At the risk of sounding egocentric, I believe Nigeria is blessed with far more human and natural resources than Ghana can ever boast of. Yet, Ghana has consistently demonstrated that character would always supersede talent. Their unassuming and dedicated posture earned my admiration as a primary school pupil when they drilled me in mathematics and English language with so much devotion. Till this day, I credit my studying engineering at the university to the firm mathematics foundation I enjoyed from my Ghanaian teachers. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, the Nigerian government moved against this people under the guise that they were illegal immigrants. It however does appear that the tables have now turned around. Maybe, just maybe if they had remained in Nigeria, our educational system wouldn’t be this sick. I meet S.S.3 students who cannot recite their multiplication table (from 1-12) but yet under the Ghanaians I learnt it perfectly in primary 3.
Today, there is a massive exodus of companies from Nigeria to Ghana. Explaining the new trend, Consular General of the Ghanaian Embassy Sylvester Parker Allortey told Nigerian Tribune (2011) that “in a world of globalisation, most people would always move where they find opportunities and they find the cost of production to be lower. They would always move to places where they find stability because nobody wants to operate in an environment that is uncertain and they also need security in form of moving around the country freely without fear. Also, they also want to move to places where they find that their investment has been guaranteed.” Another revelation came from George Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, who disclosed that between 1994 and 2011, about 17 Nigerian businesses located in Ghana had contributed US$1.5 billion (about N240 billion) to the advancement of the Ghanaian economy. He further added that Nigerian investments in Ghana were forecast to grow by an additional $500 million (about N80 billion) by 2015.
Internal corruption seems to have jeopardized the self-professed efforts by the Federal Government of Nigeria to encourage local and foreign investors. This corruption has led to the neglect of crucial infrastructure needed for businesses to thrive. I recall the experience when my friend and I teamed up to set up a small business as undergraduates of the University of Lagos. Aside the neck twisting rent we paid for the shop and additional Lagos State tax for putting a sign post, operations required us to constantly run on generator because of the epileptic power supply that had the capacity to damage our most important equipment due to its fluctuation and instability. Our average fuel consumption was 1000naira per day (times 6 days) which came to 24,000 naira for fuel alone per month. It was so tough for us that within few months our generator knocked and we had to purchase another generator for about 200,000naira. For goodness sake, how can a business built on loans and savings from students survive under this condition? I’m sure we may soon be on the queue to relocate to Ghana because till this day, after over two years, we are yet to break even. Thanks to the very harsh business environment they have created here in Nigeria despite their continuous call for more young entrepreneurs.
International businesses have somehow adapted to our unfriendly business climate by collaborating with “certain Nigerians” to become predators of the masses. In most cases, the Federal Government have been spectators and at other times collaborators with these extortionists. It therefore came as a surprise to me that the FGN could muster the balls to fine British Airways $135 million and Virgin Atlantic $100 million, over what they called “abuse of a dominant position, fixing prices, abusing fuel surcharges and taking advantage of passengers”. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority had in an ongoing investigation found out that the Lagos to London route had the highest “yield’ in the world. According to BusinessNews analysis, a one way ticket from Accra to London booked in advance for November 24th is $ 1,189 for premium economy, $ 2,049 for a business, and $ 2,300 for First Class. A ticket from Lagos to London is $1,867 for Premium Economy and $ 3,685 for Business and, $ 5,408 for First Class. Another analysis by Google Maps showed that the distance between Lagos and London is 6,405 kilometers and 322 kilometers shorter than the distance from Accra to London which is 6,727 kilometers.
Still with this damning evidence against BA and Virgin Atlantic, it have been reported that Nigerian lobbyists for these airlines have swung into action to make the government rescind her position. These lobbyists are top government officials and politicians that enjoy complimentary tickets and gifts (anticipatory bribes) from airline operators not minding the day light robbery that their fellow countrymen face. This reminds me of the fiery American revolutionist; Malcolm X. During the heat of the struggle for equal rights for Blacks, he noted that there existed two kinds of slaves in America; the house slaves and the field slaves. Whilst the field slave labored in the fields and sometimes had their mouths padlocked, the house slave lived, ate with the master and valued his life of servitude. Ironically, most Nigerian leaders are mere house slaves conniving with their western masters to further enslave an already suffering populace.
Peradventure Nigeria refuses to improve in terms of corruption and infrastructure; a day may come when Ghana would become the darling of all major foreign investors coming into West Africa (coupled with their recent discovery of oil in commercial quantities). Also, as Nigerian businesses continue to “invade” Ghana, I have no doubt in mind that soon our businessmen would begin to attract the wrath and envy of the local businessmen either due to their success or meddling with Ghana’s politics. This may trigger a Nigeria Must Go order from a Ghanaian Pharaoh that would have no regard for Nigeria. Then, it may be called xenophobia or retaliation.
To avoid this looming show down and national embarrassment, the Nigerian Government must take her searchlight first to all her Ministries and Agencies, then to other sectors such as the Oil and Gas, Construction and Telecommunications where various violations and exploitations have been reported to be taking place by expatriate officials in connivance with corrupt government officials. Just in case you are in doubt as to the pathetic state of this country, cast your mind back to the wikileaks expose where Ann Pickard, the then Shell’s vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa boasted that Shell had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries with access to politicians’ every move. Instead of the State Security Service commencing a deep covert investigation to expose these saboteurs, they have decided to keep using their resources to intimidate law abiding and tax paying citizens that disagree with some of the government’s flawed policies.
A popular saying is that it takes hard work to get to the top and character to sustain you there. I have however realized that it actually requires both hard work and character to take you there as well as sustain you. The absence of character is what has mocked the acclaimed giant of Africa. At a time when we ought to be competing with China, Russia, Germany, United States, Japan, France, United Kingdom and other advanced/advancing nations, we are competing with our little brother Ghana. More tragic than the choice of our competitor is the fact that we seem to be losing the race.
By Eniola Joshua