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When will the Melcom Store’s disaster become a teachable moment?

Posted by Business in Ghana on November 22, 2012

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, Asuom, Ghana.

THIS HAS TO BE ONE OF those articles when the subject needs to be approached gingerly and with due respect for our fellow citizens’ loss, lest, I’ll be accused of ‘hardheartedness’. With that firmly  in mind I’ll  delicately go ahead and attempt to shed some much needed  light on where deep darkness have occupiedfor weeks.

 While the Melcom supermarket’s disaster has certainly tested our resilience and togetherness and our security services’ agility and the citizens’ patriotism, the nation has to be proactive and get busy—ASAP!

Yes, the disaster has brought up a lot of deficiencies in our system and how we’re ill-prepared for disasters made by nature or our own choices. It has questioned our sense of priority and creativity.

The tragedy has also tested everything that we have as a nation to solve real problems, even if we had to use pick-axes and borrow dogs, tools and equipment to rescue our own brothers and sisters. It taught us how everyone’s mistake can cost the nation dearly. And, that cutting- corners and doing a lousy job in the name of greediness and selfishness have a price for the entire nation that can also keep us in ‘kuntunkuni’ attire forever. Aren’t you tired of Saturdays’   funeral activities?

Relax; I have no intention to rubbernecking or trivializing the tragedy that engulfed us recently. However, there are lessons to be learned in every tragedy .I believe from experiences and tragedies we learn our most valuable lessons—I hope so!

With all that I wonder if we have learned any lesson from the tragedy yet. No, I’m not referring  to our newly- minted building codes  and all the red-tapes some district assemblies’ building inspectors are going to design  to help them swim in bribes and corruptions …that is a given!

However, as we reflect and react to the incident there are other decisions and policies’ dimensions to the incident that are  emerging which need  real examination, explanation, reflection, intuition   and a little bit of aspiration.

We called for help from the Israelis and they brought their smart dogs and other tools to help. Literally, it took the Israeli team less travel time to get here than an Ambulance coming from Kasoa (a suburban   of Accra) to the scene of the incident. That goes to show how efficient they are. Now my questions are these: How come the Ghana Police service doesn’t have smart dogs in its arsenal to fight crime and protect life and properties? How much does it cost to breed dogs for such noble purposes? How come we don’t own a single helicopter for Ambulance service to ferry sick patients and accident and incident victims from remote locations to hospitals quicker? Please, spare me with your lame excuses because I’m not interested!

Here is the part that defies logic, political maturity, empathy and any teachable moment. Why on earth should the President present 12 brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles to the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs at this time when the nation hasn’t fully recovered from the shock of incident and when the public knows currently how handicapped the country’s emergency services are?

The gesture has been criticized by some pro- NDC and anti-NDC folks because of the TIMING of the presentation. I wonder who is advising the President on matters like that. The President’s inner circle aides should be fired ASAP!  The action is making the NPP and other parties’ sympathizers laugh all the way to the polling booths with no sweat. I know that and I’m not even a gung –ho fan of NPP, so please don’t push your politics down my throat. I’m just trying to be objective as possible here. And after reading the political seismography in the country about the incident and vehicles presentation I felt the need to make my comment.

I don’t know about you, but I know there are major pressing needs of this country than supplying our chiefs with their dream vehicles (how do I put it delicately?)Haven’t they caused enough social ‘frictions’ and ‘fractures’ within our communities and towns lately? There is nothing wrong with appeasing our chiefs, but the timing was wrong….antwa yie koraa!

Anyway, I hope and pray that we have learned something valuable from the Melcom’s incident and accident, so as to prepare the country better for any future tsunami, without relying on other countries to come to our rescue as the first resort. I know we could not afford heavy machinery, but what about a smart dog?  One Toyota Land cruiser costs more than twenty smart dogs, no bi so? Could we also consider equipping the military helicopters with basic ambulance tools so as to enable the military paramedics quickly air- lift victims from accident and disaster zones to medical facility? Just think about it!

Oh when will Ghanaians’ lives worth something more than numbers? oh how long is it going to take us to get things right and take responsibility of our actions ? As a construction worker on the collapsed building   you probably knew one or two victims of the incident. You probably also know the contractor who built the store. You could have said something when the wrong materials were been used. You probably saw your co-workers who stole the major parts of the building materials and milked the system for their own ends, but said nothing because you thought that wasn’t your business. How do you feel now that the entire nation is wailing uncontrollably? I hope we’ve learned something about our behaviors and how they can affect the nation, and loved ones when we least expected.

Yes, I know it’s not politically savvy to speak about priorities and planning for the future in the midst of a tragedy, but there really aren’t any more excuses for us not getting things done right.  By the way, how much have we prepared for disasters made by nature or our own choices? Ooops! Just Stay Tuned!!


* The author is a social commentator and a founder of the Adu-Gyamfi youth Empowerment foundation for Disadvantaged Youth of Asuom


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