A fortnight ago this column sought to find out whether Accra can really be kept clean.
The question sounds pessimistic but it is significant which needs to be answered if really we are to meet the President’s goal of working to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa. Many things suggest a step forward and many steps backwards in our bid to become the cleanest city.
Perhaps, the biggest of the factors inhibiting our ability to make the city of Accra clean is the political will of governments in power over the period.
From the era of Kofi Portuphy (1991-1992), those of Ishmael Ayeetey (1992-1993), Nat Nunoo Amarteifio (1994-1998) and Samuel Adokwei Addo (1998-2001), the sheer unwillingness of the political elite and pressure from party apparatchiks, especially in election years, for fear of ‘reprisal votes’, has seen the MCEs cocooned into their offices in order not to court the anger of their ‘seniors’, in whose hands their destiny of continuing in office is assured or otherwise.
We have not forgotten so soon the vibrancy with which Metropolitan Chief Executives such as Solomon Ofei Darko (2001-2003) and Stanley Nii Adjiri Blankson (2003-2009) started but the coldness set in no time.
Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije (2009-2017) continued. We saw him on foot with his lieutenants at Kaneshie, Mallam, and the central business district especially after floods, with determination to do away with the filth to end once and for all the resultant effects of the filth in the city. But Oko chickened out later. Some elements in his party had criticised him in public that as they struggled to fill the barrel with water he was busily emptying it with his actions. Would he have had the courage or stubbornness to continue? We mustn’t forget that his political fortunes were tied to how other actors, especially in political circles, scored him.
What also didn’t Mohammed Adjei Sowah (2017-2021) do to ensure discipline and a clean city? Other decongestion exercises were done. War was waged on indiscipline and lawlessness especially the wrongful parking of vehicles and hawking in the major streets. It was his time the President declared the government’s determination to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa.
Even with the highest influence and support for him, Adjei Sowah chickened out in the end. It only took the new Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, to start cracking the whip on the lawlessness.
He literally and virtually took over the task from Adjei Sowah. A lot of successes have been achieved since. The age-old problem of the onion market has been relocated to Adjen Kotoku. A big task whose success had eluded the city and the country in general over the years had finally been chalked up. The electronic waste collectors have been dislodged from the banks of the Odaw River and the place fenced.
But a worry has sprung up. The citizenry do not see any progress beyond the relocations and the erection of the wall. Were we interested in just clearing the area of the people without having any immediate plans for the space? The vim with which the regional minister started is by all indications also dying down.
Ready for clean city?
Are we ready to make Accra the cleanest city? This is the biggest question agitating the minds of many. The seeming pessimism from some of the people is justified.
Many actions have been taken over the years. But it is like the profound statement from the legend reggae superstar, Robert Nesta Marley, “One step forward two steps backwards.”
Has the regional minister relaxed waiting for the new MCE, Elizabeth Naa Kwatsoe Tawiah Sackey, to continue from where he has left off? Will Elizabeth Sackey’s tenure provide and produce the vibrancy, boisterousness and tact needed to rid the city of filth to meet the President’s ambition of Accra, the cleanest city in Africa?
Work to do
The solution lies in looking at what we have done to make the stretch between Kotoka Airport and Kempinski/Movenpick clean; then replicate it. We need to create a framework for people to work with; otherwise it will be a losing battle.
Let’s start by giving traders somewhere decent to trade from; then ban trading in places we don’t want trading to occur. Let us start by giving people places to throw their filth; then impose and rigorously enforce penalties for littering.
We have demonstrated that we can do it, because there are a few parts of Accra that are very clean. We just need to learn from our successes and rigorously apply them across the board as they do here – there is no other way out.