“Nigerian” is a four-letter word in Ghana.
Nigerians are blamed for robberies, cyber crime, scams, and all manner of problems. Despite initially coming to work for Nigerians, I was often warned to beware of them. Kofi, a lawyer I met, warned, “They cannot be trusted.” I know many Nigerians who lie about their nationality and companies run by Nigerians who lie about their ownership to avoid being tarnished by the reputation of their people.
Nearly three years later, I can say that the only people who have tried to screw me are Ghanaians. They introduced me to cyber crime/identity theft, gold scams; most people I know who have been robbed had Ghanaian perpetrators. Of course, I live in Ghana. My Ghanaian customers frequently “play dumb” about terms of service and are always itching for me to do something extra for them. My lawyer friend calls Ghanaians, “Nigerians with a smile.” In other words, you should not let your guard down for either of them.
This distrustful relationship Ghanaians have toward Nigerians can be attributed to sibling rivalry. Ghana and Nigeria are the two most prominent Anglophone countries in West Africa.
Generally, Ghana is known for being more stable, more peaceful, and an easier place to live. Ghanaians are also darker, shorter, and the women are described as having the African ideal of beauty — the Coca-Cola bottle — curvy, with the bottom wider than the top. Ghanaians are also know for being more insular, more easy-going, and more tight-fisted when it comes to money. As my taxi driver friend explains, a Ghanaian who has money will claim poverty to avoid helping a friend in need.
A Nigerian female friend was complaining that she went out on a date with a Ghanaian. She had some complimentary movie tickets and thought that perhaps he would offer to buy her some popcorn. No such luck. She also offered that when she used to go to the club with her friends that the Ghanaian men would wait for her to buy her own drinks before approaching her.
In contrast, Nigeria is nearly the opposite of Ghana – less stable, less peaceful, and a more difficult place to live due to higher crime, more inter-tribal tension, and more corruption. Nigeria’s bursting population of 150-170 million is responsible for most of its character. It’s like a “black China.” Having that many people — about half the US population — live in an area the size of Texas plus Oklahoma combined would make any group of people more aggressive, clever, and quick.
The people who hired me to work in Ghana also sent me on a three-day visit to Lagos, Nigeria. (Because I had an escort, I had a stress-free visit.) Lagos has a population of 24 million — all of Ghana in one city — and people walked fast, intersections were crowded with cars and commercial motorbikes (okada), and I saw scores of people everywhere. Unlike Ghanaians, Nigerians are not known to marry across tribal or religious groups. Nigeria is known for religious fighting and inter-tribal tensions.
Nigerians as a group are taller, come in a greater variety of shapes and sizes, and are louder. Even though Ghanaian women are known for the African ideal, I personally think the likelihood of seeing a beautiful Nigerian is higher.
Nigerians are famous for being big spenders. I wish all my customers were Nigerian. I never have to negotiate price or payment with them. A handful of people have tried to explain why. The same Nigerian woman mentioned above said Nigerians have a saying, “the more you spend, the greater your desire to make more money.”
Another friend said that Nigerians have a “big tent” view toward taking care of friends and family. They aren’t looking at their immediate family but nearly everyone around them. That’s why they go to the club and buy bottles and spend lavishly. I think naturally tight-fisted Ghanaians perceive Nigerians as extravagant and show-offs.
The other thing to consider is that the elite Nigerians are wealthier than the elite Ghanaians. Nigeria has a population six times greater than Ghana and substantial oil wealth. I heard that a governor of a Nigerian state makes $3 million per year from both legal and illegal sources. When I told someone that US President Obama only makes $400,000, he didn’t believe it. The fact that Nigeria’s market is much bigger than Ghana’s could explain why Nigerians are bigger tippers and bigger spenders.
The richest and many of the richest men in Africa are from Nigeria. (I met Oba Otudeko #33 when I visited Lagos.) There are no Ghanaians in the top 50.
Forbes List (Full List):
- Aliko Dangote – $20.9 billion – Nigeria
- Johann Rupert & Family – $7.9 billion – South Africa
- Nicky Oppenheimer & Family – $6.6 billion – South Africa
- Nassef Sawiris – $5.9 billion – Egypt
- Mike Adengua – $4.6 billion – Nigeria
- Christoffel Wiese – $3.8 billion – South Africa
- Isabel dos Santos – $3.5 billion – Angola
- Issad Rebrab – $3.2 billion – Algeria
- Mohamed Mansour – $3.1 billion – Egypt
- Othman Benjelloum – $2.8 billion – Morocco
In addition to having a more peaceful and stable country, Ghana can claim one additional area of superiority: football. Ghana’s team is frequently considered the best in Africa.