I must start this by confessing I am one of the many undisciplined drivers on the roads of Accra. I text and email behind the wheel! It’s a habit I try to put a stop to, but some texts, emails and DMs sometimes require quick and immediate response. Though I hardly make or receive calls whiles driving, I won’t say I have never fallen to that temptation, not when the call has everything to do with the meeting your are driving to!
On one of the usual busy days, on the dusty streets of Accra, the merciless sun scorched and pierced through all moving vehicles with its unbearable rays. This usually makes me pity drivers without air-conditioners in their cars, this makes me pity me! The mood of the economy has made the use of car Air-conditioners a luxurious wish, not one I would want to bother my fuel budget with. Even through the noisy layers hovering Accra, from different people trying to make a living, I could still hear the loud and angry voice of a young man in a bigger vehicle. His warning was strict, loud and he seemed to be confident about his action! “Get off the phone and drive” (in local Ghanaian language) his tired voice echoed as his other counterpart by his side overtook my comparatively smaller car. With a remorseful and tired face, I watched them pass me by. They made the experience more painful for me, as they both pulled out their heads to see which buffoon had been delaying their trip with poor driving etiquette. I hung up (after that scream? Of course I did), and stared at their ‘Long Vehicle’ which was making its way towards Ghana’s second city, Kumasi.
Even in my shame, my conscience tapped me in hard and confidently and declared me ‘not-innocent’ in that instance. My guilt was not really what was haunting me. What I was marveled at was the fact that, two young men, took it upon themselves to be the ‘Government’ in that short moment. There was no fear or favor for the suit-and-tie gentleman who had decided to break the law that very hot afternoon. Perhaps I expected such nudges to come from Jaguar or Mercedes folks, but it came from a vehicle perhaps involved in informal work. I admired their confidence, I hated the fact that I was the one their trap had caught! But deep deep down within me, I wished I was the one screaming at a more classy, educated road-user. My time will come! Did I say my time will come? Oh No. My time to correct indiscipline comes everyday, and what do I do? I just stare and let selfish drivers display their indiscipline.
I will not even try counting how many laws and regulations we break or see people break on daily basis. The question is, what do we do about it? Do we gather enough confidence to let the Business Executive know he had taken a wrong U-turn? Do we remind suit-and-tie individuals who throw litter on the already-dirty streets of Accra, they could have done better? When a Policeman extorts money from defenseless tro-tro drivers, do we step in to remind the officer of his national duty as an officer of the law? When our pals drink and drive, do we remind them of the risks involved? Do we scream from the our seats in the bus to let them know how wrong it is to do so? I feel the indiscipline we go through on daily basis is because we prefer to take the back-seat either because we fear we will be ridiculed or we feel it is someone else’s job to put the undisciplined citizens to order. I have my own issues with how our authorities have not provided enough resources to ensure things work the way they are supposed to work. It is safe and stress-free to take the back seat and watch others break the laws as we put efforts into becoming the ‘good citizens’. But the ‘good citizen’ who says nothing is just as bad as the bad one!
If Ghana will become a better place for us, for our kids and for other visitors, we may have to take off this ‘laid-back’ attitude, and be more proactive. We need to stop condoning acts of indiscipline and illegality. So the next time, an Immigration officer at the airport asks you for cash on your way through Kotoka, let them know how wrong it is for an officer of the law to do so. Or the next time a police officer demands a token and promises to make your traffic offence go away, maybe you should just go with him to the charge office and pay to the state?!