As I wrote this piece, my mind was troubled by what Nigerians must be facing in the hands of native South Africans who are not happy about the success and expansion of Nigerians in their country. The natives have been attacking Nigerians incessantly and indeed murdering some in the process. Such attacks have been described as xenophobic attacks. The ongoing experience is only but one in a regular hate attacks on the very hardworking Nigerians who soon after arriving any of the cities, towns and villages of the country begin to post evidence of positive achievement. It is this meteoric success in work and business that irks native South Africans who resort to throwing infantile tantrums that are taken rather too far to destruction of life and property of Nigerians. Both the governments of South Africa and Nigeria must wake up and do something concrete to resolve the misunderstandings between Nigerian citizens in South Africa and their hosts.
I am aware that Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Special Assistant on Diaspora affairs to President Muhammadu Buhari has been saying things to dissuade the continuation of the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa and elsewhere in diaspora. But I don’t know of anything the Federal Government of Nigeria is doing reactively and proactively to ensure xenophobic attacks on Nigerians anywhere become a thing of the past. Talking, which is the main identity of Abuja on this kind of issues, is never going to be enough. There must be practical action. During the last major xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa about two years ago, President Zuma of South Africa came out to boldly and openly challenge the Nigerian government to fix Nigeria politically, socially and economically to discourage the influx of Nigerians into South Africa. This sincere charge was most ebulliently made by President Zuma. But instead of abiding by the good brotherly and neighbourly advice by the president, what Abuja and Abike Dabiri-Erewa keep saying is that Nigeria is not antagonistic to South Africans in Nigeria. That is the word standing in place of action that I referred to above.
I remember the incident of “Ghana Must Go”. During that sad Nigerian inhumanity to Ghanaians in those late 1980s and early 1990s, Nigerians noted that the Ghanaians were taking over nearly all businesses and jobs, including such menial jobs as cobblers, tailors, taxi cab drivers, bus conductors, laundry workers, load carriers, bakers, and hawkers of all sorts of wares. And to check against the ant-like spread of Ghanaians in Nigeria, especially in the mega commercial city of Lagos, the aggrieved Nigerians began wide protests founded on the theme, “Ghana Must Go”. And lo and behold, one beautiful day, the Ghanaians left Nigeria in ship loads never to come back. Soon after their massive exodus, Ghanaians seen in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria could be counted on the fingers and toes of a person! Ironically, I hear that Ghana is preparing their own version of “Nigeria Must Go”. This is following the unprecedented increase in the number of Nigerians in Ghana who are almost taking over Ghana from the native Ghanaians. That is a terrible twist of fortune! Yet, the Federal Government of Nigeria is only talking and doing nothing to receive Nigerians that may at any time be repatriated from the numerous foreign countries where unfavourable political, social and economic systems and policies in Nigeria have driven them.
Many Nigerian youths die on daily basis in the Sahara desert in their bid to escape by land, the harsh situations in Nigeria. Many others drown as they make to cross the dangerous rivers and seas in Libya in their bid to escape from Nigeria into Europe. Many Nigerians are suffering in many countries of the world. The question that must be answered has been asked by President Zuma of South Africa. Will Nigerians be suffering so much in other countries if the Nigerian government over time had structured and restructured Nigeria to vision and dreams of Nigerians? Would South Africans have come down to Abuja or Lagos to perpetrate xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in Nigeria land? Let’s face the big truth about this matter. The Nigerian government has failed Nigeria and Nigerians and must accept responsibility for what Nigerians are suffering both in Nigeria and in diaspora. Nigeria in 2014 was internationally acclaimed to be the biggest economy in Africa. That means that Nigeria at that time was economically better than South Africa. But when many years back I visited South Africa I felt wowed because I felt exactly the way I felt when I visited London for the first time. South Africa, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and many other cities in South Africa are very beautiful and organized places! Aesthetics apart, that country has a well-organized system that ensures sound economic practices and activities that roll rand and dollars into the pockets of every hardworking person, native or foreigner. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in Nigeria!
If the social and economic provisions in Nigeria are made rewarding for Nigerians, I know our people, like the people of South Africa, will have little or no reason to domicile in foreign countries, contesting social and economic positions with innocent, helpless natives that they invade. Yes, there are South Africans in Nigeria but how many are they? And what is their mission? I doubt if complicity in illegal dealings and crimes is found among South Africans in Nigeria as is the case with Nigerians in South Africa? Only the Federal Government of Nigeria can answer these questions. Everything Nigerians are looking for In South Africa can be established in Nigeria. In fact, by the advantage of large population businesses would thrive more in Nigeria than in South Africa. But when political, social and economic insecurities of all sorts is the major portion of Nigerians as sustained by the Federal Government, leading to the checking out of many Nigerians to foreign lands, some of which are not as abundantly blessed as Nigeria, blame must remain at the doors of the Nigerian government and nowhere else.
However, while the angst of the native South Africans against foreigners in their land is quite understandable, I would recommend that they stop taking the laws into their own hands and resorting into barbaric murdering and maiming of innocent Nigerians and destroying their businesses. It does not pay anybody any dividends doing so. Rather, like Nigerians did against Ghanaians decades ago, South Africans should keep abiding by the law and lawfully be agitating to the South African government for “Nigeria Must Go”! And just as the Ghanaian government prepared and received their returnees from Nigerian till date, may be the Federal Government of Nigeria will prepare to receive returnee Nigerians, first by providing the appropriate political, social and economic environment that will accommodate them and give them new avenue for doing business, working and earning livelihoods and keep extra as they have been repatriating from South Africa. This may sound insensitive and harsh, but it’s the big truth that must be given due consideration.
Nwadike (email@example.com) is a public affairs commentator