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Opinions of Sunday, 18 December 2016

Columnist: Viwotor, Theodore Mawuli K.

Leave the witches alone

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By Theodore Mawuli K. Viwotor

It is common practice in Ghana to see people attaching superstition to every occurrence that appears a bit mysterious, to the extent that some even do so with things that can easily be explained.

The belief in witches being the cause of accidents and some calamities has become so prevalent in Ghana that many Ghanaians have become so oblivious to the way negligence, lack of supervision, greed and other acts of corruption continue to claim lives and cause irreparable damages to us.

To claim that witches do not exist would amount to believing the spirit world is non-existent; however, to attribute all incidents and accidents to the evil world or witches could simply lead to a system of irresponsibility.

A cursory look at the causes of accidents in Ghana points to a society filled with negligence, irresponsibility and sabotage- a system that would want to blame accidents on witches but fail to examine the people’s contribution to the problem.

If I happen to be a witch and am asked to choose a location to be assigned to cause accidents in any part of the world, my desired destination would be Ghana. This should not be of surprise to anyone.

When a witch is assigned to cause accidents in a country that has vehicles plying its roads with mal-functioning brakes, without seat belts and with police officers and motor traffic supervisors comfortably overseeing their free movement, why wouldn’t witches prefer being assigned to Ghana?

At times, one wonders if those who issue out road-worthy certificates to some of the vehicles on the roads, especially the commercial ones (trotros), do that under the influence of some liquor or substances, since it just beats the imagination of onlookers that a vehicle with unreliable brake, no break lights and virtually struggling to move, would be issued with such a document to transport human beings from one location to another-it is pure madness!!!

According to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), at least 1,034 people died nationwide in 6,205 road crashes while 5,302 were injured in accidents that involved 9,636 vehicles from January to June, 2016. This constitutes an increase of 11.34% rise over the same period in 2015 in the number of road crashes in 2015 (5,501) and a rise of 11.33 in the number of vehicles involved in the accidents in 2015(8,544).

These statistics might mean nothing to many Ghanaians because accidents are bound to happen; so why should one worry so much about them? After all, witches would continue to be with us so why should we worry over the occurrence of road crashes.

However, a closer look at the causes of such accidents and deaths could mean that the witches have nothing at all to do with them.

Studies have shown that most of these road crashes are caused by human error or the hand of man and they are mostly preventable- bad judgement, inexperienced driving, over-speeding, wrongful overtaking, non-adherence to road signs, fatigue, abuse of drugs and distractions. Well, no act of any witch is mentioned here. Maybe the witches hide behind these acts without being noticed.

Interestingly, almost all the causes of accidents in the country are preventable, the reason the witches can’t stand accused in the court of a negligent society that takes everything for granted and blames everything on someone.

Clearly, no one can point accusing fingers at the other; it is a collective responsibility of everyone in the sector from the ones who issue driver license through the police man on the road to the driver and even the passengers whose lives are put at risk on a daily basis.

It is no secret in Ghana that many, if not most, commercial drivers never got tested before getting their driving license. They either learnt to drive without any proper training from a driving school or just got the license through connection men (‘goro’ boys) and started a trial-and-error process till they ‘mastered’ it.

It is very sad that the lives and destinies of Ghanaians are being toyed with by people put in responsible positions for the benefits derived from the corrupt practices. Licenses are issued to drivers that the DVLA officers have never seen; vehicles get their road-worthy certificates from officers who never set eyes on such vehicles and some Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD)/Police officers allow such drivers and vehicles to continue to commit road offences with impunity and the witches take the blame for all of that.

When truck drivers allow women to sit in their goods-laden buckets from the hinterlands to the market centers in the city without blinking their eyes over the dangers they expose such vulnerable women to, one can only wonder if they have not signed a contract with blood-thirsty witches to kill them through accidents.

Certainly, seeing such scenes, the witches of Ghana can only have a good laugh since all they need is a small pothole on the road to cause a fatal accident. It is a pity to see poor market women dozing in the buckets of trucks for long distances mostly at night at the full glare of the police and the rigours of the weather. This can only happen in an irresponsible country that would rather hold witches responsible for the consequences of their irresponsible acts.

Until we rise up to our responsibility of ensuring that the right thing is done, we shall continue to look else for solution to our problems when in effect the solutions lie in our own hands.

Imagine a system in which all drivers had their driving licenses after going through the proper procedure such as training from a driving school and test by the DVLA before driving a vehicle; but not from goro boys. Imagine a country in which roadworthiness of vehicles are duly ensured by the state institutions that are mandated to do so.

Imagine a country in which police MTTD officers strictly enforce the road regulations to the letter and minimize the daily ‘levies’ they collect from drivers. Imagine a country where passengers would insist the driver wears his seatbelt before they take off, whilst they do same. The accident rates would go down drastically and the safety of passengers can be guaranteed to a very large extent.

On the other hand, a country full of irresponsible people would by all means be inundated with more witches and perhaps wizards since their assignment would be easier in such a place and it is no wonder that we have many of them in Ghana.

Truly, superstition is deeply ingrained in the African culture but is not enough to shift blame from our deliberate acts to witches. Where more precaution is taken, chances are that risks would be reduced. In the same vein, accidents are bound to happen no matter the amount of measures put in place to prevent them. Even in the western world where some of the best precautionary measures are put in place, accidents do happen. However, they are checked and corrected to the barest minimum as against the repetitive nature of preventable accidents here that keep on causing ruins in our families and deprive the nation of its profitable workforce.

Ghana deserves better and it is all in the hands of the people; unless there is concrete evidence to believe that the people themselves are witches, the only advice to all Ghanaians is that, ‘leave the witches alone’.