Tamale is getting a massive facelift, at least, so the President says. At a sod cutting ceremony last week in the city, Mr. Akuffo Addo did not hide his excitement when he told the gathering which included traditional leaders and representatives of the Chinese government that the northern capital will pretty soon be fitted with an interchange to help ease traffic congestion on one of Tamale’s busiest avenues.
It was welcome news by any measure. God knows Tamale, and the northern region by extension, need a rejuvenation of the massive and transformational kind, the one that will invariably raise her status as the fastest growing metropolis in all of West Africa and accord her the respect she has long deserved but never gotten.
There is no denying the fact the traffic situation in Tamale is getting progressively worse; it hasn’t exactly reached crisis level yet, but it is certainly grounds for concern.
The worrisome traffic jams in Tamale are the growing pains of a rapidly expanding metropolis; just like night follows day, traffic jams are bound to emerge like an ugly sore when a city expands exponentially.
Mr. Addo is well intentioned; I give him that. Kudos to the President.
Besides the interchange, the mere mention of which sends Tamale residents into a tizzy, gets them very excited, the president said he plans on building more roads to link Tamale with outlying mid-size towns and villages and improving existing infrastructure.
However well Mr. Addo means, I am afraid his plan to revitalize Tamale with the assured assistance of the Chinese, is an unfortunate misplacement of priorities. Critical as an interchange is to the free flow of traffic, it is not the magic bullet the city needs to shoot down its traffic problem.
Let me be clear-eyed here; the construction of the interchange will entail the forceful eviction of residents, the destruction of a neighborhood, the elimination of mom and pop businesses and ultimately the laughable compensation --- the small amounts of monies that will be doled out, paid to displaced residents.
And, has anyone talked about maintenance once the Chinese leave? Our culture of non-maintenance of our infrastructure is legendary.
So, I worry that the interchange will suffer the same fate that has befallen the one in the nation’s capital Accra --- attract vagrants who sleep under it.
Tamale, on account of its massive growth in the last twenty years has become a magnet, attracting people from far and near.
Like other vibrant metropolis around the world, what Tamale needs are primarily a sustainable source of clean water supply, well-resourced and adequately staffed hospitals, free flow of uninterrupted electricity, good schools and well-
connected access roads to and from the city.
There are other numerous ways to fight the traffic headache in Tamale. One that has not been tried by authorities is the issuance of traffic tickets.
If drivers who park haphazardly on roadways and make vehicular movement difficult in the process are ticketed and compelled to pay heavy fines or failing that go to jail and have their driving licenses suspended, they would think twice before parking their vehicles in places where they are not supposed to and inconveniencing the general public.
If we can adopt the political system of our colonial masters, why don’t we do same with their stringent traffic regulations to ease congestion on our roads instead of constructing edifices that are more bids to win votes than anything else.