When one becomes the First Citizen of one’s country, i.e. Head of State, one is accorded numerous privileges which no other person can enjoy.
For instance, one is humbly “serviced” by public servants, some of whom might be more educated than oneself.
All manner of people stand up when one enters a room. These include people who might be one’s elders; one’s former teachers; or one’s superiors in a past occupation.
Even one’s own traditional rulers, or Chiefs, stand up for one.
The respect which all these people accord a President springs from their recognition of the fact that if their country were to be attacked by another, it is the President who would organise the country’s defence and inspire the entire populace to resist foreign tyranny and not perish.
Yes, a President can order his fellow citizens to die for their country! And they will do so gladly, as their patriotic duty. They may even die as a result of a silly act on his part, such as an unnecessary foreign adventure!
Now, giving one’s life to try and save one’s country is the most profound sacrifice a person can make. You see, each of us has only one life. We do not know its origin; physicists tell us weird tales about life being given to us, while billions of “particle-composites”, just like us, ended up as "annihilated anti-matter", in the process of particle formation! Yet, we gladly offer this unique gift of life to our country, at the word of one person: our Head of State.
But “We don’t call you a Chief for nothing” (says an aphorism played on our talking drums.)
Yes, the drums do rain encomiums on our rulers. But they never stop reminding the rulers of their duty to their people, either.
The drums order the Chiefs to behave with dignity: “A Chief steps out with care and deliberation”, they command. And our customs do ensure that a Chief does not take the risk of speaking out of turn, demanding that he passes what he has to say through the lips of a professionally-trained spokesperson. This is done so that even if what the Chief has to say is not pleasant to hear, at least the words that convey his message might not be too painful or sound crass to the ears of a loyal subject and estrange him or her.
Above all, the Chief is enjoined to defend his inherited land. He is advised to adopt the name of a previous Chief who was wise and brave; he is endlessly reminded that the name he bears is that of a brave warrior who conquered other Mighty Chiefs and that he must similarly defend the land bequeathed to him by his ancestors.
That land will necessarily contain rivers and forests that sustain life. Indeed, the land would have been selected precisely because it harbours good water, animals for food and fertile soil on which life-sustaining plants can grow.
In some areas of our country, parts of certain animals killed by hunters and trappers must be presented to the Chief; as are precious mushrooms picked from the forest. The Chief, through these acts of tribute from their subjects, is constantly reminded that he is first and foremost, the custodian of the riches of the inherited habitat, who must preserve the natural endowments that made his ancestors choose their current dwelling-place, in the first instance.
Unfortunately, we have adopted a foreign form of government that allows us to become alienated from our rulers. For instance, we cannot easily bring our President into a public meeting to hear him and his “councillors” deliberate on matters of importance to us, or to settle our disputes.
Our President may choose to live and work in an “aban” [fortified fortress] where he and his advisers take decisions in secret . Where, once, the citizenry took an active part in a public decision-making process, citizens are now largely expected to accept what has already been decided.
We have surrendered, through the assimilation of foreign norms, an active and organic participation in governance, and substituted for it, an indirect consultation process, mediated through professional politicians. Some of these politicians may indeed render true service to their constituents. But it is more common for them to see their interest primarily as consisting in – remaining at post by all means!
But fortunately there are election campaigns, during which masks are often wrenched away from the faces of the self-seekers amongst our politicians.
The electorate might be too equable to challenge the utterances of such politicians. But those who take it upon themselves to be “leaders of public opinion”, must sift through the promises of the politicians, and expose those that must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
This is why I bring to the attention of my readers, a promise by Mr John Mahama, flag-bearer of the NDC, that he would grant an “amnesty” to people who have been convicted of polluting our waters and destroying our landscape, through galamsey.
Grant them an “amnesty”, Mr Mahama?
Listen: the problem we face, as a nation that wishes to continue to exist as a viable entity, is not that too many people have been convicted in relation to galamsey offences, but that too few of those caught doing galamsey have been taken to court and made to see the iron hand of justice!
Only ten percent of those arrested have been prosecuted in court, according to estimates!
To be sure, the Government of the day is not unaware that the galamsey issue can be unfairly exploited for electoral gain by its opponents. And so, it has been treating galamseyers with kid gloves, in the opinion of many people.
What one would have expected of an opposition with the public interest at heart, would have been to back stronger measures against galamseyers so that we don’t end up in a country where everyone has to buy sachet water to drink or even to cook and wash with, and finally import water from abroad!
But in the face of such frightening possibilities, what do we hear? Outcomes Mr John Mahama with the following:
QUOTE: “The flag-bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama says he will grant amnesty to all arrested galamsey operators if voted into office come December 7 polls.
“John Mahama disclosed this at a durbar of chiefs and people at Odum-Banso in the Western Region…. Addressing the Chiefs and people of the community, he stated that his administration will give these offenders a second chance to better their lives.
“When we come into power, I will grant amnesty to everyone who was arrested for operating in Galamsey. I believe that these operators are remorseful towards any unlawful activities, so we will give them another chance.” UNQUOTE
I will grant amnesty to all arrested Galamsey operators – Mahama
I am sorry, Mr Mahama, but this is a disgraceful example of pandering to the criminal propensities of a section of our populace that seeks to destroy our water-bodies and natural habitat.
Instead of giving them hope that the NDC would, if elected, exonerate them from their diabolical crime of destroying our inherited water-bodies, you ought, Mr Mahama, to put your weight behind the uninhibited implementation of the new legislation the Government has passed, which seeks to increase the punishment for those caught doing galamsey.
Ghana has given you much, Mr Mahama! And you must, in return, reciprocate the respect and deference shown to you by your fellow citizens, when you were head of state.
Anything else will be a demonstration of ingratitude; an unpatriotic attitude that will arouse the indignation of all those who want Ghana to be able to continue nurturing healthy generations in the future.
By CAMERON DUODU