June 21, 2018

Why Ghanaians worry about Nigeria elections by Elizabeth Ohene

Why Ghanaians worry about Nigeria elections by Elizabeth Ohene

In a BBC series of columns from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene, a member of the main opposition NPP, raises concerns about Nigeria’s future as it battles an Islamist-led insurgency in the north and prepares for tightly contested elections.


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If you are a Ghanaian, you tend to worry about Nigeria.

Some would say we Ghanaians have enough on our own plates to keep us fully occupied with worry.

The Ghanaian economy is currently facing severe “challenges”, to use the preferred terminology of government spokespersons.

We are in the midst of the longest power crisis that our country has ever known and tempers are short all around as we try to cope with the outages that have become part of life now.

And yet we worry about Nigeria. It has something to do with our histories – the tendency to mimic each other. Even though Nigeria is much bigger in every way, a healthy rivalry has always existed between our countries.

One of my favourite Ghanaian politicians put it like this: “Our two countries, Nigeria and Ghana, are like siblings. We quarrel and disagree occasionally but we love each other. Indeed, it always comes as a surprise to realise that we do not have a common border.

“There have been ugly episodes like when we expel citizens of each other from our countries and there are healthier and happier events when we clash in sports. An encounter on the football field between our two countries remains one of the best in the world.”

Those who are superstitious have good cause to hold their breaths when something untoward happens in Nigeria, because that something invariably ends up in Ghana as well.

From coups to traffic jams to power outages; where Nigeria leads, Ghana seems to always follow.

All those years that our search for oil seemed to be fruitless, we were confident we would eventually strike oil – after all, Nigeria had oil, Ghana must have oil.

When we did strike oil in 2007, the most constant refrain on the lips of Ghanaians has been: “Please God, don’t let us do with our oil, what Nigeria has been doing with theirs.”

Ghanaians half-expect that to be the case because we seem to imitate and adopt all the bad habits of our favourite neighbours.

In the period leading to the elections that have now been postponed to 28 March, we have been more anxious than ever about Nigeria.

Our election campaigns can never be as colourful as the Nigerian ones – we simply don’t have that type of money, but we try to emulate a pale version of what they do.

I am waiting for a Ghanaian politician to describe the distribution of rice and other such incentives to voters as “building stomach infrastructure”, as a Nigerian governor has said in the current campaign. Read more



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