Gradually, we are losing the desire and ability to hold our leaders accountable-- all across Africa. Emboldened by our apathy, leaders, sometimes aided by the media, are blaming the masses for our problems.
Last week, following weeks of intermittent rains with the reported deaths of 12 and the displacement of 30 thousand Ghanaians, Joy FM's authoritative Newsfile program took up the issue of floods-- once again. The host was joined by Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, the UN's Ben Dotsei Malor, and MP Sam George. Amazingly, there was no member of the government to explain to the people what had happened and what was being done.
The panelists seemed reluctant to criticize the government. Kweku Baako begged off because he had, after "previous floods" said all that he could say about floods! Mind you, a few days earlier, Mr. Baako condemned the pronouncements of some priests with admirable righteous indignation. And yet, with a flood leading to loss of lives, he lacked passion on behalf of the masses.
He was not alone. Mr. Malor directed most of his ire at the media and challenged them to "give us hope in future floods by helping educate the public. NADMO escaped his ire. MP George was more interested in speaking as a citizen than as a member of the legislature that has the power of executive oversight over the government and its agencies, including NADMO.
Of course, a few days before the Newsfile program, the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, had tweeted his condolences to the bereaved and then toured construction sites to demonstrate the commitment of his government to solving the problem of floods, as has been done by our leaders since the first floods in 1936, when the first floods in Accra were reported, according to Ahadzie and Proverbs. Indeed, every President under the 4th Republic has confronted the tragedy of floods and pledged to deal with it.
During the President's tour, it emerged that in June 2016, after the rains and the deaths, the Mahama administration had engaged Dredge Masters Limited for a 2-year contract to desilt and dredge the Odaw river channel and to restore the Korle lagoon to avert flooding. The contract was completed and then extended for 2 years by the current government. If it was successfully executed, why do we still have flooding? If it was not done, why renew it?
What happened to the Korle Lagoon ecological restoration project funded with 160 million USD?
What happened to the biggest boondoggle of them all-- the Accra Sanitary Sewer and Stormwater Drainage Alleviation project for which a launching ceremony was done in 2013 while Accra authorities forgot to apply for the loan from EXIM bank?
And then there are this President's unfulfilled promises. What happened to the 197 million Ghana cedis released to the Ministry of Works and Housing?
These are questions that would be the subject of a Parliamentary Committee hearing.
It is interesting that despite the toll in deaths, injuries and property losses, not one government official in memory has ever resigned or been fired for incompetence in the prevention or management of floods. In the United States, Mayors and City officials lose their jobs routinely for botched snow cleanups all the time.
Last week, I read a widely circulated piece by a Ugandan apologist for the Museveni government. He challenged Ugandans to show their own evidence of excellence amongst the citizenry or stop criticizing the government! The piece would have made Hitler's Goebbels or Squealer of Animal Farm proud!
Then I read the President's tweet, "Beyond addressing the issues of infrastructure, our attitudes towards sanitation have to change as well, in order to help tackle the problem of perennial flooding of Accra". Atta Akyea echoed the same point on "Kokrokoo".
Mr. President our problem is not attitudinal change-- it is a failure of leadership.
Every day, thousands of Ghanaians board planes and within days, live in places like London, New York, Toronto and other cities without sanitation problems. Like me, they get their garbage to the front of their houses, do not litter or commit any of the sins ascribed to our bad attitudes. They do these things because, in these places, there are laws, regulations, and ordinances that are enforced, without regard to anyone's attitudes.
Let us have the leadership to drain our waterways, enforce our zoning and building codes and stop blaming the very masses who are dying because of the incompetence of our leaders.
The only attitudinal change we need is that we should stop re-electing leaders who keep promising to solve perennial problems like floods, road traffic accidents, sanitation, etc and keep failing to solve them-- regardless of party.
Long live Ghana!
Arthur Kobina Kennedy (23rd May 2019)
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.