My child’s birth certificate got lost and needed to be replaced. I applied for the Births and Deaths Registry to reissue a copy of the birth cert as same is already in their database. I submitted copies of the required documents and a copy of my husband’s passport, and one of my IDs, I do not now recall which one.
The officer in charge said my son’s name didn’t sound Ghanaian, so he was not inclined to reprint my son’s birth cert for me. I asked him if the documents we provided proved our Ghanaian citizenship, he responded in the affirmative. He said, “there is no doubt you and your husband are Ghanaians”.
I asked him “you mean myself and my husband are Ghanaian, but our child is not Ghanaian because his name does not sound Ghanaian?” He responded proudly and arrogantly, “yes”. He proceeded to ask that I bring copies of my University Certificates to prove my Ghanaianess before he would reprint my son’s birth cert for me. That was where I lost it.
I asked him which law required that a child’s mother must have a university certificate to prove her citizenship and to enable a birth cert be reprinted? He shouted at me arrogantly, that the law gives him discretion, and if a name does not sound Ghanaian, he can ask for more documentation.
I then asked him whether he knows all Ghanaian tribes, or whether one’s Ghanaianess was now to be limited by his ignorance of Ghanaian tribes? I also asked him whether this may not be about the Ghanaianess or otherwise of my son’s name, but rather his modus operandi for extorting money from unsuspecting parents? He said I insulted him. I assured him I was going to report his conduct, and would follow through. He printed the certificate for me amidst curses. Yes, this was a request for a reissue.
Now, if you understand the whole Black lives matter thing, put yourself in the shoes of minorities, how would you feel if you have your nationality questioned by one of your compatriots only because your name “does not sound Ghanaian” to him or her? By “it does not sound Ghanaian”, what exactly does one mean?
If you are a public officer in a culturally diverse society, you have a duty to the public you serve to be culturally decent and sensitive in your interactions, particularly when interacting with minorities, (this is not the part where we start the “all lives matter” thing when the real issue comes up on “black lives” nor “what about men” in a discussion of discrimination against women just so as to ensure that discrimination goes unattended). Our goal must be ‘inclusive’ rather than ‘exclusive’, (within context).
Probably, we must properly teach all of our children and pupils that Ghana is a culturally diverse country and no one is more Ghanaian than the other, or put another way, no one is less of a Ghanaian than the other. That, is progress for our nation. We may not always agree on many things. But this one thing we must all be agreed on: respect for all tribes, and dignity for all Ghanaians regardless of tribe or religion.
To be continued.
The writer is the Founder and Head of Chambers of Kasser Law Firm, and a Lecturer at GIMPA.