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Opinions of Sunday, 24 January 2010

Columnist: Akwaka, Sammy

God Rules In The Affairs Of Men, Even In Disasters!

Sammy Akwaka

Commiserations to the people of Haiti. As we show solidarity with Haiti, my mind is immediately cast to my beloved Ghana. Natural disasters much as they are undesirable are also inevitable. Therefore, we should be thinking of how ready we are should a disaster strike. It is passive to always wait to respond to disasters rather than acting in readiness. Humanly speaking, it was impossible to avert the Haitian disaster in any way. Haiti sits in the middle of hurricane alley and lies next to a geological fault line. Ghana and in particular Accra is prone to earthquakes.
Ghana is located well clear of the major earthquake zones of the earth but nonetheless earthquakes have been known to occur in the vicinity of Accra which has experienced major shocks in 1862, 1906 and 1939 (magnitude 6.4) and numerous smaller ones, the most recent in 1997, 2003 and 2006. Thus there is good evidence of current tectonic activity associated with the Akwapim fault zone and, to a lesser extent, with the great boundary fault. It is not surprising, therefore, that as this region is under stress then earthquake activity is concentrated around Accra where the two fault systems intersect and where within the acute angle between them are numerous subsidiary faults; for it is here that the fracture strength of the ground must be weakest. Source: Mining Portal of Ghana.
Haiti’s experience should therefore serve as a wake up call to put our house in order. The Washington Times in an editorial queried why despite Haiti’s geological and geographical disadvantage it has neither a strict building code nor strict adherence to safety. Does that sound familiar? Going through our towns and cities, one cannot help but stand in wonderment of the acute ‘architecture of chaos’, which we adore. Something within our fabric resists sanity and order and any time the authorities try to instil sanity they do so, jungle style. So nothing ever works or so it seems.

Our market places pose a big casualty risk should an earthquake strike in the daytime. It is high time we introduced some level of sanity into our open markets. The lack of zoning and clear demarcations with emergency exits always increases the risk of having heavy casualties in a disaster. Market fires have more or less become an annual ritual in Ghana and no one seems bothered. No lessons are learnt after screaming and wailing (into thin air); traders reassemble in anticipation of the next inferno.

How cheap human life is in Africa or rather Ghana? Life is so cheap or so it seems that every caution is thrown to the wind hoping for safe landing. Why can't we predetermine how we wish to land? Must we always crash land to recover? Unfortunately, that seems to be the routine in Ghana. Near misses are counted as 'lucky escapes' instead of potential hazards to be treated. For instance, gaping potholes in our roads receive no attention even where reported till some 'big person' fall victim. That attitude simply shows that we care less for the well-being of the ordinary citizen. Do you remember the poor commercial driver who was alleged to have accessed the motorway illegally causing accident to the then president's convoy? Well, the guy died in police custody; yes jungle justice is rife in Ghana. If a country can treat its citizenry in this manner, then would we be genuinely portraying sorrow and show of concern if an earthquake like Haiti's struck? Why should we suddenly pretend to be caring just because an earthquake has hit and the world is watching? And why should we pretend that but for a disaster that struck, life was all but smooth? It never was, because people experienced worse things on a daily basis that nobody cared about.

Haiti's experience is an opportunity for Ghana to demonstrate to its citizenry that she cares about their welfare. I wonder how much of a blame a natural disaster (say an earthquake), should bear for collapsed structures left in its wake? The truth is most of those structures shouldn't have been standing in the first place. The potential damage by an earthquake could be minimized if unworthy structures are responsibly removed. The fact remains that most unplanned cities and towns are a disaster waiting to happen. Earthquakes simply catalyse the operation. How would Accra cope in the face of a disaster like Haiti's? Congested roads, haphazard settlements, sub standard construction, etc.,.

It is common knowledge that the McCarthy Hill area is earthquake prone, more like an earthquake volcano waiting to erupt, but what is the standard of construction there? Wouldn't it be appropriate for government to require developers in and around the McCarthy Hill area to either erect earthquake resistant structures or put a stop to further developments? Another area of note is the rapidly changing skyline of Accra. What's the guarantee that these high risers would fare better in the event of an earthquake? There's no excuse not to have a rigidly enforced building code for Accra and indeed the country. Could we for once do away with arbitrariness and succumb to order and let reason prevail?

Ghana does not need an earthquake to strike before we know how unprepared we are. Take the annual flooding for example, which like the market fires is also now being observed as an annual ritual on the national disaster calendar. In spite of this we still justify the existence of an unprofessional disaster management team (NADMO) whose only acclaim is party bigotry and opponent victimisation. If the floods, predictable as they are continue to be a torn in our side, then only heaven knows what would happen in an earthquake, which is almost unpredictable.

May God help us not to experience an earthquake of any significant scale like Haiti's. But are we more special than the Haitians, certainly not. I have heard suggestions (I personally do not subscribe to), that because of the prevalence of Voodoo and other satanic practices in Haiti, the earthquake was judgment from God. Callous as this may sound, if there were any iota of truth in it then Ghana would not be blameless under similar scrutiny. The recent rise in prominence of fetishism, sakawa and other occult practices in ways not seen since perhaps Osofo Komfo Damuah, leaves much to be desired. It shows the extent to which the nation has fallen from God's Grace. I even hear a fetish priest one Bonsam (Satan), has launched his own 'gospel’ music (or shall we say Bonsam music). To fall from God's Grace is to fall into His wrath. And as the Bible puts it;“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” Hebrews 10:31.

Before people pounce on me over this, let me immediately state that God does not need to send us earthquake as judgment to awaken our conscience. The spate of road accidents claiming precious lives, the annual market fires and flooding that also destroy lives needlessly all due to people's dishonesty and negligence, is judgment enough for us to amend our ways. If we don't then who is to be blamed?

People think God doesn't love them when in actual fact they are too busy to heed HIS words.
Should we blame our own recklessness on God? It is interesting how quick people are to factor God into a life with misery and at the same time factor God out of a life with luxury. People usually don't remember to say God is responsible when life is blissful, but when there is a disaster they query God's existence. These people have not even accepted God's existence in the first place, but use a disaster event as an opportunity to poke a finger at God. God is the Sovereign, Supreme ruler of the universe. He does His will and pleasure and the universe were created for His pleasure. He is answerable to no man. However, because of His love, mercies and compassion, He has made provision for man to experience joy, liberty and eternal salvation through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some men have not accepted this provision, yet they dare revile God.

No nation pays their taxes to God. Taxes are paid to the government and the government in turn must provide for the safety and well-being of the people which is their social contract with them. The people must therefore demand of their government answers where they fail to fulfil their part of the social contract. Amazingly, however, people tend to blame God instead of learning the lessons and amending their ways.

Why hasn't anybody called for the disbanding of the police force because armed robberies are rife? My intention here is not comparison of the Police with God. What I am actually driving at is the folly of saying there is no God or that God is 'wicked' following a mishap. More often than not we haven't even asked enough questions of ourselves and the situation to ascertain why it occurred in order to forestall a future recurrence. If we did, we would be keener on taking our leaders to task over non-performance and demanding higher standards of our own selves. Only after that could we dare dream of ever pointing a finger at God. But do we even have to come to that?

Shalom!