Thursday, 21 June 2012

Spintex Monument to Profit before People

This posting ought to have come with a picture, unfortunately due to technical reasons I am unable to attach the photo. It is a photo of a roundish silo-like object being constructed in the middle of a roundabout on the Spintex Road, which is causing obstruction to sight from all sides of the road…

At first sight, the structure you see in this picture looks like a silo or some kind of storage tank under construction, but whatever it is you would not expect to find it in the middle of a roundabout on a very busy street in the capital of the republic. But strangely that is exactly where it is sited – inside a roundabout at Flowerpot Junction on the Spintex Road. You may have heard about it in the news because it has been discussed on radio and also appeared in some newspapers, but through it all, the one word that keeps popping up is “why”, as in why would anyone think of putting this thing in the middle of a road. I do not know why but I can hazard a guess. To make money is the short and only plausible answer.

I believe that whoever constructed this hideous monstrosity in the middle of the road must be made to remove it, but should also be made to bear the cost of transporting it and installing it at the National Museum as an everlasting exhibit so that coming generations will catch the flavour of a period in our history when profit was absolutely put before people in a culture of money making frenzy in which ordinary commonsense became a casualty; no matter the motive of the people who put this structure where it is, they could not have been thinking about people’s safety.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Spintex Road, some basic guide to the place is required. The Spintex Road, as I never tire of explaining, is an epitome of the “development of modern” Ghana. It was not planned; indeed, as I understand it, it is not even officially a road. It begat itself, so to speak, and has few redeeming features of any sort. It was named after the factory whose owners first cut a path through thick savannah growth in part of what used to be known as the Accra Plains. It came into being just like that, and like everything else in our unordered life, it has been accepted and embraced. The names of the stops along this road, which is a long thoroughfare, are given by tro-tro drivers, and one of such stops is Flowerpot.

Another thing you ought to know about Spintex is that it is home to several upwardly mobile people, and the main status symbol is the ubiquitous four-wheel drive vehicles. On the Spintex Road, if you have power or wealth you exhibit it by driving in the centre of the road at very high speeds with your lights flashing and horns blazing. In this undisciplined society, even the police jump aside for the middle roaders to roar past because the former do not know which powerful person could be zooming past, and in Ghana it is better to give total respect to powerful people, especially when they are breaking the law.

 The Spintex Road is a dangerous place, especially if you are on foot, even in broad daylight because the ineffective police have abandoned motorists and pedestrians to their fate, but also because tro-tro and taxi drivers, good learners that they are, have also decided that if the big cars are roaring past, at least they can also squeeze through so they create additional passages where none exist and restrict pedestrians to tiny slivers of bush path along the road. One more thing you need to know to complete the profile of this accursed road is that apart from a small fraction of its length, there are no street lights anywhere near, and so we experienced locals depend on our local knowledge of every pothole and every crack to get by at night.

Now, Flowerpot Junction sits on the crest of a small hill just outside the Bank of Ghana Warehouse from where drivers carrying money try to break the land speed record every blessed day. Remember that money pus big car equal king on the Spintex Road; BOG drivers have big vehicles and they are carrying money – they are gods. If there is one place you can’t mess about it is at Flowerpot Junction from where big cars travel very fast downhill. It is a dangerous place when you can see where you are going. It is deadly when you can’t. With a silo looming at you how can you see that a big Bank of Ghana suicide driver has just entered the road or that a powerful man has decided that he is late for lunch?

We know that the thing is neither an oil tank nor a silo but some kind of advertising billboard-in-the-round. We know that because the logo of a popular outdoor advertising company is hanging at the bottom of the abhorrent construction. You would think that an advertising company would care about the aesthetics of its handicraft, but not a bit of it in this case. The thing is as ugly as sin and the best that can be said of it is that it tells us the level to which some people can go to make money, whether it will cause misery to other people or not. This thing is a monument to profit before people on the Spintex Road.

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