Xenophobia And The Menace Of Armed Herdsmen

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Some Nigerians, at home and in the diaspora, particularly in South Africa, are faced with life threatening scenarios that have persisted over a long time. These ugly situations have been treated with palpable levity in the name of diplomacy as in the case of South Africa and national interest as regards what is happening in Nigeria.
Unarguably, the modus operandi of those behind the dastardly acts in both scenes of malady are almost the same- take their victims by surprise, rob them of their belongings and subject them to a most gruesome death.
In South Africa, it is called xenophobia. The government of that country blames it on the criminal tendencies of the victims who are alleged to have been involved in antisocial behaviour like drug peddling, fraud and prostitution. Some 600,000 to 800,000 Nigerians are believed to be in that country’s jailhouses. Those ones can be understood. But what of those subjected to extrajudicial killings on the streets of major cities of South Africa? They are being persecuted by the riled youths of that country who accuse them of taking their jobs and meddling in their businesses even when South Africans are also in other countries in Africa, including Nigeria minding their businesses without molestation.
After a prolonged period of double speak or imagined inaction, the Nigerian government has woken up from its self-induced slumber, indignant at the apparent connivance of the South African government in a matter that is likely to degenerate to a diplomatic row of a very serious kind. Already, top government officials from the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs have reminded the South African government of the principle of reciprocity in international relations, a veiled threat to subject South Africans living in Nigeria to commensurate measures of what Nigerians are going through in that erstwhile apartheid enclave. We appreciate the government’s reaction, even if belated, to the unfortunate development in that country and are determined to support every policy that will yield a guarantee of the safety of Nigerians there and their businesses too.
We also urge the Federal Government to apply the same tenacity in steps it ought to take to end the spate of killings by those simplistically dismissed as herdsmen. It is, indeed, a shame that Nigerians cannot feel safe in their own country. On a regular basis, reports of such killings by gun totting herdsmen fill the public space. It is not just that one or two people are killed. It is a case of mass murder and, in some instances, whole communities are sacked. And nothing happens as no arrest are made. Let us not even talk of prosecution as that is far-fetched in the prevailing circumstances.
These supposed herdsmen openly display their AK47 assault rifles without licence and no one is asking questions as to how they came about those rifles let alone arresting and charging them for illegal possession of firearms. The activities of these imaginary herdsmen have been linked to reprisal attacks, community clashes or religious violence mismanaged. Whatever are the reasons, Nigerians get killed by Nigerians on Nigerian soil. And that is abominable.
The disturbing aspect of the two scenarios is the lethargy on the part of the government to take a decisive action to check the festering sore that is about becoming cancerous. Curiously, it is the South African madness that had received very scant attention by the government with the much advertised visits by some members of the National Assembly, who are, in our assessment, more interested in the pecuniary fallouts of the visits than on any altruistic effort to resolve whatever issues that are involved.
The mayhem at home is treated as squabbles between communities. Maybe and assuming it is, if such squabbles lead to death of people in multiples, then the government, any government keen on performing its constitutional role of protecting lives and property should not only be worried but also set machineries in motion to find out why and forestall a repeat.
The Nigerian government is well within its rights and powers as a nation to take on the South African government on the vexed issue of xenophobia. It has the support of all Nigerians as it makes it clear to that country’s leaders that killing Nigerians under whatever guise is barbaric, intolerable and unacceptable. Bring them to justice if actually they find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
It will also be commendable if the government decides to take tough measures against those killing their compatriots in their sleep. Overlooking what is happening at home to pursue incidences in foreign land smacks of, in our view, Afghanistanism.

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