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15.01.2006 Feature Article

Earthquake, Flooding, Poverty – What Next? What do we Do?

Earthquake, Flooding, Poverty – What Next? What do we Do?
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This earthquake report of January 12, 2006, is a serious matter, but it makes me laugh a little. I feel I owe our people a little bit of advice since I have lived in the State we call “earthquake country” of America, California, for over three decades. The forces of change are with us! We have no choice -let's change also! In the report we read:

“Accra, Jan. 12, GNA - Ghanaians have been reminded that Wednesday's earth tremor that occurred at about 1245 hours and measured 3.7 on the Richter Scale was a warning signal. Mr S. T. Ahulu, Seismic Engineer at the Geological Survey Department, said the intensity did not pose any serious threat to life and property.

He, however, indicated that the intermittent occurrence of tremors meant that a major earthquake was likely to hit the country someday which could have catastrophic effects on the earthquake prone areas particularly the neighbourhoods around MaCarthy Hill and Weija and the Coastal belt” (Ghanaweb, 2006, January 12).

The reports makes me laugh because of the many hazards that face us as a society and that our leaders simply look at and seem to be dumbfounded by. A few examples from the top of my head:

1. Accra is known to have flooding almost every year, and I have yet so see a comprehensive flood control system since I was in Ghana and drive around. If there is, we'd like to know.

2. The Korle Lagoon is the most stinky-smelling health hazard in our city, covering over a mile radius around it, including local shopping markets such as the Agbogbloshie market. It is the Yam capital of southern Ghana. I close my car windows and press the gas pedal when I am around that Graphic Road area.

3. The water problems faced by many areas do not seem to be an emergency to the Ministers in charge, but they don't realize the number of undocumented diseases and dangers people face as they buy food and shake hands with people who may not have washed their hands well after using the toilet with no water, or simply a discarded newspaper at the backyard. Their health affect all of us!

4. The mosquito is still the killing king in Ghana, creating malaria that kills 5 people every single hour- 200,000 children and pregnant women annually, more than HIV/AID and other diseases combined. There seems to be no plan to fight the mosquito breeding grounds. In fact I stopped and took a picture of a gutter in front of a building with the sign “Malaria Consortium” in East Legon. Whatever their job functions, they forgot that open gutters contribute to the stagnant water where the mosquito larvae breeds.

5. Toxic Waste was reported dumped in our waters in some mining towns, some of them as obvious and critical as killing fish. We have 88 Ministers, and each of them perhaps with an expensive SUV or vehicle and an office that is admirable (I have been to some of them). What is the solution?

6. The earthquake has been known since the last tremors in the 1930s. What have we done in creating Building Codes for earthquake resistant buildings that will help reduce damage in case of a major one?

You see, as a nation, we have our destiny in our own hands. I had my house designed with reinforced foundations, because I was coming from my experience in California. Sometimes we have to question and hold our leadership by the neck [the old fashioned African way], and ask: What have you done for us lately? There is careful planning that has taken place and become part of our Building Codes since the 1906 Earthquake in California. In Ghana our leaders don't seem to use the skills of Engineers and planners, and don't seem to realize the essence of leadership and long term planning. Don't our leaders get tired shaking hands with dignitaries and Chiefs? They need to get to work! These old recycled leaders seem to have run out of ideas. We need to change that!

Planners are tools to be used by Leaders to get a job done. If our President wants the city re-planned to avoid congestion, to build good durable roads, or for all buildings to be done to some codes, the leadership vision must come from the President, who then demands of the Executive Management [Ministers, Regional and District executives, Directors] to get the jobs done - reduce traffic, create a healthier environment, make buildings earthquake resistant, and ask planners and engineers for the answers! He cracks the whip and the buck stops at his desk! That is how developed nations get their job done: From Leadership Vision to Management Implementation using skilled personnel. KNUST has been producing city planners and engineers for a long time. One of the KNUST students came to California here and excelled, hired by the cities around here to turn things around.

So what is our problem? LEADERSHIP!!

Let us put pressure on our leaders to perform. For the future, let us select leaders with the right skills for the job, for after all, Presidency is a job also! All these candidates thrown by the media are just thrown out there based on presumed popularity and not based on qualifications. I have personally not seen any leader's CV/Resume published or checked. Recently I asked one political analyst if he wanted to get a copy of my Resume and he said “No, we have heard about you and we will get it from our sources”. You see the mental laziness that sometimes faces us as a people! Most of our leaders are paraded based on some media gimmick and publicity. Some people are called Doctors who don't have a Doctorate degree, whiles some have their qualifications either bloated up or diminished simply by the Press in Ghana. We need to have a change in mindset and stop putting square pegs in round holes to find later it's too late.

Folks, today's earthquake is only a warning. How about tomorrow? Our destiny is in our hands and our leaders are very critical in our destinies. We didn't have a choice in the military rulers of the past, but at least now we have choices and need to find out the qualifications and problem-solving skills of our leaders. We need to confront them first and ask if they really understand the problems of the society, and confront them with the solutions before the next earthquake hits and destroy us all! Kwaku A. Danso, President, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc (NGO) -Fremont CA, USA – Accra, Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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