Hmmm, I do not know how to begin. The issue of fire outbreaks in this country, particularly in our markets is becoming one too many for us.
It is not because it is the first time that we are experiencing these unfortunate incidences of fire outbreaks in our markets but the fact that our attitudes towards such incidents over the years have been the same.
As a nation, the levels of mediocrity that have accompanied these tragedies have been very much symptomatic of our inefficiencies in managing our affairs as a people.
Just read on: Saturday, April 27, 2013; Fire destroys building in K'si. Saturday May 4, 2013; Sodom & Gomorrah in flames, Monday May 6, 2013 KANTAMANTO IS GONE.
All of these headlines were found on the front pages of the Daily Graphic. These are only in respect of very damaging fire outbreaks within the last two weeks.
Apart from the particular building in Kumasi, the Sodom and Gomorrah and the Kantamanto markets are very well known points of fire outbreaks in this country.
Indeed, they have gone through these tragedies under almost any government in this country in as long as their existence is concerned.
All governments have failed to deal permanently with this problem for political reason to the detriment of our national development and growth.
It must be noted that in all the fire cases cited above, the incident occurred during the weekends, it is worth investigating why the fires occur only or mostly during the weekends.
Sadly, there are so much emotions and politics in our national developmental efforts rather than reasoning and thinking and doing things which will benefit this nation in the long term.
It is the postponement of minor decisions in the past which leads to bigger tragedies whose decisions in the present create a bigger problem for people and a huge cost to the nation in general.
As a former District Chief Executive, I support every effort by the government and the authorities of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to modernize all the markets dotted within its jurisdiction.
This nation is gradually developing, no, has developed into a big slum.
The citizenry have virtually taken the laws of this country into their own hands and sometimes, with the active connivance of some officers who have the responsibility to ensure that the right structures are put in place at the right places, sit down unconcerned until the problems have gotten out of hand and all of us begin to complain.
As I said earlier, the reasons for our collective irresponsibility towards what is wrong are two; emotional and political.
Ghana as a nation has been unable to create the right environment for job opportunities for all segments of its populace.
The highly trained and educated have not much challenges in job acquisition, the middle level trained or educated populace have some challenges in job acquisition, the averagely trained and educated have major challenges in the area of job acquisition while the illiterates and the untrained do not have any opportunity of job placements at all.
Thankfully, Ghanaians or most of these people in the above try to find other means of making legitimate means of livelihood instead of engaging in lawless acts which would be detrimental to the society generally.
The survival instincts of individual Ghanaians coupled with the fact that governments have failed to properly plan this country in a manner that will accommodate these classes of people in our collective economic journey, they are doing what is right in wrong places.
This has led to an unfortunate spectacle of kiosks, containers, and all manner of tables at every conceivable space in this country, cities towns and villages.
While the activities of those in these structures are welcomed means of creating jobs for themselves, they are very much unacceptable in the face of building decent cities and towns in a modern way.
So what do we do; beautify our cities and towns by throwing all of these people out of jobs or allow the mess and filth in the name of job creation?
The second leg of our inability to deal with the situations and even help exacerbate the unacceptable situation is political.
For the sake of votes, politicians have decided to turn a blind eye to acts of the citizenry which are illegal and have sometimes encouraged the people engaged in these illegalities to expand and entrench their illegal acts.
How many times have we not seen politicians, even Presidents moving to places which are illegally occupied by our citizens to assure them of government support for doing what is wrong?
On the countless number of occasions that Sodom and Gomorrah had caught fire, Presidents have gone there to sympathize with them and assure them of government support to re-build their illegal structures on lands that have been illegally occupied. Are we serious in dealing the slum situations in this country?
While I support the position the AMA and the government has taken to, as it were, rebuild Kantamanto into a modern shopping centre for the traders, the approach to it all is also very suspicious of the intents of the city authorities.
Why do they have to make their plans of re-building Kantamanto known to the traders only when a ferocious fire outbreak which consumed almost everything the traders have had occurred?
Has the AMA, before last week's fire outrage, met the leadership of the traders to discuss any plans of building a new market for them and the temporary arrangements that will ensure that the traders still continue with their businesses without losing incomes?
The most amazing knot to disentangle in this Kantamanto issue is the fact that while the AMA has put security personnel at the place to prevent the traders from re-building their stalls, shops and stores, the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, a place which needs to be wiped off the map of Ghana, are busily re-building their burnt stalls, shops and stores without any hindrance from the city authorities.
Why? We know that Kantamanto is predominantly occupied by Akans and Sodom and Gomorrah predominantly occupied by our brothers and sisters from the three northern regions. Is it a case of an attack on the Akans?
Sodom and Gomorrah is a huge cost to this nation because it has obstructed the development of the Odaw Lagoon and if there is any slum area in this country which has to be totally destroyed irrespective of who occupies it, then it is that place.
Why are we leaving the people there who do not just engage in trading activities but also live there permanently and create all sorts of filth and nuisance in that part of Accra and prevent those in Kantamanto who mostly do not live there but trade during the day? So development too has taken ethnic colour against Akans?
Well, I will not be surprised since Kantamanto is part of Nii Lantey Vanderpuye's constituency where Akans were not allowed to register in the last EC's registration exercise because they did not live there or hail from there and as Akans, they were probably not going to vote for him and the NDC, he is now the Deputy Minister of Trade and wants to take the opportunity to clear them from the place.
As for the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, Nii Lantey can be assured of their votes so they should remain there no matter the cost of their continued stay in that area to the nation
This is why Okoe Vanpee is having problems with his 'new plans' for Kantamanto traders, the meanings being read into the decision of the AMA may not be true but selective actions of the city authorities strengthen views taken by the affected people and the suspicions that the fire was deliberately set by some people to give an opportunity to evict the Akans from Kantamanto.
This nation surely must be built according to the dictates of sound modern developmental principles which must make room for all manner of people in whatever they do legitimately for survival.
Any attempt, whether real or perceived to victimize or protect Ghanaians on the basis of where they come from in the name of modernizing our cities is a recipe for chaos.
I will support the AMA in its efforts at bringing sanity into the capital but that must not be done with any ethnic biases and considerations.
Davi, please give me two shots of my usual mahogany bitters but make sure it is two. I don't want any over filling which in political parlance will amount to over voting.
By Kwesi Biney