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


Most Nigerians want to think they are good history students, but if you try to ask them simple stuff that happened in the past you will realize how ignorant they are about their fatherland ‘s background. So many of us do know how the bag “Ghana must go” got its name? Do we know the events which led to the naming of this raffia bag? I doubt that anyone would get a thorough response? We don’t hear that every day? Let me take you quickly through a back and forth journey which has taken place between Ghana and Nigeria.

January 17, 1983, is a day that will never be forgotten very easily among many Ghanaians, on that day the then Nigerian president, Sheu Shagari, declared that all undocumented immigrants will leave the nation on or before January 31, or face the Nigerian government in full. This news came as a surprise for many immigrants living inside the country. They were all settled in Nigeria, earning money from the educational sector, or one or the other artisan work. Many of the immigrants were illegal since they did not have the necessary documentation to support their Nigerian residency. Of the approximately three million immigrants who were to leave Nigeria that year, nearly two million were Ghanaians. Firstly, what did two million Ghanaians do in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s economy began to boom after it discovered oil in its land in 1958, and the country’s economy had undergone tremendous growth since that time. As of 1970, Nigeria’s economy had experienced exponential growth, from crude oil sales, which for this African nation was the main source of GDP. Nigeria was one of the world’s biggest crude oil exporters, the country was doing well for itself. As with Nigeria at this moment of boom and plenty, its neighboring country, Ghana, was going through a very difficult time. Ghana was going through an insurgency phase and they didn’t have much food in the country as they did at this time. Many Ghanaians chose to leave their beloved country, looking for a greener pasture. During this time people migrated a lot into Nigeria (not just Ghanaians), it was the land that flowed with milk and honey.

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

Global oil prices began to drop in 1982, America, one of the top crude oil importers was still processing its oil, oil demand had fallen sharply, the once-prosperous nation was going through a great period of deflation, buoyancy and prosperity were becoming a thing of the past, oil prices had plummeted from $37 to $29. Nigeria started to lose its ground immediately. The low oil prices, combined with the poor management of those in government, made the nation begin to drain its foreign reserves.

This didn’t take long for Nigerians to rise against the country’s international nationals, dominated by Ghanaians. They started physically attacking them, blaming them for taking over the jobs available in the country. Not long after that, Sheu Shagari declared that all foreigners in the country without proper documentation would vacate the country or risk going to jail between January 17th and 31st, 1983. They all began packaging their loads within the next few days, they used a bag made of raffia, by this time the bag had no common name associated with it, but during this time the bag was called “Ghana must go.”Even Ghanaians left, during this period they faced very tough problems because their nation’s doors weren’t open to them.

Since that time, the military leader in Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, has ordered the shared border with Togo to be shut down (setting security grounds as his excuse), as a result, Togo has also decided to shut down its borders to prevent Ghanaians from seeking refugee status in their region. The United States and the Red Cross had to come to Ghanaians’ immediate assistance because they had no place to call home. We were provided with cushion products to alleviate and temporarily raising their pains. The borders were eventually open, many Ghanaians died during this time, and many did not make it alive.

While I was doing my research, I realized that it was Ghana that took the first shot at Nigerians, way back in 1969. Ghana has advised Nigerians, whether they have sufficient documents or not, to leave their countries. The negative side of this decision was faced by many rich Nigerians who were established in Ghana, as many of them had to sell their businesses and assets at unbelievably low prices to get out of the country, quick enough. There has also been a recent incident where numerous young Nigerians have been deported from Ghana. They had been blamed for Ghana ‘s high cybercrime rate.

I wonder if this tit for tat will ever end, even as these two countries are trying to feign a cordial relationship between them, there has always been some kind of unhealthy rivalry among the people of this great country. Nigeria finally apologized in 1983 for the ill-treatment and expulsion of Ghanaians, but Ghana has still not apologized for the incident in 1969. I hope these two nations will live in peace on an ongoing basis, particularly because we have many Nigerians relocating annually to Ghana in search of a greener pasture. But how is Ghana the Greener

What do you think about the expulsion of nearly 3 million Ghanaians in 1969, was Nigeria righto have sent them packaging? Would you know the “Ghana must go” bag? You are welcome to give your opinion in the comment section.

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Posted Aug 5th, 2020



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