EXPLAINER: What Do You Know About The 'Ghana Must Go' Exodus Of 1983?
'Ghana Must Go,' was a popular name given to a type of cheap matted woven nylon zipped bags, used by illegal migrants (mostly Ghanaians) to move their belongings from Nigeria following Shehu Shagari executive order.
Well, someone did not just sit and coin a name for the bag, a real-life incident that happened in Nigeria back in 1983 christened the bag “Ghana Must Go”.
Here are quick facts about the executive order:
- In 1983, the President of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari issued an executive order mandating immigrants without proper immigration documents to leave the country or they would be arrested according to the law.
- More than half of the deportation victims were Ghanaians who had come to Nigeria in search of better living in the 1970s when Nigeria was experiencing an oil boom and Ghana, on the other hand, was witnessing political and economic hardship.
- The order was issued for three reasons: First a personality clash between the then Ghanian President, Flight Lieutenant Jerry J. Rawlings, and his Nigerian counterpart Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Secondly, Nigerians accused foreigners of taking over jobs meant for them in the wake of dwindling oil revenue. Foreigners were also seen as a security threat after the Kano Maitastine religious riots masterminded by a Cameroonian expatriate named Muhammed Marwa in 1981.
- The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the robbery that took place in the residence of Alex Ekweme, Nigeria's Vice President 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.
- 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.
- Panic gripped all foreigners 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'.
- 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 border as they waited to enter Benin Republic where they hoped to find a ship to Ghana.
- The bag has a variety of names worldwide in Germany it is called the "Tuerkenkoffer" (Turkish suitcase), in the USA, it is called the "Chinatown tote", in Guyana it is called the "Guyanese Samsonite" and the "Refugee Bag" in various places around the world.