By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
It is both a pity and a damn shame to learn that in the year 2014, the country’s deafening boasting of having ready access to ultra-modern technology and all, the overwhelming majority of Ghanaian citizens, both urban and rural, lack ready access to decent toilet facilities (See “People Must Invest in Toilet Facilities – DCE” Ghana News Agency / Ghanaweb.com 11/23/14). This is a great indictment on both the relatively more politically dominant National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the more progressive and development-oriented New Patriotic Party (NPP). And it is utterly disheartening to learn that our leaders, across all ideological divides, are more fixated on ownership of lavish mansions and Toyota Land Cruisers than the savvy upgrading of basic amenities of convenience and the sound and healthy quality-of-life improvement of ordinary citizens.
We learn, for instance, that close to 60-percent of Ghanaians are forced to ease themselves daily in open spaces such as urban drainage systems, beaches and brushes. This primitive level of existence severely undermines our UN-projected Millennial Development Goals (MDGs); it also embarrassingly points to the fact that Ghanaians woefully lack the sort of visionary leadership, as well as sacrificial leadersip, that many of us routinely associate with the Founding Fathers and Mothers of contemporary Ghana, both globally renowned and largely unknown and unsung. The outbreak of cholera in the country early this year did not speak nobly about our stature and status among the global comity of nations. It was also rather pathetic to hear and see President John Dramani Mahama launch a National Sanitation Day, more than three decades after the bloody Mr. Rawlings launched his so-called House-Cleaning Exercise.
Indeed, it is aggravatingly clear that what was woefully lacking then and now was visionary and creative leadership. I have yet to be shown any comprehensive plan developed by any major political party or government since 1957, that sought to specifically address the critical question of public toilet facilities, besides the few scattered initiatives launched by progressive village communities and local councils. And so it was quite refreshing to hear Mr. Sylvester Daddieh, the District Chief Executive Officer of the Nzema district of Half-Assini, in the Western Region, call for investors to focus their attention on the provision of toilet facilities, if the nation is to be spared a more catastrophic epidemic like the Ebola pandemic that has taken a stranglehold of post-war African nations like Liberia and Sierra Leone and, before the preceding two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and the frontline state of Guinea-Conakry. I also hope that President Mahama and his cabinet fully appreciate the fact that the borderline between the Ebola pandemic and the cholera epidemic may not be as distinctive as they may be tempted to suppose.
The general sanitation situation in the country continues to be viscerally decried by many a recent New York City resident Ghanaian visitor to our beloved nation. And here, of course, the subject regards the epic problem of garbage disposal. I have personally recommended a KNUST-trained garbage treatment and disposal specialist who serves as one of the directors of the New York City Sanitation Department, through a Washington, DC-based entrepreneur, to work with interested parties in Accra in order to find a lasting solution to this problem. As of this writing, however, I was not privy to the situation on the ground, largely being the fact that I am not directly involved in the entire process or venture itself.
What the preceding speaks to, of course, is the unmistakable fact that by and large many of us Ghanaian-born diaspora residents are as concerned about the state and well-being of our beloved nation of origin as those back at home. Some of us may never return to live there, but the heart and pulse of Ghana reside deep within our souls.