Sunday, August 30, 2020 8:00 am
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Nigeria and Ghana, two Anglophone countries that used to share a lot in common like a set of twins now live as two recalcitrant cocks thrown into a dry pit. In other words, their relationship is now a replay of the one between a goat and cocoyam or the one that exists between the mongoose and the cobra.
In recent times, Ghana has become an irritant to Nigeria, for which the Federal Government came out smoking, declaring as a matter of fact that enough is enough! Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Information Minister, in a statement he signed on Friday, 28 August, said the Federal Government would “no longer tolerate the incessant harassment of its citizens in Ghana and the progressive acts of hostility towards the country by Ghanaian authorities.”
In fact, he went ahead to list a catalogue of such provocations:
There was the seizure of the Nigerian Mission’s property located at No. 10, Barnes Road, Accra. It was Nigeria’s diplomatic premises for almost 50 years.
Worse still, Ghana demolished the Nigerian Mission’s property on No. 19/21 Julius Nyerere Street, East Ridge, Accra, an action which the Information Minister said “was breach of the Vienna Convention.” To add salt and pepper to a festering injury, Ghana sent over 825 Nigerian packing unceremoniously between January 2018 and Feb. 2019.
To worsen matters, Ghana locked no fewer than 300 Nigerian shops for four months in Kumasi in 2018; over 600 others were subjected to the same thing in 2019. Even this year, over 250 Nigerian shops suffered the same problem.
The Minister went further: “Residency Permit requirements for which the Ghana Immigration Service has placed huge fees, far higher than the fees charged by the Nigerian Immigration Service. These include the compulsory Non-citizen ID card (120 U.S.120 dollars, and 60 U.S. dollars for yearly renewal), Medical examinations, including for Covid-19 which is newly-introduced (about 120 U.S. dollars), and payment for residency permit (400 U.S dollars compared to the N7,000 being paid by Ghanaians for residency card in Nigeria).”
There was also the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act targeted at Nigerians and which flies against the ECOWAS protocol. When the Act was initially promulgated in 1994, Mohammed explained, a foreigner was “required to invest at least 300 000 U.S. dollars by way of equity capital and also employ 10 Ghanaians.” He added that the Act has now been amended twice, “with the 2018 GIPC Act raising the minimum capital base for foreign-owned businesses to one million U.S. dollars.
Mohammed went further: “Though targeted at foreigners, it seems GIPC’s definition of foreigners is Nigerians. The GIPC Act also negates the ECOWAS Protocol. The minister said that the Federal Government frowned at the media war against Nigerians in Ghana.
“He raised the alarm that the negative reportage of issues concerning Nigerians resident in Ghana by the Ghanaian media was fuelling an emerging xenophobic attitude towards Nigerian traders and Nigerians in general.
“Harsh and openly-biased judicial trial and pronouncement of discriminately-long jail terms for convicted Nigerians.
“There are currently more than 200 Nigerians in the Nsawam Maximum prison in Ghana alone,” he said.
Mohammed, as The Punch quoted him, said the Government would like to put on record the fact that even though more than one million Ghanaians are resident in Nigeria, “they are not being subjected to the kind of hostility being meted out to Nigerians in Ghana.”
On the palaver on the seized Federal Government property at No. 10, Barnes Road in Accra because of accusation of “non-renewal of lease after expiration, the Ghanaian authorities did not give Nigeria the right of first refusal or the notice to renew the lease.”
It was a matter of the pot calling the kettle black. As Mohammed put it:”By contrast, the lease on some of the properties occupied by the Ghanaian Mission in Nigeria has long expired, yet such properties have not been seized.”
He went further: “Nigeria has time after time demonstrated its fidelity to the long cordial relations with Ghana. But indications, especially in recent times, are that Nigeria’s stance is now being taken for granted and its citizens being made targets of harassment and objects of ridicule. This will no longer be tolerated under any guise.”
Origin of the Enmity between Nigeria Ghana
It was Ghana that first set the negative ball rolling when, in 1969, its leader, Koffi Busia, came up with the Alien Compliance Order. With that, Nigerians were deported from Ghana. Many left with little or nothing. The idea of one Africa blew up in a puff! Payback time happened in 1983 when President Shehu Shagari deported over one million Africans, predominantly Ghanaians. Then ‘Ghana- must- go’ entered our travel paraphernalia.
In fact, Otoghile Aiguosatile and Obakhedo Neville Onebamhoi both of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Benin, Benin City, in their essay, Ghana Relations from 1960 to 2010: Roots of Convergence and Points of Departure (Pp. 131-145) went further back in history. It was published on ajol.info.
The scholars submitted: “The years 1960 to 1966 were dominated by an attitude of jealousy and suspicion in the external relations between Nigeria and Ghana. There were three major reasons for this situation. Firstly, Nigeria and Ghana at independence were ruled by different political elites that had different attitudes and styles. Ghana, for example, was ruled by Dr. Nkrumah, a renowned nationalist and strong advocate of the unity of African states. Nigeria, on the other hand, was ruled by Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe, part of the conservative political elite who view the unity of African states with great caution.
“By and large, the conservatism demonstrated by Nigeria in the immediate post-independent years conflicted with the radicalism of Ghana. The outspokenness of Ghana on issues bordering on the welfare of African states attracted jealousy from Nigeria. Conversely, the prominence that welcomed Nigeria to the league of independent nations attracted jealousy and suspicion from Ghana in terms of which country would take on the hegemonic role of leading the African continent. Thus, before the military struck in both countries in the second half of the 1960s, the civilian political elite viewed one another with jealousy and suspicion. This manifested in war of words between diplomats of both countries.”
At the second conference of independent African states in Addis Ababa, the scholars cited Maitama Sule, the then Nigerian Minister of Mines and Power, warning that the two dangers of pan-Africanism were the internal policies of some states which Nigeria could not tolerate and the attitude of someone who “thinks he is Messiah with a mission to lead Africa” (Daily Times, 1960; Akinyemi, 1974). Indirectly, the Minister, according to the political scientists, was referring to Ghana, and Ghana’s Nkrumah.
The scholars went further: “In 1965, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa himself remarked that ‘In size, population and wealth, there was nothing for which Nigeria could envy Ghana’ (Aluko, 1981). To this end, when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was created, it equally turned out to be the theatre of leadership war between both countries. As a matter of facts, the first five years of the organization’s existence were dominated by leadership tussle between the two countries leading to the formation of two opposite camps, namely, the ‘Casablanca Group’ under the leadership of Ghana, and the ‘Monrovia Group’ under the leadership of Nigeria.
Perhaps, one of the most important and striking reason for the unhealthy relationship between the two countries during the period under examination was, as the political scientists argued, meddling in the affairs of each other country with consequences. For example, in 1962, according to them, some members of the Action Group (AG) that dominated the politics of Western Nigeria went into exile based on the persecution they faced from the Northern People’s Congress (NPC)-led Federal Government. The Balewa/Azikiwe led Federal Government accused the Ghana government led by Dr. Nkrumah of providing a base for the AG to train and to overthrow the Nigerian government. Expectedly, the accusation was refuted by the Ghanaian government. “The above set the stage for mutual suspicion, accusations and counter-accusations; and remain unabated until the military struck in the early period of 1966 in both countries.”
In recent times, many claim that (just as in South Africa), Ghanaians hate the guts and business aggressiveness of Nigerians. Worse still, Ghanaians are said to get angry when Nigerian businessmen shower money like confetti to sway Ghana ladies to their side, leaving their men helpless.
However ticklish the last point may seem, there is hostility between the two countries and they need to mend fences.
-Ademola Adegbamigbe, editor of TheNEWS, has been reporting life, politics and the economy in the last 26 years.