A Ghanaian man, Phillip Boateng, has narrated how he almost lost his life after the death of Nigerian politician, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly known as MKO Abiola, in Lagos State.
Abiola, the adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, died on July 7, 1998.
Recounting his experience, Boateng said he moved to live with his father in Alagbado, Lagos, Nigeria at the age of 22 but lost his bakery to the incident which facilitated his return home.
Having spent 12 years in Nigeria, Philip was optimistic about making a living with his father’s bakery but lost it to the terrifying event that occurred during the reign of Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos State.
Boateng recalled taking his bread to Agege market in Lagos to sell but on his way, he came across some men who accosted him, demanding to know if he belonged to the Hausa tribe, the ethnic nationality blamed for Abiola’s incarceration and death.
Philip noted that he was saved by two elderly men who questioned him about his whereabouts and realising he was a Ghanaian, rescued him from the hands of the boys who were about to kill him.
He vowed never to return to Nigeria because, according to him, he suffered so much in Nigeria.
Boateng, however, noted that he had some worthy experiences in Nigeria that make him have some soft spot for Nigerians who showed him love while he was in the country.
He said, “My name is Philip Boateng, I am from the eastern part of Ghana. In 1992, my father was in Nigeria. He was the one that came to take me to Nigeria. My father was a baker at Alagbado so he took me there to learn how to bake so I started baking bread in 1992.
“I remember in 1998 when Abiola died, I took my bread to a market called Ojota. Meanwhile, the Yoruba people claimed Hausa people killed Abiola. As at that time, Hausas were being killed in Lagos. On my way home, at Agege, the Yorubas attacked me and asked about my identity.
“They asked me if I was a Hausa person, I said no, I’m a Ghanaian, they said ‘no way’ so they started beating me, they nearly killed me but I saw two old men who were like 65-year-olds, by the road. They called me and asked me where I was coming from. I said I was going to Ojota to sell bread. They asked me if I was aware that Abiola died and that they were killing people. They asked why I didn’t stay back where I was.
“They asked if I’m a Ghanaian, I said yes. They asked me if I’m Ashanti Kotoko, I said yes, I am. So, they pleaded with those boys to leave me due to the marks on my face. My facial marks saved me (touching a spot on his face). Some women along the road begged the boys to leave me alone, that the marks on my face showed I’m Ghanaian so I was left alone. That was my worst experience in Nigeria, I was almost killed when Abiola died in 1998.
“The old men stopped a soldier who was driving a private car, and explained everything to him, that I was almost killed. They begged the soldier to take me in his car and drop me at my junction and the soldier agreed and took me there. That was how I got home.”
When asked what he’d have done differently If he had a chance to go back to Nigeria, Boateng said: “To be frank, I don’t want to go to Nigeria again because I suffered so much; the bread business, there was a time the Lagos State governor, called Tinubu or what scattered Ghanaians’ businesses in Nigeria, because of that, I don’t want to go back to Nigeria. I suffered.
“I used to bake with many bags of flour and I had many customers at that time and at that time, I had my wife with me. That time, when I baked bread, my wife would count it for my customers. Some drive to come and get bread to take to the market. I used to make money that time because people used to come and buy like 20, 30 to 50 loaves of bread while some bought as many as 300 loaves of bread. Sometimes I baked 15 to 20 bags of flour at my bakery daily. At that time, I enjoyed my bakery a lot.
“Tinubu, Lagos state governor made my bakery collapse in Lagos because, it got to a time that customers would take bread to the market, and some young men would accost them and seize all the bread my customers took to the market. Because of that, I was not making profit again. That was why my bakery collapsed and I returned to Ghana.
“When my father said he was taking me to Nigeria, I was not afraid because my father was there and I ought not to be afraid because I was travelling with my father. At that time, I was young, so as long as my father was with me, there’s no need to fear. When I got there, so many things were not easy. There’s fire in Nigeria, I saw the difference between Nigeria and my country, Ghana.
”I was 22 years old when my father took me to Nigeria, I had many friends that time, I had Yoruba and Igbo friends because of the work I was doing at the bakery. I got married in Nigeria, had two kids, I came back to Ghana with them so they are with me here now.
“My favourite Nigerian dish is Amala with Okro soup, I know how to prepare it. My wife learnt it so she taught me.
“I understand the Yoruba language a little (speaks in Yoruba). My wife is half Igbo, half Ghanaian. Her father is Igbo and her mother is Ghanaian.
“There’s no place as sweet as home. No matter what, there’s peace in Ghana more than in Nigeria; even Nigerians do attest to this.
“Since I came back to Ghana, even though I’m engaging in small businesses, I have peace. There is nothing that can change my mind to go back to Nigeria, Ghana is okay for me, this is my country, my family is here.
“Due to the fact that my business collapsed in Nigeria, I don’t want to remember that incident again so I won’t go back there.
“Regardless, I love all Nigerians. When I was there, they took care of me, I thank Nigerians.”