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Opinions of Saturday, 15 July 2017

Columnist: Cameron Duodu

A presidency ‘on the line’

There are times when one’s ears tell one that a speech by someone else that one is listening to, could have come from one’s own lips.

That is how I felt when I heard the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, address the traditional rulers of Ghana earlier this week. And like music which one produces oneself, the president’s words sounded very sweet, indeed, to me.

Everyone knows how powerful a president is. All those appointments that are his to make. All the people who want to be photographed with him. The uncountable people who would like to see him to discuss the problems of their regions, districts and towns and villages with him.

And someone who has toiled and embraced untold hardship, in order to get to that enviable position, states publicly that he is “prepared to put it (his presidency) on the line”, to end “the scourge” of galamsey “to safeguard Ghana’s future?”

Magnificent as it sounds, it is not the first time the president has made this pledge to end galamsey. Perhaps, the people engaged in the evil enterprise will now take him seriously?

They had better do so. For if they do not listen, they will feel the full force of the state of Ghana deployed against them in the next few weeks.

The president, who is a very far-minded person, called our traditional rulers together to appeal to them to use their influence – such as it is – to persuade their people to leave the galamsey areas before the government’s heavy hand descends upon them.

In doing so, the president made it clear that he has no illusions about the involvement of some of the chiefs in galamsey operations in the lands they are supposed to preserve for future generations.

“All kinds of people from all walks of our national life are engaged in this exercise – security personnel, political leaders, businessmen, some chiefs – all are involved,” the president said.

He vowed: “I cannot oversee that because it would be a betrayal of the trust that the people of Ghana put in me on 7 January 2017.”

And he urged the traditional rulers “not to sit back and allow the activities of the illegal miners to jeopardise the very survival of our nation.” They should, Nana Akufo-Addo pleaded, “support the fight” against illegal mining because his “personal commitment alone was not enough to end the menace.”

The president, in somewhat flattering terms, acknowledge the fact that “any serious social mobilisation in Ghana, since time immemorial, (has) involved our chiefs; without them, nothing can happen.

So the reason why you have been brought here today is to have the opportunity to share with you, our thoughts, our strategy, [and] our thinking.

And I ask of you, in the name of the generations yet unborn, for your support and active involvement in bringing the menace of galamsey to an end”.

I am sure the chiefs were all of one mind in assuring the president that they were with him in the battle against galamsey. But the most important question is: will their commitment last?

When they’ve gone back to their stations and are enticed with money and gifts by galamsey operators, will they remember the president’s words, namely, that the land and the rivers and streams thereon must be observed “for generations yet unborn”?

Human nature being what it is, the president would be well advised to go by the dictum (coined by a man I would not normally quote, but whose words seem more appropriate here than anyone else’s that I know of, the US president, Ronald Reagan!) “Trust but verify!”

This means President Akufo-Addo must use an intelligence-led approach in the “strategy” he wants to use against galamsey.

The security agencies must be asked to furnish the government with accurate reports about the “state-of-play” in each galamsey district and region, before the military and the police are deployed there in large numbers.

Where a chief is named in a report, an emissary must be sent to inform him that the government has been apprised of his involvement but that out of respect, he is being asked to co-operate to weed out galamsey in his vicinity.

Henceforth, his activities would be monitored, and if it is seen that he is continuing to work against his own people’s interests and those of their unborn children he would be named, shamed and prosecuted.

Similarly, the “political leaders and businessmen” whom the president said were behind galamsey, must be given an opportunity to co-operate, “or else”. The government must not be apprehensive of using its “mailed fist” against such people, for they have been extremely provocative in carrying out galamsey.

Numerous excavators and heavy earth-moving machinery, as well as other mobile equipment, have been driven along our roads to the galamsey sites, which are often deep in the bush.

Did none of the police posts dotted all over the country see them? If the police did not see them, what about the farmers and ordinary people? Did they become suspicious, and if they did, did they report their suspicions to the police and/or their chiefs?

It is almost certain that many ordinary have been sickened by the devastation they have observed at the galamsey sites but have given up caring, largely because they strongly believe that people “higher-up” the social ladder are involved in galamsey and that it is dangerous for ordinary, “powerless” people to go against them by reporting their observations and suspicions to policemen and chiefs who might well be working in cahoots with the galamseyers.