Monday, 27 June 2016

When Nigeria screamed Ghana must go

When Nigeria screamed Ghana
must go!

In this retro series, we will examines the
repatriation of up to one million illegal
immigrants by Nigeria back to Ghana.
The year was 1983 and Nigeria had just
ordered the massive return of illegal
migrants from the country back to Ghana.
The move seemed incredible as Nigeria
and Ghana were supposed to be
considered best neighbours and their
relationship dates back to the pre-
colonial period.
At that time, more than a million
Ghanaians were working (il) legally in
Nigeria as the country had enjoyed oil
boom. However there were complaints
that the Ghanaians had taken over the
labour work force in the country and
Nigerians were forced to compete with
them in the labour market. The collapse
of the oil boom forced the country into
economic hardship. Someone had to be
blamed and the foreigners were the

When the repatriation was announced, it
was celebrated with glee in Nigeria but
for their Ghanaian counterparts, it was a
journey they would not forget. They were
given till May 10 of that year to leave the
country of face serious consequence.
An official statement from Nigeria read:
“If they don’t leave they should be arrested
and tried and sent back to their homes. Illegal
immigrants, in fact, under normal
circumstances, should not be given any notice
It was suspected that the repatriation
was a retaliatory move from Nigeria as
Ghana carried out a similar move during
President Kofi Abrefa Busia
administration in the early 1970’s and
foreigners, most of them from Nigeria,
were deported.
For Ghanaians, the journey from Nigeria
back to their country was a tiring one.
Trucks were loaded with humans and
cargos and soldiers supervised the
expulsion of the Ghanaians. Many of
them were forced to leave behind their
assets and belongings as they could not
secure official documents to stay.
The Ghanaian radio station stations were
livid: ”Nigeria should be ashamed of itself.
The action of Nigeria is contrary to the charter
of the Organization of African Unity.”

“Ghana must go” soon became a cliché
on the tongue of most Nigerians who felt
Shagari’s action was in the interest of
the citizens. They were optimistic that
with the exit of their “parasitic”
neighbours, Nigerians would have access
to jobs but the fairy tale did not
materialise. The absence of the
Ghanaians did not open the door to El-
Dorado as most Nigerians expected.
Reality dawned in that the country had a
bigger problem than the foreigners taking
over their job.
The sort of menial jobs the foreigners
were doing in Nigeria could not easily be
filled by Nigerians who were not used
those kind of work. Also, some of the
foreigners were actually entrepreneurs
who had taken advantage of the enabling
environment to do business. Their
absence automatically stopped the
business and Nigerians did not seem to be
interested in resurrecting them. By the
later part of 1983, Nigerians were in the
same situation as they were when the
Ghanaians were around. It soon became
clear that something else was responsible
for the economic problem the nation was
On December 31, the then General
Muhammadu Buhari took over power
through a coup citing the massive
corruption that existed in the Shagari

Do you think corruption was Nigeria’s
problem in 1983 or corruption? Share
your thought in the comment section.