Sacrifice versus idolatry: Let's talk about energy

Tue, 10 Apr 2007 Source: Draft Kofi Annan 2008

Should Kofi Annan remain a billboard figure in Accra without coming down to wrestle the leadership system from the yak-yaks, his small cross of Christ cleaning the Temple?

Ananse kept quite for a while, to hear the whispers during the Ghana@50 event; let’s be real, it was an event, not a process deserving of a year-long cash allocation for celebrations, like bribing little children with baseball caps when it is quality education they need. Post-Ghana@50, concern about access to electricity has deepened. Yet the big men gloat, and Ghanaians are forced to idolize them. When they speak, their words are more of brawn than brain, focused on the past and not the future. When they offer the future, they reflect a lack of deep thought and reality.

Instead of yak-yak-yakking about the energy crisis just to dissociate their wing – enye mea, it wasn’t my Government’s lapse, - and reporting daily on the level of the Volta Dam as if that would invoke the ancestral offering to the god of the Volta to regenerate itself, we should think about the relationship between energy security and our geophysical and biological environment. The world talks about global warming and tells us those near the Equator would be severely impacted; we have seen for decades that the level of the Volta reservoire could not be guaranteed under these conditions and poor water resource management. (But, if the mighty Volta dries up that much, ponder the smaller rivers and creeks that feed into it or the distributaries.)

For an energy policy, as creation has thought it wise to give us an abundance of sunlight all year round in all corners of our country, Government should put in place all means necessary for every public building (ministries, departments, hospitals and health centers, school blocks, even District level government departments) to use solar energy for their electricity needs within the next five years, and make conditions favorable for private businesses and households to purchase and install such solar energy devices. This should be implemented as a micro-energy generation system, not the hallucination of building a giant plant somewhere (some even, in our delusions profess nuclear power for Ghana) and transporting it by wire somewhere else. That would be an economically viable sector, like so many homes in the major urban areas today finding ways to store (‘polytanks’) or dig wells. We are told by the instruments of donors that Ghanaians enjoy a high access to electricity – compared to what? As part of an integrated environment and human security policy and implementation, including access to electricity and primary heath, instead of cutting down trees to erect statues in honor of our great leaders past, let’s leave the trees in place (since statues cannot absorb CO2 from our skies), name the trees and circles after them, and in addition build for the future by putting up school blocks and health centers that we also name after these same great men – twice the price of one: respecting the past and serving the future.

Then our villages will see examples of keeping the land green and protecting the river basins. We should consider all other energy strategies, like the West African Gas Pipeline project and fossil fuel-dependent thermal plants as temporary. And, if donors can fund our access to such energy sources so should they for an even cleaner resource use and good corporate behavior, which they preach.

Yet a smarter way would be an admission that it is not just our energy needs we didn’t plan for and implemented to scale in our 50 years since Kwame Nkrumah’s infrastructure projects era – same with health, education, roads, agriculture and food, water, sanitation, leadership, management, and administration. The Easter we celebrate, and the Christ whose crucifixion and resurrection we profess give us the highest demonstration of sacrifice and leadership, versus idolatry. Ananse concluded by pondering: Should Kofi Annan remain a billboard figure in Accra without coming down to wrestle the leadership system from the yak-yaks, his small cross of Christ cleaning the Temple? As Ghanaians celebrate Easter, Ananse wishes all a safe period on the roads while we go home at an important period in our community-driven development planning process, which is the norm in many of our towns and villages – when the urban dwellers return to their hometowns. Let us celebrate what we have accomplished by ourselves because much of the ‘growth’ in Ghana is due to individual, family, and small group efforts - individuals and small groups putting up buildings (homes, small workshops, hair salons, kiosks, etc.) and planting cassava but Government failing to deliver in every aspect of its mandate – roads, water, sanitation, quality health care and education for the children, electricity, even oversight.

Let our leaders then, this Easter, humble themselves and commit to searching for knowledge and means to sacrifice; that would be a smaller cross than Jesus carried.

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Columnist: Draft Kofi Annan 2008