It’s 5th October and I am at the Kotoka International Airport awaiting my flight to Lagos to start boarding. Time flies or so it seemed. It was barely 5 days ago, on my bed in Lagos that I decided that visiting Accra would be a good way to spend a late minute two (2) day vacation that I got.
That I came and I saw was not disputable. However, whether I conquered as Napoleon did was altogether a different issue. However, my objective of coming to Accra was not to conquer it but to put to test the myths around Accra. As I started my trip, I got on twitter and created a harsh tag #Mythsaboutaccra to document my thoughts on the truth behind these myths. I was not waoed by Accra. As I leave, I am leaving with disappointments. It was the story of another African nation abounding in talents and resources but saddled with crap leadership and morally insensitive government.
I arrived Accra late on 1st October 2014 having endured an unapologetic flight delay of more than 1 hour on Arik Air. I was disappointed. Disappointed in the leadership of Ararume at Arik, with all the expectations around quality. In my mind, I asked, do these people ever think the market doesn’t penalise for this insensitivity to keeping appointments or have they forgotten that the flight ticket is a contract? An offer by the passenger to pay a certain sum if the airline will convey him to a predetermined destination at an advertised time and an acceptance by the airline? Anyway, I am sending a nice little note to our ceo@arikair, just in case he is surrounded by incompetent self-serving teams that protect him from that truth that is called reality!
Going through Kotoka was smooth and seamless. These guys were efficient and was not looking for any tips or hands down to sway them from doing their jobs. I noticed that the heat sensing body thermometers at use in Accra were larger than the ones that I have come to be accustomed to in Lagos since the beginning of this West African Ebola Epidemic. I engaged the port health official in a conversation around this and she pleasantly addressed my concerns with charm. I saw a couple of ATMs and presented my Nigerian Bank issued Debit card and got a ward of cedis at an exchange rate of 56Naira to 1 cedi. I got through customs and immigration in a breeze and I was soon at the Taxi Park. The tidier, neat surroundings of the Kotoka Airport and the appearance of order was noticeable, different from the chaos that surrounds the MMIA. As I got to the Taxi Rack, the difference become barely undistinguishable, it was riotous and the pool of human heads were the same. All trying to pull you into their car and drive you off to your location, while reaping you blind! After I had dodged the entreaties of two or more of these drivers, I finally landed in the hands of one that offered to take me to my hotel in the Adabraka area for 15cedis. While I gladly accepted this, somewhere in my mind I had the gut feeling that I was being ripped off. As I later were to discover, a couple of days hence, the trip was worth between 6 and 10cedis. I bit my lips, in anger.
I arrived at my hotel within minutes and was soon settled in my room. The trip from Kotoka to Adabraka was nice and it took me through some of the nicest neighbourhoods and roads in Accra. We went through a couple of traffic lights which as the case was in Lagos were obeyed by the taxis and buses but were apparently not visible to the Okadas ( I must note that these were not truly Okadas, commercial motor bikes are uncommon in Accra). The hotel was not what I was expecting but I can’t complain. It was value enough for the amount that I was paying. I laid my bag down and went for a stroll in the neighbourhood to look around. There was not much to see, nothing from the usual. I started my slow paced walk back to the hotel and it was then that I started noticing the girls and then the ladies. Poised at different locations around the road and skimpily dressed in sensual ways, I was to realise that these were the ladies of the night. They came in different sizes and shapes and it seemed that for their profession, beauty really doesn’t matter! I noticed two of them, probably in their late teens chatting in front of me and swaying their you-know-what. I moved on, got to my hotel an requested for the internet password. I got into my room, connected my phones and laptop to the wireless internet and started reviewing the day’s emails and made a few calls to families and friends. The quality of the connection was better than average – things work in Ghana!
The next morning was a Thursday. I had picked up on the inflight magazine of Arikair and selected a couple of places that I needed to visit in Ghana. Top on the list was the famous Makola Market. It was promoted as a must see – on the top list of things to do in Ghana. If I had known that I was going to another replica of Isale Eko, Idumota or Oke Arin market, I wouldn’t have ventured out. There it was, Makola market in all its glory – of people and filth. I had come to Ghana being told of how clean and different Ghana was from Nigeria. The sight of Makola market wiped away every good imaginations that I have had about Ghana. I walked through the market, it was all familiar to me – a smaller replica of the Jankara market in Lagos. I soon wiggled my way through the dense cloud of humans and waved down a taxi to take me to my next stop – the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum.
I loved this place, it was the epitome of the Ghanaians bringing to live their deep sense of history and possible appreciation to the foresight and leadership of their first president. The fourteen (14) flute men (seven on either side of Kwame’s statue) as well as the cleanliness of the park was a great sight. I approached the ticketing counter and declared upfront that I was a visiting foreigner – a declaration that ended up costing me ten (10) cedis as opposed to the two that a Ghanaian would have paid. I took some nice pictures around and found my way into the park office which contains different memorabilia depicting the life and times of the fallen hero. Kwame lived a great life and most likely a fulfilled one, ending up to be a co-president of Guinea! He was a man and one with his own faults too. I left without a doubt in my mind that had the military let Osagieyefo be, he would have been a president for life in Ghana. The nice lady at the office took me around the park and talked me through the three burials of Kwame, and pointed out in the distance the Cardillac that Kwame used to ride in to me. With the Cardillac, I was disappointed, it could have been better preserved! My mind rushed back to the fact that Murtala Mohammed’s car in which he was assassinated, is suffering not a better fate in Lagos as well.
I left the park and walked into the nearby magistrate court. It was hot in Accra and I earnestly craved a bottle of coke which I got for 2 cedis. I requested for directions and took a leisure walk through about five minutes of dirt road with its nauseating stink and arrived at the cliff bordering the Gulf of Guinea. The sight was not the most pleasant and looking around I just couldn’t fathom that ,as a people, we have not understood how to preserve and improve our environment. I thought of what could have been, this same cliff could be transformed into a valued relaxation spot for the people of Ghana and also be an income yielding asset as a tourist attraction. Where are your listening ears, oh leaders of Ghana? I couldn’t bear the sight for long, I turned and briskly made my way back through the beaten dirt roads that I took to the place. I did not miss the commercialization of Christianity as gleamingly being displayed by a nearby church. Broadly advertised was a coming service to be anchored by the Nigerian Pastor Ayo Oritsejeafor. I noted that the Ghanaians are closely following the footsteps of my nation. Rich pastors and poor church members.
Not far from where I stood wad the Ghanaian Central Bank. I crossed the road to take a picture of it and walk through the back of the bank to the General Post Office Accra. It looked splendid in its colonial structure which has all appearances of being well maintained from the outside. I walked around it and took a few pictures. I noticed that while the computer age has caught up with many on the African continent, a couple of Ghanaians were still plying their trade in the typing of affidavits using the typewriters of yonder years. I smiled to myself. I got to the back of the post office and there they were – rows and columns of private office boxes. I could link these numerous boxes to the inscription on each and every commercial vehicle in Accra, one that requires the P.O.Box number of the owner to be detailed on the vehicle. It seems its working well. I was tired and felt that I had seen enough, I called a taxi and headed back to my hotel.
Later in the evening, I took a walk around Adabraka. I walked up the Kojo Thompson Road up to the overhead bridge and then back through an alternate road. Nothing exciting struck me, it was a tale of people plying their trades on the road side without any inhibition whatsoever. I walked into a restaurant, having been attracted by the bold advertisement at the entrance, only to eat the worst prepared rice meal of my life.
The next morning, I took a taxi and visited the Accra Mall. In the mall, I saw the Bata shop, which brings about a reminiscence of my early childhood. I am a fan of the Bata Shoes as they are well made and last years. I used to possess a Bata Cortina shoe which I used for many years as a child. These Bata shops have closed out in Nigeria yet they are thriving in Ghana which made me to ask, what kills businesses in Nigeria yet sustain them in Ghana? I was later to come across Barclays Bank, also long gone from Nigeria but yet thriving in Ghana. I purchased two pairs of shoes and then wandered leisurely through the shopping mall admiring the various Kente fabrics and the creations that had been made out of them. I settled down for a nice lunch at the food court and thereafter made my way out of the mall, across the road where I got accosted by street urchins begging for money. I waved down a cab and went to the Marina Mall at the Airport area. I took some servings of ice cream and settled down to watch Ghanaian movie producers at work filming a scene just next to me. I was attracted by the Latante DC10 Restaurant – a restaurant inside a DC10 aircraft formerly owned by Ghana Airways. I wanted to visit the restaurant but could not figure my way there from the mall and soon gave up the idea. I took a taxi to Labadi Beach Hotel and fell in love with the neat, well-manicured gardens of the hotel that fronts the beach. I ordered a soda drink and sat down for a long while, enjoying the cool breeze of the Atlantic as well as the beautiful scenery around. After I felt that I had taken enough, I strolled leisurely across the manicured garden, visited the swimming pool. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, a dip in the pool was all I needed to cope with the soaring heat.
(to be continued…)