“My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.” ~ Barack Obama, former American President.
The concept of statelessness sounds remote and stupid until you are called an animal because you find yourself in another person’s country. Knowing that the people around you find you an unwelcome nuisance because you don’t look like them can be traumatizing, but, at least, you are spared the inhumanity of being told in the face. Yet, you are not too stupid to assume that they have forgotten who you are in their midst.
When the time is right, they will tell you with the unabashed frankness of Donald Trump: “They are not people. They’re animals.” This is what the President of the USA is alleged to have said during a roundtable discussion on California’s sanctuary laws about deported immigrants. They spit on you. They put you in prison on a flimsy charge. You know you have done your best but you don’t count. You could lose your balance and identity, all at once.
The life of the immigrant can be as harrowing as Kweku Adoboli’s last days in the UK before his deportation, or as beautiful as the young model who immigrated to America, married a billionaire and became first lady. This is how ‘Occupy Democrats’ put it: “Donald Trump is right. If people want to come to America, they should do it the right way, like his Slovenian immigrant wife Melania Trump did. All they have to do is get work permits to be swimsuits models and then marry a billionaire to get citizenship through him.”
Not many immigrants are as lucky; for many, life in the cold is a punishing routine punctuated by hurts, threats, loneliness and isolation. You need to frame yourself in a way that makes it easy to adjust to your new surroundings to make the most of the opportunities, but not become too comfortable to forget where you had come from. You are two identifies in one, like Jon Travolta and Nicholas Cage in the movie ‘Faceoff’, where a villain replaced his face with another’s, creating confusion for the family of the genuine man.
Lovely jobly, Kweku
You like your new home but you also have a natural home. ‘Glorious Home All Nations Admire’ (Ghana). This is how we used to sell Ghana to our friends and business prospects when we traveled abroad. In many European countries, Ghanaians were admired for their calm and unassuming nature, even if we were also mistaken for timorous and unambitious pretenders who quietly undermine one another. Factory and care home supervisors admired Ghanaians as hardworking people who respected authority. In North America, Ghanaian men have been known to make better husbands, especially to African-American women. They find them responsible and decent.
Unlike nationals from other countries who had earned a reputation for fraud, theft and crime, Ghanaians were often cited as the type of immigrants our host countries wanted. But at their blindsides, Ghanaians were involved in the same dodgy and criminal activities that other nationals were noted for. From faking documents to outsmart the immigration systems, contracting fake marriages and cheating banks in unpaid loans and credit card fraud, there was a Ghanaian hand in many crimes. Of course, there were decent and responsible Ghanaians like Kweku Adoboli who became assets to the country.
Kweku Adoboli lived a decent life in the UK, the country he has called home since age 12. He had lived in Israel, Syria and Iraq with his father, John Adoboli, a Senior employee of the Unite Nations. Kweku was head boy at Ackworth School, West Yorkshire. He studied Computer Science and Management at Nottingham University and found a job at UBS to manage $50Million book on Exchange Traded Funds (ETF). His employers always said to him ‘lovely jobly’ (slang for well done in the UK) until it all came crushing when he was found to have caused his employers $2.3Billion in rogue trading.
As he puts it, he was “full of idealism as a young person and was caught in the corporate machine.” He was found guilty after a long trial and imprisoned for seven years. Suddenly, the place he has called home for 25 years was no longer willing to keep him; he was deported to Ghana last week after a long legal battle to remain in the UK. Suddenly, his Britishness is yanked away, making him vulnerable to both his adopted and home countries.
What is the danger in retuning to your country of birth where your parents also live? Can Kweku divorce his experience and identity as British and just be as Ghanaian as his proud parents? He calls it a double heritage; he belongs to the UK because he grew up there. And he is Ghanaian because his umbilical cord is buried right here. Nobody should be made to choose between these twin identities. It is like Nicholas Cage killing Jon Travolta in ‘Faceoff’.
As a proud Ghanaian who also holds Canadian citizenship, I share in Kweku’s frustrations. I feel the sincerity in his eyes, the genuineness of his tears and the repentance in his demeanour when he says he didn’t do what he did for personal gain. He is a smart, articulate gentleman who has individuated himself as a successful banker, godfather to seven children in the UK, sponsor of a kid in Ghana and a sweetheart to Alice, an English girl.
Kweku’s case is different. Deportations happen every day in the UK. But not many of them attract petitions signed by 74,000 citizens and a letter signed by 130 members of the UK and Scottish Parliaments urging the Home Office to allow him to stay. What will Kweku be doing in Ghana and how can we tap his skills and expertise? He might find that our banking industry is so robust that overnight we can close down five banks for rogue activities.
He may also find that around here, ‘rogue’ is a vegetable consumed in large quantities by people on the streets. We easily help ourselves to $2.3Billion of public money and belch away. He may soon learn that while he may never get the quintessential English breakfast here, there are many ways to make your own breakfast and it doesn’t really matter if you use ‘rogue’ money.