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Opinions of Saturday, 22 July 2017

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

The Ghanaian ‘sphinx’

Cameron Duodu Cameron Duodu

In his famous ‘Danquah Memorial Lectures’ on the ‘Culture of Silence’ in Ghana, delivered in February 1988 and which were instrumental in ushering Ghana into democracy in 1992, one of the main questions the late great historian, Prof Albert Adu Boahen, set out to answer was this: why is it that Ghana, a country endowed with extremely rich natural and human resources, has been unable to develop those resources to the full extent possible?

Adu Boahen’s answer to this “riddle” that could be posed by a Ghanaian “Sphinx” was that our system of government at the time allowed for the suppression of thought and the consequentia absence of free discussion. It was impossible to “unchain” the talents of a people and utilise them for rapid economic and social development when people were afraid to point out errors they observed in the nation’s affairs because doing that could earn them a jail term. Or worse, get them to be “disappeared”.

(By the way, Adu Boahen knew at first hand, what he was talking about. His own inability to “shut up” about unsavoury events in Ghana earned him stints of arbitrary detention. More seriously, his own nephew, Yaw Aryeh, aged about 35 (who was working with him as his personal assistant at his Sankofa Publications in Accra, vanished into thin air one day. He has never been seen, nor heard from, ever since. The suspicion that he might have been abducted and killed because he had been secretly observed doing political work for the Prof – at a time when political disappearances were not unheard of, persists within sections of the family. It has become a sort of Adu Boahen family “Riddle”.)

Thoughts of another ‘Riddle’ filled my mind when I attended the press conference given by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, on Tuesday 18 July 2017. A Ghanaian Sphinx might well pose the question: Why has Ghana allowed galamsey to destroy its rivers, its inherited forests and food farms and thereby exposed future generations to a life without adequate water resources?

Nana Addo did his best to provide an answer to this Ghanaian riddle. He was at his eloquent best – free-flowing, uninhibited, showing no trace of snobbishness, despite the fact that some of the questions directed at him were rather inane.

Nana Addo quoted the famous “paradoxical” dictum of Thomas Jefferson, in which Jefferson expressed his preference for “a Free Press without a Government” to “a Government without a Free Press”. He conveyed the feeling that he was elated when he surveyed the media landscape in Ghana today. The media were campaigning admirably against galamsey. Yet sections of the same media had vilified him in a way no other person had been vilified in recent years.

Modesty prevented him from calling himself the “Teflon Man to beat all Teflon men”. But if the media practitioners could analyse what he had left unsaid, they would have come to that conclusion. For who would have thought that anyone was capable of surviving a relentless propaganda assault mounted against him on the Internet by no less a person than a retired Supreme Court judge, aided by virulent lieutenants trained in agit-prop techniques?

That triumph over ruthless defamation, Nana Addo might as well have boasted, was part of the reason why he did not mind being accused of “helping the media to become reckless”, by leading the way, when he was Attorney-General in the Kufuor Government, to repeal the law of “criminal libel”.

In saying this, Nana Addo was telling the media in so many words that the cynical inventions of media practitioners would never be enough to eradicate the solid achievements of someone like himself, who had worked hard to become what he was and – is.

Solidity shows. It also works. Malignant hot air manufactured to harm a person for political reasons is destined to freeze in the cool air of reason. That cool air is radiated from the bosom of the public; it is nurtured by the ability of sensible people to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Jefferson knew this, and that was why he did not fear the Free Press.

Fortified by the knowledge that he had adopted the right stance on galamsey, Nana Addo was again emphatic that he was going ALL OUT to fight the menace. And he repeated this: he would do it even if it cost him the 2020 election (an election for which – he pointed out slyly – no candidates had as yet been selected!)

I am enthused by Nana Addo’s commitment. But that’s only half the story. Do we fully appreciate what the struggle against galamsey will entail, in terms of its effect on our society?

Where do the police, for instance, stand on galamsey? They don’t seem to be interested in the struggle at all. For they could catch the Ghanaian kingpins of galamsey, if they wanted to, and put them before the courts – by using the elementary police technique of fishing out the associations of the Chinese and Ghanaian galamseyers who are regularly arrested.

Who are the persons who fulfil the bail/surety conditions to which the culprits are subjected? Is that not a good enough lead for the Ghana Criminal Investigations Department to try and disaggregate the organisational structure of the galamsey entrepreneurs? After all, wasn’t even the Mafia crippled by being decapitated, after information had been garnered from the bottom part of its structure? Are our detectives amateurs?

There is a video on the Internet, in which a former director of the presidential anti-galamsey Task Force, shares his views about why the operation mounted by the Government of former President John Mahama failed. The armed forces and the security agencies should fully debrief this gentleman in the course of the reinvigorated anti-galamsey operations that are about to take place.

Mr President, please don’t allow amateurism and/or apathy on the part of state institutions (to say nothing of corruption) to defeat an objective you have set yourself, whose attainment, you say, is so important that you are prepared to put your presidency on the line for it.

If out of a reluctance to punish those who fail in their duty to Mother Ghana, you allow the campaign to falter, you wouldn’t have been fair to yourself. But more important, you would have failed the future unborn generations whose water sources are being wantonly destroyed each day by the galamseyers.

So, please crack the presidential whip! Very hard.

Start with the CID.

Then go put the searchlight on the clandestine state agencies that must infiltrate the organisations of nation-wreckers and obtain accurate, hard information their about their leadership. Follow their money and cut it off.

Whoever is not enthusiastically engaged in the anti-galamsey fight, is against it – as Jesus himself would have said.

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