Thinking of the environment @70 is a sign of ‘green wisdom’

President Rawlings (middle) among the audience At the symposium on the environment on his 70th anniversary

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath


A Ghanaian proverb says: “Wisdom is not like gold which may be kept in a safe.” If you are a sage, it will reflect in your image.


Ghana is blessed not only with abundant natural resources but also with statesmen and women of wisdom. Some of the wise men and women of our land are not only those who possess grey hairs. For example, some of the young media gurus like Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey of the Graphic Communications Group (GCGP) and his leading collaborators of the Media Coalition against Galamsey Campaign have their heads impregnated with wisdom.


Verily, verily, I say unto you that the war being waged against illegal mining by the Ghanaian media today may not be appreciated by some egocentric elements of the extractive industry of the present generation. Rather, it will take some future generations about 300 years to clap for the media for saving their farmlands, forests, rivers and water bodies for posterity.  


In this article, I would like to touch briefly on the ingenuity of some past and present Ghanaian leaders with particular reference to former President Jerry John Rawlings who has just celebrated his 70th anniversary. I was fascinated when I heard that as part of activities marking his70th natal day, there was going to be a lecture on the environment. Indeed, there was a symposium, on a broad theme: Protecting and safeguarding the national environment for the future generations.


 I found this aspect of President Rawlings’s anniversary celebration very instructive and productive nationally. President Rawlings’s environmental consciousness has been elevated to that degree of consciousness where the nation must take note of. A Gambian proverb on the environment says, “A tree which is not taller than you cannot shade you.”


On Thursday, June 23, 2017, the Daily Graphic carried on its page 52, a story headlined, and “Lecture on environment held to celebrate JJ at 70 today.” That story reported by Dominic Moses Awiah & Timothy was illustrated with a photograph of audience made up of President Rawlings and his family members, Ambassador Victor Gbeho and Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, Minister for Environment Science, Technology and Innovation, who could be seen standing and addressing the audience.


The story placed emphasis on what Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. John Peter Amewu, who could be characterized as the general commanding the current fight against galamsey in the country. Mr. Amewu was reported to have outlined a number of interventions the government intended to put in place to protect the country’s environment for the future generations. As a student of Environmental studies, Minister Amewu’s words sound like music in my ears. The earlier those interventions including forests plantations, conservation of biodiversity and protection of water bodies among others are implemented the better for the sustainable development of our beloved nation.


Naturally, President Rawlings cannot be singled out to be the first Ghanaian leader to demonstrate genuine concern about environmental protection and preservation in Ghana.  However, if President Rawlings were like some other egocentric former or present African heads of state,(don’t get me wrong-  I am not saying he is incorruptible); he could have decided to  embark upon some ‘huhudious’ vacation on some distant luxurious touristic island on this planet of vanity to enjoy his 70th birth day party.


The fact that he thought of the environment, and devoted this anniversary to the awareness creation of the environment alone qualifies him to be baptized as an environmental angel of Ghana. I would compare President Rawlings to Pope Francis and President Barak Obama as far as his environmental consciousness goes.


Some other Ghanaian leaders or personalities who demonstrated their sense of environmental concerns in the past included former UN Secretary-General Busumuru Kofi Annan, former President John Agyekum Kufuor, the immediate past President John Dramani Mahama and the current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Here are some basic facts or evidences to illustrate my point:


In March 2016, Mr. Kofi Anna was the special guest of honour who opened a two-day international conference of African forests here in Ghana. The theme for that event was “Forest for the future of New Forest for Africa”. On that occasion, Mr. Kofi Annan lamented about illegal mining or ‘galamsey’ as well as illegal timber operations that were destroying Africa’s forest cover.  In fact, he disclosed that about 130 million hectares of Africa’s “forest cover has been lost since 1990.”


As for President Kufuor, his concerns about the environment and climate change caught so much   global attention that in December 2013, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, together with a former Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg to mobilize worldwide political will and action in an anticipation of a Climate Summit that was held in New York in 2014.


In September 2015, immediate past President John Mahama, too, was appointed Co-Chair with current Prime Minister of Norway, Ms Erna Solberg, to head a group of sixteen (16) eminent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates to support the Secretary-General in his efforts to generate momentum and commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030.


 Earlier in May 2013, President Mahama inaugurated a high-power inter-ministerial committee mandated to find lasting solutions to illegal mining or galamsey in this country. As to how and why that powerful anti-galamsey task force backed by the national security apparatus could not successfully accomplish their task only Jesus knows. And the consequence is what we are all witnessing today as a nation. 


In April 2017, Ghana’s current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo automatically took over the Co-Chairmanship of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates from President Mahama.  This was announced by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 in New York as reported in the media. These United Nations appointments conferred on former or ruling Ghanaian heads of state should not be taken for granted at all. It is a great honour for a country’s leaders to be assigned such global responsibilities for the benefit of mankind. This explains why Ghanaians must accord uttermost respect to their leaders regardless of their political affiliations. Once a political party flag bearer is elected president of a country, all citizens are obliged to accord him or her necessary due courtesies due that office of authority.  


Since January 2017, when President Nana Akufo-Addo mounted that ‘horse’ as the leader of this peace loving country, illegal mining or galamsey has been one of the  issues that has been giving him sleepless nights. But his determination and commitment to combat the menace which he described as ‘a complex phenomenon’ is admirable. So far, under his command, his Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mr. Peter Amewu has been making life unpalatable for recalcitrant galamseyers. The galamsey operators should be guided by this proverbs that, “Any child who says his mother will not sleep, he or she too, will not taste the fruit of sound sleep.”


All said and done, former President Rawlings’s commitment to environmental sanitation, especially in those days when he could snatch a shovel from any member of the public and to enter a gutter to clean the city of Accra has distinguished him from all the others. That act may be interpreted by various people to suit their own perception but it encouraged the spirit of communal labour among the citizenry. If today, at the age of 70, he could no longer physically do some of those exercises but would use the occasion of his natal day celebration to organise lectures or symposia on the importance of the environment, one can only proclaim him as a man of Green Wisdom.


The author works with Information Services Department 

 Photo Credit: Daily Graphic

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