You are here: HomeNews2013 12 02Article 293878

Opinions of Monday, 2 December 2013

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta

Dwene Oman Yi Ho: Ghana Is For You and Me

Ahmed was born in Ghana by Lebanese parents who had lived in the country since 1958. Ahmed was married to a Ghanaian lady. He wanted to be a Ghanaian citizen by every means necessary. He did not qualify to have a Ghanaian citizenship since both parents were Lebanese. He had lived all his thirty eight years in Ghana. He had many friends and good connections among the very powerful and influential people in Ghana. He spoke Twi and Ga very fluently. Despite the tight biometric system recently introduced, Ahmed was able to pay his way through. Within three weeks his Ghanaian passport was ready and safe in his hands. He told his Ghanaian wife he was going to New York and he would be away for a month. Little did the wife know that he was transporting cocaine to the USA. He had no problem obtaining visa at the American embassy. At the custom check-point at the Kotoka International Airport he could bribe his way through. He was, however, arrested at JFK Airport with cocaine valued at $2.5 million! A tabloid newspaper had on its front page, "Ghanaian arrested for smuggling cocaine worth $2.5m."

In another development, a man was arrested for attempting to rob a shop at gun-point. During a search by the police, they found a Ghanaian passport with a resident permit in his back pocket. When the news hit the tabloid, it was stated thus, "GHANAIAN ARRESTED FOR ROBBING SHOP AT GUN-POINT" The passport bore the name of the son of a very popular politician in Ghana, but the picture was that of the armed robber. Investigations revealed that the criminal was a Nigerian but how he came by a Ghanaian passport is still unknown.

Why is it so easy for a foreigner to acquire a Ghanaian passport?

Lack of control, bribery and corruption, have rendered the new biometric system of issuing passports less effective and less fool-proof. Due to these weaknesses many people, including non-Ghanaians, are able to manipulate the system to acquire Ghanaian passport. The constitution of Ghana states clearly who a Ghanaian is and who can become a Ghanaian. Only a person who is a Ghanaian by birth, naturalization, or has acquired dual citizenship, qualifies for a Ghanaian passport. If this constitutional provision is not compromised through bribery and corruption, no one who does not qualify will be issued a passport.

In the year 2000, Ghana amended its nationality laws. Dual nationality laws for those with Ghanaian parents came into effect on Friday, 12th November 2002 in accordance with the citizenship Act of 2002. Those who are eligible for dual citizenship are Ghanaians who have acquired citizenship of other countries. In this connection, an applicant is required by law to provide evidence of Ghanaian nationality or their country of birth. The intention is to make it easier for Ghanaian skilled labour and businessmen and women to migrate to the country to work or invest. The law has been criticized for not giving full citizenship rights as native-born citizens. Chapter 3 of the Ghana constitution clearly states who can become a citizen of Ghana.

Ghana is a peaceful country despite the present economic hardships. Because of the peace the country has enjoyed and the hospitality of Ghanaians, many well-meaning foreigners from Nigeria, USA, Lebanon, Britain and Jamaica have moved to settle in Ghana. Some of them speak the local languages fluently. Ghana's population is made up of Muslims, Christians, traditional religious believers and atheists but we have all lived in harmony. There are certain countries in Africa where religious hatred and misunderstanding have sparked off violence culminating into religious wars. Nigeria is no exception to religious wars.

There are many Ghanaians abroad who have acquired foreign citizenships. That, notwithstanding, they still feel like Ghanaians and want to be Ghanaians. They adopt the foreign citizenship as a matter of convenience but their hearts are in Ghana. When dual citizenship was allowed in Ghana, majority of Ghanaians who have taken foreign citizenship took the opportunity to have Ghanaian citizenship in addition. No matter what passport a Ghanaian holds, he or she is still proud to be called Ghanaian.

Many visitors trooped to Ghana because the country was peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not so peaceful and problem-free anymore. Visitors are therefore warned that violent crimes can occur at any time. Visitors are therefore advised to exhibit a high level of caution and vigilance in public areas and when travelling by road.

In general, Ghana is a safe place when it is compared to many African countries. Apart from the Northern region, civil war is a far cry in Ghana. Localized outbreak of civil war can occur at short notice due to on-going local chieftaincy and land disputes in the Northern region. You may note that this war is restricted to the North and it does not disturb the total peace of Ghana.

Ghanaians, whether home, naturalized or abroad must go by the national song, "Dwene Oman yi ho," which encourages us to think more about Ghana because Ghana belongs to you and me. We have no choice rather than feeling proud to be Ghanaians. Dear reader, do you feel proud to be Ghanaian?

Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu

Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads