The secret behind Ghana must go era in Nigeria-Teslim O Omipidan

Growing up in Nigeria, Ghana and other neighboring countries, you
must have heard of the popular term “Ghana Must Go“. Yes! It is
the name of a common big bag used to store things or pack loads
when traveling. But have you ever wondered why this bag, called
“Chinatown tote” in USA and “Tuekenkoffer” in Germany, is called
“Ghana Must Go” in Nigeria and Ghana? Well, someone did not
just sit and coin the name for the bag, a real life incident that
happened in Nigeria back in 1983 christened the bag “Ghana Must
Go”.
In 1983, during the democratic regime of President Sheu Shagari,
the federal government of Nigeria ordered a mass deportation of
illegal immigrants living in Nigeria due to the atrocities most of
them were reportedly perpetrating in the country. More than half of
the deportation victims were Ghananians who had come to Nigeria
in search of better living in the 1970s when Nigeria was
experiencing oil boom and Ghana, political and economic hardship.
The Nigerian government did not just wake up one day to expel
over 2 million Africans, there were certain factors (one mentioned
above) that culminated in the expulsion.
Nigeria and Ghana were good allies and have been maintaining
their friendship before independence till now. But this friendship
was threatened in the 1980s during the regime of the Ghanaian
Head of State, Flight Lieutenant Jerry J. Rawlings and the Nigerian
President, Alahji Sheu Shagari. Both African leaders were not in
good terms and this was because President Shagari was a good
friend of Ghana former president, Hilla Limann, who Rawlings
overthrew his government. This deteriorated the Ghana-Nigeria
relationship to the extent that in 1982, Rawlings raised an alarm
that Shagari wanted to help Limann overthrow his government, and
in response, Nigeria stopped the shipping of crude oil on a loan
deal to Ghana. As this beef continued between the government, so
did it between the citizens. The aliens in Nigeria were seriously
threatening the peace of the country and Nigerians were not ready
to take that. The situation began getting heated in 1980 when a
Cameroonian expatriate named Muhammed Marwa alias
Maitastine spearheaded a religious uprising (Maitastine Uprising of
1980) that led to the death of scores. Maitastine was an illegal
immigrant like many of his followers who were from Burkina Faso,
Niger and Cameroon. This uprising is considered the second most
tragic event in Nigeria after the Biafran war. It must also be noted
that there had existed an old wound in the Nigeria-Ghana
relationship back in 1969 when the Ghanaian government effected
the Alien’s Compliance Order. Nigerians and other African
immigrants were banished on the claim that the economy of Ghana
was in depression.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the robbery at
Ekwueme’s house. Alexander Ekwueme, the then Nigerian Vice
President was robbed by a group of armed robbers which
consisted mainly of expatriates. When the robbers were caught by
the police, it was discovered that two of them were Ghanaian. This
sent the whole of Nigeria crazy. Instant action was taken by the
Nigerian government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. On the
17th of January, 1983, the Nigerian Minister of Internal Affairs,
Alhaji Alli Baba, announced the immediate expulsion of all illegal
immigrants in Nigeria within two weeks. President Sheu Shagari
also added in a statement, “If they don’t leave, they should be
arrested and tried, and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants
under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice
whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it.”
Panic gripped all aliens without papers in Nigeria for it was the
least expected action of the Nigerian government. Over 1 million
Ghanaians were thrown into confusion and indecision. It was
rumored that the Federal government gave power to Nigerians to
confront any alien after the ultimatum given to leave. This scared
the expatriates and sent them fleeing with and without their
luggage. Those who could pack their belongings used the biggest
of bags available which happened to be the big bag which is now
referred to today as Ghana must go.
This mass deportation met global criticisms. The act was
condemned by many humanitarian organizations across the globe.
The US Department of State said the expulsion order was
“shocking and a violation of every imaginable human right.” All
these did not make the Nigerian government reverse the order. It
still bent on expelling all illegal immigrants in the country. Also,
there were claims that the corruption riddled government of
President Sheu Shagari ordered the deportation to divert attention
from its shenanigans because election was near. Truly, the Shagari
government had to pull a stunt to divert the attention of Nigerians
and win their votes.
Ghanaians trooped out en masse for they knew Nigeria was no
longer safe for them. It was indeed a massive exodus that
automatically rooted its feet in the history of Nigeria and Ghana.
They (Ghanaians) camped at the Seme boarder as they waited to
enter Benin Republic where they hoped to find a ship to Ghana. The
land route through Togo was much preferable and convenient but
the Ghanaian dictator, Jerry J Rawlings had closed the Ghana-
Togo border due to an attempted coup in 1981. Togo also closed
down its boarder with Benin in order to avoid refugee crises. After
sometime, the Ghananian military ruler, Jerry Rawlings opened the
Ghana-Togo border and left Togo no choice than to do the same
with Benin Republic and allow refugees to flow across like water. It
was indeed a great news for the Ghanaian refugees. On getting
home, they were welcomed by relatives and friends amidst tears.
Jerry Rawlings also visited some of them at Tema harbour and
assured them that his government would provide assistance in
every possible way.
This is the real bitter story behind every ‘Ghana must go’ bag.
However, it should be known that today, Nigeria and Ghana remain
best of friends as they let the past behind them. This is evident in
the entertainment, sports and politics sectors of the two countries.
“History should not be used as an instrument of revenge but rather
as a tool for preventing future mistakes.

3 Comments

  1. Nice update

  2. The thing still dey pain pain Ghanaians

  3. Hahaha

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