Friday, 11 November 2011

Thank God for Spintex Road Traffic

Yes, you read that right. Every word in the headline is exactly as I meant it to be and the meaning is as straightforward as it could possibly be. I am thanking God, who in his infinite wisdom, created the Spintex Road, pointless as it may appear to you and me, and endowed it with traffic; lots of traffic. For years I have railed against the selfsame traffic and bemoaned its existence as a barrier to human progress and happiness. I realize that I was only seeing through a glass darkly: now that I can see the full picture I am thanking the Creator for the traffic on the Spintex Road and praying for more.

The discerning reader will be right to wonder whether I have taken leave of my senses. No, I have not, but I have now seen the light and I can explain it all. Fact: the Spintex Road has more suicide drivers than there are suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. If you don’t believe me come to the Spintex Road on a Sunday morning between seven and nine, and you will also praise God for the same reason that I am singing Him hymns and encomiums.

Last Sunday, I was on the Spintex Road at about eight in the morning and that accursed piece of earth was unusually empty. You would think that would be a good thing. Wrong. It was a bad thing because the suicide drivers who are normally restrained by the traffic had unimpeded access to open road, which apparently heightens their urge not only to kill themselves but to take out any and every mortal being within their sphere of influence.

Perhaps a bit of background will help make sense of what I am saying. For reasons that are too long to get into, the Spintex Road is home to some of the owners of the most monstrous motor vehicles known to man and woman. These vehicles, often off-road, sports utility and crossover vehicles are used in serious countries for rallies and driving in difficult terrain. In Ghana they are driven on city roads. Unfortunately, they are not evenly distributed in our city but are over-represented in estates dotted around the Spintex Road.

This can be explained easily. The Spintex Road area is a very young part of the Accra-Tema conurbation that forms the major part of the Greater Accra Region. The area is therefore home to a large dose of  new wealth as opposed to old wealth which is found elsewhere in the metropolis. The people with this new wealth are sometimes classified as the nouveau riche, or pejoratively known as parvenu, defined as a person who has suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it.

One of the main characteristics of the parvenu is to flaunt their wealth on the principle that wealth MUST be flaunted. Thus, the nouveau riche and the 4 x 4s are made for each other, for in what better way can you flaunt new wealth than by investing in a vehicles that is meant to flaunt. Let me explain in parenthesis that  that many people own 4 x 4s and use them in appropriate ways such as travelling often to places where only off-roaders can survive, and many drive them with care and respect for other people. Unfortunately, not many such decent folk appear to live on the Spintex Road.

On any other day apart from Sunday, the Spintex Road is full of traffic, so in order to flaunt wealth and power our nouveau riche friends just break the rules either by driving right smack in the middle of the road with all lights blazing or the drive along the edges of the road. The effect of either maneuver is to intimidate other drivers out of the way. However, there is a limit to such intimidation because from the other direction comes salvation in the form of articulated trucks against whom even these determined intimidators suddenly become shy.

It is different on Sundays. Most articulated truck drivers apparently lie in on Sunday mornings, or perhaps decide to use the Accra-Tema Motorway; ditto for buses and tro-tro vehicles, whose owners demand that their vehicles observe at least half of the Sabbath. Therefore, Sunday morning on the Spintex Road should by right be peaceful, and usually is.

However, this Sunday peace is often shattered by suicide drivers who feel that the open space is an invitation to kill as many people as possible on the road. How else do we explain the behavior of a driver travelling in apparent fury at a speed of at least 100 miles per hour on the Spintex Road? If any child, man, woman, or beast should ventures forth across their path, such creatures would be crushed to such death that the pictures of their corpses would make it to the ritual display of dead bodies on the front page of the Daily Guide.

Dear reader, you may wonder where our esteemed police personnel would be while the law is broken with such impunity. The short answer is that they are not there. Perhaps, another backgrounder is called for. In Ghana, the police force is largely absent from our lives on Sundays. The force also goes to worship God, or washes its clothes or simply watches football. The force takes a break with the rest of us on Sundays. I think it is largely a good idea that criminals also choose to observe the Sabbath on Sundays.

It is not as if our Police Service is proactive on the other six days where the Spintex Road is concerned. A few months ago, a police spokesman was sounding off in a radio studio about how the force would clamp down on powerful people who use their powerful vehicles to intimidate other drivers off the road. I wrote about it in this column and expressed the view that what the police officer was saying was mere hot air. So it was. The police have failed to exercise their responsibilities on behalf of the poor and the weak on the Spintex Road and allowed those who feel they have a right to be above the law to be so in fact.

Last Sunday, in the time it would take to count ten, about six SUVs had passed from Cylinder to Flowerpot (places along the Spintex Road are given funny names by tro-tro mates). It would take at least 30 minutes on a normal working day to cover the same distance and about an hour to do it on Saturdays. It takes time to go from point A to point B on the Spintex Road on a normal police-abandoned day but the chances of a poor child being killed by a wealth-vaunting nouveau riche driver in an ultra powerful vehicle are reduced by the traffic.

On Sundays there is no such traffic so suicide drivers have the opportunity to express themselves. Imagine if every day was like Sunday on the Spintex Road! This is why we have to thank God for small and big mercies and for the constant traffic on the Spintex Road. After all, the Almighty knows a thing or two about the Ghanaian, who is allegedly among His creation.

1 comment:

  1. You are right! When I moved with my family in 2000 to live near Akuaba Estate, on the Spintex road, there was hardly any traffic then but hardly a day passed without a serious accident. Verily, verily, God encourages us to give thanks in ALL circumstances including Spintex Road traffic. By the way, where is the dual carriage way that some politicians promised about 10 years ago following the collapse of the bridge near Papaye during one those flood creating Accra rainstorms?