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Opinions of Thursday, 4 June 2009

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Return of Ga Lands

IS THE RETURN OF GA AND DANGME LANDS NECESSARY? BY Manasseh Azure Awuni There is this story about a hunchback who attended the burial ceremony of his fellow hunchback. Even though the two of them had been very close friends, he shed no tears until the time came for the deceased hunchback to be put in the coffin. In that village, wood was so scarce that the people were instructed to bury their dead in very small coffins to avoid waste. As a result a problem arose when the coffin refused to close because the deceased’s physical deformity was not catered for in the construction of the coffin.

Someone therefore came up with the idea that they could hit the hump with a mallet to reduce its length. It was at this cruel moment that the living hunchback burst into uncontrollable tears and wept even after the burial. This caught the attention of an old man, who called the wailing man aside and asked why he could not stop crying. “I’m not crying because of the death of my good friend. I am crying because what happened to the mortal remains of my good friend will definitely happen to me some day.”

How many people often realise that the evils that befall their colleagues can befall them when they share common fate? Its time our heads of state learnt this!

Among the countless number of issues that arose in the wake of President Kufuor’s reign was his Ridge office saga. In the midst of the noise, a section of the Ga and Dangme youth came out to make certain utterances that should never have been made of a past head of State. Some of President Kufuor’s kinsmen in Ashanti reacted by calling their brother to come ‘home’. This disdainful treatment of past political leaders in this country is not new and the end to it is not anywhere in sight.

Former President Rawlings suddenly became a demon when he handed over in 2001. JAK should have wailed like the hunchback for JJ and perhaps, put in measures to stop the contemptuous treatments meted out to former presidents in the country. It is now the turn of President Atta-Mills and I think the good Professor should initiate measures to curtail such disgraceful treatments the past leaders of our dear country have to suffer after leaving office. This is not to say that those who have Sakyi Hughesed the national purse should not be brought to book. The Gentle Giant of yesterday did not have sympathy for Junior Jesus of three days ago and the Prince of Peace of today is likely to suffer the same fate tomorrow. Unless President Mills acts fast and well, he will have to repeat what Pastor Martin Niemollar, a former supporter of the Nazi brutality and later sufferer of the infamous regime wrote many years ago: “In Germany they first came for the Communists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —

and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Now, let me go back to the issue of the Ga and Dangme lands, which has generated a lot of controversy in recent times. I am not an expert in land administration and will therefore not go into the technicalities associated with Ga lands taken over by the government some years back. The Question I attempt to answer is whether the ordinary Gas and Dangmes really benefit from the return of such lands and whether it is necessary o return those lands. The return of the Ga lands was a key message in the NDC’s campaign in Greater Accra Region prior Election 2008. The government has redeemed its pledge and returned some lands, including the 934.8-acre Nungua land acquired in 1940 from the Nungua Stool.

The return of the lands has, however, not gone without controversy. The May 9th edition of the Daily Graphic reported a press conference addressed by the Nungua stool father, Nii Afotey Ahwa II, which revealed that there are factions at each other’s throat over the ownership of the land. Part of the report read: “Nii Atotey Ahwa II had produced copies of the indentures, transfer letters and documents to prove that the said lands had been sold by the leader of one of the factions in the Nungua disputes, Odehe Kpakpa King Odaifio Walentsi III, about nine years ago.

“Reacting to that, King Odaifio Walentsi denied the allegation and made his own counter allegation that it was rather some of those making the allegations who had “exchanged acres at Nungua for cars and other properties; I will not allow this in Nungua”

As to who is right and who is wrong, I am not interested. The boy from Bongo has no interest whatsoever in Ga lands. What is of interest to me as a concerned Ghanaian is the fact that a good number of the indigenous people of the national Capital are living in slums. Anyone who has any doubts should go to Chorkor, Bukom, Akoto Lamptey, James Town, some parts of Teshie, Nugua and Korle-Gonnor and other typical Ga communities in the region. These communities are spilling over with people and some of them are said to be sleeping outside due to lack of space.

Anyone who patronises Tema Station-Mamprobi route will understand this better. Many households do virtually everything on the streets because their rooms are of the same sizes as lotto kiosks and there are no compounds for household chores. Children and adults, alike use the street as if it were their personal property, forcing drivers to slow down even if there is not traffic. Teenage pregnancy in these communities is rife and one does not need to be told why. Anytime there is a social function roads in indigenous Ga communities must be closed. The population is growing without the corresponding increase in housing facilities. The city of Accra is increasingly becoming messy and those who will be sincere to themselves will agree that there is no significant difference between some of the typical Ga communities and illegal slums such as Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is what should be the subject of concern to the litigious factions in the Ga Traditional Council. The land occupied by the British High Commission and the American Embassy are enough to house thousands of people in the indigenous Ga and Dangme settlements, and not only JAK’s Ridge Office.

In twenty years time, the typical Ga communities will explode. The generations are growing and passing through James Town one thought readily comes to mind – Ghanaians seem not to be thinking far beyond our noses.

Is there any sense in fighting for land that has been sold many years ago? It may not make sense to some people but I think that instead of returning the lands, government should think of ways through which these lands could be developed to resettle our indigenous brothers and sisters of the Greater Accra Region. They deserve dignified life and they must be helped to salvage the image of our national capital.

To the Ga chief, I say enough is enough. The chiefs of Greater Accra Region soiled their image for far too long. There is no use fighting for the return of land only to turn round draw daggers among yourselves. The whole world is watching and posterity will not forgive you.

There is one thing you must not forget. Hounds of the same owner do not tear the game apart. He who has ears, let him listen!

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni []

The writer is the SRC President-elect of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.