By Tochukwu Ezukanm
Just as you reserve the right to walk a stranger out of your house, you reserve the right to demand the exit of foreigners from your country. It is the prerogative of the South Africans to dictate who can or cannot be allowed residence in their country. That the Nigerian government helped them in their struggle against Apartheid does not, in anyway, invalidate
that right. So, in demanding that Nigerians leave their country, the South Africans have done nothing wrong.
The inundation of different countries of the world by Nigerians, as economic refugees, is a direct consequence of the irresponsible and anti-human policies of a series of kleptomanias, masquerading as leaders, that ruled Nigeria over the years. Their total destruction of
the Nigerian economy triggered the mass-exodus of Nigerians to different countries of the world, where they are resented, and sometimes, hated, and periodically attacked, like in South Africa. So, as we fret about the attacks on our compatriots and the looting and torching of their
businesses in South Africa, we have to realize that, by extension, the real culprits for these are the irresponsible, grasping and corrupt rulers that ran aground the Nigerian economy.
Usually, the resentment, anger and disgruntlement of the general public are readily directed at the immigrant community. The immigrants are easy targets for scape-goat; they are blamed for the host country’s woes: unemployment, economic downturn, crime, etc. Not surprisingly, the South Africans are blaming Nigerians for taking their jobs, and being drug dealers, thieves, fraudsters, etc, – although many South Africans are involved in the same illicit businesses. The killing of Nigerians and the looting and burning down of their businesses and properties by South African mobs have reached horrifying extremes. It is estimated that about 150 Nigerians have been killed and Nigerian businesses and property worth millions of dollars destroyed in these periodic xenophobic attacks on Nigerians. Over all, the South African government
has not demonstrated any commitment to the protection of Nigerian lives and property, or to bring the attackers to book.
South Africa has a history that gloried in violence. Consequently, it is a very violent country. The taking over of the breathtakingly beautiful country and the subjugation of the Black owners of the land by Dutch settlers demanded justification and glorification of gratuitous
murderousness and unspeakable brutality. Later, as Blacks South Africans rose in revolt against White supremacist tyranny, they also celebrated bloodcurdling violence, including “neck lacing” – the hanging of a petrol-socked tire over the neck and shoulder of alleged Black agent,
spy or informant of the White Apartheid government and setting him ablaze. As a testament to the country’s culture of violence, some notable Black South African leaders openly endorsed “neck lacing” as legitimate punishment for suspected Black spies of the Apartheid regime.
With no institutional racism to fight and no quisling to neck lace, they turned their violence and brutality on Nigerians, and other African immigrants.
They have reasons to resent and hate Nigerians in their country. For centuries, they became accustomed to Whites being successful and in control. It is new fangled, and thus, unacceptable to them to see successful and wealthy Nigerians in their midst. It is a sentiment
summed up in the notice issued by the South African owners/taxi association against African immigrants, “These people drive expensive cars, and they have churches, businesses in every street of South Africa. They have everything that we as citizens don’t have.” In addition, they are irked by the boastfulness, general lawlessness and conspicuous consumption of Nigerians. Nigerians are also big spenders, and, understandably, women snatchers. One of their stated gripes against
Nigerians is that they (Nigerians) “take our women”.
As expected, most of the 800, 000 Nigerians resident in South Africa are unwilling to return to Nigeria, at least, on the short-run. Even, with the call on them to return home by the Nigerian government and the provision of free air fare by Air Peace, only a little more than six
hundred of them hav/e, thus far, indicated interest to return. With the
prevailing anti-Nigerian sentiment not abating in that very violent country, it is very likely that periodic attacks on Nigerians will continue. The blaming of national problems that are glaring indicators of failure of governance on the immigrants must be salutary to the
government of Cyril Ramaphosa. Not surprisingly, the government of Ramaphosa has not only failed to protect Nigerians, but has, on some occasions, stoked the anti-Nigerian sentiment.
The Nigerian government has very limited options in dealing with this international dilemma. Reprisal actions on South Africans and their business interests in Nigeria are not viable options. Very few South Africans live in Nigeria. Secondly, attacks on South African businesses
in Nigeria will be most disadvantageous for Nigerians. They are major employers of labor; attacks on them will worsen our already terrifying unemployment problems. It will also undermine Nigeria’s credibility as a secure foreign investment destination; it will dissuade prospective foreign investors from investing in Nigeria.
It is bad leadership that destroyed the economy of our country, and sent
Nigerians s arming into different countries of the world as economic refugees. In these countries they sojourn to escape the economic miseries in their home country, they are resented, and, as in South Africa, sometimes, hated and murdered. So, by extension, the blame for the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa rests squarely on the series of amoral and rapacious rulers that reduced Nigeria to economic boondocks.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
0803 529 2908
By Tochukwu Ezukanm