3 years ago, Ghana witnessed one of mankind’s self-engineered acts of sanitary violence, branded as a natural phenomenon. What we all thought was a normal cloudburst to nourish our bodies and keep us fresh, turned out to be a gloomy night of unforgettable anguish, pain and terror, when torrential rain paved way for a firestorm, leaving behind charred bodies and seared properties.The resultant effect saw 150 lives lost and many others unaccounted for.
In our grief, we took to social media to sympathize with the bereaved, offered felicitations to those who were heartbroken and with our messages of condolence and hashtags; we showed once again to the world the Ghanaian attitude of solidarity and the spirit of oneness in moments of grief.
But one thing that fell short of our tall condolence was the admittance to change our improper sanitary attitudes that offered the spark for this disaster. Our moods change yet our improper sanitary modes remained the same. Our hashtags revealed a country in sorrow and yet even after this adversity, our trash bags reveal a country in sanitary horror.
Perhaps we have not heard the untold stories of the many children who will be forced to grow without the warmth of a mother or the embrace of a father who died in the blaze. The many would-be couples who are unable to look at the burnt faces of their beloved, the trauma of families who had to wait for the obscure benevolence of social media images to identify with the faces of the victims. More tellingly, we seemed unconcerned because we have developed a stigma against people who have stood up to rebuke our environmental activities with the caveat “whether this land resembles the land bequeathed to them by their forefathers”.
We are unabashed by these sad stories because we feel our sanitary actions have no effect on what happens to others. As typical of us, we are immodest of how we treat the environment because our moods only change and our modes remain the same. But the June 3rd disaster is not just a wakeup call on our civic responsibility to this country but a reminder of how improper sanitation activities can wreak havoc.
Quite recently it was announced by the government, the creation of a Sanitation Ministry to tackle sanitation challenges in the country. The announcement was not only necessary in this time of unbridled filth but also an indication of government’s audacious campaign commitment to make the capital city the cleanest in West Africa.
Even as we lament on how viable this ministry has been a year and half on, sanitation sloganeering has become a template formality for previous and successive governments. It is documented knowledge that the cleanest cities around the world did not miraculously transform from the perdition of filth to the pre – eminence of cleanliness, through the crafting of catchphrases and the creation of a sanitation ministry but through the development of sanitation stratagems, the enforcement of sanitation laws and the undying display of patriotism by men, women and children who understand that, the call to act as citizens in rebuking people who degrade the environment, is not dependent on who holds custody of the land, but an innate and civic duty.
The likes of Rwanda, a country with a not too distant history in genocide did not become the cleanest city in Africa because their moods changed and their modes remained the same. They did not rise from the shackles of poverty to the penultimate of near middle income status because they spent the better part of their productive periods praying and asking God for things that can be solved by man. No! They became the la crème de la crème of world recognition because they were saddened by their adversity and changed the narrative. They were mortified by their circumstance and so their moods changed and their modes refused to remain the same.
The United States did not become the world’s super power, owing to the number of times they moaned about 9/11. They did not become the bastions of military brilliance because their moods changed and their modes remained the same, but they rose to that pinnacle because each day the memory of those they had lost, the faces of the many souls that had perished as a result of something they could have done better, kept reminding them of making their world a better place to live for themselves and the unborn.
And so, while the Accra Metropolitan Assembly is working frantically to demolish illegally erected structures at water ways to avert flood, we gorge through the generosity of social media, citing their inefficiency not to have stopped the structures at the onset of its construction, as a basis for them to back off, and yet our moods changed, when lives are lost and our mood remains the same.
While those who have been rendered incapable due to the wrecked of the June 3rd disaster continue to recount the gory stories of how they survived that night and others perished, even while they tell us how their source of livelihood have been altered because their faces have become a reminder of trepidation and fear for employers, our moods only change and our modes remain the same.
Even as government reminds us of the Christian maxim “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, with the institutionalization of a national sanitation day, we have feigned ignorance of the said day and fled to the comfort of our beds only to surge at the sight of sanitation vigilante’s or “Tangas” (Town Council) as we call them. In the mist of this our moods only change and our modes remain the same.
That has been the Ghanaian attitude of old, the attitude that compels one to discard a sick friend in need of money to solve a medical condition, in contrast to the display of pomp and pageantry at his funeral. The Ghanaian attitude that has no respect for our sanitary laws yet adheres to all the instructions when queuing to buy a meal at a restaurant.
The Ghanaian arrogance that will write boldly on his residential property, “Post no bill”, yet will encourage people to mud our bridges with event posters and banners. The Ghanaian attitude that will call on government at the swift instance of a self-inflicted disaster, yet refuse the call from government when the day of sanitation approaches.The Ghanaian syndrome of what the French say is; “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, to wit, the more things change, the more it remains the same.
Until we change our modes, the dream to become the cleanest city in Africa will add up to the list of brilliant projections that turned out to be a sloganeering trick.Until we liberate ourselves from filth, the sorry tales of June 3rd will continue to be as meaningless as the Christmas wish of the dead.
Until we admit that our lives are inseparable from the environment in which we live and that the treatments we accord to nature, will either pose life threatening situations that are humanly orchestrated or offer us a breath of serenity and healthiness.
And so, our responsibilities as citizens this day onwards in commemoration of the 3 years passing of the victims of June 3rd is not just to treat sanitation challenges as the duty of sanitation authorities but as a collective synergy that requires all hands on deck. Our responsibility as police men is not just to arrest sanitation defaulters, but to remind them that they cannot escape the clutches of the law by corruptly paying a few cedis. Our responsibilities as countrymen are to ensure that we stand up to persons who think that their only obligation to this country is to show up on voting day, persons who think that because this land is not our 2 bedroom self-contain, we have no right to question their improper activities.
May our modes never remain the same even as we mourn the fallen souls of June 3rd and empathize with those destitute by the wreckage. May we work to make this land a great tourism destination to the world and may it hit the core of our emotions and the depth of our hearts to cause us to say never again, to June 3rd and the sad memories its brings.