Perennial Flood And The Lamentations Of Presidents Act I Scene II
Last year, 2014, we wrote a piece in this column entitled, ‘Perennial flood and the lamentations of presidents.’ Among other things, we wrote: “Some of our behaviour are the exact opposite of what is expected of thinking, rational human beings.
Let’s us take the case of the perennial flood that destroy lives and properties in our dear republic.
I clearly remember every president from JJ Rawlings through JAK Kufuor through Atta Mills lamenting and appealing to us to change our bad environmental practices.
All to no avail.
I remember the flaks President Rawlings received just because he dared to tell us some bitter truth that some of our habits are below those of animals.
Of course, like the bloody hypocrites that we are, we didn’t see the sense in what our leader was telling us.
As a people, we love praises, especially the unearned and totally undeserved ones.
Rather than pause to make sense of what our no-nonsense, straight-shooting President was saying, many of us decided to heap insults on him.
It is no brainer that rains will fall. It is equally a given that rains will lead to heavy downpour, that will lead to flood, that will require unobstructed passage-ways.
All these are known, immutable factors.
But like the mindless simpletons that we are, we continue to behave as though nature will somehow change its ways to accommodate our wayward ways. We continue to habour the delusion that supplicating to almighties with somehow sway the laws of physics.
We continue to hope that praying, rubbing olive oil on bodies, burning candles, tying talisman around waists will somehow sway nature.
Like demented idiots, we continue to believe that speaking in tongues will persuade nature in our behalf.
In 1953, a flood occurred in the Netherlands that resulted in some death.
The Dutch told themselves: Never Again.
They sat down, planned and engineered the awesome Delta Project in the Zeeland province in the south of their country.
I visited the project some years ago and spent whole day marveling at the sheer elegance, beauty, vastness and the awesomeness of the engineering feat.
The Delta Project not only stopped flood from destroying lives in the Netherlands, today the Dutch earn good money from the technologies they developed to stop flood from invading their country. Today, the Dutch are called upon to build the majestic islands in Dubai and other Gulf states.
What do we do in Ghana after flood destroyed properties and lives?
Nothing. Yes, that is it, NOTHING. Zilch. Zip. Zero.
We make no plan whatever; we only continue to hope that natural accidents will spare us if we pray hard enough.
Like a bad script written by an idiot, we see the president come with all protocol, pontificate loudly, and receive wild ovations. He make many promises, which he has absolutely no intention of keeping. He goes back to his office and forget all about it. Of course, his fawning entourage will make a show of doing something. The cameras are switched off. Everyone forgets about it. After all, the rains has stop.
Wayward and totally amoral chiefs will sell land earmarked for waterways. Their machomen will ensure that developers build where they are not supposed to. Our police officers swill collect their bribes and look the other way, and allow miscreants to flout our laws. Corrupt judges will receive bribery and allow cases to drag on for forever and a half. City officials will also collect their own envelopes, and ensure that they see less than they usually see. Our journalists will receive their own envelopes and concentrate their energies in saturating us with sheer inanities. Citizens who complain are lambasted as troublemakers, beaten up and occasionally killed.
In the meantime, the rest of us, like the good Ghanaian citizens we are, will continue to throw garbage anywhere and everywhere.
After all, our country’s motto is: Freedom and Justice.
We are constitutionally-licensed to do anything, especially the most irrational of things.
They forget to add Responsibility to our motto, to make us know that freedom without responsibilities leads only to chaos and anarchy.
We continue to use our drains for garbage dumps. We block drains, built at great expense, with our household refuse, and they become choked.
City officials receive their paychecks, drink akpeteshi in their offices, play lotto, gossip the whole day and do nothing.
The Mayor of Accra would rather take his populous beard out to go direct traffic than sit down and formulate policies necessaries to run a modern city.
President and his Ministers meet in their Cabinet, and come out with more appeals for prayers and fasting for the nation. AGLOW and other such organisations continue to deafen ears will totally useless prayer dins. They never bothered to tell us what single thing all their prayer jamborees have achieved.
Our presidents feels more comfortable parlaying with parasitical priests than with city engineers or architects.
Rains come, and we die needlessly. We cry loudly and appeal for government intervention. We roll on the ground and shamelessly appeal for foreign assistance.
Oh, we love to grovel and appeal for interventional assistance. The Agency we set up to deal with emergency, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), is ill-equipped and badly-funded to deal with any emergency. Its head was in the news this week telling us that his outfit lack even a single tent.
When do we develop some sense of shame and start to behave like normal human beings?
When, when, when?”
We possess no oracular power. The only thing we do is to read good books, observe things and constantly interrogate our brains.
Since I wrote that article, you can bet your last Pesewa that nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done to do something about my pleas.
On the night of June 3, 2015, the country witnessed one of the most tragic calamities in its history. A heavy, 12-hour non-stop rain forced citizens, closing from their workplaces, to seek shelter from the rain and the ensuing flood. Many of them found shelter at the Goil Filling Station at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.
For reasons that not are clear, a petro filling station was allowed to be sited in the middle of the national capital, in a residential area and near a very popular and busy bus stop. That, however, is another story for another day.
Something sparked a fire at the end of which over 200 innocent citizens lay dead; many burnt beyond recognition. Counting those that perished in the flood across the country, the nation lost close to 300 of her innocent citizens. Among the gory pictures was that of a dead child that clung to his mother unto the last. May their souls rest in peace.
As cruel fate will have it, around the same time the Mayor of Accra was playing host to a gathering of Mayors who have come to decorated him with the Best Mayor of Africa Award.
We need to ask what our elite eat and drink that make them behave like they inhabit a different universe from the rest of us.
Robert Ingersoll told us that: “In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishment, only consequences.”
Our elite can pretend all they want. They can engage themselves in their self-masturbatory, chest-pounding self-praises to their hearts’ content, but they cannot fool nature. I hope that all the celebrants escaped with their lives and have time to reflect on their folly.
As usual, Mr. President came, with his entourage, with siren and all the pomp and the pageantry of the office of the Executive President of the Republic of Ghana. His gleaming V8 expensive jeeps, bought with IMF loan (let us remind them), raced to the scene. Predictably, Mr. President looked concerned and made the right noises. This time, the very high fatalities apparently moved him sufficient to declared three days of mourning. Unsurprisingly, the CEO of Ghana Inc. promised to do something.
You can take it to the bank if you are the betting type that it was empty promise. Nothing will be done. Next year, the script will be dusted up and repeated.
Dr. Edward Omane Boamah Minister for Communications released a statement titled “FLOOD ALERT,” and which reads, in part, “As a result of the rains in and around Accra over the past two days, many suburbs of Accra and surrounding parts have been heavily affected leading to heavy restriction of movement of people…
The general public is kindly advised to avoid fast moving rainwater, and areas they know have big drains. Stay on higher ground, where necessary, to prevent loss of lives.
Should you require the urgent attention of any of the security and emergency services, please call any of these numbers: 0299005011, 0299005084, 0299005086, 0299500099, and 192.
Please remain calm, restrict your movement as much as possible as we work assiduously to address this national emergency.”
Nice effort, you might say until you are reminded that, the first thing that happen in Ghana Inc. during rainfall is that electricity is switched off. Next to go is phone and internet connections.
Mr. Minister did not tell us how we are supposed to make that emergency call that might save our lives.
There is little doubt that our over-pampered and over-compensated elite inhabit a different universe from the rest of the hoi poloi, where they enjoy all the freebies they can collar for themselves. It is possible that our misrulers are connected to special networks that allow them uninterrupted phone connections at all times. So, it is difficult for Mr. Minister to know that when it rains citizens are in darkness and cannot make phone calls in emergency.
Let us not ask why Ghana cannot implement the three digit emergency number system that obtain in saner countries. Let us not question why our telecommunication communications were not compelled to provide special facilities to enable citizens in dire need get help at all times.
All these bring us to what we have consistently advocated in this column which is that it is time for us in Africa to recognize that we are in an emergency and begin to take emergency measures to solve some of the problem that bedevil us.
Calamities present leaders with opportunities to rise and shine. In several articles, we gave examples of leaders that abandon orthodoxies to solve problem. We cited American Great President FDR, who launched many of the programmes that propel the US to greatness. Roosevelt didn’t begin life as a socialists, but many of the programmes he launched to rebuild America and put Americans to gainful work were socialistic by definition. It was FRD who told his compatriots that the only thing to fear is fear it itself. By the time FDR finished with his programmes, the United States has displaced Great Britain to become the world’s preeminent power
Rather than for Mr. President to announce three days of mourning and retire to his palace, he should have used the occasion to announce bold, if drastic measures to solve the problems of flood in Accra, once and for all.
Communications Minister Boamah was later on the BBC giving us the pathetic excuse that Mr. President is not acting because he is man that believe in the rule of law.
I wondered what the minister meant by that ill-thought and jejune excuse. What stops the president from sending bills to the parliament and get them approve in haste, since his party enjoys a majority in the house? And in this fouled-up times, will any opposition dare to oppose any measures being taken to safeguard the lives and properties of Ghanaians?
With minds like Dr. Boamah advising him, it is now understandable why the president appears so totally paralyzed.
Mr. President is empowered by the constitution to declare a state of emergency and marshal every available resource of the nation in emergencies. Mr. President can close the schools for a week or a month or even longer, and use the students to form labour forces under the supervision of the Armed Forces, to clear all the gutters in the national capital and across the nation. History will remember him as one great President that solved a problem.
Will he rise to the occasion?
Many might not know it, but the US Army Corps of Engineers built many of the awesome landmarks in the US of A.
Another thing we all seem to have forgotten is the fact that the colonialists came to our shore and dragooned our parents to contribute forced labour to build whatever will aid them to exploit our resources to the fullest. They simply impose the necessary taxes to raise the funds. All the roads, the railways, the schools, and dispensaries the colonialists constructed were all built in this way. The question is: what stopped us from employing the same measures to solve some of these problems? Will it not be more dignifying if we start to solve our problems through our efforts, instead of going around the world with begging bowls, like some demented almajaris?
It takes bold leaders, with clear visions, to propel nations to greatness. A fact that seem totally lost on the current crop of misrulers across the continent.
PS: Unfortunately, President John Dramani Mahama begin to look increasingly like the recently-ousted Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria – ordinary, inept, bereft of vision, totally clueless and more like a man out of his depth.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Femi Akomolafe and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.