The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional, and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
This week’s Abroad Life subject is half Nigerian from his mother’s side and half Ghanaian from his late father’s side. However, he has spent the majority of his life in Nigeria. He recounts his motive for going on holiday in Kumasi, Ghana in 2019, his experiences while there and his plans to revisit the town again.
Was 2019 the first time you made a trip to Ghana? If so, how did you prepare for the journey?
Yes, 2019 was the first time I had ever been in Ghana before. I was going there to apply for my international passport in Ghana as well as see my grandmother and family members.
The preparation for me was pretty straightforward. All I needed to do was pack a bag and have my documents of origin ready. However, the main problem I encountered while preparing was exchanging the naira to cedis (but over there, they call their cedis “Ghana”). Back then, GH₵15 was equivalent to ₦1k. When I went to Ghana, I had to make a budget before travelling because I didn’t know what to expect.
Nice. So can you describe how the journey went from Nigeria to Ghana?
So I saw the trip from Nigeria to Ghana as fun, even though a lot of people may probably have seen it as dangerous. I travelled to Ghana by road and left the shores of Nigeria at around 1 a.m. I used a cab at the Ghana park in Agege, Lagos. However, due to low patronage that day, the driver opted to leave with only me in it. In turn, the man would use the opportunity to make stops and deliver messages.
So I’d say the trip really started when we got to the Idiroko border town in Ogun State. The town is situated across the Nigeria-Benin Republic border. When you get to Idiroko, you’d have to get down and the driver would require you to bring money for customs duties. I think I paid ₦27k then for the journey. ₦17k is for the driver while ₦10k is for “settling” the customs officials placed at the border. They’d also check your passport to see if it’s stamped or not. After my passport was checked and the customs dues were paid, we continued on the journey.
The Idiroko border in Ogun State, Nigeria [Vanguard Newspapers]
I’d say my first culture shock outside Nigeria happened right from the trip. When we were on the road, we had to pass through plantations. Like the bus was literally being driven in the middle of bushes —
Yes o. At one point, I almost got worried about the driver’s intentions and whether he was trying to kidnap me, but due to my personaIity, I didn’t really get scared. I later realised that it was a tactic to hide from police and security officials. We always had to switch on the inner lights of the bus whenever we sighted the police.
There was oil bunkering going on too, as we could see lots of kegs filled with petrol and diesel. We saw some security men in the bushes, and we had to “settle” with money as well.
When we got to Cotonou, a town in the Benin Republic, I noticed that I didn’t see any fuel station on that long stretch of road, which I found to be quite odd. At every bus stop, you’d see people buying fuel in kegs on the road. We then passed Togo and then we got to Aflao Border in Ghana. There you have to change your money to cedis.
The Aflao border in Ghana
From the Aflao border, I alighted the vehicle and took a tro-tro (which is the equivalent of a Nigerian danfo) to Circle Market in Accra, and from there I entered a cab to the bus park. At the park, I took a luxurious bus to my stop at Kumasi, which was my final destination.
Sights of Kumasi Market, Ghana
That was quite the journey. How would you describe your experiences in Ghana?
I’d say that I got a lot of culture shocks.
The first thing that definitely stood out for me was the uninterrupted power supply. The lights only went off when it was extremely windy. Once the wind subsided, the power would come back on. Even when it rained, there would still be power.
Another thing that shocked me was the drinks. They also have hawkers as we do in Nigeria, but the hawkers always have cold drinks, some of them even fully blocked by ice. But the hawkers in Ghana hardly have any cold drinks, just maybe mildly chilled at best. The drinks and beverages in Ghana taste a lot better and richer than their counterparts in Nigeria. For instance, Coke in Ghana tastes way better than Coke in Nigeria, the Peak milk in Ghana tastes more creamy etc.
Then I also realised that Ghanaians are extremely friendly and accommodating. When I entered tro-tros to various places and they noticed that I couldn’t speak Twi (a Ghanaian variation of Pidgin English), the bus conductors would always want to make sure that I didn’t miss my way at any point in time.
However, there were a lot of deaths in Kumasi, Ghana. In Lagos, you can celebrate the weekend with parties but in Ghana, it seems as though it’s being celebrated with funerals. Every weekend, a young man must die in Ghana, but it’s not like the crime rate is so bad. I never found out why that was a thing.
However, their women seem to live very long. My grandma lived to be 100 years plus before she died.
I can’t really say I had a unique experience with Ghanaian food, however. I resigned myself to eating only bread and soaking garri because I have a sensitive stomach.
What was your experience with getting your international passport?
Funny enough, I was unsuccessful in getting the passport. Ghana has this stereotype about Nigerians being bad because the Nigerians there have gone to constitute a lot of nuisance. They bribe their way through to get a Ghana birth certificate, learn Twi and successfully get a passport.
Because of this stereotype, applying for my international passport was hell. I went to the passport office and tried to show them proof of my Ghanaian roots, but they didn’t want to give the passport to me. The immigration man told me that I can’t hold two passports, but I see people doing this all the time. Basically, they were not sure if I was a Ghanaian and they thought my documents were forged. They requested my dad’s birth certificate but I couldn’t because my dad died in Nigeria a long time ago.
They then requested that I bring my Ghanaian relatives. I brought my father’s mother and my uncle. They then asked me to swear an affidavit at the Ghana High Court, which I did. But they were not satisfied. Whenever I brought proof, they always turned me down. I even got threatened by the police at one point.
I had to leave off doing it because I had to go back to school in Nigeria and finish my HND, but this is something that I’d go back for in the nearest future.
How would you compare the standard of living in Ghana to Nigeria?
Living in Kumasi, Ghana is more slow-paced than in Lagos. In Lagos, everything is fast-paced and you have to be extra smart. Kumasi feels like a semblance of sanity, with everyone minding their own business.
But besides that, they have the same things we do. The same hawkers, the same type of businesses, open markets etc.
In terms of prices, things are not cheaper in Ghana. In fact, if you are not careful, you can almost overspend your budget in Ghana. What I did in the first days was to calculate prices in Naira and then recalculate in cedis so as to price effectively. Let’s say I want to buy a dress for GH₵ 70. I’d think firstly that GH₵ 70 is like ₦70. Then I then check the cedi to naira exchange rate and then realize that if I were in Nigeria, that would probably amount to ₦5,500, which is quite high. Then once I notice that, I can then bargain with the vendor to sell it to me at a lower price. It’s easier for me that way.
Interesting. How do you feel about the governance of the two countries?
Well, I won’t say that there is nowhere without bad governance. When I was there, my cousins complained about the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, and how he wasn’t doing enough for the country.
However, from the little I saw, things were better in a sense. I once passed an army barracks in Ghana wearing camouflage cap and they didn’t say anything, but I dare not wear that in Nigeria. When you see the police in Ghana, you feel protected unlike in Nigeria, where they can harass and extort money from you at any point in time. I have been a victim of police harassment in Nigeria one too many times.
Would you ever relocate to Ghana?
Well, I’d definitely love to relocate to Ghana. I’d love to get a house in Ghana too. The culture is rich and the women are beautiful. It’s definitely a place I’d love to make my holiday spot time and time again.