The Diaspora Vote: Is Ghana Inferior?

Tue, 22 Nov 2005 Source: Nkrumah, Jermaine

Every time I read about someone peddling the alarmist theory that the Diaspora vote will cause so much mayhem, the word ?irresponsible? comes to my mind. These people are not showing concern; they are the ones inviting mayhem. Our world is full of examples or feats accomplished by mankind that initially seemed insurmountable. Many of these feats dwarf the implementation of the Ghanaian Diaspora vote. In all those instances, the naysayers were proven to be wrong.

We may begin with our own Independence. In the early 1950s, our own Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was a student in the United States. In their many political debates, he used to always complain to his very good friend Christie Johnson about why the blacks in the United States allow the whites to treat them like second class citizens. One day, Ms Johnson said to him ?wait a minute, in your own country, on your own land, I think you are being ruled by whites.? Nkrumah was so quieted by that statement it may have been the final push that nudged him to do something about it.

Christie Johnson recalls seeing the photo of young Kwame Nkrumah in the newspapers shortly thereafter ?causing trouble? as the newspaper portrayed the initial Independence movement. Let us remember that this had never been done in sub-Saharan Africa. Imagine the odds. Many in Africa were convinced that the Europeans would never allow self rule in sub-Saharan Africa. They predicted the most dire of consequences should Nkrumah pursue this ?crazy? quest. In fact, Africa was split between the Casablanca Group, which included the more innovative countries such as Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco and the 24 member strong conservative Monrovia Group, which included Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Togo and so on. While the Casablanca Group advocated for immediate union of African countries to facilitate the independence movement, the Monrovia group continued to peddle a gradual approach for fear of colonial reprisal. We know what happened.

In the United States, when African Americans began their quest of demanding their rights, they had one point of reference. The constitution of the United States accorded them rights that they saw were being denied or violated. In spite of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly stating that ?no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,? some states used a qualification that counted African Americans as three-fifths of one person to deny them the right to vote.

And just as the Ghanaian government is seeking to correct a constitutional anomaly, Congress quickly passed the Fifteenth Amendment, which states that ?the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.? There also, the southern states threatened all kinds of reprisals. In the end, however, because it was the right thing to do, sanity eventually prevailed. Yes, lives were lost. But who can argue today that it was worth the fight.

In South Africa, we know the story all too well. There was Nelson Mandela?s 27 year imprisonment. There was countless number of lives lost. The white establishment was so entrenched that, from the onset, the very idea of fighting apartheid was suicidal. Yet our brothers and sisters did not run away from the fight for their rights because it would make someone angry. If someone seeks to deny you your right, I say you can?t piss him off enough.

The question, therefore, is that are these accurate parallels? We know those fights and their potential for destabilization were much greater than our Diaspora Vote. In all these cases, there is denial of rights. To put it in layman?s terms, one law ? the superior law ? confers upon Ghana?s Diaspora the right to vote. Yet another law ? an inferior law ? takes it away. If this happens anywhere in the world, the subordinate law would be amended if not nullified outright. Our opponents would have us believe that somehow, Ghana is different.

We know article 7 verse 42 of our constitution confers upon us the right to vote. But a subordinate law, PNDC Law 284 now conflicts that law by restricting voter eligibility to in-district residence, a law that is currently being violate by nearly 99% of Members of Parliament. That same subordinate law goes on to make an exception for Ghanaians abroad working in our missions, on scholarships, etc to vote by proxy. It is mind boggling how those who profess to be well versed in law continue not to see why the PNDC Law must be amended to comply with the superior constitution. Could it be that since they wrote it, it must be ?gold,? and therefore untouchable?

Certainly, the implementation will not be easy. But as a nation, we need to look at the group of people ? the pessimists ? who look at a difficult undertaking and decide to let sleeping dogs lay where they are. Then contrast them with those who approach that difficult situation with a can-do attitude. This is the land of the Black Stars. We used to be the political trailblazers in Africa. But now Diaspora voting that Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, South Africa, and many of our peers have successfully implemented with nary a conflict is too hard for us. What has become of Mother Ghana?

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Nkrumah, Jermaine