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Problem is not galamsey but lawlessness [Article]

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I must confess, I am amazed by the seriousness the entire nation, led by the political, traditional and religious leadership, as well as non-governmental organisations, has attached to the fight against the “Galamsey menace” in our country. That alone goes to prove that if we set our minds to the fight against the cancer of the society, the nation can be saved. In my contribution in the Daily Graphic on the corruption within the judiciary, October 9, 2015, I pointed this out – ‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land” [2 Chronicles 7: 14].

Is galamsey the problem or lawlessness?

The question is whether we have identified the real problem prompting the nation to suddenly wake up to find a solution. No, I do not think so. I may be the only stranger in this country. As far as I am concerned, the problem is not galamsey. There is no doubt galamsey is a serious problem confronting the nation, resulting in the destruction of water bodies and the environment. However, the reality is that galamsey is just one of the outcomes of the major problem confronting this country to which we seem to be oblivious of.

The real problem facing the nation is lawlessness. It is so surprising that we seem ignorant or simply unwilling to confront it. If we do not take the bull by the horns, there will be many more galamseys confronting us.

The level of lawlessness must be analysed and understood in the right context. Over the years, we have entertained, nurtured and groomed indiscipline and lawlessness to the level that we are no longer conscious of our behaviour. The majority of the population who should be role models and opinion leaders in the nation are products of past practices of lawlessness and lack of accountability. Many have risen to prominence in all sectors of the nation, whether in the political arena, judiciary, traditional leadership, academic positions, the religious order, etc. as a result of the absence of accountability and the rule of law. These are the ones who over the years presided over all aspects of nation building within the executive, legislature, judiciary, educational sector, control of national coffers, traditional rule and spiritual direction. In the process, we have unconsciously condoned and accepted wrongful types of conduct as normal. The galamsey we are fighting falls within that lifestyle.

I have on a number of occasions raised concern over this behaviour in our country. In the January 21 and 23 issues of the Daily Graphic under the headline, “Exorcising the culture of impunity in Ghana,” I observed: “There seems to be a trend that has gained notoriety in this country, suggesting that persons and institutions are not subject to accountability. This has resulted in a peculiar characteristic exhibited by Ghanaians, behaving as if they are a law unto themselves. This is manifested in words, as well as in conduct. Any serious critical observer will notice this kind of negative behaviour at almost every level of this country. We find this in the way we drive, how we maintain our environment, how we plan our villages, towns and cities, how we provide services, etc. The list is endless.” During the aftermath of the Anas’ exposure of corruption within the Judiciary, I again touched on lawlessness as the root cause of the corruption in the country in a piece in the Daily Graphic of October 9, 2015, “A reflection on corruption within the Judiciary.” I continued in the May 11 and 16 editions of the Daily Graphic with the headline, “A Glimmer of hope: Some lessons from the Nkandla case of South Africa,” by suggesting that we learn from the bold actions taken by the Public Protector and the Constitutional Court in holding leaders accountable for their actions.

Condoning lawlessness

If we give a broader definition to galamsey to cover all kinds of illegality or wrongful conduct, then we shall be on the right path in confronting the colossus bestriding the nation. In that sense, we can justifiably argue that there is galamsey in the way we drive, galamsey in our waste disposal, galamsey in the planning of our towns and cities, galamsey in all sectors of the nation. No one can convince me that motor riders are not conducting galamsey on our roads. Neither can I be persuaded that illegal buildings and squatters are not forms of galamsey. We are galamseying in all spheres of our lives and we seem not to be conscious of this factual reality. It is inconceivable for a police officer directing traffic at an intersection to watch and allow motor riders to ride past in all directions. For such an officer to condone that kind of behaviour is a good example of how we accept and condone lawlessness.

The simple fact is that we are a nation where laws do not mean anything. However, if we are serious about nation building then we should recognise that “lawlessness” is our number one problem and should be the focal point for our efforts to start our nation building. I have repeatedly told my students that the day the laws of this nation will work in the country, 75 per cent of our problems will be solved overnight.

Galamsey is simply a product of lawlessness that has engulfed the nation over the years, the fact that we allow people to get away with everything. Let us enforce the laws and galamsey in all forms will be a thing of the past. If I may borrow from Milton in Paradise Lost, I would say, “Destruction, destruction with destruction.” In other words, “We must destroy the destructible elements of destruction.” It is lawlessness that is destroying this nation and it is that element that we must destroy to save this nation.

The writer is Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) , Prof. Yaw Frimpong