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'AfCFTA is a good tool to end Ghana, Nigeria trade rivalry' — Igwe Okadigbo

By Martin-Luther C. King || Contributor
Interviews HRH Raymond Chuma Okadigbo
NOV 12, 2021 LISTEN
HRH Raymond Chuma Okadigbo

Patience, mutual understanding and humility to learn from each other are keys to not only ending the Ghana-Nigeria traders' rivalry but also turning it into an opportunity for development and growth, the Ezeudo Ndigbo of Adoteiman kingdom of Accra, Ghana, His Royal Highness Igwe Chuma Raymond Okadigbo, tells this journalist in this interview in Accra.

He believes the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its African common market initiatives should be able to tackle the issues and bring a lasting solution to the situation.

Excerpts:

Q: Kindly tell us about yourself?

A: I am Igwe Dr Raymond Chiba Okadigbo, the Ezeudo Ndigbo of Adoteiman kingdom of Accra, Ghana. I've been here for more than ten years; but in terms of my throne, my throne has been existing since 2014. During this time, the Igbo's in Adoteiman have been living in unity, and mutual love. I was born in 1966, in Onitsha (Anambra State, southeast Nigeria) to the late Mr. Christopher Okadigbo and late Madam Lydia Okadigbo. I was named Chuma Raymond Okadigbo by my parents. I attended primary school at Ogboli Primary School, in Onitsha; and, secondary school at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha. Growing up as a young man, I used to help my mother in her business, which was selling yams. I do not come from a very rich family, even though I come from the extended family of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria's first and only ceremony President). My parents were managing. From helping my mother sell yams, I later left to work with Anatrade Limited in Lagos (Nigeria's commercial capital in the southwest of the country), as a clerical assistant. I left two years later to go into trading at the Alaba International Market, also in Lagos, selling building materials. Thereafter, I studied spiritualism; and, started a spiritual home in the Ikotun-Egbe suburb of Lagos, where many people came to find solutions to their varied problems. I helped people through God; because God is the author and finisher of everything. Later, I decided to find my way to Ghana, where I took time off to learn about building and design. Now, I am a building contractor and the director of QuickHome Construction Ghana Limited. And so far, so good. I also have another company, Genus Creams, which produces creams, including facial creams, used by ladies; and, also, bath and laundry soaps, as well as soap for washing cars. We also sell traditional clothing. These are what I do. And so far, so good.

Q: What have been your achievements in the last seven years on the throne?

A: I have been able to bring the Igbo's here together, to appreciate their Igbo culture, and to know each other better; to identify with and be part of the meetings of their kinsmen here. We eat and enjoy together.

Q: How do you assess the condition of Nigerians in your kingdom, particularly, and Ghana, generally?

A: I will tell you that Igbos here are very good people; most of them are traders; most are married to Ghanaians, just like myself; I am married to a Ghanaian; my first wife is a Nigerian, however. I came to this place, and found peace here. I also married a Ghanaian, a Ga woman. The way the Gas treat their husbands is very very normal. Nobody has come here with a case of fighting the husband or fighting the wife; in fact all of us are living in peace here. We have no problem; we have been doing things together; anybody that is hungry or that needs money to beef up his business, I always assist from the little that I have; I can share and give them; if they are complaining of hunger, I can go to my kitchen, if I have four yams, I can give them one to manage. So, all these things are the kind of things that we do here. Sometimes, they do visit me with drinks, sometimes with plantains, with rice; and, I acknowledge them.

Q: Ghana and Nigeria make up 61 per cent of West Africa's population and 68 per cent of the subregion's GDP. But business people in both countries often complain of frustrating barriers to exports into each other's markets. How can both countries cross this hurdle?

A: That is a very important question. Formerly, Nigerians used to trade freely in Ghana here; you couldn't distinguish between Ghanaian and Nigerian; we took everybody as one. But with time, some Nigerians started coming into Ghana without documentation, not even a passport to identify them. Most of them will come on the streets and start messing up, behaving any how. Because of the problems on the streets, some people thought they could do whatever they like. That created problems. Again, in trading, a Nigerian trader can sell something with little profit margin, and turnover quickly. But from my observation, the Ghanaian trader rigidly sticks to whatever price tag he places on a particular good, thereby stalling the rapidity of his turnover. So, part of the problem is jealousy against the Nigerian trader. Whereas, what they need to do is to befriend their Nigerian colleagues and learn some of their trading strategies. For instance, instead of buying something at Ghc10 and trying to sell it at Ghc30, they can learn from the Nigerian trader who buys at Ghc10 and marks up by just Ghc2 or Ghc3 to achieve quick turnover. The latter strategy helps stabilize the economy, and ensures that your shop is always fully stocked. But if you keep on waiting for a Ghc30 profit on a Ghc10 item, that makes your business to stagnate. Essentially, this difference in strategy was what brought on the subsisting traders' rivalry, as, in a bid to curb it, Ghanaian traders subsequently started doing checks on the Nigerian traders, and in the process found out that some of them didn't have shops. That discovery became a bargaining chip in the hands of the host traders who then introduced certain conditionalities, like 'go and marry a Ghanaian wife if you want to trade in our markets', etc. But such conditions were not practicable as some of the Nigerian traders were already married back home. However, the ECOWAS and the AFCFTA are tackling these issues; one, through the ECOWAS common currency initiative, the Eco; the other, through the African common market initiative; and, soon, there will be a lasting solution to the issue, I believe.

Q: Igbos, called the Jews of Africa, are republican and enterpreneural; but they are also individualistic, making it easy to take down high achievers among them one at a time. How can the Igbos build a more united front?

A: To me, I will say that Igbos are one; they help each other. When an Igbo man discovers that this electronics business is a profitable business, he will easily share that information with his brother Igbo businessman. Igbos are not discriminating, but they love themselves. When an Igbo man gets a house, he doesn't mind inviting his brother to come and live with him. An Igbo man will come to a country with just a jute bag, and, through hardwork, will travel home in a year with his own car; he will start building his own house. Still, there are some black sheep among them who, maybe out of economic hardship and repressive government policies, easily sabotage their own, or readily make themselves available to be used against their own. And, I'll like to use this opportunity to urge those who may be so inclined to desist from that road, and stop it. No need to sell their soul, the interests of the Igbos and their birthright in the quest to make money. Don't sell your brothers because of politics. And, it's always good to cut one's coat according to one's size.

Q: You said in answer to an earlier question that prior to coming to Ghana that you dabbled into spiritualism in Lagos, Nigeria. Could you elaborate on what you did specifically?

A: By spiritualism, I essentially meant culture. I will say I was a sort of native doctor who assisted people in getting what they needed through spiritualism. Like women looking for the fruit of the womb; or somebody going in the wrong direction, and doesn't know. For example, if you don't know where you are coming from, you will not know where you are going. So, we show people the right way to follow in life, so that they will excel. In life, some people were born with good destiny, but because they don't know where they are coming from, they cannot even know where they are going. You can never arrive at your promised land without leaving your home. And, that is why we left our home and came to this place, to find something good so that we can go back to our promised land. To answer your question, in a spiritual work like I mentioned, we empowered people with what we see, what the future tells so that their lives will be okay for them. That was what I used to do before I left it and found Christ here in Ghana. Now, I am a born-again; and, by the grace of God, I attend the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship. I am also a deacon in the Triumphant Global Ministry, at Achimota, under Pastor Aiyelabu. I was made a deacon in that church; and, it was also in that church that I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Because it is in Christ that you will find everything that you need in life. And, if you are not in Christ, you will be in crisis. Like I said earlier, I, in addition, attend the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship, Royal Chapter. The chapter founder, Mr Frank Nelson Nwokolo, was the one who opened my eyes and showed me the way of God. The Royal Chapter of Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship is a place where God empowers you with His word, and to win souls to His Kingdom. The Royal Chapter will ground you deeply in God, and help you discover your purpose on this earth. So, that is it.

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