My entire stay in Ghana, though short, was very pleasant. The management and staff of Kempinski hotel where I was lodged were very professional. Their services were excellent. I even left a note of commendation for the manager on my way out. Am I looking forward to visiting Ghana again? I think you know the answer to that question. Next time, it would be with my family, God willing.
In recent years, Ghana has somewhat become a shining light, not only in the West African subregion but in all of the continent. It has become a holiday destination of choice for Nigerians and other foreigners, especially Africans in the Diaspora. It has become an education hub for Africans. In 2019, the number of Nigerian students studying in Ghana was estimated at 4,959. Additionally, Ghana is fast becoming a preferred destination for business in Africa, due to its conducive environment.
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Until a couple of years ago, Ghana was not known for the aforementioned. Like many Nigerians, I began to look forward to visiting Ghana. The opportunity came last week when I got an invitation from Global Freedom Network and Walk Free to join selected faith leaders in four African countries to sign the joint declaration against modern slavery. The signing of the declaration had started in 2014 in Vatican City, and it has been signed by Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and leaders from other faiths. It was indeed a privilege to join these leaders to commit to 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 at the declaration did not mince words when he said that the event was another first for Ghana and went ahead to roll out other areas that Ghana is leading the region and the continent. It was a proud moment for all the Ghanaians in the room. While I was impressed and happy for Ghana, it was still a mixed feeling for me. Because Nigeria used to be everything Ghana was being described as. And from what I had witnessed during the visit, I could not argue with those achievements.
One of the first things I noticed, landing at the Kotoka International airport in Accra, is the similarity between Ghanaians and Nigerians. One of the airport staff who was directing passengers did not hesitate to ask me what I brought and another staff tried to playfully hustle me. These are very familiar characteristics. The airport was organized and clean. As I made my way to the hotel, I also noticed that the city was clean and organized.
In the words of my tour guide, “Ghanaian political leaders are afraid of their people”. What she meant by this is that the leaders are accountable to the people. She said they have consistently been blessed with good leaders that care about the people. She said though they are not perfect, they are much better than our own political leaders in Nigeria. This was quickly confirmed by our driver…
The next day, a tour guide was assigned to me to show me parts of the city. The tour guide turned out to be a Nigerian. I found her perspective of the people, the city, and the country quite interesting. As someone who has experienced Nigeria and Ghana, I noticed how objective she was in her analysis and views. She visited the country as a tourist a few years ago and decided to stay back after falling in love with the city, and she started her travel and tours business there. She was excited to take me to a few iconic places and did an excellent job of sharing the stories behind those places, as well as the people.
The first thing my tour guide confirmed was the neatness of the people. She said, “Ghanaians don’t litter”. That means the neatness I had noticed from the airport and around the city was not a fluke or a discipline that was coerced. We visited the Black Star Gate and Independence Square, among other places. My tour guide told me that visits to these historic places are free. I saw a few tourists in the square, as well as some people hanging around. I saw a woman selling water and drinks to visitors and passers-by. I noticed how clean the entire place was and pointed it to my guide and she said, the woman selling drinks would ensure the place she’s selling drinks remains tidy.
In the words of my tour guide, “Ghanaian political leaders are afraid of their people”. What she meant by this is that the leaders are accountable to the people. She said they have consistently been blessed with good leaders that care about the people. She said though they are not perfect, they are much better than our own political leaders in Nigeria. This was quickly confirmed by our driver, who quipped that they take promises by politicians seriously. Any politician who does not fulfill his or her campaign promises would have a falling out with the people. My tour guide said Ghanaians always complain about their leaders needlessly because, according to her, they are trying. I am sure her position is based on her experience with Nigerian leaders whose promises don’t mean anything to them and even the people.
I had heard that the cost of living in Ghana is high. This was confirmed by my tour guide. Petrol is purchased for over N500 per litre. I asked about the rural areas in Ghana and was told that the difference in the cost of living between there and the cities is not that significant. Rural to urban migration appears low, in comparison to the situation in Nigeria. The high cost of living does not stop ordinary Nigerians, Nigerian celebrities, and politicians from making Ghana their second African home. My tour mentioned a few celebrities who own businesses and houses in Ghana.
I realised that Ghana is not only a business, tourism and educational destination for Nigerians, it seems to have become a prostitution destination for our young women. My tour guide said if it were just adults who were engaged in the trade, she would not have been that concerned. She said young girls from about the age of 12 are also involved…
As we drove around the city of Accra, we passed the former Nigerian House, where embassy staff was embarrassingly chased out in June of last year. To effect their ejection, parts of the building were demolished as reported in the news. The news of this embarrassing development was all over the internet. My tour guide said it was very embarrassing for Nigerians in Ghana when they learned that it was because Nigerian authorities refused to pay their rent after many letters had been written to that effect. I also learned that Nigeria had no sitting ambassador in Ghana during that period. I was surprised that Nigeria, the giant of Africa does not have a property of its own that would house all its consular operations in Ghana. I was surprised that Nigeria could find herself in that sort of embarrassing situation.
The forced eviction of Nigerian embassy staff is not the only embarrassing thing about Nigeria in Ghana. My tour guide said the average Ghanaian believes Nigerian women are in Ghana for prostitution. This is most disheartening. I realized that Ghana is not only a business, tourism, and educational destination for Nigerians, it seems to have become a prostitution destination for our young women. My tour guide said if it were just adults who were engaged in the trade, she would not have been that concerned. She said young girls from about the age of 12 are also involved and a number of these girls are being pushed to it by their parents in Nigeria for financial reasons.
My tour guide said she has made several efforts to encourage these girls to go back home. But more girls keep turning up in Ghana for child prostitution. She said she has even contacted a number of media houses to carry out an investigation to expose this menace. But to no avail. She sometimes takes in some of these young girls and arranges for transportation to take them back to Nigeria, with support from some Nigeria-based transport companies. I hope well-meaning Nigerians, NGOs and journalists would get involved to stop this growing trend of Nigerian children prostituting in Ghana. This is nothing but a failure of Nigerian leadership.
I will try not to end this tale on a sad note. My entire stay in Ghana, though short, was very pleasant. The management and staff of Kempinski hotel where I was lodged were very professional. Their services were excellent. I even left a note of commendation for the manager on my way out. Am I looking forward to visiting Ghana again? I think you know the answer to that question. Next time, it would be with my family, God willing.