Ghana Month: The Ugly Story Behind The Famous ‘Ghana Must Go’ Bag (+Video)

We all must have heard of the ‘Ghana Must Go Bag’ but the question that one would ask is how did this come into being. Below is an intriguing story.

In 1958, Nigeria struck oil as a young, soon-to-be-liberated country with a population of 100-million. First Shell, then Mobil and Agip set up shop in the country to drill oil commercially.

The oil money was steady and hopes were high that Nigeria could prosper, despite the brutal military regimes that marred that period. In the 1970s the economy exploded when oil prices soared worldwide. The golden decade had arrived and the country became Africa’s wealthiest, securing its title: Giant of Africa. By 1974, Nigeria’s oil wells were spitting out some 2.3-million barrels a day.

The standard of living improved. There was an influx of people from the farms into the cities; when they travelled, robust iron boxes were generally preferred over cheap plastic sacks. The influx came not just from within Nigeria, but from across the region.

While Nigeria was booming, its closest English-speaking neighbour, Ghana, was going through quite the opposite. A deadly mix of famine and insurgency was precipitated by a crash in the price of cocoa (Ghana was the world’s largest cocoa producer in the 1960s) and the 1966 coup, which ousted independence leader Kwame Nkrumah. At the time, the country’s population hovered around the seven-million mark, but several million people decided to journey east and try their fortunes in prosperous Nigeria.

Recruiters from Nigeria came to Ghana looking for people who would like to teach or take up casual jobs — the jobs Nigerians themselves were unwilling to do.

And then came the oil crash. Global oil prices started to dip in 1982, when large consumer markets such as the United States and Canada slipped into recession and demand was low. By 1983, the price of a barrel had fallen to $29, down from $37 in 1980. At around the same time, the US began producing its own oil, further cutting demand and causing excess supply. Nigeria, its economy almost exclusively reliant on oil, was hard hit. By 1982, 90% of the country’s foreign reserves had been wiped out, according to the Washington Post.

Food prices skyrocketed and salaries became erratic. Adjei, who had taken up a job as a public teacher in Kishi, western Nigeria, felt the pinch: state governments could only pay salaries after two months. Poor policy decisions at the highest level of government only made things worse. Ghana’s nightmare was being replayed in Nigeria.

As it began to feel the crunch, Nigeria started to turn inwards. By 1982, politicians started to use words like “aliens” in their manifestos in preparation for the 1983 general elections. They blamed African migrants, especially Ghanaians, for the failing economy. Ghanaians had taken all the jobs and brought crime to Nigeria and, if elected, they would chase them out, they promised.

It didn’t take long for this animosity to spill over into relations between Nigerians and Ghanaians. Rumours spread that the government had ordered locals to beat up any illegal Ghanaian still in the country by the January 31 deadline.

There came the ultimate saviour of Ghanaians, the plastic Checked bags. Those plastic checked bags were everywhere and Ghanaians became the biggest buyers of it which caused it to be named ‘Ghana Must Go’

Source: Shola Lawal

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