The sacking of a Nigerian academic by a Ghanaian university over a viral video in which he appeared to talk ill of his adopted country has revived tensions between the two countries over deportations.
Austin Nwagbara, a Professor of English Language was sacked by the University of Education Winneba, UEW, on June 19, 2019 over the trending video which Accra deemed provocative and a threat to peace.
Prof Nwagbara is a lecturer at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in Nigeria and was on a sabbatical at the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Education in Winnba since October 2018.
He now says the video was manipulated by a xenophobic Ghanaian journalist and wants his job back.
“I had a very traumatic 10 days in Ghana; I was living alone in Ghana. Only a few Nigerians had the courage to come to me because it was going to be very bad for them to associate with me; their safety was at stake,” Prof. Nwagbara told the chairman of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri –Erewa in Abuja on July 18, 2019.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said Africans should promote unity in the continent decrying the expulsion of Nigerians from Ghana.
“Between January and June about 509 Nigerians have been deported from Ghana compared to 527 Nigerians over the corresponding period in 2018,” she said.
She called for dialogue and accountability in dealing with criminal cases without assigning blame to all Nigerian expatriates or appearing to discriminate against non-Ghanaians.
“All the deportees could not have been criminals. We have taken this up with the Ghanaian authorities and received cooperation from them.We will demand decent treatment of our brothers and sisters wherever they are,’’ Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said.
Termination posted online
Prof. Nwagbara asked for his job back terming the dismissal as unfair because he was a visiting lecturer and not a member of staff.
“There was the media doing massive coverage of the video without the media asking me my side of the story. It was tense with police and intelligence agencies coming to the university several times until the Nigerian High Commissioner stepped into the matter,” he said.
Accompanied by the envoy, he was interrogated by the police for six hours.
With the landlord also concerned of his safety, his sacking was announced as he headed to face a panel that had been constituted on the matter.
He questioned the composition of the panel and the swiftness with which it acted on a disciplinary case that would ordinarily takes two months.
The university disowned him, saying it was no longer responsible for his presence in Ghana.
His termination letter was posted online in two versions, one signed by the university registrar and another unsigned, despite the university having his contacts including e-mail.
The video was captured at an open air gathering of 30 Nigerians in Winneba, a central region next Accra, where they were discussing the deportation of Nigerians in Kasuwa. Five other professionals on Sabbatical attended and the High Commissioner was also expected.
When he contracted computer experts from the University of Lagos to track the clip, it was found to have been posted by a Ghanaian journalist who he said was known for consistently airing xenophobic messages.
He did not name him.
West Africa neighbours Nigeria and Ghana share intense rivalries in matters ranging from sport to economy and culture.
“The video was actually supposed to show a meeting with people making contributions but instead the video was doctored and stitched,” Prof. Nwagbara said.