In 1969, the then ruling Progress Party under the leadership of the late Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, initiated a policy that was not only grossly evil but also patently immoral.
That infamous policy, dubiously labelled the Aliens Compliance Order, saw thousands of so called foreign born residents of Ghana abruptly uprooted from their homes and forced to return to their countries of origin. Nigerians borne the brunt of that hideous law, and they never forgave Ghanaians for the humiliation and loss of lives and properties.
I am old enough to remember my Nigerian friends in Yendi and their families sadly and dejectedly packing their belongings and leaving a town they had called home for decades. It was heart-wrenching to watch.
Their presence in Yendi and by extension in Ghana for that matter, was beneficial for a variety of reasons. Known for their business acumen, the Nigerians imported much of what Ghanaians needed; soap, sugar, flour, bicycles, motor cycles and other essential commodities. The Ghanaian economy at that time was vibrant. We were all one happy bunch.
Then out of the blue, Dr. Busia and a misguided parliament promulgated a law that continues to haunt Ghana to this day. The reason Busia advanced for his poorly timed, legally dubious and vastly inadequate Aliens Compliance Order, was ostensibly to give Ghanaians a crack, a chance at controlling the economy by taking over from the expelled Nigerians.
But in retrospect, it was a misguided law. Our economy collapsed soon after the Nigerians left and it has never really recovered.
There is a saying that we study history so we don’t commit the same mistakes our predecessors made. Well, this maxim, this well-meaning concept is lost on some people in our country.
I am referring, of course, to the Suame Magazine traders who last week singlehandedly decided to take the law into their hands by desperately seeking to restrict foreign traders, Nigerians for most part, from selling their goods directly to Ghanaians.
Their action spoke volumes of the danger lurking in the dark for foreign traders. They wanted to run the foreign traders out of Suame Magazine, and ultimately Ghana.
Afraid for their lives, the foreign spare parts traders, according to reports, sought refuge in the Suame Police station. It took the intervention of authorities, particularly DCOP Kwesi Mensah Doku, to cool down tempers.
In short, these Suame Magazine traders want to marginalize their foreign partners all in a bid to satisfy their own whims and designs and to protect their territory.
There might an inclination among Ghanaians out of solidarity to support the Suame Magazine traders, but it is dangerous to allow this kind of behavior to persist. For one thing, the behavior of the Suame Magazine traders could easily have led to xenophobic attacks and violence, and for another, there could have been reprisals and counterattacks of equal proportions in neighboring countries on Ghanaians.
Given the anger and hysteria that have taken hold of the Suame Magazine traders, it is imperative that the government takes a long hard look at the laws that regulate foreign traders. It will be wise and prudent to revise section 27 of the Ghana Investment Promotion Center Act which bans foreigners from engaging in trade reserved for local retailers.
And, lest we forget, ECOWAS guarantees the free movement of people within the West African region. If we want to be treated with decency and respect by our neighbors, we should begin by obeying ECOWAS regulations which means respecting the rights of our foreign brothers and sisters to live and work in our country without hindrance. Is that too much to ask for?