Letter from Africa: Behind Ghana and Nigeria's love-hate affair

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In our collection of letters from African reporters, Ghanaian author Elizabeth Ohene seems to be on the fraught dating between Ghana and Nigeria, which underlies the present tensions over the closure of a few Nigerian-owned stores in Ghana.

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

They believe we’re too submissive, now not extremely smart, at all times punching above our weight and not anything upsets them greater than Ghana defeating Nigeria, in anything else.

The Ghana-Nigeria competition 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 city and village in Ghana.

I went to university with them and there was once the Nigerian lady – “Mami Alata” they had been known as – who offered the whole lot and you have to wake her up in the midst of the evening to shop for 3 cubes of sugar.

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The Nigerians had been particularly visual within the retail industry sector and within the diamond mining cities.

The 2 international locations don’t proportion borders, but it surely has at all times felt like we did. That we’re separated via Togo and Benin hasn’t ever in reality 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.

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

There have been common carrying competitions between our Achimota Faculty and their Kings School.

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

Then in 1955, got here the 7-Zero thrashing via Ghana of the Pink Devils, because the Nigerian nationwide soccer staff was once known as at the moment.

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

Crowds at a folk-dancing and sports festival, part of the independence celebrations in Enugu, in south-eastern Nigeria, 11 October 1960symbol copyrightGetty Photographs
symbol captionNigeria won independence 3 years after Ghana, marking the instance with massive 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 had been larger and must have were given their independence sooner than small Ghana.

They could be larger, however on the time, Ghana felt and was once richer than Nigeria – sooner than oil was once came upon.

Mass expulsions

We saved 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 go away Ghana.

Despite the fact that 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 nearly all of the overseas inhabitants in Ghana then.

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

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

Then oil got here to Nigeria and as they changed into wealthy, Ghana’s financial 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 had been emptied of all lecturers from kindergarten, number one, secondary and tertiary.

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In the event you had 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 had been more likely to have a Ghanaian trainer in school or as a personal tutor.

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

Nigerian returnees and Liberian refugees from war-torn Liberia identify their luggage in Lagos, Nigeria - 20 June 2003symbol copyrightAFP
symbol captionSome of these plastic baggage are nonetheless recognized in West Africa as “Ghana Should Cross” baggage

Since Ghanaians constituted nearly all of the extraterrestrial beings, it felt like this was once aimed toward Ghanaians.

The unofficial title for the workout, and for the plastic bag that the determined departing Ghanaians used to hold their possessions, changed into “Ghana Should Cross”.

It was once now not a pleasing adventure again to Ghana. We had been at our lowest ebb and we had been mocked mercilessly as we shopped for bathroom roll and cooking oil to take house.

The Nigerians would by no means admit it, in fact, but it surely did really feel just like the harm of the Ghanaian 1969 Extraterrestrial beings Compliance Order were in spite of everything assuaged.

Diplomatic stand-off

Progressively, we went again to development a dating, as a result of we in reality could not do with out every different.

The West African regional organisation, Ecowas, had come into being in 1975 and because the two primary English-speaking international locations within the staff, we would have liked every different to make issues paintings.

Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana pose after the opening ceremony of an Ecowas meeting in Burkina Faso 14 September 2019symbol copyrightAFP
symbol captionNigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and his Ghanaian counterpart Nana Akufo-Addo in happier instances at an Ecowas assembly ultimate 12 months

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

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

Nigeria’s chief within the 1990s, Normal Sani Abacha, despatched a suitcase stuffed 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 Provider had 100 automobiles to its title and Nigeria gave us automobiles for our police.

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

The Black Stars additionally didn’t steadily play in line with the script and each once in a while, defeated the Tremendous Eagles, as Nigeria’s nationwide soccer staff had been referred to now.

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

There’s a legislation that restricts foreigners from retail industry – and Ghanaian buyers don’t need the Nigerian buyers within the markets.

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Ghana’s legislation and the present disaster:

  • Foreigners in Ghana cannot run small retail stores, however they are able to personal wholesale corporations or different companies by which round $1m (£782,000) has been invested
  • The legislation is meant to give protection to smaller native buyers and the ones operating small industry like barbers or attractiveness salons, however isn’t at all times enforced
  • Marketplace buyers have now and again taken the legislation into their very own fingers, which triggered the government to do an audit of retail stores in August and shut some Nigerian-run stalls
  • Foreigners married to a Ghanaian are exempt from the regulations – as are the ones in a industry partnership with a Ghanaian
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Because the industry ministry attempt to get to the bottom of issues, issues have assumed diplomatic dimensions.

The Nigerian federal data minister has spoken some sturdy phrases.

The Ghana data minister has issued a complete rebuttal.

The Nigerian overseas minister has been busy on his Twitter account complaining about “the forceful closure of the malls 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 prime commissioner to her place of business to inform her some selection, instantly 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 robust delegation and after 4 days of conferences he pronounced that “the problem handy is principally 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 would possibly smartly be true.

A vegetable trader at Circle market in Accra, Ghana - August 2015symbol copyrightGetty Photographs
symbol captionGhana desires to give protection to the roles of smaller buyers

They’re speaking in regards to the selection of Nigerian banks in Ghana and there are tips they’ve sufficient financial muscle to squeeze us the place it hurts.

The Ghana retail buyers would possibly now not have 100% strengthen amongst their compatriots about short 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 now not shut up for 3 days to visit a funeral.

We’re all protecting our breath and the sensation is perhaps 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.

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Extra Letters from Africa:

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Comparable Subjects

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  • Nigeria
  • Ghana

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