Nigeria goes to the polls in February and, over the past month, billboards and posters of the two main parties contesting the elections have sprung up along some major streets in Accra.
This has raised security concerns, with a Senior Research Fellow at the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), Dr Vladamir Antwi-Danso, saying they are a threat to Ghana’s security and so they must be removed immediately.
He stated among other reasons that the relationship that existed between some former leaders in Ghana and Nigeria was not too warm and, therefore, mounting the billboards could have undesirable consequences on both the international scene and in local politics.
As if on cue, the billboards and posters along some streets were pulled down last Friday.
Checks by the Daily Graphic yesterday showed that the billboards that were mounted around the Accra Mall, the N1 Highway, the Achimota Overhead and the Danquah Circle had been removed.
Although the billboards were pulled down by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), in collaboration with National Security, the Public Relations Officer of the AMA, Nuumo Blafo, said he was not aware of any such exercise.
Some of the billboards campaigning for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to be re-elected into office were erected by a group calling itself Friends of Jonathan in the Diaspora. The group used the outdoor media to call on Nigerians living in Ghana to go home and support the Nigerian President.
No wrong by advertisers
In an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday, the Executive Director of the AAG, Mr Francis Dadzie, said politicians were not the ones who erected the billboards but were only taking advantage of a platform provided to reach their target, which was not wrong.
“The only wrong would have been if the messages were offensive,” he stated.
“I don’t think the billboards were put up by the Nigerians. They were rented out by the advertising agency that put up the structure,” he added.
Mr Dadzie asked people to keep an open mind, saying Ghanaians were being paranoid over the issue.
“We are looking at the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law, (ROPAL), where Ghanaians outside can vote. It will come to a time when we have to reach out to people out there,” he cautioned, adding, “We should look at the bigger picture in the spirit of ECOWAS.”
Reason for removal
The campaign posters that were erected comprised mainly those of the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The leader of the task force that removed one of such campaign posters near the Accra Mall, Mr George Baba Barikon, said they were acting on the orders of the National Security through the AMA.
He said the task force under the Advertising Unit of the AMA would remove all sighted Nigerian campaign posters in Accra and that the AMA Chief Executive, Mr Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, knew about their removal.
However, when asked if the removal of the posters would not compromise diplomatic relations between Ghana and Nigeria, Mr Barikon said that he did not know why the National Security had asked the AMA to remove the posters and the billboards.
The erection of billboards and posters in Ghana of an election taking place in another country is a new phenomenon to hit the country, hence the many queries by people who have sighted them.
It is, however, not clear what prompted their removal, although it is believed the involvement of the National Security meant their erection had security implications for the country.
Speaking with the Daily Graphic yesterday, the Director General in charge of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, DCOP Rev David Nenyi Ampah-Bennin, said although he had seen the posters, he did not know of any security implications they had for the country.
“I don’t know [of any security implications] but I think they might have done it with permission from the AMA. This is the first time I am seeing this,” he said.
The number of Nigerians living in Ghana is said to be about two million and that makes Ghana an attractive arena for the political parties in Nigeria to garner for votes.
The two main known faces contesting the February polls are the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, on the ticket of the PDP, and the former military ruler, General Muhammadu Buhari, for the APC.
The political parties contesting the elections are the People’s Party of Nigeria, the Hope Party, the African People’s Alliance, the United Progressive Party, the KOWA Party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and the United Democratic Party.
The rest are the PDP, the African Democratic Congress, the National Conscience Party, the APC, the Alliance for Democracy, the Citizens Popular Party and the Accord Alliance.