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Opinions of Friday, 24 June 2016

Columnist: Keame Gyasi

Death in the arena (Part 1)

When the last tree dies, mankind dies


The title of today’s essay is taken from a film I watched while I was schooling at Mfantsipim in Cape Coast. The film depicted the brutal and callous nature of how strong able bodied men in their prime were made to fight to death in the coliseum to the pleasure of the bloody thirsty rulers and their citizens of the ancient Roman Empire. They were just senseless, callous and avoidable deaths.

Today in this country and particularly in Accra, at any time it rains, senseless and avoidable deaths are recorded. These deaths result from the incompetence, greedy and corruption of our leaders, their inability and unwillingness to enforce environmental and city planning laws and regulations, the corruption in approving building planning permits, the failure of the metropolitan authorities to collect garbage on regular basis and disregard on the part of the citizens to obey simple rules of hygiene and environmental degradation.

Open spaces, water ways, recreational areas, green belt areas, mangrove spots, forest reserves are all allocated with greed to cronies, political hirelings and family members for estate development. Currently there is a royal battle going on between the Old Students of Achimota College on one side and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Authority, the Forest Commission, the Osu Stool Lands secretariat, and some faceless unpatriotic citizens on the other hand for the soul and body of the Achimota Forest Reserve.

A few weeks back, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, the Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission, a constitutional body, warned about the dangers of converting the Achimota Forest Reserve into an ecotourism project and the danger the project poses to the entire Dzowulu area including the George Bush Highway.


This is not the first time a well-meaning citizen has raised that sort of alarm. Indeed, some patriotic citizens have taken the case to court to protect the Achimota Forest Reserve area which was purchased outright from the Osu Stool and completely paid for about 100 years ago by the colonial government for 4,000 British pound. Yet some faceless politicians are hiding behind and with the approval of statutory bodies like the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Forestry Commission, the Environmental Protection Authority and the Forestry Commission are bent on destroying the Achimota Forest Reserve.

What do you expect when the certified Chief Land Guard is himself in charge of the nation’s natural resources? Go round the country and see for yourself how forest reserves like the one at Atronie in the Brong Ahafo Region created by the colonial government for the benefit of the future generation are being systematically destroyed under the criminal, bribe taking, corrupt, greedy, incompetent John Dramani Mahama NDC administration.

Today the Weija Irrigation Site which was meant for the cultivation of fresh vegetables and rearing of cattle has been completely destroyed and converted into housing estate plus the adjoining hills. The Aburi Hills have been sold off by greedy chiefs and now poses danger to the Peduase Ayi Mensah Highway and the green belt protection system.

That was why I was shocked and alarmed at the levity combined with gross ignorance with which some FM station hosts treated the alarm raised by Dr. Thompson with contempt trying to question his professional background for raising the issue in the first place.. If we can keep the environment clean, we can drastically reduce the amount of money the nation spends on curative medicine and preventive health.

If in the light of all these environmental degradation, our health delivery system was first class to guarantee good health of the citizens, some mitigating factors could have been put in place. Sadly enough, this is not the situation, resulting in senseless and avoidable deaths.

One sure way of ensuring good health and high standard of living is to maintain healthy life style. For those who can plan for it, taking your annual leave and going on holidays far away from the maddening crowd even if on weekends is a healthy and advisable pastime. Health tourism is today a booming industry for many nations. In this country, virtually all governments we have had in the past up to the present paid only lip service to the tourism industry.

There exits resource sucking state institutions like the Ministry of Tourism, the Tourist Development Board and the Tourist Development Company all established to help promote tourism which could enhance health tourism. They have all failed woefully and more interested in destroying or seeing to the destruction of pristine tourism sites like the various forest reserves and mangroves.

Can you imagine the attempt to destroy the Achimota Forest Reserve by dishonestly turning it into an eco-tourism site, the attempt to degrade the Aburi Botanical Garden, the destruction of the CSIR research centre at Abonkra in an attempt to turn the place into an inland port, the leasing of the mangrove site at Tema Community Three and Labadi mangrove site, the illegal galamsey going on within our forest reserves.

Once you are a creature of God, something will kill you by all means. However, as a Ghanaian and as an African for that matter, you are more likely to die from more unnatural causes than natural ones. At the height of the pinnacle of things likely to kill you as an African, one fact must be accepted: if God in His wisdom does not kill you, your own government in its foolishness will do it.

The African continent is riddled with bribe taking despots, criminal, corrupt, greedy, incompetent, idiotic, blood thirsty scoundrels parading themselves as social democratic leaders. They deliberately create poverty and share the poverty discriminately instead of creating wealth and sharing the wealth indiscriminately.

They make virtually everybody poor except their family members, cronies, tribesmen, political associates, sycophantic hirelings, praise singers and succeed in putting most of the citizens in a state of abject poverty and hopelessness where you are likely to sell your education, knowledge, conscience, self-respect, good name, religious belief, spiritual upbringing, self-esteem and moral grounds for a calabash of palmwine.

Today as a result of the corruption and criminal mismanagement of our health delivery system, the national health insurance scheme has collapsed completely. The corrupt incompetent criminal greedy bribe taking John Dramani Mahama NDC administration has allowed a narrow, myopic and self-seeking vote catching political propaganda of one time premium policy payment to obliterate the gains of the national health insurance scheme.

Again, this is a country which has educated and trained numerous health professionals including community health nurses and public health inspectors at a heavy cost to the state. Yet the state fails to offer them employment and competitive conditions of service to make them useful to society. The political establishment even encourages and hounds them out to migrate to foreign lands to put their expertise at the service of other citizens. That is the tragedy we are confronted with on a daily basis as a nation.