‘A nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for’

I grew up as a teenager living in one of public universities. As I trekked to school and back those days as a day student, my residential address was one which was virtually cast in stone for me – No. 121, Carl Reindorf Road, New Site of the University and all that anyone who got to Cape Coast and wanted to track me had to do, was to get to the University, ask for the New Site followed by the others and that was it. As providence would have it, our family re-located to Accra and our address changed to a similar address off the Josip Broz Tito Road in Cantonments. 

Clearly, both instances as sited above give a very clear and unambiguous street naming that allowed easy mapping of locations, persons to be tracked as well as goods and parcels delivered. I remember how I was woken up in Secondary School years to come sign for a package sent in from Europe by EMS. Fast forward to 2009 and I received a parcel from the U.S.A. The slip was lodged into my mail box so I could use it to go the Accra North Post Office for the parcel. What had changed – the locations? Not all cities, towns and localities are that well laid out to enable parcel, bill distribution, etc to be facilitated. 

What many people forget is that in approving loans and overdrafts, most of our banks rely heavily on the authenticity of customer tracking systems and easily it will be to track them. Again, the issuance of identity cards hinges heavily on an efficient and credible addresses to houses and naming of streets. Unfortunately, in 2006, the government began the National Identification system to issue out the Ghana Card to all citizens and legally-resident foreigners in Ghana. Unfortunately, the roll-out of this otherwise very laudable initiative has not worked due to the absence of a very basic requirement – efficient house numbering and street naming. 

In the midst of all of this, the President J.E.A. Mills and subsequently President John D. Mahama ordered the naming of all streets by all metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies across the country. The deadline issued to the implementation of this directive was September 2014. 

My dear friend, even though most Assemblies failed to meet the deadline, the period between September and December 2014 have seen a very vigorous activity in this by the Assemblies. In Accra for instance, whilst Assemblies such as the A.M.A. and La-Dade Kotopon Municipal have used the opportunity to honour their heroes and heroines from their communities, others have wasted a most glaring opportunity to honour their heroes. These have included Ga East Municipal Assembly. Instead of naming their roads, the Ga East officials have rather chosen to describe their roads. Thus their roads are named, Dome-Kwabenya Road, Atomic-Kwabenya Road, Pantang-Haatso Road, Papao-West Legon Link, etc. By their actions, are the officials of GEMA, implying that they could not find any worthy nationals hailing from or resident within their areas? Is it that they were just being lazy or could simply not be bothered? Indeed, the only road from my observation that had a name on it was one road that had been dedicated to the memory of Komla Dumor, which was done more on the specific instruction of government rather than the initiative of local assembly officials.

Somehow, the city of Kumasi for example, has over time done considerably well by honouring its chiefs. Recently through the initiative of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the statue of his predecessor, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II was erected at the hitherto Suame Roundabout, which name has now vanished into the trashcan of history. Similarly, Senior High Schools in the Ashanti Region like Opoku Ware SHS, Prempeh College, Osei Tweretwie SHS, Tweneboa Kodua SHS, Dwamena Akenten SHS, Afua Kobi SHS, Yaa Asantewaa SHS are all named after great kings and queen mothers of Asanteman. Juxtapose that with Accra for instance where all we know are SHS named after localities such as La SHS, AMA 1-5, Nungua SHS, Teshie 1-8, Sempe 1-5, etc. 

Indeed the Ga East Municipal Assembly officials and their likes elsewhere in the country, have missed a great opportunity at immortalizing the memories of illustrious sons and daughters of our country who live within their MMDAs or hail from there.

Strangely enough, the District Assemblies are not alone in this. You go into a typical senior high school in Ghana today and all you find are huge edifices simply called ‘Form One Block’, ‘Engineering Block’, ‘Senior Science Laboratory’, ‘Assembly Hall’, etc as though those schools did not have any heroes (headmasters, staff and old students) to name these edifices after. This includes even the high and mighty Grade A schools who are replete with powerful past students.

Sadly though, we are quick to name some of these on foreigners. When the Ghana government partnered the Canadian government to build the Technical Training Centres in Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi, virtually all the blocks were named after the Canadians. So at ATTC, you see for instance SaskatchewanBlock, why?

As you make your way through the principal streets in Accra , dear friend, you will see names such as Patrice Lumumba, Jawaharlal Nehru, Amilcar Kabral, Augustino Neto and Gamel Abdel Nasser all in Airport Residential Area, Josip Broz Tito Roads in Cantonments, Eduardo Mondlana Road in Lartebiokorshie, and Farrar Avenue in Accra Central. The situation is not much different in Kumasi as you are accosted by roads like Stewart Avenue, Guggisburg Avenue, Ellis Avenue, Harper Road and the like. As if to add salt to injury, rather than reduce them, we have in the very recent past added to them, Olusegun Obasanjo Way from 37’ Hospital to Achimota and George Walker Bush Highway from Tetteh Qurshie all the way to Mallam. How inconsiderate we are to the feelings of our local heroes. Where were we when the Lord Jesus admonished us to begin propagating the gospel from Jerusalem and then to Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world. For us here, it’s the reverse!

When the Teshie-Nungua Estates was developed in the 1970s, the planners for whatever reason decided to name all the roads after flowers. Thus, you drive through the place and all you see is Hibiscus Street, Cactus Lane, Pine Street, Rose Avenue, Sunflower Road, etc as though they had no heroes. Yet the third President of Ghana, Hilla Limann lived in that estate for decades. Was he not honourable enough to merit a name in his own estate? Then the ACP Estates got developed in the early 2000s and all they could remember for street names; Albizia Street, Walnut Street, Oak Street, Teak Street, etc. How backward can we be?

It is about time that we began a proper documentation of our rich history from which we would then begin to use all such personalities who have contributed to the building of our nation state by publicly recognizing their efforts with naming of roads, buildings and other such infrastructure. If we fail, we should not be surprised if the next generation take to some other personalities as their mentors and therefore heroes. It would not be their fault because the history would not have been recorded. To them, their heroes are Hollywood and Death Row Record stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vandam, Oprah Winfrey, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dog, 50 Cents, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, Chris Brown, etc.The time to act, my dear friend, is now!