Keteke Is Coming Back

Joe Ghartey

I schooled and worked in Takoradi, the Western Regional Capital.  In fact, I spent my salad days in Takoradi where the best comes from.  In those days, the happiest place to live and work in Ghana was the harbour city, where we had everything that could make everyone happy irrespective of their social standing. Night life in Takoradi was like what you can find in Paris.  Everything was fine, very fine.

In those nostalgic days, the Takoradi Harbour was so busy that ships had to anchor far away from the main harbour to wait for their turn to dock because others were loading cocoa, timber, bauxite, manganese and other goods or unloading sugar, milk, rice, wheat, etc.  The Black Star Line, Dr. Nkrumah’s brain child, had sixteen (16) ships and seamen returned from abroad with secondhand goods like fridges, fridge motors, television sets, cosmetics, etc. to sell to merchants from Kumasi and other cities. The busiest railway line stretched from the Takoradi Harbour through Huni Valley to Kumasi.  And so merchants who bought goods at the Takoradi Harbour had no difficulties transporting them to Kumasi because we had the sleeper coaches (first and second class) and cargo coaches to convey passengers and their goods to their various destinations. The sleeper train would depart Takoradi at 9.00pm and arrive in Kumasi at 5.00am.

We had bauxite and manganese wharfs at the Takoradi Harbour and cargo trains would convey those minerals from Awaso and other areas in the Western Region to the harbour for the cargo vessels to carry them abroad to add value to them and use them there.  Timber, which was in abundance in this country, was conveyed by the cargo trains from the Ashanti and Western Regions to the harbour where they were dumped into the sea for ships to carry them abroad for hard currencies.  Oh, those happy days! It was like Christmas to the people of Takoradi when workers of the Ghana Railway Co-operation were paid (pay day) at the end of every month.  In the evenings, discotheques like the Pelican at the Atlantic Hotel, Micado, Harbour View, Carrousel Agogo, Club Ampezo, Zenith, etc. were always busy during ‘pay day’.  The ‘world’ was on our shoulders and we did not give a dime even when the sea was rough.

Meetings of the Railway Workers Union which usually took place at ‘Bottom Tree’ near the railway station often resulted in a strike.  But the people of Takoradi did not care a hoot if even doctors threatened strike action.  To them, strikes by the railway workers concerned them more than any other strike action by any other group of workers.  Then the ‘Abongo Boys’ came storming and everything went haywire.  Gradually, the Ghana Railway Co-operation started taking a nose dive and before one could blink an eye, the Ghana Railway Co-operation became a pale shadow of itself. Eventually, the Ghana Black Star Line became defunct and everything became ‘basaa’.

Former President Kufuor was the first to dream of reviving the Ghana Railway Co-operation and went ahead to establish a Ministry of Railways and Harbour. Since we attained independence, no government ever dreamt of expanding the Ghana Railways beyond Kumasi but Kufuor had the plan to expand the railway from Kumasi to Paga where we share border with Burkina Faso.  Feasibility studies were made but sadly the NPP lost power and the NDC, which took over, abandoned the project until Nana Akufo- Addo came to establish a Ministry of Railway Development.  Recently, when I visited the national capital, where I seldom visit because of the noise and busy nature of the capital city, I seized the opportunity to visit the Ministry of Railways Development purposely to   see the Deputy Minister of Railways Development in the person of Hon. Kwaku Agyenim Boateng, a very good friend of mine and a Member of Parliament for Berekum West.   He gave me a seat and asked me to see the substantive Minister, Mr. Joe Gartey – another ‘Takoradian’.

As I was looking round the office, I saw a map indicating the routes of the proposed railway lines from Kumasi to Paga and from Koforidua to Accra etc. Until I visited him and saw the map, I did not know that the railway lines, when constructed, would pass through my holy village, where a greater number of the people there have never seen a train before.  You could imagine the joy in my heart.  For many years, Mr. Agyenim Boateng sojourned in the UK and so he surely knows the importance of railways.  In the UK, people park their luxurious cars at train stations and join trains to work.  Roads in Ghana can‘t stand the test of time because instead of using trains to carry bulky goods, we use articulated trucks.  In a conversation with my friend, I asked him why he had been frequently travelling to China. He smiled and said it was all because of the intended railway lines which would link the southern part of Ghana and the north.  As for the Minister of Railways Development, he can attest to what I have written above because he is a living witness to the story of railways in Ghana.

As at the time of writing this piece, a publication in the Daily Graphic dated Saturday, September 1, 2028,   reported that thirty (30) South African railway engineers would arrive in the country next month (October) to supervise rehabilitation works on the country’s more than 900 kilometres railway lines. According to the report, the South African engineers would be supported by a local workforce of 700 and a team of five Ghanaian engineers who would leave Ghana for three-week training with Transnet International Holding, the South African rail and logistic company engaged   by the government to work on the country’s railway sector.  That to me is good news and a dream about to come to pass.

Alas!  The Traveller Is Back

Immediately former President Kufuor held the reins of power, he started junketing across the length and breadth of the globe.  He inherited empty coffers and a ruined economy so he needed help elsewhere in order for the ‘ship of state’ to keep afloat. His first visit was Nigeria where he went to plead with his old friend and then President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo to help him since the country was on the verge of fuel shortages.  As at the time Rawlings handed over power to Kufuor, the country’s oil reserve could sustain the economy for barely two weeks.  He pleaded with Obasanjo who ordered Sahara Oil Company to lift oil for Ghana.  The term was very simple – give Ghana a 91-day credit and they did. Then the ‘Gentle Giant’ went to the UK and pleaded with the Queen of England to come to the aid of women in Ghana because the maternal death rate was not acceptable and the queen agreed to help our poor women in the form of free maternal care.  He crossed over to the Netherlands and pleaded with the government that because of the inability of some parents to provide their children with meals before going to school, Ghana had many children who dropped out of school because they could not be fed by their parents.  The end result was the School Feeding programme that we are seeing today.  All along, the NDC hawks were shouting from the rooftop that the president was travelling too much but Kufuor knew what he was doing and kept moving on.  When he went to India, he told his Indian counterpart that the seat of the government of Ghana was a colonial slave dungeon and so Ghana needed a befitting State House.  The Indian government benevolently granted Ghana a whopping 30,000,000 US Dollars for the construction of the Jubilee House.

Since President Akufo-Addo and his able Vice-President Dr Bawumia started their foreign travels, the NDC communicators have never sat down to see the ‘goodies’ that are coming the way of Ghanaians.  All that they are saying is that the president and his veep travel too much as if Mr. Mahama never travelled when he was the president of Ghana.  The man was used to travelling almost every month.  When Mr. Mahama was in power, he and his family saw Dubai as their backdoor.  That was why he was nicknamed” Kofi Dubai”.  I can’t wait to see what will happen when the Chinese start to embark on the projects. They will execute the project according to the terms of the barter arrangement – time to think outside the box.  While some travellers come back home with debt, these travellers, Nana and Bawumia, always come back covered with wealth. Zion train is coming your way!!!

From Eric Bawah