Mar 10



By Cameron Duodu
The Ghanaian Times 28 July 2009
A portion of the Accra-Kumasi road under construction

A portion of the Accra-Kumasi road under construction

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I am at a loss for words with which to describe how I felt when I drove on the Accra-Kumase road by way of Nsawam.The Achimota – Ofankor road, which was being reconstructed when I last drove on it in 2005, is still being reconstructed.

In the mean time, motor vehicles are still driving on the “old” surface. And its current state, after the rains, is terrible.

At night, especially, it becomes terrifyingly dangerous. The gullies in the “road” are so deep that most motorists naturally attempt to avoid them.

This means they literally drive all over the road. And that puts paid to obedience of the normal traffic rules.

Vehicles pass you on your outside, while you are trying to avoid falling into a gully. As you try to get out of the way of such drivers, you find yourself facing oncoming vehicles.

Sometimes, you have to stop dead in your tracks in order not to be pushed into the path of such oncoming vehicles, which are themselves driving all over the place.

At other times, you are hard put to it to find the actual road you are supposed to be driving on.

For there is a section of the uncompleted new road that is already being used by some vehicles. If you don’t know the road well, you may think that the drivers using that section have found a smoother passage and are using it.

In fact, they are going somewhere different from where you are going! And if you follow them, you will get properly lost.

Some of the gullies you fall into while avoiding those you think are too bad, are themselves so bad that as you motor along them – I should say, “into” them — you can feel your innards being pushed against your rib-cage, as well as the front of your tummy.

I advise those who go on that road not to drive on it immediately after having had a meal. I was so shaken up that I nearly threw up, and I don’t throw up easily.

So those who have a weaker stomach than me must find it hellish to drive on that road.

You pass Ofankor and you heave a sigh of relief because the bad section is over. But it is a short-lived escape from shaky-shaky land, for shortly after Nsawam, all the way to Suhum, and more especially, from Suhum to Apedwa junction, the road is even worse than the Achimota-Ofankor sector.

Yiee! Is this the road that connects the two largest cities in our country? Is this the road that brings Accra most of its foodstuffs? I can’t believe it.

And yet there it is, as real as you like, and constantly throwing me about and making me feel like a rodeo rider who has been put on a particularly vicious horse! Repeat after me: the most important arterial road in Ghana!…The most important arterial road in Ghana!

Yep! How can any government allow this? The NPP government started work on this road and didn’t manage to complete it till it went out of office. Why was it not able to complete it? Four years, which is the last time I saw this road, is a long enough time for most roads to be completed. But not this one.

Why? It is an indictment of the NPP Government. Ex-President Kufuor raised our hopes about this road towards the end of 2008, but here it is – as horrifying as you like.

And the new NDC government appears to be so obsessed with what went wrong during the NPP time that it hasn’t managed to crack the whip and get the job done.

Please, members of the government, politely point out to the company that is doing this road (I understand it is a Chinese company) that no-one would be allowed to take such liberties with any of China’s major roads.

Suppose this road was going from Beijing to Shanghai, would parts of it be allowed to turn into bush tracks like this?
It is disgraceful. It is intolerable.

It is appalling. If I were a member of the government and I saw the road in such a state, I would use my privilege of access to go and set camp at the offices of my colleague, the Minister in charge of road-construction, and refuse to budge until this road was finished to a standard good enough to allow vehicles to use it.

Or I would ambush him at Cabinet meetings by irreverently putting the road on the agenda. The Secretary to the Cabinet wouldn’t allow that, of course, but there are ways to do this.

Members of the government may not wish to embarrass a colleague of theirs, but let them remember that part of the reason why the NPP lost the election was that too many of their MPs and Ministers were afraid to do the right thing, for fear that the party might be “embarrassed” if they broke ranks.

Is the avoidance of embarrassment a sensible enough reason to allow your party as a whole to be ignominiously defeated?

I exaggerate not when I speculate that if a pregnant food-seller plies the road as often as commercial good sense dictates she should, she may lose her baby.

The road is also bad news for people who suffer chronic rheumatic pains, especially in the waist and hips.

And God help anyone who is injured in a motor accident on this road and has to be transported to hospital in Accra, in another motor vehicle or even an ambulance.

If the person has hurt his or her spine, then death or paralysis would be paying him or her a visit in the near future. For how can such a person’s injuries fail to worsen at least tenfold, while being driven on this road to go and receive medical attention?

Yiee! I shudder just merely contemplating the fates of those who are driven on this road when they are in a vulnerable position.

Please, please, please – give the contractors whatever they need to enable them to complete this road.

It is so obvious that this should be done that even writing about it seems to verge on an insane act. They say that “no-one points out the sky to a child.” So let it be with this road. Please!

Someone suggested that if I had taken the alternate Aburi-Bunso road, through Koforidua, my plight would not have been as bad. But another person disagrees.

He said that portions of that road are also extremely bad. I hope I am not placed in a position where I shall have to test this person’s theory.

Anyhow, I would like to move now from the particular to the general.

I think it is time for the Government, as a matter of policy, to insert into road-construction contracts, the requirement that the road-builder should construct a “diversion route” of macadamized quality, sector by sector, as the main works of the road construction progresses.

In fact, if I remember correctly, that is how roads used to be built in Ghana some time ago. “If you see the red light, stop here”, was a way of directing traffic along the relief roads.

As at now, however, the fashion seems to be to allow vehicular traffic on very road that is being constructed, and to be unmindful of the deterioration that occurs on it whilst the new road is being constructed.

You don’t see that type of thing being done in any country where the citizens’ welfare is taken seriously, or where the courts support private citizens’ rights against an “I-don’t-care” or even cruel, road-building company.

In a country where citizens’ welfare is taken seriously, the road company would be sued for damages in respect of personal injuries incurred, or discomfort suffered, on the bad sectors of a road the company is constructing.

The road-builder would also be sued for the broken springs and shock absorbers, exhaust systems and other damage done to motor vehicles that can be traced directly to the horrifying state of the road sectors being used “temporarily” (I put that in quotes, for “temporary” with regard to road construction in Ghana can take four years or more!) while road works are “in progress.”

Even if no damages are awarded in such a lawsuit, a court case would be worthwhile if it enabled the road-building company’s top personnel to be put in the witness box to be cross-examined on their road-building practices.

PS: Will someone please kindly tell President John Atta Mills that the main entrance to the University of Ghana, Legon, is a disgrace to the fine University where he taught for many years?

Currently, there are scores of external examiners on the campus marking papers with their Ghanaian counterparts.

Prof, how can your Ghanaian colleagues assert themselves as people who appreciate quality when the entrance to the University that they are proud of, proclaims blatantly: “In Ghana, anything goes”?

Prof, please do something to uphold the dignity and pride of your erstwhile colleagues.


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