A very emotional Yvonne Okoro has expressed her complete dismay with a recent publication that suggested that her younger sister, Rosaline Okoro doesn’t deserve to compete in the ongoing Miss Ghana beauty contest because she isn’t ‘Ghanaian’ enough. She described the article as divisive with xenophobic tendencies and lacking facts.
In a phone interview with the actress who recently won Best Pan African Actress at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards, a category for non-Nigerians, she clarified her nationality while addressing ‘frivolous’ issues raised in the said article. She said: “I realized that the writer didn’t do due diligence in finding out about the person he was writing about, that is my family. You don’t just get up and write an article about somebody’s nationality without knowing the person or at least enquiring from the person. It is a very sensitive matter because it not just about me or the Okoro family; it’s about people who live in Ghana, people who live in Africa and the rest of the world in the face of xenophobia.”
According to Yvonne, the author based his argument on the constitution of America without even regarding what the constitution of Ghana says on what constitutes Ghanaian citizenship. Here is an excerpt from the article posted on the internet: “I do not have a problem with Roseline Okoro’s nationality as a Ghanaian. Since one of her parents is a Ghanaian, by law, she is a Ghanaian. Nationality/Citizenship can be acquired through Birth, Blood (descent) or Naturalization. This means that, by descent/blood, Roseline Okoro is a Ghanaian and SHOULD be able to participate in the Miss Ghana pageant. However, depending on how an individual becomes a citizen of a country, there are some positions that he or she cannot/shouldn’t hold even though such a person by law is a citizen. For instance, in the United States, only a person who is a citizen by birth can become a President or Vice President. Even that, he/she must have lived in U.S.A for 14 years or more.”
Yvonne explained that right from the moment she started acting, people have been asking whether she was Nigerian or Ghanaian. “I always say that I am African and it doesn’t matter where I am from. The important thing is that, I am here and I am doing what I have to do. If I had won an award then it would be okay for same people to say Ghanaian actress, Yvonne Okoro has won an award. When my other sister suffered from a racial incident at a restaurant in Accra, they wrote asking how foreigners could come to Ghana and treat our own people in such a manner. So how come when my other sister stands for Miss Ghana they say due to the fact that she is a ‘lesser citizen’ or due to the fact that she doesn’t have a Ghanaian name, she isn’t Ghanaian enough?”
She cited Barack Obama being the President of America as an example of the fact that names not constitute nationality. She commented that even in Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings who has Scottish decent became President of the country, and honorable Hanna Tetteh-Kpodar who was born in Hungary has also held several important roles in Government.
She added: “But today my sister stands for Miss Ghana and she is chastised because our mother is Ghanaian and our father is Nigerian? Can you imagine how my father feels? He has been in this country for over 40 years he has companies in Ghana and so do I. Even my mother is feeling that after all these years we are still not accepted. And for all the other people going through similar situations, it’s not fair.”
The actress used her colleague Majid Michel who is half Lebanese and half Fanti as an example stating that when Majid wins awards he wins it for Ghana. She also stated that Jackie Appiah was born in Canada and she still uses a Canadian passport. She therefore wondered if the simple fact that Jackie uses a Ghanaian surname makes her more Ghanaian.
“We have Ghanaian passports. We have lived all our lives in Ghana, we were born here. Roseline was born at the Police Hospital and I was born at the Ridge Hospital. We speak Twi and we are Fantis. So what is the problem? It was unfair for the writer to speak in the voice of Ghanaians by saying ‘the true Ghanaians will erupt in anger to defend what is rightly theirs’ if Roseline wins Miss Ghana. Who appointed him the voice of Ghana? It is such people that divide Ghanaians, it’s wrong to do that!”
She expressed contentment in the fact that majority of the people who commented on the post when it was published online showed their intelligence on the matter and did not allow the writer to sway them negatively. “It is not fair for someone to site behind his computer, and use his website to defame people and the reputation of their families. I would say Ghanaians should choose the one who deserves to win the Miss Ghana crown. If it’s not my sister and it’s someone else then it’s all well and good. I know what my sister has; she is a born leader and that’s why I don’t even want to interfere in her affairs. Nobody should try to sabotage the competition.”