasi with the latter boasting more prophets than you get in the Old Testament. In Accra, the majority of prophets tend to emerge in places like Awoshie, Kasoa and Sowutoum; and unlike Nehemiah and Isaiah in the Good book the modern prophet actually has a sign board and a bank account. I don’t know why we hardly hear of prophets in places like Cantonments and the Airport Residential Area; it is just a thought, but obviously the prophesy business is a seriously urban happening, which is what the election peacemaking is also trending towards.

However, it appears that a group of unsung heroes and heroines are really burrowing in the undergrowth, so to speak, in order to unearth the gemstones of peace in unheralded ways. These civil society groups working at grassroots level outside the Accra-Kumasi axis neither seek not receive publicity for the work they are doing. Examples of such real peace champions are among 45 organisations that have received funding support from STAR Ghana, which is funding agency that pools grant money from the UK, Denmark, USA and the European Union to support civil society, the media and Parliament initiatives in Ghana. (For acronym anoraks in our midst STAR stands for Strengthening Transparency Accountability and Responsiveness!).

STAR funding has enabled people and organisations outside the glare of publicity to be engaged in work among communities where they are likely to make an impact. Think of the Ahenbronoso Care Foundation which is based in the Brong-Ahafo region. This group is unknown nationally but is set to undertake a creative initiative that could be popular in the communities where it works. It has proposed to organise debates among parliamentary candidates in the Nkoranza and Techiman constituencies in order to create a local “manifesto” of what the people really need on the ground. Or take Northern Ghana Aid (NOGAID), which is a well known NGO but what may not be appreciated is the spread of its efforts to promote violence-free and transparent elections in Pru, East Gonja, Central Gonja, Chereponi, East Gonja, East Mamprusi, Gushegu, Karaga, Nanumba North, Savelugu/Nanton, Tamale Metropolitan, Tolon/Kumbungu, West Mamprusi, Yendi Municipal in the Northern and Brong-Ahafo Regions.

These are just two of such organisations working across all the ten regions of Ghana in promoting peace during these election times, but even more importantly enabling communities to participate in the activities that are designed to produce peace and its benefit. The difference between such groups working in communities and at grassroots levels and publicity-seeking individuals does not lie only in the city/ rural divide. Many of the people who go to newsrooms to announce their readiness to be peace ambassadors propose to do something for somebody in a top-down approach, whereas grassroots organisations mobilise people and communities to do it themselves.

There are hundreds of community based initiatives in addition to those funded by STAR and other sponsors and they all deserve our appreciation because a large number of such initiatives are self-funded and directed from their own resources and enthusiasm. One must also hasten to add that big set-piece events such as musical concerts, football matches, and other gala occasions are important means of creating awareness about peace, unity and other themes essential for our national wellbeing. Prayers by religious groups also do the same, and for believers, come with the added incentive of inviting God’s blessings and guidance for Ghana. What we need to be aware of are the machinations of self-seeking individuals who tend to use every occasion for their own personal glory and gain in one form or another.


Last week I wrote about the silo-looking advertising thing that was being constructed in the middle of a roundabout on the Spintex Road. I am happy to report that the circular object has now been hoisted far above the ground from where it will be seen from afar. This happened even before the Diary came out at the weekend, and it was no doubt due to the pressure exerted by the media in the course of the week. Newspapers and radio stations that took up the cause must be applauded, but also commendations are also due to the builders for yielding to public opinion.

On the last point, I have heard it argued that the thing was not intended to sit on the ground where it would impede the line of vision but was always intended to be hoisted to its present position in the sky. Even if it is true it does not negate the fact that it posed a serious danger when it was on the ground and a danger is danger whether for a minute, an hour or one month. If for any reason a company or an individual has to undertake any activity such as blocking a public road or digging a trench across the road it has to obtain a permit on presenting a safety plan for the duration of the obstruction. This is what happens in disciplined and well organised countries.

It has to said that even hanging in the sky, the thing, whatever it is, could still pose a danger; one has only to count the number of advertising boards that fall at the least push. If this thing in the sky should fall from its current elevation the disaster will be worse that a billboard crashing from a mere 20 metre height. I am not saying it will fall, but knowing that safety is not always our first consideration, there is nothing wrong in advising that all bolts be tightened up there.

I can’t wait to see what is going to be advertised up there. After all this brouhaha it will be really disappointing if whatever is going to drape this silo turns out to be genuine Brazilian human hair or pure water. We will see.

Spintex Monument to Profit before People

This posting ought to have come with a picture, unfortunately due to technical reasons I am unable to attach the photo. It is a photo of a roundish silo-like object being constructed in the middle of a roundabout on the Spintex Road, which is causing obstruction to sight from all sides of the road…

At first sight, the structure you see in this picture looks like a silo or some kind of storage tank under construction, but whatever it is you would not expect to find it in the middle of a roundabout on a very busy street in the capital of the republic. But strangely that is exactly where it is sited – inside a roundabout at Flowerpot Junction on the Spintex Road. You may have heard about it in the news because it has been discussed on radio and also appeared in some newspapers, but through it all, the one word that keeps popping up is “why”, as in why would anyone think of putting this thing in the middle of a road. I do not know why but I can hazard a guess. To make money is the short and only plausible answer.

I believe that whoever constructed this hideous monstrosity in the middle of the road must be made to remove it, but should also be made to bear the cost of transporting it and installing it at the National Museum as an everlasting exhibit so that coming generations will catch the flavour of a period in our history when profit was absolutely put before people in a culture of money making frenzy in which ordinary commonsense became a casualty; no matter the motive of the people who put this structure where it is, they could not have been thinking about people’s safety.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Spintex Road, some basic guide to the place is required. The Spintex Road, as I never tire of explaining, is an epitome of the “development of modern” Ghana. It was not planned; indeed, as I understand it, it is not even officially a road. It begat itself, so to speak, and has few redeeming features of any sort. It was named after the factory whose owners first cut a path through thick savannah growth in part of what used to be known as the Accra Plains. It came into being just like that, and like everything else in our unordered life, it has been accepted and embraced. The names of the stops along this road, which is a long thoroughfare, are given by tro-tro drivers, and one of such stops is Flowerpot.

Another thing you ought to know about Spintex is that it is home to several upwardly mobile people, and the main status symbol is the ubiquitous four-wheel drive vehicles. On the Spintex Road, if you have power or wealth you exhibit it by driving in the centre of the road at very high speeds with your lights flashing and horns blazing. In this undisciplined society, even the police jump aside for the middle roaders to roar past because the former do not know which powerful person could be zooming past, and in Ghana it is better to give total respect to powerful people, especially when they are breaking the law.

 The Spintex Road is a dangerous place, especially if you are on foot, even in broad daylight because the ineffective police have abandoned motorists and pedestrians to their fate, but also because tro-tro and taxi drivers, good learners that they are, have also decided that if the big cars are roaring past, at least they can also squeeze through so they create additional passages where none exist and restrict pedestrians to tiny slivers of bush path along the road. One more thing you need to know to complete the profile of this accursed road is that apart from a small fraction of its length, there are no street lights anywhere near, and so we experienced locals depend on our local knowledge of every pothole and every crack to get by at night.

Now, Flowerpot Junction sits on the crest of a small hill just outside the Bank of Ghana Warehouse from where drivers carrying money try to break the land speed record every blessed day. Remember that money pus big car equal king on the Spintex Road; BOG drivers have big vehicles and they are carrying money – they are gods. If there is one place you can’t mess about it is at Flowerpot Junction from where big cars travel very fast downhill. It is a dangerous place when you can see where you are going. It is deadly when you can’t. With a silo looming at you how can you see that a big Bank of Ghana suicide driver has just entered the road or that a powerful man has decided that he is late for lunch?

We know that the thing is neither an oil tank nor a silo but some kind of advertising billboard-in-the-round. We know that because the logo of a popular outdoor advertising company is hanging at the bottom of the abhorrent construction. You would think that an advertising company would care about the aesthetics of its handicraft, but not a bit of it in this case. The thing is as ugly as sin and the best that can be said of it is that it tells us the level to which some people can go to make money, whether it will cause misery to other people or not. This thing is a monument to profit before people on the Spintex Road.