In the 1970s Ghana was facing a lot of economic hardship occasioned by poor leadership and wide spread corruption, just about the same time Nigeria had an oil boom, Nigeria’s economy was flourishing. Citizens of many West African countries, mostly Ghanaians flocked into Nigeria because the pastures looked “green”. However, in the early 1980s, the oil boom subsided which resulted into an economic downtown in Nigeria due to persistent drop in the prices of crude oil at the international market. Jobs were no longer readily available even for Nigerians. Then the government and people of Nigeria decided that the Ghanaians and other African migrants, had overstayed their welcome. An expulsion order was enacted in 1983, which saw almost 2million Ghanaians and other migrants returned to their countries.
African migrants, mostly Ghanaians were forced to abandon their flourishing businesses, investments and properties. Humiliated and beaten by touts and “area boys” on the streets of Lagos which was the Federal Capital Territory. Most Ghanaians (women and children) where loaded into lorries and deported back to their country amidst tears. “Ghana-must-go” virtually became the new national anthem on the streets of Lagos and other Nigerian cities. Although some Nigerians saw the event as a payback to the 1969 immigration policy of Ghana which resulted in many Nigerians being returned back to Nigeria, it was unfortunate to have made foreign workers scapegoats for our unemployment and economic crisis, instead of simply holding our own government responsible.
Unfortunately, just like the infamous “Ghana-must go” episode, many countries in Africa and around the world have continued to victimize, de-humanize and blame migrants and foreign workers for their rising unemployment and economic challenge. Even many people in the United States of America blame Mexicans for taking away their jobs. The recent xenophobic attack which first broke out in the South Africa City of Durban on 14th April 2015 following an inciting statement credited to the Zulu king is just one of the daily xenophobic responses all over the world. Although the comments credited to key personalities in South Africa including the son of the incumbent president only aggravated the anger of the mis-guided South African millions of unemployed masses. This attacks only attracted a huge international condemnation because of meticulous activities of the numerous online media and technological advancement which has turned the whole world into a Global village.
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Regrettably and sadly, Xenophobia is what migrants and foreign workers faces almost on a daily basis all over the world. Xenophobia is when migrants are not allowed to buy lands or own properties in choice areas of their countries of residence just because they are foreigners, Xenophobia is when the children or wards of foreign workers are restricted as to which schools they can enroll, Xenophobia is when foreign investors are unduly exploited through high and outrageous taxes, and Xenophobia is when foreigners are still not allowed to vote and determine his/her choice of leadership even after having spent a larger part of his/her life, pay taxes and contributed to the social and economic wellbeing of his/her country of residence. Although the formation of African Union AU and several other sub-regional organizations like the economic community of West African states ECOWAS is supposed to foster unity and harmonious co-existence amongst Africans, regardless of their origin, race or belief. These continental organizations have not really lived up to the vision of its founding fathers and the yearnings of the people, but rather has been reduced to a mere “Club” and an association of African heads of states. The tension and apprehension that usually greets international sporting activities like football among Africa countries leaves more to be desired from the AU, ECOWAS and the likes. Whenever there’s an international football match between Ghana and Nigeria for instance, if the pendulum of victory happens to swing in the direction of Nigeria, citizens of Nigeria residing in Ghana always bears the brunt of this outcome, as their businesses and investments are not only often attacked and vandalized but they are also victimized and subjected to inhumane treatments even by the government of their country of residence.
The fact that many citizens of some of the northern African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco etc don’t even regard themselves as Africans is a topic for another discussion entirely. As Africans, we must be our brother’s keeper, help each other and look after each other in times of plenty and in times of less. We should be able to trade and transact businesses freely across the international boundaries in the spirit of African unity and brotherliness. It is no longer acceptable for Africans to be regarded as ‘foreigners’ in another African country, we are all Africans and should be free and be allowed to enjoy all privileges of a citizen in any country we may choose to reside, this should be the goal of the AU.
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The AU, ECOWAS and all other African regional and sub-regional organizations should put heads together to bridge the gap creating rooms for xenophobia on the continent. Rather than being a platform where Africa Heads of states meet regularly for tea parties, these organizations should engage member Nations on how best to overcome the barriers of trade and commerce, security through intelligence sharing, transportation though abolition of unfriendly immigration laws, daily inhumane treatments being faced by fellow African migrants in their countries of residence and the obvious hostilities as a result of sporting activities.
An Africa where a Nigerian can freely travel to South Africa without having to go and write “Jamb” at the South African embassy, an Africa where a Ghanaian can reside in Morocco without being harassed, maltreated and treated as if he has committed a grave crime for choosing to leave his country of origin to reside in another country. An Africa where all barriers hampering free flow of trade and commerce amongst nations are removed and an Africa where the reference is no longer on the national passport but rather on an African passport are the only ways xenophobia can be put to a permanent end on the continent. We cannot continue to be hostile and be inhumane to ourselves and still call ourselves “Africans” Americans would never kill or subject themselves to inhumane treatments for whatever reason.
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