The Republic of Ghana is a nation but the nationality of the nationals of this nation, is always in contention when it come to fundamental issues, like voting in the Ghanaian General election (Ghanaian Nationals’ Election).
The challenge is not about having a problem with every Ghanaian citizen of 18 years old and above, exercising their right of registering and vote in the Ghanaian general election. The contention is in idenyifying who a Ghanaian national is and who is not? It is about how to establish who is a Ghanaian and therefore, who is the national of the nation Ghana? How then must a Ghanaian be idenitify and how is a Ghanaian currently being idenitify?
The answer to this question starts with, what is Ghana, since it is only when we are very clear of what is Ghana, are we able to know who is a Ghanaian and who is not?
There is a serious challenge with the layman understanding of Ghana which is different from the formal meaning of what is Ghana. The lay man conceptualizes Ghana as a localize version of United Nation. So as the UN is an umbralla of loose nations, so does the lay man in Ghana hold the view that Ghana is an umbralla nation of tribal nations indigenous to the area. Therefore the nationals of Ghana to the layman are the members of the tribal nations, whether they are officially Ghanaians or not.
However the official position is, Ghana is a nation in its own right and a national of Ghana is any one officially recognise as a Ghanaian.
The nation Ghana assum its status of sovereign nationhood in 1957, when what started as the British colony called the Gold Coast, was officially registered at the United Nation as a nation that was accorded a sovereign status, under the formal name Ghana. The natural thing that followed is, the inhabitants of the colony on the day the entity assume a sovereign status, automatically become the nationals of new Ghanaian nation, since every nation must have its nationals, and it will be stupid to ship in people from space to be the citizens. The law on the subject of who must be a national of Ghana were made and enshrine in the Ghanaian independent Constitution, as approve by elected members of the then Ghanaian parliament. This document of who a Ghanaian national is, among other documents were then formerly deposited at the UN.
The law then was very clear that “every one who is an inhabitant of the Gold Coast, on its assumption of independence, shall be a Ghanaian national and therefore, a citizen of Ghana. Every one in Ghana at the time is expected to be officially issue with a documentary evidence of citizenship.
The assumption at this point is, every one in Ghana on being issued with a documentary evidence, will be a documented person, to result into a collated data, for reference at any point in time when the identity of a Ghanaian require verification. So with the first generation of documented Ghanaians as citizens on independence, subsequent generations of Ghanaian nationals shall be registered at birth, for every child to have a Birth Certificate bearing the nationality of their parents and therefore, the children.
This certificate shall be indicating the” name of an individual at birth, sex at birth, place of birth, nationality at birth, date of birth, parents names, parents’ nationalities, date and place of issue. The nationality of every Ghanaian will be un-contentiouly Ghana, except where an individual opt to be a national of a different/another nation.
The birth certificate shall therefore be the basis of establishing the nationality of every Ghanaian and this certificate shall be the first point of reference to any other document of identity the Ghanaian shall need, in the course of his or her life, to end with a Death Certificate.
Since the birth certificate is always a paper that could easily be destroy by constant use and cannot be use as a photo ID Card, a national Identity Card for any Ghanaian of 18 years and above, helps with instant idenitification on demand, to establish a national of Ghana.
The birth certificate is simply a reference, as certificate given to a citizen, to allow any official of the state to know where to serach in the archives for the record of an individual, to facilitate the location of other records. For example, if a citizen as a national of a nation needs a Passport to gain access to other nations, the birth certificate is required to allow officials of the state to refer to the person’s records and know the details to be included in the passport, as well as ensuring the document is issue to the right national.
This birth certificate also serve as the basis for issuing a drivers licence, to ensure the one the document is issue to, is the right person. So where the birth certificate genuinely prove the nationality of a citizen, on the basis of which national ID Card, passport and drivers licence are issue, the birth certificate legitimises all these documents, to make every one of them subsequently
legitimate enough, to legitimise all usage. So National ID Card, drivers licence and passport can stand for one another, where and photo identification is a requirement.
It is very important to remind ourselves that using a document of identity that does not belong to one, is an act of impersonation which is criminal, illegal and illegitimate enough to criminalise all actions of the impersonator.
In a country like Ghana where election require a photo identification for Electoral ID Card to be inevitable, the authentication of the Voters’ ID Card must be the same with all the above mention photo ID documents. So since the birth certificate is the basis of legitimising all the documents mentioned above, so must this same Voters’ ID Card be legitimise to serve as a photo ID. What will then happen here is, the voters’ ID Card will then become as good as all the other photo identification of a Ghanaian national. This only increase the list of what can be use as photo IDs of the Ghanaian for the right reasons.
The fact is, it is easy for an adult to get a birth certificate in Ghana and use it to claim anything, than for one to get a tissue paper. This easy access in acquiring birth certificate in Ghana has made the document worthless, thereby de-legitimatising the photo identity documents whose legitimacy depend on the authenticity of the birth certificate.
The contention before us all is, it is very easy for some one from the Ghanaian border areas of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Togo, to cross into Ghana and vote in a general election, while it is totally impossible for a Ghanaian to cross into Burkina Fasso, Ivory Coast or Togo to participate in their elections. The question is, why is this so?
The simplest answer to the above question is, the nationals of Togo, Burkina Fasso and Cote D’Ivoire are well documented for easy idenitification, while the nationals of Ghana are not properly documented. It is therefore easy for the people on the other side of the Ghanaian national borders, who share the same tribal nationality with those on the Ghanaian side of the border, to cross and vote in Ghana. In fact they qualify for “dual nationality” as members of a common tribal nation.
First, the nation of Ghana is not a tribal nation with tribal nationals, for tribes to be basis for identifying a Ghanaian national. The nation of Ghana is a formal state with its own unique nationality. Like any modern nation in the world, the nation of Ghana was form out of serveral tribal nations, each with its unique characteristics and nationals. The understanding is, every one of the nation in place before the formation of the nation of Ghana, is an informal nation and therefore, the nationals of these nations are also informal by their tribal identities. So the only formal nation in Ghana and its nationals, is the nation of Ghana, with Ghanaians as its nationals. The identity of a Ghanaian can not and must not be Dagbani, Gonja, Dagati, Fanti, Ga, Ewe or Twi, as all these are informal nationalities and characterisations. The formal nationality of a Ghanaian must be a Ghanaian and clearly back by documentation to establish the individual’s identity.
Eighty five per cent of those who are suppose to be the nationals of Ghana today do not have any form of documentary idenity, because they identify themselves as nationals of the informal tribal nations within the territory of Ghana, than the nationals of the formal nation of Ghana. Interestingly enough, tribes do not issue their members with documentary identity. And in Ghana where every thing formal, also has it informal alternative, accepted as normal, almost everything is acceptable as formal in Ghana, even when it is actually informal. So as bribe is a crime in its formal sense, gift is not an offence in its informal sense. Therefore, an average Ghana is confuse about what is formal and what is informal.
So 63 years into the Project Ghana, 85% of the inhabitants of Ghana are actually the nationals of their tribal nations who exist without any formal documentation.
This life of living in the terroritory of Ghana without formal document is made very easy because the informal way of doing things in Ghana is just as recognise, even than the formal way of doing things.
This is very shocking to a United Kingdom or German citzen, to learn that inhabitants of Ghana in 2020 are being identify by their tribal chief or kins men or junkies loitering at the public toilet, to be registeted and issue with a Ghanaian national ID Card or Voters’ ID Card, to vote in an election. So if the tribal chief or kins men are unable to identify a person as a tribal national, then identifying such a person as an inhabitant of the area will be impossible, unless he or she pay the junkies to step in. Often than not, payment of bribe resolve it all.
The Togolese, Burkinabe and Ivorian national do not need any chief, relations, or tribal kins men to identify him or her, as nationals of the state in their countries. Every one at birth is registered and given their national birth certificate with which the individual is idenitify as a national. Unlike the inhabitants of Ghana who are identify by their tribal nations, the Ivorian, Burkinabe and Togolese national are able to use their documentary proof to self-idenitify as nationals without resorting to any filial favour.
So while the inhabitants of Ghana and their fellow tribal kins men from across the border could easily have the chiefs and kins men to vouch for them on the Ghanaian territory to claim Ghanaian nationality, base on their tribal affinity, it is totally impossible for the kins men on the territories of Togo, Burkina Fasso and Cote D’Ivoire to assist their Ghanaian tribal fellas.
The nationality of a modern citizen is so important that using tribal languages, association or tribal marks, as basis to idenitify nationals, is the most irresponsible thing to do. It is simply insulting for any inhabitant of Ghana to boost by saying that he or she speaks Twi or Ga, and that is enough evidence to claim to be a Ghanaian. Where nationality is critical to national development, and identity play a key role in building credible data for national planning, mere tribal instinct is way out of the window.
Tribal Ghana is enimical to the Project Ghana. Tribal Ghana is a threat to the Project Ghana. Like the Biblical Moses said “my God is a jealous God and cannot be shared with any other gods”. The insult we heap on the deity call Ghana is unhelpful. Its time we meke better sense of the nationality of the Ghanaian, as inform by the 1992 Constitution, chapter 3, Article 6, clause (1) that states “Every person who, on the coming into force of this constitution, is a citizen of Ghana by-law, shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana”. What clause 1 of Article 6 is saying is, citizenship of Ghana is by-law and not by tribal affiliation, assume on independence, remain the same.
So all those recognised by all the constitutions before the one in 1992, as citizens of Ghana and issue with documentary proof, will have their documentary proof of citizenship recognise as valid base on the independence Constitution of citizenship. Therefore any one born in or outside Ghana whose parents or grand-parents have their birth certificate or any document in line with 1956 Constitution, shall be legitble to also assume their citizenship of Ghana. So subsequent clause of Article 6 and 7, explain this.
This means, if Ghanaian officials all these years have been religious about official documentary form of idenitifying the Ghanaian citizen, than using the cheap informal means, we shall not be where we are today.
Since birth certificate are issued to children, while adults can naturalize to become Ghanaian nationals, document of naturalization can serve as the basis of acquiring photo IDs in Ghana.
So, as the challenge of registration to vote in the upcoming Ghanaian general election is not something that can be delay, every adult of 18 years and above who does not have a birth certificate, must be allow to have one free of charge, so that they can use the birth certificate to obtain other photo IDs, including national card and voters IDs. One year period must be set aside for this to be the last of its kind. The law that follows this, will then be, every citizen must be able to present their National ID Card on demand to the police or any designated authority. Since the birth certificate is the only document in the future that will make replacement of photo IDs possible, every one will be religious about the safety of their birth certificate.
Again, after the expiration of this mass documentaton of every one who claim to be a national of Ghana, like amnesty to all undocumented people, a law must be made by parliament to state that “no birth certification issue to any one who is 18 years and above can be use for the acquisition of any photo ID, till the certificate is 5 years after the date of issue”. This will stop people from across the borders getting birth certificate issue in less than a month, to have access to all Ghanaian photo IDs. The challenge here will be drivers licence and national ID Cards. Since ECOWAS ID Cards and drivers licence are acceptable in all member states, drivers using such ID could freely reside in Ghana without resorting to desperate means to acquire Ghanaian IDs.
The citizenship of the Ghanaian national must be documented to legitimise it if democratic elelction in Ghana must mean anything.
(Apology to anyone who might have been offended by outlook)
Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
(ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocated)