I was supposed to have woken up at 4:00am to move to the Metro Bus (popularly known as Kufuor Bus) Terminal to board one of their buses to Takoradi, the only reliable means of transportation from Sefwi Wiawso in the northern part of the Western region to Sekondi- Takoradi, the regional twin capital. However, a call to me around 2:00am from a loved one kept me chatting till a little past 3:00am. I could not sleep again; indeed any attempt to invite sleep would have meant missing my ‘flight’. So by 4:00 am, I was at the bus terminal. 

The terminal is just part of the Sefwi Wiaso road towards Sefwi Asawinso, and in front of a chain of wooden structures which are shops, as can be seen all over the country. I met quiet a handful of people there also waiting to board the bus which was not available at the time, to Takoradi or any of the towns or communities on the route. There were no chairs or anything worthy to be used as a sitting instrument. As would be, passengers trickled in. Someone who was familiar with the way things are done decided to play a role for all of us. He picked a piece of used cement paper and tore it into pieces and started numbering them, from one to anything, for those of us who had arrived early enough so that when the bus came, those numbers would be used as the basis for determining which of the passengers came to the terminal first. It was ingenious; I got my provisional ticket number 20. Indeed it was really provisional, not a certain provisional something something which lasted for 11 years. The bus which should have been there around 5:00am finally came at 6:15 am.

 My provisional ticket number 20 ended up being number 43 when we moved from provisional governance to constitutional governance of the Metro Bus, but before the bus came, it became obvious that not all gathered there with the intent of travelling on the Takoradi route would have space on the bus. I even heard someone lamenting that he had been at the terminal for three days but had to go back home because the Takoradi-bound bus failed to come, and this is 2012. I was so sad; instantly I became emotional and my emotions turned into anger. And it is about this criminal neglect of the Western region.  I looked around to see if there was any blue kiosk where I could ‘cut’ some four tots of my faithful companion, mahogany bitters, to console myself. While those from Sefwi Wiawso travelling to their regional capital were finding it very difficult to access comfortable means of transportation, there were more than 4 buses belonging to the same Metro Bus, waiting for passengers to Kumasi. There were also a number of private luxurious buses as well. 

Yes, it is true that the Sefwis are closer to Kumasi than Sekondi- Takoradi, but their relationship with Kumasi is not about the distance but the nature of the roads that connect the Sefwis to Takoradi. The only route from the Sefwi area to Takoradi is either through Sefwi Bekwai, through to Asankragwa or through Sefwi Bekwai through Diaso, Ayamfuri and down to Wassaw Akropong, Bogoso and then Tarkwa. None of the above routes are anything to write home about. Dare use the Asankragwa route, and by the time you get to Asankragwa, your whole body would have been painted with dry, pure and unadulterated dust of red colour. Use the Diaso-Ayamfuri route and the man-holes would swallow the tyres of the vehicle and those of us whose waists are ageing will further experience low performance. (No woman should try ooo) That is why in this era of abundant luxury buses, the people still depend on the Metro Bus, and once you missed it, you had to either postpone your journey, or travel to Kumasi and get a bus to Takoradi. How sad for an area which produces the bulk of the nation’s cocoa.

Juaboso, Bia, Akontombra and Suaman areas all have to use Sefwi Wiawso en-route to either Kumasi or Takoradi and yet the roads leading to Takoradi are such that the booming private transport sector is unwilling to serve the people there. 

The criminal neglect of the Western region by this nation continues, as could be noticed in President Atta Mills’ State of the Nation address to Parliament a few days ago. Nothing was said about the roads in the Western region. And I am talking about what I heard the President say to the people of this country live on TV. When he spoke about the number of irrigations his government had done, he mentioned virtually all the regions but the Western region. As regards equipment for hospitals, the Western region was once again conspicuously absent. His only mention of the region was a linkage he made with CEDECOM. The Central Regional Development Company, a body which was set up under the PNDC to look at the tourism potential of the Central region and develop them and create linkages for the overall development of the Central region, has all of a sudden become the anchor upon which the development of the Western region hinges. The President said same in 2009 when he addressed a durbar of chiefs of that region at the Jubilee Park in Takoradi.

 He seems to say that the development of the Western region is meaningless, unless it is attached with the development of the Central region, or better still, that the development of the Western region will only become meaningful when it is driven by the developments of the Central region. I think in our generation, the Western region has been insulted and treated with contempt for long by this nation, and if nothing seriously is done about addressing the developmental imbalances in a region which virtually carries this nation on its shoulders, I will call upon the next generation of the people of the Western region to take up arms and secede. They will have nothing to lose, but so much to gain. 

The President was proud to talk about cocoa production having recorded a record growth of over 1million tonnes, and took the credit for the NDC and himself. Sorry, Mr. President, it does not take three years to plant cocoa and harvest it; it takes four years so the increase in cocoa production to the level we are all proud is not as a result of policies your government had put in place, it is the result of the policies of the NPP such as free cocoa spraying, which your government has stopped and the insecticides being stolen by your officials and smuggled to Nigeria and La Cote d’Ivoire. Under the NPP, a bag of fertilizer cost GH¢14.70, today the same bag of fertilizer sells at GH¢32.00. Mr. President, do not also forget that the crisis in La Cote d’Ivoire has also created a reverse smuggling. 

There is nothing in the President’s speech which gives hope and inspiration to this country. No solutions to problems which are glaring and very damaging to this nation. That the government has adopted new strategies for dealing with corruption? Yes that is true and the strategy is that allow the culprits to move around in freedom and arrest and harass the innocent ones so that the public will divert their attention from the real thieves and focus on the innocent. A good political strategy for combating corruption, but bad enough to deal with the real issue. Under the Atta-Mills administration, over 1million children who sat the BECE failed outright. Within three years, the government has no policy to correct this danger of youthful neglect with its future consequences; no policy for these children whose education have been terminated so early in their lives. 

And did I hear the Vice President lamenting over the spate of road accidents and the death toll, particularly over the last three years? Who is he lamenting to, that an average of 1600 lives are lost to road accidents while 6000 injured people find themselves in our crumbling health facilities? Last year, 2011, at the President’s meet-the-press series, a journalist complained about recklessness on our roads which nearly resulted in him losing his life just as many people have lost their lives. All the President could do was to sermonize rather than assure us of a policy that will restrain our drivers, both commercial and private, and also deal with recalcitrant and undisciplined drivers, as well as do away with the fraud and the corruption in the issuance of drivers’ licenses and removing the about 45% fake Drivers’ Licenses in the system. 

The scores who die daily on our roads, like the sad event of December 27, 2011 when 27 innocent lives were lost in one fell swoop of a reckless irresponsible person who calls himself a driver, need no sympathies from the President because they are dead and gone, after all, ‘all die be die’, by the reckoning of Egya Atta. Ghanaians have had the misfortune of having an uninspiring President whose drab speeches do not state policies for the future, hence the red card shown him in Parliament. This red card business reminds me of what happened at the Sekondi Gyendu Park decades ago when departmental league was in vogue. Ghana Railways was playing a particular department at Gyendu. All of a sudden, some supporters of Railways, with their ton-ton, sinesine, invaded the playing field and showed the referee a red card and drove him away from the playing field for bias officiating. The match ended abruptly.    

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 By Kwasi Biney

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