You are on your own; no one asked you to be poor!

You are on your own; no one asked you to be poor!
Source: Ghana || Malik Abass Daabu
Date: 06-11-2018 Time: 09:11:06:am

Andrew Ansongmwine was in deep sleep, drinking from that cup of creamy warm milk of early morning sleep when he was interrupted by the urgent calls, followed by ungentle taps. It is his father, Ansongmwine Azaaviel, a labourer at the Adentan Municipality.

Andrew, 9, was being woken up at 5am - from the single room shared by him, his father, five other siblings, and his mother Lucy who sells onions at the Madina Market - to take his bath in preparation for school.   

He virtually dragged himself up, stretched, yawned and staggered to the corner near the door where sat the blue barrel serving as the family’s water reservoir. He climbed on top of the stack of plastic chairs and scooped a few litters of water. y (it’s enough), his mother shouted.

There is no running water in this compound house shared by more than 15 families, so water is a scarce commodity that should not be wasted. A bucket of water here costs two cedis.

With a family of eight, if everyone baths a full bucket of water in the morning and in the evening, that translates into 16 Ghana cedis a day; 480 cedis a month. This does not cater for washing, cooking, and other activities. With Andrew’s father’s 471 cedis monthly salary, he can’t even foot the water bill.

Sorry for the digression, let’s go back to Andrew. He took his water to the bathhouse and met a queue of five people. This means he will be late for school. He looks anxious. Fortunately, Uncle Dan, a respectable co-tenant helps Andrew to rig the queue, so he quickly dashes in, takes his bath and runs out.

Dressed up, with his faded, torn, dirty school bag strapped to his back, Andrew headed to school. At Zongo Junction, he waited for a good ten minutes. Every driver is driving at minimum 80kph at this time of the day and crossing the road is a perilous endeavour. But he is used to this. He goes through this anxiety and waits every morning and afternoon after school.

In the twelfth minute of waiting he runs with the speed of light and crossed two lanes to the middle of the road. He endured another five minutes of wait and when he thought the next vehicle was far enough, he dashed off.

But alas!

The white Toyota Tundra probably doing a 120kph had caught up with him, ran him over and didn’t even stop.

Michael Osbourne Jnr., 9, was playing a game on his tablet when his father - while driving and talking on the phone with his wife who left for the United States the day before – ran over Andrew and drove off. “Daddy what is that? Little Michael asked, concerned his father had swerved sharply a bit and quite suddenly, too. He also thought he heard a crushing sound beneath the truck. “Daddy what happened, I heard something,” he persisted. “Don’t worry about it, a goat crossed me,” the driver of the 2018 registered Tundra said. “Is it dead”? The boy asked, returning to his game. “I don’t know,” his father responded.

Meanwhile, Andrew laid there, lifeless! He was the 182nd victim of pedestrian knockdowns on this road in 2018 alone. While the dialogue and the names in this write-up are purely fictional, the number of people killed and the knocking down of a schoolboy are confirmed facts.

Andrew was robbed of his life and his parents and the country of him by a complicit government. The state, actively connived with a lawless, careless, criminally-minded citizen to kill him. His only crime? He is poor and the state does not care about the poor.

Those who act for and on behalf the state act for and on behalf of the rich and against the poor.

For the past six weeks, Joy FM and Joy News, by far, the moral compass of a deeply polarised and confused country, have waged a campaign to have footbridges completed on the Madina/Adentan road to save lives. In spite of weeks of stories, nobody has acted.

When we first ran the story of the needless deaths on this road following an angry Facebook post by Serlom Brantie, we called up former Roads Minister, Inusah Fuseini, for an explanation as to why footbridges which constituted a part of the road contract awarded by his government were left uncompleted. More than 90% of work has been done on these footbridges but stairs and railings to enable pedestrians to use them, have not been fixed.

The highly educated and otherwise respectable Member of Parliament for Tamale Central, told the Super Morning Show his government realised that work on the road was slow because the contractor was spreading available funds so thinly on the main road works and the bridges. “So we asked him to concentrate on the road,” he said.

So the government in its infinite wisdom, decided that the comfort of motorists was a priority over the safety of pedestrians, therefore, ‘build the road and complete it for the comfort of drivers and let the poor like Andrew go and hang’.

Being the lawyer that he is, he said some of the deaths were attributable to contributory negligence. I agree with him but only to a limited extent. Mr Fuseini would be making a valid argument about contributory negligence if his government or the current government built the bridges and people refused to use them. In that case, we could agree with him. But as things stand, he and those who are currently in charge of the affairs of the state are equally guilty and are co-conspirators in the murder of young Andrew.

And without footbridges, a better-governed society would have enforced, strictly, regulations on speed limits. If we installed cameras on this stretch of road and gave every driver a ticket for driving more than 30kph, we wouldn’t be talking about nearly 200 people having been killed by careless drivers.

But hey, this is Ghana and these are too complicated things for us to do. We can’t install cameras and force people to slow down and we can’t find the money the complete the bridges. Yeah! We just can’t. After all who would be the beneficiaries of these measures? The poor, of course! And who cares about them? Whoever asked them to be poor? Who asked Andrew’s father to not be able to drive his son to school in a Toyota Tundra? That is their problem.      


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