THE IRONY UNDERLYING DEMOCRATIC POLITICS
By CAMERON DUODU
IN July 2016 a scientist of the University of Cape Coast tole me that Ghana’s main water-bodies will almost all have been destroyed in the next five years, if things go on the way they are going.
“What? Five years?” I asked sceptically.
“Yes!” he confirmed. “Five years. Our water situation will be dire! ”
I was completely dumbfounded. Scientific information of such a definitive nature was available in Ghana and yet galamsey – the cause of the destruction of our water-bodies – was still going on?
I probed: “Is the Government of Ghana aware of this situation?”
“Yes,” answered the scientist. “If you go to the Institute of Aquatic Biology, you will find that they’ve got reports saying precisely what I am saying. They are a body whose research is paid for by the people of Ghana and so they are required routinely to send copies of their reports to the Ministries and departments responsible for the environment, lands and natural resources, and – water. ”
The scientist could have added that even if the institute had failed to carry out research into the effects of galamsey on our water-bodies off its own bat, the Government of Ghana could have commissioned it to produce such a report.
Indeed it’s not information about the deadly effects of galamsey on our rivers and water-bodies that’s lacking. No – it’s rather the will to do anything effective about the information available that’s causing the problem to be perpetuated. To prove my point let’s play a small game. If you are on the Internet please go to the following website:
Please watch the film. Then please come back to continue reading the rest of this article. Would you then please answer this question: “Do you realise that this film was commissioned by the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources?”
Yes! But how come you have probably never seen it until today? How many Ghanaians have seen it? When the Mobile Cinema Unit of the Ministry of information still existed, this would have been the sort of film that would be shown in every village and hamlet in the country. That was what was done when a very efficient campaign was launched to educate the whole country about the swollen shoot disease that was destroying our cocoa industry in the 1950s.
When a universal adult franchise was introduced for the first time in Ghana to enable every qualified adult to vote in the general election of February1951, again the Mobile Cinema was the instrument through which potential voters were taught what to do on election day.
Today, the Ministry of Lands and General Resources produces such a powerful film and unless someone tells you where to find it you won’t even know that such a film exists. That’s not an accident. The galamsey issue has become – in the words of a friend with whom the issue was discussed recently – a “political football”.
How come? The chiefs who are immediately concerned because it’s their people’s rivers, streams and farmlands that are being devastated by galamsey, are generally afraid to touch the subject because they know the unemployed youths in their towns and villages who constitute the bulk of the work-force of the galamsey operators, will rise against any chief who tries to “obstruct” the youths as they pursue the only means they claim they know of “earning a living” in today’s Ghana with its many economic “challenges”.
Okay so if the chefs have a good reason to be afraid of the youths what about the political parties? Shouldn’t they come out firmly against galamsey and thus set the tone for the rest of the country to follow? After all they are all offering leadership to the country in return for its votes?
Well, the political parties are also petrified with fear that if they come out too strongly against galamsey, they will lose the youth vote in the rural areas. So, as they go about enthusing crowds with promises of manna from heaven, they observe a strict silence about the fact that the people who throng their rallies and sing enthusiastically about how life will be transformed if the party they fancy comes to power, will lose the water they drink in five years time if galamsey is not stopped.
Neither the NDC nor the NPP has a word to say about galamsey in its manifesto. So far, the only party that has made any pronouncement on galamsey is the PPP (People’s Popular Party) – and yet it’s one of the parties affected by EC disqualification!
However, I congratulate the PPP on going against the grain and speaking out on galamsey. But I am afraid the action it wants to take – deport all the Chinese participants in the horrific enterprise (See http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/two-chinese-arrested-for-degrading-cocobod-land.html–
is only half the job to be done. It also has to think of how to get THE GHANAIAN galamsey operators to stop ruining their own water-bodies.
This may mean finding the alternative employment for the youths, whilst using military force to drive them away from the land. It’s not an easy proposition, but if the PPP is able to campaign along these lines, and to name and shame the big parties that have folded up in front of the galamsey challenge, Ghanaians will have reason to be grateful to it.
The best thing, of course, would be to launch a NATIONAL, political-party-free campaign to stop galamsey forthwith and look for ways of rehabilitating the rivers and streams as well as the farmlands – where possible, For if we don’t end galamsey with immediate effect, we are up for the long jump – as a nation and as a people.
But when all’s said and done, isn’t politics full of irony? Democracy means working for the people, according to their own expressed preferences.
Yet how can there be democracy, if you dare not even give the people a choice to decide on something that’s good for them — for fear that they will turn on you and deny you votes for proposing to save them from their own folly?