The avoidable tsunami of tragedies in Ghana

Ghana Thinks

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`We know accidents happen all the time. Human life, from birth to death, is intertwined with accidents of all proportions. Many of these mishaps are unavoidable, or difficult to detect and prevent.

For instance, at the time of composing this write-up, parts of California in U.S. is engulfed in wildfire, consuming over 25,000 acres of land that includes destruction of other properties and forced evacuation of more than 20,000 people (see: MSNBC-Live News; October 9, 2017).  

Randomly or at certain times of the year, wildfires burn and destroy million dollars worth of properties and loss of human lives in many parts of the United States in which the local authorities struggle helplessly to deal with it or contain.

In short, the subtext of the larger story here is that even United States of all advanced countries almost always experiences unavoidable accidents, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, sinkholes, deaths from lightning, and many more, that often appear to overwhelm the nation and its people/policymakers.

However, we must quickly add that in the midst of inevitability of accidents across cultures, there are also countless human tragedies that can be prevented. On that note, some countries have smartly learned how to proactively respond and tackle preventable accidents before they strike.

The uncensored truth is that in Ghana there appears to be no such thing as proactive prevention of avoidable accidents. So, many tragic accidents hit the country catching the local/national decision-makers in the napping mode. Recall the fatal accident in March of this year where a group of about 20 party-goers, including SHS students from Wenchi, perished at the Kintampo Waterfalls during a bad storm.

In any other caring and smart-thinking country, the Kintampo’s heartbroken accident would have been possibly averted. This is because there  would definitely be in place the state-of-the-art weather forecast system, accurately predicting the impending killer storm and hence a warning to the touring party to avoid the  waterfall area.

That is what happens all the time in the U.S. (go ahead and say stop comparing US to Ghana) whenever a deadly hurricane, tornado, or any other impending natural disaster is about to make a landfall. The weather forecasters will pinpoint the direction, duration, and exact time the storm will hit.

The contrary holds true in Ghana. Besides showy attitudes, loud mouthing, shallow reasoning, and personal innuendoes, the country is far from or yet  to master in the culture of learning how to maintain its existing infrastructures, careful/proactive planning, or learn from its previous mistakes.

Basically when we talk about advanced countries, in essence we’re referring to societies that have learned how to keep improving upon their errors and imperfections. But, like in almost all African nations, Ghana keeps repeating the same things and hopes the outcomes will stay different.

The case in point is the many media reports of the periodically lethal explosions happening in the gas/petrol stations mushrooming across Ghana. Sadly,  though, this is one of the classic cases of human psychology: That if an individual doesn’t have anything of quality to compare to or associate with his/her familiar conditions, the person naturally tends to believe strongly that his/her status quo is either the best or the worst! As some big trucks in Ghana have as their signpost: “Travel and see.” 

For many of us who have lived in the United States, Australia, Germany, Canada, or any of the developed country quite a while, as soon as one sets foot in the motherland (Ghana), right away one gets a clear idea of why this country and many others within the continent is described as  the so-called  Third World nation.

In the advanced, law-abiding societies, there is no way the authorities will allow the construction of fuel stations so close to where people live. Plus, these stations are strictly required by law to meet certain standards which are regularly monitored and inspected.  

Trade Fair Gas Explosion

Admittedly, Ghana must be far less developed country, other than that the officialdom wouldn’t look the other way and allow the greedy, careless, and the well-connected citizens among us who called themselves entrepreneurs/business folks put up gas stations very close to residential or market areas without taking into account the supreme safety of the people.

In America, for example, the businessperson can be Jeff Bezo of the Amazon fame or the co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, the authorities will ensure they follow the laws of the land pertaining to proper business practices.

Looking at the “tsunamis” of avoidable human errors often resulting in tragedies like gas station explosions, it is fair to say the contemporary Ghanaian society has become a place where majority of the people have absolutely no regard for morality, humanity, patriotism, rule of law, except an unexamined emphasis on mythologies and selfishness.

The safety-deficient gas stations are popping up and ending in explosions all over the place because the country has poorly inefficient law enforcement mechanism.  It is an open secret that once a person has enough money to buy his/her way through the system, the sky tends to be the limit for that person willing to bribe the regulators/law enforcers.

This age-old socio-cultural abnormality (bribing state officials) has shaped the mainstream Ghanaian’s worldview to the point that the police and other law enforcement agencies are held in low esteem in the society.

Honestly, no one may take the law enforcer or state regulator of fuel stations serious if the person figures out a few “kola” in the palms of the enforcer can do the trick. Do we wonder then why shabbily constructed gas stations keep setting off in deadly flames?

Indeed, one other notable reasons calamitous but avoidable accident such as gas station explosions, auto deaths on the highways, or the Kintampo Waterfalls tragedy will never stop is that Ghana woefully lacks the willpower and genuine commitment to learn how to put high premium on smarting from its mistakes.

The preceding is one of the effective ways to help contain or prevent the “tsunamis” of mortal accidents in the country. It’s also one of the means nations become more developed. After all, “experience” they say, “is the best teacher.”

Bernard Asubonteng is United States-based writer; send your comments: detrio03@aol.com