Let me take you back into time today, far back into time – to AD 536. If you are a scholar of history or science, you may have heard of the Latin term annus horribilis, literally meaning: “horrible year!”
From the research done by scientists, it is said that AD 536 was the coldest year in the last 2300 years, which made the winter season a survival season for most cultures. Contemporary scholars also tell us that it is not only the fact that it was a really cold winter that made it a bad year but the climate changed all of a sudden.
Some scholars have noted that they saw heavy snow in China during the peak period of summer. Besides the Chinese culture not being used to very cold weather, the main problem was that most crops were killed due to the harsh climate, therefore creating a famine. This did not only happen in China but in many other parts of the world where snow never fell. Some scientists argue that this was due to the sun not offering the same level of heat during that particular year.
South America would suffer from three long months of heavy rain followed by three months of drought; this would, once again, affect the agriculture within the continent, not only killing the main source of the economy but also creating a famine.
What impacted agriculture and the well-being of humans during this year were the multiple volcanic eruptions in the northern hemisphere of the globe. This led to the engulfment in darkness of half of the world due to a massive dark cloud that didn’t allow the sun’s heat to reach the earth’s ground, therefore lowering temperatures. This also explains why this was the coldest year.
Besides not having much natural heat, agriculture once again suffered enormously due to the lack of sunlight which was vital to the growth of plants. Just imagine not being able to discern between night and day as it was always dark – and all this while starving to death and freezing cold. This darkness lasted 18 months, so most of the year AD 536 was lived in complete obscurity.
Around the same time, though not in the same year (that is about 541 AD to 549 AD), the Bubonic Plague, caused by the bacteria “Yersinia pestis,” also broke out through transmission from rats to humans and was carried on ships to the rest of the world. In less than a year, the pandemic had spread worldwide, covering most of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Far East. Scientists estimate that almost 50% of the world’s population was wiped out in the nine years the pandemic took place. I could go on and on about the year 536 AD, considered the worst year in history, but let me cap it off here. I’m sure you get my drift, right?
In this 4th Republic, and I am open to contestation on this, this year, 2022, could very well be our own annus horribilis: a year of extremely bad events, or, to be more exact, a horrible year!
But just how bad is a horrible year? It depends on whom you’re talking to. Queen Elizabeth II of blessed memory, for example, used this expression in a speech in 1992 to describe that year, when there was a serious fire at Windsor Castle, the Princess Royal got divorced, the Duke of York separated from his wife and the Prince of Wales had marital problems. That was a horrible year for her.
For us here, in Ghana, I suppose we are more concerned about the bread and butter matters that affect our daily lives – which, upon reflection, makes me believe that 2022 has, in fact, been a horrible year for Ghanaians – if not the worst in our 4th Republican history!
Yes, we’ve had to deal with the global crises of Covid-19 and the Russo-Ukrainian war – but we are not alone in this enterprise – so why do we find ourselves on the cusp of becoming (if we have not already become, that is) another Sri Lanka – when even our much poorer neighbours are hale, hearty and living appreciably well – even in the eye of the storm?
From the highest fuel prices I have witnessed in my life here in Ghana – to some of the worst prices I have seen for food and drink and everything in-between – to the imposition of the Elevy – against the popular will of the people – to the abysmal management of our economy which is fast-crumbling.
This, indeed, has been a horrible year! I shall get down to the economic data a little later, but let me just say this: it is said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Ghanaians, through their votes, paid the piper, this NPP administration; yet when we called the tune, expressing our opposition to the Elevy, the piper failed to play the tune. The piper wasn’t playing fair – and not just in that instance alone – so we had to show the piper where power lay – and we did, considering the pathetic showing of that levy. I ask: why heap misery upon an already suffering people? Why must it come to this?
Before we get into the economy, let’s take a quick look at our agriculture and how it’s been impacted by galamsey. Our Lands and Natural Resources Minister is on record to have said that small-scale mining contributes 40% of our revenue from gold extraction. I ask: how much exactly is that? And at what cost to our environment?
How come a few years ago we stayed such mining and still sold more ounces of gold than we had for decades?
Our waters, today, are looking very colourful – like something out of the milky way galaxy, in which our solar system can be found. From different shades of beige to brown, we have turned our cherished water bodies into POOLS OF DEATH! Behold, Ghanafu), your water bodies – at least, what has become of them…
We’ve been told that even if we stopped doing in Galamsey today and brought all those activities to a grinding halt, it would take about a 100 years to restore our water bodies to anything close to what they were before.
Do you see why it was highly irresponsible for the Agric Minister to talk about “just 2 percent of cocoa farmland that has been lost to galamsey” and that 2% was “nothing”?
That, coupled with the chemical issues of mercury and cyanide contamination and other longstanding problems like farmers selling off cocoa land for rubber tree planting and other cash-crop production for fast money means we are looking at fast-dwindling levels of production. In simple terms, we could slip badly and lose not just our spot, but, our reputation as producing the best-quality cocoa worldwide! But do our misleaders care? Have they shown the leadership we need in this respect? Take another look at these water bodies and give me an answer!
Contemplate the unprecedented damage to our landscape through illegal mining activities in which some members of the ruling administration have been found complicit – and I’m not just talking about now – I’m talking about all that was revealed through the Anas exposé on the likes of Charles Bissue, then later the Ekow Ewusi saga, among many others.
Before any proper investigations could be conducted, didn’t the system rush to clear them and allow them to enjoy their booty? The Aisha Huang case, itself, is a critical example – especially when her disappearance or purported deportation, which our President said he wasn’t even certain of, was managed, or stage-managed in the way it was – with political elements telling us, the masses she has stolen from, that we stood to gain nothing through her incarceration.
Well, we emboldened her – and now, she’s back – and we’re putting on a show – to save face! If we’d acted the first time and shown good faith, we would have no need to save face, Mr. President.
Akonta mining, owned by your Party’s Ashanti Regional Chairman, has been singled out for blame. But what has your administration done to punish him personally? Nothing! His outfit engaged in criminality by operating without a licence – in a restricted area – a forest reserve of all places! But have the long arms of the law caught up with him? No! Will they ever do so? I doubt it!
But wait! Lest I forget! Even Sir John willed part of the Achimota Forest, another forest reserve, to his family members. Add Atewa and I can say the NPP has quite an uncanny interest in our forest reserves! As it is, Mr. President, your administration has failed to rein in those destroying our land and water bodies in this manner – and in many other respects – which is why we are where we are today!
Our cocoa and coffee risk being banned. Also considering the fact that cocoa production is based on land size, Indonesia could soon overtake us on the global production log. Add to that the fact that cyanide and meecury are polluting our land and water bodies because of galamsey and we could also lose out on producing the world’s highest-quality cocoa beans – all because our leader failed to lead – failed to act!
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they actually do! Let’s focus on the economy now. The World Bank now says our debt to GDP is set to hit 104.6% by end of year. That puts us in very ignominious company; we are rubbing shoulders with countries like Eritrea, Sudan, Cape Verde and Mozambique. Can you imagine that?
This, Ghanafu), is the very first time we find ourselves in this territory where our Debt to GDP is crossing a 100%! It also means our economy is facing severe debt distress as is evinced by the Fitch and Moody’s downgrades we have seen recently! The World Bank blames our Central Bank, which we would have counted on to see the writing on the wall and act quickly to protect us, for looking on till inflation skyrocketed before tweaking our monetary policy rates.
Even worse, our currency, the Ghana Cedi, has slumped a whopping 60% this year alone! 60%! For context, the Ghana Cedi had lost just 2% of its value around this time last year. The Cedi, Ghanafu), remains the worst-performing currency in Africa – and the second worst in the world!
How do we get out of this foul rut? What do we do? Where do we turn? What should be our stance? Our posturing? Definitely not one of parrying blame but of accepting responsibility and of being practical. Of being honest with the people and humbly engaging all so we can avert even worse.
After all, is anyone happy when things go bad? It affects us all: thick, thin, short, tall, rich and poor. We need all of us – all hands on deck – to remedy the situation, I agree. But first, our misleaders must act like leaders and show true leadership! Without that, God help us but this could be far worse than anything we’ve ever known.
Most of all, voices of conscience must speak up, loud and clear, so our leaders, too, will wake up from their slumber – just as some of us have – lest disaster overtake us! Like the Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said in his speech on Independence Day: “We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!”
Today, from now on, let there be a new Ghanaian mindset, a new kind of leadership mentality, a new kind of patriotism, that love for God and country, to propel our Motherland to the heights she deserves to be at.
Ghana deserves better!
My name is Benjamin Akakpo. These are my Blunt Thoughts served to you raw, unedited and undiluted. God richly bless Ghana and make her great and strong!
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