Ghanaians have become so used to institutional inefficiencies that sadly, it seems stories of collapsed buildings, floods, fires in Ghana are no longer ‘news’ to us.
In fact, we have come to expect self-inflicted disasters that if by luck we go a year without one, it appears something is not right.
When the self-inflicted disaster strikes, we all get angry at the ruling class and at those we expect to know better but almost always fail to blame our own contribution to the disaster.
The predictable occurrence of these avoidable disasters never fails. The occurrences are so loyal to our unpreparedness, clumsiness, institutional weakness and disorderliness that they always happen.
While, the country is still recovering from the June 3 avoidable fire and flood disaster which claimed over 150 lives, disaster came calling again!
Just last Saturday, a three-storey building collapsed at Cantonments in Accra which claimed three lives and trapped about 19 people. The sorry event happened when the rest of country was engaged with NPP’s supplementary parliamentary primaries with commentaries and comments filtering in from the Tema West area of Carlos Ahenkorah and Naa Torshie.
In November 2012, a few weeks to the general elections, a six-storey building which was housing the Melcom shopping mall at Achimota in Accra collapsed. It claimed about 14 lives and injured over 70 people including workers and shoppers.
This disaster shook the nation to the core and even got the world’s attention. A team of disaster management experts and medical doctors with trauma expertise from Israel were brought in to help rescue persons trapped under the rubble since it was apparent that Ghana did not have the technical know-how to carry out such a rescue operation.
As always, the knee jerk reactions began. The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) arrested the owner of the building, Nana Boadu Nkansah Ayeboafo and was hurriedly arraigned before court. Other properties belonging to him near the disaster zone were locked up and confiscated by the state.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s (AMA) Ga West Director of Works, Carl Henry Clarke was also arrested for allegedly issuing the permit to Ayeboafo.
Our own Mayor of Mayors, Oko Vanderpuije, demolished a few buildings suspected to have been put up without permit. He further issued a stern warning to the public that buildings without permit and structural integrity would be pulled down. This threat obviously was not carried through.
Politicians who were busily running around the country campaigning for the December elections suspended their campaigns just to appear sympathetic to victims of the disaster and reflect the mood in the nation. But it was just political theatrics!
The elections have come and gone, winners and vanquished declared, but no concrete addition has been made to our building permit policy, so the situation remains the same.
Oh, and the media! We did well in covering every angle of this developing story; snooping around for updates in order to beat competition. Follow up interviews were conducted and ‘experts’ were called to share their ‘expertise’ with the general public whose eyes and ears were itching for news.
Social media users went ‘gaga’ over the matter and city authorities and the government had their fair share of insults and criticisms.
Three years down the line, who remembers? What has changed? How many buildings have collapsed since November 2012? How many people have been prosecuted? What happened to Nana Boadu Nkansah Ayeboafo and Carl Henry Clarke?
How many buildings have been demolished since then? How many fake permits have been issued since then? Has the AMA undergone restructuring to put its officers on their toes or shady deals between AMA officials and prospective building owners seeking to cut corners are still on-going? Has the general public become immune to the news of collapsed buildings so much so that it has become all too normal for us?
Oko Vanderpuije told Citi News in March 2014 that prosecution of persons arrested in connection with the Melcom disaster will commence soon. We are in July 2015. Has the prosecution begun?
This is the sad reality of our nation. We easily move on to the next big story and forget the rage the previous story evoked in us.
We easily let go of our anger and frustrations without demanding accountability from our public officials.
What didn’t we hear our politicians say after the May 9 stadium disaster? Can we confidently say that changes have been made in our crowd management skills, as well as the creation of adequate multiple exit points at the stadium and other public places for easy escape in case of an emergency? What tangible things can we say have been done to forestall a similar occurrence?
The endless cycle must stop. Let’s not get complacent and let’s not get ‘used to’ inefficiencies of public officials, let’s keep the fire in us burning to push us to demand accountability from our officials.
Nothing will change if this cyclical behaviour persists. Ghana can rise and take its place with a people who demand answers from their leaders and with leaders who respect their subjects and are mindful of their oath and pledge to make life better for their citizens and not a privileged few.
By: Efua Idan Osam
Email: [email protected]