On the eve of the 2012 elections in Ghana, everyone from the Chief Executive of the Ghana Chamber of Mines to the incumbent president have become concerned with birthdays. It seems that they are no longer just a cause for celebration; birthdays have become a terrific way of pointing out the good or evil in the country.
President John Dramani Mahama celebrated his birthday recently. He did not intentionally select Cape Coast as the setting for his birthday; he just happened to be there as part of his campaign trail through the Central Region. Of course, the location of his celebrations had little to do with it, but he did want all citizens to know that he dedicated his birthday to them.
With the elections little more than a week away, his 54th birthday became an opportunity to show the people he cares about them. President Mahama said, “I want to particularly dedicate the day to Ghanaians now that we are about to hold elections, so that we shall continue to enjoy the oneness and unity we have enjoyed over the years.”
His gentle view of Ghanaian unity was released at the same time that the Chief Executive of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Dr Toni Aubynn depicted an impending crisis to this harmony. In his view, the number of babies born from Ghanaian mothers and undocumented Chinese miners is tantamount to economic gloom and the moral breakdown of the country.
He denounced both the mining and sexual activities of the Chinese workers in Ghana and asked for stricter enforcement of the county’s migration laws – from the Ghanaians who assist them. What Dr Aubynn is missing from this equation are the number of Ghanaians, trekking to Europe to make their fortunes, before returning home to invest. Although it has become easier over the past several years to do so legally, Ghana is traditionally regarded as a sending country, not a receiving one in terms of global migration.
If Chinese migrants undermine the economic growth or stability of Ghana, it will take decades to determine. But, the immediate effect of Dr Aubynn’s words taken with President Mahama’s dedication, is to examine the definition of a Ghanaian.
The birthdays of these Ghanaian-Chinese babies are seen in a remarkably different light from that of President Mahama’s latest celebration. And, it brings up extremely pertinent questions. Are Ghanaians voting for the personality on the top who make them feel good? Or, are they voting according to the issues that truly touch on their lives? And, for that matter, which political promises will actually reach the people on the ground?
The results of any election determine the development of education, security, economy, and even culture of a country over the next several years. Elections are a time for citizens to reassess their values, their shared goals, and their identity as a nation. Although the outcome of the upcoming election will result in a specific policy, it is also clear that the election will indicate just what it means to be Ghanaian in 2013.