The ugly history behind the famous ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags

Ghana Must GoThis durable, plastic woven bag, often blue and red, symbolized a troubled era in Ghana-Nigeria ties, bearing the burden of mass expulsion and prejudice.

Its moniker recalls a somber West African period, deeply ingrained in the shared recollections of Ghanaians and Nigerians.

Ghanaian migration origins in Nigeria

The narrative unfolds well before the expulsion event. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Ghana grappled with severe economic challenges. Depleted oil reserves, soaring inflation, and escalating debt precipitated a decline in living standards.

In pursuit of better prospects, many Ghanaians migrated to nearby Nigeria, buoyed by its oil-fueled economic prosperity.

By the early 1980s, this influx, surpassing two million individuals, brought valuable skills and entrepreneurial spirit, bolstering Nigeria’s economic advancement.

Nevertheless, underlying tensions emerged. The sheer volume of migrants strained resources, fostering murmurs of job and opportunity competition.

The expulsion of 1983

Amidst economic downturn, mounting unemployment, and heightened nationalism, the Nigerian government, led by Shehu Shagari, enacted a decree in 1983 to expel all undocumented immigrants.

Ghanaians, comprising roughly half of the affected population, bore the brunt of this decree.

The large-scale expulsion, euphemistically labeled the “Ghanaian Alien Compliance Order,” compelled more than two million Ghanaians to return home, often with just their possessions packed in inexpensive plastic bags readily accessible at the time.

As Ghanaians gathered their scant possessions, the bags, initially branded with “Made in Ghana,” were ironically dubbed “Ghana Must Go” by Nigerians, echoing the xenophobic sentiments driving the expulsion.

Consequently, these bags became synonymous with the forced departure endured by Ghanaians.

Despite the adversity and displacement, Ghanaians displayed resilience. Some returned home and rebuilt their lives, while others flourished in various parts of West Africa and beyond.

Presently, “Ghana Must Go” bags continue to find utility across Africa and elsewhere. While their name harks back to a grim past, their practicality and affordability persist as undeniable traits.

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