Opinion: Oduro-Osae’s Apology for Births and Deaths Registry Diktat Does Not Wash with Me – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Dr. Eric Oduro-Osae

He is described in the news report as Dean of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Local Government Studies, but what is at issue here is the culture and tradition of naming humans in Ghana (See “Births and Deaths Registry Anti-Local Names Directive Misunderstood” MyJoyOnline.com 1/26/18). I am going out on a limb here to suppose or presume that Dr. Eric Oduro-Osae is either a political scientist or a sociologist. He may very well be an expert at what he does or teaches at the Institute of Local Government, but he clearly does not come off to me as one who fully appreciates the crux of the dispute or controversy here. If he does, he does not creditably demonstrate the same here, namely, that potential registrants are being criminally turned away from the Births and Deaths Registry in droves because they have chosen names like “Nana, Nii, Ohenemaa (Ohemmaa), Fiaga, Togbui, Naa, and Naa – as in Ya-Naa or Tolon-Naa.”

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By the way, these names are almost invariably used as first-names, and so it is not clear precisely what Dr. Oduro-Osae means by his assertion that precluding these names from the category of registrable names will prevent “duplicity and foreigners who find out easygoing names to acquire our birth certificates and Ghanaian documents.” This is inexcusably preposterous because there is no law in Ghana which says that to be recognized and accepted as a bona fide Ghanaian citizen, one has to bear a certain category of “easygoing names.” Let’s take the entire name of Ghana’s Minister of Information, Mr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, for only one of the most striking examples. Stereotypically speaking, there is absolutely nothing Ghanaian about this name. And as far as I can tell, at least superficially speaking, Mr. Abdul-Hamid’s name is unmistakably Islamic or a Muslim name. And that is perfectly legitimate, for there are also Ghanaians all over the world who typically carry a combination of European last-names (or surnames) and Christocentric first-names, such as Mr. Sydney Casely-Hayford and Joseph Coleman DeGraft-Johnson.

Now, who is to say that any one of these equally prominent personalities is more Ghanaian than the other? Then, of course, there are also Ghanaians with “purely indigenous names” such as yours truly, to wit, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe. Now, where does a vacuously nativist debate on who best qualifies to be called or classified as a “Ghanaian” get us? What we are learning from the controversy apparently provoked by the Registrar of the Births and Deaths Registry, Mr. John Yao Agbeko, is that unless people or prospective registrants who apply for birth certificates or change-of-name certificates from the Births and Deaths Registry have first Euro-colonial names like “Eric” or “John,” but instead “Nana” or “Togbui,” these applicants are rudely turned away on the preposterous grounds that the latter two names are “titles” and not proper names.

For example, there really exists human beings with names like “Mister, Governor, Major and Master,” which are both professional titles and regular names. In other words, Mr. Agbeko and his colleagues at the Births and Deaths Registry are clearly operating on the basis of mischievously calculated ignorance smugly predicated on arrogance, rather than any morally and culturally acceptable set of principles. If Dr. Oduro-Osae is incapable of fully appreciating the simple logic of the preceding exposition, then he has absolutely no right holding himself off as an expert in local governance, much less the Dean of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Local Government. I could, of course, deploy other poignant descriptors for his rather weird and bizarre trend of reasoning.

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs

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