The Little Small Voice from the Forest – Behold Ghana
There’s something inside me that pulls beneath the surface
Discomfort, endlessly has pulled itself upon me
Against my will I stand beside my own reflection
How I can’t seem.
To find myself again
My walls are closing in
(Without a sense of confidence, I’m convinced)
(That there’s just too much pressure to take)
I’ve felt this way before
(Crawling – Linkin Park)
I have been absent from writing (commenting) on national issues for a while. I thought there are many more clever and talented people nowadays to that. But on reflecting on the above song by one of my favourite bands, Linkin Park, in the midst of the recent Akosombo dam spillage disaster, I decided that too many cooks wouldn’t spoil the broth this time – many cooks are rather needed in Tongu. Not to waste an opportunity I chose to lay bare all the discomforts – the missing regard for the intrinsic value and sanctity of the Ghanaian life, the growing contemptuous behaviour of public officers, the national cathedral brouhaha, gargantuan promises of politicians and the 2024 elections, military brutalities, the complicity of the clergy and others, the dwindling fortunes of Sekondi-Takoradi, and other pent ups.
Only Love Can Set Us Free – Ghanaians in Search of Self-value
Lee Kuan Yew, the famous former Singapore Prime Minister, once said that if you want to know how well a country was run check how well they keep and manage the facilities at their state guest house. Similarly, I would say, if you want to quickly know how a country values its citizens (and in turn itself), watch how it treats citizens at the airport. Compare Ghana to UK. At UK airports citizens go through immigration checks smoothly upon disembarking. Further searches or scrutiny of their body or luggage are conducted in private spaces, where are suspicions. Ghana often has long queues, no sweat with that, and the immigration officers are mostly cordial. But the customs officers, who line up just before exiting the airport (don’t know why they do that) adopt an adversarial approach to interrogations and searches of bodies and luggages. People’s luggages are searched openly by customs officials and the searches become more awkward and embarrassing when one ignores the subtle signals to give the officer something (bribe). This is a major disgrace and must cease forthwith.
There’s a poignant story often attributed to Winston Churchill, H.G Wells, Mark Twain, and others. Churchill (you can substitute with any of the other names) is chatting away with guests at a dinner party, and turns to one of his lady guests and asks, “Would you live with a stranger for a million pounds?” The lady thinks on it and answers: “Yes, I think I would.” Then Churchill probes further: “How about for £25?” The lady gasps: “Well, of course not, what kind of lady do you think I am?!” Churchill retorts: “We’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.”
Drawing from the above story, the response of government to serious man made disasters and the lacklustre reaction by the public and civil society organisations show how little Ghanaian life is valued. Consider the disasters and security failures in Appiatse (community explosion), Shama (illegal quarry explosion), Techiman (election violence and resultant deaths), Ejura (community disturbance and resultant deaths), Akosombo dam spillage.
- Appiatse – 22 January 2022, explosion of mining substances transported by international mining logistics company. 13 people killed, 59 injured, 500 houses destroyed, and 3,300 affected overall. Following independent investigations the company was fined $1 million plus a donation of $5 million (‘after negotiations by the sector minister’). The independent investigations report has never been published so one wouldn’t know the true extent of the factors that led to the explosion, whether the government’s response was appropriate or value to assessment was included. Unsure whether the $5 million has been paid into the Appiatse Fund, as directed by the President. How much compensation will each household be given? Who will be responsible for the rebuilding of the community?
- Techiman – 16th December 2020, young men shot and killed during the general election. The deputy speaker of parliament called the young men armed robbers who didn’t deserve sympathy from the public or action from the government (on national television). Not aware of any concrete actions by the security agencies or sector ministries to investigate and learn lessons.
- Ejura – 28th June 2021, violence erupted after the suspicious death of a political activist. 2 people died and others injured. Committee of inquiry submits full report within a month with recommendations. No government report on actions taken – whether all recommendations have been implemented and if not why they haven’t.
- Shama – 09th September 2023, explosion at an illegal quarry. 5 people killed, and 5 severely injured. No national response – regional minister under whose oversight the illegal quarry operated will lead investigations. The Minerals Commission and Environmental Protection Agency, who abdicated their responsibilities, decided that the best response was to reshuffle their regional managers.
- Akosombo – October 2023, spillage of water from dam displaces 36,000 people and destroys several properties and businesses.
Of all the inquiries completed it is unclear if value to assessments were done or whether any of the emergence services (NADMO) has done one. This will help determine compensations and safety measures (pre and post disasters). Ghanaian life, like that of all humans, is inherently valuable and sacred (sanctity of life in traditional cultural context). Consider the closure of the renal unit of the largest hospital in Ghana because of shortage of funding (GHS 4 million), and patients inability to afford dialysis treatment. The value of an American life is currently $10 million. What is the value of a Ghanaian life?
The mischief and manoeuvres about Gyakye Quayson dual Ghanaian-Canadian citizenship case (others of similar nature), again, raises questions about the inherent value of a Ghanaian. Legal scholars of repute, including Professor Kwaku Asare (Kwaku Azar), have provided convincing thesis and precedents on allegiance and dual citizenship. The Dormahene, Nana Agyeman Badu II (Justice of the superior court), has even provided a sound contextual and sociological view on this – the Supreme Court justices and parliament should ponder on. It is time for parliament to remove all restrictions on ascension to public office by Ghanaians with dual citizenship. I used to support the status quo – I was wrong.