Dealing with indiscipline in the ghanaian society A crucial assignment for the next president For some time now, I have been observing with much concern the widespread and pervasive display of indiscipline and lackasaidal attitude in the Ghanaian society and its detrimental effect on our national psyche and system. Over a period of time now, especially starting with the era of the military regimes in the 70's and particularly the so-called Revolutionary era of the 1980's, there has been increasing tolerance for indiscipline, ineptitude, and mediocrity with its consequence deterioration of the quality of life in Ghana. This general indiscipline has permeated the social fabric of all aspects of life not sparing the supposedly disciplined state institutions such as the military, the police, CEPS, the medics, civil and public services, educational institutions, individual and private enterprises down to traders, market women, drivers etc.
Indeed if the present level of indiscipline is allowed to continue, there is no-way Ghana can get to the middle-income status that we crave for in the foreseeable future. It is in the light of this that I intend to focus on one institution at a time, in a series of articles to be published in the papers to highlight Specific cases of indiscipline in our society so as to suggest recommendations and offer practical solutions to some of them.
Congestion in the capital
In this first publication therefore, I will examine the widespread congestion and indiscipline in our city centers and markets and the way in which officialdom has woefully failed to address this situation. Indeed, this widespread indiscipline has not always been the case in Ghana, especially from independence up to about the 1990's. A visit to the Central Business District (CBD) of Accra, or Tudu area as it is popularly known on week days would make one wonder if there were any government or authority in place and in charge of matters as traders and hawkers have virtually taken over every available space near the streets, and in some cases, these traders and hawkers are gradually taking over the drive-way meant for vehicles. This is so because nobody checks them or prevents them from doing so, while if they stay in the markets as they claim, they won't sell as much as their recalcitrant colleagues who sell along the streets.
This behavior is condoned by officialdom by allowing the situation to persist. Attempts to control the indiscriminate proliferation of traders on pavements and the roadside in the past only achieved limited success as the traders eventually returned with official approval or condonement. This amounts to blatant official ineptitude and /or corruption. This is squarely on the shoulders of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly under the leadership of the mayor, Adjiri Blankson. This situation is replicated in all the major towns and cities in Ghana – Tema, Takoradi, Kumasi, and Tamale etc. The city managers and authorities have simply failed to discharge their duties effectively. This has been a major cause of the insanitary conditions and polythene littering in our cities. It goes without saying that the overcrowding of the CBD and the take-over of pavements, walkways and streets by traders is going to get worse and create more insanitary conditions as we approach the Christmas season, if nothing is done now to forestall it.
To start with, the city Authorities, particularly the AMA would have to obtain government approval and support from say the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to enforce discipline on the streets since previous attempts were supposedly frustrated by “order from above”. There is the need therefore, that in the discharge of its duties, the AMA (and for that matter, all other city authorities) should be given a free hand, so that it would be held fully responsible for any lapses.
To clear the streets of traders and hawkers, the AMA should cause announcements to be made on all Accra FM stations, all the TV stations, the widely circulated newspapers and public address systems in the relevant areas that with effect from a particular date, say 18th December 2008, there will be absolutely no more trading and hawking in some specified areas. The consequences of the breach should be clearly spelt out and announced. Then, on the appointed date, the AMA deploys adequate number of its staff and security (if necessary, augmented by the state security organs) to mount guard at regular intervals in the affected areas form say 5am before any trader gets to the market. This way, the first person to arrive would not be allowed to mount his/her wares/goods before being joined by others. In that case, the ridiculous situation now prevailing by which the traders display their goods before being chased away by city guards with the so – called “abae syndrome” would stop. Any trader defying this order would then have his wares/goods confiscated and the trader arraigned before court. This measure would have to be in place for an adequate length of time, and would have to cover the yuletide season. Thereafter, the security personnel would be gradually and systematically withdrawn. From time to time however, say at two monthly intervals, the exercise should be repeated until people get to know that trading on the streets would no longer be tolerated in Ghana.
The issue of cargo trucks
De-congesting the city centre during the day should also be tackled in the following manner. In Accra, for example, the area from Novotel, through ECG, Bank of Ghana, GPO, UTC, Kingsway through to Accra Poly should be demarcated and declared “no-go” area for heavy or cargo vehicles which deliver bulk goods from say 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. All delivery of such goods should be done form 6pm to 8am during weekdays. Any heavy vehicle apart from passenger vehicles entering this area during the prohibited period would be penalized, preferably by being compulsorily parked at a convenient place for say 3 days before being released to the driver. To start with, therefore, the demarcated area should be well lighted with street lights and police and military should be involved to patrol during the night to provide security. The prohibition should also include AMA's own refuse and other trucks which should only clear refuse after 6pm. The present situation whereby refuse trucks block the streets during peak hours to collect refuse is completely unacceptable. Once these measures have been successfully introduced and well enforced in Accra, they can then be replicated in the other cities and urban areas in Ghana.
The main cause of all the indiscipline in Ghana is official ineptitude, laziness, lack of commitment and ideas and non-enforcement of regulations and rules. Only a determined and strong willed leader (President) could change the system. The indiscipline society we now have in Ghana is not democracy as some misconstrue it to be, but rather “anarchy”, i.e. a lawless society. In changing the situation to get to a disciplined society the chief Executives of the metros should get out of their offices into the streets from time to time to observe the situation on the ground and not only remain at the offices holding endless ineffective meetings. Tthe writer, E.K. Kumi is a retired Chief Economic Planning Officer now resident at Hohoe To be continued…