On Independence Day, 6th of March last year, which also happened to be the 60th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the construction of a National Cathedral, where all major Christian ceremonies of a national scale would take place.
According to the president, the purpose of the 5000-seater Cathedral is to give thanks to God Almighty for his blessings to the country and also to address a missing link in the nation’s architecture.
An occupied space around the Ridge Roundabout in Accra has been earmarked for the Cathedral. The government has therefore served notice to people whose homes are situated within that space to move out and give way for the project to start. Those affected include nine Appeals Court Judges. The affected judges have been asked to move into a rented facility, while government constructs new bungalows at Cantonments to be handed to the Judicial Service in 2020 to accommodate them.
Ghana is generally a secular nation that tolerates all religions. But it is estimated that about 60 to 70 per cent of the country’s population profess Christianity. So this move by the president seems to have been largely welcomed by a greater majority of Ghanaians; or maybe it is just a matter of silence meaning consent, while others are simply indifferent. This would however not be the first time a President in the Fourth Republic has shown commitment towards a particular faith. The late President John Evans Ata Mills used to hold Christian prayer meetings at the presidency.
But as was to be expected, there are a few opinionated souls everywhere; people who would always have their say, usually a dissenting one, on issues of religion and politics. One of those people is a friend of mine who thinks those gunning for the Cathedral, particularly the men of God appointed to the trustees board for the project are “selfish and greedy”.
He raised a number of issues: one, that the country has a huge housing deficit, and there is no real initiative to close that gap. Secondly, several deprived communities across the country need hospitals/health centres and we are planning to spend such a huge amount on a Cathedral, meanwhile, the National Sports Stadium and the Independence Square continue to host major Christian activities in the country.
My friend also mentioned that we have several national monuments like our museums, which need major rehabilitation and yet we are spending money on another monument only for it to also deteriorate due to our usual poor maintenance culture. He simply thinks the National Cathedral is not necessary.
He also has issues with the government using taxpayers’ money to build new houses for the nine judges being moved out of the land earmarked for the National Cathedral. He simply thinks that is a waste of scarce national resources.
“Again, what is the point in slamming and going after Dr Mensa Otabil for leading a team that allegedly misapplied some GHC610 million state funds then dishing out more millions of Ghana cedis for another group of trustees made up of pastors and others to put up a cathedral?” he quizzed.
In a BettyBlueMenz Perspective, I think building a National Cathedral is good because no matter how huge our national challenges are, we still have to count our blessings, name them one by one and be thankful for them.
Moreover, from the biblical perspective, God has always insisted on man building God’s house first, before building their own houses. The wisdom there is that, when you spend your resources building God’s house first, he will then bless you to build your own. I can, therefore, understand why a leader who professes Christianity, would like to lead the country in that direction.
However, the timing for me is not the best, particularly because government, through the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is scrambling everywhere for every little money they can get from already burdened taxpayers to fund the ambitious pro-poor policies like Free Senior High School (SHS), NABCo, Food for Jobs, One District One Factory and others.
Government is also investing heavily in the health sector to curb the no bed syndrome in some of the country’s major hospitals. We have recently been told that we don’t have a reliable ambulance system in the country. That is something that should engage our attention urgently, just like Free SHS has.
Moreover, we have quite a number of megachurches in the country, which continue to host major Christian activities. Again, given that an estimated 60 to 70 percent of Ghanaians profess Christianity, I would imagine thanksgiving to God is being done on regular basis, so we do not necessarily need to put up a national monument for that purpose.
It is no secret that whereas the President professes Christianity, his vice, who is likely to run for the presidency one day, is a Muslim. The question is, would the government then build a National Mosque for the same purpose of closing the gap in our national architecture; and would also put up other monumental buildings for all religions in the country? These are questions begging for answers.
But the key in all this discussion is the fact that if you stepped on the streets right now and asked any Ghanaian what they think should be a national priority, a National Cathedral will most probably never feature in the answers. For that reason alone, I would agree with those who think it is a misplaced priority. I only hope we don’t look back one day and regret this project as wasted resources.
I rest my case here…