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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 September 2004

Columnist: Graphic

This Ghana At All, Why?

My favourite magazine in England was the New Statesman and Nation, now the Statesman. It had a hilarious column ?This England?. I have therefore thought of writing an article with the caption ?This Ghana?.But ?This Ghanaian? would not mean much to many Ghanaians and would not attract their attention.

I thought of ?This England at all!? if I ever wrote the piece. I could not therefore but turn to look at the direction whence the words came: ?This Ghana at all, why?? It came from a tall man in his forties. It was the sort of language you heard when English was the lingua franca in the big towns.The pidgin form was often used and it was very expressive and Ghanaian.Even the correct form had typically local renderings.You asked someone, ?have you seen Kwame?? and the answer was ?at al??.

Any way, my tall man was leaving a group as one often encountered at street corners talking or arguing about nothing. As he walked away from the group, he added ?Everything is basaa (topsy-turvy, not orderly or in confusion)? I was turning over in my mind why the man should be so frustrated to say in disgust ?This Ghana at all, why everything is basaa when he overtook me.

To my surprise the man who was complaining about lack of order was urinating infront of my house. I shouted ?Big man why?? He answered ?But it is a gutter?? Certainly a lot is wrong. But most of us think that it is somebody else who is responsible for the disorderliness and confusion.Often we blame the government and those in authority.The blame is in order.Authority does not impose sanctions to maintain discipline in us.

I have the cutting of a report in a newspaper on the fine imposed on a gentleman urinating in public in Accra. Today, we ease ourselves everywhere.The drains or gutters are urinals. Our streets stench and we do not realise that we the people are responsible.What is worse the police and other order enforcing agencies do not discipline us by applying sanctions when we go astray.

Anything goes and many of those who complain are among the people who make Ghana ?basaa?.The inaction and indolence of authority can lead to consequences worse than ?basaa?. Recently there were reports about the adulteration of palm oil with dyes.It was shocking that we did not discover it as a major issue until the British authorities refused to allow the entry of some Ghanaian palm oil.

Have we not ?Food and Drugs Board? or whatever it is called? Have we not Standards Board? Are there no other agencies which could have raised the alarm? This Ghana at all; we could easily be poisoned and die like rats.Our reluctance to go to the heart of the matter when sanctions are involved was vividly illustrated when the matter of adding dyes to palm oil to redden it was discussed on television. Mrs Hannah Kpodoh the MP for Awutu-Senya was excellent in her analysis.Import can be restricted by invoking sanitary and health infringements.

The woman had good knowledge of non-tariff barriers to trade.A test can show whether our palm oil is dangerously adulterated. She argued that we should find the culprits and deal with them according to law.The other panellists harped mainly on the British making their decision on one consignment of palm oil (which had not been proved to be the case) and on other minor issues. The question of sanctions was brushed aside.

Surely we should test samples of palm oil on the local market immediately to determine the presence of any harmful chemicals and take urgent action.Those who adulterate the oil should be punished as a deterrent. Who knows what is put in the groundnut paste we buy for groundnut soup?

Our women know that adulteration is common and would therefore only buy the paste from known sources.The adulteration of food is widespread and vigorous action on the palm oil case would send the signal that mixing food with other material to make money is wrong and can lead to serious sanctions.

I believe what our authorities did was to arrange meetings. Running away from action should be stopped. Do we need a meeting to tell the responsible authority to test palm oil? Do we need a meeting to charge the wrong doer. I would not be surprised if at such a meeting someone suggested that the laws should be improved, strengthened or made more specific so that action might be taken.

Anyone who cannot use the existing laws to bring some sanction to bear on those who adulterate food should not hold any responsible position.Not far from where our tall man stood and made his remark, I had reason to moan about the prevalence of disorder in Ghana. Two roads were partially blocked by sand and gravel and turned into one-way streets. I suppose the roads were being done or repaired and the sand was to be used.

But why can the contractor not plan and bring the sand and gravel as he needs them to repair the road. Both roads were blocked for two weeks. One has been done but I avoid the other one because it was dangerous to drive on it. It is now a one-way road and two vehicles ply on it at the courtesy of both drivers.

It appears we have no order in the country? Can I just get up and block a road and make it dangerous? Whose job is it to stop this irresponsibility the police or the local authority? Suppose an accident occurs and I sue the contractor in court.Will I get anywhere? Even a brilliant supreme court judge was killed because of such heaps of sand on a road. Nothing happened to the culprit.

It is surprising that not many more people are killed on our roads. Driving is a nightmare.We have our own rules. A motorist is slowed down by the car in front and he swerves suddenly to the left, or right in the two-lane traffic. He stops and enters the traffic irrespective of approaching vehicles. So far as pedestrian crossings are concerned they are there for decoration only.Motorists ignore pedestrians on the crossing and pedestrians chat and are not attentive as they wait to cross.

And as you settle down to drink after going through the mayhem on a hot afternoon you are not sure of the safety of the water you drink.Oh this Ghana! It is good to be in it but one needs a long holiday now and again. And where can we take a restful inexpensive holiday in Ghana? The elite used to go ?home? for holiday in Britain once a year. It appears the practice has not changed. Oh Ghana! When will the frustrations cease?