The Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ambassador Olufemi Michael Abikoye, has hit the ground running since resuming office in Accra in July. AMINA ALHASSAN chronicles his activities, one of which is attending the 7th Ghana- Nigeria Permanent Joint Commission meeting between 18th and 20th October, 2017 to cement and foster both bilateral and multilateral relationships that exists between Ghana and Nigeria.
Nigeria and Ghana have over the years, enjoyed good economic and political relations. They also have mutual respect for each other. However, what has happened between July 2017 and now is phenomenal, a plus to President Muhammadu Buhari's administration, which is anchored on positive change.
When a professional, who is committed and dedicated, is placed in a position of authority, the people will surely feel the impact and the society will be better for it. The positive results coming from Ghana today is very encouraging and a new dawn, not only in Nigeria-Ghana relations at governmental level, but a new lease of life for Nigerians living in Ghana because of the transformation that has taken place at the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana.
The man driving the change agenda of the Government of Nigeria in Ghana is a seasoned diplomat, Ambassador Olufemi Michael Abikoye, who arrived Ghana in the middle of July this year and presented his letter of Credence to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo on 18th August, 2017.
Like the good administrator that he is, immediately after presenting his letter of Credence, Ambassador Abikoye hit the ground running by cementing relationships with key stakeholders that could make his assignment a smooth sail in Ghana. Few months after, the positive results are visible.
As an experienced diplomat, days after taking his instrument of office, Abikoye paid a courtesy call on allies of Nigeria in the diplomatic community and also called on key government officials that will be instrumental in accomplishing his goal in Ghana. They include: Inspector General of Police, David Asante Apeatu; DG, Ghana Immigration; Minister of Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery; DG of Ghana Prisons; the Director State, Protocol; Chief of Protocol and other key Ghanaian government officials.
The energetic High Commissioner has, within five months in office, visited five out of the 10 regions of Ghana to hold town hall meetings with Nigerians in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Western and Greater Accra Regions.
The strategy is to afford the High Commissioner the opportunity of meeting Nigerians at the grassroots level, garner information about various challenges confronting them and also serve as a platform of informing the communities of the developments back in Nigeria.
Not only did Abikoye meet communities in these regions, the High Commissioner also had an interface with officials as well as the Nigerian students in various tertiary institutions in the regions such as Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST), Garden City University, Kumasi, Catholic University College of Ghana, Sunyani, Brong Ahafo Region Cape Coast University (Central Regions) and University of Ghana, Legon (Greater Accra Region).
Ambassador Abikoye used his diplomatic experience to negotiate the downward review of fees paid by Nigerian students, as this was a major challenge raised by the students when he met with them. The good news from this is that the management of the various institutions have given assurance that they would look into this request and give positive feedback.
Interestingly, the visit of the High Commissioner to the Ministers, Mayors, Regional Police Commanders, the paramount traditional rulers in the various regions, have paved the way for greater collaboration between Nigeria and Ghana.
The 7th Ghana- Nigeria Permanent Joint Commission, held between 18th and 20th October, 2017 was historic because it had been pending for a long period, but Abikoye's arrival made the meeting a reality. This is expected to cement and foster both bilateral and multilateral relationships that exist between Ghana and Nigeria. The other leg will be held soon in Nigeria.
The two countries are expected to sign nine MOUs and seven agreements including: Economic, Finance, Trade and Investments, Diplomatic Consultations, Immigration Service, Food & Drugs control as well as Treaty on Prison Transfer, Youths and Sports, Education, Culture, Transportation and Air Service developments.
Determined to make the Mission more accessible, Ambassador Abikoye revived the Nigerian Embassy website. There is no doubt that this will go a long way in assisting Nigerians living in Ghana to know the activities of the Mission and happenings in Nigeria.
A proactive personality, who understands that the future of Nigeria belongs to the youth, Ambassador Abikoye also took the time to visit all Nigerian- owned institutions in Ghana to entreat them to absorb the Nigerian students and their Ghanaian counterparts during their holidays for internship in order for them to be engaged productively during the period and further canvassed for permanent placement on graduation.
On consular matters, the High Commissioner has ensured issuance of Nigerian Passport/Visas within 48hours and immediate production of passports for students and Nigerians from far away regions. The Nigerian community in Ghana has commended this step. In addition, from the discussions the High Commissioner had with the DG, Ghana Immigration, visitors' visas for Nigerians are expected to be reviewed from 60 days to 90 days.
Ambassador Abikoye, in his five months as the High Commissioner, has visited all major companies with Nigerian interest in Ghana. The list includes banks such as: GTBank, UBA, Zenith, First Atlantic, Access; Energy and Insurance companies; RegencyNem, Equity, WAPIC. He also visited SIFAX Agency, Dangote Cement, Sahara Group among others.
In all the places visited, Abikoye admonished them to be good ambassadors in their dealings and to continue diligently in flying the Nigerian flag higher in their respective businesses.
The job of an Ambassador is not just to represent the interests of his country; it is a complex position which requires a man or woman with the right frame of mind, administrative acumen and intellectual capability, attributes which Ambassador Abikoye possesses. It is, therefore, not surprising that he has made a meaningful impact in just five months in office. However, with more work to be done towards improving the bilateral and diplomatic relationship of the two countries, Ambassador Abikoye is relentless in his resolve to make the Nigerian flag fly high in Ghana.