One Saturday morning, I went to pick up a friend at the airport. I missed the pick-up point and stopped at what seemed like the next safe spot along the road. This was a mistake. I had stopped in a no-parking zone. I wasn't there long though - about twenty seconds - just enough time for my friend to get into the car.
I then drove off towards the exit, and that was when I had the shock of my life. The traffic control gate came down, blocking my exit. Security officers descended from goodness knows where and asked me to pull over. Their leader, a man who looked to be in his early thirties, informed me that I had stopped in a no-parking zone, and that attracted a fine of GHC100.
Now, how would you have felt about this if you were in my shoes? Angry? Upset? Unlucky? Would you have apologised and begged the security guard to let you off with a warning? Or would you have pointed out the fact that you didn't see the no-parking sign, you stopped for less than thirty seconds, there was no traffic behind you, you didn't obstruct anyone, you just picked your friend without causing any danger or harm to anyone, you are a law-abiding citizen, and therefore resent being swooped down upon by a bunch of security men as if you're some terrorist when you haven't committed a crime? Well, I did none of the above. I paid the fine and commended him for a job well done.
You see, to some, GHC100 is not a lot of money, but for me, the fact that I didn't expect an airport run to cost me GHC100, not to mention the inconvenience and embarrassment of my car being stopped and detained within the airport like some national security threat, was quite upsetting. I found myself making a silent vow never to stop at the airport without checking that I am not in a no-parking zone.
My friends, I may not have seen the no-parking sign, but human nature I such that we will all do whatever we will be allowed to get away with doing. I have a friend from England named Terry. He visits Ghana a lot, and whenever he's here, Terry takes great pride in peeing against walls and into gutters. He wouldn't dare do this in Birmingham where he lives, because if he did, he would be arrested and locked up. But in Ghana, where it is also illegal to do so, he happily whips it out and sprays his liquid waste wherever he likes; because he can get away with it.
At the airport, people pick up and drop passengers in illegal spots all day long. Not because they're unaware, but because they can get away with it. This security officer, however, decided that while he was on duty, nobody would break the law. He didn't know who I was, and I suspect he didn't care much. As far as he was aware, a person had violated the regulations, and that person had to pay, no matter who they were.
By doing his job and enforcing the law, this security officer had effectively communicated to me that I will not be allowed to get away with doing the wrong thing and ensured that at least one person would never commit that offence ever again. If all security and law enforcement officers were like this young man, there would be a lot less impunity and law-breaking in our society.
Drive around the city today, and you will see law enforcement officers camped at every major intersection, watching on as motorcyclists ride through red lights. I've always wondered why they never bother to stop them. Could it be because motorcyclists hardly ever have the money to pay bribes? And when they do stop someone for a traffic offence and let them go in exchange, GHC20, are they ensuring the person won't re-offend? After all, if you knew you could drive around town without a driver's license, and it would only cost you GHC20, why wouldn't you?
You know, there is a lot that we need to set right to cure this nation and make it as "great and strong" as we keep begging God to every time we sing the National Anthem, but it's little things like doing our jobs well, and not cutting corners for anyone, which can make all the difference to our country's future. If only we would all follow this young security officer's example, we could cure at least one of our nation's ills, and show our children that here in Ghana, we are ruled by laws, and as a functioning, civilized society, we abide by those laws. No matter who we may be.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I am NOT above the law. Neither are you, so act accordingly.
GOOD MORNING GHANAFO!