If I were the Mayor of Accra

It has been five days since the Accra floods and the fire incident of June 3-4, 2015 have left the entire country in a state of shock. The city is still in total disarray and its citizens have been left disoriented. The reaction of city authorities to the crisis seems to be disorganized and no one is sure of what is being done to prevent another disaster in the coming days and years.

Ghana’s average annual rainfall is about 730 mm, which falls primarily during Ghana's two rainy seasons mainly in April and mid-July and in October. This is a known fact. The floods therefore do not come as a surprise to many people. It’s the impact and the extent of damage and devastation of this year’s floods that was not anticipated.

Accra almost always get flooded when it rains and city authorities always respond in a predictable way. They would come, make a statement, put in emergency or make shift arrangements and “manage the situation”.  There is a lot of interest in the crisis as and when it happens and after the rains subside everyone goes back to their work. Right after the rains, we heard of filling stations and buildings in water ways being pulled down. How these buildings were developed in the first place is a big question we need to answer and why they are being pulled down a day after the storms is also not clear. If they were not properly cited, why were they not pulled down earlier?

Way back in Tudu where I lived when I was a child, the community lost a favorite TV repairer who drowned in the Alajo gutter along with other passengers sitting in a taxi. That was more than 20 years ago. Two decades or so after, we are still battling with the same problem in gargantuan proportions.

Just to cite a few instances; on 31 December, 2014, Myjoyononline.com reported how a two-hour rainfall left shops in Circle flooded.  Citionline reported last year on June 5, 2014, exactly a year ago how that year’s rain had affected roads in North Industrial Area, Dadaben Road, Mallam, Kokoroko.  Indeed the writer stated, “the situation in Circle is very bad, we hope no life will be lost”.

On June 6, 2013, Ghana web reported how the rains flooded parts of Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Dansoman and Mallam. In that story, the reporter concluded by saying, “although no casualties have been recorded some drivers who plied the affected areas complained about the perennial flooding in parts of the city anytime there were heavy rains and called for a permanent solution to the problem”. In 2011 BBC, Africa report and all other news media reported similar incidents and it goes on and on.

I have seen many City Mayors come and gone. From ET Mensah, Nat Nunoo Amerteifio, Sam Adoquaye Addo Solomon Ofei Darko, Stanley Nii Agyiri-Blankson and now Dr. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije. The 59 year old Mayor who was elected in 2009 years ago is known for his hardline and “no nonsense” position. Unfortunately many are yet to see the real actions being taken in solving this perennial problem.

Experiencing this flood during the organization of a Mayors Summit in Accra is really worrying and an anticlimax of the Summit. Having 3000 delegates and participants from 90 countries watch this human tragedy is not good for the image of this country. We need to triple our efforts in getting this problem solved. So the question is how do we want the city of Accra to look like in 5, 10 or 50 years and what are our city planners doing to resolve this problem.

Decisive, drastic and painful measures have to be taken to deal with this problem just like the Dumsor problem. We don’t need another “#the floods must stop” demonstrations to be held before action is taken.

The Mayor of Accra has been very vocal in communicating the challenges facing the city but many are yet to see the real steps being taken to solve the biggest problem which impacts on lives and property.

If I were the Mayor of Accra I will be continuously worried to oversee these problems and not making any progress. The problem of street naming, open drainages, overcrowding, inaccessible roads, building in waterways etc can be fixed if the assemblies together with government take action. We hope that next year we will not be writing about this problem again and that drastic actions would have been taken to improve the situation whilst working on a permanent solution.

To families who have lost loved ones, we sympathize with them. To those who have lost properties and livelihoods we pray for the best. If I were the Mayor of Accra, I cannot afford to continue to be in office without solving this problem.