Sunday 24th September, 2017
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FG and xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa

FG and xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa

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 (ogubundunwadike@gmail.com) is a public affairs com­mentator

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