Ghanaians woke up Thursday morning to the horrific news of nine people losing their lives in a stampede that ensued after confusion broke out during a night jam to mark Eid-ul-Fitr at Asawase in the Ashanti Region. Eid-ul-Fitr is observed by Muslims worldwide to mark the end of Ramadan, which is a 30 day obligatory dawn to dusk fasting, where they restrain from food and water and other fleshly desires. The Eid or Sallah as it is popularly called is therefore an occasion for the adherents of the Islamic faith to rejoice over their triumph over hunger, thirst and most importantly, sin. For such an occasion to turn tragic is to say the least very pathetic and regrettable. This however calls for the need to take a second look at how such occasions are observed. Time and again, the youth have been advised to celebrate such festivals in moderation, but they often turn deaf ears to such calls.
One characteristic of Eid celebrations which has over time been a nuisance to society is the reckless riding of motorbikes, especially by the youth. It has taken the Police a lot of effort to bring the situation to some appreciable level of control. In the past, many lives were lost through accidents as a result of such irresponsible motor riding. As the Police intensify their effort to bring such lawlessness under total control, the Eid celebrations, just as all other celebrations including Christmas, Easter, and Valentine's Day have assumed a different mode and form. Beaches and drinking spots have now become celebration grounds. Even though investigations are still ongoing, it will not be farfetched to suggest that some of the people in there might have been intoxicated. Of course, it is true that it was an occasion for Muslims, and by Quaranic teachings, Muslims do not patronize alcohol. As to whether every Muslim abides by that teaching is a different ball game. The point must also be made that the emergency exit at the community centre where the jams were being held leads to a drinking spot. No matter how one looks at it, Eid has assumed a secular dimension, and to that extent, all manner of people including non-Muslims actively take part in the celebrations. The unfortunate incident at Asawase should be a wakeup call to all that religious activities ought to be kept as sacred as they are supposed to be.
The situation where Easter, Christmas and Eid become days for promiscuity, alcoholism, smoking and other negative conduct and vices should be a thing of the past. According to some sources, Eid is supposed to be held at open fields and big halls, especially in the morning, to be followed by merry-making, characterized by sharing of meals and visits to friends and relatives. This concept of night jams is alien and an adulteration of the objective of the occasion. What is even most unfortunate about the Asawase incident is the fact that, the authorities there, by divine guidance or whatever, foresaw such a situation and therefore ordered that there be no after party activity at the town park where the eid prayers were held. They went a step further by locking the gates to the field and deploying security personnel to protect the area. But unfortunately, the youth had other options as they invaded the community centre built many years ago to accommodate just about five hundred people. Ultimately, there was massive overcrowding. The autopsy showed that the nine people who lost their lives, died from suffocation. Going forward, religious authorities, the law enforcement agencies; particularly the Police and local traditional and political leaders must re-double their efforts in ensuring sanity in our societies.
We cannot allow our citizens to die such needless and avoidable deaths. May the dead rest in peace, and to the injured we say, speedy recovery.
BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.