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Opinions of Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Columnist: Simon Bokor

Gas explosions and the people of the moment

A gas explosion at Atomic Junction claimed several lives A gas explosion at Atomic Junction claimed several lives

Far back into time, in Egypt, it was increasing punitive measures from God that mellowed Pharaoh. At the highest point was nothing but death. So it is that lessons come for individuals, societies and nations to learn. Refusal to do so leads to irrecoverable loss. Ignorance is not a virtue for any exemption.

So we are told eight major gas explosions have rocked Ghana in the past few years. A whooping 250 deaths since 2007. And they could have been prevented, if not minimized. But who are the owners of these gas stations? I bet it is not the poor Ghanaian but the rich who yearns for more money without heart and mind feeling for his fellow Ghanaian. He builds his easily inflammable stations in their midst, praying they have easy access to buy and keep him counting his money day and night. And these are the same people we call ‘big’ men? Let us drop the words. They are ‘little empty’ men. But because the ‘modern’ Ghanaian society cherishes the rich beyond reason we are stuck in this mess.

Our institutions are leaking horribly; they are afflicted with the very things they are supposed to check. Take NPA for instance; they can but do little in the face of the numerous gas stations in the country vis a vis enforcement of the law/policy which we are told is skeletal. No amount of investment in NPA will solve the filling /gas station problems. The size of Ghana is too big for any single entity centralized as an Authority to handle. That practice is a ‘dead’ development strategy. Decentralisation counts! Furthermore, the real solution lies with the people and their preparedness to learn and act appropriately. In this wise, many Ghanaians are regrettably careless or ignorant about the very things they interact with on daily basis. E.g. water, air, food, shelter, transportation, sanitation, etc. It is amazing the way critical life resources are taken for granted in this country.

So when a gas station explodes like that of the Atomic Station the effects of irrationality, panic and fear among the people outweigh the direct impact of the gas. It is unbelievable to see crowds of people many kilometers away from the epic center running helter-skelter, wailing, and praying to God to save them because the fiery gas was coming at them like a starved dragon let loose. Efforts to explain scientifically that the gas could not do that meant little since fear reigned supreme. Must Ghanaian lives hinge on fear? No! It must be informed by knowledge, human feeling, initiative and fortitude. Are we teaching, learning and practicing those?

One simple way to weigh the average Ghanaian of today is to tune to the Radio and TV Stations; they are frantically dominated by entertainment and religious showpieces. Mind you these are important tools to facilitate and raise the knowledge level of Ghanaians about scientific phenomena. But we seemed not to care about anything except that which keeps as laughing and loving the exotic good life. What does the Broadcasting Law say? What is the per centage allotted for science programmes per week of a broadcasting station?

Well, we can decide by our ‘democratic credence’ to be the people of the moment but we can ‘enjoy’ life better with a minimum level of knowledge, skills and the right attitude about the things we interact with on daily basis. One best way to say ‘bye-bye’ to those who unfortunately perished from the explosions is for us to call all gas station owners for an urgent meeting, relocate those who are already situated among the people, publish the safety standards for regular participatory monitoring and tightening the permit and permit renewal process.

Sympathy to the dead and injured is a virtue but repeated sympathies for the same ills is vile.