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Opinions of Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta

The Dilemma of Ghanaians Abroad Part 2

Aye Huuhuuhu: The Dilemma of Ghanaians Abroad Part 2

Not many can fathom the problems, frustrations and strange experiences Ghanaians go through in their efforts to get established abroad and work or study hard to improve themselves with a view to returning home to Ghana one day. Do these ambitions, hopes and determinations often come to fruition? This article will attempt to explain why most Ghanaians (men as well as women) have never been able to return or will never return.

Most Ghanaians come to Europe and America mainly to work or to study. Education is not free in many European countries and America. Until recently, tuition was free for foreign students who come to study in the Scandinavian countries. John gained admission to study in a university in Sweden. He was aware that tuition was free but his efforts to feed and clothe himself as well as pay for accommodation and buy books soon landed him in serious financial problems. Unlike other students, he could not get a summer job. This meant he was not able to prove to the immigration police that he had enough money to pay his rent and feed himself during the coming year of studies. John found himself at the crossroads. He finally adopted a Liberian name and sought political asylum. This enabled him to qualify for student loans as any Swedish citizen. But it meant he would never be able to use any of his certificates prior to his adoption of a Liberian name anymore. Aye huuhuuhu!

A man came abroad at the age of twenty six. He sought political asylum and declared he was eighteen. The police believed him because he was short and slim. Due to his age, he was granted asylum on humanitarian grounds. He got a job in a construction company. It was a heavy job but he held on to it. He was supposed to go on pension at the age of sixty three but since he had reduced his age by seven years, the official records showed that he was "only" fifty six. All his hair and beard had turned white and he could hardly cope with the backbreaking job but he persevered until he reached seventy. There are many who have regretted the mistake of reducing their real ages, mainly to attract young European girls or in the false belief that it would enable one to work more years and get more money.

It has always been the ambition of many Ghanaians to finally return to Ghana. Many have either bought or built houses at home that are occupied by their relatives or watchmen. With a protracted stay abroad, the Ghanaian feels a sense of belongingness in the country where he now resides. His wife and children live here too. He applies for naturalisation and it is approved for him to be a citizen of the country where he lives. The banks assist him to buy a house, a car and other costly goods. Throughout his life abroad, almost all his salary goes into servicing these loans. In a situation like this, the dream of returning home in the near future keeps on receding until it is completely dashed.

Many Ghanaians in the diaspora who are in their eighties live in old peoples' homes. They share the same rooms as the natives. The insults and racist insinuations suffered by these foreigners are unbearable. When you find yourself in a place like that, citizenship means nothing. The emphasis is now placed on the colour of the skin. A terrible thing once happened in one of the old people homes in a European country. An eighty seven year old Ghanaian man was pestered daily by the native inmates. They always told him, "nigger, now that you are old, what are you doing here?", "Go home nigger, we need the bed." This old man could not bear the harassment any longer. He hanged himself in the bathroom. His suicide note read: "I consumed life in preparing for life. Never repeat the mistake I made. Lord, in your arms I come."

Sometimes the frustrations we face here can partly be blamed on our relatives in Ghana. Fred, the eighty seven year old man who hanged himself, lived in Holland. He was determined to return home when he reached fifty. He sent money to his father to buy a plot of land for him so he could build a house before finally returning home. He sent money periodically to his father for the construction of a house for him. Within two years he had sent not less than €20,000 to his father, which was enough in those days to complete the house. He paid a surprise visit to Ghana only to find to his amazement and disbelief that not even a plot had been bought for him. He swore in his father's presence that he would never set his foot in Ghana again. Even when he hanged himself, he was buried in Holland.

In the prisons of Europe and America, there may be at least a thousand Ghanaians serving various jail terms. A greater percentage of this number was arrested for drug related crimes and jailed. In many major train stations of Europe and America, there are neatly-dressed Africans, Ghanaians included, who gallivant there as if they are waiting for trains. Majority of them sell stolen phones, cocaine and marijuana to people who sometimes are under-cover agents leading to their arrests.

Greed and lack of common sense have put many Ghanaians in serious dilemma. A Ghanaian who completed his doctorate degree in Criminology, decided to work for a year, make enough money to buy all what he would need in Ghana and ship them home. He used his own car to run a taxi cab service. He worked day and night and slept for very few hours. Within eight months he had made enough money that could buy him a car and the necessary items that would make life comfortable for him in Ghana. He continued working in the same tempo. During the tenth month as he drove to a traffic light that turned red, he stopped. He bent his head on the steering wheel and he was dead. It was widely known that he died of tiredness due to sleeplessness.

There are so many daring things going on abroad. To be successful in achieving one's aims in coming abroad, one must remain focused. It is the determination to succeed that should propel everyone. The need to finally go home in grand style must depend on the hard work we do abroad. I will advise that if you want to successfully return home, you must frequently visit home during the build-up to your return. You must ensure that you have a house of your own. If you are not academically qualified to find a good job back in Ghana, you must make sure that you can establish your own private business in your area of competence. If you see that it will be difficult to return home, especially when age is catching up on you, then it is better to decide to live the rest of your life abroad and plan towards that end instead of living on a false hope of returning home in your old age and visiting Europe for medical check-ups. After all, "nowhere cool and all die be die..."

Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu

Author:Dark Faces At Crossroads