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I have this undue obsession with potholes, Jomo. Potholes? Yes, potholes. They are a mystery to me. There are so many of them everywhere all the time, that there has to be an explanation. There are potholes and there are potholes, Jomo: There are the standard-sized potholes. These are ugly, erosion-aided, miniature excavations on the asphalt which cause motorists to dance their vehicles crazily and perilously across lanes like drunken crabs.

Then there are the chasm-like craters which also go by the misnomer “potholes.” Sometimes you come across one before you are aware, and oh mine, riddle of riddles, what do you do? Break suddenly in an attempt to avoid the gaping monstrosity and you will cause one long, potentially fatal road pile-up. So? Bang! craang!! gbraang!!! you plunge into the darned canyon, snarling engine and all.

If Lady Luck happens to be in the cabin of the motor car with you, you get away with a disjointed hip bone, a bruise or a lump where the roof of your skull grazed the roof of your motor car, and a broken crank shaft into the bargain.

Now the big question about potholes, Jomo: Do you know why there are so many potholes all over the place?  Someone must be profiting from them. Who do you reckon benefits from bad and pot-hole-riddled roads? Some say officials who award contracts, contractors who use sub-standard materials to maximize profits and reclaim money paid out as bribes, supervising engineers and other public sector technocrats do!

Government contract tender boards are supposed to ensure that contracts are awarded to the most competent bidders and technocrats who supervise road construction projects to ensure that contractors do not use sub-standard materials or vary technical specifications in a bid to illegally maximize profits, right?

Ethical conduct on the part of supervising engineers, tender boards and contractors would mean good roads, see? Good roads would mean no government contracts for a long time. No government contacts, would mean no envelopes for so many people.


So there we are, Jomo-the global capital of monstrous potholes: Vast patches of asphalt all over Accra and Tema are so pothole-riddled that you can only conclude that those responsible for road repairs do not care two-and-a-half hoots about the state of the roads, discounting perhaps, the one-man contractor.

The one man contractor who has taken it upon himself  to manage potholes has replicated himself in Accra, Tema and probably other  cities and towns. Armed with a few pans of stones and beach sand, you will sometimes see him patching potholes on the worst stretches of our roads for coins from kind-hearted motorists.

He places disused lorry tyres in the middle of the road, compelling motorists to manoeuver around the tiny craters he is filling with sand.

In a rather uncanny way, the one-man contractor is a hilarious symbol of one kind of contractor on the pay role of the government and the District, Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies. His equipment comprises a broom, a wheel barrow and a shovel. His materials? Plain old sand. His workforce? Himself and two street boys. Yet he gets a road building contract but is able to dig only a meter-long and two millimeters-wide trench after two millenniums and a couple of centuries!