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When catastrophe strikes, adequate assistance hardly comes. Fire engulfs your property and fire tenders reach there too late or with inadequate water to douse it. Fire starts gutting your shop and those who rush there are more interested in what they can steal than what they can salvage for you.
When fire strikes, even some are more fascinated by the spectacle than worried by the destruction.
These may seem exaggeration to a few of you my, cherished readers; but, do a sober reflection on our attitudes to life and to work in Ghana today.
This weekend, if you are heading for a funeral, just observe somberly the feasting and quaffing; the opulence display and little genuine effort to console the bereaved.
It is the duty of the poor family that has lost a loved one to cook hundreds of kilogrammes of food for all funeral attendees, including even next-door neighbours. That is the way we now live.
The good old days
That is not the way we used to live. Our ancestors bequeathed to us a social nest that made the extended family, whole clans and districts a cushion for victims in time of bereavement and calamity.
People didn’t exploit the pains of others for greed or profit. Traditional priests predated Christian missionaries.
Both worked to uplift the spiritual lives of neighbours and intervened for them when they were in difficulty.
Today, the kingdom business has become the most lucrative, what with many traditional and Christian practitioners exploiting religion for self-gain and utter greed!
Whereas God is not a god of confusion and noise pollution, the kind of noise many Christians, Muslims and Africa Traditional Religion (ATR) practitioners make at residential areas make you wonder whether they are out to deliver souls or disturb non-congregants.
More ‘Catholic than the Pope’?
In Europe from where Christianity spread to Africa, churches are built to be soundproof, such that those living nearby are hardly disturbed. In many places of the world where religion is as much practiced as in Ghana and Africa, areas have been zoned out for shines, churches, mosques, synagogues. In our cities, municipalities and towns; places of worship, factories, homes, markets, fitting shops and refuse dumps are all jumbled together.
The Jordan, Euphrates, Thames, Mississippi, Yangtze, and all the rivers the holy books tell us about are still flowing neat and wholesome, but, we have muddied our Tano, Subin, Birim, Offin, Ankobra, and Volta in the name of mineral digging and other unsustainable human activities.
We mowed 200 to 300-year-old trees our ancestors bequeathed to us in less than three generations. Land is a heritage of which most owners are dead, a few are living and countless remain unborn.
But, mindless of this, we have destroyed virtually all the land we inherited in one half of a century.
Mwalimu Nyerere preached in vain that Tanzanians (and Africans for that matter) had no business leaving the land they inherited from their forbearers more depleted than they took over for subsequent generations.
Urgently needed: attitudinal change
The core of this piece is that we need attitudinal change as Ghanaians, as Africans, as Black people.
The object here is not to beckon us to return to the so-called primitive era. Change is the only permanent thing in life, the irony notwithstanding. We, nonetheless, aren’t getting the fundamentals right.
It is the reason we are so vulnerable. It is the reason we wallow in penury in the land and on the continent that have built America and Europe rich and strong. It is the reason, when disaster strikes we are so vulnerable.
We allowed the White Man to put a knife on things that held us together and we fell apart, to paraphrase Chinua Achebe. From the ground we have not helped ourselves by rising up. Rather, we are sprawling and making a further mess of our plight.
Before we squander all our natural resources; before we sacrifice the future of our offspring; before we take on the unenviable tag of failed state and failed continent; Ghana must arise, Africa must arise.
African values that are still relevant – and most are still very – should be reincorporated.
Our chiefs, family heads, school authorities, religious leaders should endeavour to re-imbue African values in the youth –especially so, they don’t become worse Ghanaians and worse Africans.
The values and lifestyles we learn from the West had better been only the best. Globalisation. Yes, globalisation. But, the Japanese have still not lost their identity, discipline and healthy lifestyles.
When we learn from the Whites, we should select their hard-work and other positive attributes; not the ridiculous dress codes, irrational thinking, skin bleaching and destruction of our environment to keep supplying them cheap primary commodities. When we are copying from them we should not shed off our fugu, batakari, kente, ahenema, ampesi, fufuo, tuo-zaafi, akple, fom-fom etc.
Today, if you enter some of the business offices and banks and you are not donning a three-piece suit, you are lucky if you receive shabby service; you actually risk being totally ignored.
We have national attire that we have pushed to Friday, the last working day when employees are tired or even dodge work. We should be moving towards donning African wear each of the working days.
We should stop serving imported rice at every conceivable public gathering, if we want to give meaning to our campaign to get people buy made-in-Ghana goods. If it has to be rice at all costs, it better be Ghana rice. But, better still; serve a variety of the other local foods.
Make the systems work
Let us return to our roots as much as necessary. Let the bureaucracy we inherited from our colonial master work, or work again. Our civil service is in near coma and civil servants seem to find nothing wrong with it. Natural disasters occur everywhere; elsewhere, the impact is minimal because duty-bearers are up to their game. I daresay that were it to have happened in Japan, the June 3, 2015 flood-and-fire catastrophe that hit Accra would have claimed far fewer lives. On record, we have 160 deaths but many people conversant with what happened put the figure around 200. The figure went high because NADMO staff members that arrived at the accident scene put up a laughable performance. The floods wouldn’t have been so ferocious in the first place, had the government that contracted a Brazilian firm to rebuild the Nkrumah Circle ensured that construction debris was not allowed to clog the Odaw River and its tributaries.
Petrol dumps have been wrongly sited at residential and commercial centres. After June 3, pretence was made to get all wrongly sited fuel stations relocated; it soon fizzled out: lack of the needed political will. Now, we are engaged in a great aqua war, fighting to save whatever remains of our rivers and lakes. Those killing the rivers for their greed – not their need – have the temerity to insist that they should be given so-called alternative livelihoods before they leave galamsey.
The Akufo-Addo regime has got to be firm and decisive in dealing with galamsey and all other crimes. If you consent to giving alternative job avenues to illegal miners, you open the chance for drug peddlers, prostitutes, street vendors and all manner of criminals to demand similar concessions before they conform to the rules. That is untenable.
Difficult times will come; they are cyclical. Accidents will come; they are part of life. Let us live as true Africans to support one another in times of difficulty. Disasters will occasionally strike. Let duty-bearers prevent them as much as possible. Let duty-bearers try to minimize their impact as much as possible. If we don’t turn a new leaf, I am afraid, more disasters could befall us. If we do not turn a new leaf, we will feel the impact of the disasters harsher and harsher than necessary. Tufiakwa!
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