RE: President Mills at the Arlington National Cemetery
By Kwaku A. Danso
The visiting of our Ghana President Mills at America’s Arlington Memorial cemetery during yesterday’s Official State visit has caused discussion on our Ghana Leadership Union forum, especially in view of the President banning traditional libation pouring at ceremonies. There was a mention the day before but no media coverage of the visit on our popular US news channels.
A member wrote:
“The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum at the Old Polo Club grounds is similar to the Arlington National Cemetery. We have Armed Forces Personnel on various missions outside even Africa and a similar role could be designed for them and used for such purposes.
Our perception of things must realigned to come to appreciate what others are doing that we can replicate in different ways . We must move to thoughts of transforming our societies to be the best or with the best of the best. (Prince Alec Douglas Gaisie, Mar 9, 2012, at 2:26 AM)”
This discussion about a cemetery for tourism is interesting and Ghana of all nations, due to our reverence for the dead, should take global leadership in this area. Can we?
Everybody is making lots of sense, but maintaining a cemetery as nice as Arlington Cemetery is like a Business here in America. Can Ghana do it? No! Not the way we are running the nation.
“I'm still puzzled about the new "banning of libations at state ceremonies" policy. That's exactly what foreign visitors like about Ghana: its traditional and "modern" histories symbolically combined. President Obama and his kids will be disappointed.” (Renee D, GLU Forum, Fri, Mar 9, 2012 at 12:24 PM)
Renee, our President is acting strictly on the Christian perspectives, that these libations represent fetish worship. He is not concerned about the tourist attractions of a tradition. As a matter of fact it makes sense the way you are thinking.
The Business of Running a Nation-
The business and accounting and assessment of the global marketing of our resources, natural sites, lakes, towns and nice districts, traditions, to raise revenue often is lost to our number-challenged government officials. Contrary, in the San Francisco Bay area as an example, one of the Tourist trips is called the 49 mile Trip. It was in 1849 that California’s gold mining boom started and hence many events and the Football team are named after that. Air conditioned Buses take groups through many areas in the Bay area from San Francisco through the Oakland and Berkeley Hills and the University of California at Berkeley. Very lovely sites!
Honestly, we can make a Financial Projection and show how we can build these and make money out of it from Tourism, but the ordinary Minister is not there yet at that level of thinking! Even if we propose it they will not take it unless they see how they can take money from the proposal. The “greedy bastard” principles of Jerry Rawlings come in.
And let me tell you if Kwame Nkrumah came back and built it and left it for us we would collect the moneys from the Tourists and put them in the consolidated funds, at best if not in private pockets of individual Ministers or their party funds. This means these places will not even have a budget to have a public toilet. I am serious!
Is it basic intelligence?-
Sometimes our people act so stupid one must now apologize to Prof. George Ayittey for those words in the 1980/90s when Ghanaians said he was insulting our African leaders. I believe intelligence is exhibited in practice and not in the classroom. In Africa we have failed because we did not have the environment that was competitive and developed enough to practice our brains in a competitive atmosphere after our University education. Since 2004 this writer has employed Ghanaians in various ways, in the building trades (masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians), and to do Software.
A Ghanaians plumber can stand on a chair and hang a bathroom shower head. When you try to reach it, it is too high for you as for anybody (except seven foot Kareem Abdul Jabbar and his club).
“Why did you hang it so high?” you ask. “Err,, Masa,, err,, that is the way we do it here”, they may say.
One carpenter left a gap at the bottom of the door when you close the door, and it took another year before another carpenter installed a “door stopper” – small piece of wood at the bottom of the door to prevent draft. The fool was a good ceiling installer but did not know of a door stopper, which would have cost only $20.
I am not trying to make fun at all of my people. Classroom Education without practice is almost useless in all fields! From Math, Science, Law, Economics, etc. I know a few friends with PhDs who after they left for Ghana are computer illiterate now and my communication with them is once per year – not that they cannot afford $40 per month for Internet but because they just don’t know how to use the computer and lost the value! They left the US in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
Centralization and bottlenecks -
To exemplify the situation in Ghana and the bottlenecks of centralization, I was in line in 2004 in Ghana to register my vehicle at the VLO
– Vehicle Licensing Office in Accra and saw many people urinating on the wall during the 2 hours waiting in line. One guy had one of the Moslem water kettles and I had not seen that in 30 years and so I was very amazed to see that practice where the guy uses the water in the kettle to wash his private area and hands after defecating or urinating. But in Public?! OMG!! I found out later that the Licensing office had one toilet that demanded a Key from the Secretary of the director before anybody could use it. After my turn in the line I decided to go and do my “Peer-to-Peer Confrontation” – to ask why they don’t have a public toilet. You know me,, “trouble-man” is coming, as they call it in Ghana. Okay,,”Oh! the Director is not in but we do have a public toilet”, the Secretary told me. When I went in there I almost puked!!
The place, even though there was water on that day, was so filthy and the toilet seat cover was down on the floor. I took a picture of it if anybody wants to see it!
I left my Business card and number and the following day the Director of the VLO, Vehicle Licensing Office was courteous enough to call me. That was very unusual in Ghana for a “big man” to call. He had moved home from the US and understood my complaint. He told me that he had even asked the Minister if he could either get a small percentage or budget, or impose an additional small fee to maintain the VLO in Accra to buy cleaning agents and supplies for the toilets; the government refused, saying that he does not have the right to do that. So it was Okay for people to urinate on the walls at a place that serves an estimated 1,000 people per day?? This centralized management makes one man at the top impose his will on 24 million people in all regions, all districts and towns, and agencies! That is not a democracy as I have said many times! If President Mills was sincere, he would have changed that by now.
“What kind of people are we?” as my late grandfather would ask.
Can we afford it?
The usual question about doing anything is financing. Folks, every vehicles being registered pays an average $100, and my estimates is that if all moneys are accounted for, that office raises $50,000 per day. One can see the difficulty in letting this office keep $2,000 per year to buy supplies so we can keep our dignity as humans!! Are we not as human as all others?
Folks, when some of us describe Ghana in non-flowery terms, some of our friends feel we are criticizing but try and spend more than your usual 4 weeks in Ghana, take delivery of a vehicle, and register it, and drive on the roads and you will see real Ghana! Live there for 3 months, which is my usual time, and you will see more of Ghana. Our people and those in government positions often act, if you excuse me, like they are stupid without brains! And that is not all the fault of the typical government official, but then of course all in executive positions should have to share the blame. Police stations without outside light and without a working phone! Our system is totally CENTRALIZED to the point where say the Director of an Agency like Electricity Corporation of Ghana, ECG wants to impose a special fee in East Legon to provide residents with a bigger transformer for electricity distribution, the government will not allow him. This is not a joke! I have agonized over this and that is why I wanted to make an appointment with the PURC for GLU, and the director refused to see us.
Trust that unless the Chief of a town, or tribe, say the Asantehene, Yaa Na, takes the leadership and defies the Ministers and dare anybody, and collects some money in towns and use it to build this nice Cemetery or Mausoleum, it will never be done.
The whole concept of democracy-
It seems our democracy is upside down in Ghana! Instead of the people expressing their wishes through the President, the President is elected and acts to tell us what to think and what we can get. Unless and until we have the constitution changed, or amended, we are joking. I sincerely don’t expect any development in the districts so far as we all wait for one man to make the decisions, and tell us when to jump and how high! Yes, if the man is a member of the “superior intelligence club”, he can get the job done faster but that is not necessary to get any job done in the modern day. Leadership in Africa is either autocratic Chaka Zulu style or chaos, and we need to empower our people and simply “supervise” or monitor performance as they try to build their districts and towns.
Yes, we can make our cemeteries nice and available for tourists and family visits, and we can even commercialize some of our traditions. It will take local administrative management. Visits to district or town cemeteries is often disappointing and poorly organized. We should not wait for anybody from Accra to tell us how to manage and maintain our cemeteries. But will we? Can we even maintain public toilets, schools, parks and libraries? When will the President relinquish some of his powers under this one-man dictatorial 1992 Ghana Constitution and allow towns and districts to elect their own mayors and District Chief Executives, who can then represent their people and can be removed if he fails to perform for them? The Constitutional Review commission finished their work in December 2011. When will it be implemented? Your guess is as good as mine. Hopefully before the cemetery time!
Kwaku A. Danso, PhD (Email: email@example.com )
(Moderator-GLU Forum, President-Ghana Leadership Union).