Published On: Fri, Sep 6th, 2019

Xenophobic attacks: Time for reciprocal diplomacy

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The rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria has continue to thrive. Even when Nigeria has never shirked in her self imposed responsibility of a ‘big brother’ by watching out for other African countries, South Africa and some of its ilks, have never hidden their disdain for the country.
At every turn of events, other African countries who are jealous of Nigeria prosperity have always taken every opportunity to disparage Nigerians whenever their paths crossed. Even when Nigerian authorities have always held out olive branch to her neighbours, she has always been paid back in bad coin.
The rivalry and bitterness of some jealous African countries against Nigeria is so deep that it is palpably felt even at sporting activities like football. Three Nigerian neighbours have always exhibited extreme bitterness and aggression whenever they have to engage Nigerian Super Eagles at both continental and global tournaments.
Each time the Super Eagles engage South/Africa, Ghana and Cameroun, the match always go beyond soccer as they put everything into the game to prove their ‘superiority’. So, each time these countries are deservedly defeated by the Super Eagles, Nigerians living in their countries, most often than not, bear the brunt. They are mostly brutalized in those countries.
An average Nigerian is suave and aggressive in everything he does. This energetic application of individual endowments and capacity to brace the odds in order to be successful stand an average Nigerian out wherever he finds himself anywhere in the world. These attributes are always displayed by Nigerians even in soccer and this has continuously sparked-off jealousy from other African countries who, more often than not, find it difficult to mask their envy for Nigeria and Nigerians.
So, it is not strange to find members of these countries’ national teams breaking down in bitter tears and agonies whenever they are humbled by the Nigerian Super Eagles.
In recent times, Ghanaian authorities has exhibited unmatched hatred and discrimination against Nigerian businessmen in Ghana by enacting obnoxious laws to cripple their businesses. Ghanaians have consistently complained that their businesses are being invaded by Nigerians in that country making their nationals jobless thereby. To this effect, there are reports that there have been official efforts to make the business environment in that country as unfriendly as possible for other nationals, especially the ubiquitous Nigerians
Notwithstanding the fact that both countries share political, economic and cultural affinities, Ghanaian authorities recently deported 723 Nigerians living in that country.
They cited criminal offences like cybercrime, prostitution and visa era violations for the questionable deportation. This is coming when several thousands of Ghanaian are in Nigeria are plying their trades without any molestation on the strength of their being member of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS).
Similarly, there have been obvious discrimination against Nigerians living in South-Africa. In 2012, there was a diplomatic row between both countries after some Nigerians were deported. South African authorities had deported 125 Nigerians over claims that they visited the country with fake yellow-fever vaccination cards.
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan never wasted time by reciprocating the affront by immediately deporting 84 South Africans within 48 hours.
The then Minister of Affairs, late Olugbenga Ashiru, in his remarks, said South Africa’s action was a xenophobic move. He warned African countries, including South Africa, not to take Nigeria’s maturity and the friendliness of her people to foreigners for granted. He also cautioned that they should not take the friendly business environment in Nigeria where companies, including South African companies are making more profit than in their country for granted.
He commented further “South Africans will know we are very serious with this matter and that any deportation of any Nigerian, we will meet it with equal reciprocal measure. What you see playing out is xenophobia by South Africans against all Africans, not just Nigerians, including even those from their neighbouring countries. Their companies here in Nigeria are making more profit than in South Africa. They bring in half-baked graduates and place them above better qualified Nigerians, and we have been overlooking that before now. There are many ways to hit back”
That was about seven years ago! The South Africans have refused to learn their lessons by not accepting the reality of global economic competitiveness. The envious youths of that country, including even their conniving officials, have failed to realize that the world is gradually becoming a global village. Instead of bracing up for the odds by oiling their skills, the lazy youths will rather blame foreign nationals who are trying to make ends meet in their country for their economic woes and joblessness.
Going by recent history, Nigerians do not deserve what they are currently getting from the South Africans. Several billions of dollars were spent by the Nigerian government to liberate the majority blacks of that country from the vice grip of the minority whites during the apartheid regime.
From the ongoing experience of Nigerians in South Africa, time has come for the country to review her foreign policy and desist from being the big brother without honour and respect. Nigeria cannot continue to be hospitable to citizens of fellow African countries only for her citizens to face harassment and untold embarrassment everywhere they go.
Since South Africa has chosen to live without other blacks from Africa, ostracizing the country politically and economically will not be out of place. Already, the latest attacks on foreigners in South Africa has alienated the country as many countries billed to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town have since withdrawn their participation.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently cautioned Nigerians against reprisal, few businesses suspected to belong to South Africans have suffered some attacks leading to the abrupt closure of the country’s embassy in Nigeria. Businesses as Shoprite and MTN had resolved to close shops temporarily.
Beyond this, the Nigerian government should be ready to deploy all her powers to ensure sanctions against the hostile South Africans who have chosen to live in isolation. Fellow African countries whose citizens have been equally attacked and probably killed should follow suit.
Already, Rwanda, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria have withdrawn their participation in the ongoing World Economic Forum conference in Cape Town, South Africa. There are indications that bulk of the country’s revenues accrue from tourism, therefore boycotting various tourists sites by fellow African countries as well as shunning medical tourism to the place will definitely injure South African revenues and humble her leadership.
The Nigerian government should consider nationalizing South African concerns in Nigeria and encouraging other African countries to do same will definitely bring the rascals back to their senses.
Whether they like it or not, the latest xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African nationals have kick-started diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africans. Now, a Nigerian airline operator, Air Peace has offered to help airlift all willing Nigerians back to Nigeria.
Therefore, Nigeria must insist on determining the conditions for negotiation and one of such must be the payment of compensation to all victims of xenophobia who lost their means of livelihood in that country. The determination of Nigeria to ensue safety of her nationals in South Africa by deploying her security agencies must also be seen through.
Back home, the government must continue to develop infrastructures and entrench all job creating policies to create an inviting environment for investors. Chances are that many of those suffering untold hardships in foreign lands will stay back in the country when business environment is made friendlier.

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  1. While condemning the inglorious act of the South Africans, we must back home make our economy more friendly to reduce incessant attacks from the so called jealous neighbor.

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