Critical News: Burning fires in our backyard

Sydney Casely Hayford

Mon, 14 Oct 2013 Source: Sydney Casely-Hayford

Tuesday evening, I am sitting on the porch overlooking the Panbros salt pans from the hilltops of McCarthy Hill. There is a man across the opposite fence. I can see him from my lofty perch, dressed in a pair of baggy shorts, no shirt and carrying what looks like a kerosene lantern. He is walking across from my left to the edge of the open land space he inhabits and I decide to retire, not an interesting scene to keep my attention.

Half hour later, just as I am nodding off, I hear the spat-spatting of what sounds like rainfall and I wonder when I missed the gathering clouds during the day and why is it still raining at this time of year? Thinking I could use the pattering rainfall to lull myself to sleep, I ignore the event and doze off.

But later, a persistent crackling wakes me up and I sleep-stumble to the balcony to check things out. The smoke filled balcony and the raging fire beneath me, shocks me out of sleep and I reel from the gathering heat below.

The man has set the whole yard alight and is proudly observing the raging fire from his single twenty-foot caretaker container in a far corner of the yard. He has no intention of dousing the fire and has not a care that the fire is climbing over my wall, destroying years of carefully planted yellow, red, white, purple and orange bougainvillea plants and is even threatening to raze down my thirty year old Neem tree. I am at a complete loss what to do except rush out and grab a long hosepipe, ready to attack the fire, based on my now fading Boy Scout tactics of how to manage fires. Calling a fire service does not even cross my mind. I think I will only embarrass them and me, with minimal directions and maybe even an empty hydrant if it appears.

Out of desperation, I call out to ask why he would do something like this at 11pm at night and not during the day when the fire service can come out if it spreads. My property is in danger from this negligence.

And there is a bylaw against burning brush in the city without authority. Is someone going to enforce this? Should I report the incident and have him arrested? And could I attach the Landlord who instructed him to burn the brush? I don’t know.

Eventually, the fire dies out. He has his smirk-moment, looking at me, and thinking, all this fuss for nothing. These rich people, all they think about are their trees and plants and the cozy cars parked in garages that I could use as live-in quarters.

So someone burnt brush across my wall; big deal. The AMA was fast asleep but the Fire Service was in no danger of any embarrassment and the fire out-burnt itself by midnight. I have not reported the incident and a possible future slash-and-burn scoundrel is still at large.

And that reminded me of fires in markets. What ever happened to our arsonists? Did the Americans fail us and not issue a report? Did we arrest anyone? Are they still in jail, with no bail? Where is the Court at on this matter? Was it a political gimmick? Will GYEEDA make the same standard? Sideswiped to a Department we know will not get to the bottom of the issue because Ghanaians will move on as a matter of peace?

GNPC papers were also burnt. But we might find out who sold the oil vessel and for how much. Tsatsu Tsikata has been summoned to see Justice Apau and his Commission. Will he? Will he not? Tell the truth? And what will turn up from all this?

The utility price hikes provoked the Trades Union Congress to threaten a strike, gave Government a ten-day ultimatum to knock off a third and arrange installment payments over three years. Did Government beg for a reprieve? Is it a populist matter? Or could the Ghana Federation of Labor be a political move to break Organized Union’s front?

The Minister for Finance and Allied Services at the Presidency Mr. Fiifi Kwetey (I am still not clear on exactly what his job is) on JoyFM’s Newsfile last Saturday charged Ghanaians with the collective responsibility of fixing the mess that they, the NDC and NPP Governments have created over the decades. This is not the first time I have heard him saying this and I am at a loss where he thinks it is heading. I have never, in my life, stood on a platform to convince any Ghanaian to vote me into power based on a manifesto, which I claim will be the answer to all poverty problems. Am I to blame for the perpetual under-investment in infrastructure? And the corruption-lined pockets of politicians, civil and public servants is my failure, because I did not put in place proper controls to monitor unnecessary expenditure?

The lights just came back on at 7pm this evening since an 8am shut off. I am striving to meet deadlines made tight because our economy has tanked due to poor policy and profligate expenditure by Government, and I should as a citizen, accept joint blame when I have no signing authority on any cheque and legislation in this Ghana?

Come again Minister of Allied things. The responsibility is all yours and your team, especially the current mess in which we find ourselves. The NDC Government has to solve this crisis, not the collective people of Ghana.

JDM did accept some responsibility on behalf of Ghana’s coup makers, and said the IMF and World Bank misled us into accepting programs such as Structural Adjustment, PAMSCAD, etc. Well, true. But what happened to thinking for ourselves and disagreeing because we did not think the solutions would work? And now we have determined that the recipe was wrong, why are we still laying our bed in Bretton Woods?

JDM’s delivery on the subject was rather mixed, and I concluded that our President is yet to come into his own as an orator. Certainly no Kwame Nkrumah, but he is even yet to match the late Attah Mills when it comes to conveying his message.

He made JJ’s latest delivery at the University of Development Studies in Tamale sound refreshing and even in some places, interesting. I particularly liked the part where he blamed Ghanaians for playing ostrich with the facts of corruption and urged more to speak out, and because of that alone, he deserves the untenured doctorate conferred. JJ knows he cannot make the grade if he has to do the thesis, but hey, why take the pain?

And Mr. Banahene was accused of killing Rawlings’ dog. An arrest team was sent from Accra to Vume in the Volta Region to arrest him on suspicion. The dog apparently was left to stray in the community and had a habit of chasing and biting friend and foe. He ate a few chicken, no one was bold enough to do something until finally, one day, the dog was dead. The reported story did not say whether JJ reported the incident and fingered Mr. Banahene, but some locals accused the poor chap, so he spent a few days in jail. Justice ala PNDC days.

Well, I have been doing a series of early morning talk stints on TV3, talking about Church taxation and whether we should or not. I think the law is very clear on what is taxable and what tax exempt, but when I made a point to the Apostle from Pentecost that we should compel Churches, because of their special status in society to make a public record of their income, he was pretty taken aback. Most Church income is taxable, but we are so weak with collection procedure and tax filing, we neither regulate properly nor report the wealth of the churches to citizens. I am dying to see what ICGC declares as taxable income, and Winners and Action?

We need an institution to govern Churches and NGOs. Imperative. Tax exemptions and claims must be enormous and need reviewing. Now there is a great idea, even if I say so myself, for Mr. Terkper to get some additional revenue to cushion his swelling costs.

And here is our crucifix. A political party/pressure group calls a protest march. We all feel the pinch, we have complained and still continue to complain, but to go forward and be the one to be noticed as the complainer? And lose my business or my freedom? Be tagged as “against”? Please let me sand my ostrich.

Family anonymous is the guiding principle in Ghana. I will shout from afar; as long as my family and me cannot be identified, I will holler.

I apologise, that I have far more questions than answers this week, but I have burning anxiety in my backyard when my Government offers no immediate solutions and is constantly swerving issues. I am torn between making a serious stand and following the status quo. It is not a culture of silence; it is a culture of sleeping dogs de be keke.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

Columnist: Sydney Casely-Hayford