Being proactive is all that is needed by Nigerian diaspora organisations, if they are to unite Nigerians living abroad, Chairman, board of trustees, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Ghana, Chief Callistus Elozieuwa, tells MARTIN-LUTHER C. KING in Accra. This is more so, he says, given that many Nigerians, not just in Ghana but also in other parts of the world, feel disappointed by such organisations that in most cases they see as just social gatherings where dues are paid without commensurate benefits to the members. Elozieuwa, who is the owner of the West Trassaco Hotel in Accra, also spoke on the prospects of the hospitality and tourism industry in Ghana in the post-COVID-19 world, as well as the recent reopening by the Ghanaian authorities of shops owned by Nigerian traders at the Circle area of the country’s capital.
Recent developments involving Nigerians in Ghana have brought Nigeria’s and Nigerians’ image in that country to its lowest ebb. How can Nigeria’s image in Ghana be given a lift?
We need the media. The Diaspora Commission must understand clearly the importance of the media; and effectively make adequate investment in it. No one can tell your story for you, except you do it yourself. The image we are talking about is being destroyed by the Ghanaian media. It will take Nigerian media to rebuild it. We must have officers at the (Nigerian) High Commission (Accra) who think Nigeria and are ready to identify the right Nigerians who will serve as a bridge between the embassy and security agents in Ghana for Nigeria. These two will need to let the Ghanaians understand that, if Nigeria decides to prosecute every wayward Ghanaian in Nigeria and publicise it, that will destroy the image of Ghana, and this is what is being done to us. Recently, a ship was arrested by Nigerian Navy and more than 90 per cent of the pirates were Ghanaians and the remaining Cameroonians. Nigerians did not go all out to destroy the image of Ghana. We love Ghana and we expect the same amount of love from our Ghanaian brothers.
As a major stakeholder in the Nigerian community in Ghana, could you tell us your personal efforts towards changing Nigeria’s image in Ghana from negative to positive?
Nigerian community is a microcosm of what happens in Nigeria. Remember that a high number of the people that come to Ghana grew up hating one another and fighting for what they call their right. A lot of the people that come to Ghana, with the exception of the professionals, students and a few others, migrated from the villages and as such do not fully understand how to act in a cosmopolitan city. To reverse this, we need education and the help of the security officials in Ghana. Let us deal with wayward Nigerians by arresting and prosecuting them according to the laws of the land, but not humiliated. Ghanaians are arrested in Nigeria regularly but they don’t make the headlines. We need to start by setting examples through our personal character before we can get people to follow us. In our little way we must show equity and justice to every Nigerian irrespective of tribe or religion when matters concerning Nigerians are brought before us.
How can the community harness its strategic advantages of quality human resource, numerical strength and economic power to build a formidable front that will not only inure to the benefit of Nigerians in Ghana, but, also, command the respect of their hosts and the government of Ghana?
Two ways. We need the support of our government to strengthen our High Commissioner and the High Commission in Ghana. They need leverage to engage the government of our host country and more importantly, we need a very pro-Nigerian, energetic, diplomatic and at the same time dogged High Commissioner.
Secondly, successful Nigerians who hide from being blacklisted need to speak so that more Ghanaians know that a very little percentage of Nigerians in Ghana are wayward. The media needs to do a lot to locate every Nigerian doing whatever in Ghana and encourage him or her to understand that we are Nigerians and will remain Nigerians. So, it should be ‘Nigeria first’ and ‘Nigeria last’ in all out doing and thinking.
Given its numbers and financial clout, the Nigerian community in Ghana ought to have a major say in Nigeria’s policy towards Ghana. But, does it? And if not, Why not?
We don’t because for many years, we have not been organized. I believe there are more Nigerian Diasporas in Ghana than any other country in the world. It is easy for us to bus people to Nigeria for elections, for instance. It is easier for us to influence Nigeria’s politics in many ways, but for so long we have not. But I guarantee you that is changing with the new NIDO and its new leadership.
Ghana is the headquarters of the new Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), not Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. How can Nigerian businesses in Ghana fully exploit the opportunities and benefits inherent in the AfCFTA?
Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt etc., top economies of Africa, do not host the headquarters. Ghana bided and got the support of Nigeria and other major powers on the continent. Hosting it in Ghana is equally strategic for Nigeria. As long as the headquarters is in West Africa, it is good for ECOWAS. The most important thing, however, is the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Considering West Africa’s experience with the ECOWAS bloc, including issues with establishment and cross-border trading among ECOWAS Citizens, what do you think are the general prospects of the new AfCFTA?
The AfCFTA is a great innovation; the challenge, however, is the implementation. Implementation is not just about getting the experts. The most important factor of implementation is sensitization. We need to make the people own it. We need to let them know each country has equal chance and all you need is to produce services and products following the AfCFTA guidelines and you can sell it in any part of Africa. If one nation is more active than the other, Africans might react and term it as oppression.
To end the ceaseless rivalry between Nigerian traders in Ghana and their local, there have been suggestions that Nigerian traders be given some land somewhere here in Ghana to build their own market. How do you react to that?
Yes sir, I totally agree with that. And, NIDO has secured land in three different locations. We are putting proposal together to approach few banks and see how to partner with them to acquire and develop the property that will help solve the issues.
Consequent upon Ghana becoming headquarters of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) the Ghana Investments Promotion Council (GIPC) laws are in in the process of being revised. Are you hopeful that revision can provide a lasting solution to the incessant Nigerian-Ghanaian traders’ feud in Ghana?
With regards to the GIPC law, I totally agree with you. Let it be on record that NIDO did a letter to them and engaged them with respect to the subject matter.
With the gradual easing by West African countries of various covid-related restrictions, how do you advise ECOWAS countries to handle the issue of re-opening borders in the sub region?
This is the best time to show leadership and unity in West Africa. There’s urgent need to implement the ECOWAS treaty which ensures free movement of goods and people. It is an opportunity to emphasize ECOWAS plan of ‘an ECOWAS of people’, and not just ‘an ECOWAS of governments’. We need to face the fact that our systems are weak and as such we need to exchange information and carry out proper documentation of everybody that goes in and out of every nation. I believe the nations of ECOWAS need to come together and act like a federation. They need to choose a control centre for ECOWAS and appoint a President who will lead the regional fight. Every other nation will act like a state and report to the control centre and the President that leads the team.
You own West Trassaco Hotel in Accra. What is the vision? How can the hotel, hospitality and tourism sector bounce back in a post-covid world?
Hospitality is something no nation can do without. For us, we are waiting for the policy of the state before we can bring out our strategy which must be in line with the state’s directives.
What is the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation doing to make more Nigerians outside the country to identify with the organisation?
Being proactive is all that we believe is needed; because an average Nigerian, not just in Ghana but in other parts of the world, has been disappointed by such associations or organisations since in most cases such associations end up being social gatherings where dues are paid without any developmental bearing on the (individual) members. We try to be more proactive. For example, in May during the lockdown we came up with an initiative where we distributed palliatives to Nigerians, particularly those who had been deprived means of livelihood, whose shops had been locked up for over 8 months. Being proactive is all Nigerians home and abroad need.
What kind of influence does NIDO have in Nigerian government circles, especially with regard to person-specifics in the posting of Nigerian ambassadors to various countries?
Well every NIDO chapter the world over is expected to be linked to the Nigeria in Diaspora Commission in Abuja; and periodically, we communicate with the office of the Chairperson of the Commission. In different ways, NIDO depending on the capacity of the leadership, has different levels of influence. We must also note that this commission is still new; so a lot of Nigerians have not come into clear understanding of what it represents and we need to do a lot to educate them.
What is NIDO-Ghana’s relationship with the All Nigerian Congress-Ghana, ANC-Gh?
NIDO and ANC are two reputable Nigerian groupings that independently work towards the wellbeing of Nigerians in Ghana. We are not one body. But we have one goal. And from time to time, we work on the same projects. For example, during the recent incident at the Nigeria High Commission in Ghana, we all worked towards resolving it using different approaches that aided our Foreign Mission in resolving the issue.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind after your tenure?
I want to see my country respected, united as one body and do away with issues that divide us and focus on what unite us.
Who is Chief Calistus Elozieuwa?
Chief Calistus Elozieuwa is a business man, a Christian, married with six children. He is a man who believes in equity and justice for all, not just for a few.
Do you have a final word?
My final word is, there is still hope for our nation. Let’s come together and rebuild it. Let’s think more of what we can do for our nation and not always what our nation can do for us. I stand for one united, restructured country Nigeria, our great nation. Yes, we can. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Thanks for having me.