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Opinions of Monday, 22 July 2019

Columnist: Nana Yaw Dadzie

Citi TV’s War Against Indiscipline campaign; a commendable shift from mundane journalism

The last one month or so; has got literally the entire country talking about an innovative initiative rolled out by undoubtedly one of Ghana’s most influential media brands.

The Citi TV ‘War Against Indiscipline’ campaign, which started off as an on-air campaign about three months ago before joining hands with the Ghana Police Service to check indiscipline on some of the country’s roads, is certainly a novelty that has never happened in this country.

As a Ghanaian who’s very concerned about the high levels of indiscipline in our country, I consider it a duty to acknowledge and commend Citi TV and Citi FM on behalf of all well-meaning Ghanaians for this single impactful act. I consider it an important milestone that a TV station that celebrated its first anniversary only recently, could implement such a bold initiative and leave such a long-lasting impression on us.

In fact, Citi TV and Citi FM can even lose some listeners and viewers, and even business for stepping on toes with this campaign; and so this certainly is a huge risk ‘in the national interest’ as the Kade MP, Kwabena Ohemeng Tinyase would put it. I have keenly watched the videos of the #WAI campaign, and I have seen how some of the motorists got very furious and threw tantrums after they were arrested, especially when they realized that they’re were being filmed to be shown on TV. In fact, some even confronted the Citi TV journalists and threatened to damage their cameras – a risk the station has taken for this country.

Refreshingly though, I have also seen some of the arrested offenders including lovers of the Citi brand, granting interviews to Citi TV after appearing in court.

Remarkably, they even commended the campaign despite falling victim to same, and some suddenly turned into road safety advocates after paying fines. For many of us who hold Citi FM in high esteem, we were expecting a higher standard of Television programming from Citi TV based on what had been done with radio. And in just a year; I must say that our expectations are already being met, and we are certain of much higher standards and quality by the time Citi TV is five or ten years.

The Citi brand has proven that a station doesn’t have to be very old to make an impact, and Citi has changed the mundane routine of journalism which traditionally has been only being about informing, educating and entertaining, to activism and development journalism that brings about real change, being mindful of the country’s peculiar situation. And gradually, this young media brand is becoming a pacesetter for other media houses, including even older ones, who are now imitating such campaigns on other social issues – all for the greater good of the country.

Journalism must be about results and the people!

First, it was an on-air and field campaign against illegal mining in Ghana, other media houses joined in later, which triggered a massive government response to save our environment and water bodies from destruction. And now beyond the quality TV programming in just a year, Citi TV cameras are out on the streets to capture recalcitrant drivers who are breaking road traffic regulations with impunity and putting the lives of other road users in danger.

The staggering road accident statistics of 2,341 deaths in 2018 according to the Managing Director of Citi TV and Citi FM, Samuel Attah-Mensah, triggered this campaign. And it’s a justifiable cause, considering that from January to June 2019 alone, as many as 1, 252 Ghanaians have already been killed in road accidents according to the National Road Safety Commission. The exercise that has led to the arrest of the high and mighty in our society including Members of Parliament, Chief Executive Officers, musicians and all manner of people, is not only educating Ghanaians to be more disciplined on the road, but has also generated money for the state.

Hearing that the state has made over Ghc258, 000 from fines slapped on 499 errant drivers, made me really happy. It is also quite impressive to read that as a result of this campaign, the Ghana Police Service has actually created a new unit known as the Traffic Enforcement Team and dedicated some vehicles and other logistics to it – This is really impressive, Kudos to you; Team Citi.

What this means is that, this exercise beyond making our roads safer and saving lives, sensitizing motorists to obey road traffic regulations, it is also generating revenue for the country. Ordinarily on any day, very few of these motorists would have been arrested let alone fined, as some unprofessional police officers would have rather preferred extorting paltry sums as bribe and free the offenders. It is not in doubt that Citi TV cameras have made a huge difference in bringing some level of sanity on our roads.

And even more refreshing is the promise by the farsighted and competent Managing Director of Citi FM and Citi TV, Samuel Attah-Mensah, to sustain this campaign until the end of May, 2020. From where I sit, I see Sammens, as he’s affectionately called, as an exemplary leader; who beyond running a profit-making organization, is genuinely concerned about his country; for which reason he’s making some of these sacrifices to contribute his quota to national development. And hearing the Ghana Police Service say it has been motivated to consider the installation of body cameras going forward is positive.

The Revelations and lessons from #WAI

One of the low points in this Citi TV War Against Indiscipline campaign that I have been very concerned about, is the fact that it has confirmed that many Ghanaians don’t respect the Ghana Police Service. I saw how some motorists openly exhibited their disdain towards the officers when they were arrested. This is an affront to Ghana’s constitution from which the police draw its powers.

What this does is that; it empowers more people to break the law with impunity; and this is definitely one of the reasons for the high levels of indiscipline on our roads and in our country generally. And the obvious cause of the disrespect for the police; is the lack of integrity exhibited by many police officers, and so once people can pay the peanut to them as bribe without going through a court process to be fined or jailed, they’re motivated to be unruly. Also; the unprofessional conduct of some police officers in terms of how they communicate, behave and manhandle citizens generally is sometimes to blame for the disrespect by some members of the public.

Police Service not punishing unprofessional misconduct enough

And the reason why unprofessional police officers would continue doing what they do; is because the Service is simply not committed to punishing its men and women who bring its name into disrepute, and so these officers are motivated to keep at it as long as it brings them benefits. The Police hierarchy would have to be up and doing and purge the Service from within for citizens to feel the impact when they step out to serve us. I believe that when these errors are corrected, even with little resources, the police can achieve greater results.

Political or ‘big men’ interference and intimidation

The #WAI campaign has also confirmed an open secret in Ghana, which is one of the many ills that encourage lawlessness. The 'Order from above', ‘Whom you know’ or ‘who knows you’ situation, the ‘Big Men’ pride, and the ‘Call from the top’ scenarios, are some of the major threats to law enforcement in Ghana.

This is a country where lawbreakers can escape punishment, or receive a lesser punishment merely because they’re influential, rich or famous. Sometimes all you need to enjoy this ‘illegal privilege’ is to be connected to any of the aforementioned category of Ghanaians. In fact, some Ghanaians in this ‘illegal privilege’ category can even cause you to be harmed, lose your job or change your sleeping place just because you attempted to enforce the law on them. And police officers are some of the worse victims of this intimidation, and for that reason, they’re often unable to enforce the laws of this country on all Ghanaians.

Hence, but for the Citi TV cameras, a lot of the so-called big men who were victims including the Members of Parliament would not have been stopped by the police; let alone questioned in their V8s, sent to court and fined. And even with the Citi TV cameras, we saw some offenders who were making calls to certain high places to intervene so they could escape the claws of the law.

Indiscipline is a gold mine

This campaign has also thought us that indiscipline is a gold mine that can earn this country a lot of money as it happens in many developed countries. In just one month, the Citi TV War Against Indiscipline campaign on a few roads in Accra alone has accrued GHC258, 000 cedis from 499 errant drivers. This is money that would have otherwise gone uncollected or diverted but for the Citi TV War Against Indiscipline campaign. So imagine how much money government would make if this was happening all over the country? The import of this is that, if people are constantly made to pay fines, they’ll be cautious about breaking the laws.

But the best and sustainable way to do this is for government to institute the right systems and structures that can stand the test of time. For instance, in developed countries, there are cameras installed on the roads such that when you breach a traffic regulation, you’re always found out and fined. This makes so much sense because in reality, police officers cannot be on the road all the time to physically monitor the millions of road users on a daily basis. So inasmuch as this Citi TV campaign with the police is laudable, it is just a little drop in the ocean; and cannot be a long-term solution.

Indiscipline is a global problem, not Ghanaian

One statement that vexes me often is the phrase ‘Ghanaians are undisciplined’. Well, it’s a tag I have refused to wear; and so I try my best to act right even when no one is watching. My argument is that, indiscipline is a global problem; it is not peculiar to Ghanaians, so let’s do away with that notion and focus on fixing the right systems because the Ghanaian who jumps the red light in Accra is not likely to do that on a street in New York because he or she would be found out and fined with or without a police officer monitoring. So clearly; the difference between us and them is the system and not nationality.

I congratulate the management and staff of Citi TV, Citi FM and for taking such an audacious step to assist the Ghana Police Service to serve our country better. Citi TV – You’re like the Biblical Paul; you came later, but you’re ahead of those who started. I hope that you will continue to be a shining light, a trailblazer and a pacesetter. I would also like to commend the hierarchy of the Ghana Police Service for welcoming this innovative idea and implementing it to make our roads safer.

And to all Ghanaians, let’s take note of the words of the patriotic song that reminds us that the nation demands our devotion, so let us all unite to uphold her, and make her great and strong, for we are all involved in building our motherland.