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Opinions Sun, 1 Dec 2019

What happened to Emmanuel Essien?

Where is the godly passion and sad emotion in you over the disappearance (if you have already heard of it) of Emmanuel Essien, a 28-year old “fishing observer”?

Emmanuel Essien was employed by the Government of Ghana, on taxpayers’ payroll to travel in industrial trawlers and patrol our seas and monitor and generally report illegal modes of fishing.

By now, the one who has the job of approving his monthly salary at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture should have queried his absence from duty and then due process will have followed.

Since the fishing observer’s disappearance on 5 July from Meng Xin 15 -the Chinese industrial trawler followed by the report from theguardian.com on November 16 and the press conference by Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council on Monday, our public officials have demonstrated that “a nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for”.

The message is clear; it is time to abandon ship.

Alas, “All is lost. We are a failed state bordering on the brink of collapse”, are my mentor’s words which cannot be said by anyone to be mere conjecture or based on a few pieces of anecdotal evidence; there is frank institutional failure all round about us- everywhere.

My father was a seaman, a cook at sea.

My maternal grandfather was also a seafarer. I have skin in the game.

A cousin is currently a Police chief inspector.

In the past, he has told us that the Ghana police patrol boats he has worked in, cannot chase the illegal boats (here I giggled). Okay, I laughed and wiped a few tears.

The recent history is that “pair trawling” and other illegal modes of fishing became topical during the past few election cycles.

Politicians fearing that Central Region, particularly its coastal areas was a so called “swing region” in elections courted the region.

Among other things, they established a ministry for fisheries, separate from Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

But as you know, the four-year ballot box democracy has emboldened them and the results have been neglect and impunity.

Do we learn from institutional memory or due to alphabetical literacy, we suffer “structural amnesia” as Sir Anthony Goody, a British anthropologist, has said?

Do we remember “Deadly Voyage” when Kingsley Ofosu and his friends tried to stowaway to Europe and were thrown overboard?

Oh yes, the whole nation was enraged.

Going to sea is a fascinating dream for many people along the coast.

We once had Black Star Line and Tema Dry Dock, a shipbuilding company. Where is the institutional memory about how Black Star Line handled missing persons and even goods?

“Where is law enforcement?” my mentor will charge.

Criminal investigations should have been launched by the police in July. By now – almost 16 weeks later we should have had some answers and arrests made.

Essien, under a USD55 million World Bank sponsored project, was monitoring how much of our fish resources were harvested, and hence the taxes paid.

The fish harvested and iced may have been consumed by you, dear reader!

Remember, Bonny Bobby Shafto came back from sea with goodies to marry a dutiful girl.

Emmanuel Essien, our 28-year old Black Bonny Bobby Shafto, is missing and there is no haste to find answers.

The apathy from our leaders and institutions is nothing short of inhuman.

What about you, do you care about what really happened to Emmanuel Essien?

Or is it just another ghana matter?

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah