President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has served notice that he is prepared to put his Presidency on the line in his avowed quest to fight illegal mining, otherwise known as galamsey.
He said many people had said he needed to proceed cautiously, since the people involved were the same people who had voted him into power, and that should he take such a decision against them, they would not vote for him in the next election.
But the President, sounding very animated, said that would not be much of a bother to him, saying left with a choice between doing what was right and what would get him along with the people, he would do the right thing that was required of him and damn the consequences.
Addressing a two-day workshop on galamsey for traditional leaders drawn from different parts of the country in Accra Monday, the President said: “I have said it in the Cabinet, and perhaps this is the first time I am making this public, that I am prepared to put my Presidency on the line on this matter.”
Doing the right thing
“If, by the grace of God, my party allows me to go again and I have the health and everything to go again but do not get it again, then I will say to myself: ‘Well, this is a choice I have to make as a human being.’ Do you do what is right or what you think will make you get along? I think you do what is right and what you are required to do,” he added.
Fortunately for him, he said, he was not in the fight alone and that he had great allies within his government, the media and civil society who had gone out of their way to lead the crusade.
But to ensure that the campaign against galamsey was won, the President said, one could not dismiss the key role of traditional leaders, adding: “We cannot win this fight without the support of the traditional authorities in this country.”
He said every serious social mobilisation of Ghana since time immemorial had seen the involvement of chiefs, adding that without them, nothing could happen.
“So the reason you have been brought here today is to have the opportunity to share with you our thoughts, our strategy, our thinking and I ask of you, in the name of generations yet unborn, your support and active involvement in bringing this menace of galamsey to an end,” he pleaded.
The President said the campaign being waged against illegal mining was not for the present generation alone but for posterity, adding: “I have great confidence in the Ghanaian people and their traditional leaders. They will always stand up during critical times.”
Towards that end, he told the traditional leaders that Ghanaians were counting on them to put their shoulders to the wheel.
He said those involved in the illegality might be easy with the provision of money to influence traditional authorities and pay their way through but added that it was time for all to say ‘we have to do something now to secure our future’.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said he had absolutely no doubt that if there was any one right thing to be done in Ghana today, it was a mobilisation to stop the phenomenon known as galamsey.
“It is the right thing for us to do,” he noted.
Show more commitment
“Essentially, I am very committed, but my commitment is not enough, I need yours as well. With your commitment, I will leave here knowing that no matter how difficult and how long it takes, we will win this fight,” he pointed out.
The President was quite upbeat about grooming the country again, saying: “We will write a glorious chapter in the history of our great nation and posterity will say that when it mattered most, our traditional authorities were not found wanting but rose to the occasion.”
He said Ghanaians had been through some difficult times and, understandably, many people had to find means of making ends meet for themselves and their families and that led to people engaging in a number of activities.
He said it was quite understandable that the first duty of every man or woman was to provide for the family, but was quick to add that equally more important was the fact that there were some things that “we just cannot allow to happen and one of them is the heritage we inherited from our fathers, grandfathers, especially the Ghanaian space”.
“We have a duty to protect it for those who will come after us, and if our river bodies are drying up, our landscape is being desecrated, we here, leaders of our society, leaders of our nation, political leaders, religious leaders, we have a responsibility to say ‘no, we can’t allow this to go on for our own common survival and that of those to come’,” he said.
He said allowing that to happen amounted to “jeopardising our own future”, adding that the Cabinet had decided that now was the time to put the full weight of government behind the decision to stop illegal mining or galamsey.
An oath to protect our natural reserves
“Rivers that have been with us for centuries are drying up; forest areas which we should preserve for the sanctity of our lives are being devastated, all because of the phenomenon of galamsey. And all kinds of people from all walks of our national life are engaged in this exercise — security personnel, political leaders, businessmen, and Nananom, some chiefs are all involved in this.
“So we sat down and said to ourselves that we have a responsibility because we took an oath to protect the integrity of our nation. We have sworn to uphold the Constitution. We have sworn to protect its sovereignty and what that means is that the care of the nation, its people, its resources, its nature have been put in our care, temporarily, as trustees.
“Don’t sit back and say, ‘well, all these young men do not have anything to do and so let them go on’ when you know that the activities they are involved in are jeopardising the very survival of our nation,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said he could not oversee that because it would be a betrayal of the trust that the Ghanaian people placed in him on January 7, this year.
In furtherance of that, he said, a committee had been put together to design a policy, not just to stop galamsey, reclaim the land or to make the rivers work again but also to see how best to figure a way for all those able-bodied young men who were engaged in those activities to find alternative sources of livelihood.
He added that it was a package that had been designed to try and bring the menace of galamsey to a conclusion.