By Femi Adesina (email@example.com
By Christmas, I was completely fed up. Peeved, completely riled and exasperated by a fuel-less, power-less and president-less country. So I packed my bags and baggage, and off to Ghana I went.
Two years ago, at about the same period, I had taken a holiday in Ghana, and when I returned, I did a piece with the headline ‘Notes from Accra.’ I romanticized the peace, security and sanity in that country so much that one Nigerian, gripped in the paroxysm of jingoism, sent me an angry text that I should return to Ghana if I loved the place more than my country. So, two days after Christmas, I heeded the advice.
I went back to Ghana, along with my family. After six nights in the former Gold Coast, and having traveled extensively through Accra, Aburi, Kumasi and Cape Coast, I came back angrier than I was in 2007. Why should Ghana work, and Nigeria will not? Why should Ghana, which for now has not started exploiting its newly-found crude oil, not have fuel crisis, unlike Nigeria which has exported crude for about 50 years? Why should you travel hundreds of kilometers on smooth, almost silky roads in Ghana, and your own roads back home are filled with craters and gullies?
You passed through many police check points, but not at a single one were you questioned, harassed or money extorted from you or the driver. Like a troubadour, you traversed villages, towns and cities, but not once were you in danger of being waylaid and robbed silly. Dare you try that in Nigeria? Why, why, why? Why is our country so blest? I went to Ghana for recreation, I got it. But I also came back with deep-seated anger in the pit of my stomach.
Six nights in Ghana, no power failure, not even for one second. In Nigeria, they promised us 6000 megawatts of electricity by December 2009, they delivered pitch darkness. Why won’t one be angry, to the point of entertaining thoughts that are potentially treasonous, mutinous? Since you can’t really hold a man for the thoughts in his heart (at least, you’re not God), let me share with you some of the things that infiltrated my heart during those days in Ghana. Just consider that I’m thinking aloud.
The visionary Kwame Nkrumah government was overthrown by the military in 1966. The generals began to toss the country from one side to the other, from Ankrah to Afrifa, to Acheampong, to Akuffo. They covered the landscape with greed, avarice, larceny. They bled Ghana to the bones, and the country virtually collapsed. Then came pay day. A hot-headed young military officer struck in 1979. Flight Lieutenant John Jerry Rawlings, scion of a Scottish father and Ghanaian mother.
It is a matrilineal society, so Rawlings is considered a full-blooded Ghanaian. What did he do? Gen Afrifa had seized power in 1968, Acheampomg in 1972, Akuffo in 1978. He hauled all of them before military tribunals, which found them guilty of corruption. And they were shot. Shocking! Yes, but shock treatments do work, they have their positive sides.
Because Rawlings gave Ghana a shock treatment, the country is almost an Eldorado today. In the late 1970s, as a result of years of plunder by the military, Ghanaians flocked into other African countries, seeking refuge and succour. Many of them taught me in secondary school. Bernard Ohene Addai. Adu Sarkodee. Sarkodee Mensah. Ben Omane. Nana Offori. Ado Danquah. And many others. And their women? Let’s not remember the days of two lala. That was what they charged then in the brothels (don’t ask me how I knew). They could not pronounce Naira properly, so they called it lala. But those days are now gone. The Ghanaian woman has regained her pride because good leadership retrieved the country from the hawks, from the plunderers. When will our own come?
By the hands of the military, Ghana was destroyed. And by the hands of a military man, the land was restored. Eight solid years of democratic rule by the same man laid a new foundation for the country. A former military leader has also ruled us here for eight years as a supposed democrat. He left the country in further ruins.
Our own military left Nigeria in tatters. The only Buhari /Idiagbon regime that wanted to knock sense into our heads (and land) was toppled in a palace conspiracy. Oh, what an unfortunate land. Today, Ghana has got her democracy right, the votes of the people count, elections are largely free and fair, while for us, we can only dream of such things. Pity, pity. Shouldn’t we also have shot some people to ribbons? But enough of thinking aloud, lest I be accused of accommodating seditious thoughts. Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it are the issues of life.
Each time I stand by the Atlantic Ocean in Ghana, I remember my father. And two of the hotels where we stayed, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra, and Elmina Beach Hotel, Cape Coast, are right at the bank of the great sea. It was the same waters on which my father sailed almost 55 years ago, in search of the golden fleece. He never stopped telling us of the voyage to Fourah Bay College, Sierra-Leone, where he took a degree in Economics. He had stopped over in Ghana. Maybe he even stood on the very spot on which I had my feet planted. Memories are forever.
At a point in Accra, my wife and daughter needed to buy sunglasses. Our tour guide, Steve, was driving a fairly new Toyota. He simply found a place to park, left the engine running, and went to help them bargain. Good old Lagos! Leave your car door open with the engine running? The car will be at Cotonou in the next hour!
Hey! There is even Olusegun Obasanjo Way in Accra. Who dashed him? A long, well constructed dual carriageway. Didn’t they ask him of the condition of the road that leads to Otta, his farm, before they so honoured him? The man should be ashamed. Shame? Oh he long told us that he never feels ashamed, that he was not at home the day God was distributing that virtue.
Aburi. Beautiful, serene Aburi, set daintily atop a hill. It is home to a botanical gardens that is 119 years old. But for us in Nigeria, Aburi goes beyond just nature and its preservation. It is the town where Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Odumegwu Ojukwu met, to try and avert the Nigerian Civil War that lasted between 1967 and 1970. They came out with the Aburi Accord, which later broke down. And a shooting war started. You could see the presidential lodge on a hill, where the Nigerian leaders had parleyed at the behest of Ghanaian leaders. It all ended in futility
At the botanical gardens, we saw trees that were 119 years old. No wonder the Good Book says, “As the day of the trees are, so shall the days of my people be.” (Isaiah 65:22) But would you want to live up to 119, “sans eyes, sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything?” (Shakespeare). Food for thought.
In that garden, almost all the trees are flourishing, except the mahogany tree planted in 1979 by Olusegun Obasanjo, as the then military head of state of Nigeria. Well, what do you expect of a self-confessed bad man? But let’s leave the chicken farmer alone, and go to more pleasant things. After four hours drive from Aburi, you get to Kumasi, the land of the Asantes. And I remember Sam Asante, who used to play for my favourite local team, the IICC Shooting Stars, in the 1970s. Is he from here?
In history lessons, we had been told of Okonfo Anokye, Osei Tutu, and Prempeh I, the Asantehene who was exiled to Seychelles because he refused to give up the golden stool, the soul of the Asantes, to the British. You saw all these in bold relief at the Mahyia palace, where a tour guide took you round, with vintage pictures to back up the story. You had the pleasure of listening to a drum that had been in existence since 1888.
From Kumasi to Cape Coast. Another four hours drive, with stop-over at Assin Manso, where captured slaves had their last bath and drank their last Ghanaian water before being ferried abroad. Quite touching.
New Year eve and day were spent at Cape Coast. Scores of white people were also living it up at the Elmina Beach Hotel and the Coconut Grove. And then, the unholy thoughts came back. What a great harvest for kidnappers. If these people dare venture to certain parts of Nigeria, it would indeed be a merry time for kidnappers, who would smile daily to the banks. Impure thoughts, get thee behind me!
Lest I forget, we got to the zoo at Kumasi. The lions were quite robust, and they made their counterparts in Nigerian zoos look like poorer cousins. When a nation prospers, it shows, even in the animals.
I think I should stop at this point, as I can feel fresh anger welling up within me. After six days, I came back to still meet Nigeria fuel-less, power-less, president-less. But this is our land. We have no other. We will stay here and salvage it together. But then, did we make a mistake by not shooting some people as Rawlings did in Ghana? But now that we are in a democracy, such is not possible again. Those impure thoughts again! Get thee behind me, Satan.