That our Fourth-Republican democratic era has helped throw wide open our nation’s borders to fellow West African nationals, a move that these foreigners would have been wary of pursuing in droves during those security-conscious days of the Jerry Rawlings-superintended revolutions of 1979 and 1981, is as undeniable as it is factual. That some of these foreigners have exploited the lapses in our national security since 1992, to export their criminal activities to Ghana’s once-peaceful environment, is as poignant as it is disconcerting. That our modern-day politicians have brazenly preferred the conferral of the title of grand pillagers of the nation’s vaults to that of protectors of fellow citizens from the slew of invading armies of crooks and subversives from the West African sub-region is as unsettling as it is frightening. Suddenly, the aphorism that we are the company that we keep could not be more plain in our society today. It is simply heartbreaking to learn that some Ghanaians, perhaps influenced by certain foreign elements, have become drug dealers and couriers in recent years.
While having dinner on July 14, 2011, in my home located at the end of a quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac in the heart of Fairfax, Virginia, my eyes and ears were assaulted by the news emanating from a local television station that a number of Ghanaians based in our region had been arrested for their involvement in the heroin trade. The somber, riveting, and anger-stoking broadcast of the arrest numbed my appetite instantly, as I stayed glued to the television set, asking myself over and over again why anyone in his or her right senses would engage in such a perilous activity, not to mention the real risk of a lengthy jail term in a notorious medium- or high-security prison infested with some of the vilest human beings on our planet! As the names of these criminals were read aloud on television by Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, I felt so much shame, because, after all, I am no less Ghanaian, by blood, than these folks, even if I did exchange my Ghanaian passport for the highly coveted American passport exactly ten years ago.
These immoral and law-violating Ghanaians – their names were given as Edward Macauley, Theophilus Akwei, Joseph Duodo, Matilda Antwi, Yvonne Ansah Owusu, William Andoh (based in New York), Frank Ehiobe and Fred Oppong – have just made it a tad harder for other diligent and law-abiding Ghanaian citizens to travel legitimately to the U.S.A. and other parts of the world, for Western nations are noted for their propensity to pass on the sins of the “fathers” to the “children,” or in this case, from the bad citizens to the good ones. If in doubt, we simply need to look at what has happened to Nigeria over the last three or four decades. Nigeria’s reputation as the producer of some of the world’s most notorious criminals is a well-known fact among law enforcement agencies around the world – from America’s F.B.I. to Interpol to local police services in several Western nations. For this reason, Nigerians experience some of the sternest and most degrading searches at airports around the world.
These days it is not uncommon to meet Nigerians with Ghanaian passports, and these criminals could not have obtained Ghanaian passports without the complicity of officers running Ghana’s Passport Office in Accra and those managing our missions abroad. Slowly, Ghana’s reputation is being sullied by these criminals from Nigeria, and unless the Government of Ghana acts now to halt this dangerous trend, Ghanaians, just like Nigerians, will become labeled as dangerous, violent and lawless on the international stage. Why do criminal elements from Nigeria covet Ghanaian passports? Because a Nigerian must work five times as hard as a Ghanaian to obtain a visa to travel to the West! While we sympathize with those law-abiding Nigerians who loathe the criminal elements among them, we must place the blame squarely on that country’s government agents who will accept a bribe for everything!
The last several decades, some Nigerians have been able to infiltrate Ghana’s security mechanisms to acquire Ghanaian passports, as mentioned earlier, which they have used overseas to commit heinous crimes, the most common being drug trafficking. Not too long ago, it was in the news that some Nigerians who were arrested in the Far East and the U.S.A. had on them Ghanaian passports, documents that they had, somehow, obtained from Ghana’s Passport Office. Do the officers who process Ghanaian passports take the time to thoroughly investigate the accuracy of documents submitted for the processing of these passports? Apart from the required rigorous examination of documents, could we not simply expect a Ghanaian to be able to speak at least one local language? For those foreigners who take crash courses to master one Ghanaian language or another, is it not too easy to identify them by their funny accents and inflections, unless they have become naturalized citizens?
The unholy level of corruption that is so pervasive in Nigeria has been seeping into Ghanaian society, and unless we act with the full force of the law, our collective reputation as Ghanaians will soon have less value than toilet paper. We must be very careful, folks!
While I am apt to blame Nigeria to an extent, Ghanaians must bow their heads in shame as their fellow nationals continue to embarrass them around the globe in recent times. Suddenly, Ghanaians have become experts of the drug trade, purchasing and transporting cannabis, cocaine and heroin from one port to another; at the same time, some Ghanaians prefer to take on the more insidious role of couriers. Why fritter away one’s life for a pitiable and paltry $10,000.00 or $15,000.00? Why are we allowing greed to dull our senses of right and wrong? And why this rush to acquire instant wealth? Some of the richest people in the world today are quick to point out the long hours that they spent perfecting their crafts. Many of us had no choice but to hold menial and poorly paying jobs when we first arrived in the U.S.A, despite arriving with our university degrees. And we had to work our way out of penury, by combining work with school and spending long hours away from the comforts of our homes and beds. When did it become a “sin” to make a living the right way, folks?
This reprehensible act by our fellow Ghanaians must be condemned by all, and I call on the array of churches pastored by Ghanaians in the Washington, D.C., area and other parts of the U.S.A to begin a major crusade from their pulpits and lecterns against lawlessness and criminal acts. Not only must Ghanaians obey the law in their adopted countries, they must inculcate in their children the culture of hard work, perseverance and fortitude. Unless we restore our collective dignity in the eyes of our hosts, wherever we may be, we risk being tagged permanently as criminal elements, and some innocent Ghanaians will be denied the chance to travel overseas in the future, as a result. Just as our individual reputations are important to us, so must we be conscious of the nation’s collective reputation – it is no less vital!
Some of us are determined to follow this embarrassing case as it goes through the courts, and by so doing, we may have additional information to share with our readers. But, by and large, it is this writer’s hope that we all can learn something from this lawless act, by coming together in our churches, mosques, fraternities and sororities and helping those in need, and by encouraging fellow Ghanaians to report to the authorities those who may approach them with incentives to lure them into the drug trade. After all, we are told that a good name is better than riches, and Ghana’s good name ought to be worth our efforts to maintain it, for Ghanaians we are, and Ghanaians we shall ever be, so help us God!
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at email@example.com.