That which bulldozed the president out of his comfy palatial Flagstaff House to clean the stinking gutters of James Town, a suburb of Accra, cannot be treated lightly. (See: Prez Mahama cleans gutters in Accra, www. ghanaweb.com). Many are those who perceive this act as a gesture meant to spur the citizenry to keep their environs shipshape while others project the seemingly belated action into the realm of an ill-timed propaganda stunt.
However, amidst all these lopsided conjectures, one cannot be blind to the fact that there is a systemic dysfunction of state institutions in the performance of their duties. In other words, the heads of institutions that are fed with the tax payers contributions to keep Accra in pristine conditions are dozing on their jobs.
Perhaps, President Barack Obama’s timely counsel to the Government of Ghana to strengthen state institutions fell on deaf ears. The sagged muscles of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies have been starved of the needed financial support for several months. As a result, the Government of Ghana is indebted to some waste management companies.
How then do we expect these institutions to function effectively? What financial and institutional accountability measures have been put in place to ensure that the limited funds allocated to these Assemblies have been applied judiciously?
Had the Accra Metropolitan Assembly put on the clothe of alacrity as the President exhibited in desilting those chocked gutters, I trust Accra would not be engulfed with mammoth filth as cholera continues to claim the precious lives of Ghanaians.
By extension, can the filth and stench overwhelming the streets of Accra pass an accurate judgement on the state of Ghana’s economic malaise? If the economy were as buoyant as we all desire, it would have automatically reflected in the way wastes are managed in the country.
In fact, the best action the president could have set in motion was to let some heads with thick or loose beards roll at the AMA and other Municipal and District Assemblies. What the president did was simply to pour cold water on a frozen fat. Now, those charged with the responsibility of tidying the streets of Accra will relapse into their usual comatose mode.
The green letters given to the presidential staffers which shot some seriousness into their work ethics should have been similarly extended to the reactive Mayor of Accra and his gang of do-little subordinates. The precious lives the cholera pandemic has claimed could have been saved if Mr Alfred Oko Vaderpuije and his men had been proactive.
By the way, the path to cleanliness is not a one man drama. It is a collective effort and a shared responsibility. Therefore, inasmuch as I would constantly critique the government and its agencies for their sloppiness in dealing with this canker, I would equally remind those rationale human beings generating and wallowing in filth to act properly and not wait for the President to shovel filth out of chocked and stinking gutters.
The president’s hollow symbolic gesture only amounted to a mini fanfare of party foot soldiers. There were cheers, laughter and clapping of hands from Nii Lantey Vanderpuye and other individuals present as the president gleefully engaged the gutters with all his might. The sort of impact the President’s action was meant to achieve, has already trickled into the pongy drains of James Town.
The inhabitants of James Town and Chorkor will continue to grapple with filth and cholera should the
AMA shuts its eyes to its home-grown sanitation by-laws and punitive measures for those who flagrantly flout them. What has become of Nima after Chairman Rawlings perfected the art of cleaning gutters about some decades ago? Nima still remains Nima in its desecrated dignity.
It is pretty obvious that in dealing with filth, symbolic gestures of cleaning gutters have a minimal positive effect and fittingly deemed to be cosmetic. Attitudinal change is essential in tackling this menace. In this regard, the National Commission for Civic Education must rise to the occasion. This can be complemented with the rejuvenation of the activities of Health Inspectors who were visible in our homes and vicinities some time ago.
Beyond these, at the heart of this menace is money. Government should do more by appropriately committing financial resources to prevent any crisis. If city authorities in Accra cannot effectively recycle wastes in the twenty first century, then there is a fundamental problem with our national policies and even the calibre of leaders who preside over the national affairs of the country.
The fact that Ghana is a developing country as a result of its unchecked retrogression towards poverty must not warrant the increasing filth in the city of Accra. The President’s periphery gesture is a microcosm of what needs to be done to manage waste in the country. And as such more must be done.
AUTHOR: OKOFO-DARTEY SAMUEL