Opinion

I know who the arsonists are

After the killing of Chalie Hebdo journalists in France, I heard many Ghanaian journalists ask: what have we learned from these killings? My answer was simple. Nothing!

How secure are our media houses? I could only answer this one with a question: is the country itself secure?

I gave these answers because, as a country we have failed countless times to learn from our own mistakes. How are we expected to learn from the mistakes others? Infallibility is part of human nature. We make mistakes sometimes but the good part is that we learn from them and move on. But that is not so in the case with Ghana.

Ghana turns 58 this year and she would have been preparing to go on retirement if she was a human being. But what do we see?  She rather keeps retrogressing instead of progressing. How then can she retire? What will her children (Ghanaians) eat if she retires? What advice will she give to her children? Ghana doesn’t seem to learn from her past mistakes and I think this is really bad for a developing country. Many things have happened in the past and if we had learned from them, Ghana would have been the envy of many countries.

The power crises this nation is grappling with are not new. For instance from 2006 onwards, we have continually experienced irregularities in power supply. But each year, we talk about it but do not learn any lesson. We experienced serious power crises in 2009, 2011 through to 2014 and even as I write this piece, Ghana’s energy situation keeps deteriorating. This has resulted in the killing of most of the nation’s infant industries and manufacturing companies which were already struggling with economic challenges.
The frequent power outages have now reduced business confidence and brought about unexpected additional costs on employers and manufacturers.Newmont Ghana laid off 472 workers in September last year. Anglogold Ashanti was said to have laid off over 4,000 workers by November 2014. The President of Ghana Printers and Paper Converters Association, James Appiah Berko, also confirmed that Printers across the country laid off over 200 workers last year because the cost of production was very high. Much of these additional costs was incurred on buying fuel to power generators.

The whole nation has been going through this ‘Dumsor’ wahala for some years now. The Parliament House had its share of this once and a committee was set up to investigate it. Really? What about the ordinary Ghanaian who sleeps in darkness for days, even weeks? What industries that are collapsing because of these power outages?
The 2012 election petition was the first of its kind in Ghana, but did we learn anything from it at all? We are all aware of how the New Patriotic Party (NPP) went to court over what they called widespread malpractices during the 2012 general elections. After fifty good days of sitting on this case, the nine-member panel of the Supreme Court judges rejected the challenge to President John Dramani Mahama’s victory in the 2012 elections. But that was not all. The judges proposed certain reforms Ghana’s electoral system in order to avoid future recurrence. But we are still waiting for another election to repeat the same mistakes that took the last election to court. That is how good the nation is at learning from its mistakes.

Ghana suffered a major accident on November 7, 2012, when Melcom’s five storey shopping Mall at Achimota collapsed, trapping many people inside. A total of 82 people, including 14 dead, were rescued. As usual, a committee was set up to probe the accident. Nothing was heard of it again. No one was prosecuted.The Mayor of Accra, Alfred Oko Vanderpuije swore heaven and earth to pull down all such buildings without permits. But after we finished wiping our tears, he went to take care of his beard. And that was the lesson we learned from the Melcom disaster.Just recently, a similar incident happened in Cantonments around the American Embassy where a collapsed building killed one person. We refused to take steps to prevent these disasters beyond media discussions.

The most destructive result of our refusal to learn from our past is what we continue to suffer from the fire disasters. Conventional wisdom is that the numerous fire cases we recorded in 2013 and 2014, with their devastating effects, taught us lessons to help us prevent, if not all, at least the major ones from happening again.
Between 2013 and 2014, major markets like Kantamanto, Makola Shopping Mall, Makola No. 2, Agbgloshie, and others were destroyed by fire. The Kumasi Central Market has witnessed a series of these fires in the past two years. The Kumasi Magazine, the industrial hub of the Ashanti Region, was not spared its share of these fires. These are only a few of the numerous fire disasters which destroyed lives and property.
Ghanaians were assured by the Government that investigations were on-going and the outcome would be made public as soon as they were done. The story, however, changed after the committees were through with their investigations. We even had a team of experts from the United States of America to help with investigations but we still heard nothing.
We are still in the first month of 2015, but we have already recorded close to 200 fire cases. A fire which was suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault, on Friday January 2, 2015, killed a six-year-old girl at Osu, in Accra. On 3rd January, fire completely burnt down the warehouse of chain store operator,Melcom in the industrial area of Accra.

On that same day, a fire also burnt the Stallion Industrial and Investment Company car park in Tema, destroying 31 saloon cars. Fourteen other vehicles which were parked at the car park were also partly destroyed. Just last week, two children, named Prince Alado 7 years and Princess Alado 5 years, met their untimely death when their room caught fire at Poly Junction 3 behind the Koforidua Polytechnic.
2500 Pre- paid meters, worth $2 million which were kept in a private warehouse at OduomBebre in Kumasi also got burnt. The meters were not insured and this means we have lost that amount completely.

The worst of all happened on 14th January when Ghana’s biggest drug storage and distribution centre was ravaged by fire.Reports indicate that it took fire officers close to 8hours to bring the fire under control. Joy News sources revealed that the Minister of Health, Dr KwakuAgyemang-Mensah, had set up a committee to investigate the management of the Central Medical Stores at Tema after he expressed dissatisfaction over the running of the warehouse. Before the committee could begin its work, however, a fire which is said to have started in a bush nearby spread to the medical warehouse, consuming everything.
What baffled me most was when the PRO of the Ghana Health Service revealed on Adom FM’s ‘Dwaso Nsem’ the next day that the warehouse was not insured. This means the nation lost Ghc237 million as a result of this fire alone.

As I write now, power lines on the Tema Motorway are being threatened by fire as the Ministry of Roads and Highway Authorities blame petty game hunters for the fires. When the fire service was prompted, they urged the general public to call the Police when they see people setting fire to the bushes along the motorway. Meanwhile, they do that at night because I visited the place early Wednesday and some tress were still burning.

The Tema motorway serves as the main link between Accra and the industrial town. I can bet that this thing will be repeated next year and we will sit and look on until it causes a disaster and we still won’t learn!
A lot of reasons have been blamed for these fires. Paramount among them is suspected arson. President John Dramani Mahama last years aid arsonists were behind the numerous market fires and several government officials promised to make public names of these arsonists and prosecute them, but as we speak, no one has been able to prove who the arsonists are. Although no evidence has been given to back this claim, government officials are never tired of telling us that these fires are caused by arsonists who want to sabotage the government.

So who are these arsonists? The Government, the Ghana National Fire Service, the Police and the BNI don’t seem to have any idea, but I, Akosua Asiedua Akuffo, have a fair idea of who these arsonists are. The arsonists are our high level of indiscipline as a people and the notoriety we have gained from not learning from our past. Until these are addressed, we shall continue to suffer from the devastating effects of these fires and other avoidable effects of natural and human disasters.

And, please I am not a prophetess of doom!

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