By: Akua Akyaa Nkrumah
You would think that we’d be weary of Accra (and other areas) flooding every year by now. You would think we would demand that our leaders keep to their promises. That we would insist on voting for our MMDCEs (Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives) so that we would oust them when there is such tragic loss of life and property. But after observing our reactions year after year to catastrophic flooding (its been flooding since 1968), I’ve realized that as a nation, our self-esteem just isn’t that high. Ghana and its citizens are like a royal who goes round begging for food in the streets instead of assuming their place at the table in the palace. Its like a national mental illness. Just look at the signs of ill national mental health we are showing:
- We still can’t imagine our laws actually working
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly has bye-laws. A very many of them. 244 to be exact. 13 of them fall under Solid and Liquid Waste Management. 13 of them fall under Cleaning. 6 of them fall under Environmental Sanitation Day and 5 fall under Drainage of Waste Water. That’s 37 laws in all that have something to do with Sanitation. Did you know this? I’m sure you didn’t. And why would you? The only way to get a hold of these laws is to purchase them from the Metropolitan Public Health Department. They aren’t freely available public knowledge. They are almost secrets. And so its hard for us to imagine what our city would look like under the enforcement of these laws when we don’t even know what they are. So many conversations have circulated about flooding and this phrase “attitudinal change” has become the new trend. How does an entire nation change its attitude? By magic? By prayer? No, by law enforcement. Even the Israelites who were ruled by God Himself had to be given the 10 commandments at a point because human beings are some stubborn creatures. And so this is our major handicap. We don’t know our laws and we don’t demand that they be enforced. And as Abraham Lincoln said (and Asiedu Nketia popularly repeated), “Laws without enforcement are just good advice”. Is it any wonder then, that these laws haven’t been updated since 1995? I know, you didn’t know that either.
2. We love having leaders who aren’t accountable
Our cities are managed by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The current MMDAs are governed by the Local Government Act of 1993 to “regulate the local government system in accordance with the Constitution and to provide for related matters.” So shouldn’t we hold them accountable if the city floods? There have been arguments comparing Accra to Paris which also recently flooded. Here are two very factual reasons why this comparison is impossible.
- Cities in France are governed by Mayors. For our collective information, we don’t have mayors in Ghana. We have chief executives. Mayors are elected, ours aren’t. Section 20 (I) of the Local Government Act states that “In accordance with article 243 of the Constitution, the District Chief Executive for each district shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the District Assembly present and voting at the meeting.” Its been 23 years. Our government still doesn’t think we are mature enough to vote for these leaders. They are imposed upon us.
- The former mayor of a French seaside town has been sentenced to jail for four years for ignoring flood risks before a storm that killed 29 people. Send your so-called “Mayor” to jail for ONE DAY after over 100 people died then we can start comparing ourselves to France.We Adore the
- Prestige (and not the usefulness) of our professionals
In Ghana we pass out hundreds of engineers yearly from our tertiary institutions. We pride ourselves in the academic credentials we’ve been able to accumulate. We forget that the only reason we study is to equip ourselves to address the challenges of society. So if you have a degree but have done nothing to contribute to the progress of the nation, have you gone or have you come?
4. We enjoy throwing our money away
Why would someone in their right mind who values their money build their home in a waterway that is destined to flood at least once a year? Accra is a low lying area. There are zones that are flood plains, areas that nature uses to catch excess water during heavy rains to keep higher grounds dry. No one should be allowed to build in these areas. No one should WANT to build in these areas. You’re guaranteed to experience flooding resulting in damage to your home, loss of property, displacement and possibly death. Yet every year, during the rainy season, the Ghana Water Company Limited issues a warning to residents living within the Weija Dam area to evacuate their homes in order to allow for spillage of excess water. Every year residents in the areas of Weija, Glefe, Oblogo, Pambros Salt, Lower McCarthy Hill and Bojo Beach for government intervention to support their ‘misfortune’. And sometimes they get it. How much is this costing us? Why aren’t such areas evacuated once and for all? Einstein once said that ‘Madness is repeating the same thing and expecting different results.” What does that make us?
5. We laugh along at the national joke of our institutions
We have a Town and Country Planning Department. We have a National Disaster Management Organization. We have a National Meteorological Service. These three government agencies seem to be the subject of the most jokes of the nation. We never take any information that comes from them seriously especially the met service. We joke when we hear the weather report. We never expect it to be accurate.
The Town and Country Planning Department, in my opinion, should be one of the most respected and resourced agencies in the country. Its our lack of planning that has resulted in urban populations swelling beyond the capacity of social amenities. It is our lack of following plans that has resulted in so many citizens building in flood plains and paying a blind eye to the proliferation of slums unable to accommodate proper waste disposal. I believe that if our Town and Country Planning Department really did its job, we might not even need a National Disaster Management Organization. Planners would channel energies into preventing disasters, not managing them. And that would influence the prioritization of the Ghana Meteorological service because without accurate weather predictions, one cannot plan. Ideally, there should be evacuations ahead of heavy rains to prevent the loss of life and property.
We are joking with the very institutions that are supposed to save us. Are we correct at all?
This article was written for ghanadecides.com by Akua Akyaa Nkrumah who blogs at Greenghanaian.com.