Two buildings with contrasting features on Accra’s Liberation Road show the vast inequality that exist just 30 feet apart–the Flamboyant Stool-shaped Flagstaff House and the Police-Military bungalows directly opposite the seat of government.
The dilapidated nature of the police-military bungalows located on one of Ghana’s ceremonial roads, leaves much to be desired. Indeed, it is an eyesore!!
Walt Whitman, an American Poet, spoke about the importance of all men having a modest living, and where wealth doesn’t show much contrast.
“The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds — where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living— and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities,” he said.
However, such vast contrast exists between the beautiful presidential palace which is designed to house the President and the Vice-President, and the three (3)-storey, six apartment blocks that serve as homes for the people in charge of the security of the Flagstaff House and the citizenry.
The palace that houses the first gentleman of the state and serves as a point of call for many envoys who come calling on our nation Ghana, has gone through many a reform as any building would, and has even had its name debated over several times.
Formerly known as the Golden Jubilee House, the Flagstaff House, located in the capital Accra, on the Liberation Road, is the Presidential Palace that serves as a home and office for the President.
However, seated a few metres from this edifice is a gated community, with buildings that are bulging with very interesting outlook that has seen better days. These ugly looking structures, which seem to be of cream-like coating, are flats that are homes to police and army officers and their families. The Ghana Police Service and the Military, two of the oldest institutions have a number of barracks scattered around the country, but this particular one which has become the hub of advertisements, has stood the test of time without any upgrade. It has not had a coat of paint probably in the last three decades.
Realistically, one would have thought that the surrounding of the state’s most important “home” could serve as a tourist site, as compared to the White House in America. However, this cannot be said of Ghana.
Interestingly, right adjacent this edifice is the Accra Tourist Information Centre which is a reference point for anything related to tourism in the country. This same stretch leads to the Canadian High Commission, the French Embassy, and the Netherlands Embassy. With all these, including the presidential palace in the same vicinity, why then do we have such a distasteful sight in their midst?
Now, let us walk you down this place, never mind that you could catch a cough weaving your way through the walk ways of the flats. Hey, what’s a little dirt? it’s not like the roads to our villages are paved with gold, but honestly, it’s like a jungle out here, considering the “heaven” one finds right next door.
There, you will find rusty refrigerators hanging on to their dear lives on every corridor, with wash basins, kitchen ware, even wardrobes filled with clothes making a complete home outside. It does also look like an extension of the 2 or 3-bedroom flats, as the ever-creative Ghanaian has found a way to demarcate the balcony with some curtains to create a kitchenette and dare we dream, a play area for the 4 or five children that many families in these flats have.
You cast your eye to each end of the compound, and the walls are faded and caked with dust. The very big wall space that can rival any billboard by the side of the road, is home for many real estate agencies, advertising their products. Ideally, such a space for advertising is known to cost between GH3,000 to GH5,000 per year. This revenue, which could at least be used to even paint the buildings, obviously is being used for other things, other than maintaining the structures.
Multi-coloured clothes are seen dancing on drylines on the balconies, as though they were competing with Ghana flag flying over the palace across the road. Window nets that seem to have never seen water, dirty ceilings, worn out trap doors, and oh! The bare-chested men going about their normal duties comfortably on their balconies without shame of people watching from their window seats in passing vehicles.
Does this reflect well on our nation? Is this what we want people from elsewhere to see our country, especially where our Head of State resides? Where the protectors of the nation live? Is this a location that we want foreigners to want to visit once they arrive in Ghana?
Talk investors who visit the President, hitting the streets after spending time talking investments in our country?
Can’t our beloved country invest to develop the government properties in the immediate vicinity of the Flagstaff House?
Let’s make the vast contrast between these two buildings on one of our ceremonial streets less visible by renovating these ramshackle of homes.