Letter from Africa: In the back of Ghana and Nigeria’s love-hate affair

A Ghanaian and Nigerian football fans at the Africa Cup of Nations quarter final match between Ghana and Nigeria in Accra, Ghana - February 2008

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In our sequence of letters from African reporters, Ghanaian creator Elizabeth Ohene appears on the fraught courting between Ghana and Nigeria, which underlies the present tensions over the closure of a few Nigerian-owned retail outlets in Ghana.

We see them as too loud, and abrasive and chaotic and we imagine they believe they may be able to outsmart everyone, particularly Ghanaians.

They believe we’re too submissive, no longer highly intelligent, at all times punching above our weight and not anything upsets them greater than Ghana defeating Nigeria, in the rest.

The Ghana-Nigeria contention has been round for so long as each international locations have existed.

When I used to be a kid, there was once a Nigerian in each the town and village in Ghana.

I went to college with them and there was once the Nigerian girl – “Mami Alata” they have been referred to as – who bought the entirety and it is advisable wake her up in the course of the night time to shop for 3 cubes of sugar.

The Nigerians have been particularly visual within the retail business sector and within the diamond mining cities.

The 2 international locations don’t proportion borders, nevertheless it has at all times felt like we did. That we’re separated by means of Togo and Benin hasn’t ever truly mattered – we really feel like we’re neighbours.

Clearly, one thing to do with the 2 international locations being English-speaking and British colonies in the course of French-speaking international locations.

Till independence, we had the similar forex and airline, and the similar apex courtroom settled all judicial issues.

There have been common wearing competitions between our Achimota College and their Kings Faculty.

I do know of 1 lasting marriage that got here out of the ones wearing conferences.

Then in 1955, got here the 7-Zero thrashing by means of Ghana of the Crimson Devils, because the Nigerian nationwide soccer staff was once referred to as at the moment.

It’s the stuff of legends, and for years, it hung there at the back of each dialog, each argument, non-public or nationwide, between our two international locations.

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symbol captionNigeria won independence 3 years after Ghana, marking the instance with large celebrations

Then Ghana were given her independence in March 1957 and our Nigerian cousins were given theirs in October 1960.

This didn’t really feel proper – for lots of Nigerians, they have been larger and must have were given their independence ahead of small Ghana.

They could be larger, however on the time, Ghana felt and was once richer than Nigeria – ahead of oil was once found out.

Mass expulsions

We stored up the neighbourly rivalries and friendships.

Then got here the Development Birthday celebration govt’s Extraterrestrial beings Compliance Order of November 1969, which ordered all undocumented extraterrestrial beings to depart Ghana.

Even if there have been Togolese, Burkinabes, Ivorians, Nigeriens and different West Africans within the nation, Nigerians, most commonly ethnic Yorubas from the south-western states of Nigeria, shaped the vast majority of the overseas inhabitants in Ghana then.

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symbol captionThe expulsions of undocumented foreigners by means of Nigeria in 1983 ended in chaotic scenes at border posts

A few of them have been residing right here for years and have been into their 2nd and 3rd generations. It felt just like the workout was once geared toward Nigerians and their trips house weren’t delightful.

Then oil got here to Nigeria and as they was wealthy, Ghana’s economic system collapsed and from round 1974, the exodus to Nigeria was once on.

College professors, architects, engineers, carpenters, masons, tailors, hairdressers, maidservants and our study rooms have been emptied of all lecturers from kindergarten, number one, secondary and tertiary.

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If you happen to have been a Nigerian circle of relatives of any value, you needed to have a Ghanaian nanny, a Ghanaian maidservant, a Ghanaian prepare dinner, a Ghanaian gardener and your kids have been prone to have a Ghanaian instructor in school or as a non-public tutor.

Then in 1983 the Nigerian govt introduced the expulsion of all undocumented extraterrestrial beings.

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symbol captionA lot of these plastic luggage are nonetheless recognized in West Africa as “Ghana Will have to Cross” luggage

Since Ghanaians constituted the vast majority of the extraterrestrial beings, it felt like this was once geared toward Ghanaians.

The unofficial identify for the workout, and for the plastic bag that the determined departing Ghanaians used to hold their possessions, was “Ghana Will have to Cross”.

It was once no longer a nice adventure again to Ghana. We have been at our lowest ebb and we have been mocked mercilessly as we shopped for rest room roll and cooking oil to take house.

The Nigerians would by no means admit it, after all, nevertheless it did really feel just like the harm of the Ghanaian 1969 Extraterrestrial beings Compliance Order have been in any case assuaged.

Diplomatic stand-off

Progressively, we went again to development a courting, as a result of we truly could not do with out every different.

The West African regional organisation, Ecowas, had come into being in 1975 and because the two main English-speaking international locations within the workforce, we wanted every different to make issues paintings.

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symbol captionNigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and his Ghanaian counterpart Nana Akufo-Addo in happier occasions at an Ecowas assembly final 12 months

Issues have been strong for so long as we recognised their “seniority”. That we have been the deficient family members was once firmly established.

They introduced Ghana to a halt in 1982 by means of preventing the particular phrases for promoting us oil. We went to beg, and it was once restored.

Nigeria’s chief within the 1990s, Common Sani Abacha, despatched a suitcase filled with $2m, some say $5m, to his Ghanaian counterpart Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings.

Within the early 2000s Ghana’s President John Kufuor went to peer Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to inform him the Ghana Police Carrier had 100 cars to its identify and Nigeria gave us cars for our police.

However we remained a favorite vacation spot for his or her wealthy and well-known, they usually ship their kids to college right here in Ghana.

The Black Stars additionally didn’t steadily play in step with the script and each from time to time, defeated the Tremendous Eagles, as Nigeria’s nationwide soccer staff have been referred to now.

The present tensions between the 2 international locations are being blamed on bilateral business variations.

There’s a legislation that restricts foreigners from retail business – and Ghanaian buyers are not looking for the Nigerian buyers within the markets.

Ghana’s legislation and the present disaster:

  • Foreigners in Ghana cannot run small retail retail outlets, however they may be able to personal wholesale companies or different companies wherein round $1m (£782,000) has been invested
  • The legislation is meant to offer protection to smaller native buyers and the ones operating small trade like barbers or attractiveness salons, however isn’t at all times enforced
  • Marketplace buyers have once in a while taken the legislation into their very own arms, which triggered the government to do an audit of retail retail outlets in August and shut some Nigerian-run stalls
  • Foreigners married to a Ghanaian are exempt from the regulations – as are the ones in a trade partnership with a Ghanaian

Because the business ministry attempt to get to the bottom of issues, issues have assumed diplomatic dimensions.

The Nigerian federal knowledge minister has spoken some robust phrases.

The Ghana knowledge minister has issued a complete rebuttal.

The Nigerian overseas minister has been busy on his Twitter account complaining about “the forceful closure of the department stores of Nigerian buyers in Ghana” and ascribing causes for the closure.

Our overseas minister felt her counterpart had overstepped the mark and summoned the Nigerian top commissioner to her place of job to inform her some selection, directly phrases.

The speaker of our parliament stepped into the fray and invited the speaker of the Nigerian Area of Representatives to Ghana.

He got here with a powerful delegation and after 4 days of conferences he pronounced that “the problem handy is mainly a false impression and incorrect information”.

There were tales within the Nigerian media that Nigerians personal lots of the constructions within the fancy portions of Ghana’s capital, Accra, and that may neatly be true.

symbol copyrightGetty Pictures
symbol captionGhana desires to offer protection to the roles of smaller buyers

They’re speaking concerning the collection of Nigerian banks in Ghana and there are ideas they have got sufficient financial muscle to squeeze us the place it hurts.

The Ghana retail buyers may no longer have 100% enhance amongst their compatriots about in need of the Nigerian buyers out of the markets.

As a result of, just like the “Mami Alata” in days of yore, the Nigerian dealer would keep open for one would-be purchaser and no longer shut up for 3 days to visit a funeral.

We’re all maintaining our breath and the sensation is possibly we must discover ways to do with out those cousins of ours.

However we’re but to be told how the tongue learns to do with out the enamel.

Extra Letters from Africa:

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