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The Nigeria1983 “Ghana Must Go” Revolution

Ghana Must Go

Ghana Must Go”, was a popular name given to the migration of illegal Migrants (mostly Ghanaians) from Nigeria following a Presidential executive order by Shehu Shagari administration

In 1983, the President of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari issued an executive order mandating immigrants without proper immigration documents to leave the country or they would be arrested according to the law.

Alleged remote cause to the saga

It was alleged that the revolution started has a revenge to the Nigeria-Ghana relationship back in 1969 when the Ghanaian government effected the Alien’s Compliance Order. Nigerians and other African immigrants were banished on the claim that the economy of Ghana was in depression.

There are various version to what led to the Ghana must Saga

Ghana Must Go

The first Version

Nigeria and Ghana were good allies and have been maintaining their friendship before independence till now. But this friendship was threatened in the 1980s during the regime of the Ghanaian Head of State, Flight Lieutenant Jerry J. Rawlings and the Nigerian President, Alhaji Sheu Shagari.

Both African leaders were not in good terms and this was because President Shagari was a good friend of Ghana former president, Hilla Limann, who Rawlings overthrew his government. This deteriorated the Ghana-Nigeria relationship

In 1982, Rawlings raised an alarm that Shagari wanted to help Limann overthrow his government, and in response, Nigeria stopped the shipping of crude oil on a loan deal to Ghana. As this beef continued between the government, so did it between the citizens.

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The aliens in Nigeria were seriously threatening the peace of the country and Nigerians were not ready to take that. The situation began getting heated in 1980 when a Cameroonian expatriate named Muhammed Marwa alias Maitastine spearheaded a religious uprising (Maitastine Uprising of 1980) that led to the death of scores.

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Maitastine was an illegal immigrant like many of his followers who were from Burkina Faso, Niger, and Cameroon. This uprising is considered the second most tragic event in Nigeria after the Biafran war.

The situation escalate after the robbery at Ekwueme’s house. Alexander Ekwueme, the then Nigerian Vice President was robbed by a group of armed robbers which consisted mainly of expatriates. When the robbers were caught by the police, it was discovered that two of them were Ghanaian. This sent the whole of Nigeria crazy. Instant action was taken by the Nigerian government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On the 17th of January, 1983, the Nigerian Minister of Internal Affairs, Alhaji Alli Baba, announced the immediate expulsion of all illegal immigrants in Nigeria within two weeks.

President Sheu Shagari also added in a statement, “If they don’t leave, they should be arrested and tried, and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it.”

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Panic gripped all aliens without papers in Nigeria for it was the least expected action of the Nigerian government. Over 1 million Ghanaians were thrown into confusion and indecision. It was rumored that the Federal government gave power to Nigerians to attack any foreigner after the ultimatum given to leave.

This scared the foreigner and sent them fleeing with and without their luggage. Those who could pack their belongings used the biggest of bags available which happened to be the big bag which is now referred to today as Ghana must go.

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Wikipedia version

This version of the story claim that the order was in alleged response to the religious disturbances that had engulfed parts of the country in 1980 (Kano 1980 Riots ) and 1981. Most of the immigrants were West Africans and mainly Ghanaians.

These Migrants were mostly attracted to Nigeria because of the oil market of the 70’s, but in 1983 when the “Ghana Must Go” revolution started, the economy had weakened and was fast falling apart. It was also the election year.

The Migration

Over 1 Million Ghanaians and other west Africans were affected by the order. The major route to Ghana was through the West passing through Benin and Togo. Once the migrants got to Benin, the way out was restricted.

Those who had already made it to Benin were stuck in the port of Cotonou, the capital city of Benin, with hopes of getting a boat to Ghana.

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The problems they experienced didn’t end there, because due to an attempted coup the previous year, Ghana’s president Jerry Rawlings had closed the main land crossing with Togo to avoid the sudden arrival of over 1 Million people. Togo then also shut its borders with Benin.

The Ghanaian immigrants were stranded for weeks, thereafter the Ghanaian authority opened their borders causing Togo to also open theirs, for the Ghanaian refugees to have access back home.

However, it should be Noted that the relationship between Nigeria and Ghana has since been strengthened and the two country remain best of friend.

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ong>Ghana Must Go Bag

This is a type of cheap matted woven nylon zipped tote bags, used by the migrants to move their belongings got the moniker “Ghana must go” during the migration. As of 2019, the bag is still commonly referred to with this name in most parts of Nigeria, Ghana, and certain parts of West Africa

The bag has a variety of name worldwide in Germany it is called “Tuekenkoffer” (Turkish suitcase), in the USA , it is called the “Chinatown tote”, in Guyana it is called the “Guyanese Samsonite” and the “Refugee Bag” in various places around the world.


  • Ghana Must Go

  • Ghana Must Go

  • Ghana Must Go
  • Ghana Must Go
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