That was somewhere 2013. I lived in a suburb of Accra called Dome Pillar 2. It is such a sophisticated neighbourhood dotted with complex mansions, hotels and restaurants. In fact, it looked as if anyone living in that area was automatically considered a well-to-do personality. It can actually be a fitting place to go on tourism in the national capital. The glimpse from afar will probably make you yell loudly that, ‘’Yes, this is the capital of Ghana!’’ if you are new to the area. Apart from the infrastructural beauteousness and captivating landscapes of the area, it is also such an arcadian neighbourhood that many people might want to live in as it is largely devoid of boisterousness and ‘’station boys and kayayes’’.
There was, however, an existential condition that served as a blight on this envious neighbourhood of the capital. I personally consider cleanliness to be of paramount importance, and can only be next to godliness, as the old adage goes. Hence, I can easily be pushed off by a sordid environment. I would therefore cautiously shove any rubbish from my room and yard in the garbage bags at the entrance of the house due for carting. I was heavily judgmental on people who use to dump rubbish indiscriminately in the river that was just ten meters away from our house. I wondered why grown ups could treat our environment as such. But one day, a very clean and nice lady whose door post was just close to mine said: ‘’Don’t talk much brother. You have just come here and you will soon know the reason why we have to litter around.’’ She continued by telling me that some ‘’boys’’ who use to come on motor carts from Dome central were those picking up the rubbish but the problem was that they were not always regular. Hence, they would have no choice but to manage and get rid of the garbage by any means possible. They had no Zoom-lion nor any other state sponsored or private companies which were into waste collection in the area.
The stench from the naturally designed snaking river could cause one to throw out in a matter of seconds and that was a despicable eye-sore on this gorgeous neighbourhood. In fact, it was later on discovered that these men who use to cart away our garbage for a fee were literally dumping everything back into the river. What! When they were summoned before the Assemblyman for the area, they hardly could deny the accusation and outspokenly stated that they had no other choice than to do so since there was no landfill allocated to them. When the rains set in there were series of massive floods in the area on top of which could only be seen white and black polythene bags, water sachets etc. On a fateful day upon my return from work, I could not have access to our house due to the flood. I stood outside undecided, dumbfounded amidst indignation and began shifting blame from left to right. But whom did I blame for the woes? The accustomed clubs of residents inured to piling up hodgepodge of rubbish in the area? The boys who carted and dumped the littering in the river? Or could it be the overall authority that shirked its responsibility of providing an effective waste collection system? Yes, I finally dissed the latter for wanton systematic failures! I also imagined how ridiculous it was putting roof without foundation! Mansions sinking in floating garbage?
But did I exonerate myself and other parties from the culpability? No, far from that! The only difference I saw was that we were less reproachable as compared to those who have been given the authority to enact and implement laws. They are sitting in public offices bearing the social insignia of authority. We have voted for them, some have been appointed and weld enormous powers to make and unmake things. They levy taxes on us so that it can be used to develop our dear nation. In fact, some of them even have the power to determine our death and survival if we go contrary to the laws. All these, among others, were the reasons I shifted blame on the latter. So if these people have the authority and the mandate to manage the system, subject the deviants to justice, levy taxes on us, inter alia, then I would see no reason why I should be held accountable for such a scathing phenomenon. No matter how disciplined I am, I can’t afford my own waste collection system whereby I can easily dispose off the garbage I gather. No matter how kept and clean I am, I can’t carry the pure water sachets to the landfill – and I don’t even know where one can be located and the distance it takes to get there – myself after I have finished drinking but have nowhere to dispose it off. Most people litter not because they prefer a disagreeable environment to a decent one but simply because they have no choice.
I know for sure some might argue that we are collectively responsible for whatever happens, just like Dr. Bawumia has put it, but it does not completely hold water. To conclude so can be likened to the saying in the movie The Revenant that ‘’We are all savage and must die as such.’’ Unless Dr. Bawumia is referring to those who have been entrusted with power to effect changes but have failed to do so. Rather, the governed are suffering the result of the actions and the inactions of the governors and the latter must admit their fiasco. They have no business lingering in public
offices of trust if they are not ready to assume responsibilities. When flood killed 29 people in a French seaside town of La Faute-Sur-Mer in 2010, the city mayor Rene Marratier was subsequently not just relieved of his post but was also jailed in 2014 for failure to consider risks and mitigate them in the said town. In our case, especially June 3, 2015 where more than 150 people met their untimely death in the worst flood and fire disaster ever recorded in the history of Ghana, no one has been made to face the full rigours of the law for their debacle. Followers have no power to implement laws, no power to bring culprits to book, and do not take taxes from anyone to provide garbage bins to households and on the streets. Meanwhile, people are in authority to make sure that the system function unfettered as individuals often have vicious inclinations to going outlawed if not checked by the authority. Per my exposure to systems in different parts of the world, I have come to realize that at the individual level, they are never better than we. Among them are those who are highly disorganized and messy, even worse than our so-called untidy folks. As a matter of fact, many at times have I been showered with praises as being even more clean and meticulous in the midst of my Western co-tenants. I have equally heard positive testimonies that the Westerners give about other Ghanaians and Africans at large. This means we are good and can even be better in a less flawed society. If the ordinary citizens are to blame for shunning the responsibility of maintaining a safe and serene environment, then their reproach can only be for failure to demand for actions, efficiency and effectiveness from those bestowed with power to function.
Just think about any functional society and also take a critical look of its leadership and governance. Even if the citizens appear to have the right attitudes, as some people will always argue on that line, those attitudes have certainly been nurtured following a systematic importunity for excellence. How can we control floods when in actual facts we have mansions belonging to the untouchable in our society sited on water ways? How can we be safe when the most offenders are those who should otherwise be the proponents of orderliness and the laws of the land are even skewed in their favour when caught as perpetrators? I dare not mention any edifices wrongly
sited in Ghana’s capital in particular, after all most of us know the spots that are the province of the flood when it rains. Our problems are self inflicted! We may whine and revile and even pray out blood, but the truth remains that we can never outgrow our current level of thinking and behaviour. And it is our attitude that will determine our altitude on the global social
ladder. The entire system seems to have vicious inclinations to mediocre and laisser-faire attitudes and we appear to be content with that. Disheartening!
Sadly, nature does not pander to any mediocrity! Even in prayers, if we pray with our heads
instead of just with our hearts, as it has always been the usual rhetorics: ‘’Oh God have mercy on us!’’ we are most at times likely to hear Him speak to us: ‘’I have stacked something in your skull called brain. Use it wisely and stop disturbing my peace!.’’ No devil is causing floods, we are the very devil ourselves! Our propensity to do wrong is the pregnancy that delivers our
annual plaguing monster where precious lives and properties are lost. We all, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, shall once in a while be buffeted by the vicissitudes of nature, be it earthquake, floods, storm or whatever. Admittedly, our failure to mitigate the perennial floods in our cities is not due to the scale of the concurrence; rather, it is a measurement of our weakness. Some people are more prone to similar disasters than we do, yet they have been able to overcome that. If three days of torrential rainfall in Paris could not claim even a single life, and three hours rain in Accra can collapse buildings and even claim lives, then it can only speak volumes of our incapacity to survive in terms of even restrainable catastrophes. Nature has the cruelest laws on earth; no one violates her laws and goes unpunished! We can’t abuse our environment and expect it not to carry out some retaliatory measures. We can’t just sow corn and expect to harvest apple. It doesn’t work that way! In George Bugnet’s novel The Forest, Rogers, the protagonist, after having lost his only son Paul to the flood, regrets and grieves: ‘’Nature is not wicked, and she could have been a friendly neighbour who houses me. But I have been unfair to her. I have disrespected her!’’ Most often or not, we become prey to natural disasters because, instead of revering her, we are rather rivaling her. But her might is invincible, and we pay direly at the end!
Shall we continuously sit down in indolence and insensitivity, apportion blame, favour the wrong doers in the name of partisanship and factionalism and tend to have mass graves every rainy season? And how do we really value our life as a people when most of us go partisan on issues of life and death? I don’t just want to believe that the Blacks are the possible cursed race that some religious books seem to insinuate! We appear to be OK with adversities and only tend to solve them with ceaseless and impractical rhetoric’s accompanied with litany of promises of prompt actions which never get realized!
Solution: Those authorized to do so must wake up from their incessant slumber, go ahead to demolish all the buildings on water ways, provide the general populace effective means of waste collections, punish the dissidents of law, and nature will forgive us in a matter of months.
Without such a move, we cannot and shall never appease her in any other way, and her laws and might can never be subverted. She doesn’t also take bribe: only justice and human treatment does she desire! As for attitudinal change, it will happen when the entire system is enlivened from its current moribundity. Peace!