Ghana Must Go; The Events that Led to Expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria


Most Nigerians like to believe that they are good students, but you know how naive they are about the history of their fatherland if you were to ask them basic things which have happened in the past. Too many of us know how their name came from the bag “Ghana must go”? Will we know the incidents that led to this bag being named for raffia? I doubt anyone will get a detailed answer? What we don’t hear every day? Let me quickly take you through a journey back and forth that took place between Ghana and Nigeria.

On that day the then Nigerian President Sheu Shagari said that all undocumented immigrants should leave the country, on or before January 31st, or face the Nigerian Government in its entirety. January 17, 1983 would be a day not easily forgoen for so many Ghanaians. For many immigrants living within the country, this news was a surprise. They were all based in Nigeria, earning money from schooling or one craftsman’s work or another. Many of the immigrants were illegal because they had no paperwork to endorse their residence in Nigeria. About two million of the nearly three million immigrants who were to leave Nigeria that year were Ghanaians. Second, what happened to two million Ghanaians in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s economy began to boom after it discovered oil in its land in 1958 and since that time, the country’s economy has experienced tremendous growth. Nigeria’s economy had experienced exponential growth as of 1970, from crude oil sales, which was the main source of GDP for this African country. Nigeria was one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the world, and the country was doing well for itself. As with Nigeria, its neighboring nation, Ghana, was going through a very difficult time at this moment of boom and plenty. Ghana was going through a period of unrest and they didn’t have as much food in the country as they did at the time. Most Ghanaians have chosen to abandon their beloved country in search of a greener pasture. People migrated a lot into Nigeria during this period (not just Ghanaians), it was the land that flowed with milk and honey.

Since Ghanaians were well-learned and trained, they took over the education sector of the country, teaching in many nursery and secondary schools throughout the country, they were also very skilled invocation and hands-on work, thus engaging in many works such as tailoring, barbing, shoe making and several other craft jobs. Like I said earlier, we had the best of their lives in Nigeria, there was a lot of money in Nigeria at that point and there was plenty to go around. Everything has changed, then? So how do we suddenly want Ghanaians out of our country?

Global oil prices began to collapse in 1982, America, one of the top importers of crude oil was still refining its oil, oil demand had fallen dramatically, the once prosperous nation was going through a great spell of deflation, buoyancy and stability had become a thing of the past, oil prices had plunged from $37 to $29. Nigeria suddenly began to loose its territory. The low oil prices, combined with the weak governance of those in power, made the nation start draining its foreign reserves.

This did not take the Nigerians long to rise up against the foreign nationals of the country, ruled by Ghanaians. They started attacking them physically and accusing them for taking over the jobs available in the region. Shortly after that, Sheu Shagari announced that, between January 17th and 31st 1983, all foreigners in the country without proper documentation must vacate the country or risk going to prison. Over the next few days they all began packing their loads, they used a bag made of raffia, by this time the bag had no common name associated with it, but during this time it was called “Ghana must go.”Also Ghanaians left, they faced very tough problems during this time because the doors to their nation were not open to them.
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At that time, Ghana’s military chief, Jerry Rawlings, has ordered the shared border with Togo to be shut down (setting security reasons as his excuse), meaning that Togo has also agreed to shut down its borders to prevent Ghanaians from pursuing refugee status in their area. The U.S. and the Red Cross had to come to the urgent assistance of Ghanaians since they had no place to call home. We were provided with cushion items to ease their pains and temporarily lift them. Finally, the borders were open, many of the Ghanaians died during this period, and others did not make it alive.

During my study, I found that Ghana took the first shot in 1969 at Nigerians. Ghana has urged Nigerians to leave their countries, whether they have appropriate documentation or not. A great many wealthy Nigerians who were established in Ghana faced the negative side of this decision because a lot of them had to get out of the country, sell their businesses and properties at incredibly low prices. A recent incident also occurred in which many young Nigerians were deported from Ghana. We were accused of high cybercrime rates in Ghana.

I wonder if this tit for tat will ever come to an end, even though these two countries seek to feign a cordial relationship between them, there has always been some kind of unhealthy competition among the citizens of this great country. Nigeria officially apologized for the ill-treatment and displacement of Ghanaians in 1983 but Ghana has not yet apologized for the 1969 incident. I hope these two nations will live in peace on an ongoing basis, particularly because we have many Nigerians relocating to Ghana every year in search of a greener pasture. But how is Ghana the Greener pasture?

How do you think about the 1969 expulsion of almost 3 million Ghanaians, was Nigeria right to have sent them packaging?

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