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A Tale of Lands and Rivers

Honorable David Derek Antwi, the Municipal Chief Executive of the Upper Denkyira East Municipal Assembly had deserted his country long ago when his father, who was a fine and honorable judge in his day got killed over a minor court case he was handling. Sadly, justice was never served him nor his family. The criminal had pleaded ‘not guilty’ and his father’s fellow judge, after the Antwi family had dragged the case for half a year in the halls of justice, had set him free without any questioning. That was when his fourteen-year-old eyes had opened, he saw that in this country the judiciary branch was a weapon wielded by the crooked, rich and powerful in carrying out their willful schemes. And this got proven to him more and more as victim after victim fell short of the mercy of justice. His sorrows hadn’t killed his brilliance however as he made it to Achimota School and became a scholar who found love for poetry and the fine arts. Now fully grown, his opinion of the country had also matured. Corruption had crept into the heart of the nation and taken up sovereignty since Kwame Nkrumah’s era and a nation that did not celebrate its heroes wasn’t worth dying for. His sole responsibility now was to his family, his friends and his personal happiness.

Nana Kofi Amo knew that an opportunity was like the sunrise which cast its rays on the Offin tributary behind his village, river Ayinka and set it golden bright briefly in the mornings. If you wanted to catch the picturesque view, you needed to rise early, make the journey and lie in wait, for it passed as quickly as it came. The ‘big path’ which led to river Ayinka, was heavily used by his village as it was their only supply of fresh water. It never dried, not even during the harmattan. On sunny days of the rainy season when the river overflowed its banks and was worth diving into, young boys made it to the river, first to have a good swim before carrying backwater to serve the village’s needs.  He had not slept much last night. In retrospect, he had waited for a breakthrough in the village all his life and today, he will be a catfish to let it slide him by.                                                                                                                                                                 Nana Amo had been made chief of this village, Panyinkrom due to his skillfulness in getting things done. The late queen mother back then had not been very confident in Kofi’s ruling abilities due to his eagerness to use crude means when right ways seemed unproductive. This being the only remnant characteristic of his incorrigibly fractious boyhood days. Aside from this dent, everything had seemed fine to her. Some elders had argued that these were hard times, the people of Panyinkrom needed someone with an iron fist who was smart and could bend the laws just a little if the job at hand needed it. She had known all this to be true and had consented to Nana Amo’s ruling and besides, there was not another even close to a contender of chief in Panyinkrom. Most of the young men had given in to alcoholism and laziness, the very few who could have rubbed shoulders with Kofi had each in their own time taken ‘the small path’ in search of a greater purpose and never looked back.

David Derek sipped gently on his tea like a connoisseur that he might savor every saccharine taste the creamed and sweetened tea could provide. His plush dining hall had their walls decorated with expensive paintings and quotes to motivate him in his daily conquests as a politician. Today was a very important day, not that he was going to church as it was a Sunday but he was closing up the fifth and final land deal with the Chinese today. This deal will involve the traditional chief who lived in the forests of the Asthma Camp area. He had sensed agreed about him when they last met and hoped to God his senses were misdirected. He needed to be calm, relaxed and mentally prepared for the forthcoming meeting which was exactly what he was doing.                                                                                                                   The regional minister had directed the Chinese contractors into his political territory after giving him a call explaining that all the protocols especially those involving the Environmental Protection Agency had been cleared so all that was left was for him to sign off the deals with the chiefs. The Chinese had revealed a particular interest in the forested region in which Ayinka run and had chosen it to be their last of deals. He suspected it was because the land was indrawn and they will proceed with their activities not being under serious scrutiny. Some quick googling made him understand that miners in the West African region sometimes involved poisonous chemicals in their gold mining operations and needed serious supervision. He deduced they will use the passing river Ayinka to help wash the gold and carry the waste products which will soon enough enter into the already browned and poisoned Offin River which will be likely to go unnoticed. The minister had made it reasonably clear to him that he was to send him a sum of 50,000 cedis after the transaction. He had also told him that any surplus he made on the agreement was his to keep. He didn’t consider himself a greedy man, for according to his logic if the first middleman was asking for 50,000 cedis as what was due him, then it will only be fair that he secured another 50,000 cedis for himself since he was also a middleman. 50,000 cedis was definitely middleman dues.                                                                                                                                                                                 As he sipped on, one particular realistic painting caught his attention, Don Vito Corleone stood askew in his dark suit as if he was going to fall. Although he looked fragile in the framework, one had to admit he had an intimidating look. Again he lowered his eyes unto the engraved words beneath the painting as he had previously done for days unnumbered. “I’ll make you an offer you cannot refuse”. He worshiped Mario Puzo’s The Godfather trilogy and had in his view wrongfully read the book more times than he had read his Bible but it did inspire him every day.

At first light, Nana Kofi set off into the dense forest on his bicycle and unceremoniously said no goodbyes to the few who had awoken. He didn’t take his rickety motorcycle since he didn’t want the unneeded attention of waking the whole village with its deafening purrs with none having a clue where he was headed. This bicycle had come as a gift from the ‘Honorable’ two weeks ago, a man he had personally met only once and this man had on that day made a remarkable statement. He had made the chief understand that he was a lucky man and the chance of development was about to come to his village if he played his cards right. He had been very excited but however had not told his elders about it since very little information had been shared. They arranged a date to discuss the matter at length and sign the deal. It was to be on the 26th of February, 2014. The meeting place agreed on was the big thatched hat perched on the mouth of the “small path” about five miles from the village and located right by a feeder road which connected Dunkwa-Offin the municipal capital to its several adjoining villages. Since the few people of Panyinkrom who did sell under the thatched hat, didn’t come selling their farm produce on Sundays, there will be privacy to discuss the matter at hand. He hummed the song Serwa Akoto as he cycled through the deep forest on the lonely ‘the small path’ with the birds backing his vocals with chirps.

The Chinese are men of business who are not afraid to ask for what they want or walk away either when their demands are not met. They came to the meeting place with a linguist to translate as well as a proposed plan of the land they needed to carry out their mining project. Even though Nana Amo had not done much schooling, he had perfected the art of reading plans as chiefs dealt with land selling and leasing on a daily basis. Both he and the MCE studied the proposed plan. He was a bit worried when the linguist mentioned that the project was to be a mining project but a study of the plan made it clear they will use the lands south of Panyinkrom which was also part of the Asthma Camp area, his ancestral lands. A portion of the map had been marked red which incited Nana Amo’s curiosity. When he asked, it was explained to him that this portion will experience a slight pollution and will not be safe to drink from. This will in no way affect his villager’s water source since the activities will take place several miles downriver. There were no villages located in those regions either, only thick forests and the Offin tributary. On behalf of the Chinese, the linguist had made a sound proposal, Nana Kofi admitted. Even the length of the river being polluted will soon join an already polluted main river.

After a palm-sweating deliberation which lasted for close to three hours, Nana Kofi sighed. He wasn’t certain how his decision to lease the land will impact the lives of his people in the future. But his village needed the money, and the added bonuses the MCE had promised was mouthwatering. He was about to be the richest chief in the forest region, and they will finally get connected to the national power grid as a bonus. He had given the Chinese a ten-year lease on the land and then to leave when it was over. This had been the agreement, and with the sum they had agreed on, he had made the steal of the year.                                                                                                                                                                                         Victory nudged a smile into the MCE’s face as he recollected a memory. His wife had briefed him the previous day on plans she had for a shop he had bought her two weeks ago in the market square. She had explained that she wanted to make it into a cosmetic shop and the funds required to stock the shop will roughly amount to about 10,000 cedis. She had romantically formed the 10,000 into a long stretch as she pronounced it and had kissed him lovingly in the ear as she whispered “cedis”. He had worried back then over how to produce the money. However once again, he had made an offer a man could not refuse and the Chief had leased the land for 500,000 cedis out of which per their agreement, he will be given a bouncing 100,000.

The Chinese were also satisfied for they looked forward to making profits from the project they were about to embark on. 500,000 cedis for the land was a good price. The Chief had done well, he had not been greedy or stupid either.

The 26th of February, 2014 may be an uneventful date in the national archives of Ghana but two sons of the nation; a local chief and his MCE plotted with some foreigners and subsequently succeeded in betraying the country by selling one more piece of invaluable agricultural land into slavery. A part of Ayinka a clear see-through freshwater body was also thrown into the bargain and will later face the same fate as the Offin River. For the men who believe there is no legal system, true patriots are rising. Men who have sworn not to waver until the halls of justice have been swept clean. There is hope and the guilty will one day be brought to book.


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