By Magnus Eze
Ghanaians and friends of the Republic of Ghana in Nigeria gathered recently at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja, on March 6, 2017, to mark the diamond anniversary of the independence of the former Gold Coast.
First President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, led his country to freedom from the erstwhile colonial master, Britain, on March 6, 1957, three years ahead of Nigeria.
Ghana’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador William Awinador-Kanyerige, and his wife, ably assisted by the Head of Chancery, Mrs. Adelaide Cleland, were on hand to receive guests mainly from the diplomatic community, high-ranking Nigerian government officials and the business world. A large number of jubilant Ghanaians resident in Abuja was not left out.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, represented by the Director, National Honours Awards Department, Mr. Peter Iyamambo, led the array of dignitaries, including Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, Mrs. Rita Orji, Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Cameroun, Mr. Salaheddine Ibrahim, South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Lulu Louis Mnguni, Ambassador of Jamaica to Nigeria, Mrs. Ann Scott, Commandant, National Defence College, Rear Admiral Samuel Alade, and Ambassador Jerry Ugokwe, among others.
The cocktail began with the rendition of a sonorous poem for Ghana by a young Nigerian girl, Miss Splendour King, after the national anthems of Nigeria and Ghana.
A Ghanaian artiste, Francis Akrofi, followed soon after with some beautiful highlife tunes from Ghana, before the High Commissioner came on stage to deliver his welcome remarks.
Ghana, small version of Nigeria
Ambassador Awinador-Kanyerige explained the essence of the celebrations, tracing what appeared to be rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria to even the struggle for independence under the British colonialists.
According to him, since then, there has been healthy rivalry between the two countries in such areas as sports, music and, lately, film-making.
The envoy said even as his country had given Nigeria a run for its money in all these areas, Ghana “remains a small version of Nigeria.”
He, therefore, proposed a toast to the good health, wisdom and tenacity of President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as for Nigeria, Ghana, ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to “live long and strong for all of us.”
Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, through his representative, felicitated with the people of Ghana on behalf of President Buhari and the people of Nigeria on the historic occasion, declaring that the ties between the two nations would remain as strong as they were when the founding fathers fought for freedom from colonial masters.
He saluted Ghanaians at home and in the diaspora for the giant strides the country had made as a people under the star of hope and honour.
Iyamambo also paid glowing tribute to the forebears of Ghana; especially those who paid the supreme price, which ensured the gains of sovereignty they enjoy today, stressing that the highest honour or tribute that could be paid to heroes past was to sustain the gains of Independence.
Aside from the successful transition of power from ruling parties to hitherto opposition parties in both countries in the past two years, he stated that Nigeria and Ghana also shared some things in common as they worked diligently to entrench democracy.
He added that both countries cannot but continue to draw inspiration from each other on how best to improve their electoral process and also across the ECOWAS sub-region.
Looking forward, Iyamambo said “As our two countries continue to benefit from each other in the areas of education, sports, security, tourism and entertainment, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to keep aglow the flame of this kindred spirits in our bilateral, sub-regional, continental and global interests, which are provided in solid platforms on which our leaders have over the years defined, designed and built strong bonds of friendship, solidarity and partnership.”
He further reaffirmed the commitment of the government and people of Nigeria to the brotherhood shared with Ghana, saying that the relations between the two countries remained very promising and full of potential.
The occasion also featured a brief documentary on Ghana’s history and the cutting of the Independence anniversary cake.
Outpouring milk of kindness
In the spirit of the celebrations, Ghanaians in Nigeria took time to identify with internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the Area 1, Durumi, Abuja, camp.
An expectant crowd of IDPs trooped out as early as 9am on Saturday, March 18, 2017, to receive their visitors, who arrived the camp accompanied with three truckloads of relief materials, including grains, other foodstuff, clothing materials, detergents and confectioneries.
The donation was made in the presence of the Deputy Representative, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Nigeria, Brigitte Eno, ECOWAS Commissioner, General Administration and Conference, Stephen Nartey, and Director of Refugees, National Commission for Refugees, Amina Ibrahim.
Eno and Ibrahim, in separate remarks, extolled the spirit of brotherhood displayed by Ghana and charged other African countries to take a cue.
“Most of the time, we receive donations from European countries and the international community, but we don’t see much from African countries. So, when I got the message from Ghana that they wanted to come and do this, I said I must come to accompany our Ghanaian brothers and sisters,” the UNHCR Deputy Representative said.
Coordinator of the Durumi IDP camp, Idriss Ibrahim-Haliru, thanked Ghana for the gesture and described it as a gift from an elder brother.
“While Nigeria is the Big Brother of Africa, we all know that Ghana is Nigeria’s elder brother,” he said.