“If you don’t allow us to go back to our small-scale mining, we’ll resort to armed robbery.” Before you’ve finished taking in the import of that, you hear, “Since the time of John the Baptist we’ve been selling ill-gotten timber products; if you don’t allow illicit tree felling and selling, we’ll take guns to rob.” You say ‘whaat!’ Just then, ‘okada’ riders say it is only using motorbikes as commercial vehicles that fetch them money to fend for their families. “If the MCE keeps warding us off this loading place, we’re going to advise ourselves, but he should know it is joblessness that brings about armed robbery.” There are more: what about those telling Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie (Sir John) that until he’s able to create additional jobs, he should not dream of shutting down a single job, even if that job is from illegal tree felling?
There is a sense of apprehension against established authority on the supposition that people in power are belching from overfeeding while those outside government and unconnected are yawning to sleep. There is also the supposition that government owes the victim a duty to assuage his or her pain, once a law or policy enforcement affects them. Those who pitch kiosks beside automobile roads and railways without permits expect to be paid millions of Cedis before their unapproved structures are moved to give way to public projects. Our political leaders – of both the New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress stock – haven’t been helping matters. Instead of denying the culprits compensation; instead of actually surcharging them for the cost of demolition and wreckage clearance, governments of these two parties have invariably paid compensation to virtually every frivolous claimant.
Giving policy a human face is the ostensible reason our regimes pay compensation every time structure demolition is effected; some of us know the ballot box is the reason those supposed compensations are paid, however. “Deny them and they penalise you at the next polls,” your close pal in politics will confide in you, if you query the waste.
It is all a matter of there being local and national laws but they not being implemented fully and faithfully. Like snoring bulldogs. Between 2012 and ’14, as an editor at a newsroom that elected to crusade for the poor and voiceless, I got my reporters to do a series of stories on houses, stores, food and cash crop farms that had been destroyed to make way for the dualisation of the Gyan-krom to Apedwa Nkwanta section of the Accra – Kumasi road. Eventually, all applicants – including those who looked so unqualified – were each paid a fat sum. Go and see today: some of those who collected the monies for the supposed loss of property are still occupying parts of the houses and stores left standing. Why? Our laws simply don’t work. When they do, the rules operate half-heartedly or discriminate on ‘whom-you-know’ basis.
“No electricity, no vote” is a refrain that almost everybody is familiar with now. If you take the fact that every nook and cranny of the country deserves to be hooked onto the national grid, you can sympathise with those who agitate thus. But, if you soberly ponder over the fact that we need to follow national and local development plans, and, not do ‘fire-fighting’ haphazard projects; parties in government should steel themselves against this ambushing too. Whenever a desperate regime party has rushed electricity conveying poles to a village swearing to vote with their feet, you can be sure that the power extension will cease, even if the party wins the impending polls. If the party tumbles out of power, the project will stall even longer. Where a project has not been adequately budgeted for, the work can just not be carried through.
Today, those of us 50 years or older can only have fond memories of the good old days when the weather was far less severe even in the hot months. We remember when wild guinea fowls laid eggs behind houses in Accra and women and children made a living just out of boiling the ‘ansaa-wolor’ to sell at the lorry parks. We have nostalgia of impalas straying into village homes in search of water to drink during the dry spells. Today, Ghanaians who get the opportunity to travel to India, any European or even such African countries as Kenya return with stories of squirrels, antelopes, hyenas, giraffes, lions, elephants, parrots and eagles enjoying freedoms in the hearts of cities. But, even guinea fowls we attempted to raise belatedly here escaped to neighbouring Burkina Faso because of ill-treatment. As for the thousands of mammals, birds, insects and fishes that nature endowed this tropical country with, we have aggressively annihilated all of them – virtually.
The issue being drummed home is that law and order has broken down. It is just not now; the fact that it has lived with us for decades does not make it better anyway. Indeed, it worsens our sense of irresponsibility. The Akosombo Dam was built with a lifespan in mind, like any other project. But, every serious student of the project knows that the dam got speedily filled with silt and other unwanted materials because those living along the Volta and Afram rivers were allowed to engage in unsustainable farming and other activities too close to the water. That is why the dam basin can contain less water than it used to and why it dries up so rampantly that, today, we have to rely more on other sources of energy than hydro. Similar reason explains why Accra West goes thirsty every December to May: the Densu from which water is picked and served consumers has been abused almost to the point of death. Eject the squatters along the Densu and you are tagged to be anti a certain tribe, and, you are surely going to be punished at the next polls.
Gordon Guggisberg, the Caucasian governor of the Gold Coast, annexed the Aburi Hills as a forest reserve for ecological balance and to save Accra from avalanches of debris from the hills. Today, high society people have congested the Aburi Hills with all manner of structures. And, the fatal flooding of the Odaw River and its tributaries in Accra are partly the result of that breach of an old law enforced by a foreigner.
Ghana Today, in an earlier edition this year, recalled how the Akufo-Addo regime had been met by Ghanaians, January last year, with great expectations. That article captioned Things Fall Apart noted that too many bad things are now happening in rapid succession. Next, we proceeded to compare the fortunes of two new nations that started life afresh about 60 years ago: Ghana and Singapore. That was last week’s Tale of 2 Countries, which showed how Singapore has parachuted herself into the comity of First World Countries, while Ghana oscillates between Lower Middle Income and Third World. This episode, like many in the past, mirrors some of our crass behaviours as a people and blames our governments for lacking, taflatse, balls to nip our nonsense in the bud.
Crack the whip!
This article seeks to urge this and subsequent governments to apply the rules with little or no compromise. You don’t have to create a million jobs before you stop galamsey. You stop a crime because you have to stop it. You engender job avenues because you have been elected, among other things, so to do. At every given time, the largest group of nation wreckers can be those purporting to be supporting regime parties. They claim their party has come to power for them to enjoy; to wit, to enjoy rights, privileges and booty without any responsibilities whatsoever. For this and every subsequent government to succeed, they need to rein in their unruly supporters and treat all offenders equally.
We have a nation to build. The task is arduous. Neglecting or trivializing it can have dire consequences. And the Akufo-Addo regime had better come to full terms with the enormity of the challenge and the Ghanaian it is dealing with. You want to find out how failure of our attempts to rebuild and salvage Ghana would look like? Just take water in this post I picked from the whatsapp platform of the respected ‘Friends of the Ghana Association of Writers’. Title: Water
Grand Father saw it in River; Father saw it in Well; We saw it in Taps; Our Children see it in Bottle; Where will our Grand Children see it? In CAPSULES!!! If we still neglect it, it will be seen only in Tears.
…with A. C. Ohene (firstname.lastname@example.org)