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Opinions of Sunday, 27 January 2019

Columnist: Lawrence Mantey

Tortoise society: Always waiting

Unnecessary delays in the delivery of service is one of the problems of Ghanaian society Unnecessary delays in the delivery of service is one of the problems of Ghanaian society

Waiting is an experience nobody cherishes that much. It is distressing, nerve-racking and very frustrating.

This is an experience many Ghanaians and others who live with us go through all the time. It seems every time you are expecting something which would be provided other than yourself, you have to wait. Anytime you are expecting some results out of something, you have to wait. Anytime you are wishing for something to begin, you have to wait. Not just waiting for waiting sake, but unnecessary waiting because somebody is incompetent, corrupt or having a total disregard for the concept of time.


There are several road networks in the country with the sole purpose of helping us reach our destinations. Walking along or driving on some of these roads most of the time in the day, you wonder whether these roads are serving the purpose for which they were constructed. Traffic jams will make you think twice on a decision to head to a destination. Sometimes the only option on the table is to return and head back home. Our capital cities experience a lot of traffic jams, creating discomfort for all categories of motorists. Even people without means and cash for transportation feel pity for car owners and vehicular occupants when they walk along the road early in the morning and evenings.

Processes and documentation

Not only is movement hampered by traffic jams on our roads, there are inefficiencies in the way state bureaucracies carry out their activities, slowing the pace of services they deliver to clients who patronise such services. Waiting for hours, days, months or even years is inevitable most of the time when seeking information or processing documents that require urgent attention. Most of the time too such delays destroy plans, collapse business initiatives and postpone activities that require urgent implementation for maximum benefit. Part of the people who are at the receiving end of such unnecessary delays and time wasting are those seeking justice in our law courts, ending up not receiving what they are looking for. As the saying goes, “Justice delayed is …”


Sometimes, honouring invitation to public programmes means disruption in your entire plan for the day. Programme planners are conscious of time only when printing invitation cards but not when the real programme would start. It’s a common experience to be invited for a programme and sit for hours before the programme begins, eating into the time you have scheduled for other activities. Sometimes you don’t have any option than to leave halfway through the programme irrespective of how beneficial the items on the programme are to you. Government officials are the most offenders in this regard. Presidents, ministers and their representatives have cultivated the habit of appearing late to functions while keeping everyone anxiously waiting for a long time.


The importance of time is yet to register with many people in the country. A moment you take away some of it from someone, it can never be regained and will turn out to be a huge cost to the person. Captain Prince Amoabeng of the erstwhile UT fame equates taking time from someone to that of taking part of the person’s life. This is actually true looking at the fact that life is measured on the basis of time, with the year as its basic unit. Whenever you are sitting waiting on someone for whatever reason and experiencing unnecessary delay, the question that jumps to mind naturally is, “What does he or she think of time?”

Corruption and incompetence

Most of the factors that place a halt on the speed of things in this country are corruption and incompetence on the part of those in charge of delivering the public good. There are establishments mandated to ensure efficiency in the delivery of all aspects of our public good, and these establishments are headed by people who are rewarded with pay for their work. Do they care about the goods they deliver? Do they care about the efficiency of their output? And do they care about the impact of their work on people’s time, the commodity that all of us cherish that much?

The tortoise is the only animal that has been tagged with slowness and waiting. A chameleon can challenge that assertion but it has its own comparative advantage in changing colours. A society that behaves like the tortoise keeps people constantly waiting all the time; in a traffic jam, in getting access to essential products and services, and in as trivial a thing as the establishment of relationships between people and institutions.

Such environment is repulsive to people with drive and initiative. If one wants to live in a progressive society, definitely not a one tagged with the characteristics of a tortoise.

The writer is with the Institute of Current Affairs and Diplomacy (ICAD)
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