By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, October 27, 2012
The zeal with which Ghanaians participate in the US Diversity Visa Lottery and the length to which some go to desert the country is amazing.
Some have fallen prey to visa racketeers and been duped of huge sums of money meant for visa arrangements yet remain undaunted in their determination to leave the country. Others have managed to pay their way out of the country only to regret later. They realize rather too late that they would have been better off staying in the frying pan than jumping right into the fire below.
No matter what it is, there is something to ponder. Is it not ironical or paradoxical that while Ghanaians are doing all they can to move out of the country in search of greener pastures elsewhere, other nationals are rushing into the country to set themselves up?
What is it that is driving Ghanaians out of their own country? What is it that is attracting those nationals but dispersing/repelling Ghanaians, forcing them into other countries where their conditions may not be any better?
Where I am, I come across all manner of Ghanaians everyday who volubly complain about the state of affairs in which they have found themselves. I am also resident outside the country and know what I miss.
There are the young men and women (mostly without valid immigration status), the middle aged and steady (who wish they hadn’t been hasty in making the move), and the senile and weak (who have now rued the rashness that has turned them into debile wretches after wasting away their youthful years toiling abroad only to realize at the end of the tunnel that what they saw all along was not the light to improve their conditions but the light from a speeding train rushing to crush them).
Why did all these people choose to leave the country? Ask them, and you will get tons of reasons to lose sleep over. One thing is clear: they seem to be stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, unable to make a decent living where they are now and haunted by the challenges of returning home!
Oh, Ghana man!! Is the Ghanaian so shortsighted as not to see the treasures around him/her in the country and will choose to leave them behind for other nationals to exploit?
I have in mind the countless number of Nigerians, Chinese, Ivorians, Liberians, Burkinabe, Jamaicans, African Americans and-what-have-you who have now found a solace in Ghana and set themselves up.
Let’s just take the Chinese nationals, for instance, to exemplify this situation. We will do so in the light of the recent official action against a group of 35 Chinese who were identified as flouting the laws of the country and taken through some grilling or deportation, which angered the Chinese government into warning their Ghanaian counterparts to exercise restraint in dealing with Chinese nationals living in Ghana or face the consequences.
The Chinese government’s warning annoyed me, but upon realizing how the Atta Mills government virtually opened the sluices to the Chinese by panhandling for Chinese loans—which I don’t think Ghana has yet received, anyway—I couldn’t help but appreciate that warning.
That panhandling brought about the influx of these Chinese nationals. After all, it must be a quid pro quo arrangement. We didn’t have any cause to worry about the influx of the Chinese into the country until our own government opened the window of opportunity for them. Now, they are here and have stuck to us like leeches.
With a population of over 1.6 billion people, China might be more than happy to shed off its burden to other systems that would be ignorant enough to lure them in. That is our problem. Our leaders have gone to dine with the devil and brought bad luck to stain us.
I hear these Chinese immigrants are the worst fortune seekers. They are ubiquitous, doing all kinds of things to survive or make life good for themselves.
I hear they are in the retail sector, selling everything they either bring along from home or import into Ghana, using their connections and contact people—who are mostly Ghanaians fronting for them—to circumvent the laws on the retail sector that prohibit foreigners like them from economic activities reserved for Ghanaians.
I have had cause to know how much the Chinese are doing in the galamsey sector also. They are all over the place (in the Amansie and Akyem Abuakwa areas, just to mention a few), exploring and prospecting for gold and other precious minerals.
Some are said to have brought in equipment to facilitate their galamsey operations, teaming up with Ghanaians to do so with impunity.
Others are said to be roasting corn and plantains, positioning themselves by the roadside to sell to hungry Ghanaians. Some are in the restaurant business, roasting/preparing tilapia and selling to Ghanaians.
Some of them also go into unorthodox practices, particularly prostitution. In effect, the Chinese are gradually establishing themselves in Ghana as economic vampires. Should we blame them for seeing and doing what Ghanaians can’t?
As is to be expected, they are doing so because they can make it there while Ghanaians look on and up to the government to provide everything for them, creating the impression that “life is hard in the country.”
Is it because Ghanaians are lazy or just that they have become so despondent as to lose their bearings and sense of purpose in life? Or because they can’t see the treasures surrounding them?
Or because they have placed themselves at the mercy of the wily politicians for the manna that they effusively promise but fail to deliver after the general elections?
While the Chinese are at it, others such as Nigerians, are fast integrating into the Ghanaian system. Let’s not talk about the Fulani menace.
Most Ghanaians that I have spoken to about the influx of these foreigners are unhappy that the authorities aren’t doing anything to clamp down on them or to ensure that they don’t dislodge Ghanaians from their traditional economic ventures.
The high cost of land in many areas has been attributed to the activities of these foreigners who pay lots of money to the chiefs to acquire large tracts of land to the chagrin of their Ghanaian counterparts who can’t afford such landed property.
Others are quick to attribute the high incidence of anti-social behaviour such as armed robbery, rape, murder, and cyber-crimes (whether the 419 or Sakawa scam) to these foreigners.
Heated arguments that I have run into about these developments indicate that Ghanaians aren’t happy about the influx of these foreigners. They are particularly unhappy that the government isn’t doing anything to control the menace or to enforce existing laws to clamp down on their nefarious activities.
Some are quick to blame Parliament for not being proactive enough to tackle the problem. To them, the laxity that exists in officialdom is part of the problem.
Those who can’t wait anymore for any official intervention have their own solutions. They want to physically eliminate these foreigners whom they consider as social pests. From their perspective, making the environment hostile for them would be a good way to discourage any more influx. I foresee danger here.
Those talking about an ECOWAS protocol on free movement or the fact that the ECOWAS arrangement allows for what is happening want the government to act cautiously so as not to provoke any reprisal attacks on Ghanaians in other countries.
It is clear from the inability of the authorities to streamline affairs that the mechanisms for controlling immigration into the country or for regulating the economic activities of foreigners have broken down.
Talk about the regulation on “Immigrant Quota” that the Ministry of the Interior is mandated to enforce and you will hit a brick wall. That regulation exists only on paper that has gathered dust on shelves.
How about the Immigration Service? It doesn’t know what to do. Our borders are completely broken and all manner of foreigners easily enter the country to do things as they like with impunity.
Ghana is a beacon which attracts foreigners. Ironically, that same beacon holds no prospect for its citizens; hence, the persistent efforts by them to leave for other countries in the hope of making it big. What is it that our country lacks? Nothing but effective leadership. That’s the main cause of our plight.
As we prepare for the elections, no one is talking about these issues and how to tackle them. All we hear are promises based on figments of imagination. All of these power-hungry politicians are targeting the new milk cow in the nature of the oil industry from where they think enough money will be generated to support their grandiose self-serving ambitions.
I pity them and the people who will vote for them. But I won’t be surprised because those who vote seem not to know that the major problems that have kept them pinned down in narrow circumstances over the years are created by these very people that they put in power.
Then, when they can no more cope with the harsh reality, they do all they can to seek visas to emigrate into the world beyond only to realize that “nowhere cool.” The proverbial expression that “Ghanaians are magicians” (because of how they survive in narrow circumstances) may be true; but they also portray a deeply worrying aspect of themselves. They are good specimens for some serious scientific experiment to determine what they are made of—suffering untold hardship in the midst of plenty. Mysterious, isn’t so?
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