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Opinions of Thursday, 31 May 2018

Columnist: Alex Blege

Are we a safety conscious people?

When the Lord Jesus Christ sent his disciples on evangelism he cautioned them to emulate the wisdom of the serpent and the innocence of the dove. Why the wisdom of the serpent?

It is the wisdom of the serpent that keeps it alive. Upon sensing danger the serpent glides away with such speed that it takes a faster enemy to kill it. Being safe is critical to the serpent. On the other hand as Ghanaians we have failed to learn from the wisdom of the serpent to be safe.

People who’re driving or riding a motorbike on a highway are found speaking on the phone; cities have broken culverts, malfunctioning streetlights or no streetlights on street corners, leaning bill boards that can fall on anyone at any time; traffic lights malfunction and no one seems to care; buildings are constructed in flood prone areas only for the floods to come and then we plead with the government to come to our aid.

Most unfortunate incidents that result in the injury or death of most people are avoidable; but, the inability to foresee or discern that our actions as well as inactions can cause harm to ourselves or others is lost on us. One can only ask if we are a safety conscious people.

This attitude is rooted in the indiscipline nature of people as well as the inability of the appropriate authorities to live up to their responsibilities. Is it not a pity that some individual builds a school and a mosque right behind a gas filling station? The other unfortunate aspect of the situation is, parents take their children to such a school without any shred of conscience.

It looks as if Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and other state agencies have lost the power to ensure the safety of citizens in their various jurisdictions across the length and breadth of the country.

This inability of the MMDAs and other state agencies to ensure discipline in various cities is rooted in one thing: the fear of making the government of the day and the Metropolitan, Municipal or District Chief Executive (MMDCE) unpopular.

It then gives room for the view that that individuals are supposed to be responsible for their personal safety. That’s true. No two ways about that! Then the counter argument to this is, due to the innate indiscipline of people, laws are made to ensure that an individual’s safety is exercised by the state. And in this case the MMDAs and other state agencies have been mandated by law to ensure that these laws are enforced and adhered to the letter.

Being safety conscious is a shared responsibility but that can’t be an excuse not to take actions to ensure the safety of citizens. Exercising the power to ensure the safety of citizens must not be compromised, because the eminent danger to a citizen is greater than the compromising stance to allow citizens to do as they please.

Safety of persons and cities is a sustainable development issue and it is captured in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

Human beings are greater animals. The serpent is a less animal. It takes its safety serious. We can learn from the serpent so as to even avoid its venomous bite!