Tales from Ghana, by Frederick Adetiba

In recent years, Ghana has sort of become a shining light, not only in the West African sub-region, but across the continent. It has become a prime vacation destination for Nigerians and other foreigners, especially Africans in the diaspora. It has become a center of education for Africans. In 2019, the number of Nigerian students studying in Ghana was estimated at 4,959. Moreover, Ghana is fast becoming a preferred destination for business in Africa, due to its conducive environment.

Until a few years ago, Ghana was not known for the above. Like many Nigerians, I started to look forward to visiting Ghana. The opportunity presented itself last week when I received an invitation from the Global Freedom Network and Walk Free to join selected religious leaders in four African countries to sign the Joint Declaration against Modern Slavery. The signing of the declaration began in 2014 in Vatican City and was signed by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and leaders of other faiths. It was indeed a privilege to join these leaders to engage in the fight against modern slavery across the world.

This was the first signing of the declaration in Africa, from where it would go to other parts of the continent. One of the Ghanaian speakers during the statement was not mince words when he said the event was another first for Ghana and he continued to roll out other areas that Ghana is leading in the region and the continent. It was a moment of pride for all Ghanaians in the room. Although I was impressed and happy for Ghana, it was always a mixed feeling for me. Because Nigeria was everything Ghana was described as. And from what I had witnessed during the visit, I could not dispute these achievements.

One of the first things I noticed when I landed at Kotoka International Airport in Accra is the similarity between Ghanaians and Nigerians. An airport staff member leading the passengers didn’t hesitate to ask me what I had brought and another staff member playfully tried to push me around. They were very familiar characters. The airport was organized and clean. As I walked towards the hotel, I also noticed that the city was clean and organized.

The next day a guide was assigned to me to show me parts of the city. The tour guide turned out to be a Nigerian. I found his perspective on the people, the city and the country quite interesting. As someone who has known Nigeria and Ghana, I noticed how objective she was in her analysis and opinions. She visited the country as a tourist a few years ago and decided to stay after falling in love with the city, and she started her travel and sightseeing business. She was thrilled to take me to a few iconic places and did a great job sharing the stories behind those places as well as the people.

The first thing my guide confirmed was how clean the people were. She said “Ghanaians don’t throw garbage”. This means that the cleanliness that I had noticed at the airport and in the city was not a fluke or an imposed discipline. We visited the Black Star Gate and Independence Square among others. My guide told me that tours to these historic places are free. I saw a few tourists in the square as well as people hanging out. I saw a woman selling water and drinks to visitors and passers-by. I noticed how clean the whole place was and I pointed it out to my guide and she said the woman selling drinks would make sure the place she was selling drinks kept tidy.

In the words of my tour guide, “Ghanaian political leaders are afraid of their people”. What she meant by that was that the rulers are accountable to the people. She said they have always been blessed with good leaders who care about people. She said although they are not perfect, they are much better than our own political leaders in Nigeria. This was quickly confirmed by our driver, who joked that they took politicians’ promises seriously. Any politician who does not keep his campaign promises would fall out with the people. My guide said that Ghanaians always complain about their leaders needlessly because, according to her, they are trying. I am sure his position is based on his experience with Nigerian leaders whose promises mean nothing to them and even to the people.

I have heard that the cost of living in Ghana is high. This was confirmed by my guide. Gasoline is bought for more than N500 / liter. I asked about rural areas in Ghana and was told that the difference in cost of living is not that big. The rural exodus seems low compared to Nigeria. The high cost of living does not stop ordinary Nigerians, Nigerian celebrities and politicians from making Ghana their second African homeland. My tour mentioned a few celebrities who own businesses and homes in Ghana.

As we skirted around the city of Accra, we passed the old Nigerian house where Embassy staff were embarrassingly kicked out in June of last year. To effect their ejection, parts of the building were demolished as reported. News of this embarrassing development was all over the internet. My guide said it was very embarrassing for Nigerians in Ghana to learn that it was because the Nigerian authorities refused to pay the rent after many letters were written to this effect. I also learned that Nigeria did not have an ambassador stationed in Ghana during this period. I was surprised that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, does not have its own property that would house all of its consular operations in Ghana. I was surprised that Nigeria could find itself in this kind of embarrassing situation.

The forced eviction of Nigerian embassy staff is not the only embarrassing thing about Nigeria in Ghana. My guide said that the average Ghanaian thinks Nigerian women are in Ghana to prostitute themselves. It is very disheartening. I realized that Ghana is not only a commercial, tourist and educational destination for Nigerians, it seems to have become a destination of prostitution for our young women. My guide said if it had only been adults who were engaged in the business, she wouldn’t have been so worried. She said young girls from the age of 12 are also involved and a number of these girls are being pushed into it by their parents in Nigeria for financial reasons.

My guide said she made several efforts to encourage these girls to return home. But more and more girls are arriving in Ghana for child prostitution. She said she even contacted a number of media houses to investigate to expose the threat. But in vain. She sometimes welcomes some of these young girls and organizes transport to bring them back to Nigeria with the support of some transport companies based in Nigeria. I hope that well-meaning Nigerians, NGOs and journalists get involved in stopping this growing trend of Nigerian children in prostitution in Ghana. It is nothing but the failure of the Nigerian leadership.

I will try not to end this story on a sad note. My entire stay in Ghana, although short, was very pleasant. The management and staff at the Kempinski hotel where I stayed were very professional. Their services were excellent. I even left a complimentary note for the manager when I checked out. Can’t wait to visit Ghana again? I think you know the answer to this question. Next time it would be with my family, God willing.

Frederick Adetiba is a transformation scholar, social reformer, management consultant and senior pastor of The Finishing Church, Abuja. You can connect with him via www.fredadetiba.com and @fredadetiba on social media.

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