Before independence and immediately after it, it was not common for a Ghanaian to go abroad purposely to find job to do. Those who got the opportunity to travel abroad went there mainly to study. The entire family would weep uncontrollably when a son or a daughter was being seen off at the Airport.
When such a person returned from abroad, a welcome party was organized for him. During those years, almost all Ghanaians who travelled to study returned to work in Ghana. Ghanaians did not need a visa to enter the UK and other Commonwealth countries. It was very easy to obtain a visa to study in the?USA, Western Germany or France. Despite the easy entry into Europe, not many people were eager to travel abroad because Ghana was prosperous.
There was no problem getting a job after university. Many companies sent personnel officers to the various campuses to recruit final year students about to write their exams. They were, promised cars, accommodation and other goodies.
When Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966, many of the good things he started came to a halt. Many people lost their jobs. Ghana experienced coup after coup and the economy worsened. All the European countries, except the UK, began to demand visas from Ghanaians travelling to those countries. Between 1966 and 1983, more than seven hundred thousand Ghanaians had travelled abroad not only to study but to seek greener pastures. As time went on, the number of Ghanaians who travelled abroad increased considerably. It has become difficult for Ghanaians and other immigrants to regularize their stay abroad. The employment situation in Europe and North America has become increasingly difficult.
The increasing numbers of Ghanaians moving to Europe and North America has brought with it, peculiar problems. Many have met with bitter disappointments from their wives, husbands, children, relatives and friends. Others also seek political asylum by cooking up stories, reducing their ages, changing their names and nationality. The changes of name and nationality have rendered many school certificates useless. This article will discuss specific dilemmas of certain Ghanaians abroad. In order to protect these individuals I will not reveal their real names but rather use fictitious ones to refer to them. Where necessary, I will reveal their countries of abode.
In the middle of 1998, Kwasi Prah, a mason and a painter fell in love with a lady named Veronica. They finally got married and lived under the same roof. Veronica had a 17 year old girl from a previous marriage. Prah accepted her as a daughter so she lived with them in their rented apartment in Kumasi. Veronica had no job but Prah worked hard to sustain the family. After three years of marriage, they were not able to have a common child. Despite this, Prah’s love for the woman was unflinching. His major ambition was to travel abroad in order to acquire enough money to establish building and pavement blocks factory. A business man promised to acquire a British visa for Prah. Within two weeks the visa was ready. His dream to travel abroad had become a reality.
He bade the wife and step-daughter farewell and boarded the plane to London. There was no way he could regularize his stay in the United Kingdom. He was, however, lucky to find a job. After his fifth year in London, the government granted amnesty to all immigrants who had lived in the UK for at least five years. Prah got his residence permit. His excitement was irrepressible! She called her wife and told her of the good news. He revealed to her that he would do everything in his power to bring her to London. He had saved enough money during his five years stay in London. He later sent money to her to buy a double plot. He also sent her the architectural plan which contained two houses. With the money he saved throughout his stay in London and a loan from the Bank, he was able to complete the twin houses in a short time. When he went back to Ghana to see the houses, he discovered to his utmost surprise that his wife had prepared all the documents of the house in her name. Suffice it to say that the woman demanded divorce. Kwasi Prah went to Veronica’s parents, with three family members and two friends, to explain matters to them and possibly demand one of the houses back. Veronica and her family members flatly refused, and chased them out of the house. They followed and hooted at them – that typical Ghanaian way of laughing at people. Prah threw his hand backwards which landed on the cheek of Veronica’s mother. She slumped to the ground and died. They all took to their heels but Prah knelt by the woman and told Veronica to get a taxi. Within minutes, three policemen arrived and arrested Prah. He was charged in court for manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison!
Due to the entrenched democratic process in Ghana, it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for a Ghanaian to be granted political asylum in Europe. John Ntim, from Ghana, came to Europe and sought political asylum claiming to be a South African with a new name Thomas Shabalala Mwenyi. He was granted an asylum. Having been granted a political asylum as a South African meant that he was no longer able to use his HND certificate which had his Ghanaian name. He lived and worked for 15 years in Europe without going to Ghana on holidays. It happened that the country where he lived was going to have a new South African Ambassador. The Foreign Affairs Ministry was going to hold a reception party for the Ambassador. Incidentally, the village Thomas chose in South Africa spoke the same?language as the Ambassador. Thomas was therefore sent a letter from the Ministry to come to the reception to welcome the Ambassador in his language. This was a trying moment for him. Deep within him, he knew he was not a South African. A day before the event he feigned sickness and called the ambulance. At the hospital, he called the deputy director who sent him the letter and informed him of his inability to attend the event since he was sick in the hospital.
The deputy director felt sorry for him and decided to visit him at the hospital with the new Ambassador. He was in the hospital bed when they arrived. The deputy director greeted him and he responded. The Ambassador began to ask him how he was feeling and many others. Thomas was not answering any of the questions. Both the deputy and the Ambassador were convinced that he was not a South African. The doctor also confirmed that he would be released soon since he found nothing wrong with him. The police was called in to take him to the station for interrogation. After five days of hectic interrogation, they tendered in evidence, five old envelopes bearing Ghana stamps. The content of the letters clearly showed that he was a Ghanaian. He later confessed he was a Ghanaian. He was detained for three months and deported to Ghana. So many years in Europe came to nothing.
These are just two of the many dilemmas facing Ghanaians abroad. As Shakespeare puts it, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” However, I believe we should not blame the witches for every mishap. We should do things right and seek good advice from trusted friends.
Written by Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: [email protected]