Opinions of Monday, 18 July 2023

Disclaimer

Columnist: Kofi Ata

On Friday, July 14, 2023, the High Court ruled that Rev Victor Kusi Boateng who is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral was operating entirely as different personality in the person of Kwabena Adu Gyamfi (see, “Victor Kusi Boateng and Kwabena Adu Gyamfi are different personalities – Court rules”, GhanaWeb, July 14, 2023).

This is a criminal matter and I was surprised that the judge did not refer the case to the police for further investigations and potential criminal charges against him. This article is a brief discussion of the case and its implications not only for the National Cathedral but also Ghana and Ghanaians as a whole.

It’s common knowledge that most Ghanaians have more than one name and therefore, I was not surprised when I heard that the Rev Victor Kusi Boateng had another name. This is because until the arrival foreign religions (Christianity and Islam), Ghanaians especially the Akan people had only one name. The day of one’s birth became the first name for the first seven days of his or her life. The
child is not given a proper or family name until his or her 8th day when he or she is considered human.

The family name is chosen by the father and often named after someone from the father side. In Akan culture, the first child of every parents are always named after the paternal grandfather. Subsequent children may be named after maternal grandparents or whoever the parents may decide. Only good people, deceased or alive get children named after them because the expectation is that the child will grow up to be like that person. Therefore, a bad person such as a criminal or drunkard does not get children named after them.

Then came foreign religions that told us that we must take Christian or Islamic names because our names were not good. So instead of seven first names in Ghana, we had hundreds of first names.

However, the Akan people maintained their customs and traditions of naming children. For example, I have three names. As a Friday born twin, my first name was Kofi Ata. Our father named us after his grandmother, called Domaa (having named his first two children after his father and mother respectively). So, I had a second name as Kofi Dom but the twin name overshadowed this name and only our father called me by this name occasionally when I had been a good boy.

Then at about age 4 I went to school on my own and was rejected by the headteacher that I was too young for school. I cried and wouldn’t go home, so the class one teacher allowed me to sit with her in her class. She was shocked when I answered a question correct in her class and that made her to plead with the headteacher to accept me into school because I was ready for school.

So, when I returned in the afternoon, she registered me and gave me Samuel as my Christian name and my father’s name as my family as I had a senior brother at the school. From that day, I became Kofi Ata, Kofi Dom and Samuel Budu. These are all my names. At home, I was called Kofi Ata but I was Samuel Budu at school. Even today, none of my close family members calls me Samuel Budu but
simply, Ata.

If I have three names, why am I claiming that it is criminal for someone to have two different names? I have three names with a single personality unlike Rev Victor Kusi Boateng who is also called Kwabena Adu Gymafi. This is because I have only one date of birth for all the three names, but he has two different dates of birth and that is what makes it criminal.

There is no human being on planet earth who was born on two different days. That is impossible. That reminds of an incident in Ipswich in the County of Suffolk in East of England. Whilst working there as Director of a Race Equality NGO, an English landlord came to our office to ask for advice regarding her tenants using different names to what was on the tenancy agreement. A law had been
passed requiring landlords to ensure that before they rent their properties to tenants, the tenants had the right to be in the UK.

This landlord fearing she could fall foul to the law came to seek advice as she suspected that her tenants may not be what they claimed to be. As soon I saw the name on the tenancy agreement, I knew that they were either Ghanaians or of Ghanaian origin because it was a typical Asante name. The landlord informed me that she liked her tenants and wanted them to stay there as long as they wanted to because they were clean and kept the property very well maintained.

However, when she went for the bi-annual inspection, the name the wife calls the husband is different from what he gave when he rented the property and vice versa. I assured her not to be worried because there is nothing untoward about her tenants using different names and shared with her my knowledge on Ghanaian names and that I personally have three names.

She was relieved that she came to our office. My first two names (Kofi Ata and Kofi Dom) are not registered on any official documents but my third name that I used for school. However, when I complete a non-Ghanaian document and there is a
question on whether I have ever been known by another name, I declare that I was born Kofi Ata and Kofi Dom but only Samuel Budu is registered. I am sure my three names resonate with many Akan people.

For further details on Akan names, please read, “Ghana in Retrospect: Some
Aspects of Ghanaian Culture” by Rt Rev Dr Peter Akwasi Sarpong. What are the implications on the use of two names with two different dates of birth by Rev Victor Kusi Boateng and Kwabena Adu Gyamfi? First, it damages credibility of the National Cathedral and does not help with the controversies and negativity surrounding the National Cathedral.

One would have thought that he would resign from the Board but in Ghana the word resignation is alien. The National Cathedral Board must sack him for bringing the reputation of the Board into disrepute, if he does not resign.

For Ghana and Ghanaians as whole, it does not augur well for the reliability of our birth and death data and other national documents such as passports and the Ghana Card because he could obtain both passport and Ghana Card in the two names with different dates of birth.

Such criminal act by no mean person than a reverend minister makes birth certificates issued by the Birth and Death Registry suspicious and unreliable. In fact, most western missions in Ghana do not trust birth certificates issued in Ghana and this act by a person in high position further worsens the problem of trust.

Having two different names in Ghana is normal but the same person having two different dates of birth is criminal. Therefore, Rev Victor Kusi Boateng and Kwabena Adu Gyamfi have committed a criminal act and must be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others. He should be sacked as board member and Trustee of the National Cathedral. His continuous presence damages the controversial National Cathedral and the earlier the better.

A Ghanaian is more likely to know the day he or she was born than the date he or she was born because he or she carries the day hhe or se was born as his or her first name.

However, even if she or he does not know the date of birth that does not mean he or she was born on two different days. Of course, there are a few who are
born at 12 midnight and their parents can choose which of the two days to give the child as first name. In some cases, they are given both and therefore there are names such as Kwesi Kojo.

Rev Victor Kusi Boateng or Kwabena Adu Gyamfi must be forced to choose one date of birth. He can keep the two names but must have one date of birth. He cannot have two because even Christ who is said to have resurrected did not have two dates of birth but one, which is on 25 December.

 

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