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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Columnist: Appiah, Papa

Let Me Die In A Flood!!

I would rather die in a flood. At least the president will be there. Minority leaders and former presidents may visit my family. Even foreign presidents would come in to pledge support for my grieving family.The president may give a speech, in a sad voice of course, in remembrance of me. There may be three days of national mourning and flags may fly at half-mast . Years after I'm gone, my story may remain on the lips of my countrymen, and if my death inspired the building of but one single gutter, it would not have been in vain. My family may even benefit from 60 million GHC promised by the government, if it materializes.

Since the recent flood incident in Accra, houses are being hurriedly demolished; houses built from years of sweat and toil and for which permits may have been provided by some corrupt official somewhere. Some petrol stations that people are depending on to feed their children and pay their school fees are being demolished. There have been no tears for those affected. Whatever has to be will be. Anything must be done to ensure that the president does not get another opportunity to give a sad speech.

By the end of the year, however, over 1600 Ghanaians would have died from road accidents, just going about their normal duties.(National Road Safety Commission) 60% of these accidents would be the result of overspeeding by negligent drivers. These deaths will occur with no cameras in sight. So of course, there will be no presidential visits. There will be no sad presidential speeches, no three days of mourning and no flags will fly at half-mast. Their bodies will be picked up and thrown like rubbish unto the back of lorries and deposited in the nearest hospital.

Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers may undertake the lonely trip to take their dead and bring them back home. The incident will never be investigated. There will be no payment of compensation. The person responsible for the accident may never have taken a driving test in his life and who cares. Some people receive their driver's license even before they learn to drive.

Nobody goes to jail for causing an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or even for driving while legally unqualified to do so. It's all in the hands of God. Like everything else in Ghana - the economy, education, corruption, we needed somebody to put their neck on the block and do something radical to effect changes that many would not be happy with. We cannot rely on our president to do that. There are just too many votes at stake.

And so it was with joy that I learnt the DVLA had taken the initiative to introduce stringent measures to ensure that our driving culture changes once and for all. Among other directives, drivers ought to have attended a driving school prior to being issued a license or having their license renewed. The drivers rebelled, blocked streets in Accra and elsewhere, and shouted loudly enough in microphones to have the measures suspended.

And people expected to know better, leaders in our communities jumped on the bandwagon and childish populism, by defending the drivers and lambasting the DVLA. I heard a vice chairman of the CPP complain on Newsfile, that there are no driving schools in a town like Bawku. What about the investment opportunities and the jobs to be created if the laws came into force, as people rushed to establish schools all over the country?

I heard Kwesi Pratt complain about the arrogance of the DVLA and the need to start off with education and advocating the establishment of extra classes for drivers who may have been driving for years, and who depend on driving to look after their families. But then again, what about people losing their houses and their petrol stations to help stop the perennial floods in Accra? Don't they have families to look after, children to feed? Why can't drivers pay for extra classes themselves to help them comply with the new regulations?

1600 people are going to die on the road this year alone, and we sit in radio stations to spew rubbish about somebody losing their job because they can't improve themselves? If drivers are incapable of raising themselves to the new challenge, they could try fasting for forty days and forty nights and turning to Evangelism. Very lucrative, Evangelism. They could also try popping out their eyes and begging for arms in our streets. In the extreme, we could provide them with free ropes at taxpayer's expense and turn the other way.

Anything is better than allowing 1600 people to die from the ignorance and negligence of poorly trained drivers on our roads.

Papa Appiah