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South Africans And Nigerians: What Is The Difference?

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The Trumpian era of modern day America has heralded a culture where white supremacy and racism are consciously encouraged, thriving under state policy, and it is no wonder, xenophobia is thriving all over the world. Racial and ethnic profiling have been re-invigorated by the POTUS, entrenching immigration reforms that are targeted at other races and nationals that are deemed non-white.

America as a global leader, sets the tone and trend for virtually everything that goes on around the world. If America is into bitcoin, the world awakens to a bitcoin market, and if America has series of kidnapping for ransom incidents, Nigerians acquaint themselves with the practice and probably end up outdoing Americans in the trade. President Donald Trump has been racist in his tweets, his policies and his philosophies, and it is a no brainer that South Africa is pushing its own xenophobic agenda on the rest of Africans in their country. After all, SA is still controlled by whites, with the ANC as its puppet in power.

The South African state seems to harbour and encourage these xenophobic attacks as two officials have come forward with very unstatesmanly and undiplomatic statements, over the raging crisis. The Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Mkongi has asked why South Africans have been relegated to second class citizens in their own country, and stated that he is puzzled as to how 80 per cent of the inhabitants of a South African town are foreigners. Naledi Pandor, the South African Minister Of Foreign Affairs, scathingly said to the Nigerian Government that they should keep away their citizens who are into drugs, human trafficking and other vices, from going to South Africa. Popular South African stars have also made very derogatory remarks about Nigerians, including the likes of Babes Wodumo, who have come forward to brazenly tell Nigerians to leave their country.

Nigerians, Zambians, and Tanzanians have made reprisal attacks on South African businesses in their respective countries. Two South African aircrafts were burnt in Zambia, and South African buses and trailer drivers have been blocked entry into Mozambique. In Nigeria, an MTN office in Ibadan was razed, and at least two Shoprite Malls were attacked, one at Lekki in Lagos and the other in Abuja, along the airport expressway. Irate Nigerians, sometimes led by the families of the victims of the attacks in that former apartheid enclave, attacked South African businesses here in Nigeria.

This is sorely in bad taste and a total misdirection of anger and this action does not distinguish us from the ruthless and rudderless South Africans, carrying out the xenophobic attacks. It puts us all in the same basket of countries where xenophobia thrives. The shops and businesses attacked are owned by Nigerians and employ Nigerians, not South Africans. Attacking them amounts to shooting ourselves on the foot.

The Nigerian Government has done commendably well in handling the issue by taking a number of actions that will definitely send a strong signal to the South African authorities, and necessitate them to take drastic measures to diffuse the tensions, and put an end to xenophobia in South Africa. Nigeria has recalled its ambassador, it has closed the South African High Commission here, and sent a special envoy to the South African President to confront the SA government about the attacks on the lives and properties of Nigerians living there. Nigeria has also boycotted the World Economic Summit in SA and has issued a travel advisory to its citizens, against travelling to South Africa.

Four military jets have been sent to convey Nigerians back to their country, just as another domestic airline has subscribed to the move and has made an aircraft available for free, to convey Nigerians back to their homeland. As usual, the Federal Government is never free from a barrage of attacks over its actions or responses to these kinds of matters. Reno Omokri says PMB has not acted because the victims are Igbos. The Biafran Social Media handle has also said that the attacks were co-ordinated by Northerners and government since the Nigerians in south Africa are mostly Igbos. Meanwhile, the protests and attacks on South African enterprise here in Nigeria has also involved northerners. The laceration and tainting of everything we do with ethnic coloration is usually our biggest undoing. Do we expect the Federal Government to send fighter jets and start bombing South Africa? The last time I checked, we had gone cap in hand to procure arms from the same South Africa. So the most Nigeria can do is from a diplomatic point of view, taking measures that can bite into South Africa’s economic gains from Nigeria. A tactical approach is the way to go. Attacking and maiming South Africans and their property is equally barbaric and does not separate us from them.

We must look inwards with circumspection and be able to x-ray the practices and indulgences of our citizens abroad. An eye witness account reveals that a Tanzanian drug peddler was caught and in a bid to escape, shot a South African and that was the genesis of the crisis this time round. Nigerians are prime in these drug cartels and human trafficking and are making a kill with it, living large in the face of jobless South Africans. South Africa has been hit with a drought this year and their economy is contracting. Their government is failing them and they are bitter. Nigerians are adding more insult to their injuries. We are not helping matters ourselves.

The biggest losers in the South African attacks are Pakistanis, Zambians and Malawians. Nigerians have also lost properties and understandably, an Igbo man’s business is his life. Losing a shop is equal to losing a life. Some irritant and irresponsible bloggers posted pictures and videos of people being burnt alive and those are inciting and not factual. An MTN building on fire was posted by Linda Ikeji which happened to have had a fire outbreak back in 2015 in Kwara state, and she claimed it was happening now. In more ways than one, we have been incited wrongly and called to act like xenophobes too.

We have our own microcosm of xenophobia here in Nigeria, with Tivs and Jukuns killing each other, farmers and herders killing each other, Sayawa against Fulani in Bauchi, and a whole host of different communities in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states killing each other. We also have the Kataf and hausawa in Kaduna state. We have been carnivores, leaving piles of carnage behind us, as we visit our ethnic bias and violence upon other tribes of the same country. We hardly have the moral standing to castigate or rebuke South Africans. They have a deeply rooted hatred for us, with their commentators lamenting publicly, “why do we have to lose everything to Nigeria”? I called up a colleague of mine from our school days and he is peacefully earning a living in South Africa.

The central business district of Johannesburg is where the heat is at, and that happens to be the centre of the drug trade. If only South Africa will do us the favour of catching and convicting the drug peddlers, just as the FBI is doing with the yahoo Nigerians, the better for us all. However, this is an auspicious time for Nigeria to review our trade with South Africa, with a view to tipping it in favour of Nigeria. Some have called for the Nationalisation of South African businesses here in Nigeria. It may not be the way to go in its entirety, but a median approach in that direction will definitely make South Africa have a sit down, and a mellow-down.

 

– Tahir is Talban Bauchi

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