Since arriving in Ghana from Burkina Faso I felt welcome, feeling like I was returning home even though this was my first time in the country. I was worried about my working visa, because the radio station was supposed to sort it out with immigration while I was traveling. Everyone kept saying to me you need to receive your visa for Ghana back home, in Canada. I didn’t mind waiting for it, but I was getting a little worried. Once it was emailed to me in Ouagadougou, I took it to the Ghanaian embassy and they told me to change the port of entry as land, instead of KIA – Accra’s airport – before trying to enter.
I gave it a shot and bought a bus ticket from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to Tamale, Ghana. I waited most of the day for the bus to fill up and leave. After breaking down numerous times, I made it to the border. The guards brought me into an air conditioned office to wait for the procedure to take place. Ghana immigration examined my print-out visa and asked me where the original copy was. I replied that my sponsor (soon-to-be employer) had the paperwork and I just received it by email. The immigration officer left the office for a few minutes and returned to stamp my entrance visa. I felt relieved. I didn’t want to be sent back to Ouaga to sort out the details.
Once I reached Tamale I was in the midst of campaign fever with the presidential and parliamentary elections just days away. Everywhere I looked I spotted campaign signs by the two main political parties: The governing NDC – National Democratic Congress – and the opposition NPP – National Patriotic Party. From what I read NDC leader John Mahama promises “A Better Ghana” while NPP leader Nana Akufo-Addo wants “Free SHS” secondary high school for Ghanaian youth. I could tell it was a politically-charged election, because every town I passed through I would see large rallies in the streets, frequently blocking traffic.
From Tamale, I went to Kumasi, which Ghanaians call “The Garden City” because its surrounded by lush, green foliage. Both cities have great public markets which line the streets and cause chaos and confusion for the newly-arrived traveller. But I enjoyed walking the maze of stalls, seeing people sell any and everything under the sun (literally). By the time I reached Accra, I was whisked away by Pravda Radio and brought into the studio to be sat in front of a microphone. I was asked my thoughts on the Ghana 2012 elections, so I concocted a response based on my gathering of information over the last few days, which consisted of reading every campaign slogan along the highway from the border to Accra (a four-day journey).
Along the route to Accra I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of radio antennas dotting the landscape. This gave me inspiration knowing that Ghanaians appreciate radio so much that this work experience will benefit me greatly. Within the first few times on-air at Pravda Radio 93.5 in Accra, I had feedback from a listener via text message when I was talking about peaceful elections taking place in Canada and the U.S. The listener asked if elections in North America were so peaceful, then why does sporadic violence break out from time to time in the U.S.?
I responded as best as I could: “These are isolated cases and do not reflect the overall peaceful democratic process in both countries.” I’m glad I wasn’t asked about the Quebec 2012 election, when an armed mad man tried to storm the venue where Premier-elect Pauline Marois was speaking. That might have been a bit harder to explain, especially since I was there in the venue at the time. I guess my words of peace don’t carry a lot of weight here.