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Opinions of Monday, 10 September 2007

Columnist: Daily Dispatch

Letter from the President: Floods expose lack of brains

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, this week, I’m sad to say that I feel ashamed of myself, my government and my nation. The shame I feel is borne out of our failure to provide relief supplies for those facing what amounts to a national disaster in some northern districts. Flood waters have destroyed homes, inundated farmlands and rendered hundreds of our compatriots homeless. All this while, government has done nothing, (absolutely nothing!) to help the flood victims – except for a delegation of government ministers who went to the disaster zone for nothing better than sightseeing.

At one point I heard that the regional branch of the National Disaster Management Organisation was literally hoarding relief supplies and refusing to give them out to the people who needed such items the most. It took the brawn of the female deputy regional minister (who forcefully broke into the storeroom) for the supplies to be handed out to some of the flood victims. As the disaster unfolded, government showed an unpardonable lack of concern for the people, with some officials singing the usual ‘lack of funds’ chorus. What sort of people are we? We can spend million of dollars to host conferences and summits but we can’t provide just one million dollars to provide food, water and basic shelter for our people who have been driven out of their homes by floodwaters?

Last week, I wrote about why patriotism is on the decline in Sikaman. The floods in the north and the sheer apathy of the government towards the suffering of the people illustrate, once again, why people just don’t care about national pride anymore.

I have been particularly irked by a news report I heard that the district chief executive in one of the areas worst hit by the flood is literally ‘sitting’ on relief supplies donated mostly by private individuals. On the day he was supposed to deliver the items, he chose rather to follow the vice president on a useless sightseeing tour of the affected communities. First, what the heck was the vice president doing there? I have called him and giving it to him very well. He didn’t go there to empathise with the people. He just saw an opportunity to win votes and that’s the only reason why he made the trip. These vice presidents can piss their bosses off sometimes. As unjustifiable as his actions were, I am not surprised that Jerry Boom ripped Arkaah’s jacket off and dealt him a few hefty slaps. I told Alui that by failing to show leadership in allowing the DCE to follow him around when there were relief items to be distributed, he has demonstrated that he cannot be president of this country. And I am determined to ensure that he doesn’t become flagbearer. Just watch me and keep checking this space out. As for the DCE, he’s lucky I am not a no-nonsense president. Otherwise, I would have quickly kicked him out of office. I am giving him one last chance to prove to me that he has brains (and not grains) in his skull. If he doesn’t redeem himself any time soon, I will be compelled to show him the way out.

As for the National Disaster Management Organisation (DMO), the least said about them, the better. Just a few days ago, a British team we brought down to train officials of the DMO issued a grim and very damning verdict about their ability to do the work of providing emergency relief. Shortly, after the British team issued its report, I heard some DMO officials on radio screaming their voices hoarse about how the Brits have gotten it all wrong. Lo and behold, the floods came and they’ve been found to be incapable of thinking, planning and executing emergency relief operations. Two weeks after the disaster struck in the northern districts, the victims are still living in squalid conditions with no food and water.

I suppose that if these floods had not come, someone would have hidden the British report on the DMO’s inadequacies to gather dust on some shelf. I am therefore going to try and look at the bright side of all this nonsense. First, I realise that the DMO is a useless entity. It needs to be re-organised and firmly established as an emergency relief agency. I remember that under Jerry Boom, it was largely used as a vote-buying appendage of the NDC, giving out bags of rice and gallons of kerosene in exchange for the votes of rural folk. It’s unpardonable that my government has failed to turn the DMO into what it is meant to be. Secondly, I believe that with the DMO’s inadequacies so much exposed by both the Brits and the recent floods, we need to start allocating some funds for them to stock relief items and purchase the vital equipment for distributing them when disaster strikes. If we have 30 million dollars to celebrate independence, we should have sufficient funds allocated for disaster situations.

Let me end by saying that I realise that I need to knock some sense into a few heads to get them to move quickly and efficiently to provide help to the flood victims in the north (and all those who will be affected by future disasters). Emergency relief supplies such as food, blankets and clothing are welcomed from private individuals but the state should take the lead in such operations. It is totally unacceptable that it took the benevolence of individuals to send out the first batch of relief items to the flood victims only for the brainless DCE to hoard them. So I demand that the military and the fire service be brought on board to help with the relief operations. And by the way, what happened to the helicopters we were supposed to have bought a couple of years back for such emergency situations. Forgive the fact that, as president, I am not totally on top of the situation but last time I check we were supposed to have bought those choppers. Where the heck are they?

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor