30.10.2003 Feature Article

Going Home For Good ... Matters Arising

Going Home For Good ... Matters Arising
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There is a little something in us all that always assumes the grass on the other side of the fence is soothingly evergreen. And of course, this mindset is always reinforced when we can see-or believe we can see-over the fence and into a horizon bathed in a golden sunset. We may indeed see a neatly-trimmed bed of blooming roses in our neighbour’s garden, but then we conveniently forget that roses do have vicious thorns.

Prior to venturing beyond Kotoka on his first abrokyir expedition, Kofi Ghanaman may see his little hamlet as hell on earth. To him, heaven, in real terms, is not up there in the skies as Sunday School teachers would have us believe, but rather in the white man’s land across the seas. There, as some people fervently believe, you can literally pick up gold nuggets from the pavements..

Once he arrives at his dream destination and it dawns on him that Obroni’s land may not be saturated in honey and milk after all, Ghanaman’s thoughts may start veering towards going back home to settle. Now he sees home as paradise. But first, he wants to ‘raise a bit of capital’. This process can take several years, however. The money disappears as fast as you make it-if not faster- as various demands and pressures take their toll on your multi-perforated pockets. It is a process akin to fetching water with a basket.

You are tired of abrokyir wahahla and you want to return home to settle. This position is reinforced when you hear all the wonderful stories of how some of your friends are doing well and enjoying life at home. You are wistful with nostalgia. ‘Ah, home sweet home’, you say. After all, if you return home, will you eat stones for breakfast? You consider the stress of work, assorted pressures from home, mountains of bills, freezing cold weather, racism and others, and the prospect of returning home becomes very alluring indeed.

But dear reader, there is nothing like a one-sided coin. In the same vein you start hearing scare stories about how Ghana is now ‘hard’, with various live statistics thrown in for good measure, including the pathetically low minimum wage, the sky-high price of an ‘olonka’ of gari, and the tro-tro fare from Circle to Lashibi. You hear Uncle Osafo Marfo has just read his budget As predicted, the price of petrol has jumped up, dragging along with it the price of almost everything else-such is the uniqueness of the Ghanaian economy.

With all these scare stories dancing in your head, you start recoiling and become wary of booking a one-way ticket home. After all, is it not said by our wise elders that no ‘asaase’ in this world rejects a corpse? In other words, brighten the corner wherever you are-life is hard, whether in New York, Moscow or Ouagadougou. Things do not necessarily get better just because you have returned to the land of your ancestors.

In any case, the conventional wisdom is that you need a lot of money and ‘connections’ if you want to back and settle in Ghana, otherwise you will run away and leave your charlie wote behind. Mind you, when you go home to settle, people expect certain minimum standards from you-at least they expect to see you in a shiny new car, rather than jostle with you for position in the tro-tro queue every morning at Tema Station. And as for going back home to live in the family house, don’t even think dare about it…

Faced with these conflicting perceptions, the ‘boga’ is stuck in a limbo, and may resort to the ‘half-clutch scenario.’ He builds a grand house back home, but he is unable and/or unwilling to move back yet and enjoy it. He sets up a business back home, yet he is queasy about returning to settle and enjoy his profits. He takes a holiday home almost every year, but he dares not stay more than one month. He is always in touch with political developments back home, but he is wary of going home to settle and actively engaging in the political hot issues of the day.

One crisp winter morning, it suddenly dawns on our man that it has been about fifteen long winters since he left his motherland to ‘hustle’ for a ‘few’ years, his maiden trip now a faint, hazy, and certainly very distant memory. He hardly has any friends left back home. With his ‘abrofosem’, he is an exotic foreigner even to his own family on the few occasions he goes home on holiday. And yet, every year for the past decade, he swears he is going home for good. His friends quietly ignore him when he swears yet again by his grandmother’s coffin that ‘as for next year, I am going home for good’. His voice no longer carries the steely conviction it used to. But then, like a dormant volcano, he can afford to belch some smoke and fire every now and then, if only to get a bit of attention. Talk is cheap, you know…

Throughout this pot-holed journey called life, we are all forced to make choices between competing issues, from the mundane to the most monumental. In doing so, we are in a way like the hapless ghost in Ama Ata Aidoo’s ‘Dilemma of a Ghost’, who, finding himself at Elmina Junction one early morning, was torn between proceeding to Elmina and branching off to Cape Coast. Of course there are some who set foot on the white man’s land and decide from the onset that there is no question of ever going back home to settle. And they do mean it. But for a large number of Ghanaians abroad, going back home for good always remains an option, however fanciful this option may be. Eventually, some decide they have been away so long they might as well accept they have settled abroad by default.

There are equally good reasons that justify whatever decision one takes on this all-important issue. And yet, are the consequences of either decision necessarily desired? That is something worth chewing over. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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