Opinion

Inside Asiedua’s Chest: Meet my new friends

I think my Mayor and Excellency friends may have good intentions about our dear country but I still don’t know why they cannot deliver. They had all the power to save those poor explosion victims but they did not use it.

This country suffers floods every year. People die every year and yet nothing is done about it. 20 year old Freda Serwaa, who was said to be rushing to go write her examination and about four other people lost their lives on Monday, June 2 when parts of the capital were flooded as a result of a heavy downpour which started at about 4.30 am.

Various roads have been rendered impassable. Untarred roads are the most affected but some tarred roads were also flooded on the shoulders. Busy roads like the Mallam Junction intersections of the N1 Highway, Darkuman Junction, Kaneshie First Light, Nima Junction, Danquah Circle, Dworwulu Junction and the Paloma corridor of the Ring Road among others became simply immotorable after several hours of rains. The floods carried vehicles, shops, several property and human beings afloat all over town, and dumped some into big drains.

Many were trapped in the offices and workplaces overnight due to the torrential rains. Several workers and school children in parts of Accra and Tema spent the productive part of the next morning in their rooms. Most of them could simply not get out of their rooms even if they wanted to.

The worst of it all was the close to 200 lives which were lost after the floods swept stored fuel into a nearby fire source and triggered an explosion at a Goil Fuel Station near Circle. As I write, some hospital morgues have reached their full capacity. That one incident is being touted as the single biggest disaster to have hit the country after the May 9, 2001 stadium disaster, which saw 126 recorded death.

Most of these unfortunate deaths occurred in the city where my friend is the Mayor; and guess what he did? He went round and toured almost all the flooded areas and gave very long speeches, as usual. My good friend was at the disaster scene as early as 7am to tour the place. And guess what? He did so with a man holding an umbrella over his head. He is the boss!

Alfred Oko Vanderpuije (R) and Interior Minister Mark Woyongo (L)

In fact my friend the Mayor won the inaugural edition of the prestigious President Jose Eduardo dos Santos African Best Mayor Award just this last April. There are congratulatory billboards all over the city and some branded pick up vehicles. Oh haven’t you seen them? You should check.

I used to like him oh. You know why? He used his ‘tooth’ very well at the beginning but I don’t know what happened to him. He still hasn’t told me why he stopped the demolition exercise. He can’t say he stopped because of the insults from the public, because these same mouths rain insults and curses on the Government wherever there is fuel price increase but the Government doesn’t decrease the prices because of that. So why did you stop, my dear friend?

It wasn’t only my Mayor friend who made speeches about the Wednesday disaster; my Excellency friend too did. My Excellency friend was at the scene at around 8am, dressed in a black polo shirt over jeans and sneakers. He came with a whole crew as usual, and sounded like he hadn’t slept the whole night.

One of the congratulatory bill boards of the Mayor

According to him, the practice of building in water ways is largely to blame for the flooding situation in Accra. Was that the right time for blame game? He says practical steps must and will be taken to ensure there is no recurrence of the disastrous floods. So I ask – who should take these steps, my dear friend? It is so caring of you to have visited the site, declared three days of national mourning of the victims and for releasing GH¢50 million to provide relief to the victims and their families. After that what? We forget about them like we have the Melcom disaster victims?

I remember the Ghana Institute of Engineers (GIE) coming out to say that the concrete strength of the Melcom Shopping Complex was very low and that lack of adequate reinforcement in the columns of the building was part of the factors that led to the collapse of the building at Achimota. Don’t we still have such buildings in the country now? What have we done about them?

I am so sorry my dear friend, but do we always have to wait until such preventable deaths and donate for compensation. Couldn’t the GHC50m have been used to do something to prevent the tragedy? I’m still wondering why they did they not give the Ex-military man a bulldozer when he asked for one. That is exactly what we need! A ‘Democratic Dictatorship’, in which we will practice 70% dictatorship and 30% democracy. Trust me if we practice this system, we can force the horse to the river and force it to drink. Yes. I know it does not exist but we can start it and I’m sure other countries will follow suit.

I heard my Nana friend was also there to describe the floods and the fire incident as a dark moment in the history of Accra. But my dear friend, will you be courageous enough to order the destruction of buildings and structures that are put up haphazardly? Will you be bold enough to bring a strict law that will strictly check people who litter our country?

Many other dignitaries were there to mourn with the bereaved families. But where were they all when people were putting up structures in all the wrong places? Were they all not in the country when people choked the gutters with litter? Do we have proper drainage systems in this country? Where were the institutions that are supposed to make sure the few ‘open’ gutters we have do not get choked with rubbish? Are people not paid to check where filling stations are built? Institutional failure.

I could not believe it when the team Leader of the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD), Lawrence Dakurah said on Adom FM’s Dwaso Nsem that Ghana is still using a 1963 plan for town and city development. He actually attributed the situation to lack of funding to develop a modern plan to support the current changes in our settlements. Can you imagine that? And I don’t even think we are going by that plan. If we were, we wouldn’t have destroyed the big gutters and be constructing the small gutters we have.

Modernghana.com published a story with the headline; ‘Ghana Gets $795m To Reconstruct Accra Drains, Western Rail Lines’ and sourced it to state-owned Graphic Online. It was an IFC facility and the project was to be done by Conti Engineering and General Electric from the USA.

According to the story, published March, 2012, GHC595 million was earmarked for the Accra drains while $200 million was to be used for the rehabilitation of the Western rail lines. The then Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor and the then Deputy Minister of Transport, Ms Dzifa Attivor initialed for Ghana, while the Managing Directors of Conti Engineering and General Electric signed for their respective companies.

The signing ceremony took place at a dinner organised in honour of President John Evan Atta Mills by the Business Council for International Understanding, an umbrella body for American businesses in Washington DC.

The story was published on March 10, 2012, Late Former President John Evans Mills died on July 24, 2012.  So where did the money go? Was the money redirected to somewhere else? Or the drains were constructed? Was Ghana supposed to provide counterpart funding? Did Ghana government meet their side of the deal? There are too many questions to be answered.

The Ghana Water Company has just spilled water from the Weija Dam. I have never agreed with that practice but will leave it for another day. Residents living around the Dam are warned every year to evacuate the area but they do not. The GWCL spills the water each year, residents get affected, they get rescued, rainy season passes, and then we forget! People are still putting up buildings and structures around the Dam even as I write. So you see, it is not just my friends at fault, we are guilty as well.

Now, the laws can be set, enforced, drainages will be constructed but my friends, if we do not change our attitude as a people, we will continue to suffer!

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