Savannah View: Ghana's Boko Haram
The Nigerian Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, recently said something that made headlines all over the world: “Boko Haram has killed over 1,200 people in Nigeria.”
“Only 1,200 people in all these years?” I asked myself. Well, reserve the insults. I'm not what you may think. The Boko Haram militants are a threat to peace in Nigeria and on the African continent but that number did not make news to me. The reason is not that I'm heartless. In fact, Ghana's Boko Haram kill so much that it makes their figures from Nigeria insignificant. They kill more, maim more and destroy more property than ever.
What makes the Ghanaian Boko Haram more deadly is that they kill silent, without bombs. And they don't claim responsibility for their actions.
Between 2002 and 2011, they killed over 20,000 Ghanaians. In the first three months of 2011, they killed 540 Ghanaians. By the end of 2011, they had killed 2330 people. Can the Nigerian Boko Haram challenge them?
This year looks gloomier and if they continue the way they've started, we will have more frightening figures than ever. You now know the Boko Haram of Ghana?
Drivers? No! Not drivers alone. Two weeks after commissioning the 14-kilometre George Walker Bush Highway in Accra, 13 people were killed. The people who got killed were mostly pedestrians. They refused to use the foot bridges. This is Ghana. This is our nature. Indiscipline!
Terrorism and suicide bombing may seem alien to the Ghanaian society, but sometimes the behaviour of some of motorists makes one think they're on a suicide mission.
Instead of tackling this indiscipline, people often blame it on the devil and resort to prayer. In as much as one cannot entirely play down the efficacy of such prayers, it is about time we confronted the stark realities of the problems and stop blaming evil forces for problems we are responsible for.
Our backwardness and inability to find solution to some basic problems confronting us as a nation is sometimes due the tendency to assign such problems to the devil, and some spiritual forces when common sense is the way out. If God really wanted us to depend on him for everything, he might have concealed sand or perhaps pure water in our skulls, and not brains.
If both drivers and passengers were a little bit responsible, the gruesome murders on our roads could be reduced to the barest minimum. But most of the time the passengers are accomplices. Any vociferous passenger who warns a careless driver that he's carrying the lives of people is likely to be reminded by a fellow passenger that their lives are in the hands of God and not the driver, a mortal man. Another passenger will also remind the one complaining that the vehicle is not their bedroom so the driver must speed, even if it is beyond the acceptable limit.
In situations where the passengers are unanimous in condemning a driver for over-speeding, some drivers adopt a snail-pace attitude just to show the passengers where the real power lies. For this reason, many passengers are helpless when it comes to recklessness on the roads.
The onus therefore lies on the police, who are supposed to enforce the laws to check the seemingly institutionalised lawlessness on our roads. Unfortunately, however, that is not the case. Corruption among the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police service is no longer a perception. Indeed some police officers have the immoral courage to refer to the One Ghana Cedi they take from drivers as their “Road Duty Allowance.” And they enforce it as though it were their constitutional privilege.
In the past, the police seemed to justify their corrupt practices with the excuse that they were paid killer salaries and the only way they could survive with their families was to take their “road duty allowance.” But now the “fat salaries” of police are easily cited by public sector workers yet to enjoy the controversy-laden Single Spine Salary Structure to drum home their agitations for high salaries. But the end to the degrading begging and extortion are nowhere in sight by the men and women of the MTTU.
Apart from the highways, police officers also “tax” vehicles in the city of Accra, sometimes by other units other than the MTTU. The Mamprobi-Dansoman Last Stop road is not one of the traffic-conscripted routes of Accra, but every evening, commuters on that road grapple with the nightmare of artificial traffic, between Mamprobi Bamboi and Agege.
One police officer who is constantly in charge of taking the money has been nicknamed “Fried Rice” because he always asks for the money to buy fried rice. I was in a trotro when the vehicle ground to halt in the slow flow of traffic. The mate told the driver, “The al-Quaeda people have come.”
while we blame the police, we cannot pretend to be oblivious of the fact that the MTTU is under resourced in terms of both logistics and personnel. The MTTU certainly needs equipment such as breathalyzers to check drunken drivers, speed guns to check over-speeding, height gauges to control overloading, especially by articulated trucks among others. The already inadequate police personnel should not be expected to go out there empty handed and do what we expect them to.
Travelling has now become a nightmare and anyone who prays for travelling mercies must as well pray for the forgiveness of sin after boarding a vehicle. Anything, they often say, can happen and one may have to face one's creator prematurely. But for how long must we allow things to happen the way they are happening? For how long shall we keep silent while recalcitrant drivers behind the steering wheels drive us to our graves?
For how long should we allow the daily death tolls on our roads to compete with nations that carry out suicide bombings? ACP Awuni Angwubutoge Awuni has a tough task of transforming the MTTU, but the real duty of curtailing the avoidable carnage on our roads is for you and me.
We are all potential victims. You may be the next to die if you don't tell that lunatic behind the wheel, who thinks that how his expertise depends on his ability to overtake any moving object on the road. He is like a suicide bomber. A member of Ghana's Boko Haram.
Savannah View is a weekly column published in the Tuesday edition of The Finder newspaper/Ghana.
Writers email: [email protected]