This week I finally decided to go get myself a Ghana card. I have been putting off getting this card which will identify me as Ghanaian because as almost all things Government of Ghana, this one was no different. It was shrouded in hiccups, politics, and Covid-19. Add the long queues and it was a recipe for me to stay far far away.
After trudging through four years at the University of Ghana, I graduated with a healthy fear of queues, so much so that I would change my bank because the queues were getting long. I’d not voted in a while because of this. I also didn’t have my NHIS card because of this. And my long time readers have read all about my foray into getting a Ghanaian education again, chronicled on my former blog, Perspective.
So fast forward a year later after the national issuance of Ghana cards begun, here I was, feeling brave and adventurous, telling myself I could do this. My brother and I got to National Identification Authority (NIA) offices at 11am, with minutes to spare. It was all going well, shifting our butts from one chair to another because the queue was moving quite nicely under the tents. Until we got inside the building itself. That’s where the Ghanaian-ness began. Under the safe covering of the air conditioned rooms, I saw person after person who were behind me in the outside queue, get called into the registration room before me. I was even talking to a woman who thought I had gone in already because we had been sitting together at one time. (You got called in twice- Once to get your height measured and biometric details captured. And the second time to get your printed card.). She was there for a card replacement.
It was so exhausting. My seat mate changed to an elderly woman who was also wondering why we were not being called in. I sat there for about an hour and some. Finally, I got called in. After confirming that I was the right height and all that, the guy in the white shirt typing away my details asked me to leave. And I asked him, how long do you think the wait would it be? I would like to step out for a bit. After all this time, I really needed a bathroom break. He said about ten to twenty minutes. Great! I said. Thank you.
I was still washing my hands in the restroom when I heard my name over the P.A. system. Wow, I thought. That didn’t take long at all. So in I went, and just like that, I was holding my card (by the way, I look like a vagabond in that picture. Sigh). Now, it was my brother’s turn. Since we had arrived together, we were always not too far off in the different queues. He was in the same room when I was called in the first time. But now, while I had gone in twice and gotten my card, we were waiting for him to get called again. And wait did we wait. We waited.
And while we waited, an elderly man suddenly got really mad and started asking the women who were the gatekeepers to the registration room why he hadn’t been called and people who had arrived after him were being called. The discrimination was so obvious it was nauseating. Meanwhile, this was no ordinary service. We had all paid out GHC250 each for expedited service. Yes, Ghana has a way of redefining words that have been established for centuries. This man, a lawyer, was very upset. You could see the women getting jittery when he said he was a lawyer and knew so and so person. Their boss’ actually. But I was silent, watching this display. These women came to try to pacify him, but he said he didn’t want preferential service. Just do the right thing, that’s all he wanted. He stirred things up and then very soon, they called him. No surprise there. When he came out, I turned in my seat and started talking to him. All on the fight for injustice and what a horrid (I’m trying to use PG13 vocabulary) country it was. And he agreed with me that if I were the one to make all that ruckus, all I would get will be a mouthful of insults and derision because I’m a woman. Yes, it’s really bad in Ghana. Women are not respected here as you would think. It only looks like it when you stay in your lane.
All this time, we were waiting for my brother to get called. An hour after I had gotten my card. After someone who had just come in was called, he walked up to the women and imagine the nonsense they told him: But it’s just one hour. My brother was so upset. And he hardly gets upset. While we were waiting, I told him to pray, that is what I was doing, not focusing on the situation but praying for the situation. Because the deal I have with God is that if I am to live in Ghana, then He has to make it work for me. I can’t be stressing myself. And He always comes through. I compared it to how in the USA, systems can be so predictable that you can easily forget that you need the favour of God to survive. In this country, I pray for everything, well, almost. When I get inside my car to go the market. Whether or not I should go the clinic. You’ve got to pray for the little and big things, especially the small things.
They called my brother’s name after he had marched inside to ask questions. I looked at one of the NIA women whom I had been seeing traipsing in and out of the room as if she had a tick; sometimes on her phone, sometimes just plain distracted. Just sit down and do your job, I wanted to say.
What a sham. But in light of depending on God, I realised that the experience had not determined my mood as it would have in previous years (but I still don’t like long queues. That won’t change. Not even to see Captain Jack Sparrow.). There were never any two people more relieved as we walked away from the monstrous edifice where everything Ghanaian was going on. But with the grace of God, we move.