Written by Denis Andaban
As an individual that holds my personal principles and convictions firmly, I will not as a results of fear, hide my disappointment on traditional rulers in my home region, the Upper West Region. We cannot always be blaming only politicians for our problems when indeed some basic problems can better be handled by communities through their chiefs. Must we continue to depend on politicians to solve all our problems? I don’t believe so!!
Now, let me give you the narrative. You may share my feelings.
I launched a serious campaign against bush burning few weeks ago. I wrote a piece I think was convincing enough to advocate against bush burning. You can read the article in the link below; https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/Stop-the-bush-burning-now-699791
In the above article, after carefully explaining the negative impact of bush burning, I humbly called on traditional rulers to take up the matter and ensure that we do not have this perennial menace of indiscriminate bush burning which has many adverse effects on our environment. I anticipated, that once grasses were becoming dry, largely precipitated by the hostile hazy harmattan, some ignorant farmers, herdsmen, hunters and others would engage in bush burning. As an ordinary writer with limited media space, my message could not reach the masses. Our media space is largely occupied with partisan banters, giving little and sometimes, no attention for such initiatives from ordinary individuals. At my individual level, I have spoken to students I met and admonished them to be ambassadors against the aged long canker that is fast destroying our environment.
I need not repeat that bush burning is illegal. It is a criminal activity. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agencies have not been able to enforce the laws adequately in that regard. The education against this illegality is not just enough and as a result, many especially the rural folks are ignorant of the fact that bush burning is illegal.
Poverty levels continue to increase in our region because our land is no longer fertile for good agricultural yields. The land is fast becoming a desert and affecting our health in diverse ways. Farm produce get destroyed by bushfires and our land is being denied beautiful sceneries because of this barbaric act. All over the world, people are greening their environments by investing millions and millions of dollars. As poor as we are, we are rather destroying and increasing our poverty levels through bush burning instead of taking steps to protect our land. The results of bush burning are too obvious to notice by all yet, we remain so blind that no one sees anything wrong with it.
With the sacred authority that our traditional rulers possess and for the fact that traditional rulers are supposed to advocate for development in their areas, I expect them to have taken this issue of bush burning seriously. Alas! The eyes of my revered leaders have been closed, and their mouths glued on this issue for reasons I am not able to deduce. It is such a painful “distin”. We can’t all be ignorant on this issue in this dawn of civilisation.
The canker of bush burning has visited us one more time. Just go round most parts of the Upper West Region and you will see our savanna grasses and forest being engulfed by fire. This is very embarrassing. Anybody entering the upper west region can at a glance, notice this canker. Those fires mostly do not come as a result of accidents but through deliberate acts by our people. This is neither the first nor the last yet we fold our arms and look on. The educated class, the clergy, politicians, civil society groups and traditional rulers remain mute on the canker yet think, that we can easily bridge the gab between the north and the south through political rhetorics.
The reality is that if there is any well thought policy to develop this our region, without a change of this barbaric attitude, I can assure you that we would only be making ourselves a laughing stock to the rest of the country because no policy survives when the people fail to reason.
What is more painful is that our traditional rulers had the opportunity to integrate this education into the activities of their traditional festivals. That did and has not happened. When they had/have the opportunity to address community durbars as part of celebrating these festivals, they did not and still do not see the need to admonish their subjects against this ungodly act. They rather chose or choose to make demands from government and other development partners. If we cannot see the need to fight against such fundamental problems staring us, then I wonder what it is that we can ever do for ourselves. I have monitored speeches of some traditional rulers and community leaders and can state unequivocally that all their speeches only centered on making demands from central government. Real community leadership should be able to sensitize the people and bring them together to address community problems.
I must say that our underdevelopment is not only caused by poor political leadership in the country but a seeming loss of direction of traditional rulers and other decentralised structures. The ability of community leaders to address such common challenges make them appear serious in the face of development partners.
We keep blaming the politician and doing little about our own attitude. If we don’t change, the politicians won’t change because politicians are raised from our society. They ascend to the political throne with such attitudes and the cycle of lack of logical reasoning and common sense continues. I am charitable because of the reverence I give to our traditional rulers but I think they must think and contribute their quota to the development of their areas either than expecting magic from elsewhere. It doesn’t happen in the 21st century.
Let me also urge the media to focus on its core role of education rather than giving more attention to ugly cacophony by politicians.
Community development is critical and pivotal in national development. Economic development is only an aggregate of development in communities. The media has more to be done at the level of community development too but the traditional rulers should “own” their jurisdictions and exercise authority that can speed up development.