By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
Nii Lantey Vanderpuije puts the proverbial cart before the horse, when the Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development calls for Ghanaians who defecate in open spaces, in the nation’s capital of Accra, to be meted corporal punishment (See “Cane People Who Defecate In Public – Vanderpuije” Starrfmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 8/15/14).
Understandably, this statement of desperation is in direct response to the rash in the incidence of cholera cases that has rocked Ghana’s capital in epidemic proportions in recent months. But, of course, the simple question that Mr. Lantey Vanderpuije ought to be asking himself, as well as his ministerial colleagues, is precisely what motivates citizens in any progressive modern society to behave like a species of quadrupeds, in the way that he describes the patently anti-social behavior of some residents of such Accra suburbs as La(badi), James Town, Ledzokuku and Mamprobi.
Actually, these districts are no suburbs at all but neighborhoods that partly constitute the very heart of Ghana’s capital. The problem that the Deputy Minister is talking about is one that eerily and strikingly reflects the perennial neglect of both the local and central governments to the healthy development of sanitation facilities throughout the country. Rather, what Ghanaians have witnessed over the course of the last three decades is inordinate power and money grab, on the part of politicians, to the detriment of the weak, the unemployed, and the woefully under-resourced.
The fact of the matter is that like all humans the world over, people would create unsavory avenues in which to respond to Nature’s Call, if those entrusted with the well-being of the people are found to be uncaring and criminally irresponsible. And a typical example of such irresponsible leadership is inescapably reflected by Mr. Vanderpuije’s statement, which gratuitously seeks to blame and punish the prime victims of a grossly and crassly irresponsible national leadership. Mr. Vanderpuije is himself a Ga native who was born and raised in Ghana’s capital city of Accra; which means that he ought to know about the primary cause of rampant open and public defecation by residents of the most deprived neighborhoods of Accra.
Alas, instead of intelligently devising a constructive and salutary means of meliorating our poor urban sanitation system, the Deputy Local Government and Rural Development Minister prefers to blame those who are merely the symptoms of this environmental hazard, rather than cynical politicians like himself who would rather feed fat on the taxpayer’s money by tooling around such indescribable and unacceptable filth in Toyota Land Cruisers and Mercedes Benzes. Has Mr. Vanderpuije, for example, thought about the need for the government to get rid of open drainage systems, or gutters, in order to remarkably reduce both the avoidable epidemic of cholera and the massive breeding of mosquitoes?
And, by the way, wouldn’t it be far more intelligent for Mr. Vanderpuije to open up a serious dialogue on adequate funding for the improvement of urban and rural sanitation, or preventive medicine, that would facilitate a drastic reduction in the cost of public healthcare, thereby enabling the government to focus some of its scarce capital resources in other equally vital areas of our national development?
You just think about it, dear reader.