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Nigerian traders: Turning the other cheek for Ghana |

Yemi Osinbajo is worried about the plight of Nigerian traders in Ghana. Nigeria’s vice president expressed his frustration last week over the recalcitrant posture of the government of Ghana despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s moves to persuade his counterpart in Ghana to open the shops of Nigerian traders.

Osinbajo’s frustration is understandable. The government of Ghana is acting a script couched in “diplomatese”, the language of global diplomacy. The standard rule in diplomacy is tit-for-tat. If Ghana levies Nigerian traders in its domain, Ghanaians in Nigeria should equally be levied. Nigeria holds a contrary view.

Two months ago the U.S. government expelled four Chinese diplomats on allegation of spying. China responded by expelling four U.S diplomats on similar allegations. That is the rule.

The government of Ghana knows pretty well that Nigeria is not capable of diplomatic tit-for-tat. They are not worried about what the men in Abuja are capable of doing because they are capable of doing nothing.

Everywhere in the world governments engage even friends in tit-for-tat diplomacy when relations go awry. Nigeria has never practiced tit-for-tat diplomacy and cannot master the art. At the heat of the crisis with Ghana over the plight of Nigerian traders, Nigeria reportedly recalled its high commissioner to Accra in apparent protest. The Ghanaians snubbed Nigeria and retained their diplomat in Abuja. No one ordered them to recall their representative.

In the last six months, Ghana has sufficiently humiliated Nigeria to provoke a break in ties, but the rulers of Nigeria have the patience of the Biblical Job. They will never lose their cool. The patience is not borne out of large-heartedness. It borders on ineptitude and inability to protect Nigerians.

Some months ago a distraught Ghanaian land grabber hired thugs and demolished a building under construction in the Nigerian High Commission in Accra. The thuggery was supervised by armed Ghanaian policemen.

Nigeria complained about the thuggery. The government of Ghana grudgingly offered to reconstruct the demolished building. The matter died.

The peril of Nigerian traders in Ghana dates back to 2007 when Ghana apparently moved to protect Ghanaian traders against the keen contest in their land by the more resourceful Nigerian traders.

Ghana enacting a law that makes it mandatory for “foreign traders” to pay a levy of $1 million before they could open their shops. Nigerian traders were the actual target of the law.

The levy imposed by Ghana on Nigerian traders is N470 million in Nigeria today. It is enough to build and stock a supermarket on three plots of land.

Nigeria had generally been taciturn about the matter. Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign minister was particularly placid. Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives went out of his way to visit Ghana and mediate in the dispute to the excitement of Nigerian traders who expected their host to sheath the sword and open their shops. Ghana snubbed Gbajabiamila.

That apparently is Osinbajo’s worry. Last week, the vice president sounded like someone wringing his palms in utter helplessness. He is powerless because Nigerian rulers have no lever for tit-for-tat diplomacy.

Ghana is a highly organized country. It has accurate record of aliens residing in its domain. The government of Ghana knows pretty well where Nigerian traders are.

Conversely, Nigeria does not even have data on its own citizens. After 40 years of toiling with national identity card project, only 42 million of the 206 million Nigerians are registered.

About 90 per cent of the Ghanaians in Nigeria are illegal immigrants. Government knows next-to-nothing about their whereabouts. They have blended so well into the system that only their strange Twi-accented English marks them out as aliens.

That partially explains why government cannot do to Ghanaians in Nigeria what their government has done to Nigerian traders in Ghana.

Ghanaians are skilled builders. They have taken a huge junk of Nigeria’s construction industry. Nigerians give them contracts to construct high rise buildings because they are meticulous and honest. They have taken a good chunk of the business from Nigerians who quietly walk away without grudging the foreign intruders.

The federal government is aware of the exploits of Ghanaians in Nigeria but cannot move against them in retaliation for the persecution of Nigerian traders, because it is not its tradition to protect its compatriots.

Ghana has sufficiently humiliated Nigeria to draw flaks from the federal government but nothing has happened because the rulers of Nigeria are programmed to turn the other cheek when struck mercilessly by an aggressor.

Nigerians in South Africa have suffered more torments than their counterparts in Ghana because lazy black South African youths see them as the cause of their poverty. They kill Nigerians, loot and razed down their shops with taciturn response from Nigerian government.

Unlike Ghana, South Africa has billions of dollars in investment in Nigeria. Yet Nigerian rulers cannot revenge the persecution of Nigerians in South Africa. Ghana has learnt a lot from what South Africa has done to Nigerians with impunity. The rulers of Ghana believe that the lives and property of Nigerians are of very little value to the rulers of Nigeria. They have concluded that no one in Aso Rock would exact vengeance for the persecution of Nigerian traders.

Ironically that is how the world views Nigeria. Some months ago, Chinese police herded Nigerians out of their legal residences on claims of spreading a global pandemic that originated from China.

When the Nigerians protested, their foreign minister rose to a spirited defence of the Chinese tormentors. Nigeria did practically nothing to protect its compatriots.

Nigerians are defenceless everywhere in the world and the whole world knows it. The government of Ghana is leveraging on that unwritten rule in its persecution of Nigerian traders. Ghana knows that Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the only government official known for defying Nigeria’s vintage turn-the-other-cheek diplomacy, has no ministerial powers. She cannot summon the ambassador of a country killing or persecuting Nigerians. That is the logic behind the ruthlessness of the men in Accra.

The government of Ghana is very sensitive to the plight of its citizens in diaspora. Nigeria can only effect a change in the persecution of Nigerian traders by transferring the aggression to Ghanaians in Nigeria. When they cry out to their government, it would respond and ease the merciless grip on Nigerian traders.   

———- Forwarded message ———
From: chambers Gabriel <[email protected]>
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 2020, 11:19
Subject: Back Page Tues 22
To: [email protected] <[email protected]>, Ikenna Okonkwo <[email protected]>, Ahmid Lawal <[email protected]>

Nigerian traders: Turning the other cheek for GhanaBy Jerry UwahYemi Osinbajo is worried about the plight of Nigerian traders in Ghana. Nigeria’s vice president expressed his frustration last week over the recalcitrant posture of the government of Ghana despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s moves to persuade his counterpart in Ghana to open the shops of Nigerian traders.

Osinbajo’s frustration is understandable. The government of Ghana is acting a script couched in “diplomatese”, the language of global diplomacy. The standard rule in diplomacy is tit-for-tat. If Ghana levies Nigerian traders in its domain, Ghanaians in Nigeria should equally be levied. Nigeria holds a contrary view.

Two months ago the U.S. government expelled four Chinese diplomats on allegation of spying. China responded by expelling four U.S diplomats on similar allegations. That is the rule.

The government of Ghana knows pretty well that Nigeria is not capable of diplomatic tit-for-tat. They are not worried about what the men in Abuja are capable of doing because they are capable of doing nothing.

Everywhere in the world governments engage even friends in tit-for-tat diplomacy when relations go awry. Nigeria has never practiced tit-for-tat diplomacy and cannot master the art. At the heat of the crisis with Ghana over the plight of Nigerian traders, Nigeria reportedly recalled its high commissioner to Accra in apparent protest. The Ghanaians snubbed Nigeria and retained their diplomat in Abuja. No one ordered them to recall their representative.

In the last six months, Ghana has sufficiently humiliated Nigeria to provoke a break in ties, but the rulers of Nigeria have the patience of the Biblical Job. They will never lose their cool. The patience is not borne out of large-heartedness. It borders on ineptitude and inability to protect Nigerians.

Some months ago a distraught Ghanaian land grabber hired thugs and demolished a building under construction in the Nigerian High Commission in Accra. The thuggery was supervised by armed Ghanaian policemen.

Nigeria complained about the thuggery. The government of Ghana grudgingly offered to reconstruct the demolished building. The matter died.

The peril of Nigerian traders in Ghana dates back to 2007 when Ghana apparently moved to protect Ghanaian traders against the keen contest in their land by the more resourceful Nigerian traders.

Ghana enacting a law that makes it mandatory for “foreign traders” to pay a levy of $1 million before they could open their shops. Nigerian traders were the actual target of the law.

The levy imposed by Ghana on Nigerian traders is N470 million in Nigeria today. It is enough to build and stock a supermarket on three plots of land.

Nigeria had generally been taciturn about the matter. Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign minister was particularly placid. Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives went out of his way to visit Ghana and mediate in the dispute to the excitement of Nigerian traders who expected their host to sheath the sword and open their shops. Ghana snubbed Gbajabiamila.

That apparently is Osinbajo’s worry. Last week, the vice president sounded like someone wringing his palms in utter helplessness. He is powerless because Nigerian rulers have no lever for tit-for-tat diplomacy.

Ghana is a highly organized country. It has accurate record of aliens residing in its domain. The government of Ghana knows pretty well where Nigerian traders are.

Conversely, Nigeria does not even have data on its own citizens. After 40 years of toiling with national identity card project, only 42 million of the 206 million Nigerians are registered.

About 90 per cent of the Ghanaians in Nigeria are illegal immigrants. Government knows next-to-nothing about their whereabouts. They have blended so well into the system that only their strange Twi-accented English marks them out as aliens.

That partially explains why government cannot do to Ghanaians in Nigeria what their government has done to Nigerian traders in Ghana.

Ghanaians are skilled builders. They have taken a huge junk of Nigeria’s construction industry. Nigerians give them contracts to construct high rise buildings because they are meticulous and honest. They have taken a good chunk of the business from Nigerians who quietly walk away without grudging the foreign intruders.

The federal government is aware of the exploits of Ghanaians in Nigeria but cannot move against them in retaliation for the persecution of Nigerian traders, because it is not its tradition to protect its compatriots.

Ghana has sufficiently humiliated Nigeria to draw flaks from the federal government but nothing has happened because the rulers of Nigeria are programmed to turn the other cheek when struck mercilessly by an aggressor.

Nigerians in South Africa have suffered more torments than their counterparts in Ghana because lazy black South African youths see them as the cause of their poverty. They kill Nigerians, loot and razed down their shops with taciturn response from Nigerian government.

Unlike Ghana, South Africa has billions of dollars in investment in Nigeria. Yet Nigerian rulers cannot revenge the persecution of Nigerians in South Africa. Ghana has learnt a lot from what South Africa has done to Nigerians with impunity. The rulers of Ghana believe that the lives and property of Nigerians are of very little value to the rulers of Nigeria. They have concluded that no one in Aso Rock would exact vengeance for the persecution of Nigerian traders.

Ironically that is how the world views Nigeria. Some months ago, Chinese police herded Nigerians out of their legal residences on claims of spreading a global pandemic that originated from China.

When the Nigerians protested, their foreign minister rose to a spirited defence of the Chinese tormentors. Nigeria did practically nothing to protect its compatriots.

Nigerians are defenceless everywhere in the world and the whole world knows it. The government of Ghana is leveraging on that unwritten rule in its persecution of Nigerian traders. Ghana knows that Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the only government official known for defying Nigeria’s vintage turn-the-other-cheek diplomacy, has no ministerial powers. She cannot summon the ambassador of a country killing or persecuting Nigerians. That is the logic behind the ruthlessness of the men in Accra.

The government of Ghana is very sensitive to the plight of its citizens in diaspora. Nigeria can only effect a change in the persecution of Nigerian traders by transferring the aggression to Ghanaians in Nigeria. When they cry out to their government, it would respond and ease the merciless grip on Nigerian traders.   

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