Dysfunctional statistics

BY: Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh
Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh
Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks--- Winston Churchill.

The great Chinese leader Mao Zedong notes that "in times of difficulties we must not lose sight of our achievements".The fight against illegal mining, galamsey, has been one of the most effective mass media campaigns embarked upon in the recent history of the country.

The well coordinated media messages interspersed with town hall meetings gingered the mass mobilisation of popular support against the deadly and criminally cruel business whereby a few Ghanaians and their foreign financiers lived on the heritage of our people.

The majority of our people stoutly, unquestionably and unequivocally supported the fight against the canker and that emboldened President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to state with justifiable pride that even if the fight will cost him votes, he was more than ready to pursue the agenda without relenting. Indeed, he kept his word since although the ban was for six months, it went beyond a full year.

Majority of our people are still against illegal mining. That is why many of us are unwilling to hear those making the ugly noises and calling the government all manner of names in a bid through what could be described as argumentum ad hominem, or appeal to emotions to allow the so-called conscientious small scale miners, who have been licensed to undertake mining to resume their work.

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I recently overheard a spokesperson of the small-scale miners association on radio churning out some statistics which I consider to be dysfunctional to the national interest, to lampoon the government and question the usefulness of the ban. He indicated with some relish that since the ban on galamsey, at least a million Ghanaians have been out of job and that the country has lost close to USD 700 million.

As someone has noted resolutely, " statistics are like bikinis, what they conceal are far more important than what they reveal." Surely, this statement means we need to rethink how we readily and easily allow such figures to get the better part of us when we must be interested in qualitative rather than quantitative measurements.

Granted that a million people have become desolate because of the ban and we have lost all those millions of dollars, what have been the corresponding gains. We must never forget that the environment is not merely an economic resource that sustains our livelihoods, but more important it is our heritage. It is the quality of the land apportioned to us by God that is why we are proud to be Ghanaians. Indeed, until the media resolved to launch the coordinated attack against illegal mining, the country was headed for an unfathomable disaster by way of the diffused destruction of forest cover and water bodies.

We are a people who are more than willing to trade off our heritage for a mess of pottage just as Essau did and handed over his heritage to Jacob. Most of the small-scale mining companies might have been registered in the name of Ghanaians but some are fronting for foreigners. Beyond that in real terms most of the gold produced by small-scale miners are sold under shady deals such that the real effect of the product reflects in the pockets and lifestyles of those who front for foreigners and their foreign collaborators. Many of our people who sweat under the belly of the earth live from hand to mouth. It is only because we have not made our rural areas economically buoyant and economically attractive that people risk their lives in the drudgery of small-scale mining.

Another reason why we must protect and sanitise the environment before we allow controlled and guarded small-scale mining to resume fully is that at the peak of the media campaign, there were industry players and some insiders who whispered into our ears that some senior civil and public servants, traditional rulers and politicians were deeply enmeshed and involved in the dirty trade, that was why governments were unwilling and reluctant to uproot the canker. So then, if the government is ready to wield the whip and clean the stable, why are we being told a new story of joblessness. How many Ghanaians have starved to death because of the ban on galamsey. We have not been told of any number of our people who have become skeletons just because there is no galamsey.

We cannot deprive our people the privilege of benefitting from available resources but not at the peril of the majority and to the detriment of our collective future. We must protect the environment and find more environmentally friendly ways of mining to the benefit and future wellbeing of all. Otherwise,the statistics in the face of the massive environmental destruction is dysfunctional. We must take pride in what we have achieved and sustain it.