The 1969 Ghana Exodus: Memory and Reminiscences of Yoruba Migrants
Using the 1969 Ghana deportation of illegal aliens as a case study, this working paper explains how xenophobia became one dominant aspect of protonationalism repelling aliens in the process of nation-building and the rapidly changing social-economic contexts. The paper further examines the trauma of deportation experienced by Yoruba migrants, some of who were jailed; molested and robbed of life investments. Those who could not re-integrate into their hometowns made return migration to Ghana and onward migration to a third destination in major cities of West Africa to sustain their livelihood and entrepreneurship. Deportation of Yoruba from Ghana occurred at the height of the Nigerian civil war (1967-70) and political turbulence in other West African countries, which further raises questions about citizenship, power relations and state stability in the postcolony. This working paper illuminates the multiple challenges of deportation including reintegration process, access to resources, standard of living, children’s education, coping with family separation and stereotypes. In approaching this research, my sources include alternative archives, in-depth oral interviews, life and family histories with different generations of Yoruba returnees and deportees from Ghana who were selected randomly. I interviewed early migrants to Ghana whose career began in the 1920s until deportation in 1969. This category witnessed the accomplished and unfulfilling dimensions of a diasporan experience. The second category were the younger generation who were either born or brought up in Ghana before the Alien Quit Order. The data collected were analysed through political economy approach to explain the changing power relations, migration patterns and emerging inequalities in the postcolony.