Privatization of Ghanaian Roads :Is Alhaji Amin Suleman for Real? – Asks Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

It is rather quizzical how the so-called social democrats of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) are fast morphing into neighborhood turf-owning vigilantes. You would have thought that the Mahama government was voted into power by the Sicilian Mafia, rather than the Ghanaian people. Now we have a man with the Arab-sounding name of Alhaji Amin Suleman telling his fellow citizens that they can, after all, take the law into their own hands by going ahead with the paving and tarring of roads in their neighborhoods and then charging any amounts in toll-fees that they so wish for the use of the same by motorists, because road construction has become too expensive to be singularly shouldered by their government. Interestingly, we are also informed that Alhaji Amin Suleman is Ghana’s Road-Transport Minister (See “Roads Minister: Fix Your Roads and Charge Tolls” 1/17/14).

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The foregoing is eerily reminiscent of a Wole Soyinka play; I suspect it is called “Madmen and Specialists,” although it’s been quite a long while since I read it and can only faintly remember the same. This madness of Alhaji Amin Suleman, we are told, came about when the administrative authorities of the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, decided to commence charging non-residential private motorists plying the roadways of the sprawling and otherwise majestic campus road-maintenance fees, because the central government that statutorily owns the institution had been perennially deaf towards incessant calls for on-campus road-repair works. Now, though, Alhaji Amin Suleman is telling us that the sound maintenance of roadways on the campus of the University of Ghana, or Legon, is not the business of his ministry.

And so it is absolutely not surprising that most of the roadways of Legon are fast becoming impassable. If I remember correctly, in the heated lead-up to the 2012 general election, the Mahama government put a legion of bull-dozers, earth-movers, graders and other road-construction equipment, owned by the State Construction Corporation (SCC), and by extension the central government, on the dilapidated roadways of Manya-Krobo, in the Eastern Region. And this happened in the wake of a massive protest by the people of the district and their promise not to vote to retain the National Democratic Congress, which they had been supporting for ages, in power. The Legon authorities do not seem to be invested with the same block-voting power as the people of Manya-Krobo. And so, logically, their roadway problems have effectively been consigned to go to the dogs, literally speaking.

There is, of course, no gainsaying the fact that our rather fragile and badly managed central government cannot go about the indispensable business of road maintenance and development, in general, on its own. A salutary dosage of private entrepreneurship is a must, although listening to these faux-social democrats yaps about ideological humanism, you would think they invented our very Christian faith. But, of course, those of us old enough to remember know perfectly well that it is all cant and chicanery. There is not an ounce of charitability in the blood vessels of a single key NDC operative!

The problem that I have with President Mahama, naturally, regards why he would put a fully salaried man in a portfolio that is decidedly as good as non-existent. Then also, what modalities has the Road-Transport Minister worked out with neighborhood leaders desirous of constructing feeder, or service, roads vis-a-vis quality control specifications and also the means by which the most competent road contractors available are to be hired for such jobs? And also the establishment of a periodic schedule for the prompt and proper maintenance of these soon-to-be privately owned roads and alleyways, as it were.

Minister Suleman has also yet to inform the general public about the specific amounts of toll-fees to be charged by the owners and managers of these soon-to-be private roads, and also how frequently to charge frequent users, as opposed to one-time or occasional users of these roads. Listening to Alhaji Suleman talk so offhandedly and facilely about such significant social infrastructure, you would think that President Mahama were merely the Senior Prefect of a high school located somewhere between Salaga and Tumu. I mean, what kind of nonsense is this? In other words, what prevents the central government from holding forth with local chiefs and neighborhood and district leaders on the imperative necessity of mobilizing private capital resources to supplement the efforts of the very government which they have themselves electorally mandated to husband our evidently rudderless ship of state?

Clearly, Ghana may well be dangerously poised on the cusp of chaos, and the sooner our leaders wake up and begin to reason progressively and constructively, the better it would be within the range of human capacity, and capability, to save our turbulently drifting ship of destiny. A word to the wise….

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York


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