From ‘Ghana Must Go’ to demolition of High C’ssion building: Ghana’s love-hate relationship with Nigeria
For the younger generation who are unacquainted with history, those multi-colored checked bags are just outdated luggage which are the preserve of the less privileged or poor.
But for the people who lived and witnessed the moment, those ‘cheap matted bags’, widely referred to as ‘Ghana must go’ represent a dark period in their history and for that matter the country.
It’s an experience they wish never to remember as it reminds them of the emotional torture and sense of neglect and exclusion by fellow West African country.
It was 1983 and the fortunes of the Nigerian economy had taken a nosedive, requiring drastic measures to salvage West Africa’s largest economy.
One such measure was the expulsion of all immigrants without proper documents.
An executive order issued by President Shehu Shagari meant that all illegal immigrants in the oil-rich country had to evacuate or risk spending the rest of their lives in the harsh conditions of a Nigerian prison.
Reports indicate that Ghanaians were in their millions in the country whose capital is 1,1881km from Ghana’s Accra.
It is estimated that over two million West Africans were expelled from Nigeria, 50% of which were Ghanaians.
With those checked bags, they left Nigeria on rickety buses and through Benin and Togo they arrived home to a Rawlings-led administration that was also grappling with an economic downturn.
Decades on, those bags have become the symbol of a period in history neither country wants to revisit.
Though the official reason for the deportation was to save the ailing Nigerian economy, some people still hold that it was a revenge for a similar treatment meted out to them by Ghana in 1969.
These landmark issues have become the basis for the love-hate relationship that permeates through every facet of a Nigeria-Ghana discourse.
Whilst moves have been made, and continue to be made to ensure a peaceful relationship between the two nations, occasional happenings have become reminders of how far, yet how close they are to diplomatic rows.
The latest of such cases is the demolition of a building belonging to the Nigeria High Commission to Ghana.
Armed men believed to have been recruited by the Osu stool on Saturday, razed down a building under construction at the premises of the High Commission.
This act of ‘lawlessness’ has stirred up certain figures with strong statements of condemnation emanating from their camp.
Despite a heartfelt apology from Ghana’s Foreign Minister and a conversation between Nigeria’s President and his Ghanaian counterpart, some Nigerians are of the view that demolishing is a reflection of the ‘oppression and disrespect’ they have subjected to by their Ghanaian hosts.
Treaties, MoUs, and agreements have been signed over the years to improve trade relations between the two nations but periodically some challenges have been recorded in trade among the two nations.
Despite the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, some form of disagreement exists between the two nations.
The most recent is the ‘war’ between Ghanaian-based Nigerian traders and the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA).
In August 2019, Nigeria banned the importation and exportation of goods through its land borders which had an effect on some Ghanaian traders.
GUTA reacted by closing down all retail shops belonging to Nigerian traders at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra and Suame Magazine in Kumasi.
The move by GUTA led to clashes between Ghanaian traders and Nigerians until President Akufo-Addo had to intervene to restore calm.
There appears to be uneasy calm within the sector and anything could trigger an explosion in that space.
Deportation of Nigerians in 2018/2019
Between 2018 and 2019, nearly one thousand Nigerians were deported from Ghana.
The deportation and alleged treatment of those Nigerians incensed the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who warned that her country could be forced to retaliate.
Speaking to a Nigerian professor who was fired by the University of Education, Winneba, Dabiri Erewa said “It will not go down well on the continent if Nigeria decides to do what they do to Nigerians over there. We demand respect. If a Nigerian commits a crime, you should deal with that particular person rather than generalize issues by punishing those who are innocent of the crime.”
Artiste/ Jollof wars
It’s possibly the least relevant of all the Ghana versus Nigeria issues. It’s a war that has been stoked by social media and appears to have no end in sight.
Any feat by a Nigerian artiste is easily compared to a Ghanaian, and while the numbers tilt the argument in their favor, Ghanaian music followers reckon when it comes to raw talent, Ghana is a level above its sister country.
The Jollof banter is occasionally played on Twitter with citizens of the two nations debating on which country cooks the better Jollof.
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