The product oil has always been known to the people of the Western Region of Ghana precisely the Nzemaland because of its immense contributions to individual households and communities. There is no doubt that almost every household in the Nzemaland has something to do with coconut oil in one way or the other. The benefits of coconut oil cannot be over-emphasized in that apart from using it to cook; coconut-oil processing business has served as a major economic activity and generated employment for many. People have built houses, educated their children and in-fact has been a real blessing to them all.
A research into small-scale coconut oil processing industries in the Axim District found out how families have improved their living standard as a result of their engagement in the oil business. Notwithstanding these contributions, the Cape St. Paul wilt disease has continually affected coconut plantations in the Nzemaland gradually limiting the ability of these processors to continue in business.
Fortunately for the region, while the disease continues to take it toll on coconut plantation killing many, there has also emerged another form of oil in the area, and this is the recently found mineral oil deposit. However, while individual’s families and groups had total control over the former and were able to fully engage in it to improve their living standard until it was attacked massively by the Cape St. Paul wilt disease, the ownership and control of the later is in the hands of the government of Ghana. In other words the newly found mineral oil deposit is a national commodity and therefore the ability of the natives to fully be part of it depends not on them but on the national government policies.
Yet one thing the national government needs to realize is that the Nzemas must not be excluded in the dealing of this commodity. As a national cake, the Nzemas do not believe every benefit from this mineral oil is to be given to them or be used to improve the area. Rather they expect the government to ensure their portion is also not denied when it comes to the share of its wealth. Many of the things the government of Ghana can do to help the people of the Nzema is to move away from the old practices. In the past, the attitudes of successive governments in Ghana have contributed to a situation whereby the region has heavily depended on peasant agricultural practices with no industries available to process the produce or better marketing facilities to earn them more incomes.
This attitude did not only take away the economic benefits of the people but also denied them the relevant industrial skills they needed. Today the region cannot boast of any well developed industry in the area.
Attracting industries into the area would offer greater help to the people of the land, especially the youth who are highly unemployed. Achieving this would not only improve the country’s GDP but also generate employments for Ghanaians in general and the Nzemas in particular at a time when the coconut plantations continue suffer and die because of Cape St. Paul wilt disease.
Whilst Ghanaians hope the newly found oil would break the country through its economic hardships, there is also a concern especially when we try to consider some of the negative consequences many oil producing countries have encountered.
Tensions and conflicts as well as other social vices are some of the effects that can befall Ghana if necessary measures to combat these potential effects are not put in place, as we become a recognized oil producing country. One thing the people Nzemas would not like to encounter is social tensions. It is well documented that Nzemas are very peaceful people and have always welcome many different tribes into their homes. An attribute that has always made them stood out. Now with high unemployment in the area especially among the youth, it is important the oil firms currently operating in the area contribute to solving this problem and help the youth keep away from any undesired activities. Earlier this year in his speech, the Western Regional minister advised Nzema youths to study oil related courses in other to make themselves available for employments. Though this is an excellent recommendation, the government should equally help more youth in the area have access to these oil related courses probably by offering scholarships to them.
As the area is characterized by low incomes the possibilities of families to send their children to read these expensive courses are very limited. Moreover in our society where ‘whom you know’ always goes ahead of any talents or skills, it is clear that until a strong support from the government to ensure correct recruitment procedures are put in place the youth of the land are going to miss out even though the oil is just at their door post. And as the saying goes ‘an idle hands are always given work to do by the devil’ if the chiefs of the land, the district chief executives, members of parliament and the Western Region minister do not make the youths unemployment situation their prime concern, there will come a time when these youth would have no alternatives but to join the evil groups. A situation that would be very lamenting at the time should it come to pass. It is therefore very important that we learn a lot from our neighbors in the Niger Delta, and try to use their experiences to better our situation.
In conclusion, it must be emphasized that as Ghanaians continue to enjoy peaceful socio-economic climate, everything possible need to be done to ensure this is maintained into the new era of oil production. We should not be naive about what we hear about the Niger Delta. Denying the people of Nzemaland especially the youth the opportunity to improve their living standard would be a very difficult to understand as the leaders of the land would never be forgiven. It is the hope that the government, non-governmental organizations and the oil mining companies operating in Nzemaland pull together to ensure peace prevail among our people and the communities as we continue to learn from the Niger Delta’s experience.
Long live Ghana, Long live Nzemaland.