What Tourism Minister Catherine Ablema Afeku needs to focus her attention on, presently, is the imperative necessity of raising the level and quality of the general standard of tourism administration in the country. For example, on our way to Elmina, near Saltpond, in the small town of Abandzi, we came across the totally dilapidated, disintegrated, structure of stone walls with a rather resplendent signpost called Fort Amsterdam on a hill scarcely a quarter-mile from the Accra-Takoradi Highway. As I write, you could aptly describe Fort Amsterdam as an effectively abandoned hulk or shell of its ancient “majestic” self, perhaps only suitable for archeological research. The name, obviously, tells spectators and/or passersby that Fort Amsterdam was originally constructed for the lucrative enslavement of Africans by the Dutch, the very ancestors of the Boer-Afrikaners of South Africa. If, indeed, our politicians and leaders want to preserve our historical and cultural memories, abandoned ruins like Fort Amsterdam which, as already noted, played a significant role in our collective and massive African enslavement and denigration, ought to be promptly restored and made a major tourist attraction.
We often bitterly complain about the unacceptably high level of unemployment in the country. I even learned that recent university and college graduates who are having a difficult time securing jobs in the civil and public services, two colonially inherited killers of our creativity, have constituted themselves into an organization called Ghanaian Unemployed Graduates’ Association (GUGA), or some such organization. Now, this is more than a scandal. It is simply unacceptable. You see, Dear Reader, jobs are no longer routinely created in Heaven and generously shipped down to us here on Earth by Divine Providence; we need to use our own creativity and common sense to create jobs for ourselves and restoring Fort Amsterdam into a viable tourist attraction could facilitate the creation of a remarkable number of jobs to ease up the high rate of unemployment in the country. The Tourism Ministry could even partner with either local or foreign investors on this potentially quite fetching venture, which could also boost the coffers of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
At the Elmina Castle, I was told by the Tourist Guide, Mr. Kugbe, that the administrative division of the management was woefully understaffed. In other words, to have this “Dungeon” become fully operational required at least twice the size of its present staff. But even more significant was my quite staggering discovery that Ghana has at least 52 forts and castles dotted across its coastal landscape, most of which were not at the levels or conditions in which they needed to be, if the Government was to raise significant revenue resources out of these globally recognized historical sites and monuments as fetching tourist cynosures. At the Cape Coast Castle, however, we would be informed by our Tourist Guide, Mr. Essel, a very ingenious and innovative storyteller, even as his Elmina Castle counterpart, Mr. Kugbe, was remarkably erudite and even scholarly, that there were 46 castles and forts dotted across the country’s coastline. I tend to personally believe that Mr. Kugbe’s count of 52 forts and castles is closer to the correct figure.
I came to the foregoing conclusion because unlike Mr. Kugbe, who is a graduate of Hospitality Management of the University of Cape Coast, with considerable experience on the job or at his trade, the much younger Mr. Essel is still a student of Hospitality Management at the same institution. What also makes Ghana unique, as well as globally infamous, as it were, is the fact that absolutely no other country on the West African coast or the Gulf of Guinea, including Nigeria, at one time called the Slave Coast, the most populous West African country, is as “richly blessed” as Ghana with as many forts and castles. But what I also learned or discovered at both the Elmina and Cape Coast castles is the fact that every major castle – I was informed that Ghana has four major castles – also had a fort or another smaller castle that primarily served as a security lookout by the nationals of whichever European country that happened to occupy the same, against possible attack by nationals of another European country poised to driving out their predecessors and occupying the same. Thus, was a culture of reckless piracy created on the West African coast by these Western Europeans. That may also very well have been how contemporary Africans learned the criminal art of burglary. Of course, the relevant research on this subject has yet to be conducted.
We didn’t get to visit any of these castle annexes in both Elmina and Cape Coast because we were heavily pressed for time, as earlier on we had diverted from the Accra-Takoradi Highway while on our to Elmina and followed the rather modest motorcade of President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the Kwame Nkrumah-founded Ghana National College – or Senior High School – that was celebrating its 70th anniversary, with the hosting of a Speech and Prize-Giving/Awarding Day, for a brief conference with the President and the scheduling of an appointment to meet with him shortly thereafter at Jubilee House, the seat of The Presidency. This had become necessary because my petty chieftain relative who had promised to secure me access to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, had unceremoniously decided to show me the back of his heels. For more than one week, Nana Solid Shit (not his real name or even his stool-name) had deliberately shut down his cellphone and had apparently decided not to be bothered with my request which, by the way, had been voluntarily suggested by himself. He wouldn’t take any of my 15 to 20 calls. In retrospect, Nana Solid Shit’s turning of his back to me was a godsend.
Like most of these Ghanaian SOB chieftains of his ilk, Nana Solid Shit probably had no viable connection and/or ready access to Jubilee House. In fact, when I mentioned his name to Nana Akufo-Addo, both on the campus of Ghana National College and at Jubilee House on the day that I met with him, on August 1, Nana Akufo-Addo did not even know what I was talking about. The name of Nana Solid Shit did not appear to ring any bells, as it were. In this sense, our decision to hit the road for Elmina and Cape Coast on the day and time that we did, in retrospect, had been divinely ordained. Destiny had so auspiciously crafted it. In fact, when I introduced myself to him at Ghana National College – my face seemed very familiar to him, but he appeared not to readily remember my name – Nana Akufo-Addo wondered why I had been in Ghana and in Accra, of all places in the country, and not bothered to seek him out at Jubilee House. That was when the name of Nana / Barima Solid Shit entered into our conversation.
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