Now correct me if I am wrong, but personallly I thought the idea of naming a street or road after someone was to honour him or her, for a remarkable achievement. I thought streets or roads were named after people who had played a significant role in a country’s or the world’s history; or someone who has been successful, perhaps even a hero or someone that people are proud of, and admire. Seriously, I will never understand why the Ghanaian government in the year of our Lord 2012, decided, last February, to name one of the biggest and busiest roads in the country, the George Walker Bush Highway!
Surely there are millions of people in Ghana and worldwide who are more deserving of the honour. People who, unlike George W Bush, are doing something positive for their communities, countries and/or the world at large. We know of many heroes and heroines, some well-known, some unsung, who deserve such recognition. For example, Lila MacQueen Djaba.
Lila, who lives in Ghana, is 30 years old, but she became a hero in my eyes when she was in her 20s. At the time she started what has made her a hero, she was a student in secondary school. Every day on her way to and from school, Lila would see young children, some as young as 10 years old, working at a nearby rock quarry; the local marketplace; the local lorry station, or hawking on the streets. Children who should be in school were instead working to support their families. They were working not only because their families had asked for their help, but also because the family could not afford to send them to school.
Lila was truly disturbed by this and decided to do something about it. One by one, she found out about each of these children and made visits to their homes. She talked to their parents about why the children should be in school instead of risking their precious lives working at the quarries, lorry station or hawking on the road. Lila came across a lot of resistance, but she persisted and eventually some of the parents caved in. So now the parents had agreed the children could attend school, Lila’s next challenge was how the children would go there. How could the parents afford school uniforms, fees for school lunches, transport to school, plus all the other bills and necessities of life? Lila decided to set up a charity. With her children (as she calls all the children who come under her care) Lila started stringing together beads into necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings and waist beads. She then contacted old friends from several European countries she had met in Ghana whilst both she and they were working as volunteers in an orphanage and told them about her project. All she wanted was for them to find people who would buy the beads in their respective countries.
And as luck would have it (or more likely with a lot of prayer and faith on Lila’s part), people started buying the items. The idea was that all the monies raised would go towards the children’s education in Ghana. And indeed, Lila has not only done that, but gone a step further. Today, the charity she set up, Child Care Foundation, educates and feeds 150 young children aged between 5 and 15 years from Monday to Friday. In addition, she also funds the education of some of the children who are now in secondary school. (One of them attends Mfantsipim, one of Ghana’s “top schools”, whose former pupils include Kofi Annan – I’m sure we all know who Kofi Annan is – Dr Alex Quaison-Sackey, former President of the General Assembly of the UN, and politicians such as Dr Busia and William Ofori Attah. Now this is the kind of person you name a street or road after...) She may not be inventing the cure for HIV/Aids, but she is indeed a hero.
Another person who a road in Ghana could have been named after, is Jonathan Porter. For those who do not know, Jonathan is a white Englishman who has been living in Ghana for more than 20 years. To cut a very long story short, he not only runs the WAASPS aviation school in Ghana, but came up with the idea of Medicine on the Move (MOM). As their mission statement puts it, the aim of MOM is to “improve the lives of West Africans by providing healthcare education and regular medical services to rural communities in Ghana.” This they do by transporting “health educators specialising in general healthcare, basic first aid, hygiene and disease prevention to communities previously beyond the reach of ground-based aid agencies.” Furthermore, MOM will “bring doctors, nurses and needed hygiene and medical supplies directly to remote villages. Medicine on the Move will utilise aviation, maritime and land-based transportation to provide general health care, emergency response and trauma care, and health care education to isolated rural communities.”
Despite all the challenges and obstacles Jonathan and his team face, this is exactly what they are doing in Ghana. So if the government decided to name a street or road after the likes of him or Lila MacQueen Djaba, I would find it more appropriate and acceptable than George W Bush because really the world needs more Lila MacQueen Djabas and less George W Bush types.
Look, if George W Bush and his father were African, the war drums would have sounded a long time ago. They would be seen as being nepotistic. And by now, they would have had to face the music at The Hague. The man stole his way to the American presidency and proceeded to deceive the whole world that there were some very bad men out there, intent on destroying the world. Some of these men had “weapons of mass destruction” and had to be eliminated before they destroyed humanity. So with the aid of his sidekick, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the “heroes” came to the world’s rescue by cold-bloodedly killing people. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Somalia, George W Bush and his cohorts have indeed acted like the very terrorists they claim to be saving us from.
Presidents have been killed. Civilians including babies have been killed. Troops from so many different countries have been killed. Indeed, the time George W Bush was in power was a time of war, war and more war. The world was far from being in a peaceful state. People in the Western World were put in a constant state of fear of attacks carried out by these bad men, by Bush and Blair. The rest of the world was basically told by Bush and Blair that either you are with us, or you are against us. And Lord help those who chose not to be with them. If you don’t believe me, just ask Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. And for those who danced to their tune, they got a great big pat on the back. Truly these past few years have not been great in the history of mankind. And it is all down to George W Bush and his cohorts.
So again, why would Ghana name a major road after him?
I hear President Atta Mills government only honoured a promise made by former-President John Kufuor’s administration which was in power when G.W. Bush visited Ghana and donated money, via America's Millennuim Challenge Account, for the reconstruction of this particular road which is part of Ghana's side of the Trans-Africa Highway, which had been abandoned for years due to the lack of funds to rebuild it – until G.W. Bush arrived in town.
But I still think that President Atta Mills should not have named the street after Bush. He should have ignored the promise made by Kufuor to name the street after Bush. I can understand that the US government financed its construction, but naming it Little America Highway, Yankee Road, anything would have been better than George W Bush Highway! I thought the Mills administration were the Pan-Africanists, the Nkrumahists. But I guess not.
President Kufour named another major road after former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Yes, we have Olusegun Obasanjo Way in Accra, Ghana. I really don’t know what former President Obasanjo did to deserve that honour. What infuriates me the most is that this is my route home when in Ghana. So whether I like it or not, I will always use some part of Olusegun Obasanjo Way on my journeys around Accra.
Imagine in years to come, children asking, “Who is George W Bush and why is this highway named after him?” What will we say? Because if we tell them the truth, we will be telling them it is okay, in fact we will be saying it is perfectly acceptable to take what you want, whether it is yours or not, by any means necessary. Because that is what Bush and Blair did. Travel the world, taking people’s natural resources, by any means necessary. But hey, these are just the reflections of an ordinary African woman.