So Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, months after his tweet that was heard around the continent, carried his business to Ghana and the Giant of Africa is raking because how dare he leave Nigeria with all its resources; human and otherwise to go and land in Ghana where their jollof is rubbish? Maybe him posting a photo of Ghana jollof while on his visit in 2019 was the hint no one took.
Thing is though, that no matter how many more Twitter users Naija has than Ghana (36 million, almost 4 million more than the entire population of Ghana) an argument I have heard more times than I care to count, Jack owes us nothing. He is free to set his headquarters wherever he thinks it makes good business or personal sense for him to do so. Maybe he just likes Ghana. Maybe he wants it in a place where he’s not having to invest in security details and power supply as well or having to take out huge insurance premiums on his staff (as I’ve heard some foreign companies in Naija do).
I remember the frustration of trying to work virtually while in Nigeria on a visit a while ago. The constant power outage (several times a day) made it impossible for me to do any sensible work and I had to pack it in. We are so used to power outages that it is close to impossible to find any house (private or business) without its own generator. I once stayed in a hotel that had been running on generator for days because of the frequency of outage and because they had some expat guests who needed the assurance of uninterrupted power. Anyway, that’s a topic for another op-ed.
Added to my inability to work on that visit, was the frustration of trying to get from Lagos to Enugu by road because Enugu airport was out of commission. In discussing the route to take, the driver had to decide which one was less likely to lead us into the arms of kidnappers or herdsmen or armed robbers. In the end, I didn’t do the long road trip but flew into Benin City and drove with a friend and armed security to Enugu. It is not normal that a private citizen like myself (and my friend) cannot travel without security. Or that if my children should ever want to travel to Nigeria alone, I would have to make elaborate plans to ensure a safe holiday for them. That I’d have to tell them that they cannot make impulsive travel plans while in the country. That we have normalised the dismal state of security, that we do not bat an eyelid when armed policemen accompany citizens to wedding parties and hair salons and church services says a lot about the tragic state of the nation. Again, a topic on its own for another op-ed.
What is sad is that if anyone is worried, it is not the ogas at the top. Buhari is in the UK on medical check-up. For sure, he didn’t start the tradition of our leaders travelling abroad for medical care. Yar Adua died abroad, after all. However, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, Nigerian doctors were on strike and the only thing on our president’s mind apparently, was how soon he could leave for his check up in the UK. How impatiently he must have waited. We are besieged by a crippling crisis of leadership and we see its manifestations around us. Jack’s choice of Ghana over Nigeria, some have argued, is an indictment of that crisis.
Twitter posted why they chose Ghana “As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa.” Make of that what you will. Or like my mother always says, use your tongue to count your teeth.
In any case, Twitter isn’t the only company on the planet. There are many others that we could try to attract. And Nigeria is not the only country on the continent. Everything can’t come to us – we got Microsoft Centres in 2019, Google Developer Space in 2020, and we are getting a Facebook Office- so enough already with the entitlement act. Folks complaining seem to forget that by going to Ghana, Jack also bypassed Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Angola, Namibia and Botswana, all countries that could make good arguments for why he should have come to them instead. Besides, when he tweeted about Twitter in Ghana, Jack wrote, “Twitter is now present on the continent.” The benefit is not Ghana’s alone, it is Africa’s.
So, calm down and eat some jollof.