When I stood at the New Polo Ground in Accra at midnight on 5 March 1957, within earshot of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as he whispered to Mr. Krobo Edusei, “Bepae ma me!” (Come and do the opening salutation for me!) and heard Krobo yell with gusto: “CHOOOOOBOI!”….. “CHOOOOOBOI!”, I would never have believed that 59 years later, we would have a regime that would pack journalists into a tipper truck for them to cover the independence anniversary of their “beloved country”.
On that most auspicious day in our country’s history, all I needed to tell the police officers near the special dais on which Dr. Nkrumah and other CPP leaders stood, was “Reporter!” They gave me immediate access.
For I lived in a country where people really understood their duty. The police were there to prevent harm being done to our leaders, not to show anyone where “power lies”. Had they prevented me from getting access to the dais – and thereby being able to tell successive generations what it felt like to be present at the Polo Club at that midnight hour – I would have just walked away with head held high. But the reporters of the current era do not seem to have any pride.
They are thus treated with very little respect from those who organise public events. Indeed, some of them were violently assaulted whilst covering – a similar independence anniversary on 2013. The army’s PR department initially lied about what had happened, but later apologised. But no-one was punished as far as the public knew. The sequence was this year’s tipper truck! Not 59 years ago, I would never have believed that the journalists of independent Ghana would be among the most servile elements of our society, or that the rulers would look on unconcerned if and when humiliation was conflicted on journalists. After all, Kwame Nkrumah was a journalist! Would there ever have been a “Ghana” had The Accra Evening News not existed?
I would not have believed, either, that Chiefs, whose predecessors had competently and courageously organised their people to resist foreign invasion after foreign invasion mounted with superior weapons – sometimes led in their resistance by women (one of whom, Yaa Asantewaa, has become a shining icon in our country’s history) – would sit down and expect a disinterested Central Government to be the only one to beat off gangs of local and Chinese ‘galamsey’ gold-diggers-cum-fortune-seekers, who use toh-toh-toh-toh machines to dig for gold in the rivers from which human beings get the water which they must drink in order to survive!
Is this the country whose people used ancient kyirem [asafo] formations to prevent their cocoa trees from being cut down, ostensibly to fight against ”swollen shoot” disease? Is this the nation in which the sounding of gong-gong and drum alerts would send men into the bush to look for women who had disappeared (believed raped and killed) and who would also organise night-time patrols to deter burglars from attempting to rob their towns and villages? What has happened to the spirit that once reigned at Aboabo in Kumase? Where are the Amantuor-Mmiensa in Akyem Abuakwa? Where are the ”Asafo Companies” – with their picturesque flags – that taught valour and honour to the young men of the Western and Central Regions?
No, I would never have believed that our people would all be sitting down and watching their rivers die. Birem, Densu, Offin, Prah, Tanoh, Butere, Supong and many others are all at risk of dying completely. One brilliant TV journalist who made a film about the tragedy, Edem Srem, wrote in heart-breaking terms about the lack of concern in the country over this tragic situation:
QUOTE: “After our documentar-[ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6qaiPSbZsQ ] was aired, the president and his ministers visited some of the areas where we had shown illegal mining activity to be on the rise…But galamsey is still taking place in various areas, including Twifo Praso, Bempong Agya, Appiah Nkwanta, Kyekyewere, Diaso, Bawdie and Dunkwa-on-Offin.” – UNQUOTE (See more at: http://newafricanmagazine.com/ghana-murky-world-galamsey/#sthash.cR4X48KE.dpuf )
NO! On 6 Match 1957, I would never have believed that our independence, which we deemed so valuable that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was so bold as to say that it would be “meaningless unless it is linked up with the independence of the whole African continent!” would rather so emasculate us and rob us of all common sense that we would sit down and watch with our hands tied behind our backs whist the source of our VERY LIVES – our water bodies – were being violated AND KILLED by foreigners and the local traitors who assist them – for money. And, of course, I would never have believed that one day we would have a President in this country, who, having sworn to safeguard all our lives, tells us, regarding galamsey, that those who destroy our water bodies do so because “they want to earn a living!
If, on 6 March, 1957, anyone had told me that we would place education so low on our agenda that one day, children would be going to school under trees — without desks, blackboards, books or chalk, whilst we made propaganda about supplying schools with laptops, I would have said the person was crazy. Ghana which had introduced fee-free education even before independence? Especially not with a University Professor as Minister of Education and the son of an Nkrumah Minister as President?
No – if someone had told me that we would have radio and television stations that are so intellectually shallow that they would disgrace our entire country by publicising the delusional verbal ejaculations of the likes of Bishop Obinim and Kwaku Bonsam. Obinim can turn into a snake or a vulture? Did these fool on the media people see a sharply-dressed Obinim in a video clip, repeatedly kicking the stomach of a pregnant woman with his shoe? The poor woman might have believed that the kicks to the stomach would drive witchcraft or an evil spirit out of her unborn child. But what about our radio and television publicisers of Obinim? Is this a man who deserves national attention?
And I would never have believed that in a Ghana that has been independent for 59 years, and has developed relations with Interpol, the FBI, Scotland Yard and many other first-class detection agencies, the police would be so toothless that when an old woman suffering from dementia is burnt alive publicly for merely mistaking someone else’s bedroom for her own, they would not be able to bring the offenders to book in five years and four months! I refer to this report in the Daily Graphic of 26 November 2010:
QUOTE: “Grandma Set Ablaze To Exorcise Witchcraft
“A 72-year-old grandmother [Nana Ama Hemmah] suffered one of the most barbaric of deaths when she was burnt alive by a mob at Tema Site 15, after being accused of being a witch…..
“Five people who allegedly tortured and extracted the confessions of witchcraft from Ama Hemmah before drenching her in petrol and setting her ablaze have been arrested by the Tema Police.
“Two of the suspects are Samuel Ghunney, a 50-year-old photographer, and Pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55, [an] evangelist. The rest are Emelia Opoku, 37, Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, and Mary Sagoe, 52, all unemployed.
“Briefing the Daily Graphic on the incident, the Tema Regional Police Commander, Mr. Augustine Gyening, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said about 10 a.m. on November 20, 2010, Samuel Fletcher Sagoe visited his sister (Emelia Opoku) at Site 15, a suburb of Tema Community 1, and saw Madam Hemmah sitting in Emelia’s bedroom at a time Emelia Opoku had sent her children to school.
“… Samuel [Fletcher Sagoe] then raised an alarm, attracting the attention of the principal suspect, Samuel Ghunney, and [other] people … The suspects claimed that Mad. Hemmah was a known witch in the area and subjected her to severe torture, compelling her to confess [to] being a witch. …After extracting the confession,… Ghunney asked Emelia Opoku for a gallon of kerosene and, with the help of his accomplices, poured it all over [Madam Hemmah] and set her ablaze. …. A student-nurse, Deborah Pearl Adumoah, who chanced upon the barbaric act, rescued Mad. Hemmah and sent her to the Community One Police Station, from where she was transferred to the Tema General Hospital, but she died the following day.
“In their [statement made under caution], the suspects denied the offence and explained that they poured anointing oil on the old woman and [that] it caught fire when they offered prayers to exorcise the demon from her.
Buck up, Ghanaians of 2016. A lot of confidence was invested in you in 1957. Do not let those who believed in you gnash their teeth and wring their hands.