Something about Ghana used to amuse and sadden me at the same time. Having thought about it for a while, I’ve decided not to be amused by it anymore. Because the more I think about it, the more it saddens me.
And until we do something about it, no one knows where it will lead us. I just don’t understand why it happens; I don’t believe we can do nothing about it and certainly don’t want to accept that, that’s how we are. This thing that disturbs me so much can be seen clearly in the way we behave on our roads.
Surely, Ghanaians are not undisciplined, we are not disorganised and neither are we careless. So why do we drive the way we do? Why do we behave like mindless individuals on our roads? It has almost become an accepted fact that driving in Ghana bothers on the insane! The popular rule on driving in Ghana says: ‘when on the road, act as though everyone else is stupid’. This is as much unnerving as it is unsettling! How can we live like this in a country where only adults (18 years and above) are granted driving licenses?
Imagine this: it’s early morning on a Monday, the rush hour has kicked in and you are on the road. You are about to get to an intersection and oops; you find that the traffic lights are not working! How did you know? Well, it’s pretty obvious, the lights are not working; but apart from the lights not working, there was something else that gave you the indication long before you saw the traffic indicators. It’s a bizarre scene, a terrible clutter of vehicles of all sorts struggling for space – space out of the intersection and the highly irritating combination of sounds coming from car horns and the loud shouts of agitation and anger coming from the creators of these sounds! The reason for all the noise and confusion is simple; drivers want to move but the only problem is; everyone wants to move at the same time!
Take this scene at a bus stop for instance. It’s 4.30pm at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle; cast your eyes to the bus stop opposite the Orion Cinema and see the teeming crowds of people waiting (not in line) to catch a trotro home. A trotro pulls up; it is empty and the driver’s mate is shouting on top of his voice; he is calling out a number of destinations. Now see what happens – see the scuffle that ensues, the rush from the crowd standing at the bus stop. See the extreme difficulty everyone goes through…see how impossible it is to get into the trotro.The reason for the confusion and difficulty is simple; the passengers want to get in to the trotro but the only problem is, everyone wants to get into the vehicle at the same time!
So are Ghanaians selfish? Or is it because we are impatient? Why can’t we wait in line at a road intersection for others to move? Why can’t we form queues at bus stops so everyone can have their turn when a trotro pulls up? Or maybe we are simply undisciplined? Think about this: is the reason for how we behave due to a certain fear that has become part of our collective psyche? A fear resulting from the lack of trust in the system; the fear that the system is so unreliable that it cannot be trusted to give everyone their due? The fear that it is only when you grab what you think is yours, (even if it means, stepping on others and denying them of their due) that you will get what you deserve?
Or is it a collective sense of lack that makes us think that if we wait for others to get into a trotro, we’ll never get home? Or that if we wait in line at a road intersection for others to move, we’ll never get home? I am yet to find anyone or a group of people who slept in the streets of Accra or anywhere else in this country because they didn’t get a vehicle home or got stuck at an intersection till the following day. It has never happened and will never happen! I think we have created a perception over the years; a mentality that has sadly become part of our collective psyche and this mentality will continue to keep us behind until we change it.
Until we begin to think differently, we can never get out of it. See what happened at the boarding gate of the Kumasi airport, two weeks ago. We were scheduled to fly to Accra on one of the domestic airlines and after a short delay, the attendant on duty walked into boarding area; stood in front of the gate and announced that we could board.
It was true there had been a slight delay, it was true we were far behind time when the announcement was made but I don’t think these reasons were responsible for what happened after the announcement. Suddenly, everyone got up and rushed towards the alarmed attendant standing in front of the gate. Yes, there was a rush; everyone wanted to get through the gate at the same time! It was unbelievable; these were businessmen and women, mommies and daddies, big boys and big girls rushing to board an aircraft, which would not move until everyone had boarded! I just sat there shaking my head; I don’t understand…I
Simply don’t; do you?