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Feature Article of Friday, 20 July 2012

Columnist: Nti, Kwaku

Would the ‘Lion’ eat up the parliamentarians?

The parliament of Ghana exercising its legitimate right given it by the people of Ghana passed the Road Traffic Regulation 2012 LI 2180 last week to re-enforce Road Traffic Act 683. This Act is part of activities aimed at improving safety on our roads through a clamp down on indiscipline on the highways of Ghana. ‘Apart from Security Officers who may have to attend to emergencies, it is an offence for drivers to use hand- held communication devices such as mobile phones to make calls, send or receive text messages or access the Internet while driving or operate television monitors on dashboard of moving vehicles,’ the Act states. It also makes it illegal for motorcycles otherwise known as Okada to be used for commercial purposes in the country.

The opinions as expressed by the majority of Ghanaians who have commented on it points to the fact that it is well received by the population. Many are of the view that it is long overdue due to the bitter experiences from motor riders who are fast becoming notorious on the country’s highways. They have been cited as causers of numerous road accidents where innocent citizens have either lost a limb or perished through them. In fact for the woman who lost his only graduate son to motor accident, parliament has done a yeoman’s job which she would encourage the Motor Traffic Transport Unit (MTTU) of the police service to hurry in with its implementation.

Many motor riders, it has been revealed are not experts and lacks the special skill to manipulate certain bikes and in most cases less educated to read and understand the guidelines on the use of motor bikes. They only go through few hours of tutorials in the control of the bikes and are back to the streets to pick passengers the next day. Thus, it is argued that they do not observe road signs which many have wondered if they can interpret.

“The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see he motorcycle before the collision, nor did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision,” a report on motor accident in the United States concluded.

Like automobile drivers, some Okada drivers in the city may also be drugged or drunk and may lose control of the bikes especially on pot-holed ridden roads in the country. The rise of Okada has been linked to an increase in the crime rates particularly in the city centers, urban slums and, red light districts. The criminal activities range from (the typical) snatching of personal effects (e.g. mobile phones, purses, bags) to abduction. Research has also indicated that there is a diminished hearing sensitivity arising from the noise that the motorcycles produce.

Though these factors have been enumerated to support the passing of the bill, there are sections of the society who opine the increasing traffic jams in the country should necessitate this West African technology named after an extinct airline company in Nigeria.

“Motorcycles provide a convenient and relatively inexpensive alternative to automobiles. They are more maneuverable than automobiles and they deliver higher fuel economy. Depending on the size of the engine, a motorcycle may get from 19 to 36 kilometers per liter (45 to 85 miles per gallon), two to four times that of most mid-sized cars. Also, a motorcycle accelerates more quickly than an automobile does,” Microsoft Encarta adds.

German inventor Gottlieb Daimler’s invention of 1885 is also seen as the solution to youth unemployment in the country by the Greater Accra Regional Minister. Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo also known as Lion who is leading this campaign hopes the crime rate would increase with the abolition of this means of transport. He accepts the failure of his government to solve the unemployment problem has created this need and has therefore called on the experts of law making to revoke the law.

“There are so many laws that have been left passed in Parliament but they have not been enforced. If there is any way out that this law, which has been approved by Parliament; it can be put aside ready to be enforced in the future after we have created enough jobs for the youth that we can enforce it…if we are not careful [armed robbery incidents could rise],” he reportedly told Joy fm.

Perhaps, he is leading the pack of disgruntled individuals who believe not all rules or procedures encouraged by experts should be honoured. They may be right to posses this opinion since experts have been the destroyers of civilizations. Was it not experts who either led certain civilizations to war which defeat led to its collapse or were they not the ones that led and supervised the two great wars of the world which nearly destroyed this present civilization? In fact the critics are right in supporting John Le Carré that experts are the main people that are contributing to the collapse of society.

‘I do not like experts. They are our jailers. I despise experts more than anyone on earth….they solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we shall be tortured, we are tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts would hang us…when the world is destroyed, it will be destroyed not by its madmen but by the sanity of its experts and the superior ignorance of its bureaucrats. [John le Carré, The Russia House (Knopf, 1989), pg 207]

If this argument is carried through, then the minister might be right in calling for its suspension. However, we do not live in a banana republic where laws can easily be revoked. His call is in the right direction but has come a little too late since the honourable minister could have made his knowledge available to parliament before its passage. Once he chose to keep quiet and kept his opinion to himself, he should not re-enact historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr who as an adviser to President John F Kennedy failed to explain to the presidency how terrible an idea he thought it was for the USA to go ahead with the CIA Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 because he was intimidated by the presence of “such august figures as the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“In the months after the Bay of Pigs I bitterly reproached myself for having kept so silent during those crucial discussions in the Cabinet room” he wrote in his work, A Thousand Days years later.

Though Mr Afotey Agbo has genuine concerns, it cannot be accepted so he should come again. He should instead advice his government to create the needed avenues for creation of jobs to employ the youth he acknowledges are lacking jobs instead of forcing the law makers to legalize illegality.

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