Feature Article of Sunday, 20 July 2008
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
The Illegitimate Presidency of Rawlings Justifies Dr. Amoako’s Parliamentary Election – Part 4
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
That Dual-Citizenship, or the mere acquisition of passports from two countries, is not necessarily synonymous with the holder of such passports owing “dual loyalties,” may be anecdotally illustrated by the following narrative regarding the man widely presumed to have been the primary motive behind the drastically modified parentage requirements of Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution.
In 1987 or 1988, Flt.-Lt. Jeremiah John Rawlings, then-Chairman of the ruling Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) junta, appeared on the widely viewed American television magazine program titled “60 Minutes,” which is sponsored by CBS-News. The host of the particular segment of the program which featured then-Chairman Rawlings was Ms. Diane Sawyer who, at the time of this writing (6/28/08), is now co-host of the ABC-TV program “Good Morning America.”
In the CBS-TV (“60 Minutes”) program, Mr. Rawlings sat teary-eyed lamenting the fact that his alleged biological father, a Scottish colonial official who lived and worked in Ghana (then-Gold Coast) for a remarkable period, had disowned the younger Mr. Rawlings. It also panned out that, indeed, while he served as substantive military strongman of Ghana, or head-of-state, Mr. Rawlings had actually traveled to the Scottish Highlands in search of the very father who had deliberately disowned and comfortably abandoned him, and who, allegedly, had emphatically stated that he neither had any interest in the personal and/or private fortunes of the now-former Ghanaian leader; nor did the elder Mr. Rawlings want his alleged half-Ghanaian son to gad about with claims of any biological affinity with the full-blooded retired Scottish gentleman.
The part that is most relevant to the subject at issue, is the fact of ex-Flt.-Lt. Jeremiah John Rawlings lamenting in the full glare of mainstream American television cameras and klieg-lights that his alleged biological father had summarily disowned him. For the “victim,” such parental abandonment, or alienation, constituted the very height of the palpably unconscionable. No one needed to be apprised of the fact of the deep hurt that Flt.-Lt. Rawlings visibly appeared to have sustained directly as a result of his alleged biological father’s flat refusal to truck with his alleged son. The “victim” would proceed, somehow, to establish familial links with some relatives of his alleged Scottish father.
It is also significant to highlight the fact that the former Ghanaian leader is known to proudly own up to his half-Scottish descent and citizenship. It is not known to this writer, however, whether Flt.-Lt. Rawlings (retired) has ever possessed, or owned, a British passport, or even attempted to acquire one. It would, obviously, be interesting to know if, indeed, he did or did not own a non-Ghanaian passport. In sum, what we have in the foregoing narrative regards the desperate attempts of one prominent Ghanaian citizen, a now-former military strongman and president, to forge filial bonds of loyalty with an absolutely disinterested father.
Now, one may legitimately decide to take the foregoing narrative further the hypothetical path or angle. On this score, let us assume that, indeed, after several desperate attempts at reuniting with his alleged father, the elder Mr. Rawlings had decided to reclaim his “prodigal,” “lost” or “disowned” son; and that as part of such reunion package, the former Ghanaian leader was to acquire a British passport. Predicated upon what we know so far, regarding Flt.-Lt. Rawlings’ proud advertisement of his alleged half-Scottish parentage, or heritage, it is almost certain that the younger Mr. Rawlings would have promptly jumped at both the long-craved reunion with his alleged biological father as well as his acquisition of a British passport. Does the preceding scenario, therefore, automatically make ex-President Rawlings a Ghanaian citizen with “divided loyalties”? If yes, then how come Ghanaians could entrust such a politically “schizophrenic” individual with the destiny of their country, and thus our collective fortunes? I leave my dear reader to ponder this question for a remarkable length of time, for we may have to revisit the preceding narrative several times during the course of this series of articles.
For now, it is quite relevant that we turn to the following summary of the mainstream-American perspective on the acquisition of Dual-Citizenship by individuals who are also citizens of the United States, either by birth or naturalization. The following narrative appears on the website of the United States’ Department of State, or the American equivalent of Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U. S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth. ¶ A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U. S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship” (Travels.State.Gov).
We have highlighted the last two sentences because these are most relevant to the raging debate on Dual-Citizenship under Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution. One, it is significant to observe that the 232-year-old American Republic perspicuously recognizes the fact that one’s nationality by birth is inviolable; in other words, one’s original cultural milieu, or environment, is incontrovertibly recognized as constituting a part and parcel of one’s biological or natural identity. This means that the mere acquisition of an American passport by a Ghanaian-born individual, does not automatically negate, or summarily proscribe, one’s primary, or original, national identity or geopolitical affiliation. What the acquisition of an American passport does to the naturalized Ghanaian citizen of America is that it healthily enriches that hitherto “mono-cultural” and “mono-national” naturalized American. In fact, from the preceding abstract, culled from the website of the U.S. Department of State, it appears that the United States, unarguably the most cosmopolitan “mega-nation” in the world, actually celebrates this fact of dual-nationality, which does not, in any way, appear to conflict with the naturalized American citizen’s unstinted loyalty to the United States of America.
To be certain, the United States actually celebrates the fact of one’s dual-nationality. All that is required of the holder of dual-nationality is that s/he obey the laws of both countries to which the subject owes allegiance evenhandedly. In other words, possessing dual-nationality ought not to pose any problem at all, provided that one’s allegiances to both countries do not conflict with each other. Thus in the ongoing Ghanaian debate on dual-citizenship, the only way for the yeoman’s services of any Ghanaian- (or Diasporan-) American to be held suspect by the Ghanaian Government, in this particular instance, would be if the latter government could objectively, or scientifically, prove beyond any iota of reasonable doubt that, indeed, a particular Ghanaian-born citizen who also possesses American citizenship is deliberately working against Ghana’s interest, to the advantage of the country of the subject’s acquired citizenship. So far, in the ongoing Ghanaian debate, no Diaspora Ghanaian citizen working in public service has been brought up on charges of “conflicted loyalties” to the detriment of Ghana’s national interest. To be certain, as even the substantive President of Ghana has, himself, attested on innumerable occasions, Diaspora Ghanaians are a nonesuch national asset, when they so decide to return home in order to give fillip to our collective national development project.
Now, let us conclude this segment of our discourse by revisiting the two sentences highlighted, from the website of the U.S. State Department, regarding the possible loss of citizenship by one possessed of Dual-Nationality: “However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U. S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship” (Travel.State.Gov).
Now, this is where it really gets tricky. For instance, how does a legitimately constituted Ghanaian court of law objectively, or scientifically, determine that a person who departed the violently desecrated shores of Ghana anywhere between December 31, 1981 and January 1992, when Ghana was inexorably steeped in PNDC military dictatorship, with summary expropriations and executions running riot, among other equally barbaric forms of oppression, voluntarily acquired her/his American, British, Canadian, Swiss, Australian or German citizenship? And so maybe the Ghanaian Parliament needs to seriously revisit the whole question of “Dual-Citizenship Renunciation.” For we cannot pretend that Ghanaians who have “voluntarily” acquired foreign nationality, or citizenship, did so on a purely whimsical basis.
As the second of the two highlighted sentences from the U.S. State Department website indicates, INTENT is just as significant as the acquisition of foreign nationality itself. And it is, indeed, unpardonably hypocritical for our lawmakers to pretend that the neo-slavocolonial tyranny of the so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), and also its direct pseudo-democratic heir, the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC), was so ideal as to render the decision of any well-meaning Ghanaian-born citizen to acquiring dual-citizenship not only suspect, but also outright treasonous.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of 17 books, including “Selected Political Writings”(Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008) and “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: email@example.com.