All the leaders who have ruled Ghana, apart from the military dictators, had university degrees. All of them either lived or studied abroad. The current president, John Dramani Mahama, for example, attended Achimota College and Ghana Secondary School in Tamale where he obtained the Ordinary and Advanced level certificates respectively. He continued to the University of Ghana where he got his first degree in History. He further did a post-graduate course in Communications at the School of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana. He travelled to Moscow where he pursued a post-graduate degree in Social Psychology. I have taken time to describe the prestigious education of our president and his travel experience. He is not alone in this. All our former leaders had similar experiences and education abroad. They all returned to Ghana with certificates to commit crime and corruption against the state, while rendering the ordinary Ghanaians poor, unemployed and miserable.
All the leaders that have come and gone and the present government are guilty for not attending to the problem of illegal mining. This appalling and condemnable practice has gone on for many years. Illegal miners and people around the mining areas dig up holes and search through the sand to gather gold and sell. “Gather them and sell” gradually became known as “Galamsey.” There are serious problems connected with galamsey which call for the government’s attention. Either due to deliberate lack of interest or pure, active and selfish interests and gains in the galamsey business, the government has either chosen to keep quiet or done little to stop the offenders. The reason for my argument is that, any serious government can easily relegate galamsey into the abyss of forgetfulness, by sending the military into all the areas where galamsey is taking place, chasing them out and seizing their machines. This action must continue for only a month and galamsey will die a natural death. What is happening is that this illegal mining is destroying water bodies which the people living in the surrounding villages depend on as a source of drinking water.
The situation has worsened with the influx of Chinese into the country who are getting actively involved in the illegal mining business. Apart from the destruction and contamination of water bodies that serve as sources of drinking water, there are other problems connected with galamsey. The gaping holes have become traps killing children and adults alike. The Chinese brought complex machines to the forest and destroyed cocoa farms in the areas they operated. Many farmlands belonging to the residents were taken away and sold to the Chinese for galamsey purposes. Foodstuffs and cash crops are being destroyed at random. Despite protests and demonstrations, no leadership in government has ever planned and released a permanent solution to the problem. If a solution was found, the farmers would congratulate the government rather than the daily wailing and moaning.
Due to lack of control, measures and unwillingness to wipe out galamsey from the system, the illegal mining has moved to another dangerous level. In Konongo in the Ashanti Region, the residents believe that many houses have been built in areas where they assume the ground is rich in gold. You will not believe this: galamsey has now moved to houses. Many halls and bedrooms of houses in Konongo have been dug and dynamited, all because they want to gather gold and sell. Neighbours are horrified by the noise created by these dynamites. The local authority look on helpless and unconcerned with no desire or power to abate the nuisance. The leadership of this country can easily stop galamsey, but will they?
Many commissions and organisations that are supposed to be agents for change, development and industrialisation have all become white elephants. This is all because our governments are not eager to implement the results of research by certain institutions and organisations in order to speed up development and progress. In Finland for example, the use of bicycles during summer is an obsession. One out of five persons you meet has a bicycle. These bicycles are parked in hundreds in the cities especially near underground stations. Very often many of them are stolen. This created a serious problem for the citizens. A Master’s degree student took upon himself and wrote his thesis on how the government and the municipal authorities could provide bicycles near subway stations describing in detail how this system could work. The government and the metropolitan authorities studied the thesis and approved it. Today you don’t need to have your own bicycle. You only slot your travel card and a bicycle is ready for your use. Alarm will sound very hectically if after three hours the bicycle is not returned to the nearest subway station. This is what I call positive and unselfish thought by leadership to the masses. This system can also be found in many cities in Europe who have also researched into the benefits. What are our leaders doing with all the research works that are gathering dust in archives of forgetfulness? The cost of research is expensive and time consuming and therefore due to government’s unwillingness to implement these research findings and results, many research-proven academicians like engineers, medical officers, lawyers, statisticians and pharmacists have given up and many have found their way into parliament where the salary is much better.
The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a science and technology research centre which has several institutes operating under its umbrella. The most important of them is Food Research Institute (FRI). The main task of this institute is to provide technical, analytical services, contract research and consultancy services to governmental agencies, micro-medium and multinational agro-food processing industries and international development agencies. Yet we don’t see Ghanaian food products, but West Indian bananas and coconut, Kenyan tea and cashew nuts flood American, Canadian and European supermarkets. Is the institute interested in research that could increase the lifespan of our farm products in order to make them attractive for export and is the government even interested in funding a research like this? FRI intends to engage in research that give rise to increased food products with healthy and long life-span and attractive to international markets. When this is done, it will go a long way to strengthening the institute’s goal for providing income security for farmers. There will also be food security and foreign exchange earnings. The institute has good motives but will support for their various research works come soon? Indeed the institute has very nice and heart-warming strategies and plans but when are CSIR or FRI ever going to put any of their research into action for all Ghanaians to see and applaud?
When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah assumed power as the first president of Ghana, his main vision was to make sure Ghana is powered by atomic energy because he foresaw the dangers that could be posed by the water level of the Akosombo Dam, thereby causing interruption in electricity supply. At least that was one of the reasons he put forward but it became known later that he had secret nuclear technology agenda too. He created a commission to regulate the Ghanaian Atomic energy programme. With Nkrumah’s vision and drive, Ghana had massive confidence of bringing the atomic energy Project to a victorious end. Nkrumah always thought ahead and in one of his addresses in 1964, he revealed his intention of going into nuclear technology. He explained that with the erratic supply of energy from hydro and thermal sources, the country must focus on a more reliable means of power generation. To prove his seriousness he put Robert Sogbadji, an expert in charge of nuclear and alternative energy at Ghana’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. This man had high hopes for the Project because he knew that when it was completed, it was going to be so cheap that we wouldn’t need to pay so much for electricity. The Americans became suspicious of Nkrumah’s nuclear technology plan and all these fine ambitions of 1960 were stalled when Nkrumah was overthrown.
After Nkrumah’s exit, none of the leaders who came after him even talked about atomic or nuclear energy as an alternative source for the erratic power supply that has hung permanently on our heads like the sword of Damocles. Those leaders who talked about atomic energy could not do anything about their plans. The atomic energy commission is no longer remembered or considered by any Ghanaian leader as a potential source of energy. Sadly enough such an important monumental centre is now used to denote a junction: Atomic Junction. Are our children learning anything? If it is the intention of governments to break every institution including Atomic energy commission, no matter what they do, Ghana will continue to remain in Dumsor.
President Mahama, in one of his addresses, announced that it is both important and necessary for Ghana’s industrial growth, if we patronised “made in Ghana goods.” To show how serious he was with the campaign, he began to wear Ghanaian traditional jumpers and boubou and admonished his ministers to do the same. He revived the shoe factory in Kumasi and promised that made in Ghana boots would be made for soldiers and the police and even school children would get their shoes. It was everyone’s wish that the president will continue this noble agenda. It turned out to be wishful thinking, a nine day wonder and a mere propaganda! Ghanaians woke up one day to find out that the president had bypassed local industries and carpenters and ordered for parliament seats from China, costing more than 1.5 million dollars. Interestingly those seats began to sag in and anyone who sat in could not easily be seen by the Speaker. The seats had to be replaced and despite public outcry and protests, the president had no regrets and ordered new furniture from the same source.
As if to add salt to the injury of Ghanaians he gave a contract to a Burkinabe to build a wall around a plot Ghana has purchased in Burkina Faso and got himself entangled in a scandal dating back to 2012. The president is reported to have received a gift which is undeniably a bribe, of a vehicle costing several thousands of dollars from a Burkinabe contractor. In return Mahama offered him the contract valued at more than 600,000 dollars. A job which a Ghanaian mason or building contractor could have taken less than a tenth of the amount? In the case of the bus branding, the contract had to go to a foreign Company. WHY?
Our leaders have made the job of being a president so cheap, no doubt illiterates like Akua Donkor and Kumchacha are also vying for similar positions in Ghana. God help Ghana! Our institutions will continue to die and research works will continue to gather dust if our leaders continue to show interest in foreign products.
By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads