“The volume of water generated in Ghana is not enough to flush toilets in Lagos State”. That’s a statement attributed to Nigeria’s defence minister, Godwin Abbe. He is also quoted as saying that “the number of teachers you have to pay salaries in the whole of Ghana is not more than Western Nigeria [and that] the whole of the Ghanaian Armed Forces, if you choose to know, is not more than just two brigades of the Nigerian Armed Forces, period.”
That’s not such a bad thing to say, is it?
Yet, Mr. Abbe’s remarks and other similar sentiments expressed by other top Nigerian government officials have angered Ghanaian diplomats in Lagos so much that they’ve written a letter complaining that “such reckless and unguarded comments could have grave implications for bilateral relations.”
In another example of such “reckless” remarks cited in the letter, the Nigerian Education minister, Sam Egwu is reported to have said that all the university lecturers in Ghana will not be adequate for a single university in Nigeria. His compatriot information minister, Dora Akunyili, is also alleged to have said that Ghana is smaller than the state of Lagos?
I think Mr. Egwu missed the mark by a few inches and Mama Dora was only wrong in the analogy she used to make whatever point she was trying to put across.
But do such comments really pose a threat to “bilateral relations” between the two countries? And do they add up to “Ghana bashing” as the letter from the Ghana High Commission in Lagos suggests?
I don’t think so.
All the Nigerian ministers mentioned in the letter, signed by Nana Yaw Aboagye, only seemed to be making a point that Ghana is a small country – much too small compared with their country. Mr. Aboagye’s letter acknowledges this.
“Ghana is smaller than Nigeria, and I reckon everyone knows that as a fact,” Mr. Aboagye writes. “Or have Nigerian government officials only suddenly realised how ‘small’ Ghana is?”
When did being called “small” become an insult? I thought in this modern era, we like to say “size doesn’t matter” and that “it’s all about technique”. So why should the Ghanaian government be so piqued that some Nigerian ministers have referred to our country as being small?
I think Mr. Aboagye’s letter to the Nigerian government was totally uncalled for. His demand that Ghana “deserves respect from Nigerians, particularly top government officials” is nothing but a shameful display of diplomatic naivety – not to mention senseless pettiness.
Besides, if Nigerian government officials have nothing better to do than sit in their country and talk about their ‘small’ sister, shouldn’t that rather give the Ghanaian government some pride?
Maybe, just maybe, they are jealous. Is it our fault that we get international recognition from the likes of Barack Obama? If the Nigerians want to wallow in jealousy, the best we in Ghana can do is to pray that our big sister to the east takes the sensible steps that will help it take its rightful place as an African super-power. We shouldn’t be writing silly diplomatic notes responding to petty jealousies. They promised us oil and so far, we’ve not even gotten a single drop. Shouldn’t we rather be writing to tell them that we need the crude badly? How about the gas they made us build that long pipeline for? Have we written to ask them why it’s taken so long for the gas to flow through the West African Gas Pipeline?
In any case, the Nigerian ministers cited in that diplomatic note were not entirely lying. The fact remains that with our little population – and with most of us going without potable water – the amount of water produced in Ghana just isn’t enough to flush all the WCs in Nigeria. It’s a fact. Nigeria also has a very big army. It’s larger than ours. So the Nigerian defence minister wasn’t lying. He told the truth.
How about the education minister, who says that all the university lecturers in Ghana may not be enough for a single university in Nigeria? He may have indulged in needless exaggeration to make his point. But truth be told, all the university lecturers in Ghana may indeed be enough for only one Nigerian state. That’s a fact. And the Nigerian information minister only slightly missed the mark when he compared the state of Lagos with Ghana. The truth is that the population of Lagos is about the same as Ghana’s.
And so where lies the so-called “Ghana bashing”?
If you ask me, I’d say that Ghanaians bash Nigerians more than they bash us. A lot of Ghanaians think Nigerians are crooks and criminals – armed robbers, drug dealers, prostitutes and fraudsters. Some of us like to blame the upsurge in armed robbery here on the influx of Nigerians. Some of us even complain that Nigerians are opening businesses here, lamenting what one newspaper as the “Nigerianisation of Ghanaian banking” in reference to the numerous Nigerian banks that have set up operations here. Yet, these banks provide jobs for hundreds (if not thousands) of Ghanaians.
All this is unnecessary and Mr. Aboagye’s silly letter has only succeeded in fuelling needless animosity between Ghana and Nigeria. I know Ghanaians (who only heard about the so-called reckless remarks after reading Mr. Aboagye’s letter) heap insults on Nigerians. On the other hand, some Nigerians have expressed indignation that a Ghanaian official has the audacity to write such a letter to their government demanding “respect”.
I think Mr. Aboagye’s letter has done worse for relations between the two countries than all the so-called “reckless” remarks combined. We are living in a very competitive world where interdependence is key to the survival and development of every nation. We need the Nigerians and they need us. In fact, under current circumstances, I think we need them slightly more than they need us. Now is not the time to needlessly stoke the flames of nationalism. That Aboagye man should, therefore, withdraw his letter and apologise to the citizens of both nations.