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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Columnist: Rockson Adofo

Ghanaian presidents must stop releasing government lands to chiefs

A government land in Sogakope A government land in Sogakope

I have been observing with a shock that sends cold chills down my spine and goose bumps all over my body, when I see or hear about, our successive presidents of the republic of Ghana releasing the decades-old, if not centuries-old, government-acquired lands back to the various local traditional overlords or families from whom the lands were seized or acquired.

Why are the presidents doing that? Is that attitude of theirs not bordered on lack of farsightedness, corruption, and greed, if I may question? I cannot comprehend them. I cannot get my head around this myopic-mindedness of those advising the presidents to sign for the return of the lands to their original owners, only to end up sold and or, shared, by some government functionaries.

Do the presidents know the objective for the acquisitions of those lands by the colonial British government? Were the white British governors stupid to have acquired the lands for the government or state and left them undeveloped, in the first place?

Do our current Ghanaian presidents understand the importance of forests and readily available open public spaces?

Let me not beat about the bush any further but go straight to the point for writing this article as time is not on my side today. I need the few hours left to grieve over the death of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, before her internment at 19:30 hours this evening, Monday, 19 September 2022.

The British colonialists in their deep thinking, wisdom, and intelligence, knew that if all lands were left at the mercy and ownership of the chiefs and individual citizens, it will not take them any much longer than they will have used up all of them. They needed to reserve land spaces for future emergencies or purposes and for probable regulation of the weather conditions.

When we talk about weather conditions, we mean “the atmospheric conditions that comprise the state of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and wind and clouds and precipitation”. Any student of geography understands the role played by forests in terms of rainfall and the wind. I will not discuss the details of that but leave it for research by any curious student or Ghanaian.

1. It is an undeniable fact how insatiably greedy, selfish, and myopic most of our present-day Ghanaian chiefs are. They are worse than the proverbial “atee po anso me adware”, to wit, nothing is sufficient for them. The more lands or things they have, the much hungrier they become for more wealth hence selling all the lands as they come, for their selfish ends. However, stool lands are prescribed by law to be held in trust for the natives of the land or the area but the chiefs understand it differently. They see all stool lands and properties as their own, as though they were born with them attached to their umbilical cord.

2. When I was a child and lived a short time at Oseikrom in the Mpasaaso area in the Ahafo, I observed that my family and the labourers on my father’s cocoa farms had portions of land within the cocoa farms for the cultivation of food crops like plantain, cocoyam, cassava, yams, etc., to feed us. When I returned to Oseikrom about twenty years later on a mission of taking a new cocoa caretaker to the labourers on request by my father, I discovered that all the lands reserved for food production within the cocoa farms had cocoa trees planted in them. The people had no place on the farm for food cropping. This was not unique to my father’s farms but across the board. All other cocoa farmers in the area were faced with the same problem.

Luckily, the government had acquired a big land to the left side of the road from Oseikrom going towards Mpasaaso. The government released some of the lands to the resident farmers in Oseikrom and her environs on the strictest condition of cultivating only food crops but not cocoa. Had the wise “Kwasi Broni” (the white man) not had the foresight to acquire that land for future need or use, the people of Oseikrom would have cultivated cocoa farms on all the lands to only suffer starvation onto death years later. They may have cultivated cocoa on all the lands without leaving any space for food production for their upkeep.

3. Once in the 1960s to early 1970s in the life of Kumawu, my paternal place of birth, we were faced with abject hunger. It took the government to release some portions of the government land called locally “sofia”, to the inhabitants of the Kumawu traditional area to cultivate food crops to feed not only the locals but to be sold to others from other parts of the Ashanti region or Ghana. Farmers were again prohibited from planting cocoa or cassava in the “sofia” farms but solely, plantain, cocoyam, and yams and the special tree seedlings supplied to the farmers by the government.

It is a fact how our current chiefs have sold every little available land in their towns and cities for the construction of houses as though, tomorrow will never come. They even sell the same piece or plot of land to two or three prospective land buyers or house owners, only to result in litigation between the buyers.

Look at the recently released tracts of the Achimota forest land to the original family from whom the land was acquired by the colonial British government. Have they not sold them and dashed some top government functionaries for probably facilitating its release to them? If it were not so, how could the late Mr. Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John, have acquired several plots from there to will them to his family and friends?

There are no readily available open public spaces in our cities and towns for public recreation or future government projects. There are no tree-filled vast areas in our cities to assist with the regulation of the weather condition. Is that not stupid and myopic on the part of our presidents to continue to release the lands to their respective original owners only to immediately end up being sold to satisfy their voracious quest for wealth for all stupid reasons?

Seeing the rate the current chiefs want to sell all lands to squander the money without using any part of it to develop their towns and cities and villages, what will the subsequent chiefs do, or live on, after the current chiefs are dead and gone? Where and how will the government acquire any land for any urgent government project should the need arise?

When you come to the United Kingdom, you will find many vast tracts of open public lands and huge public parks in every borough. Take these boroughs for suburbs in Ghanaian cities. The boroughs are like say, Adabraka, Kaneshie, Chorkor, etc., in Accra, while Asafo, Asokwa, Adum, etc., in Kumasi. In some of the boroughs, you will see real heavy forests going for almost miles upon miles.

Therefore, the British government or the local municipal councils have readily available lands for any major government project they may out of emergency decide on. If it were not so, they could not have had any land for building the 2012 British Olympic Centre for the Olympic games in Stratford in the borough of Newham Council.

Can Ghana have any readily available public space for such a huge event that will call for the construction of new buildings and related facilities? No!! What a shame on the part of our presidents and chiefs.

The fact that the government-acquired lands have not yet been put to use over years does not mean that they will never be used by the government hence must be returned to their original owners. No! Such lands will be needed in their own time as emergencies may occur in this changing world at an unknown time, or with the passage of time.

Be farsighted. Stop being corrupt. Stop being insatiably greedy. Be selfless. And be of honest service to your people and country, advice to the presidents, governments and chiefs.