Have you ever heard this popular but very sad saying that: “ The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book?”
To be brutally frank, the first time I read this statement on the Internet, I exclaimed, ‘HOW!’ I felt it was a racial view and an insult to the black race. However, upon sober reflection, participant observation and critical analysis, I came to the conclusion that there is some iota of truth in the statement. Why? Reading is not our cup of tea period!
On Saturday, March 5, 2016, I watched CNN late news on Metro TV. Then I saw teaming refugees in a certain country, not in Africa, though. These groups of refugees were referred to as ‘illegal migrants’. They formed long queues and were receiving some miserable food to eat. The CNN lady reporter was telling viewers that the people on her right hand side were those who had registered; adding that they were being given some cold sandwiches and “not hot meals to eat.”
Then the reporter turned to other long queues on her left side narrating that those migrants were now compelled to re-register because their first registration was found to be “fake” or illegal or so. The reporter added that if they did not register they might not even get the cold sandwiches to eat at all. That was the day I felt so sad for humanity.
Respected reader, can you imagine that most of these so-called ‘illegal migrants’ were men and women of substance feeding themselves and their families in their own home countries a while ago? But man-made tragedy has compelled them to be begging for cold sandwiches in refugee camps in foreign lands. The civilised advanced nations are using their scientific and technological knowledge to manufacture weapons of mass destruction to devastate homes, hospitals, and factories driving millions of innocent women and children into misery in the name of political power or what? And world leaders are ravishing this human catastrophe in silence?
The object of this article is not only to empathise with suffering fellow human beings who were forced by circumstances to abandon the comfort of their home country but also to point out the significance of registration in the scheme of human endeavour. To the extent that even when people find themselves in very, very critical situations, they are obliged to register in order to survive.
As a student of Development Studies, I have observed that registration is key to development. It seems to me that any country that cannot properly register its citizens or does not know the exact numbers of its population can hardly progress economically. In the midst of abundant natural resources, Ghana is struggling for economic survival because the country does not know exactly how many mouths the nation has to feed. As a layman in economic matters, what I have just said has no scientific or statistical proof. But I am using my common sense and applying participant observation research method to draw my conclusion.
For the purpose of this article, Participant observation is simply the process that enables researchers to learn about activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities. The observations enable the researcher to describe existing situations using the five senses, providing a “written photograph” of the situation under study.
Thus I have observed that from the dawn of civilisation, registration or data collection or provision of basic information about people in a particular geographical location at a given time is critical for development and prosperity. For example, in the bible it was recorded that a Roman King by the name Caesar Augustus was the first to issue a decree that a census must be taken of the entire Roman world. Based on that decree, everyone had to go to his or her hometown to register. That was how Joseph and Mary too, went to Nazareth to Bethlehem to register, where Jesus was eventually born (Luke2: 1-20).
If we use the CNN news item cited above as a case study, we Ghanaians must realise the importance of registration of people in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. It would be recalled that the unfortunate incident of June 3 2015 floods and fire disaster that occurred in Accra, National Disaster Management Orgnisation (NADMO) went round to register the affected victims to provide them with the relief items. But some of the people picked quarrels with NADMO officials. This is a national problem that ought to be addressed through public education.
If we want to advance as a nation and prosper as a people, we must take data collection or registration exercises very, very seriously. We must bear in mind that registration is part of individual development from birth to death. That is why when a child is born the child must be registered. In some countries like Singapore and other advanced societies, the first registration number that is allocated to a child when he or she is born that is the number he or she will use for his education, working life until his or her death. Even dead people must be registered before they are allocated graves for burial. Not so? How much more the living?
Ghana as a nation must take national identification policy very seriously. This may minimise if not eliminate the perennial political jabbing over new Voters register each election year. We must inform and educate our rural compatriots that whenever institutions like the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) embark on some registration exercises for any social interventions to improve on their socio-economic status, they must register with alacrity and go for it. For “NO REGISTRATION NO FOOD and NO REGISTRATION NO DEVELOPMENT!”
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath