Though 90 per cent of every 50 radio stations in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, broadcast in the vernacular languages, however, it is only the Akan language stations who do well because most local businesses belong to the Akan ethnic groups, chief executive officer of the Accra-based Marhaba FM, Ghana’s premier Hausa language-only radio station and Ghanaian history expert Alhaji Baba Abdulai tells MARTIN-LUTHER C. KING in this interview in Accra. Citing a recent example whereby a former Ghanaian deputy agriculture minister is said to have helped the administration of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari revive Nigeria’s rice production, he urges Ghana and Nigeria, two countries he says have been trading with each other for the past 15 centuries, to put their differences aside so they can quickly transform the entire West African subregion. He also, in the context of World Press Freedom Day 2023, shares insight on the challenges of running a Hausa language broadcast station in Ghana.
How do you assess the present state of the broadcast industry in Ghana?
Very different from the state-owned and state-sponsored electronic media.
How do you compare radio stations that broadcast in English and those that broadcast in vernacular?
Out of about 50 radio stations in and around Accra, those that broadcast in English are not up to 10% and the vernacular ones, especially the Akan, are those who do well because most of the businesses belong to the Akan ethnic groups.
Your station, Marhaba FM, broadcasts in vernacular, and is probably the only Hausa language radio station in Ghana. Tell us about it?
We are not the only Hausa radio station in Ghana, because there are other stations that broadcast in Hausa but not purely Hausa station. There are other Hausa stations in Kumasi as well.
Tell us the kind of reception your station receives from corporate Ghana, and the larger Ghanaian society?
Hausa language is as old as most of the languages spoken in Ghana, and the spread of the Hausa language is to almost the whole country. In fact, Hausa words have been borrowed by several languages in Ghana and Hausa is one of the first language to be broadcast on radio. Before the Second World War, Hausa, at a point in time, use to be the language of command in the military and police. Hausa can be spoken in Ghanaian parliament. But in spite of all these, there are those who say Hausa is not an indigenous Ghanaian language. So it makes it very difficult to make any Hausa media in Ghana sell or do business in the country. So doing Hausa media in Ghana is just a passion.
Kindly tell us about the Hausa population, and Hausa as a language group, in Ghana?
I don’t know the size of the Hausa population in Ghana because of inter-marriage; they have been mixed up with other tribes, especially in the north. You realize that there are Hausa words in some of the northern languages. Example of this is the former Vice President of Ghana, 2001-2009 who was a Hausa man by tribe.
Analysts say Ghana and Nigeria, because of their commonalities and shared colonial past, can be the pivot for the rapid transformation of West Africa. Do you agree? And, how can both countries collaborate to reduce mutual prejudice between them?
Yeah, it is true that during the colonial era, they use to bring Nigerians here to work and Ghanaians, then known as Gold coasters, to Nigeria to work. And also companies like UTC, Kingsway and Leventis also used to take some of the Nigerian workers to Ghana and those from here to Nigeria. When it comes to trading between the two countries, it dates back 14 to 15 centuries ago, when the Hausa slave traders were coming to Salaga slave market in the north to trade, and on their way back they will buy red cola and mined salt. So if you go to Salaga today, the whole town speaks Hausa. Recently, a former Ghanaian deputy agriculture minister who was invited by Nigeria’s President Buhari to help Nigeria revive the country’s rice farming, just returned with a success story. So if the two countries come together and put their differences aside, they can transform the entire West Africa, because Ghanaians and Nigerians are one family.
Kindly tell us about yourself?
My name is Baba Abdulahi . Currently I am the CEO (chief executive officer) of Marhaba Media Limited.
Do you have any final words?
My final word is, as Africans the is a need for our leaders to come together, because we have lots of natural resources in Africa and because we are not together out sides take our resources go and rebrand and bring back for us to buy (the finished products) at a very high cost.