An Adventure to the Gold Coast: The Experience

by

Patrick Ogungbola
MD/ CEO, BLUEHEDGE REALTORS

Happy new month

A very big congratulations to you!!! You made it to the very last month in the year 2017; what a privilege. One thing we are not fully in control of as human being is ‘our life’. You may be in control of your money, you may be at the helm of affairs of a company, you may even be the ‘grand’ commander of a whole country, but unfortunately you don’t own your life, no one really knows what will happen tomorrow; not even the soothsayer and forecaster, because they also die. No amount of money can save anyone from death. Congratulations to you once again and be grateful . . . in few days’ time, we’ll be wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’.

Our article for this month is centred on this writer’s experience during his trip to the Gold Coast (Ghana) just few days ago. The title ‘An Adventure to Gold Coast’ may not be apt, because the purpose of the trip was not really for adventure but to receive an award for ‘Excellence in Real Estate Management & Development’ at the African Leader of Integrity Merit Award organised by Proven Integrity Communications Network.

Integrity award

I chose to travel by road to really know how Nigeria (Lagos) connects to the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana, I know for sure that such experience will be missed if I go by air.

I had booked for the trip with one of the transport companies at Ajah a day before, and we were advised to be at their station by 5am. I got there at the scheduled time and we embarked on the journey at about 5:30am. Because we left early, we were able to beat the usual morning traffic of Lagos till we got close to Nigeria border where we stopped for the driver to get our passports stamped with the Nigerian Immigration Service officials. Thereafter, we drove for some few minutes and got to Seme border which led us to the Republic of Benin. We also stopped briefly to get our passports stamped and the driver had to pay several charges to different locally mounted tolls. My experience at this place was the worst throughout the trip. I saw poverty, deprivation, hunger, want and lack written on the faces of people of Benin Republic. I saw women with their children tied to the back walking bare-footed on the brown dusting road and carrying something that looks like sand, some others carried fire woods. The whole environment smelt with urine and house flies seem to be their everyday companion (thank God I went through an air-conditioned bus). The atmosphere was tensed and hostile. Even their major mode of transportation are majorly locally made tricycles, I was tempted to ask the driver what powers ‘the machine’. I wasn’t born to experience the era of the slave trade, but what I saw at Benin Republic gave me an inkling of what must have happened then. This further reinforced my believe that economic independence is far more important than political independence. Of what use is political freedom when the citizens are in economic and financial bondage? It was a very bad sight, and I actually cried in my spirit. After we left there, I was lost in thought and ruminating about what I just experienced that I didn’t know when we got to Lome, Togo.

Situation at Benin Republic

On getting to Togo, I was brightened up by the neat and clean environment and the beach sight close to the road. Things seem to be a lot better here. But my question is, ‘why is the situation of Benin Republic different, despite being in the middle of two ‘prosperous’ countries? Togo may not be as prosperous as Nigeria, but it’s far better than Benin Republic. But, why is this? Honestly, I still don’t know even as I write this.

Oh sorry, we are now at the Togo Republic, and at the Togo border, all the passengers were requested to alight from the bus and walk into the country (That’s their policy). There, we also got our passports stamped, and we boarded our bus en route to Ghana.

Benin republic border

The journey had been smooth and hitch-free even up to this point. Sleep wanted to overtake me; I know I woke up at 3am to prepare for this journey. But ‘I bind and cast every sleeping spirit’. Sleep and I fought for several minutes, but I won; I must not miss any part of this journey. For the first time, I cheated nature.

I got to Ghana without knowing; I saw the well raised tower with a big black star. This place is Aflao which is the border town between Ghana and Togo. We alighted and enter an office at the Ghana section of the border for luggage inspection and for the stamping of our passports again. We also changed our Nigeria Naira currency to Ghana Cedi. The programme I was going for was to take place at the city of Accra, which is about three (3) hours away from Aflao.

Welcome to Ghana

When we were done, we set out to our final destination (Accra), and we got to the transport company’s park at Accra located at Ring Road West at about 5pm (Ghana time). Ghana is one (1) hour behind Nigeria on GMT (At least, I learnt that during my elementary Geography in my school days). Another interesting scenario is that as we moved from one country to the other, the time zones changed on my phone (plus or minus one hour).

After we alighted from the bus, a cab man approached me to know where I was going. Well, I told him to take me to a good hotel with 24-hour electricity, good security and at a good rate. The cab man laughed, although I didn’t know the reason for this until I got to the hotel. On our way to the hotel, I asked the cab man if I can retain his service to take me out throughout my stay in Ghana. His response shocked me; he informed me that he works only between 3pm to 8am the following morning. This was very strange to me, and I asked him what he does during the day between 8am and 3pm. He simply replied that he takes his rest by then. I also asked about the risk involved driving in the night, most especially for security reasons. He laughed and laughed, and then replied that there is no security issue in Ghana, and that you can even be walking and working in the middle of the night, and you’ll be absolutely safe, because their security agencies are up-and-doing. He said that’s why he chose to work at night and rest during the day. That was a shocker to me, as I cast my mind back to my country, whereby even during the day, you have to shine your eyes well well to avoid being robbed or kidnapped, not to talk of the night.

Ghana Circle

We got to the hotel, and the cab man (my new friend) led me to the reception where I was given a warm welcome. I enquired about the room rates and I was given their price list. Now, I was not used to their currency, so I had to calculate the rates to the Naira equivalent (because I earn money in Naira, not Ghana Cedi). At this time, GHC1 equals N78. This means that the Ghanaian currency is 78 times stronger than the Nigerian Naira, and this is when I appreciate the value in currency redenomination. It is noteworthy that Ghana redenominated her currency few years ago.

Before paying for the hotel, I asked emphatically that I hope your light (electricity) is 24-hours; and the receptionist looked at me and laughed. She asked if I was from Nigeria, and I answered in the affirmative. She said, ‘no wonder Nigerians that lodge here always ask the same question; light doesn’t go off here in Ghana’. I had also wanted to ask if they have standby generator, but I kept mute to avoid further embarrassment.

My Ghana hotel lounge

Lo and behold, to my greatest surprise, throughout my duration in Ghana, the light didn’t blink once and I didn’t hear the sound of generator. I have heard before now that Ghanaians enjoy steady and uninterrupted power supply, but now, I experienced this myself. This made me so sad when I think of the situation in Nigeria, and questions that beg for honest answers keep coming to my mind. Can’t the Nigerian government understudy Ghana and other similar climes to know how they were able to solve their power problem? Let’s assume Nigeria is so ‘enormous’ in size compared to Ghana, why can’t each state in Nigeria take charge and solve their power problem? Another thing I observed is the citizens’ love and patriotism for their country, and the reason is not far-fetched. Love is contagious, so also is the opposite. Who will not love a country that loves and cares for her citizens?

I observed there are trees in almost every home (I observed this in almost all the houses within the vicinity of the hotel I lodged and also when I went out). The entire roads and general environment are very cleaned and well maintained. Thanks to Zoomlion Ghana Limited, the Ghana waste management expert/ environmental watchdog. I remember in the course of our journey (en route Accra), a lady wanted to wash her hands outside of the moving vehicle by opening the bus window glass; the driver shouted at her to stop it immediately, as ‘they don’t do that here’. In the same vein, it is a criminal offence to throw dirts from a moving vehicle. Also, at a point in the course of our journey to Accra, the driver reduced the speed of the vehicle and drove slowly for a couple of minutes. I enquired from him what the problem was, he replied by saying, ‘in the area we were, you must not go above 50km/hour, it’s a punishable offence. An average Ghanaian is disciplined. Proper enforcement of the law ensures absolute compliance. Just like in other civilized countries, a typical Nigerian must ‘properly behave him/ herself’ to fit into the system. Abnormalities are norm in Nigeria, but can’t we change? Change begins with me seems to be just a slang in Nigeria, we don’t live by it.

My Ghana hotel

Ghana experienced similar history of slave trade and British colonization, just like Nigeria and most other African countries, but they have been able to recreate a new country that they are proud of, and they still continue to work assiduously to make it better. If good governance and dividends of democracy can work in Ghana, then, it can work anywhere. There are many good reasons why Nigeria and Nigerians  need to change for the better. Change, truly begins with you and I. It is my earnest prayer for our dear country (Nigeria) that her latter end shall be greater than the former. Amen!!!

Ghana expressway

As usual, we want to remind you that we care so much about you, and that when it comes to your real estate investment (sales and purchases) and other advisory services, we are always here to give you the very best service you can never get elsewhere. That is our promise, and will always be.

We wish you the very best in the month of December 2017.

Thank you.