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Opinions of Monday, 5 May 2008

Columnist: Tabi, Kingsley Owusu

We need collective transformation

I have just woken up and read the headline below on Ghanaweb. What a tragedy? I do not know the guy, and never ever saw any of his films. Yet, he seems quite important by virtue of him making the headlines.

?Kwame Owusu Ansah Is Dead?

I am however astonished by the comments that have accompanied this story. The tragedy has been sidelined, and in its place has sprung the crass stupidity that bedevils us as a people.

True, one or two commentators expressed their grief. However, majority of the respondents were chucking political diatribe left, right and centre. This is in the face of what I can safely describe as a national tragedy.

Realistically speaking, should we not be debating about issues to do with roads, driving vehicles, attitudes ect. I have just returned from Ghana, and just as I did after my last visit, I was going to write another article detailing some of my observations while I was in the country.

However, in yhe face of the above tragedy, I have decided to concentrate on the movement from A to B in vehicles and some of the necessary conditions that make such movement such a hazard in Ghana.

Driver Training

There are several driving schools but I do not know how effectively they are regulated. If the schools and their operators were well regulated, there would not be so many bad drivers on our roads.

Driving standards are so bad, as Sam Sarpong observed in an article as far back as 2003. He wrote:

?In 2001, the country was rated the second highest road traffic accident-prone among six West African countries with 73 deaths per 10,000 accidents. From January to March this year, Accra alone recorded 1,417 motor accidents involving 2,125 vehicles. According to the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the police during this period, there were 78 fatalities, 373 serious injury cases and 966 minor cases in which vehicles ran into other vehicles?. It seems that nobody listens. To add insult to injury, it has claimed the lives of ministers and ministerial aides; it nearly claimed the lives of the present and former presidents. Yet, we carry on in the same vein, as if everything is all right.

I got flashed down at a police checkpoint. Another driver had reported me of careless driving. When I explained the circumstances to the officer, he said to the other guy, you should be under arrest; you are the one driving carelessly. They proceeded to the proverbial tent, and I left to continue with my journey. The poor driver did not even know he was in the wrong.

Driving Behaviour

The Ghanaian driver in Ghana is the most arrogant driver on earth. Not surprisingly, because of the poor training, he/she is the most ignorant, as well. These two vices combine to form a lethal weapon on our roads. Imagine, on a contra flow you have just indicated to turn left, knowing that the car behind you is twenty metres away and has therefore had plenty of warning. The Ghanaian taxi driver, if there is no way to go past on your right, will overtake on the left without a care in the world. To his mind, he has every right to go past you regardless.

The so called big shots in their gas-guzzling Land Cruisers sit creamily in the overtaking lane at forty kph and refuse to move over, even though there is no vehicle in the off side lane.

Travelling at night is like trying to survive in the streets of Kandahar; if the pot-holes do not incapacitate your car, and you manage not to crash into vehicles travelling without any lights (and therefore navigating by moon light), then the armed robbers will.

You are chastised by other drivers if you stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings; you are ?flashed? by an on-coming vehicle because he is turning left (you are just being warned and you ignore the warning at your own risk); on-coming vehicles veer directly into your path at speed to avoid pot holes, instead of slowing down and manoeuvring safely; ?There is nothing like ?the right of way?,? my friend told me. Bravery, or shall we say, foolhardiness; make a choice.

Poor Roads

The road leading to my hometown has been re-surfaced fifteen times in the last thirty years. The lifespan of any surfacing is only a couple of years. Yet I notice that the main road leading to it has never been surfaced (not to my knowledge). Yet, it still looks good and jeels a million dollars to drive on. This is to say that we have good road contractors who can build long lasting roads in Ghana. Why then don?t they come and construct the road to my hometown. It would save a lot of money in the long run. The government has built some very good roads, and a lot are underway, but the whole country needs good roads, not just a section of it. A lot of the deaths could be avoided by building dual carriage roads; I thought the Accra-Winneba road would have benefited from being a dual carriage, since it links ports and nations as part of the West African Highway.

Car Maintenance

There is a Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). I hope this is what DVLA stands for. Yes, this agency is responsible for making sure that the cars on our roads are road worthy. The police mount road blocks to verify documentation to see that all the right documents are in place. On the whole both the police and the DVLA officials try to do a good job; it?s just that they cannot help themselves when it comes to taking bribes. So may vehicles travel at night without lights, and that is mind boggling. Some have no wipers, others have no wind screens; some have no head lights, others have no tails light; some have no lights at all. Some cars drive on wheels as bald as two week-old baby head, there are virtually no tyre treads. Vehicles with such tyres can aquaplane from Adenta to Achimota after a torrential rainfall, given the state of our drainage system.

I hired a vehicle for just over a month. After a week, I changed the near side front tyre because it was bald. Another week later, the brakes started squealing. I took it back to the owner and complained. He had it checked by his mechanic and I was told that it was just dirty and needed cleaning. The next day it started squealing again. I told the owner that he needed new pads. He disagreed. In the end, the brakes were screaming. They screamed till I handed it back. Meanwhile, after three weeks, the battery went flat and I had it replaced. The oil was as dark as soot, the sump began to leak. Vehicle maintenance is a reactive, not a proactive exercise. Nothing gets changed until it malfunctions.


On the whole, our attitudes towards our fellow citizens need a dynamic overhaul. Our collective attitude towards duty; duty to our fellow citizens, duty to our work, family friends, neighbours and colleagues need to be more positive.

With this in mind, we would act more responsibly. We will respect each other, avoid the foolish, sometimes pathetic comments to important issues, be responsive and sensitive to mishaps, and take heed to avoid some of the tragedies currently playing out on our roads.

Kingsley Owusu Tabi London, 04 May 2008

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.