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Opinions of Friday, 7 April 2017

Columnist: Braimah, Sulemana

The first real test of Akufo-Addo's leadership

By: Sulemana Braimah

On Monday, I was part of a group of civil society leaders who held talks with President Akufo-addo at the Flag Staff House. After about an hour of discussions, I was really impressed with the President's understanding of and positions on corruption, revenue mobilisation and decentralisation.

I was also impressed with the importance he attached to the meeting by coming to the meeting with the Vice President and several of his key ministers including the senior minister, finance minister, mister of defence, interior, gender and social protection, among others.

I was equally impressed with the President’s punctuality, his frankness, simplicity and above all, his sense of humour during the entire meeting. There were no formalities; it was straight talk and friendly.

At the end of the meeting, I got a bit hopeful that things may go well under the leadership of President Akufo-addo. But I needed to quickly remind myself that what matters is the action, not the talk. So I held back the hope to still wait for a while to see the man's actions.

Fortunately, we have on our hands now what is arguably the first and major test case of the leadership of President Akufo-Addo. That is the ongoing national crusade against Galamsey (illegal mining).

Almost all our rivers have been destroyed, forests are gone, cocoa farms are gone, lives have been lost and we face the prospects of importing water in the very near future. What makes matters worse is that Chinese (who don't care and have no basis to care for the future of this country) are the ones in the frontlines of the Galamsey business.

Since I grew up, I have never witnessed a case where almost all our major media organisations manage to do away with their usual competition to focus on a single issue for several days. As if by some magic, the campaign against galamsey is being carried out by almost every media organisation. The fight against Galamsey by the media is historic.

I have been listening to Citi FM since Monday and their crusade has been compelling and legendary. On Tuesday, April 4, all the state-owned media (Daily Graphic, Ghanaian Times and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation) and all the major media groupings in the country (the GJA, GIBA, PRINPAG) launched what they call the Media Coalition Against Galamsey. The next day, the Daily Graphic dedicated its major pages to the galamsey issue. Kudos to the media.

The media are actively doing what they should do - setting the agenda, educating the masses about the galamsey menace and demanding action from the authorities. But will the authorities act? Well, we don’t know yet because government ministers are pledging support for the media campaign when the campaign is actually seeking to get them to take action on the problem.

This is what our Constitution says about our mineral resources in Article 257 (6) "Every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon any land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water courses throughout Ghana, the exclusive economic zone and any area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic of Ghana and shall be vested in the PRESIDENT on behalf of, and in trust for the people of Ghana."

It says "... vested in the President" not the media or you and me. So the President must act to protect our lands, water bodies and mineral resources. This is a test of his leadership. We want to see competence at play.

During the 2012 and 2016 elections, then candidate Akufo-Addo and the NPP said the Electoral Battle was the Lord's. The Lord granted him victory to help solve our problems. So now the Galamsey Battle is Akufo-Addo's. Will he win the battle? Well, we wait to see.

The media can only do their part, which they are doing; the citizens can complain and rant, which is being done; it is the government that has the power to act to solve the problem. But will they act? Usually, people argue that the government cannot solve our problem alone without the support of the public. That is true. But on this matter, it is the people who are acting and waiting for government's action.

People say the galamsey problem is complex. Yes, that's true. But why should we assume that we should only focus on and solve simple problems? This is a moment that calls for bold, competent, visionary leadership to solve a complex, hydra-headed problem. Ghanaians are looking for leadership on this matter.