?Any Ghanaian who has followed the role traditional rulers play in Ghana’s socio-economic development will conclude that greed, mismanagement, ignorance and deliberate sale of plot of land to two or more people at the same time are some of the characteristics?of most of the traditional rulers in Ghana. Ghana’s traditional leadership is a hierarchy. On the top is the king. At the base is the family or clan head (Abusuapanin). The one who is above the clan head is the village or town chief, known in the Akan dialect as “Odikuro”. This literarily means the owner of the village or the town. The next in the hierarchy is the “Omanhene”, or the paramount chief, who is usually the traditional leader at the district level. At the apex is the head of a tribal group such as the King of Asantes, or the Ga Mantse of the Gas.
The common thread in the roles of those hierarchical authorities is that they are the custodians of ancestral community lands, culture, customary laws and traditions which include history. They are supposed to initiate and champion the cause of development activities in their areas of jurisdiction. They are also responsible for maintenance of law and order, including presiding over and settling non-criminal civil disputes.
There has been a changing interface between Traditional rulers and the government of Ghana in pursuit of good governance in customary law and other forms of land administration in Ghana. This is because the Traditional rulers have largely usurped almost all the management, administrative and economic control of customary lands and selling them according to their own wishes. The lands have been sold by chief after chief, thus rendering lands in short supply. Due to shortage of lands, the Chiefs deliberately, wickedly and merely by pure monetary motives, sell a plot of land to two or three people, while he sits down to expect an imminent conflict over who owns the right to the land. Very often he will not get involved in the sale but delegate faceless people to do it. This attitude constraints land sale for the purpose of housing and agriculture, thus slowing national development.
The rural and urban planners from the lands department have designed master site plans for all the lands in the various regions of Ghana. They made sure that for every residential area provisions were made for a market, a school, a shopping centre, and sometimes a post office and even a bank area. Due to pure greed the Chiefs neglect the structure of the site plan and indiscriminately sell the plots, including those earmarked?for hospitals, schools, markets etc. to individuals to build their private houses on. Such greed by the Traditional rulers hinders urban and rural development.
In most of the mining areas, especially in the areas where gold is mined, the Chiefs in that area have a field day. They have consistently sold the lands to people to operate galamsay without any supervision or enforcement. This lack of enforcement is, to a large extent, due to the connivance of state officials with the galamsay operators and even foreigners for selfish gains. The word galamsay is not a local dialect but rather it is an English sentence, “gather them and sell” which has been corrupted by local users as “galamsay.”Every galamsay operator, it is alleged, gives a quantity of gold to the chiefs weekly and in some local areas, monthly. The Chiefs instead of using such monies received in a development effort in the villages or towns they travel to the cities with the money received, to purchase brand new cars for their use. What they don’t seem to care about is the rate at which these galamsay operators are polluting the water bodies which serve as potable and drinking water for the vast amount of people who live in those areas. The worst danger is that, as a result of this illegal mining, gaping holes are created which are not covered. These holes have trapped many farmers, women and children, sending them to early graves. The CEO of the Ghana Chamber of mines, Mr. Toni Aubynn, wondered how the foreigners get into the country and go to the remote areas to operate galamsay. Despite the laws governing small scale mining in Ghana, the foreigners who are mostly Chinese, play it smart by either getting a Ghanaian to front for them or to partner them. Everyone including the CEO and the Chief are all aware that certain galamsay operations belong to the Chinese but they overlook it due to monetary gains. Will Ghana ever develop with such attitude?
Ghana is said to be one of the world?s most religious countries, with an estimated 97 per cent of people claiming to belong to a religion (about 70-80 per cent Christian). Unfortunately many of our Chiefs believe in the might of small gods. Their belief in gods has been a major cause of Ghana’s under-development.?The road passing through?a town in the Brong Ahafo region has remained un-tarred and disturbingly dusty. Finally, help came and the road was to be broadened and tarred. The Chief of the town sent a petition to the authorities that he will not allow the road to be broadened because it will destroy the peaceful abode of the gods which is close nearby.?If the Chief refuses to be persuaded, the road will remain unconstructed for a very long time.
The Ashanti kingdom with Nana Osei Tutu II as the King has gold bars fully packed in a 200 square metre room. A new room has allegedly been opened to store the gold bars that regularly come from the Ashanti goldfields and other mining companies around Ashanti Region. It is the assumption of every Ashanti that if Otumfuo is to use the riches of the Ashanti Kingdom to develop the infrastructure and the road network, among other things, the Ashanti region will be the New York of Ghana. It is sad that no King is ready to take such a bold decision.
The government must make sure that the Lands Commission or department does not allow any chief to make any changes to the master site plan. Anyone who builds a private house on a land meant for a school or market, without first contacting the lands department will have his building pulled down. The Kings and Chiefs must not be allowed to be obstacles to development.
Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads