Thinking outside the box

Posted by By at 6 December, at 11 : 00 AM Print

Thinking outside the box

 

As a writer who is also a keen observer of happenstances in Africa, it is quite distressing to see how those that are in charge continue to throw up their hands in despair and continually lament the sorry state of our affairs.

Rather than sit, think and put in place policies and structures to solve problems, we see our officials turn themselves into hapless crybabies. Like mindless little children they deafen our eardrums with their cacophonous lamentations of helplessness. They keep on cataloguing for us what bedevil us without suggesting ways we can solve them. They keep behaving like we pay them to tell us what we already know rather than come up with solutions.

What are we to make of the news item on myjoyonline.com of September 23, 2011 with the title “MTTU is broken down; we have no equipment to fight road crashes – Awuni,” which I quote here: “Passengers and road users across the country must put their fate in God anytime they board any of the commercial vehicles because the country’s statutory institution tasked with the duty to police major and minor roads across the country say they have no equipment to guarantee their safety.

The head of the Police Motor Traffic Transport Unit ACP Angwubutoge Awuni at a stakeholder’s meeting in Accra on Thursday said his unit is virtually ‘dead’ because there is no equipment to work with.

The meeting was held to find lasting solution to the road carnage in the country.

From January to July 2011, a total of 1,081 people have perished in fatal road crashes across the country.

Hundreds have sustained several degrees of injuries.

The meeting was called Thursday in order for stakeholders to proffer solutions to the carnage on the country’s roads.

ACP Awuni said his outfit is completely helpless in fighting road accidents because it does not have the necessary equipments to fight the carnage on our roads.

“The national MTTU can boast of only one towing vehicle that is even broken down. So we are having problems. The resources that will assist us are not there.

“…We don’t have a single serviceable speed gun; a common speed gun that will tell us the vehicle that is running is at a greater speed than it is supposed to be going.

“…The MTTU is broken down totally as we speak now. We don’t have things that will assist us to project the things we are talking about now,” he lamented.

He was even worried that several reports which chronicled the challenges his outfit is facing has not been worked on and feared the country will only organize talkshops whilst failing to address the key challenges facing the unit.

ACP Awuni also lamented the non-existent command chain in the transport unit which makes it difficult for the necessary instructions and queries to be issued.

Transport Minister Collins Dauda in an interview with Joy News described as worrying the spate of road accidents in the country. Whilst acknowledging the frankness in the assertions of ACP Awuni, he said his outfit will do what it can to equip the MTTU.

He said his outfit is considering stringent road safety measures at lorry parks even before the vehicles will set off from their various stations. He said the vehicles will be checked at the stations before the set off. He also hinted of stiffer punishment to drivers who use mobile phones whilst driving.”

Hmm.

First to Transport Minister Collins Dauda: Sir, it is time Ministers like your good self stop telling us what your outfit is considering doing. It is time for less talk, more action. We citizens are tired of all the announced intentions that are loudly proclaim but never see the light of the day.

This is the second time this column will have a beef with the Ghana Police Force.

In a piece last year (‘The IGP and his convoy’), the column lambasted the IGP for travelling in a siren-blaring convoy while tax-paying citizens are suffocating in oppressive heat.

Let’s quote from that article: “We live in a society where things are becoming increasingly comical. The other day I was pleasantly amused, surprised and angered when I saw the head of the police, the Inspector General, in his GP1 vehicle, sirening his way through a dense traffic in Kasoa.

First, I was amused that Oga Police did not see the irony in his peculiar situation. The IGP is the head of the police force, right. The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) is part of the police of which Mr. IGP is the boss, right? MTTU is charged with ensuring hassle-free vehicular movements on our roads, right? How could a whole IGP missed the irony in his trying to cut corners by beating snarled-up traffic with his siren-blaring convoy?

I was angered because as I have lamented severally in this column, we are suffering in great sufferation (let’s borrow Rasta-speak here) in this country of ours mostly because people who get paid to get things done do not perform. They are not only failing to do their jobs, but rather look for ways to make it possible for them to beat and cheat the very system they are supposed to manage.
And most galling of all is that there are no checks in place to ensure that these system-bursting bigmanism does not exist. Equally infuriating is the fact that there is absolutely nothing we citizens can do about this obscene abuse of power. No matter how irate I felt about the spectacle of the IGP patently cheating the system, there is not a darn thing I could do about it. I knew it and he obviously knows that no bloody civilian will dare open his mouth.

Who born dog, indeed?

Several questions become pertinent here: Does the IGP have authorization to use siren or is our number one law enforcement agent breaking the law? If a common IGP can travel in siren-blowing convoy, what is there to stop the other service chiefs from doing the same? The heads of the navy, army, air-force, CEPS, Prisons and Forestry could also start using sirens. And what about our parliamentarians; are they not also worthy enough? And the Directors at our MDAs; are they also not worthy enough? And let’s not forget our District Chiefs Executives; they also have their apushkeleke (Ghanaian slang for ladies of easy virtues) and other part-time girl-friends to impress, don’t they?

I was surprised because there should be responsible authorities to point out to the IGP the absurdity of his blaring siren to clear way for himself in traffic. If he surrounds himself with sycophants who are not prepared to tell him some home truth, those who appoint him should do so. They should point out to him that he is being paid to ensure that citizens do not spend inordinate hours roasting in traffic hold-ups whilst is men are busy doing their thing. I didn’t say collecting bribes, did I?

No, I am not joining those calling for the IGP’s head; but I’d say that until he makes travelling on our road less nightmarish, he has no business disturbing our peace with his sirens.”

Let’s return to the present article. According to the myjoyonline report, ACP Awuni said his outfit is completely helpless in fighting road accidents because it does not have the necessary equipments to fight the carnage on our roads.

“The national MTTU can boast of only one towing vehicle that is even broken down. So we are having problems. The resources that will assist us are not there. We don’t have a single serviceable speed gun; a common speed gun that will tell us the vehicle that is running is at a greater speed than it is supposed to be going… The MTTU is broken down totally as we speak now. We don’t have things that will assist us to project the things we are talking about now.” ACP Awuni lamented.

Shame, shame!

So, ACP Awuni has absolutely no qualm at all to tell us that the whole Ghana Police Force (GPF) cannot boast a single decent auto-mechanic to fix its broken down tow-vehicle? And he has no shame whatever that all the brains at GPF cannot come up with any idea to get equipments for the service.

We are in deeper trouble than I thought possible.

We really ought to ask what type of country we live in where the whole police force cannot boast a common speed gun?

ACP Awuni probably forget to do what has become a national pastime; go around with begging bowl and ask the Chinese, the Americans, Europeans or even the Arabs to donate.
We seem to be a nation that has lost any sense of shame and one that believes that foreigners owe us a free lunch.

We are a nation that has apparently lost any capacity for critical thinking. Above that we seem like a nation that loves begging like dogs love bones!

Seriously, why do people like ACP Awuni continue to refuse to learn? With the Internet, there is little need for us to even think of re-inventing any wheel. And our officials, when it suits them, tell us that we now live in a Global Village. The question is: why don’t they learn from the village in which they are supposed to live.

Many National Police Forces have solved the problem of errant drivers and rather than keep on wailing like helpless children, ACP Awuni and his team should take some time to study how the other forces did it.

Actually, it is no rocket science at all.

Lagos in Nigeria used to be considered the World’s most lawless city as far as traffic was concerned. But today, errant driving has all but been eliminated in Nigeria’s commercial capital.

No, it was not by divine intervention and actually not by any super-human effort. A determined effort by the Governor of Lagos state backed by the imposition of stiff penalties has ensured that Lagos drivers obey traffic rules, do not stop to pick passengers outside of bus stops and, perhaps more importantly, stopped drivers and owners from parking their cars wherever fancies them.

The fear of paying hefty penalties also persuades car owners and drivers that it is unwise to allow their vehicles to break down and obstruct traffic. All these measures ensure that the once agonizing Lagos traffic has been unsnarled and citizens can breathe sigh of relief.

Lagos is not so far away from Accra and our leaders continue to pay their lip service to ECOWAS unity, so it behooves ACP Awuni to take a trip his counterparts in Lagos and seelearn how the Lagosians did it.

It is quite insulting when officials like ACP Awuni come out to insult our intelligence with the type of gratuitous statement credited to him. They should rather utililise the time they use in making speeches to brainstorm and come out with solutions. It is time to stop cataloguing the woes without coming up with any ideas or suggestions on how to solve them.

If he has no desire to go to Lagos, all the ACP has to do is to sit down awhile and crack the brains and come out with solutions.

Here I could help with some suggestions. Ok, The GPF is not a limited liability company but rather than lament and bemoan, ACP Awuni should ask his sector minister for money – grant or loan, to buy ten towing vehicles.

The police already have power to tow anything that obstructs traffic. So, all the MTTU needs to do is get into serious business of towing abandoned vehicles. I am sure with the ten vehicles and the hefty fines, they will collect, the GPF will make enough money to pay government back its money with interests in no time.

No one who has had to pay heavy fines for towed vehicle would like to repeat the experience and the words of mouth will ensure that car-owners check their vehicles properly before putting them on the road.

Should the GPF be unwilling to do this, being not entrepreneurial and all that, ACP Awuni and his people should get the sector ministry to pass appropriate legislation to involve the private sector. There is little doubt that many Ghanaians will gladly invest in the very lucrative vehicle-towing business.

 

About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are now available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

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