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Opinions Fri, 21 Feb 2014

It Will Be A Sin If Mahama Doesn’t Do This

If our leaders are looking for ideas on how to move our country, here is one.

On a visit to Lake Bosomtwi, the first and only time in my life so far, I couldn’t but imagine a boardwalk going around the lake, all 20 miles of it, for an annual marathon. I do not know of any marathon ran around a lake the way I envision this. If there is a marathon like the way I see this, at least this will be among a few in the world if we manage to make this come true.

The boardwalk as I see it will be near the beach but over the water. It will be wide enough for a marathon and long enough for at least a 20 mile run. It could be made a 30 mile run or anywhere in between by constructing a 10 mile trail or transitioning an existing nearby street to the board for the purpose of the marathon. We can put boardwalks across the lake to make it possible for people to be able to run 1, 5, 10 or 15 miles if they choose to rather than go all the way around. If we do this, we can have one big annual marathon or one big one and a smaller one later in the year considering that our climate allows for it. This will boost tourism tremendously.

Talking about tourism, everyone knows the enormous benefit that it provides. It is money that comes into a community that does not leave. State of Florida in the United States is heavily dependent on tourism. The State of New York launched its “I love New York” advertising campaign that was so successful that other states continue to emulate it. Jamaica has nothing to offer but tourism and they do fine with it. We continue to offer the same thing that we have been offering to tourists since the days when African Americans came to find their roots: walking along High Street, visiting the Arts Council, visiting our Castles, and “dodging feces” along our beaches, as I have seen it put on the internet.

Imagine Ghana’s marathon becoming one of the biggest in the world. Running over water will take care of that if not the 20 plus miles. The prize will be a factor too. Runners who don’t come to compete in the marathon may very well make it their life’s dream to run the route of the Ghana marathon. Runners pass it on by word of mouth where the best places to run are. Among other things we won’t be too far from most of the world’s best runners since most of them are Africans.

As far as paying for it and income from it go, we must invest some of the oil money as part of investment in tourism. We could very well get television sponsorship in exchange for covering the event. Most of all, the money that comes in from tourism will be well worth the investment.

This idea of a marathon on boardwalk over Lake Bosomtwi is as much a God-sent as the meteor that created the lake itself. If we are waiting for God to deliver Ghana, maybe this is a way he is doing it. No I am not a prophet or a seer and God didn’t talk to me. It is just a suggestion from little old me.

On the subject of tourism, Can’t we lure the many Ghanaians who are scattered all over the world to come home often as tourists? Do we have to wait for Obroni to come and boost our tourism? I went to Montreal Jazz Festival one time and I was very impressed. We could do something similar to lure our own in the Diaspora.

Here is what I am thinking. Our President or Parliament should declare say the months of July and August for instance as Ghana Diaspora months. We will have all our festivals within these months. The secondary schools will have their students come back for a week or two, if they are on holidays, for the usual Speech and Prize Giving Day. Yes, move the Speech and Prize Giving Day. The Universities and government agencies will organize fora (forums) throughout this period and invite Ghanaians in the Diaspora to come and participate in discussions on Ghana’s future.

The Montreal Jazz Festival that I went to lasted one week. During that time, some streets were closed to motor vehicles so that musicians and other performers can set up platform at various places and perform. Magicians performed and many kinds of street artists and many vendors took advantage of it to have events. There were so many acts. It was fun.

Here is a for instance. Cape Coast can move the Afahye from the first Saturday in September to say second Saturday in August. (Whatever the reasons of our festivals are, today the festivals are mostly just big parties. We can move them.) The Saturday before the Afahye, Cape Coast can start a week long Cape Coast Street Festival during which some streets may be closed to motor vehicles to have bands and other performers perform, we can have fashion shows and vendors etc, etc. The secondary schools in Cape Coast can have their Speech and Prize Giving Day within two weeks before Afahye or within two weeks after Afahye. Of course Elimina’s Baka Tueh can follow Cape Coast’s Afahye. July and August are months that I think will be convenient for those who may have children in school. It may allow them to bring their children home to visit. It is just my suggestion. Studies may suggest other months that may be more convenient.

Similar thing can happen all over Ghana during these months. We can have say Afahye and Kuntoum and some others take place on the same day without one impacting on the other. Against my better judgment, I will throw in this. Smart politicians can take advantage of this to have fund raising events. Secondary schools can do their fund-raising during this time. For instance politicians can have NPP or NDC Diaspora events where those in the Diaspora can rub shoulders with politicians and leave a few dollars, euro, or pound sterling or Deutse Mark behind in the form of entry tickets or other form of fund raising; say $1000 to get you and your spouse seats at the President’s table.

The purpose of all this is to invite those in the Diaspora to come home to visit often. There are some who will come home with or without this hoopla, but there are many who will make extra effort to come either to show off or come in hopes of running into old friends at a Speech and Prize Giving Day or even to display intellectual prowess at a forum. Whatever the reason, it will spell increased tourism for Ghana.

If the marathon and the Ghana Diaspora months come to be, they will not solve all of Ghana’s problems, but they will surely put down payment towards solving our problems. Whether these ideas ever reach the powers that be or not I still believe that it will be a sin if our President does not look seriously into them.

Tony Pobee-Mensah

Columnist: Pobee-Mensah, Tony