Ghanaians can be found in almost every habitable corner of the earth. During Nkrumah's regime, travelling abroad was not common. In those times, people travelled mainly to study. There was mourning in the house when a member of the family travelled abroad to study.
Sadness and despair engulfed the family as if the person was embarking on a journey of no return. It was a festive moment and a day of jubilation among relatives when a person, after studying abroad, finally returned home. Today, travelling abroad has been the order of the day. Many try to enter Europe by any means necessary. The largest concentrations of Ghanaians are found in Europe and America.
Quite a number of Ghanaians have lived abroad for a very long time. Some have lived between thirty and fifty years. All their children are born abroad and it never even occurs to some of them to take their children to Ghana to see their grandparents and other members of the family. These children, if they live in America, consider themselves as Americans. If they are born and bred in Britain or any other country in the west, they consider themselves as citizens of that country, especially when the parents have acquired citizenship of the country where they live.
Consequently these Ghanaians born abroad have no contact whatsoever with their parents' relatives and friends in Ghana. The situation gets worse when these children get married to whites or foreigners from other countries.
Once a Ghanaian lives abroad for a very long time, whether on permanent residence permit or acquired citizenship, the country where he or she lives becomes his or her home country or permanent residential abode. Ghana no longer becomes your home country because the longest period you can stay in Ghana is between three weeks to three months or at most six months then you return to Europe, Asia, Canada or the USA which has become the permanent home country.
The Ghanaian who has lived for so many years must concentrate on acquiring property in the country where one resides. Many people lead very reckless and unplanned lives. They don't see the need to own a house or business in a foreign country. They later regret in their old age when they realize they cannot return to live in Ghana.
Many Ghanaians who have lived abroad for a very long time give in to pressure and unnecessary competition with school mates in Ghana who occupy big positions. Even those Ghanaians abroad doing menial jobs do their best to put up houses in Ghana as a psychological satisfaction and to prove that even though they could not get the right jobs in Ghana, they are not doing badly at all in the country where they find themselves. Are all the houses they are putting up in Ghana necessary? Is all the stress they go through to use their salaries and loans from banks to build houses in Ghana worth it?
The sad thing is that majority of these Ghanaians never live in their houses in Ghana for more than six months.
Jonas Addy lived in London for 25 years. He had three children with a British woman. Addy never took his children to Ghana. Like their parents, the children also had British passports. The wife died of cancer of the uterus when the third child was just eight years old. Addy acquired a plot in Accra and started to build a house with the hope that one day the children will have property in Ghana. Very funny.
When the house was completed, Addy's relatives moved in. They never took any responsibility. Even when water and light bills were due, they called Addy to send them money to pay the bills. Anytime he came down to Ghana there was a lot of maintenance to be made in the house. Either a toilet is broken, or the shower in the bathroom is chopped off or the entire house needed repainting. He doesn't live in Ghana. Looking at the amount he spends yearly on the house, one would ask if it was necessary to spend huge amount to build a house in a country in which he and his children will never ever dream of living permanently.
In another development, Richard Appiah, a doctorate degree holder and a senior lecturer at a university in the U.S.A has lived in New York for twenty years. He had a Ghanaian wife and two children. His parents passed away one after the other, some years ago, so he depended on his uncle for any project he embarked on, in Ghana. He decided to build a house in Kumasi and since he was soon going on pension, he could move with his wife and children to live in Ghana. So he was going to put up a storey building. He sent money to his uncle to buy him a double plot. A Ghanaian architect made a very beautiful design for him which he sent to his uncle. He transferred money through Western union, Moneygram and Ria.
After two years his uncle sent him a picture of a storey building and all what was left was painting and told him to send money so he could pay the company who would be painting the house. A concerned neighbour who was a close friend of Appiah's uncle called him and told him not to send any more money to his uncle for he didn't buy even a single cement to begin your house. When Addy heard this he hurriedly rushed to Ghana unannounced and went straight to meet his uncle. He told his uncle to go with him to the company so that he could choose the items he needed for the house.
Before they went he suggested they went to see the house first. He told Appiah he was going to dress up. He passed through a back door and disappeared. After waiting for 30 minutes, the wife came to tell him all the truth. Simply put, not even a plot was bought. The wife continued that he escaped through the back door. Appiah fainted. Ghanaians living abroad, please wise up.
One major weakness of many Ghanaians living abroad is their firm decision not to marry Ghanaian men or women abroad. After living abroad for so many years, it is only right and appropriate to marry the Ghanaian you find abroad. Even if the unexpected happens and the marriage breaks down, no one loses anything because these partners already had their residence permits before getting married.
Many Ghanaians assume that ladies who have lived long in foreign lands are arrogant and difficult to control. Therefore the men are compelled to find their partners from Ghana. Many of them, especially the men, swear never to bring their wives to join them.
According to them the most humble women who are brought to the Western countries gradually become arrogant. When they get to know how the society stands solidly behind women, defending their rights and supporting them when they enter into conflict with their husbands. However, the option chosen by some of the men never to allow their wives to join them but rather visit them occasionally in Ghana is unsafe and dangerous indeed. Unknowingly some men are fathering children that are not theirs.
These women at home very often change the documents of the husband's property into their names. Beloved Ghanaians, will you ever have time to fight such a case in Ghana's court which can take more than three years? So where do we go from here?
It is important that we do most of our investments in the countries we have lived for a long time if only we can afford it. If you live in U.K or any other country, consider that country as your first country. However, if you plan to invest in Ghana, make sure you take your children on regular visits to Ghana so that they will be used to their uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents and the rest of the family members. Teach those children also the language of your ancestors so that when they reach Ghana, they can understand your grandparents and interact with them.
Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: [email protected]