Opinions Sun, 29 Sep 2013
By Dr. Michael J.K. BokorFriday, September 27, 2013
My good friends, we have over the years had good cause to complain about the shoddy manner in which our Ghanaian missions abroad deal with Ghanaians living outside the country, especially when it comes to the request for official (travel) documents (passports, especially). And there are many other areas where they are lacking—human/public/working relations, business-mindedness, courtesy, etc.
Just call the Ghana Mission in New York or Washington and hear the irritating response that grates on your ears!! Then, put in a request to hear the annoying answer that is given you!! The staff behave as if working at those Missions places them above all other Ghanaians in every aspect of life. They have no sense of courtesy to display and stand condemned. It’s so in all the Missions. Let someone say otherwise and provide evidence to support it.
In my personal observation of the situation, I am more than persuaded that those working in those missions are not fit to be there because they hardly know how to do things to solve problems that Ghanaians bring to their attention.
One particular area that has painted a very nasty picture of them is passport renewal or acquisition. Many friends and others have complained bitterly about the trauma that they are put through by the Ghanaian missions abroad when they apply for passports or want expired ones renewed for them. My own passport has expired and I am yet to begin the process. I hope nobody in the mission in the United States plays the mess.
It is not so for a friend in South Africa who has been in touch with me to lament. Here is his latest complaint that I have decided to post verbatim for discussion:
Longtime, well I hope u will remember. I once wrote u an email concerning passport application in South Africa Ghana high commission. Yes I explained to u the longer it takes before someone can get his or her passport. My brother since 8th February 2013 I have not received my passport.
“The fact is that the passport was issue in May 2013 but they made a stupid mistake imagine. Instead of male they wrote female. Immediately I received the passport I saw the mistake they made and I gave it back. I asked them the way forward and they told me that they have my information and even my passport photo so they will re print for me.
“I waited for a month and they call me and told me to submit another photos because they cannot find my photos. I submitted another set of photos and waited for another 3 months. I did a followed up and I was told that I must submit another photos again because they can't find the second set.
"I could not further my education through the year, I can't do anything. My wife had a baby and I can't register the baby because I don't have a passport. I can't go to hospital with my medical aid there is no proof of identification. Am not working because of my passport.
“Today i submitted again my photos and I don't know what to expect next. Brother, I know you will understand me because u are also in foreign land. Please this must go to the media and am also planning sue them. Please brother advise me and help me hit the media.
Anybody who reads this outpouring of grief and is not moved must be made of stone. I suppose that’s how the staff of Ghanaian missions want us to construct them—heartless people who are not fit to be where they are either through political connections or by an accident of Fate (mostly because one’s sister is a girlfriend to somebody in authority!). If they think otherwise, let them prove me wrong by doing the right thing.
Sadly, though, they are quick to attend to foreigners while shunning their own compatriots. Again, they are quick to collude with outsiders to own Ghanaian passports for shady deals while frustrating their own compatriots who need Ghanaian passports as a birthright and bona fide citizens. Have we not heard stories about Ghanaian passports being sold to foreigners in Italy and other countries?
My friend in South Africa is not alone. There are many others in other countries suffering a probably worse Fate. And as a friend put it, “you are lucky to have someone pick your call. Over here in the UK, it is madness.
There have been some improvements since arrival of Professor Danso Boafo, though. Everything is now automated and quick. What is left is the human skills to know how to deal with people in a professional manner.”
Why should it take so long to process a common application for a passport (whether for a new one or the renewal of an expired one)? How come that the staff of the Ghanaian Missions are so damn unscrupulous on this score?
We are talking about Missions created to facilitate the movements and sojourn of Ghanaians living abroad, not because they don’t like their country but because they have no other option but to go where Fate beckons them. Is it a crime to relocate in another country?
There are challenges that these Missions don’t help solve. We know that apart from the primary objective of protecting the interests of the country in the various countries, they are there to secure the lives and property of Ghanaians so that they can contribute their quota toward national development in various ways.
Talk about remittances and how much Ghanaians-living-abroad contribute to the economy and you should be peeved that they are not being fairly treated by the very people whose lifestyles are supported by the national coffers to which those Ghanaians-living-abroad contribute in diverse ways.
Talk about other ventures involving these Ghanaians-living-abroad and you should be proud of them and support efforts to streamline affairs so they are not dehumanized by their own Missions.
We are even not talking about how these Missions have failed to promote Ghana’s interests for trade purposes or other transactions in which Ghana has a comparative advantage. What are these Missions doing to “sell” Ghana to those countries?
Take the United States, for instance, and the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) that former president Clinton instrumentally forged to help African countries market their non-traditional products to the US. Has our Mission in the US done anything beyond the sterile rhetoric that is churned out on ceremonial occasions and grandiose designs on paper released to annoy us?
Other Missions elsewhere have nothing concrete to produce to reassure Ghanaians that they are fit to depend on. When Ghanaians abroad need help, they don’t go to those Missions because they know they won’t be helped in any way.
Tell me, someone. Do our Missions even have any record of the population of Ghanaians residing in their various areas of jurisdiction? They don’t, which is why they aren’t connected to the them. And which is why any talk of Ghanaians abroad being empowered to vote at general elections smacks of a grand design for ballot theft than anything soothing!
Our Missions aren’t functioning properly because they lack the impetus that others (especially those of the developed world) have. We know how citizens of other countries rush to their Missions all over the world for all kinds of assistance because of reliable service and the sense of purposefulness that guides transactions at and by the Missions. Not so for Ghana’s Missions abroad, where the staf have constituted themselves into robotic tin-gods to lord it over anybody in dire need of help to solve problems in the strange land, where they live.
In a situation where career diplomats have been overshadowed by political appointees to head the Missions and to employ all manner of party lackeys as staff of the Missions, what should we expect, anyway?
The conclusion can be drawn that what we see happening in our Missions is a true reflection of the mediocrity that dominates national affairs. The poor quality of service rendered by staff of Ghana’s Missions is a microcosm of the national malaise. Let no one be deceived about it.
I shall return…
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.