‘Ghana must go’ originated from the 1983 expulsion notice given to citizens of neighboring countries residing in Nigeria, including those from Ghana, to leave. However, Ghanaians numbered much; about two million came under former Nigerian President Shehu Shagari’s expulsion hammer. These neighbors came for greener pastures, but unfortunately, it turned sour along the line.
In the wake of the eviction order came the cliché Ghana-must-go bag (plain and unbranded at the time). It was the commonly available, cheap but strong, chequered factory-woven bag, in big and small sizes, that was deployed to pack their belongings.
The bag is still on sale in the Nigerian market and serves the same purpose of moving goods everywhere. Interestingly, the name has remained the same since the West African neighbor left 40 years ago. Commercially, the number of such bags sold resulted in excellent business windfall.
Migrants’ expulsions, ECOWAS regional misadventure
It could be termed an unwarranted retaliatory exercise by Nigeria, whose citizens were thrown out of Ghana in 1969. Kofi Busia, then Prime Minister, had, in November 1969, asked for Nigerian migrants to go. He gave economic reasons, while others saw it as xenophobic.
Whether the pains of such actions against one another have healed cannot be said of certainty. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigerian citizens living and doing business in Ghana came under severe persecution as they began to lose their well-established retail and other entrepreneurial ventures.
The Ghana government had set up harsh laws for existing migrant businesses. The government sent law enforcement agents to shut down such businesses or sell them to citizens. Nigerians feared for their lives, and a xenophobic cloud was gathering again. It took a flurry of high-powered diplomatic interventions to calm things down.
Between racial intolerance and fear of economic dominance
Nigeria and Ghana are economically better placed than most ECOWAS countries. Certain things are going for them in financial services, oil and gas, consumer goods, construction, and real estate.
Nigeria is said to have the second largest business concern in Ghana, only second to China in ranking. Her vibrant private sector and itinerant, domineering business people have often become sources of clashes.
However, the current population of both countries (Nigerians in Ghana – 77,000 and Ghanaians in Nigeria – 500,000) shows a cautious growth. In reality, there is a measure of assurance that enduring tranquility in both countries can be sustained for economic and social advancement for the common good.
Migration, a global phenomenon
This is the age-long nature of people worldwide, but the phenomenon has gained ascendancy lately. The movement of people is one of the characterizing issues of the twenty-first century. It is a vital, inevitable, and potentially beneficial component of countries’ and regions’ economic and social lives. When people find out where they reside provides prosperity, peace, and caring, there is bound to be a decision made to move away to where life could be better lived.
As a result, the question should no longer be whether or not migration should be permitted. Instead, how to deal with it and manage it effectively should be examined so that migrants can fully realize its benefits and its adverse effects reduced or minimized.
The emphasis should be on the multifaceted aspects of international migration in order to find appropriate methods and means of maximizing developments and benefits while minimizing adverse effects.
It is the same in every continent; some countries are preferred destinations for certain migrants, and the reasons as varied as the people involved.
Creating a feeling of resentment
Many African nation-states have not handled the matter of migrants and immigration in a manner void of imbalance. It has often left much to be desired, sometimes skewed in favor of the host nation and away from international convention.
The result of expelling migrants from host nations leaves a bitter taste in their mouths as they are seen as aliens, strangers, and unwanted. This can culminate in resentment and possible xenophobic action.