Ghanaians and Nigerians all need to calm down

President Buhari of Nigeria with Ghana's Nana Akufo-Addo

This is a press statement from the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization on the recent tensions between some Ghanaians and Nigerians in Ghana.

We have observed with great concern the rising tensions between a few Ghanaians and Nigerians who are resident here over the past couple of days which culminated in a physical confrontation between some Ghanaian and Nigerian traders who operate from Suame magazine in Kumasi. We emphasize the term “a few” because the situation involves less than 0.01% of Ghanaians and less that 1% of the Nigerian population resident here.   Unfortunately however the entire issue, inclusive of the factors behind it, has been blown out of proportion by some media houses, who, in line with the customary, but unethical practice among many journalists, see the need to sensationalize the news – or at least their headlines – for commercial purposes.

The truth however is that while the unfortunate recent events are indeed newsworthy and the media is justified in covering them,  the overwhelming majority of people resident in Ghana from both countries are unconcerned about them and continue to treat each other with the total lack of negative preconceptions and prejudice as has underlined relations between citizens of both countries for most of their respective histories.

However, the international community is not equipped to gauge the sentiments of the general populace; it relies on news reports, and in this case they are being informed that this is a major issue between the two sovereign countries and their citizens, which is being expressed in the destruction of  foreign investments made in Ghana. This does no good for either Ghana’s reputation as a destination for foreign direct investment or for Nigeria’s image as a provider of such investment. Both countries are losing greatly and totally unnecessarily. Indeed, in the current era of economic regionalism, both countries are doing West Africa as a whole a great disservice.

But what is most unfortunate of all is the fact that the whole conflict is primarily the result of a couple of unmeasured public statements made by people on both sides whose utterances are regarded as news worthy because of their positions. In order not to worsen the situation we will not recount who did this and what was said, but suffice it to say that very highly placed people from both countries needlessly said tactless, undiplomatic things that only served to ignite the situation. It is most instructive that prior to those statements , the underlying accusations of Nigerians in general being criminals had been largely ignored by all concerned, and indeed could be said to be just another of those inevitable side effects of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

However we see reason to specify one such culprit – a Nigerian professor lecturing in a Ghanaian state-owned university – because his comments went beyond unenlightened personal opinions to outright untruths which indeed Ghanaians are justified in being offended by. On behalf of the government and people of Nigeria we publicly apologize for his ugly utterances.

Meanwhile we are appealing for calm and circumspection by all parties – the governments of both countries, civil society leaders and the media – and for firm and fair pro-active measures by the security agencies of both countries to ensure the safety of lives and property.

The latter is particularly important because even though ordinary citizens remain unmoved by these recent developments some vested interest groups are taking advantage to pursue their own selfish interests. Indeed, the fracas at Suame magazine was simply an effort by Ghanaian traders there to decimate the competition being provided by their Nigerian counterparts and had absolutely nothing to do with the issue of criminalization of Nigerians. There is the distinct possibility that other interest groups, possibly in both countries would seek to take similar advantage for their own narrow gain.

We are happy to note that despite the ill-advised public utterances to the contrary being made by a few Nigerians, there has been no concerted, co-ordinated effort to target Nigerians in Ghana of any sort, outside of the incident at Suame, and we wish to publicly state our appreciation to the people of Ghana for this. We call on Nigerians back home to reciprocate this stance.

There is simply too much at stake for both countries and their respective citizens, for this situation to escalate any further. Whether we like it or not the economies of both countries are too integrated and consequently, the fortunes of their peoples too intertwined for this storm in a tea cup to spill over the rim.

Finally, we wish to reiterate our oft repeated assertion that the vast majority of Nigerians living in Ghana are law abiding, even as we recognize that, just as with the citizens of every country without exception around the world, there are a small minority who are indeed criminals. Unfortunately, as with every country world-wide, the conduct of the law abiding majority does not make the news because this is what is expected of them; it is the activity of that small criminal minority that makes the headlines and resultantly creates the misconceptions.

We call on the relevant institutions of state in Ghana to deal with the Nigerian criminal elements in exactly the same way as they do criminal Ghanaians – by applying the full force of the law. In this regard, NIDO has formally offered its full co-operation and assistance to the Ghana Police Service in identifying and apprehending Nigerians in Ghana who are breaking any laws. Unfortunately, several months after offering our services, the GPS has not responded.

However we hope that we can be allowed to play a significant role in this regard, towards ensuring that the peaceful, mutually beneficial special relationship between the two countries continues, and indeed is strengthened further, going forward.

Long Live Ghana; Long live Nigeria.