One of the joys of Ghanaweb's newspage and, of course, other Ghanaian internet news sites, is the ability to see at a glance, much like a kaleidoscope in the full glare of light, the varying shades of opinion that make up our complex country. This array of opinions and thoughts is not only limited to the realm of the subjective. On the news pages in particular, it is possible to grasp the pulse of the country from the sheer assemblage of newspapers that try to report objectively on events in national life. TV, radio programs and videos that are accessible at a touch of a button or mouse click help create a great visual backdrop to the abundance of information. Perched on the right pedestal, one can gain, from a perspective orientation, very interesting insights into our agricultural country that cannot feed itself. As in a kaleidoscope where certain arrays of colors, reflections and refractions are bound to impugn one's sense of reality at various times, so with life in Ghana; except in Ghana, certain fortuitous renditions of coincidences further illuminate this ray of discernment into the nature of national things.
I was blessed with one such epiphany when I settled in the other day, as I do almost daily, on Ghanaweb's news pages to do obeisance to them that have become skilled at promising the national cake so glibly to the gullible, even as the race reaches its stretch in the democratic run up to who-gets-to-control-the-oil. Then, behold, I saw a headline, nondescript as many of them are on the site, but with an import that crushed you like an errant tsunami, "Ghana to import garbage"! Not wanting to prejudge country and nation, I raced to the site in the Chronicle newspaper online. And there it was, 'luminous and terrifying , like a flash of lightning across a serene sky', that Kumasi, good old Ash town, a city which has not yet learnt how to safely collect and dispose of its garbage was thinking of importing garbage from Canada, or elsewhere, in order to make pellets. These pellets, ostensibly, would then be burned off for energy production.
Given the current global trends towards alternate energies and sustainability, these foreign countries did not think it fit to pelletize their own garbage for their energy needs. Why this apparent eagerness to sell it to Africans?
Why not our own, homegrown garbage, was also part of my initial instinct, after all, most of the droppings of farm animals, ours included, are already in pellet form, but the company in charge settled my doubts. They had convinced the Deputy Minister of local government, an MP from the Asante region, that Kumasi - and by implication Ghana - did not have enough garbage to support the venture. I mean, if the CEO of the company were a white man, I would have called this a racist comment. 22 million Ghanaians - just because we are black does not mean we can't and don't produce enough garbage for energy production. So where from this foreign garbage? Have we not taken enough of it already, that now we must purchase it to make pellets?
But much more irony abounds in this tale of foreign garbage and pellets. The chief executive officer of the Canadian company, the "brain behind the project" to pelletize foreign garbage is himself a Ghanaian, an Asante by the looks of it, and a diasporan. Much has been said and written about the contributions the diaspora can make to national development, but here was a case of a member of our diaspora egregiously exhibiting a national penchant for everything foreign, even garbage. I was jolted back to earth and reality from the dizzyingly illusory perch that I share with other 'educated' diaspora Ghanaians, where we celebrate macro-economic stability and the birth of democracy in Ghana, even as our colleagues at home gird up their loins for the unveiling of the oil.
In this new state of demise, my attention was drawn back to the aforementioned kaleidoscope, and this time, behold, another flash of lightning. In Ahanta West district, a coastal area that borders the oil patch, residents of about 5 communities were being plagued, in 'alarming proportions', with elephantiasis, anemia, malaria and teenage pregnancies - some girls as young as thirteen years old in elementary school.
This was a more familiar Ghana, one that does not elicit any bouts of incredulity; predictable and picturesque, a perfect painting of neglect, an eyesore of the social contract. A friend, with whom I shared this gem, disdainfully remarked that maybe the purpose of the elephantiasis was to hinder the people from protesting when they see their oil being taken away, come 2010. But wait, hear this, it was not to the government that these people appealed to for assistance for their health and social predicaments. No, having long learnt that the State in Ghana exists not for them, but in spite of them, they rather appealed to NGO's, mostly foreign, to come to their aid. Even when it comes to help for elephantiasis, Ghanaians don't trust their own, they go to foreigners.
Needless to say, my view from the kaleidoscope has left an indelible mark in my mind. On the one hand I am all too aware of the parochialness of this view, after all, more lofty themes abound: like the great and majestic Golden Stool Presidential Palace that replaces the old slave castle as the seat of governance. It may have been built with Indian money, but at least, our leaders are not insulting us anymore by delivering underdevelopment from a former slave castle. Add to this, the brilliant contracting of national development to foreigners in exchange for gold cocoa, remittances and, soon, the oil. Etched vividly in my mind is the numbing paradox of the 'success story of Africa, whose son, with the backing of a Deputy Minister, is about to import foreign garbage to make pellets, while people are plagued with elephantiasis and measles, and teenagers are engaged in orgies of sex and procreation, all this presided over by a massive monumental Golden Stool Presidential Palace. Turn, kaleidoscope, turn!
In the end, when all is said and done, and the chickens have come home to roost, I think to myself, if some diasporan Ghanaian had a business idea to treat sewage into, say, methane gas for energy production, would he utilize Ghanaian faeces or would he rather…….? And depending on how incorrigible I feel, I dare to wonder; what if some government minister wanted to start a solar panel manufacturing concern, would he bother to use Ghanaian sunlight?
The possibilities are endless.Truro, Nova Scotia. _________________________________________________________________