It’s the ultimate West African grudge match! Yes Ghana v Nigeria is almost upon us and although this time it is a ‘friendly’ match the anticipation is as always high when these two vibrant nations meet. Bragging rights between two passionate sets of fans are up for grabs on Tuesday 11th October 2011 at Watford FC and nobody will want to lose even if it is a ‘friendly’.
As pointed out by Audrey Indome in her blog article (Ghana v Nigeria what’s the beef stew! 27/06/2011). Nigeria and Ghana have a playful yet fierce rivalry and no more is this more prevalent when the Black Stars and Super Eagles meet on the pitch.
However the Ghanaian – Nigerian rivalry is bigger than football. Yes indeed just like most international rivalries these two countries have a political history which brings added spice to the rivalry.
For those who don’t know, many Nigerians began moving to Ghana when we became the first independent country in the region in 1957. The relationship became sour when the flow began to shift the demographics of the country and the people became unhappy. Thus, under former Ghanaian president Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Aliens Compliance Order of 1969 Nigerians and other immigrants were forced to leave Ghana as they made up 20 percent of Ghana’s population at the time. In 1983, Nigeria deported up to 1 million Ghanaian and other African immigrants when Ghana was facing severe drought and economic problems, and another 300,000 in early 1985 on short notice. This further strained relations between the two countries. In April 1988, a joint commission for cooperation was established between Ghana and Nigeria.
A bloodless coup in August 1985 had brought Major General Ibrahim Babangida to power in Nigeria, and Rawlings took advantage of the change of administration to pay an official visit. The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues focusing on peace and prosperity within West Africa, bilateral trade, and the transition to democracy in both countries. In early January 1989, Babangida reciprocated with an official visit to Ghana, which the Provisional National Defence Council (Ghanaian government at the time) hailed as a watershed in Ghana–Nigeria relations.
Today Ghana-Nigeria political relations are quite good compared to those of the late 80’s and they are very close trade partners. However plenty of emotion is still evoked when the nations face each other in any type of competitive sport. The fact that Ghanaians and Nigerians are two biggest sets of African ethnic groups in the UK (and mainly concentrated in London) indicates that there will be brilliant atmosphere in Watford come 11h October 2011.
Rivalries are good and can be healthy as long as the energy is channelled in the correct way. Thus this rivalry just serves as a reminder as to how passionate both Ghanaian and Nigerians are about their respective nations.
And may the best team win!.
Ben JK Anim-Antwi1