Nigeria vs Ghana: A personal migration story

Nigeria vs Ghana: A personal migration story

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WE have all come to accept the shocking reality that Ghana will be heading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and our Super Eagles will not have another shot at the World Cup until 2026.

In the aftermath of the loss, Nigeria Football Federation has sacked the entire technical crew of the Super Eagles, a move that hopefully will rejig our national team and ensure a better outing for the team.

I was passionate about the match, not because I work in the Nigerian sports industry, but because it was watching a match between my country (Nigeria) and the country where my father lived for over two decades.

Between 1930 and 1940, my grandparents migrated to Ghana, they trekked from Oyan, my hometown in Osun State to Ghana. They spent three months on the road. Their journey took them past Yaoundé in Cameroon and they ended up in Twifo-Atti Morkwa, a district in Central Region, Ghana where they settled and lived for over 20 years.

My grandparents weren’t the only ones who migrated from their village, almost every family in the entire village had one or two family members who also took the trip. Till today, you still have instances where family meetings are held in Twi and the village junction is called Kwanta Ajabe (Nkwanta means junction in Twi).

My father, S.M.A. Adekanye, was born in Ghana, which was the place he called home until they all had to leave after Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia’s 1969 Aliens Compliance Order. For my father, a second-generation migrant, who had never been to Nigeria before the quit order, finding his way back to Nigeria and a hometown that was strange to him was challenging.

As a child, I remember my father recounting tales of Ghana at night, this was before we got a generator, so the entire family was always forced to sit at the balcony for fresh air before bed. He would talk about how my grandparents hawked shea butter, how he also hawked and his determination to get an education.

He applied to Mfantsipim School, an elite all-boys boarding secondary school established in 1876, but he couldn’t get in because for a school, which alumni list includes Kofi Annan, Busia, Kow Nkensen Arkaah, former Vice President of Ghana among others, a Yoruba boy whose father didn’t attend the school had no place in the school, so he ended up completing his secondary education at Nsawam Secondary School.

We heard tales of the football competition that made boys from my father’s village march to the commentary with a “hooge” sacrifice so they could defeat boys from the neighbouring village.

In my house, kenkey (also called donkunu) is a staple. Sunday mornings were always filled with the smell of shito and fresh tomatoes. We were no strangers to banku and waakye. My mum still prepares these Ghanaian delicacies.

The Yoruba started migrating to Ghana before 1920, there is historical evidence that Yoruba from Ogbomosho, Inisa and Oyan built strong communities in different parts of Ghana; from Kumasi to Tamale to Accra to Sekondi to Suhum to Koforidua to Tarkwa to Tema, Twifo-Atti Morkwa and other places, the Yoruba presence was felt.

Yoruba migrants were so powerful in these communities, that Kwame Nkrumah selected some of his close allies from the Yoruba community because of the economic power Yoruba wielded.

Markets and industries were overrun with Yoruba traders who further dominated after Ghana’s independence in 1957. As of 1960, Ghanaian population was 6.6 million and the Yoruba were approximately 3.5% of that population.

There was speculation that the Yorubas were clannish, and they didn’t trust or help Ghanaians, this was an unfair generalisation because someone like my great uncle had a fantastic relationship with the traditional rulers in the town where my grandparents lived. The relationship was so chummy that my great uncle even took him to our town in Oyan.

Ghanaians were intimidated by the fact that Nigerians who came to their country with little or nothing became wealthy, established churches, mosques, football clubs, businesses, married Ghanaian women, built houses in their communities.

The deportation of aliens, which initially started as a way of eliminating political rivals, was fully adopted in 1969 when as prime minister, Busia gave the order that aliens should leave, this came after months of mandating that all aliens carry their permit wherever they went in Ghana.

The Aliens Compliance Order promulgated on November 18, 1969 said, “The government has accordingly directed that all aliens in the first category, that is those without residence permits, should leave Ghana within fourteen days, that is not later than December 2, 1969.”

Young men like my father who had called Ghana home their entire lives had to find their way to Nigeria. My dad arrived at Oyan in the middle of the night, the village night guard asked him who his father and mother were and thankfully he knew to mention the name of his family compound. They woke my grandmother up to tell her son had arrived.

My grandfather stubbornly stayed back after his family had left and this attracted the wrath of the Ghanaian villagers who subjected him to several beatings. He died not long after he arrived in Nigeria.

The trip from Ghana to Nigeria wasn’t without peril, my father narrated how he slept at the harbour to get a chance to join a ship sailing to Ebute Metta in Lagos State and how he had to jump on the ship to avoid being left behind. That was how his lot was a bit better than those who had to withstand days on Nigeria bound lorries that cost 300% more than average.

When he got back to Oyan, a clime far different from Ghana, because he couldn’t properly integrate into the culture, he left for Kweme, a small village in Badagry West a few months later. This was where he met and married my mother, his wife of 45 years till the day he died in 2019.

Abode Busia is a familiar term because this was how those who returned from Ghana were often described in their hometowns. My father was proud of his Ghanaian and Oyan heritage, tales of Ghana were his favourite stories, and his English writing and speaking were impeccable, he taught the subject for almost five decades.

His name was stylised to reflect his Ghanaian roots, initialled as S.M.A Adekanye, his full name was Sunley Martinius Adebisi Adekanye; when he was younger, he called himself Rock Martinius, this was a far cry from Sunday his parents originally named him.

Ghanaian rock is my brother’s nickname for my father. “The Rock” is on his headstone because even after death, his Ghanaian roots still live with us.

Most people who were victims of the Alien Compliance Order vowed to never travel out of Nigeria again, I grew up with the same notion because there was always this foreboding that when you relocate to another country, another version of the Alien Compliance Order might happen so why not stay in your country.

In 1983, Nigerian President, Shehu Shagari, also gave an executive order that led to the deportation of over one million Ghanaian migrants, this event led to the popularisation of famous Ghana must go bags. We cannot call this a retaliation to the 1969 order but it happened not long after Ghanaians rushed to Nigeria because of the 1970s oil boom.

Due to intermarriage, I still have cousins who call Ghana home, some of them don’t even care about tracing their Nigerian roots anymore.

The burden of history is difficult to bear, there is the family history that spans two generations on one side and another that impacts the Nigerian national team and a historic loss that shattered our 2022 World Cup dreams.

We eagerly look forward to the next World Cup and hope we don’t face the Black Stars of Ghana during playoffs again.

N.B: Professor Rasheed Olaniyi’s The 1969 Ghana Exodus: Memory and Reminiscences of Yoruba Migrants helped put the events of the Alien Compliance Order in context.

  • Adekanye, the Brand & Communications Manager, Nilayo Sports Management Limited, writes from Lagos

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