Participants at an oil and gas forum in Accra have advised Ghanaians to learn from mistakes of oil-rich African countries to make the discovery of oil in Ghana beneficial rather than a curse as it has been the case in some African countries with oil deposits.
They described the late discovery of oil in Ghana as divine because it would enable the country to avoid the mistakes of other countries such as Nigeria and Angola.
The group reminded participants of how Niger Delta in Nigeria has been a source of flaring conflicts between government forces and some militant groups since the West African country discovered oil in the late 1950's.
The admonition, we believe, has come at the right time. Ghanaians have the next two years to consider how best to deal with the likely fall-out of our oil discovery. By 2011, the country will start exploration of the oil deposits in the Western Region.
As in many countries that have been endowed with oil deposits, the discovery of oil in Ghana has been lauded by many Ghanaians.
In our estimation, the oil revenue, if well maximized, has the potential of solving many problems confronting the country.
Perhaps what such people forget is that oil is not the only natural resource that the country is endowed with. Although the county has been blessed with many other natural resources like gold, diamond, bauxite and many others, the required development that we hope these minerals would have brought us has been illusive.
That means apart from the likely disturbances that the discovery of oil brings, we have had a very sordid history of not being able to manage similar natural endowments. The situation is thus not only with the likely nasty fall-out that is usually associated with oil find, but also how to make maximum use of it in our dear country.
In the larger consideration, we wish to add to the admonition offered by the participants that government or likely managers of the oil find should be mindful or be motivated by history to make sure that the nation gets the best.
We are equally mindful of the many wars that have erupted in many oil-rich countries, not only in Africa but other parts of the world.
The paper remembers how former war lord, Jonas Savimbi engaged the then Angolan government in a protracted war for well over a decade because of the oil deposit in the part of Angola that was under the control of Savimbi and his rebel group.
It was a pure partisan fight over which political group controls the region or the area that the oil is found. But for that senseless war, we believe the Southern African country will perhaps have been one of the most developed countries on the continent.
The Nigerian situation is rather pathetic.
The people, citizens or indigenes of the Niger Delta, feel cheated because they had not derived any meaningful development from the oil revenue accruing from the oil deposit in the area. That has resulted in many militant struggles by mostly youth groups and other militia groups of that part of the West African country.
This paper will recommend that although the oil found in the Western Region is a national asset, we still believe that government should develop a proper quota system in the distribution of the oil revenue.
Government should start with the deposited area, where it will develop the villages around the area to modern towns with the necessary facilities that go with it.
That is the only way we can avoid a Niger Delta in Ghana. Government should ensure prudent management of the oil find in order to generate the requisite revenue expected to develop all other parts of the country.