By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
What does it take to be a Ghanaian? I think from my own experience, the average Ghanaian everywhere in the world is conspicuous by their gregariousness, voluble acceptance of their Ghanaianess, their vivacity, warmth of spirit, extrovertness, noisy and chatty nature, their joie de vivre or exuberant and ebullient spirit, and their optimistic take on life.
Ghanaians by nature are highly friendly, empathetic, generous, and out-going. However, the not-so-educated ones among them can be overtly difficult to educate or convince, and they are as stubborn as the notorious Kormantse slave in historical annals of the Demarara insurrection in Haiti, led by one Toussant de Oliver, among other dispatches. Ghanaians are superstitious to a fault, sometimes too gullible, and some are seemingly highly religious.
Only a miniscule or infinitesimal fraction of Ghanaians in the Diaspora deny their Ghanaian roots, and like the account of Peter in the Bible who denied Jesus three times when a damsel accosted him and identified him as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, he blatantly refused knowledge of his master, and association with him, just like some of our own unpatriotic Ghanaians abroad, who grow cold feet, and will give you a cold shoulder if you approach them as a Ghanaian.
They will claim they are not born Ghanaian, and reply to your entreaties with some fake, put-on foreign accent to throw you off the scent. They can give you a skewered look in the eye which can make you flabbergasted and stupefied. Only a few Ghanaians abroad talk down their Ghanaianess, and feel bitter about being associated with hailing from Ghana.
These Los Alamos, as I choose to nickname them, want to deny their Ghanaian roots so that they can grab with both hands, the opportunities which they are entitled to where they reside. These opportunities include medicare, access to mortgage facilities, generous retirement packages, soup kitchens, educational subsidies, unemployment benefits or the dole, among others. As it were, these mispatriots sell their Ghanaian birth for a pot of porridge.
Sometimes, I reflect in order to understand why some Los Alamos want to run away from their Ghanaianess, when physically, emotionally, socially, and by any other stretch of the imagination, their Ghanaianess is all painted and plastered visibly and volubly about them in their names, accents, mannerisms, demeanour, physiognomy, dressing, habits, educational history, genealogy, among other tell-tale clues. The more they try to put on an act of being foreign, the more suspicious their Ghanaianess surfaces, and is portrayed. Their bearing and comportment easily give them away as Ghanaians.
A friend of mine who was deported from the UK in the 80s, told me a sad account of how he was living and working in the UK illegally, but when he narrated how he was handsomely getting by with some secure job and good lifestyle to some Ghanaians he had run into by chance acquaintance, he later on suspected that they were the very ones who had blown away his cover, and it led to his deportation. Later, this friend became withdrawn and he was very suspicious to a fault of every Ghanaian, to the point of paranoia. They say, once bitten, twice shy. Or in the Ghanaian sense, the one who has once been bitten by a snake is even shy or afraid of the worm.
Such paranoid Ghanaian Diasporeans try to keep their country Ghana at bay, or at arm’s length, or they give it as wide a berth as possible. But when matters come to a head, or when push comes to shove, they sometimes seek help from Ghanaians in times of bereavement, or when they fall foul of the law, or when they fall on hard times. They suddenly emerge from their immersion in foreign daydream to seek solace under the flag of Ghana. Suddenly, our high commissions and embassies become their daily haunts, seeking interventions. These are hypocrites, mispatriots and misfits or anomie. Sometimes they qualify to be dubbed stateless people of Ghanaian origin and descent.
These Los Alamos or pseudo-Ghanaians have dual nationalities, dual identities, split personalities, and one wonders whether they are sitting on a fence, or they are on the horns of a dilemma, and torn between choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea, or whether they have fallen between two stools, or they need to choose between the rock and a hard place, or they have been handed Hobson’s choice. Hmmm! 3s3 s3 nto! So my Ewe friend tells me that, that means very hard indeed, my ny3 Broh (my brother!).
Why have some Ghanaians abroad been tagging Ghana as a pariah state, and as a result, they are not even planning to go home to celebrate Christmas with their relatives whom they have not seen for some considerable time now? Is it money palaver, or kudi baabo, or are they shying away from the fatal fetid winds of Ebola, or from the aftershock effects of the catastrophic maelstrom of the credit crunch, which could still be telling on their purses? Baatini, zo nanga. Walaahi talahi, nawaaa oooo for Omo Ghana, wey etanda so teeey for abroad ooo! I wish myself I could make a dash home this Yuletide, yet Christmas in Ghana can be taxing financially, socially, emotionally, and in all departments, a ponderous proposition.
I ask here again, Is it disgusting and shameful to be a Ghanaian? No, and yes. Are Ghanaians alienated against themselves? Are we in self-denial that we are Ghanaians? Is it because we are married to foreigners, or because we have been away for so many moons and years that when we go home, we perhaps risk not finding our way to our houses or homes, as a lot of developments have taken place, and we are behind time? Is it because of the cock and bull tall stories we read on Ghanaweb, spun by some lazy pseudo-journalists? Mind you, most of what you read online is far from what is actually happening on the ground in Ghana in most instances. I saw and experienced that last time.
Let me tell you one story for you to examine your head why you are in self-denial of being a Ghanaian. I know of a pure white Irish diplomat of high rank in Lusaka, where I live. I encountered him on two occasions at our Ghanaian get-togethers organized by the Ghanaian High Commission and the Ghanaian Community here. In 2007, at the Ghana@50 celebration, I met this fine Irish gentleman, (I think he was the Ambassador), and he was sporting a gorgeous kente cloth with native sandals and a white jumper shirt to match. He spoke flawless Twi to me. He introduced himself as, ‘Y3fr3 me Kwabena Mensah, Me y3 Ghanani ba. Mefri Asante Ejisu. Me Papa ne me Maame y3 aburofo.’ Translated, he was saying, ‘I am called Kwabena Mensah. I am Ghanaian. I come from Ashanti Ejisu. My parents are white’.
Some Ghanaians living abroad have steeped themselves in western cultures and mannerisms so much so that when they go to Ghana; they are like fish out of water, yet how much does a man need to survive? Are we not made to adapt fast to our changing environments? How long can we escape from ourselves and the realities of our roots? Why wallow in the artificial and fake comforting life over there abroad?
Why don’t you allow your children to speak the native tongue at home, or take them home often to Ghana to familiarize themselves with their roots? Once they are above 17 years, you have lost them. Some of us were brought up the Spartan way, and we can live anywhere with the barest of comforts, because that was from the strict regimen of training we received in the boarding house in teacher training college in the 60s.
Those who through self-alienation have lost touch with base think that they are anomie and erratics in Ghana because they cannot cope with the political climate or the spate of perceived corruption and bribery, intermittent supply of public utilities such as water and electricity, the insanitary conditions, among other imperfections at home. But which country is perfect or an ideal? Who should fix these things for us? We are either part of the problem or the problem itself.
But in the midst of all our problems as a nation, I can tell you that there is something uniquely Ghanaian which you cannot find anywhere. Discover it yourself, and you will be proud to have been born a Ghanaian, and you will always go home to roost, for, the saying goes that east, west, home best. Ghana to me is always bon homie, serene, welcoming, surreal, alluring, enthralling, exhilarating, interesting, and challenging, despite all the media nay-sayers, hullaballoo, and hubbub. Akwaaba. Me ma mo Afrehyia pa oooo. You may write to me using my email address below. Take care.