For a few years now, there have been intermittent instances of the youth and chiefs of Accra clamouring for the restitution of the not-yet developed government lands in Accra, to the Ga chiefs and communities from whom the lands were supposedly seized.
I am a bit confused here. Were the lands seized from their original or bona fide owners by the government of Ghana, with or without, paying them compensations or royalties? For what reasons were the lands forcibly or otherwise acquired by the government that seized them? Were they seized by the government(s) in the best interest of the citizenry and the country or not?
I have read from the news that His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assured the Ga chiefs of setting up a Committee to look into the restitution of the lands taken away from the chiefs, to them, if he won the upcoming general elections to continue as the President of Ghana.
Many a time have I heard the Ga youth or chiefs argue that if the government is not ready to use or develop the lands, then the lands must be given back to them. It is here that I beg to differ. I totally disagree with them on this point. I shall buttress my contention with the underlying narrations.
When I was a child and used to spend some time with my parents on my father’s cocoa farm at Oseikrom near Mpasaaso in what was/is Ahafo, in the beginning of the 1960s, I could see that the cocoa farmers and their labourers could produce more food from their cocoa farms not only to feed themselves, but also, sell them. However, many years later, to be more precise, when I was about to complete my Secondary School education in mid 1970s, my father asked me to take a certain man who had agreed to become a caretaker of part of the farm to Oseikrom to be introduced to one of the resident caretakers on the farm. I was wondering if at all I could tell if I reached Oseikrom, because I had never returned to the place since the commencement of my schooling, although I could visualize where my father’s house was. I had not been back to Oseikrom let alone, the cocoa farm, for almost thirteen to fifteen years.
When I got there, I spent about three days, left the man, and returned to Kumawu. From the two or three days that I spent, I could see that the people could no longer produce any food on their cocoa farms to feed themselves, let alone, sell any. They had planted cocoa trees throughout. Almost all the cocoa farmers in Oseikrom were feeding from parcels of lands reallocated to them by the government from the forest or land that had been seized or taken over by the government probably during the colonial days. Without allocations of lands from the government’s land popularly called in the local parlance as “Sofia Land” (Surveyor’s land), the farmers and the residents of Oseikrom and its environs would probably starve to death or have to relocate elsewhere.
Again, in my own town, Kumawu, in the Ashanti region, there came a period of hunger in the 1970s. Most of the farmlands were no longer fertile enough to produce sufficient food. The situation was exacerbated by the near complete absence of rainfall for many months. The government stepped in to release part of the government’s land, also called “Sofia Land” as usual, to the farmers of Kumawuman. They were forbidden to plant any cocoa or cash crops in their farms but food crops like plantain, cocoyam, yams and cassava in addition to a particular tree seedlings or seeds provided to them by the Forest Rangers.
Going forward, when you go to any of the advanced Whiteman’s countries, especially the United Kingdom, and London in particular, this is what you will see. You will find thousands of vast swathes of land left, as in demarcation, for public parks and gardens and future use. In London, you will not travel for more than half a mile to a mile without locating one of these huge open public spaces as just mentioned above. Some of them are even forests within the city. Only God knows since when they had been obtained or seized and kept under the authorities of the Local Councils, thus, the government.
No individual, or group of persons, has been making noise about the lands being left for so long. Recently in London, due to the population increase, some of these parks and open spaces left for so many years are now being converted into housing estates, with huge blocks of flats capable of accommodating tens of hundreds of families being constructed.
Any land acquired by, and left currently sitting idle, by the British government, will be of important use in future as could be attested to by those being used for constructing buildings to ease the accommodation problems currently faced by the City of London. Had those lands not been acquired or seized by the previous governments hundreds of years ago, how could the Local Councils have readily-available lands for new and urgent projects?
Have we realised how the white man is farsighted and always plans fifty years ahead while the black man is so myopic to only see as far as the tip of his nose?
It is only in Ghana that we don’t see the importance of leaving lands for public parks or future use. Our greedy chiefs will have all the lands under their jurisdiction sold, pocket the money without their subjects benefiting from the lands or the proceeds from the lands.
The Ghana governments must note that in every district or region in the country, there are lands that have been reserved for the government as are called “Sofia land”. Whether they were seized or acquired, all that we know is that such lands are for the government with the locals prohibited from using them. Anyone trespassing into such lands without government authorisation is arrested and prosecuted.
If lands are taken by the government in other districts without the locals complaining, why should those in Accra continually whimper about theirs? The lands seized by, or reserved for, the government elsewhere in Ghana, become forests abounding in trees that contribute toward rainfall and preservation of our water bodies. No matter where such lands are situated, they are of benefit to every individual in Ghana in one way or the other.
Therefore, no matter how long the government’s lands in Accra are left undeveloped, they will be of greater collective use to Ghanaians so the government should not feel pressured to release them to the Ga chiefs. If the lands in Accra are reverted to the Ga chiefs, the original owners, what about those lands reserved for the government in other regions as mentioned above?
Our Ghana and African governments must be farsighted enough to not yield in to populist parochial politics and demands. Our current traditional chiefs unlike the olden day’s ones are too greedy. They don’t think about the collective interests of the subjects unlike those of the olden days hence will not waste time to sell off all the lands to pocket the money as soon as the government gives the lands back to them. This is an open secret.
In the whole of Accra, you will not find a third of the open spaces reserved for public park/garden and other public activities as are found in any single borough in London. No wonder that the white people in general are healthier and live longer than Ghanaians.
The Ghana governments must continue to keep some lands for future use if they currently have no plans to use them. We should not only think about today but tomorrow and the next. Let us be visionary!