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From ‘Fill it!’ to ‘Stooopp! (STOP)’

BY: Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (Retd)
A fuel attendant in the process of filling a vehicle
A fuel attendant in the process of filling a vehicle

When I told my classmates at our monthly meeting during the week about my encounter with a young lady attendant at a filling-station recently, rather than sympathise with me, they had a hearty laugh at my predicament.

Diesel/Petrol engines

In the early 1970s when I was taught about diesel and petrol engines as part of my basic Armoured Reconnaissance (Recce) training, I recall my instructor tell us it was unsafe for one to allow the fuel gauge of diesel engine vehicles to go low because of “air-lock!”. Probably to compensate for this, diesel burnt more slowly than petrol and was therefore cheaper. So, haulage trucks and big vehicles all used diesel. Cars generally used petrol. Diesel cars in Ghana were rare at the time.

Indeed, when my friend Malam brought home a diesel car in the 1980s, a filling-station attendant filled it with petrol for him as he chatted with a friend. When the error was pointed out to him, the surprised attendant said “master, cars don’t use diesel, only trucks do,” convinced that Malam was wrong!

Encounter

When I started using my diesel pick-up a decade ago, I told myself that, my fuel gauge would never go below half-tank, armed with my knowledge forty years earlier about “air-lock.”

On my way home recently after church, I decided to top up my tank as my gauge read half full. The polite young lady attendant asked “daddy, how much?” Having checked my momo balance to read a healthy eight-hundred Ghana cedis, I confidently told her “fill it!” I could see surprise on her face as she smiled broadly at me. I guessed she had not heard the instruction “fill it” for a while.

What I did not factor into my decision to fill my tank was that, the price of diesel had jumped to over twenty-three cedis per litre that morning. As she crossed six-hundred Ghana cedis, I started getting uncomfortable with embarrassment staring me in the face when I realised I had underestimated, and that my eight hundred Ghana cedis momo could not fill my half-tank.
Therefore, at seven-hundred Ghana cedis, I yelled in a parade-ground command manner at the lady, “Stoooppp! (STOP). The amused young lady burst into laughter seeing my confident “fill it” evaporate and replaced by a desperate “Stoooppp” at seven hundred cedis!

Smiling back at her, I consoled myself that, after all doesn’t the Spanish proverb say “a wise man changes his mind, a fool never will?” Indeed, Proverbs 12:15 states that, “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise!”

Analysis

Elsewhere, including our western neighbour Ivory Coast, diesel price is lower than petrol. This is because, among others, most if not all the trucks which haul food to the urban areas use diesel. An increase in the price of diesel ends up being passed to the consumer in terms of food, transportation, indeed everything.

Many questions have been asked about the sustainability of the recent plantain sale at the Ministries, Accra. During our meeting, classmates whose wives do their marketing at Madina, Achimota, Tema and other markets asked how workable the ministries plantain sales were, if fuel, particularly price of diesel, remains so high in Ghana.

A recent release states that some filling-stations have in addition to the already high fuel price, adjusted their machines to cheat buyers by giving us less fuel than we pay for! The public has therefore been advised to buy fuel in litres, and then calculate what to pay by multiplying the number of litres by the displayed price!

As a frustrated presenter asked recently “What kind of people are we?”

A quote in my article “October 2022” states, “In Lower Sixth-Form in 1970, the subject “Inflation” was taught us in our General Paper class by a young teacher we all called “Archie.” He taught us that, in inflationary times, pensioners suffer most because while prices rise, pensions remain constant! The value of pensions thus gets whittled away as the same amount of money buys fewer goods and services. If we thought we understood Archie then, now we understand him better! Analysis

I wish I could find our teacher Archie to tell him that, as retirees, we now understand better, what we thought we did when he taught us “Inflation” in Lower Sixth-Form in 1970. To say things are tough, is an understatement. From 200 Ghana cedis a pack of 30 tablets for my monthly medication in September 2022, it went to 368 Ghana cedis in October. In week two of November, I bought a pack for 479 cedis with no end in sight, according to the pharmacist! On her part, my “Manager’s” complaint was that, one “koobi” (salted tilapia) was 25 Ghana cedis from 15 Ghana cedis last week!

But did it have to come to this, when Rwanda and Botswana are weathering the storm reasonably?”

Mind-change

Changing one’s mind for the better does not mean weakness. Indeed, it rather shows strength. Shouting “stoooopppp” to the filling attendant when I realised I was heading for embarrassment with my initial instruction of “fill it” did not demean me in any way.

I have difficulty understanding why as of December 5, 2022, a gallon of diesel in Ivory Coast which has fought a civil war should sell for the equivalent of $3.96 and $5.8 in peaceful Ghana with no civil war history. Are we not supposed to be an oil exporter after winning our dispute against Ivory Coast on ownership of part of the oil fields south of Cape Three Points, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague?

Contrary to what some think, the military teaches us to avoid rigidity in thinking sometimes based on arrogance, and be flexible when taking casualties in battle/war after initial plans fail! Failing that, we are court-martialed!

Probably, our managers can learn from the military, the Spanish proverb, and Proverbs 12:15.
Leadership, lead!

Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
The Writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra E-mail:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.