Ever since the declaration of the partial lockdown by His Excellency the President, I had gone out to town only once. That was in the company of a brother who offered to help me obtain some essentials from the shopping mall and this was in the middle of the initial two weeks.
An emergency from the office over the Easter weekend required that I undertook a working visit to the company’s subsidiary at Sogakope and Tema last Sunday. To be able to undertake this, I needed to obtain a National Security pass for the purpose and I was assigned one.
As I drove out Sunday morning for Sogakope, I noticed that there were quite a number of security checkpoints along the route. Between Pokuase and Tetteh Quarshie, for example, were six checkpoints manned by both police officers and military men. I found them to be largely courteous and professional. I was however very disappointed about the huge number of vehicles that were moving into town, for what, no one could understand. Yet at each of the checkpoints, they invariably managed to convince the officers to allow them pass through, except for a few vehicles (mostly commercial ones) that got turned back.
From the Tetteh Quarshie interchange, I went through four more checkpoints before a major checkpoint at the former Tsopoli which had been designated as the barrier out of the region for this crisis period. I witnessed a very interesting spectacle from the motorway and Community 25. There was this Daewoo Matiz car along the route. The driver who was a lady had a daughter of about four years in the back seat. I noticed that anytime we approached a checkpoint, she’d ask the girl to lie on the seat. At the checkpoint, she’d tell the security officers something that always caused them to look at the girl and motion her to move. Immediately after crossing the checkpoint, the girl will sit up again until the next checkpoint where the process would be repeated. I suspect she kept telling them that the girl was unwell and she did this until Community 25 Mall where she branched off. Who was she trying to fool and how many of her kind were on the roads trying to have their way by playing all manner of tricks on our security personnel?
Back to my story, the Tsopoli barrier had a lot more officers there which was very understandable. Even though I had the National Security safety pass, the officers wanted to be sure that I had a very legitimate reason to go out of the region before allowing to go through the checkpoint. In all of this, they were very polite. Between Tsopoli and Sogakope, I encountered a number of interesting spectacles. To begin with, the road was virtually dead of human and vehicular presence. You could drive for about fifteen minutes without encountering any human being or a lonely vehicle. Greater Accra was indeed under lockdown and it was showing here. How I wished the city of Accra would comply with the lockdown in this manner but, no!
Between Dawa and Ada, there were a series of over twenty different sets of concrete sped ramps. During my last visit to Sogakope a few months ago, the only road impediments were a number of speed tables but this time, for whatever reason, there were deadly road ramps which appeared to have been constructed by the local townsfolk within the last two to three months. They had a height of between 75mm (3 inches) and 150mm (6 inches). So deadly was it that even for a Hardbody Pick-up it was not easy traversing them. If nothing is done about those deadly concrete road ramps, a lot of accidents would occur at that section of the highway.
At Sege, Addokope and Ada, I realised that the Ministry of Local Government through the District Assembly had placed several blue Veronica Buckets (complete with liquid soap, tissue and alcohol-based sanitizers) at the public places for use by the public. They had also positioned many 240L waste containers across the localities. Much as I was so impressed by the efforts of the Ada East, Ada West (Sege) and South Tongu District Assemblies who had been very proactive in their fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
My excitement about the authorities of these towns was soon to give way. The residents of the towns did not in any way appear bothered about any impending pandemic in their towns. From Dawenya, Tsopoli, Dawa, Sege, through Addokope, Ada, Morkordze, Sokpoe to Sogakope, they were conducting everything as though nothing had happened. They shook hands, patted themselves, undertook their everyday business as if they were not in this world. Their ‘trotros’ continue to pack passengers as if there was no pandemic. Indeed, across all these towns, I noticed no more than ten people using the nose mask and the physical or social distancing protocol had no place there.
On my return trip, I noticed something I found extremely disappointing. Most of the checkpoints that had been rigorously manned in the morning were either totally abandoned or manned by personal who casually checked the vehicles. The checkpoints at the Tema Oil Refinery, Achimota School Police Station, Kisseiman (near Pure Fire Ministries) and GIMPA-Legon bypass were all completely abandoned while the ones at Kwabenya Police Station and Kwabenya roundabout were undertaking their checks very casually. I found it a bit surprising that from Kpone barrier though the Kpone township through the Heavy Industrial Area all the way to the VALCO Roundabout, there was no checkpoint all. Obviously, the absence of adequate checkpoints made it easier for many commercial drivers who wanted to evade checkpoints to use that route.
There was a checkpoint at Haatso junction which was heavily manned. As we approached the Legon-Kwabenya intersection from the Westlands Boulevard, I noticed that a number of the vehicles branched off into the taxi rank, moved towards the Haatso Central chapel of The Church of Pentecost and turned back to the Haatso junction. By that, they were able to avoid the checkpoint. I kept wondering what had gone into the siting of the checkpoint and whether they had anticipated such misbehaviours.
Between Kwabenya Down and Pokuase town junction, there was only one checkpoint located at the ACP junction up the hill. When I got there, the only police officer present had apprehended a driver using an unregistered vehicle. He appeared much more enthusiastic about that vehicle and thus waved all the other vehicles to proceed as he went to his ‘prey’.
As I pondered over the matter of the security personnel, I wondered what was going to happen if the COVID-19 situation were to continue beyond two weeks and how the security personnel were going to be able to enforce the presidential directives without being able to rein citizens in using the methods regular to them, which are mostly frowned upon by the constitution.
Ghana and indeed is a technically at war with this COVID-19 and this is one war that we must win at all cost if life is to revert to normal. I am therefore wondering if we’d be able to win it while still enjoying our usual constitutional freedoms and liberties the way some of us are insisting we want to.
Let us open our eyes to the realities of the times and make the necessary sacrifices to enable us win the war and soonest.
My dear friend,