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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

A nation whose values have been turned upside down

Can a whole nation be afflicted with madness?

Certainly not?

What, though, about a large proportion of citizens? That is what's worrying me.

Is this not taking matters a bit far?

Let me give you the evidence, and you make up your own mind.

EVIDENCE NO.1:

A man's father died and left a house for him and his family. The building was erected with love – the man involved his whole family in such tasks as making bricks and drying them in the sun.

This was not as easy as it might sound, for one couldn't just put the bricks in the sun and go away. One had to stay at home and watch the bricks – in case it rained!

In that eventuality, one needed to cover the bricks with a tarpaulin, and this wasn't an easy task, for in the rain-forest village in which the man and his family dwelt, the rains come without notice, and pelt down so hard that everything can be drenched in a matter of minutes.

(In this connection, I can say that those who chop money obtained from cocoa, waaah! waaah! like that, without once having experienced the process of preventing the rain from wetting cocoa beans that are being dried, have a lot of apologies to render to poor cocoa farmers!)

Anyway, shortly after finishing the house, the man was gathered unto his fathers. And his eldest son became the new “master” of the house. But the guy was not as industrious as his father. There could therefore be days when food was so scarce that a pestle never troubled a mortar in the house. The absence of the toom! toom! of fufuo-pounding in the house, alerted the neighbours that those who dwelt in the house were facing a rough time.

The new master of the house felt poverty creeping steadily towards him. But instead of providing effective leadership to the family to make farms (as his dead father would have done) he resorted to drinking. His excuse was that he knew his dead father had “hidden all his money” somewhere before he died, and if only he could uncover the hidden treasure, he would no longer be poor. But since he couldn't, he must drink to “drown his sorrows”!

Of course the more he drank, the more desperate his situation became. Eventually, he decided that the only way he could survive was to rip up the iron sheets with which his father had roofed the house, and sell them!

At first, when his fellow inmates of the house saw him ripping the iron sheets away, they thought he had detected potential leakages in the sheets and was either going to replace them, or have a blacksmith reinforce them, to avoid leakages. By the time they realised that he was taking the iron sheets away to flog them, half the rooms in the house had been de-roofed!

As soon as this discovery was made, the inmates of the house decided that the master of the house had gone mad and they constituted themselves into a "defend-our-house committee". On a majority vote, they waylaid him one afternoon as he wobbled his way home from the palm-wine bar, and gave him the drubbing of his life. They then reported him to the police, hoping the police would take him to the lunatic asylum.

But the police released him after a few hours -- for "lack of evidence." They said he had answered all their questions like a normal person, with all his faculties intact.

The other inmates of the house next went into the bush to cut palm fronds with which they thatched their de-roofed rooms, to prevent the rain from driving them out of the house. Their hope was that eventually, they would be able to gather enough money together to re-roof the house back with iron sheets. Of course, they didn't thatch the room of the "master of the house" and every time it rained, he went and hid under an empty fuel drum or barrel, that was big enough to cover his body!

My question is this: on the evidence adduced above, was "the master of the house" mad or not?

EVIDENCE NO.2

A Tarkwa Circuit court has sentenced a drug dealer, Iddrisu Yobi, to 10 years imprisonment for possessing Indian hemp weighing 902.59 grammes.... He pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing narcotic drug without authority.

[The convicted person] is a galamsey operator who resides at Amoaman, near Asankragwa. According to the prosecutor, on May 18 last year, two [law enforcement officers]... chanced on a group of young men smoking dried leaves suspected to be Indian hemp...They took to their heels, but Yobi [was arrested. He] claimed ownership of the exhibits [and was charged with the offence].

Unfortunately, the report above does not tell us who the Circuit judge was, what his reasons for the sentence imposed on the culprit were, or why the police thought the fact he was a galamsey operator was worth mentioning in court, but not worth investigating, with an eye to potentially charging him with carrying out illegal mining, since galamsey, like possession of Indian hemp, is also unlawful.

Not only that -- unless they live on Mars, the police should know that some members of their own force are working in "Operation Vanguard" to try and end galamsey operations, by arresting galamseyers and taking them to court! Dare I suggest that the madness that's afflicting Ghana hasn't only affected people like "the master of the house" in our earlier story?

It will interest readers to know, in fact, that even if the convict had also been charged with offences in connection with galamsey, there is no guarantee that the court would have taken much notice of that offence. For our courts are, for an unknown reason, notoriously unprepared to impose heavy sentences – especially imprisonment – on galamsey operators!

One dare not speculate, though that perhaps there is "an Anas factor" at work in galamsey prosecutions of which the nation at large is not aware, does one? It's extraordinary, nevertheless. Oh, well -- it may well be that the madness has also.....! Oh Lord!

The Evidence? Just Google “galamsey operator+fined” and you will see eleven thousand and two hundred (11,200) reports like these:

1. Tarkwa (W/R)Galamsey operator fined 240.00 cedis;


2. Galamsey operator fined 320 cedis.


3. Court... imposes a total fine of 1,200 Ghana Cedis on two galamsey operators.

And so on: 11,200 reports featuring minor fines imposed on galamsey operators!

Now can it be adjudged credible that the courts are not aware of the devastation galamsey is wreaking on our water-bodies? Don't the judges and magistrates drive on our roads, and see -- with their own eyes -- rivers like Ankobra, Pra Offin, Birem, Densu and so many others that have dramatically changed colour to mud-yellow, and which show other signs of being polluted with dangerous chemicals, such as mercury and cyanide?

Indian hemp is recognised by the courts as a dangerous drug and they usually impose heavy prison sentences on those found with it (as the example above shows). But it mainly only does harm to its users (though, on occasion, it emboldens users to carry out anti-social offences.) But galamseyers, on the other hand, harm the generality of the population.

They even threaten to make the unborn generations that will follow us, become extinct – through a lack of drinking water! Yet, the judicial officers punish them with small fines – like 240 cedis or 320 cedis. Is that madness or not?

However, I am afraid the judges only reflect a general unconcern to be found in Ghana today about the calamitous future that galamsey dangles before the eyes of our children's children.

It is as if madness of the type that caused the man in my earlier story to rip away the iron sheets from the house his father had left him, has descended on the generality of the present generation of Ghanaians!

Our situation is very very serious. If we don't rise up like one man and back the Government's efforts to combat galamsey from all fronts and all angles, then Ghana is done for.

I take no comfort in predicting that. But sure as hell, it will happen. Unless we act absolutely resolutely and resist all pressure to punish people "who are only trying to earn a living!" I keep getting no answer when I ask: aren't armed robbers too "trying to earn a living"?

If you don't believe that we have allowed madness to push us to begin an inexhorable journey unto death, please go and take a good look at the Tanoh, the Offin, the Oti and the Black, Red and White Volta. In fact, that's something I recommend to our school heads, especially those of tertiary institutions, as an excursion that will alert them to the possibility of a nation “sleepwalking” into total disaster.