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A Premature Widow

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 Source: Mensah, Solomon

By Solomon Mensah

Somewhere in 1924, my father walked with his father (my grandfather) from Berekum to Kumasi. The long walk was to attend a welcome durbar held for Nana Agyeman Prempeh I on his return from Seychelles. I guess you remember the Seychelles story? Then, my father told me Berekum was beautifully blossoming like the promising breasts of a girl in her prime. Indeed, Berekum, was a little Las Vegas in the Brong Ahafo Region.

It (Berekum) is 36km from Sunyani (the capital of Brong Ahafo Region). Nsoatre, one of Berekum's immediate neighbors, is on its east, Seikwa to the north and Gyaman to the west.

Berekum, according to hearsay, was one of the first towns in Ghana to have had storey buildings. The "Mpem-num abrosan," a storey building that cost the owner five thousand cedis- fifty pesewas (50p) in today's currency together with many other buildings have become local tourist attraction centers to citizens and visitors alike; not necessarily because of the buildings' architectural beauty but of the cost involved in putting them up. Such seem outrageously cheaper today. Thanks to our drowning cedis.

Walking through the streets of Shalom FM, NHIS and the main lorry station street that joins the roundabout, among others, these buildings have been aesthetically queued up on the various shoulders of such streets and seem to form a canopy over one's head. Coming from Sunyani, plying the NHIS route, one meets the main roundabout. Facing the roundabout with my back towards the NHIS route, I face the road leading to Drobo with the same road branching on the right to head towards Mpatasie. On my left is the Dormaa road and on my right is another leading to Mpatapo. From all these directions come cars, motorbikes and bicycles with some of the town's cheerful citizens either crossing the roads or walking on its shoulders.

In a story I did for Adom TV- multi TV- somewhere last year, the chief of Nanasuano (Nanasuano is a suburb of Berekum) told me in an interview that considering the layout, ornamental plants, cleanliness and good roads of Berekum, the title "Golden City" was indeed befitting for the town.

However, today, the story of the 'Golden City' could be told differently. The beauty of the city is fading away. Kato, a suburb of Berekum, is the town that ushers everyone (coming from Sunyani) into the Berekum city. Moving further away from Kato, one is greeted by the Berekum Senior High School situated on the left and a bit further on the right, the Berekum College of Education. However, the entrance of the College, in shambles, would make you feel like rejecting her greeting.

Journeying on, on your left sits the town's library in a ‘forest' close to the Agricultural Development Bank. The forest library, since my days (2007/2010) at the Berekum College of Education till now, has its entire compound grown with weeds tall enough to swallow a class three pupil.

At ‘Scotch De Low' (a drinking spot on the shoulder of an intersection- which gives you the choice to either ply the NHIS or Shalom FM routes), potholes-turned-manholes gladly say "akwaaba!" Thanks to God, the town's court which once stood as a hen coop, somewhat opposite to the Scotch, has recently seen massive renovation. But opposite to the court, a community centre sits dejectedly.

Let me take you back to the town's lorry station manhole-street. With Mpatapo behind me and facing Dormaa road, Berekum's main lorry station is situated to my right. Considering how Berekum has come in terms of growth, the size of the station is too small a plot to accommodate the numerous vehicles that compete for passengers. In more plain terms, the legendary Aseibu Amanfi could consume a farm of maize planted on the station's plot within a split second.

At the choked station, observing the movement of these vehicles, the ones that have finished loading passengers onboard spend much more time finding their way out. And when these cars finally get out of the station, a fleet of vehicles also parked on the said street pose as another threat. As if this is not enough, taxis and other passenger cars stop and load/offload passengers in the middle of the street. Consequently, there's total indiscipline.

Let me add this before the Zoom Lion workers chastise me for not telling their story. Still on Berekum's lorry station, is the indiscriminate waste disposal by both drivers and commuters. Litters on the floor of the station could form a carpet for a conference hall. I ask myself whether this waste dumping is as the result of lack of dustbins here. But is the earth man's dustbin?

Still on indiscipline and wrong parking, the Shalom FM street is noted for double parking. This poses a great danger to pedestrians since they could be hit by approaching cars and motorbikes.

Berekum is my father's hometown and I love to associate myself with the city. But the time has come for the truth to be told of the fading title, the Golden City. Indeed, a Golden City cannot not be associated with an entrance of its college of education that does not even match that of a kindergarten. A Golden City cannot not be associated with a library of which weeds have taken over. A Golden City cannot not be associated with potholes-turned-manholes on its streets. A Golden City cannot not be associated with the gross indiscipline of loading and offloading passengers in the middle of roads, dumping waste indiscriminately, and double parking on the shoulders of their roads. A Golden City cannot not be associated with a lorry station that is only a little bigger than the size of a lotto kiosk. A Golden City cannot not be associated with a plush roundabout that links a tattered road. A Golden City cannot be associated with …

Is Berekum not too young a ‘wife' to lose her ‘husband'- beauty?

The writer is a Sunyani-based Freelance journalist Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com Twitter: @Aniwaba

Columnist: Mensah, Solomon