In the 1960s as a young boy growing in the Zenith area of my beloved Takoradi, the adjoining Prempeh Cinema Hall was my playground. I remember watching a German war movie titled ?To Hell and Back?, it was starred by Klaus Kinski if my memory serves me right. Zenith and Prempeh were the hot spots in the twin-city.
There was one other hot spot where the seamen shuttled. It is Columbia Bar. It still exists but has lost its former glory. However, the Chief Executive of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA), Captain Anthony Cudjoe, has popularised Columbia Bar once again.
The story. A few months back there was an international forum on Urban Development and Management in far away Columbia. I am sure the discussions centred on the problems of urbanisation.
The world of today, particularly the third world countries are confronted with the problem of rural-urban migration with their attendant problems for our urban cities and towns.
Since no nation can prevent the movements of its citizenry, there is the need for the managers of the urban centres to effectively manage the cities and towns to meet the growing population and economic and commercial activities under their jurisdiction within the confines of the laws and bye-laws of the Metropolis.
In the face of these realities, world bodies occasionally share ideas and best practices to address the challenges that confront cities and towns today.
In 2006, a similar one like the one recently organised in Columbia was held in Vancouver in Canada. I took part in that programme as the then District Chief Executive of the Ahanta West District.
When I came back, it dawned on me that Sekondi-Takoradi, my closest neighbour (present day Ahanta West was part of the then Sekondi-Takoradi City Council until it became autonomous in 1988), was choked and that the inflow from Sekondi-Takoradi was going to be accommodated by the Ahanta West District.
I started thinking of how the District could accommodate these natural inflows in a much planned manner. Not too long after the Vancouver 3rd World Urban Conference, Ghana found oil in the Cape-Three Points Basin in the Western Region. Cape-Three Points happen to be the southernmost part of Ghana, and is located in the Ahanta West District.
This further strengthened my resolve to see a well planned District which will accommodate the oil industry and inflow of residential and economic activities in an organised manner.
Through information I gathered from some people, I made a move to the South Korean Embassy to find out whether we could be helped to plan the District to accommodate the expected inflow of economic activities without creating any major problems like developed shanty communities without basic infrastructure.
After up and down meetings and discussions, a team from Seoul visited us. I picked them from Accra; they spent three days in the district, toured every corner and identified everything they wanted to see.
The long and short of it is that KOICA agreed to plan the district for us. Sadly, by the time they came, the NPP was out of power and I was not in office. They did what they had to do without the courtesy of the Assembly even inviting me to any of their meetings and discussions.
That is not my worry anyway, the fact is that KOICA has planned this district beautifully but the managers of the district are not enforcing the plan left behind by KOICA.
Then came the year 2014 for the world to meet and deliberate on how to tackle the mess confronting our urban centres in Columbia and the Chief Executive of the Sekondi-Takoradi decides to hide in Columbia Bar with the tax payers? money and later tell the assembly, according information from some members of the assembly, that he attended the conference. But he was exposed by a journalist.
I am not so much interested in the public funds he squandered and his arrogant posture on the matter on air, but the opportunity he lost in learning something that could have helped him to properly manage growing Twin-City.
Sekondi-Takoradi, the political and administrative capital of my beloved Western Region, has never seen such deterioration as we are experiencing under Captain Cudjoe, a retired (or is it a dismissed) military officer who is supposed to instil discipline within the confines of the law to see better state of affairs in the region, is rather presiding over gross indiscipline.
Are you amazed? Well, if a man in that position can hide in a ?Columbia Bar? and tell his people later on that he had attended a conference in Columbia, one can easily measure his level of discipline or indiscipline.
Dear reader, Sekondi-Takoradi is one of, if not the most congested, filthy and unkempt cities in this country. And it is supposed to be the fourth largest city in Ghana. The roads in the city are worse than the roads in my village at Boekrom in the Ahanta West District.
About 85% of the roads within the Metropolis are very very bad. The people within the city drive on craters and manholes which swallow the vehicles, and release them later as they wobble on to their destinations. They are dusty during the dry season just like all feeder roads in the rural areas and muddy and unmotorable in the rainy season.
More than half of the roads are occupied by taxies and articulated trucks even in the centre of the city. Huge construction equipment are found occupying busy roads in the city centre as if the roads have been converted into garages for maintaining those equipment some of which have broken down.
Movements of boulders on our streets are not just putting pressure on the roads and hastening their deterioration, but are posing very serious danger to other road users since some of them fall on the streets while in transit.
There is a company that has been contracted by STMA to, as it were, deal with reckless parking of vehicles in the city by locking up movable vehicles that are not properly parked so there can be sanity. That is okay.
However, business city centre roads have become the permanent abodes for broken down vehicles. Nobody is interested in ensuring that those vehicles are moved off the streets to ease congestion.
As for filth, dear reader, the leadership of the twin-city is so bankrupt in sanitation management that the level of incompetence is beyond human understanding. It is amazing to note that any time it rains in the twin-city, instead of the drainage systems carrying away the water from off the streets; the drains rather pump water onto the streets.
Why? Filth occupies 95% of the space of what is supposed to be a drain that carries only liquid waste. It is worthy of note that the twin-city under a different leadership was twice adjudged the cleanest city in Ghana just a few years back under the leadership of a civilian Major. Ironically, my twin-city has always been led by retired military officers, the reason I do not know.
Every small open space in the twin-city has been given out for one form of construction activity or the other, mostly to foreigners. Sekondi -Takoradi has lost its beauty, it is a huge mass of a shanty town without any direction and planning.
Naturally swampy areas in the twin-city have been tampered with without proper drains to accommodate the water which flowed into those sites.
These sites are being filled with gravel materials for construction works. Last Monday, for once in recent times, the twin city did not only flood, but also homes were taken over by the rains in various parts of the city.
This once beautiful twin-city, the only one after the twin-city of Minneapolis and St Paul in the State of Minnesota, United States where I also had some education, is collapsing under Captain Anthony Cudjoe. He has no plans at all for the twin-city.
He is only there to enjoy his third and final pension. He is the most incompetent Major this twin-city has been cursed to have. He is a big failure. I weep for Sekondi-Takoradi, my beloved twin-city, it is stinking and failing.
Three tots of my bitters, I mean the mahogany in these awful times under blockheaded leaders.
By Kwesi Biney