Is our cup of blood still only half full?
The annual rains are gradually setting in, peacefully picking up towards the peak season.
History does not repeat itself. It merely quotes us, when we’ve not been too wise. Could the repetitive floods be quoting us? Are we as unwise under the banner of wisdom? Can’t we, (as a people) proffer different approach to the senile solutions which are unsustainable?
The voices of the people–Media– have finished cascading the noise as it has happened again. The bloggers dreaded writing this piece due to its sensitive nature but someone has to, especially since it has become a topical issue. For too long have this stood in the silence of the shadows, while people and properties get carried away by the bargain of floods in the cities.
And whenever it happened, the eyes and ears of the nation are turned towards it for some few days, the academic wonks flaunted the media space with numerous propositions, the policy mandarins appear on the airwaves with ages of historical plans that should’ve solved the debacle long ago and the mighty government, (our social contractor), comes in handy with apologetic cloaks coupled with pretentious grim to the same people who entrusted them with their lives as if they’ve signed the social contract to receive such motionless gestures in times of need. The pretense, so well sustained, becomes reality in its own accord.
Our independence did not live that long, but the historical pedagogy of the perennial floods and its wanton dissipation of our lives is creating fear, panic and instability in the minds and hearts of every citizen. As noted by Ama Ata Aidoo in her book, Changes, “One thing Ghanaians are good at is simply turning English down in its head!” And it is not only English that is turned on its head, we also have this unrepentant attitude of turning problems down on their head using the same English. We gloss over it with beautiful linguistics while waiting for it to resurrect again, torment, desecrate and send us to the graves in numbers.
This powerful serial killer, though not hideous, yet very slippery to arrest, is referred to as “graves in-waiting.” These are graves dug by ourselves – the citizens, and our social contractor to be filled with bodies of citizens who have given their mandate to it. All that the government does is what Sir Josiah Stamp described as, “…keen on amassing statistics, correcting them and raising them to the Nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams.”
It is used to calm the rage of the masses but in truth yielded little or no results at all–empty placebos. This is what we are experiencing in the midst of these deadly diseases which kills faster than Ebola and Covid-19 combined in Ghana yet Covid-19 has managed to hold the country to ransom. With fewer deaths of Covid-19 and its associated complications, the government prioritized Covid-19 to that of floods which is sending more lives to the graves.
Let’s understand why government is the main architect of this deadly disease; perennial flood. According to a survivor of the Tema Motorway accident in 2019, their car had hit a pothole on a rainy day which led to the loss of so many lives in streams after the car missed its way due to flooding. Even though the losses weren’t different from the previous flood’s damages.
Recounting all the sad stories wouldn’t have had a basis for policy change but these are major problems that take us everyday to the hill’s edge, extremely radical, more fearful and aggressively deadlier. Yet they lived as normal. This is what Skinner, the Psychologist argued as “behavior caused by environmental consequences.”
Ghanaians often turn to react to the immediate environmental happenings whenever this serial killer strikes hard and takes along so many valuable lives to the graves. The results, however, go as far as the denouement. It’s understandable that the government is responsible for the construction of roads with accompanying drainage, upgrading and maintenance of these facilities to match the current trends of the society’s growth.
These problems, according to Gareth Hardin, are buried within population increase. Should it be agreed? In 2019, the Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Ata Akyea, announced the country has reached a two million infrastructure deficit. A very damning threshold mark of infrastructure for a population of 30.8 million. He further added that it wasn’t only the housing deficit, but the population, as it stands now, outweighed all other infrastructure engineered two decades or more ago.
It’s indicatively clear that we cannot continuously desilt drains meant to contain particular volumes of water which are now harbouring triplets of that and hoping to have solved the problem. This is why it is simply a placebo for various governments to resort to these unyielding solution when they are privy to the real issues. Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and other flood prone areas can best be placed under Gareth Hardin’s masterful artwork, “Living on a lifeBoat” where he explicitly juxtaposed the need for correlation between infrastructure and population. The total collapse of the lifeboat he said, is what we are currently engulfed with in the capital city.
He is of the view that resources are better utilized when “the optimum population is then less than the maximum.” Yet his difficulty lies in what “optimum” meant. This is by far, a serious problem Ghana is yet to tackle. Implying, Ghana, as a country, has not been able to cap the number of people per an infrastructure. For instance, the number of cars that a particular road is supposed to carry in a day, month and year, and the absence of these permutations makes it difficult to assess the “optimum” impact and the “maximum” impact. As this is seriously lacking on the part of the mandatory body. How is the “great burden” of upgrading purposes done?
Hardin’s conclusion on this matter is as good as Ghana’s problem; it will take several generations coupled with hardcore engineering and dedicated commitment through endurance to come up with lasting solutions to these flooding problem if the current policymakers refuse to abreast themselves and grapple the fundamentals of “optimum population” and “maximum capacity correlation.”
How will one contrast and compare a flooding that takes away lives in Gwollu in Upper West Region, which badly suffers from lower population influx to that of Accra, a hub of population influx? And the answer is very clear, even though the density of population at Gwollu is very low as compared to Accra, population has increased astronomically in all areas as compared to optimum capacity carriage originally designed to accommodate the Bagre Dam spillage.
Due to the increment in population on both ends, Gwollu’s floodings resulted from building on waterways instead of the available unoccupied higher lands. Accra has exhausted its waterways and reached ‘exhaustive utility’. The inhabitable lands in Accra are exhausted. The 2021 Population and Housing Census classified population density in Accra to 445.5 sq km while Upper West recorded 10.8 sq km. Accra showed more population than available usable land. This created a limited crisis at Gwollu with regards to the 2021 population density recorded and maximum crisis at Accra. What is happening in Accra is perennial, coupled with daunting losses unlike those happening at Gwollu because Accra has bypassed the stretched capacity originally planned.
The “destruction” talked about in the “living on a lifeboat” is happening in Accra. The northern floods could be attributable to excessive indiscipline and lack of conscience amongst its inhabitants as the population is not as condensed as that of Accra or Kumasi or Takoradi Metropolis. So this can be at best managed with minimal policy and laws.
Accra and Kumasi’s conundrum is basically improper planning and commitment to urban management from the government and its agencies hence the immense pressure on the facilities leading to the problem unfolding before our eyes. In the not too distant past, the behavior of our governments is what our elders used to describe as one who bite you and end up blowing air on the affected area to soothe the pain as if it wasn’t intentionally done.
From all indications, it was either maliciously or idealessly orchestrated. A rational citizen may ask “how can you show concern to victims of flood every year at the same venue, same place and same time, normally with a paltry gift of compensation as though it brought back the precious lives?” Ghanaians are never tired of the shibboleth of proposals as solutions by the policy wonks, academia, government and its agencies.
In Shakespearean words “so is running away when fear proposes safety.”
Enough of the talk. Serious actions are needed. Kwame Nkrumah in his book, Dark Days In Ghana, described the temperance of Ghanaians as progressively building, unconsciously enraging, and when striking, it is more fierce than a hammer on an anvil. He may not be far from right, with reference to the demonstrations at Tarkwa over their bad roads, the Adenta demonstration over their footbridges, the Kwame Nkrumah’s Circle flooding woes and several others over pockets of issues across the nation.
Forget of the politically organized demonstrations, they are just walkovers. The June 3, 2015 disaster was thought to be the demonstration that could’ve tendered, nurtured, mounted a smooth infrastructural revolution in the streets of Accra that would’ve taken duty bearers by storm. But It would’ve been nothing like a surprise after so many lives were sent to their early graves. This has been the unspoken fear suppressed in the hearts of men for many years. This will be born in broad-daylight.
Martin Luther Jnr said in his letter from Birmingham Jail that a boil hidden from the universally healing rays of the sun can’t be cured unless it is exposed to the natural medicinal treatment of the sun.
Governments can, however, parade themselves with placebos, which they know are not lasting solutions to this devil yet are very keen on them because they reduce tension from the aggrieved public.
It also interesting to note that the pressure of Ghanaians on the government will largely be triggered by the yearly tributes paid in blood to floods. Bodies are scavenged daily from water, properties submerged inside bedrooms and the resulting foam is washed to their premature graves.
Ghana’s annual floods can best be described in Shakespeare’s words: “where hope is coldest and despair most fits?”
This is the best of quotes one can elicit from the pocket of statements available at the moment to qualify the deep sanguine of unspoken fear in the people. Many persons attribute the perennial flooding to the public’s waste disposal ethics which I often like to categorize into two, namely; domestic waste and public waste.
Domestic waste are those created within homes while public waste are those created in public places like markets, roads, hospitals, schools etc. Waste must be collected, processed and disposed of through a well coordinated system.
Whose responsibility is it to create this system of waste disposal? The answer is so obvious even to those who push the blame onto the ordinary citizen. With this at display, if you still linger on such thought at this juncture, then it can best be placed under the banner that Shakespeare described as “unclean mind carrying virtuous qualities…” Even if the hoi polloi, is likely to be blamed (said with caution), it still traces its steps back to urban and rural planning which is also a reserve of the government.
Those accusing the general public might as well take a short trip around the city, especially the flood prone areas, to observe how these places are planned to eschew the general public from littering the environment. How could you blame a Medical Doctor for not performing his duty when the tools are not readily available to them to perform their duty?
It is the responsibility of the government to provide a good and a workable waste disposal system that will be swift and easy for the ordinary person at Nima or Shukura or Botwe or Madina or Kaneshie the same way it is for East Legon persons.
But the fact is that governments have over the years become wishers. Shakespeare said “wishing well had not a body in it, which might be felt, that we, the poorer born, whose baser stars do shut up in wishes, might with effects of them follow our friends and show what we alone must think, which never returns happiness.” Duty bearers with their sweet scented words, will formulate, communicate and execute solutions which never materialized. No souls in the solutions. No bodies in their words.
Sometimes it is inconsequential when basic things like these are being attributed to the masses. For instance, the whole of the Kaneshie GPRTU station had only a few rubbish bins for waste collection. Where will these people put their waste? Inside the cars? These cars do their cleaning at the station too. In a circular motion, the citizens might not throw the rubbish at the station but it ended up there due to lack of bins.
The heap of rubbish that gathers at the markets, especially on Sundays, if not all but part of it ends up in these drainages due to a breakup in the chain of waste collection. Who’s fault? A major failure on the part of the government. At Shukura, some members regularly dredged gutters of which the rubbish is left at the lips of the gutter which sit there for many days before they finally found their way into the gutter again. How can the media blame the citizens for such negligence on the part of policy makers?
The government is solely responsible for the promulgation of laws and bye laws for the development of the society. Haven’t we seen enough of the drama of sanitation laws over decades? In compliance with SDG 6, a percentage of the District Assembly Common Fund is allotted to waste and sanitation at the local level. What’s the impact of such spending over the years? The Media kept reacting and responding to tragedies with drama that yield no results while bodies are routinely buried under the sludge.
As Whitehead confidently put it, “the essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things.” He further illustrated, “this inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness. For it is only by them that the futility of escape can be made evident in the drama.”
Maybe Whitehead could see things in the Ghanaian context because this drama of solutions, laws and counter laws have only gained place in the belfry carillon. But it however failed to provide an escape route for dealing with domestic and public waste disposal or rescues submerged bodies from the sludge. Conversely, whenever we push blame onto the citizenry, it often serves as an escape route for the government from the pressures of the grieving society as the citizens keep counting dead bodies.
Some individuals may dispute this fact on the grounds that they are able to dispose of domestic waste properly. This may be attributed to the positioning of the individual. To juxtapose how tormenting and rigorous it is for an ordinary person at the inner quarters of Nima or Shukura or Jamestown to dispose of his waste will be a farce. Mostly due to the unabridged or totally absent of systems in place to favor proper waste disposal.
When things are continually analyzed in self-centered approaches, it may end up losing the whole essence of the discussion. This was succinctly captured by Gareth Hardin as “the individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part of, suffers.”
And even to fall on the innocuous extrapolation of the self centered approach, “analysis of the population problems as a function of population density uncovers a not generally recognized principle of morality.” Hence morality as defined by Hardin is “…a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed.” In the current circumstances, it is incumbent on the state to engineer the safety of the state, protect lives and property as a fundamental morality of its establishment.
It is for the same reasons, fundamentally– saving lives and properties, that humans establish governments. So the government should act in the interest of its citizens to protect lives and properties–its fundamental responsibility. It is somewhat clear that Ghana’s governments obstruct this same plight of the society, resulting in the taking away of lives and properties in an annual water ritual, which indeed had become a ‘certain certainty’ of happening within the space of a certain time period.
Clouds have become a scarecrow in the lives of Ghanaian citizens and rain has assumed the position of the “hitman” as seen in movies and we are guaranteed unaccounted losses whenever it passes through the streets of Ghana.
This killer is deadlier than Ebola or Covid-19 combined in Ghana and has been assured of carnage but, however, gets little attention from both citizens and government alike. Rain has become a headache instead of a blessing. If a little of the attention and urgency given to the fight against Covid-19 which has claimed less than two thousand lives.
Floods get little attention from the government because there are no international inflows towards fighting it. As compared to Covid-19, floods are an internal pandemic. Where are all the laws and by-laws? In our taxes, lawmakers are luxuriously taken care of, Policy implementers never missed a month’s salary and the corrupt hand of the politician dips into our national coffers with impunity yet allows citizens to their fate in solvable matters such as road accidents and floods.
Watch described the situation as “too many sad stories are lost to the stain.” Ghana has lost so many lives to this serial killer and yet it hasn’t been a major matter of discussion in the daily lives of citizens. But as daily commuters of these flood prone areas, most especially Kaneshie and Kwame Nkrumah Circle, anytime we see the clouds gathering in the skies, hearts keep bumping in shaky chest and nimble feet wobbled as vehicles raced away from cloudy weathers in Ghana.
Citizens are always eager to leave work locations before being caught up in the rain; even bedrooms aren’t safe from rain. Anytime workers are about to go to work, the first thing they do is check on the sky to make sure they are no traces of Clouds because any slight cloud could easily result in a rain and any small rainfall could trigger flooding, which could result in casualties on the roads hence their refusal to go to work when there is any.
I wrote this piece; my heart skipped a beat, yet I’m still alive.
Al Latif Kambo-Naa