By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The epic irony of Mayor Oko Vanderpuije’s being voted Africa’s Best Mayor, only to have more than 200 residents of his city drowned by gasoline-slicked flood waters barely 48 hours later, ought to teach us some good lessons about the scandalous hypocrisy of such an accolade and the award itself. This is sad to say, but by the age of 10, I had already come to full knowledge and understanding that all things African equated with downright mediocrity. I don’t know the basis upon which the Accra mayor was adjudged the best among his peers on the continent; but whatever it was, it almost certainly couldn’t have had anything to do with the architectural modernization of the Ghanaian capital.
I mean, here we are living in a city that cannot even manage its waste matter efficiently claiming to be the best managed city in Africa, and having all the praise-songs from all the mayors of all the capital cities on the continent and a resplendent Western-imported trophy to back up such fraud. Nearly everybody I know who traveled to Ghana and returned recently, has spoken of the unbearable stench of waste that has taken over the air of our once fairly decent metropolis. And those who are too embarrassed to talk about the problem invariably claim not to have trolled Accra-Central, and also to have resided in one of the few areas of the city that fairly reasonably boast of globally acceptable hygiene standards. Indeed, scarcely two years ago, somebody had bitterly complained in the media about the untold filth into which the city that used to be nicknamed the Gateway to West Africa had been plunged.
Back then, I even read about a survey report that ranked Accra next to bottom-most among the sub-region’s sixteen, or so, capitals. Interestingly, in the wake of the June 3 and 4’s fiery flood that destroyed more than two-hundred lives, Mayor Vanderpuije, a former American elementary- or high-school principal, bitterly faulted the failure of Ghana’s Finance Minister, Mr. Seth Terkper, to promptly release funds for the construction of storm drains (See “No Tears For Accra Mayor – [Church] Minister” Kasapafmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 6/9/15).
From what I have been able to glean from the media, Mayor Vanderpuije has been at his post since 2009, or at least for some six years; and Mr. Terkper, the Finance Minister, has been at his post for less number of years than the Accra mayor. And so the logical question to ask is as follows: Precisely how long ago did Mayor Vanderpuije come to the realization of the fact that Accra needed storm drains, in order to drastically reduce the high and fatal incidence of seasonal flooding? And also what steps did he take when Mr. Terkper either failed or flatly refused to release funding for the construction of storm drains? And here, of course, I am thinking in terms of whether the Accra mayor appealed to Parliament or even consulted with the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing; or even the President of the Republic of Ghana and the man whose former boss and immediate predecessor appointed Dr. Vanderpuije mayor of Accra.
In the wake of the catastrophic floods that ravaged Accra on June 3-4, the Methodist prelate of Kumasi-Bantama, the Very-Reverend Charles Aaron Ekuban, was reported to have said on a radio program that he would not “shed a drop of tear” for the Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer, if Dr. Vanderpuije were to lose his job. Well, the problem goes far beyond the possibility of Mayor Vanderpuije’s losing his job; for that would obviously not solve a problem whose cause clearly is borne out of abjectly perennial neglect by previous mayors. Then also, I don’t see a grossly incompetent jet-hopping President Mahama being invested with the moral authority and credibility to fire Mayor Vanderpuije for a problem of which the man, like most Accra residents, is equally a victim.
Garden City, New York
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