The First Task Awaiting Kumasi Mayor, Kojo Bonsu

As you exit off the Asafo Overpass heading towards the Neoplan- VIP bus terminal; and just before you get to the junction in need of traffic lights; there is a drainage system through which the historic River Subin is directed. A wall or barrier divides the drainage system into two, with one side slightly deeper than the other. In this wall or divider are holes, about the size of a tennis or soft ball, cut out at intervals. To my untrained eyes and mind, these holes, I would guess, direct and control the flow of the river during heavy rainstorms and floods. Currently, however, these holes are plucked with filth, especially with the latest scourge of our society: rubber and plastics. What this means, to my untrained eyes and mind, is that in the event of the next great down pour and flood, the Subin River might overflow its bounds causing untold damage and misery to the surrounding areas... My first task, therefore, for the �mint conditioned" mayor is to make the cleaning of this drainage system - and all drainage systems - of the filth that has choked the "safety valves." Lucky for "Kumasianos," our new mayor has pledged to make sanitation and security the topmost priorities of his administration. In fact, aside from lack of overall developmental plan for the city, coupled with the lack of adequate and equitable funds from central government, sanitation, more than security, tops the list of problems facing the city. With security, the problem would be much reduced if the police force would concentrate on its basic objectives instead of mounting road blocks to extort GHc1 from drivers. (But that is another matter for another day) In all, the biggest challenge facing the decadent city of Kumasi - and the new Mayor - is lack of strong local autonomy and government. In other words, our biggest problem is the interferences and the culture of patronage emanating from the central government. For starters, the Mayor owes his appointment and political life to the government for example. (But this is another matter for another day as well) As such, the city is at a standstill and has been for decades. Historically, Kumasi has not seen any improvements since the concept of centralism was introduced in the mid to late '50s. The city's population continues to rise. At the same time, the city continues to serve either as the final destination or major transit point for a nationwide rural-urban migration. Yet no structural or developmental changes have occurred. But the city has been shown the way to take control of its destiny: decentralization. In 1985, the Decentralization Act was introduced. In that decade of military dictatorship paying lip service to citizens, much wasn't expected from the Act. After all one didn't expect a dictator to loosen his grip on political, administrative or fiscal control. However, we are now in the age of democracy. Yet neither the city nor its successive mayors have been able to cease the opportunity for transformation using the Decentralization Act and its tools. Kumasi and its environs, as we know is, perhaps, the richest territory in the country in terms of human and natural resources. We have the required population, the economic location, surplus but fertile lands, a vibrant buying and selling industry in the biggest market in West Africa, the culture, the history and the work ethic to make our city one of the finest in Africa - surpassing many a capital city on the continent. All that is needed is the political will to re-conceptualize or -re-imaging the region as a "boxed" born �closed" economy. Hopefully, Major Kojo Bonus has such thoughts and ideas in his arsenal. Until then, Mr. Mayor, kindly let the filth in the Asafo - Subin drainage system be the first of all filth you have promised to rid the city of in the first three months of your administration. Next week, my pen, paper and I will visit the area to check. Until then... Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto Coordinator - Bafour Akoto Center for Local Government. Liaison officer -Asante Reformation.