Feature Article of Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Columnist: Obasi, Francis N.

Hanna Tetteh’s Foreign Policy Brouhaha Will Bring ‘Wahala’

It was with disappointment and dismay that I read the publication by the Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry which centered on the trading activities of Non- Indigenes precisely Nigerians.
Miss Hanna Tetteh, the Honorable Minister for Trade and Industry, has, right from the inception of this Masquerade which she is about to unmask, made us know how much she hated Nigerians. When she first introduced this ‘Hara-kiri’ assignment, she had to condescend as low as to making herself part of the team that went out locking up the shops of Nigerian Traders in Accra. When the team started meeting resistance, she disappeared from the scene, having known the embarrassment it will cause her as a Minister. Ever since, she has resorted to operating from the background.
I am not sure Miss Hanna Tetteh was in the Government about 25 years ago when both Countries swallowed the bitter pills that led to the indelible Trade Mark of ‘’Ghana must Go Bags’’ in the markets, boutiques, big shopping malls and main streets, and among hawkers.
Those who were caught up in it will never wish to experience it again.
Though the Honorable Minister is presenting her Government Policy stand as it affects foreigners, her Arsenal is pointing directly on Nigeria and Nigerians in Ghana. Already, Nigerians trading in Ghana have started feeling the heat. The threat on the Nigerian Traders, if not properly handled, will escalate beyond Miss Hanna Tetteh’s imagination.
The Honorable Minister is telling us that the activities of small- scale retail trading, petty trading, hawking is exclusive for Ghanaians. Can she tell us the yard-stick with which she measured the said activities?
Miss Hanna Tetteh belongs to the ‘Bourgeoisie class’ and knows little or nothing about what happens down the valley. Let us use one test case. ‘’The sale of home video CDs; “Over 50% of these CD’s are Nigerian films. The average Ghanaian with TV prefers watching Nigerian Movie to Ghanaian movie. The young men and boys involved in this trade are Nigerians. The Ghanaians trading in the CDs and Electrical/Electronic parts were tutored by their Nigerian friends. Most of the Ghanaians who for the first time went to Dubai and China to trade were shown the road by their Nigerian friends, to whom they will ever remain grateful. The Nigerian petty traders display these items on trucks along the major trading areas for people to buy. Hanna Tetteh is advocating the exclusive small-scale trading for Ghanaians. How many of the Ghanaian youth she is referring to are prepared to condescend and be involved in this type of street trading? As early as 6 am every morning, these youth she is speaking for are on the field to play football.
Every youth wants to become Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Asamoah Gyan, Dede Ayew etc.
What is the Honorable Minister actually looking for? That, these struggling Nigerian Youth should go to Lagos, spend their hard-earned money, buy the CDs, come back to Ghana and hand them over to the Ghanaian youth to go and sell? Alternatively, how many of these young ones have the money to invest in the small scale retail trade? It is one thing to reserve the retail trade for Ghanaians, and it is another thing to force it on them. Or will the Minister arrange bank Loans for the youth she is fighting for to start the trade? Let us watch and see. I am also surprised to hear the Honorable Minister talk about stiff opposition from the foreigners. This shows that she is not well informed about what is happening out there. She ought to be talking of stiff competition and not stiff opposition.
She should be talking of stiff competition and not stiff opposition because the average Nigerian trader is open to competition. They are never scared of competing with anybody who wants to. They cannot come to Ghana as foreigners and start opposing the indigenes. So the right term to use is stiff competition and not stiff opposition. Ghanaians in these sectors are simply greedy; perhaps, she does not know about this one. Both Ghanaians and their Nigerian counterparts buy from the same source in Lagos. A Nigerian trader who bought a particular item with another Ghanaian for the sum of GH¢10 is prepared to sell the item Gh¢10.50. The Ghanaian will want to sell the same item for GH¢20.00. With this posture, would you expect the Ghanaian to have a better return than the Nigerian? This is where the envy starts, hence the cry and propaganda that foreigners, Nigerians in particular have taken over their business.
The Honorable Minister also wants to stop the Nigerian women in the market from selling Nigerian food items. Is she expecting the Ghanaian women to come and sell the ‘bitter leaf’ which here in Ghana is seen as flower instead of vegetable for food?
In London, America, France, Germany etc, there are designated areas in the market place referred to as ‘’African Market’’. Nigerians are there, they sell Nigerian Food items, Ghanaians are there and they sell Ghanaian Food items. Why have European women not taken over the trade and selling of goods they know nothing about from the Nigerian/Ghanaian women?
When I met with the staff of GIPC, as we were deliberating on the sensitive issues, the talk was more on the USD300,000 required to be put down by any foreigner who wants to do business here in Ghana. Even if 10 traders from Nigeria come together, they can’t raise that money. So indirectly they should close down; which appears to be the message that the Minister is sending across. But I can authoritatively tell the Minister that no Ghanaian at all levels doing business in Nigeria is asked to cough out such a huge amount of money before he or she can do legitimate business in Nigeria. A Ghanaian friend of mine who was a Minister in Rawlings’ regime is doing big business in Nigeria and did not register the business with $300,000. Back in Nigeria, Ghanaians are in the local markets; virtually all the 36 States of Nigeria trading side by side with their Nigerian brothers and sisters. But here in Ghana, Miss Hanna Tetteh does not want to see Nigerians in retail trade. Not even in the USA and any part of Europe will you find this type of Draconian law in place.
Miss Hanna Tetteh has branded Nigerians illegal Foreign Traders. The Honorable Minister of Trade has put together a Task Force made up of the Ghana Police, Immigration, and Social Security etc. to deal with them. It is certain that as soon as she starts implementing her investment policy, the Police will be on hand to make arrests, while the Immigration will be standing by to effect deportation. With this development, trade would automatically grind to a halt between Ghana and Nigeria.
Maybe that is what the Minister is looking for as she probably has alternatives to the Nigeria Market for Ghana. She probably does not know that over 50% of all, I say all; commodities in Ghana Markets today come from Nigeria. Anybody in doubt should please send people to Aflao for investigation. The Honorable Minister does not know that on a daily basis, in a month and in a year, Ghanaians go to Nigeria to buy and sell. So, I am really wondering how the Minister would expect Ghanaians to have access to go and trade in Lagos after sacking Nigerians. The Honorable Minster does not even know that many of the Ghanaian traders who go to Lagos often enjoy some credit facility which they only go back to redeem after making their sales and getting their profits.
Miss Hanna Tetteh, Please tell us, is this not a sign of true Love being exhibited by Nigerians to Ghanaians as brothers and sisters? This policy which the Minister is about to implement will bring confusion, ‘Kata-kata’ catastrophe, fight etc etc.
Just a few weeks back, South Africa decided to embarrass the Nigerian Government and thought they could get away with it. They forgot that Nigeria single handedly played a major role which led to gaining their freedom from racial oppression to the detriment of Nigerians. The Honorable Minister of External Affairs in Nigeria said, “THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA YESTERDAY WARNED SOUTH AFRICA THAT NIGERIA WOULD RETURN FIRE FOR FIRE WHEN NEXT HER CITIZENS ARE DEPORTED ON FLIMSY REASONS OR TREATED WITH DISDAIN. THE ERA OF TAKING NIGERIANS RESIDING IN SOUTH AFRICA AND OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES FOR GRANTED WAS GONE.” ( Daily Sun Newspaper of March 7th 2012).
This was the cautionary warning from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru and I am sure he was speaking the mind of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The warning to South Africa takes care of other African Countries, Ghana inclusive, who may just wake up and start harassing her citizens over who should trade in some specific commodities as mentioned by the Honorable Minister of Trade.
During the era of J. J. Rawlings as President of the Republic, Ghana-Nigeria relationship was very cordial. During the era of John Kufuor as President of the Republic, Ghana-Nigeria relationship was very cordial. Maybe the Honorable Minister and her group want that of President Atta Mills to be different. The two countries have come a long way right from the time of our colonial masters. Nigeria even at the Diplomatic level always had the interest of Ghana at heart; hence the 100% Nigeria Government backing for Kofi Annan’s election as UN Secretary General. People should not mess up these two countries out of personal and selfish interest or cheap political score.
The Honorable Minister should therefore return to the Board-room and try to fashion out a better way of handling this Nigeria-Ghana issue if at all there is anything to handle.

The Honorable Minister Hanna Tetteh should not encourage the recurrence of the incident of some 28 years ago which was not a good experience for those who were victims of circumstance and found themselves as part of the “ Ghana Must Go” saga.

Francis N. Obasi.
+233 245 303959

Source: The Citizen Newspaper (thecitizen.news@yahoo.com)