“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my father’s house into a market!” John 2;15-16
Politically adroit, superlatively ingenious, environmentally sagacious, economically dexterous, a socially-inspired masterpiece, divinely-motivated stroke of genius, attractively-packaged tour de force, an unalloyed work of pure genius…
Simmer down, my brother, what are all the big grammar for? You will break my head, o!
You! Where have you been? Why do you always vamoose when the big things are happening?
Big things, what big things, what exactly are you blowing all those grammar for?
My brother, I believe in giving praises where and when it is due; unlike some people that I know.
Your pull-down will get you everywhere. But what exactly are you waxing lyrical about?
Ah, you. Where on earth have you been? Didn’t you see the whole Mayor of Accra on the street personally driving hawkers of the streets? The man deserve a national award. Ah! The president should make him a minister; even a vice-president. I didn’t know that we have such patriotic, energetic and intelligent leaders in our dear land.
You! Is that what excited you so much that you have to expend all those big grammar?
For your information, Mr. President has announced his cabinet, and when did you hear that there was vacancy at the vice-presidency? So, a Mayor drives hawkers off the street, and that is enough to make you giddy with so much excitement that you have to expend all those big grammar?
Can you ever be satisfied? When will you learn to give kudos when and where it is due? You have written so many articles to castigate our officials for not doing their jobs. You have written uncountable pieces to wail against street-trading. And now, the whole Mayor went out to do precisely what you advocated and you still will not give him some praises. You are simply impossible!
I am very sorry that you felt that way. The action of the Mayor you so described is exactly what I railed against. We need solid institutions and policies to tackle problem, not some Mayoral fire-brigade approach.
You are simply impossible. So you don’t find it praiseworthy that the Mayor left the comfort of his office to go and bring sanity to our streets? Have you not been to Accra recently or are you too blind to see the transformations wrought on the capital.
Transformation, what transformation are you talking about? Which Accra are you referring to?
Please, please let us learn to give honours where they are due. You have always written to castigate officials for not doing their jobs. Today, we have an ultra-energetic, superbly-motivated Mayor who pulls all stops to bring sanity to the hawking problems of the capital, and you cannot even be charitable enough to heap some praises. The man left the comfort of his office to personally supervise the driving away of hawkers from the streets, and you don’t think that is praise worthy! Whilst you were resting comfortably in your house, the whole mayor of Accra was sweating on the streets, chasing the hawkers and the other ragamuffins defacing our national capital. And you cannot praise him!
You are not been fair to me at all. I have had occasions to salute our officials where I thought they merited it. But a mayor chasing hawkers on the streets to me is simply wasting his time. Those types of showy showmanship belongs in the movies.
But you have written loads of articles to complain about the problem of hawking in Accra.
So I have.
And you don’t believe the mayor is doing it right?
No, I don’t.
What on earth would it take to please you? You are really a hard-hat, do you know that?
I am so sorry you felt that way. If you have really read what I’ve written I’m sure that you won’t feel that way. I have also railed against our fire-men approach to serious issues…
Fire-men approach, what is that?
Fire-men are called out in emergency to put out fire. That is reactive. What we need and what I have consistently advocated is that our officials should be more proactive. They should sit down, make good policies and ensure that they are implemented. That’s all. A Mayor that chases hawkers on the streets is wasting his time and, to tell you the truth, is a complete disgrace to his Mayoral office. A Mayor’s time should be more valuable than to be wasted chasing miscreants on the streets. Gosh, what are the City Guards supposed to do when the whole mayor is chasing hawkers?
What do you mean?
Have you not been following what I was saying?
But I thought the Mayor was setting good example by leading from the front, as the military people will put it.
I think you get your military analogy all wrong. Except in few armies, Generals are hardly found at the front line. Generals are mostly esconded in command and control bunkers, where they busy themselves to set up strategies and adjust tactics to suit situational imperatives. Generals are very expensive pieces and are deployed with the utmost care. Have you sat down to consider what calamity would have befell the city had one crazed miscreant decided to visit violence on the Mayor? I wonder why our officials are always so security unconscious.
Yes, ah! A Mayor leading charges against hawkers imperils his life. We live in a dangerous world, and many citizens are too stressed out by the economic hardship that they might decide to become violent. But that’s not my main gripe about the whole thing.
And what would that be?
My main gripe is that our officials tend to mistake gyrations for motions; confuse momentums for solid movements and think that smokes are solid substance. They believe that as long as people can see that they are doing something, however silly, then they must be doing something right. That is our main problem in this country. We have ministers who are paid to manage ministries and assist Mr. President jumping from radio station to radio station running their mouth. They believe that they are doing great job by the amount of high decibel noise they can make on the airwaves. Nowadays, we have so-called Political Scientists at our universities, who are paid to teach students, but has now turned themselves into reviewers of the junksheets we call newspapers in this part of the world. The job of a Mayor is an onerous one, and it is one that calls for very strong administrative skills. It is his job to run the complex machineries of the city. This involves setting up the structures, institutions and the policies to make all the intricate parts run smoothly. It is more of a brain job than a brawn one. His job includes employing the people to man the various institutions to run the city. A mayor should have better employment for his time than to go on the streets to chase hawkers. He will only get lost without seeing the whole picture. Let’s not even talk of the financial loss. The Mayoral paycheck is far too fat for him to turn himself into a City Guard.
All you said could be true, but the Mayor also has to let the people see that he is performing…
No, he doesn’t. His performance should be so self-evident that people will know that he’s performing. His achievements should speak for him. His records of achievements should be his best trumpet.
But unlike you, some would like to see the Mayor performing.
You keep mentioning performing without actually saying what exactly you meant. If you meant that by chasing hawkers the Mayor is performing, I say that is utterly a wrong way to appraise a mayor. Apart from looking good on television, what exactly has the Mayor’s ill-advised and utterly stupid pyrotechnics achieved? Nothing, if you ask me. Were the hawkers driven off the streets of Accra? Yes, they were for a day or two. Today, they are back, with a vengeance. The menace of street-hawking is back like the mayor never did a darn thing.
But at least he did his best.
I certainly hope that was not the best he’s capable of doing. I think among our biggest problems in this country is that we are, like children, easily pleased. We are menaced by people who break laws to take over our streets, including pavements meant for you and I. But rather than demand that they be moved, we are dazzled and appeased by the Mayor of Accra, sweating profusely as he chased hawkers. He will go back to office where fawning officials will pat him on the back for a job well done. People like you will sing his praises to high heavens. Has the problem been solved? Of course, not. This, precisely, is our tragedy in this country.
What then do you suggest we do to get rid of the hawkers?
It looks quite simple to me. It is simply a question of enforcements of the laws. Part of our problems is that we enact laws but we fail to adequately enforce them. It is like our officials are afraid of enforcing our laws. In some societies that I know, officials enforce laws without fair or favour. It is time that we realize that it is the penalties that they will suffer that dissuade people from wilfully breaking the law. It is the fear of paying heavy fines that made people comport themselves when they decide to live in a civilized environment. But in our case, we spend time and money enacting laws which we left to gather dust without enforcing them. It is the knowledge that our officials lack the will to enforce existing laws that make people break them at will. We enact the laws without setting up adequate structures to ensure their enforcement, which goes to defeat the whole purpose. And we then left it to the Mayor to go around with his populous beard to try and enforce them. This is crappy.
You still didn’t say what exactly you will do in his position.
Ah! What I will do in his position is to sit with my colleagues and plan on how to implement our laws on environment and sanitation. We will strengthen the laws where they needed to be strengthened. We will enact new ones where necessary. But then we will put emphasis on enforcing all our laws to the letter without fair and without favour. In the case of street-hawking, it is quite simple. The penalties should be so heavy that few would like to pay it. If they do not exist, I will set up special courts to tackle the problem. The courts will be presided over by Special Magistrates, with powers to sit at all hours of the day, and on weekends and holidays. What I will do then is to divide the city into special zones and appoint Special Commissioner for street-hawking for each zones. Their remit would be to clear the city of hawkers within three months. They will have the power to appoint and train Guards to manage their zones. A coordinator will oversee their activities and update me accordingly. Do you know what is so regrettable about the whole thing?
You tell me.
All I said are actually not new ideas at all. Those of us old enough will remember the Health Inspector we had in the olden days. They had the powers to enter any premises and conduct inspections, and they also had the power to impose sanctions and fines. I remember how we use to be so afraid of them that we kept our houses spanking clean all year round. For reasons best known to us, we jettisoned the system, today most of our houses are pure hovels, and our streets are so dirty they will not meet the standards for pig pens in some countries. Nostalgia is not what it used to be.