Monday, May 30, 2011

Things to Do in Accra When...Abuja's dead!

Arguably, it's a terrible title for a Ghana-based blog, but the situation behind the title is equally terrible.

As you may know by now, President Goodluck Jonathon was inaugurated yesterday to the usual pomp and pageantry that accompanies such events. BBC Worldservice was there and covered it extensively on the hour--every hour!

The New York-based Sahara Reporters -- reporting mostly about Nigeria -- explained that in an unprecedented move to shore up security "mobile phone companies were compelled to switch off their transmitters in Abuja and its environs, apparently to forestall any attacks that might be attempted by means of mobile phones to detonate explosive devices at the venue".

Now there's no gainsaying that there's a love-hate relationship between Ghana and Nigeria on account of a number of reasons. The most superficial ones have to do with the fact that we share common language of English; we both enjoy Nollywood movies (though I believe Ghana does so at a naturally-disproportionate rate!!); we both marry across our cultures, resulting in many couples who bear children that are half-Nigerian, half Ghanaian. So it was always going to be normal that small Ghana would be interested in its bigger Nigeria neighbour--pretty much like Canada and the US relate.

Regrettably, the very important point of all phone providers being compelled to shut down their services in Abuja has not featured thus far in any Ghanaian radio or newspaper, prompting personal speculation that Ghanaian media men are just not that into Nigeria as one might have thought.

Given the volume of Ghanaian media men that flow into and out of their big brother, as well as the preponderance on Nigerian banks in this country, I would have thought an interest in how the inauguration went--with all its attendant issues--might be of interest. Were the situation reversed, I doubt Nigeria would have paid that much attention however, but it still does not make it right.

I called one friend in Lagos who's line was working alright; another in Abuja had it "switched off" throughout the day--as well as my close relative in Abuja's MTN phone line that he took from Ghana.

A quick scanning of websites coupled with the report on Sahara Reporters suggested that hours after the inauguration, neither MTN and AIRTEL (both available in Ghana) nor ETILSAT and GLO and others in Nigeria had resumed service. I cannot begin to think of the impact it would have had on emergency services.

Though internal security is not to be sneezed at--anywhere--I debated with myself throughout the day whether Ghana would have done something like this without causing a furore among citizens? While some providers sent messages to their customers (I understand local VISAPHONE in Nigeria did so), I cannot but wonder whether all did so.

Given the reality of the situation in Abuja, I wonder how prepared Ghana would be to a situation like this, and it has got me thinking of a short list for those with relatives in the federal capital territory (FCT) of Abuja:

1. make friends with Nigerians in Ghana. If possible get both their Nigerian and Ghana mobile numbers

2. read Nigerian press online regularly. If your relative has just landed in Nigeria at an auspicious event, there might be security constraints and/or issues he or she would be oblivious to

3. call your Nigerian friends regularly so that in the even of any emergency, they might be able to attend to your relative -- irrespective of the part of the country they might be in.

4. If you have Facebook, monitor Nigerians on Facebook, and connect with them!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of *Not* Seeing AU Flags at Hotels in Accra, Ghana

The celebration of AU day has both encouraged and mobilised me to action, so I finally decided to do something taking a walk across the street from work to the hotel there. Now I have covered Eastgate Hotel in my Accra blog before--you can read it here -- so it is not like I am castigating the hotel without reason. Overall, it's an interesting hotel, though I have never lodged there.

On the specific case of the flags, I asked at the receptionist, who in turn called the manager. Within minutes, he was there to talk to me. Doubtless perplexed by my question as to what informs the kind of flags that the hotel hoists, he still tried to proffer an answer.

His explanation--in sum--was that they hoist flags of "constituencies"[my words] that are likely to visit the hotel. So the EU, US, Ghanaian, Canadian flags they fly suggest that clientele from those countries are free (and likely) to visit the hotel.

I cannot help but wonder whether it would not make good business sense--even--to hoist both an AU and ECOWAS flag--given that the latter hosts many conferences at hotels round the capital?

Beyond the fact that it is serious food for thought, I think there's merit in sending a questionnaire, perhaps arranging for an interview(maybe even an email one) as to why the state of non-flying AU and ECOWAS flags is the case.

If you're interested in this endeavour, join me as I continue to assemble a bunch of African heroes online and offline who are selfless and dedicated to seeing a united Africa -- the soonest time possible. We are the Q9 Brigade...uniting Africa ONE communication at a time.

Email me on, and or join the google groups here:!forum/q9-brigade-africa-unite

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Africa Liberation Day to all AU Citizens...on 25 May!

Every 25 May, Ghana, along with many African Union(AU) member states, celebrates what has now come to be known as Africa Liberation Day(ALD). It is erroneously celebrated as African Union day, which is actually celebrated on 9 September, when the Sirte Declaration was conceived to transform the-then Organisation of African Unity into the African Union.

In Ghana, Chelsea's Michael Essien (a Ghanaian) in his capacity as AU Peace Ambassador will lead a team of other international Chelsea superstars to play in a "Peace for Africa" match. This poster is merely to reflect this reality.

Wherever you may be on 25 May, have a fabulous Happy Africa Liberation Day!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

How My Non-Political Tailor Made me Smile about Ghana

In our highly-politicised culture, I often forget to remind myself about the beauty of my country--we tend to let foreigners remind us instead--till I take a walk. Walking has always been cathartic--and this afternoon was no exception.

Deciding to walk to the tailor who fixes some of my clothes, I was surprised at what I would meet: him working his usual assiduous self in front of GTV (Ghana's national broadcaster), which was showing the incumbent President Professor John Evan Atta-Mills having bought his nomination forms to contest the general elections in 2012.

My tailor was aghast at what was going on -- that the wife of the founder of Ghana's ruling National Democratic Congress should decide to contest the incumbent President in next year's polls, and at a time when the incumbent President was clearly "doing well."

My tailor is 30years old, and describes himself as "a small boy", but who still knows that "the President is doing well." He confessed to me that though he comes from a region that is a quintessential and visceral supporter of the NDC party, his mother campaigned for the opposition (right-leaning) National Patriotic Party. He also confessed to liking Ghana's incumbent Vice-President John Mahama -- despite the fact that he is not the traditional NDC-supporter that everyone would expect him to be.

He added--much to my bemusement--that he may not vote for the current president, but he sees that he has been doing well, so what the wife of the founder is doing is "very wrong" and "disgraceful".

Apart from shattering any preconceptions that people from the Volta Region of Ghana wholely and fully support the NDC (something I never believed to be fully the case anyway), I was happy to hear this outrage from Wanda the tailor, who only went to reinforce the impression that Ghana may be over-politicised in much of what we do, but we certainly have discerning minds a lot of the time, too...

God bless Ghana. God bless Nkrumah! God bless Africa...


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