Give us a break! We Ghanaian diasporans are probably a little frustrated, nervous and confused, but not cry babies or attention seekers!
Sometimes, the hostile and brutal Scio-economic conditions in which the diaspora Ghanaians find themselves in their host countries, give them no other choice but to come home.
On top of that, most of them will prefer spending their twilight days (if not now for some reasons) in Ghana, where the elderly and aged in Ghanaian society were pampered and cared for by the society. But apprehensiveness and fears abound. They are in a dilemma, big time!
Undoubtedly, Ghanaian immigrants are not one of the largest but the most successful African diasporans around the world. Ghanaian immigrants in the United States for an example, boast the highest educational attainment of any ethnic group, apart from those from India. Even the low- skilled ones among them are constantly improving on their socio-economic status in order to survive in that tsunami economy.
Economic prosperity is often built on the backs of the silent labor of these people. It’s no flight of imagination to assert that the economics of many western countries would simply collapse without their labor.
The same is true of the home country of Ghana but no one in Ghana wants to hear that. It has become a taboo to talk about their role in the Ghanaian economy. One can’t discuss their remittances in public conversation without people rolling their eyes at you.
For these “laborers” from the cockroach-infected nursing homes and hospitals, to the technology companies in New jersey ,to Wall Street in New York ,and law enforcement corridors ,to the driver seat of yellow cabs in New York city ,citizenship means permission to work without hindrance from the law.
It gives us a sense of security, which we recognize by participating in the process of taxes, democracy, and government. This is called ‘economic citizenship’. Unfortunately, this is also the main reason why the diaspora Ghanaians are so despised at home.
Paradoxically, we witness a new complexity in the already muddled perceptions of immobile and parochial citizens in our host countries. The fact is, it’s impossible to become completely American (although a good many Ghanaian immigrants are more “Americans” than those standing on its ramparts!), or Swedish, or German, or French in the current states of affairs.
There are deeper lineages inside every person, deeper links that are animated by ancient, familial, communal, or religious loyalties .It’s therefore audacious to assume that the speech act of taking an oath shakes these links.
Subscribing to communal rituals of citizenship does not make anyone a loyal citizen. Citizenship is a gift that asks for obedience of heart and mind, and in terms of the laws, it does. But in terms of values, culture, beliefs, and economic survival, ‘political citizenship’ has its limitations.
Patriotism and loyalty come in many forms as far as Ghanaian immigrants are concerned— legal, political, economic, and cultural. This is where most Ghanaians at home don’t understand ,and it’s causing a lot of frictions, scornfulness and suspicion .
The Ghana immigrants’ royalty and patriotism are questioned constantly by the people at home because of the ‘economic citizenship’ status they had to acquire in their host countries for survival. I’m not just writing about it, I’m also a victim because I’m a returnee diasporan. After spending twenty-something years in the States I decided to throw in the towel.
Nevertheless, despite all the hiccups with their relationship with the people back home some of these immigrants have setup scholarship programs to help the needy and disadvantaged youth.
They have put up school buildings and furnished computers for their local schools. Medical equipment and other life enhancing things have been sent home periodically, all in the name of helping the standard of living in Ghana.
Most Ghanaian immigrants I know want to come home out of a deep loneliness, missing Ghana and its culture that they saw much clearly now that they are far away from it. However, their experiences abroad will hype their expectations in Ghana.
Obviously the adjustment of the Ghanaian culture of entitlement, low value customer service, lack of respect for time and other things might not be what they have hoped for, especially if they have young children with mega appetite for junk food.
The original goal of every immigrant—regardless of race or nationality—is to find financial success in the host country and one day settle in the country of his/ her birth. But, as time goes by only a few actually returned home because it’s hard to go back unprepared— both mentally and physically.
After years or decades of spending the better part of our lives abroad, home can be strangely unfamiliar territory—that requires very careful mind-training and readjustments.
The constant power cuts, water shortages, frequent minor infections, infractions and frustrations, poor infrastructures and, inefficiency in the market place can affect human productivity and one’s long-term goals in Ghana. Get it off your chest. You can now go ahead and call me a world class whiner! Do you feel better now?
Yes, they don’t understand a lot of things, and they complain when they come home. And because of that the majority of Ghanaians see the diaspora Ghanaians as being “cry babies”, “whiners”, “Ghana’s spoiled brats” and “preferential treatment seekers”—whatever that means!
Now let’s look at their concerns critically before we start the name calling.
How do we explain why common vehicle registration process can’t be done in every district capital? Why it can’t be possible when anyone with a cell phone can virtually send money across the country with no sweat? How come it takes days just to clear goods from our harbors?
How come the so-called, “land Guards” have more power than the central government? How come our nurses in our hospitals are so hostile and disrespectful to patients?
Why so many able-bodied youth are in the traffic selling pure water and chewing gums? Do we have Diaspora office or website where the needed information about their concerns can be accessed? I guess I’m whining too much here. But, these are some of their concerns.
Yes, we’re sometimes apprehensive to make the move, given the fact that one cannot count on the Ghanaian tradition as he or she aged. The treatment the current generation is giving out to the aged is enough indication that ours will be rougher.
Gone are the days when the aged could ride a free bus and train service, enjoyed free medical service at any health institution and were made to feel loved, consulted for wisdom and accepted by the society. Who wants to consult an elderly for an advice when one is a mouse click away or can get help by texting his virtual friends on his contact list in Timbuktu?
To me immigrating to America was possibly the greatest life-changing act in my life. It pulled me halfway across the world at the age of twenty- something, from a very sheltered life in a traditional small town to the world that was once exhilarating and terrifying in its novelty.
In America ,for the first time ,I had to learn to live on my own, work at a minimum wage job while going to college, pay my own bills and tuition ,experiment with cooking non-Ghanaian food, fend off unwanted impulses and questionable lifestyle(because failure scared a hell out of me), and drive precariously on the snow.
To me migration made me into an adult, it made me an entrepreneur and gave me a passport to another life –the one I’d always dreamed of but was afraid to pursue—writing or public speaking.
Now to my fellow whiners, I’d like to offer the following advices:
Of course, there were difficult adjustments to make when I first moved here seven years ago. Ghana has genuine infrastructure problems.
There is also rampant bureaucracy, but still it is the place I was born. Ghana is like my mother, the United States is like my father. It’s not the strongest of the ‘species’ that survive in Ghana, nor most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change and ready to go against the grain.
Honestly, I was very nervous and depressed when I decided to move—and I’m sure you should be. However, moving to Ghana is not about achieving all your dreams or goals, but making a real difference in the lives of people around you.
Yes, Ghana is not a perfect place , but there is strong possibility that if you don’t move back now you’ll be spending your old-age alone somewhere in a nursing home ;away from your kids who have been grossly acculturated into Western life style.
Sorry to rain on your dreams and aspirations!
On the other hand, those of us who have moved to Ghana and made the choice to raise our kids in the western world will have to embrace the notion of spending our old -age in Ghana alone—without the children, who are living abroad and possibly the grandchildren we’re not likely to see.
This is not different from the children back home that are moving away for job opportunities; leaving their parents on their own, in the village to fend for themselves. No one can guarantee the fact that these children would support their parents. This is very frustrating and sad situation, but all we can do is prepare mentally for it.
I know moving to Ghana is not an easy choice to make, however I’m glad I did because I love my ‘Ghanaianness’. And, it adds another meaning to my life. After all, success can only be measured by the difficulties we go through to get to our goals.
I say this with a deep sense of gratitude and humility. One of the greatest benefits of being able to travel outside Ghana makes me appreciate her more now.
Let’s face it. We’re talking about a nation that has been torn by coup d’états, raped by her own offspring continually and bankrupted by corruptions, tribalism, embezzlements, selfishness, and plagued by manner of social ailments for over three decades.
But it still manages to remain more or less united and relevant —to keep ethnic-cleansing tendencies at bay. It’s strong and still hoping against hope, and ready to reclaim its place and glory in history. This is something we all should be proud of.
It’s not all gloom and doom here. There is a room for everyone to see the economic Promised Land, if only you have what it takes, and willing to roll up your sleeves and whine a little more and be a little ‘abnormal’ .But doesn’t expect to see your skills and experience to have any impact on the national development immediately.
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice of reason)