I always complain bitterly to a close friend of mine that the one fundamental problem plaguing our dear nation, Ghana, is our gross inability, our deliberate and stubborn refusal to obey simple rules and regulations. Need I say, we are a nation of non-conformists, a collection of unruly law breakers.
Time and time again, the fact that we consistently ignore rules put in place by authorities for our own good --- safety and welfare --- leads to situations that we cannot control, ultimately putting our neighbors and society in mortal danger.
I am making this brutal, but honest assertion about our behavior against the backdrop of Saturday's gas explosion at Atomic Junction which killed seven people and injured 132 others.
Sadly, the ramifications of the explosion will linger on long after the dead are buried and the nation returns to normalcy. Seven families will have to deal with the disruption that comes with the untimely death of loved ones, in some cases breadwinners; the injured will face challenges of rehabilitation and recovery and the inevitable huge medical debts.
And, lest we forget, the poor owner of the gas station will have to start all over again from the ashes of his vanquished property. It is surely going to be an uphill task for all those affected by the latest gas blast.
Anytime a tragedy of the kind that occurred over the weekend happens --- a gas station erupting in flames and innocent Ghanaian lives are prematurely snuffed out, some fundamental questions immediately arise.
Could the explosion and the ensuing tragedy, the eighth such accident in three years, have been largely averted if laid down rule had simply been followed? Or better still, if authorities had strictly enforced the laws they wrote regarding the licensing, safety and location of gas stations, would we, once again, be mourning the loss of our fellow citizens and wondering what else is going to go up in flames and destroy lives?
We will never know the precise answers to the two questions, but chances are that the accident, if it could not have been prevented altogether, could perhaps have been minimized.
Predictably, official response to the latest gas explosion has been lamentation and hand wringing mixed with offers of relief to the victims, and a promise by the President, Mr. Akuffo Addo, that this will the last gas explosion in the country.
"It is time these incidents came to a stop in Ghana. We cannot continue with them," the President said.
His deputy, Vice President, Dr. Bawumia, visiting the scene of the explosion assured Ghanaians that the this time around, the government will do the right thing. "We will move quickly to implement policies. We have an idea on what to do."
Heartwarming consolation remarks by the two gentlemen; it is really nice to know the government is mulling enacting policies to combat the menace of gas explosions.
However, if this latest explosion is the eighth in three years as Mr. Bawumia rightly pointed out, why has it taken his government so long to react? I guess preventing gas explosions was never on the NPP's agenda until the latest tragedy snapped it out of its deep slumber.
My hope is that the government is willing to go the distance, that is, enact policies that will make it hard to acquire gas stations on the fly as evident by the ease with which some highly placed government officials bought gas stations and located them in densely populated neighborhoods.
In addition, any policy should be complemented by a strict enforcement of safety regulations. Many gas stations owners are honest businessmen and women, but there are others who take advantage of the lax enforcement environment in Ghana to flout rules and endanger our society. These elements must be brought to book and dealt with accordingly.
Despite our politics, we all agree that gas explosions are fast becoming a disturbing and frightening feature in our daily lives, and something drastic must be done promptly to address this threat before more lives are cut short and properties destroyed.