By Rachel Kakraba
It is arguably one of the subjects which has generated so much public interest in recent times. On both traditional and social media the debate is endless. While some contend it should continue without any further delay, there are those who believe it is a waste of scarce resources. To build or not to build the National Cathedral, especially in the midst of recent allegations of misrepresentation and conflict of interest and economic challenges GBCGhanaOnline delved into the subject.
President Akufo-Addo first made mention of the Cathedral National Cathedral Project in March 2017. The 450 million dollar project was first a symbol of appreciation to God for sparing the Nation mishaps as experienced in other countries, it was also a step to develop the country through religion and above all a personal commitment to God whom president Akufo-Addo, said has blessed him to ascend the highest office of the land. To move it from a mere talk shop, president Akufo-Addo, in March 2018, unveiled the compelling design of the Cathedral by Sir. David Adjaye, paving the way for construction in 2020. Although work on the Cathedral project should have taken some shape three years on, that is not the case as it is said to have run into some financial challenges. Executive Director of the Cathedral, Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah, provided details of work done so far.
“first site establishment is complete, offices, wash and toilet blocks, warehouse, storages and lay down areas have all been set up, with part of the money, so when they say we’ve not used the money this is what it’s also been used for. About 230 square meters soil has been excavated and removed from cite”
The conversation around the National Cathedral project is one that is riddled with many controversies with the recent being a tussle between MP of North Tongu and the Executive Secretary of the Board of Trustees. These are issues leadership of the project are following keenly and Executive Director of the Cathedral, Dr. Paul Opoku-Mensah is concerned about. He says the board has always been transparent, especially with regard to finances.
“We have accounted for all the monies from the state to the National Cathedral Project and this accounting has been submitted to parliament”
“While a project of this nature will always have discontent, we are nonetheless concerned about the misrepresentation particularly when it comes from members of parliament” Dr. Opoku-Mensah added.
Public view of the National Cathedral
The National Cathedral Secretariat may be doing great but unfortunately, some members of the public think otherwise. For a cross-section of the public the project although an important one needs to be put on hold. Some students of tertiary institutions, in Accra shared their some thoughts with GBCGHANAONLINE
“I think the Cathedral shouldn’t be built, we don’t need really need it at this time because there are lot of churches in Ghana here and most people have churches to attend. They should rather focus on weightier matters”
“It will be very nice if the state has a place of worship, but then we look at the economy, you’re looking at food prices, utilities, simple things that make things easy for us as humans. Everything is shooting up on the high and as a true Christian and a believer of the faith I feel, funding which could be processed for the National Cathedral should be diverted to other places like education.”
“It’s not compulsory the current president should build the Cathedral. In the Bible when David wanted to put up a building for God, God said it’s a good idea but he is not the one to build it, so if he has thought about it, maybe he is not the one to build. So he needs to relax and attend to the needs of Ghanaians.
“It’s good believers gather in one building to help one another’s faith. Present conditions of the nation Ghana is not in good standing to build a national Cathedral. So it’s an appeal to stakeholders to hold on the project”
The news team was in one of the busy markets in the capital Accra, the Kaneshie Market Complex, in the Okaikoi South Municipality to pick the thoughts of some traders.
“The little I can suggest is that, because of the current economic situation in the country, the National cathedral should not commence. Things of utmost benefit to the country should rather be attended to since there’s hardship.”
“For me, I will say there’s no need to use the country’s money into non-profitable things. There are lot of churches in the country. I don’t support the national cathedral project because Ghana is in a time of need. When the difficulties of the country are resolved, the cathedral project could be revisited since it’s the house of God”
“As Ghanaians, we give listening ears to our leaders and so if they say building a cathedral is a good thing then I won’t argue. All I have for them is to do something about the current economic hardship so we all can live in peace.”
“Just like the national mosque is of great importance to Muslims likewise the Cathedral is of benefit to Christians. It is a good initiative since it is for God and so I ask everyone not to blaspheme in talking against the project. It will help us all and strengthen our bond with God”
The subject of the National Cathedral Project is one that is of National interest so views of some artisans at the Kokompe Spare Part market within the Ablekuma North Municipality were sought.
“It is a good initiative, however, to me I think it will at the end of the day belong to people of affluence. If you take the National Theatre as an example how many ordinary Ghanaians do you see attend programmes there. They are all wealthy people. I can’t just walk to the Kwame Nkrumah National Park or even the stadium although its supposed to be for all Ghanaians. If anything at all, the authorities need to do more sensitization, and until then it is up to them”
“If government is committed to it, then it should go ahead. I’m hoping I will be going there to worship once in a while. So it will help us all”
“The Cathedral, what’s the advantage? What is the merit? What can we get? It’s not going to put food on the ordinary Ghanaian so I’m not convinced”
“Whatever burden you have you can send it there and talk to your God. You can even do three days fasting there and afterwards you will see the impact so it is good. It is a nice idea he brought it is good, it is very very good”
But the Secretariat is looking at other alternative sources of funding which includes the voluntary contribution of citizens. What has been the response of the public to the call?
“I can afford it but there are some people getting a square meal a day is difficult. How much contributing towards the Cathedral “
“I have heard about that initiative but for now there is no money in the system. So we will hold on until things improve a little, so we can also contribute.
“For me by all means I will pay”
“My church did a lot for the Cathedral. Moreover, we spent money during Christmas. It is a new year and we have started life small small”
In the midst of all the storms president, Akufo-Addo remains resolute to see the project completed.
“It’s construction deserves the full support of the nation. Just as God prospered Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, I’m prayerful that he will prosper us and make us succeed in our endeavour. We are getting close.”
National Mosque experience
Located at a prime area of Ayawaso East municipality is the National Mosque, an imposing edifice for Muslims in the country. It was one project which until it’s inauguration did not attract the headlines as the National Cathedral. What was the strategy used in completing the project and whether there are lessons here for Christendom in completing the national cathedral in due time. The spokesperson for the National Chief Imam Sheik Aremeyaw Shaibu, gave a brief background to the construction of the National Mosque.
“The National Mosque idea arose out of our concern for us to get more United. A place where all Muslims of all different denominations if you like will come and share their devotion. But the history of it goes back to the demolition of the mosque at the centre of Accra, during the revolutionary era. It began with Muslims themselves raising money. But up to a point we were short of money so the whole project stalled. A Turkish NGO arrived in this country and when the learnt about the project they showed interest. So the Turkish organization decided that they will facilitate the construction of this mosque and they did their best mobilizing funds from different places from Turkey and assisted us in building this mosque. So we want to put on record that the National Mosque was not a state-funded project, apart from the land that was offered in compensation of having pulled down a historical Moslem mosque”
Sheik Shaibu shared other lessons by asking the secretariat to collaborate with other Christian-friendly countries.
“The commitment to do a project like this that pleases God must be placed in the heart of all stakeholders. The other thing is that stakeholders are being brought together. The youth were also mobilized and they took up the project. Countries that are friendly to the Christian community, for example we used countries that are friendly based on the Islamic fraternity”
As envisioned by the Board of Trustees, for which reasons they have launched the kitsiwa biara nnsua project, maybe it’s about time they rejuvenated the call to raise the necessary resources. For president Akufo-Addo, he remains upbeat about the national cathedral, which he will bequeath to Ghanaians as he exits office in January 2025. As the days beacons will this become a reality?