TALKING DRUM: Asawase Stampede & a Lesson Mecca Offers Us

Asawase Comm Center

At the sight of an old woman, what quickly comes to mind is what the Igbos of Nigeria say, that she feels uneasy at the mention of dry bones in a proverb.

Indeed, whenever we as Ghanaians hear of innocent souls perishing as it has happened at Asawase, in the Asante region, we feel uneasy. It reminds us of many unfortunate situations that have claimed hundreds of lives here in Ghana.

Yesterday, we woke up to the news that at least nine people have died at the Muslim community- Asawase, following a stampede when our brothers and sisters there were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr.

Reports are not yet clear as to what exactly caused the stampede leading to these nine people dying. However, some media reports I have read and heard have tried to explain what may have possibly caused the disaster.

While some of these reports said that the stampede was caused by the celebrants rushing out of the Asawase community center, after the show, because of power outage, others had it that the it was caused by a false alarm that some people were planning to instigate a fight.

The police are yet to bring to bear the actual cause of the stampede which led to the loss of souls. While this investigation goes on, it is only right we stand with our Muslim fraternity in sending them our condolences for whether it was an egg that fell on a rock or the other way round, the harm has been caused.

We will, however, not take the work of the police from them as the pain associated with this kind of disasters at times forces us to do so. Nonetheless, asking some critical questions, reflecting on the past and effectively planning for the future to prevent another happening will not be a distraction to the police. Will it?

Although the Asawase accounts varies, one thing cuts across all the media reports. That, the community center had only one opening, which served as both the entrance and exit point.

This is one crucial factor we must all take into consideration as a nation. For most of our entertainment and recreational centers, offices and other edifices, one would hardly see a double-exit point.

A look through historical window reveals that this problem of inadequate exit points at such public places contributed to the infamous May 9 disaster which happened at the Accra Sports Stadium. Here, over hundred lives were lost. Sad!

Former United States President, Abraham Lincoln once said that
“My concern is not whether you have failed. My concern is whether you are content with your failure.”

As a nation do we need to be told that we have failed in some aspects in our lives? Well, I honestly think we don’t need to be told. It is evidently clear. My question, like Abraham Lincoln, is that are we content with our failures?

My instinct tells me you may dispute my assertion that we have failed somewhere. So, why don’t you spare me the next paragraph to highlight but a few of the numerous failures?

Hello there, have we not failed in waste management (sanitation)? What about flood management, and eradication of ‘small’ but killer diseases such as malaria and cholera?

The issue of getting our public places right to prevent deaths has come to add to the list of our problems, which like the game of dancing chairs, we dance around it without finding solution to it. It seems normal. Doesn’t it?

Here, in Ghana, matters arising take at most two weeks to vanish from the tables of the journalist who is supposed to drum home that which troubles the masses. He who wants to be called a prophet(ess) could easily predict that Asawase has but few more days to be striped of the media talk.

Elsewhere, a misfortune is taken as serious and given the necessary attention to ensure it does not repeat itself. Even in the case of a worst scenario should such misfortunes recur, measures are put in place to make their impact minimal.

I will not take you far in giving you a typical example of how other people are thinking outside the box to protect lives and property. In an Aljazeera report dated June 30, 2016 and titled “Hajj 2016: Saudi Arabia introduces bracelets for safety,” the story had it that these bracelets were partly a solution to last year’s deaths.

Last year, 769 pilgrims who had travelled to Mecca lost their lives to a stampede. For this, the electronic identification bracelet introduced by Saudi Arabia was/is to be given to every pilgrim heading to Mecca.

The Aljazeera report said the e-bracelet contains one’s personal and medical information that would help authorities to provide care and identify the pilgrim’s movement.

This is Mecca’s lesson to us. If you asked me whether we also need an e-bracelet, my answer will be no. We don’t need it. However, we need the basic things that could save our lives first. Yes, basic things such as ensuring that our public places have friendly exit points, fire extinguishers among others.

Basic things such as completely constructing the drains for free flow of flood water before we come out to declare that our cities will know no floods again.

The Asawase disaster is a reminder that we must wake up as a nation, for the sleep that last from one market day to the other day turns to be death.

By Solomon Mensah|3FM|

The writer is a broadcast journalist with 3FM 92.7. This piece remains solely his opinion and not that of his media organization.

Email: [email protected]


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