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Sports Features Tue, 11 Sep 2007

Will CAN 2008 Suffer Ghana’s Age-Old Disease?

In March this year, March 6, to be precise, we climaxed anniversary as an independent nation in a manner which gave the impression that we have either forgotten our date of independence or we were not interested in celebrating it. It was like we woke up one morning and someone reminded us of our birthday so we hurriedly organised a makeshift party for a few friends.

Come to think that the presidential mansions meant for the heads of state were not complete by the D-Day and foreign dignitaries including some heads of state had to be accommodated by the kind courtesy of a private company. Those in charge of affairs tried brushing aside this national disgrace with a lot of excuses, some of which could only make sense in their own ears. Some of these were that, the celebration was a year-long affair hence there was no need to rush to complete every project associated with the celebration.

Apart from the Independence Square on which US$4 million was spent for its renovation, none of the other jubilee projects were ready by March 6, 2007. Jubilee parade grounds in the regions and the districts were not ready for anniversary parades. We did not see national failure here. Instead, we saw it as the usual Ghanaian way of doing things - without any conscious effort to succeed and make name. The Ghana @ 50 Secretariat itself could not bring in the souvenir items on time, thereby paving way for those with business instincts to cash in and make fortune at state expense.

The anniversary calendar which should have been in the country long , before March 6, 2007 arrived late and, therefore, had nothing of interest for most Ghanaians. That was a financial disaster for a nation always on the begging spree. But no one suffered for this serious lapse and no lessons were learnt. In short, the whole conception, planning and execution of the 50th anniversary celebration had not been the best. May be, it was just a reflection of the manner we have handled our national affairs over the last 50 years.

In July, 2007, our country again had an opportunity to showcase itself to the rest of the world. The decision to host this historic and memorable summit to coincide with our Golden Jubilee did not come out of the blue. In fact one of the defences put up for the construction of expensive presidential villas was that the country was going to play host to a number of international events including the African Union (AU) which was going to attract very important personalities including heads of state.

Unfortunately, when the guests started arriving, artisans were still busy day and night ‘putting finishing touches’ to the villas. The paints never dried and plumbers and carpenters were still at work when the VVIP guests checked in! The international conference centre was itself not prepared for such a big occasion. Again, nothing went wrong in our eyes and therefore no one had to answer for such a national disgrace and failure. Elsewhere, where failures are not in national dictionaries, some people would have bowed out in shame or been sacked! Here certain public offices are like gifts for loyalty, affinity or sycophancy; so success or failure do not determine those who should or should not remain at post.

This is our year so opportunities continue to come. In 2005, Ghana won the bid to host CAN 2008. This means all the top teams in Africa and all those who matter in football administration all over the globe will be converging here to celebrate good football. It is another opportunity to advertise Ghana and give flesh to the often-said claim that it is the first country south of the Sahara to gain political independence and a trailblazer in Africa's emancipation.

A serious study of events leading to CAN 2008 is pointing to another national disaster. Even though members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) continue to assure the nation that everything is on course, reports from Kumasi indicate that three months to the commencement of the tournament, work on four training pitches are behind schedule. The nation is enjoying bountiful rainfall throughout the country and these pitches should have been ready by now so that by January, all the turfs would have been green. Today we are being told the contractor lacked the requisite staff and equipment and one is wondering how he/she came to win the contract. This was the observation of the Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Professor Dominic Fobih, himself, when he visited the pitches.

According to the reports, the contractor was not on site when the minister paid his visit and there was no supervision. Among the work behind schedule are the turf itself where black soil is yet to be spread on them and spectator stands that are yet to be constructed at two of the sites. That may be only one instance. Who knows how many more projects are behind schedule? Can't we for once do the right thing and bolster the image of this country? Are we going to wait for January, 2008 to start mixing concrete in the night?

CAN 2008 is a chance to market Ghana. Unfortunately January 2008 looks like a long distance away from most Ghanaians. Those in the hospitality industry have complained that the LOC has not factored their contribution in the planning of the tournament. Most of our roads are not ready to receive guests in hundreds of thousands who will be travelling to the various match venues. Our tourism ministry has not laid down plans to showcase the tourist sites of the country. It is as if apart from the slave dungeons in the Cape Coast and Elmina castles, Ghana has no place of attraction to foreigners. We have failed during our own Golden Jubilee celebrations. We did not do better during the AU Summit. Let us not repeat the dose during the CAN 2008.

Source: Daily Graphic