The recent chorus of commendation for the taxi driver who intercepted the armed robbers is extremely grossly misplaced. I listened to a factile report on Joy News on 17th January and all the panelists totally agreed that the act of bravery of the taxi driver was extremely heroic and patriotic.
Let us reiterate the facts of the case. An employee of Koala supermarket was on an errand to make a bank deposit of the takings of the day by foot. An unscrupulous and criminally inclined member of staff had tipped off these two notorious criminals who recklessly and criminally snatched the takings from the young woman greatly jeopardising her life. It is clear that the taxi driver had observed the incident from a strategic distance and took a decisive and commendable interventive action to prevent these malevolent and dangerous criminals from getting away with their ill-gotten loot.
Whilst it is true that the driver acted courageously and with a sense of great civic duty, his actions must never be construed as setting a precedent for heroism. The government’s generous act of rewarding the driver with a two bedroom house cannot be heavily criticised but ought to be critically scrutinised. Koala’s gift of a taxi cab is magnanimous but compensatory.
Unquestionably armed robbery is a bane to Ghanaians in every corner of communities. There is a great need for serious,positive long term strategic solutions to be made by the government to tackle this challenging and difficult problem. It is important to recognise that this dangerous negative criminal phenomenon is not a creation of any particular government, however, the underlying causal factors ought to be honestly analysed and resolved.
A number of years ago I visited Ghana on one of my annual trips. I was resident in Sakumono, Tema. One evening I heard a commotion outside my residence which was directly facing a number of churches on Church Street, Sakumono . Quite naturally I went to investigate the incident. A young man in his early twentys had been apprehended by a mob who were on the verge of administering mob justice. I promptly intervened to establish the circumstances of his arrest, conviction and the reason for the instant penalty that was about to be imposed by the mob.
It was alleged that the young man had forcibly broken into one of the churches and had stolen a laptop. The evidence was extremely incriminating and compelling – the laptop was actually in the possession of the young man. I was extremely distraught and heartbroken by the story of the young man. He was a university student at Legon and alleged that He was facing dire financial needs in maintaining his studies and had resorted to criminality to make ends meet.
The young man’s actions were, ostensibly, inexcusable and indefensible. I called the police and managed to disperse the angry mob. He was taken away for questioning by the authorities. But for the grace of God and my timely intervention this young man would have been the victim of brutal mob justice – He could be your son or mine.
It is clear that there is serious social inequity in Ghana today. A large number of our young people, JSS graduates, SSS graduates, University graduates and other young people are disillusioned, disenfranchised and disempowered. They are completely marginalised from the mainstreams of society and do not feel a civic sense of responsibility, duty or belonging. The grave tragedy is that business seems to be going on as usual. 2016 is election year and all the parties are now embarking on a feverish electioneering on the campaign trail making grandiose and earth shaking promises and demonising each other. The Emperor Nero, it is alleged was fiddling when Rome was burning. He abnegated himself from responsibility from the prevailing societal crisis and instead victimised the christians for being the cause the social malaise. The real question is : are the political elites really sensitised about the real and actual needs of Ghanaians?
Undoubtedly, in the crucial area of community security well thought policies of prevention and a solution ought to be sought and applied. For a start I cannot understand why military personnel cannot be drafted in to support the police in ensuring the security of the population. The visible presence of the military manning checkpoints on our major road networks could be a serious deterrent to armed robbers on our highways. Clearly the security of our citizens is being seriously threatened by these repugnant miscreants and every arsenal in the Government’s weaponry must be used to flush out this societal bandits.
Armed robbery is a serious threat to the enjoyment of individual freedoms and rights and must be a paramount responsibility of the Government to resolve. Acts of individual bravery and heroism must never be allowed to replace the onerous responsibility of the elected government to ensure the general peace, safety and security of the citizens.
Let us consider the other hypothetical scenario in the incident of the taxi driver intercepting the armed robbers. Imagine what would have happened if the driver had not sufficiently incapacitated these dangerous and diabolical armed robbers? No doubt we will not be celebrating his heroism or mourning his death.
The standard rule of wisdom and prudence is to advise individuals that under no circumstances should they take on armed criminals and put their lives at risk. Armed robbers have no scruples, conscience or moralsthe reality is when they have succeded in their despicable mission of dispossessing individuals of their worldly goods they still maim or kill them to enhance their macho image.
The 1992 constitution provides that the District Assemblies ought to be the pivot of local Government. I have already referred to the unsatisfactory nature of democratic practice, in this esteemed paper. The current system of local governance reinforces the executive dominance of national and local politics in Ghana – Too much power is concentrated in the hands of the Executive President. In spite of this aberration of local democratic governance there are constitution provisions for the operation of District Assemblies. One of the critical functions of the the District Assembly sub-committees, (security and justice) is to ensure that there is total safety and security in the districts to allow and enable individuals to pursue legitimate activities
Community Security Forces ought to be established in all regions and districts in Ghana These organisations could complement the work of the overstretched state security services, especially, the Police Service. Members of the complementary community police service could be selected, appointed and trained to the equivalent training and disciplinary standards of the regular Police Service. They will effectively be called Community Policemen. One of their critical functions could be offering night patrol security service in all communities across the nation.
They could also operate as the eyes and ears of local communities through their surveillance activities. Any unsavoury characters invading the community would easily be identified and interrogated to ascertain the purpose of their presence in the local community.
The Regional and District Assemblies must be creative in generating funds for this important societal institution. Unfortunately society has an unreasonable expectation about what Governments can do. The general belief and perception is that Governments can wave a magic wand to solve all society’s problems. It is true that Governments by virtue of their mandates through elections have a constitutional, statutory and moral duty to deliver the multifaceted needs of society, nonetheless the citizens ought to recognise that every Government regardless of their political philosophy or make up has limited resources – this by no means exonerates the Government for effectively and diligently endeavouring to initiate and implement policies that will be of maximum benefit to the people..
The creation of a Community Police Force will be an unquestionable deterrent institution to criminally minded individuals Whilst the implementation of such a scheme will be laudable as being a preventative and deterrent measure serious policies ought to be pursued to bring the mass of the underclass into the mainstreams of economic activity. The proverbial statement, which is a truism, is that a hungry man is an angry man and furthermore the devil always provides ample work for idle hands.
Ghana has immense potential to develop her economy and create jobs for the mass of unemployed people who are tempted to resort to foul means to make ends meet. Devious and criminal means to survive can under no circumstances be condoned or justified.
The Government, Public, Voluntary, Private Organisations and Charitable institutions must think hard and long on how they can create jobs to significantly reduce youth and other unemployment in our society.
Ghana’s place as the centre of the world has remained hugely untapped. There are some countries in the world whose economy is solely dependent on the tourist industry or a mono cash crop. About two years ago My wife and I visited Barbados in the West Indies a population of less than 500,000 people. I was mesmerised by how well the country was organised and governed. Their sole source of income pales into insignificance compared to Ghana’s vast natural and human resources. The fulcrum of the economy of Barbados is tourism and they have certainly invested in it and made their country a most attractive place to visit.
The tourism potential of Ghana could be hugely tapped. The climate of peace and stability could be used as a magnet to attract foreign investors. A number of years ago We visited Aburi Botanical Gardens and I was horrified by what I saw. What a wasted national asset. The development of the tourist industry could create thousands of jobs.
I have argued hard and long in your highly esteemed newspaper that Ghana needs a commercial agricultural revolution. For far too long, agriculture which is the mainstay of Ghana’s economy has been left to peasant farmers who inspite of their strenuous hard labour, see little financial returns. It is true that cocoa prices and the prices of other cash crops have significantly increased , but the truth is that a large percentage of peasant farmers have maintained the industry through the dint of hard work and grit. The only way of revolutionising this sector is through mechanisation which could potentially exponentially increase our foreign earnings . The huge investment in the agricultural sector could have a positive impact on the labour force and the additional income accrued could be used to diversify economic activity which would directly improve life and employment chances for the people of GHANA.
The critical issue of community safety and security can only be achieved when proper policies are implemented. Ghana is so blessed with natural and human resources that our nation ought to be a shining star in Africa which will make Ghana an exemplar of good practice in all facets of our national life.