By - Tobi Idowu
The Nigerian Senate was said to have been so much disturbed by the continuing killings of the citizens of the country in South Africa that, at its plenary on July 11, 2019, it warned the South African government of grave consequences if those evil murders are not stopped. The president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, also warned that the South African government must extend due respect to Nigeria and should not take the good gesture towards its for granted.
Ordinarily, this kind of inter-national threat should have generated enough ripples to have caused flurry of reactions and actions. In fact, one should have expected consequential developments in tow of that apparently firm and fierce warning from Nigeria’s “senior” lawmakers to the South African government since lots are so much at stake between their two countries. But merely some hours after the news story was reported, the threat has begun its own resting journey to nowhere.
Past events are so much of a guide as to know that the Nigerian senate was just playing to the gallery, largely influenced by citizens’ rage that followed the heinous killing of Ms. Elizabeth Ndubusi-Chukwu, the Deputy Director-General of Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, in South Africa. Disturbingly, her death was number 127 of such senseless murder of Nigerians in South Africa that that has been reported in the last three and half years. Sadly, each of those deaths have only inspired verbal threats and few feeble actions.
In recent years, Nigerians, as well other foreign nationals, have become unfortunate victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, ostensibly triggered by lack of economic opportunities to South African citizens, and more importantly, the irrational blaming of that lack to migrants. On the xenophobic attacks, a Nigerian academic, Felix Ndukwe, had told the Guardian, that the reason for the attacks is that South Africans are angry at and afraid of losing their jobs to foreigners, especially Nigerians.
“South Africans think other Africans are taking their jobs and this creates some forms of anger against foreigners in the country. Several researches have identified this as one of the major causes of xenophobia in the country,” he said.
One does not need to go to South Africa to know the extent of this vile hate and evil tendencies towards Nigerians especially. A few minutes on the social media platform, Twitter, will merely suffice. The recent football match between the two countries at the ongoing African Cup of Nations tournament also served as a reminder of this visceral animosity. Since football matches usually initiate friendly banters, one may be forgiven to have merely seen those Twitter combats and riposte between Nigerians and South Africans as another instalment of the game’s bantering fun, especially since the football game pitted two fiercely competing leading African countries. Yet, a discerning fellow couldn’t but notice ugly animus rearing its head amidst those ostensible banters.
A mere look at what “AKA”, a South African music artiste, posted on Twitter at the end of the match would not really raise much of concern. At least, he was merely reacting in the heat of the moment. He had expressed his frustration and disappointment at the continued trouncing of his country by its rival. That is understandable, but as they say, there are more than meet the eyes.
“It’s hard pill to swallow man. We keep on losing to Nigeria in every way,” he said. “I’m hurt man. This match was bigger than football. The biggest rivalry on the continent.” Then he dropped the red flag: “Why do we always have to lose against Naija at EVERYTHING?”
His comments were retweeted countless of times, and more disgustedly coarse versions of it have since dominated the Twitter timelines. It should be noted that the singer was merely echoing the same question that triggered some of his countrymen to go after Nigerians seen as irritable winners even on their own South African land! Their inability to find answers in their own inadequacies, which manifest in joblessness and want, is being masked in lame questions and murderous intents on fellow Africans, who just happen to work harder. South African lazy resort to the claim that Nigerians take their jobs in their country is not merely laughable but simplistic. Do Nigerians resort to violence despite the fact that South African companies arguably thrive better than their Nigerian counterparts in Nigeria? Moreover, you could hardly expect Nigerians’ constant complains, which are mostly right, about the ripping off tendencies of the South African companies, to transform into senselessly coward physical harms of South African nationals in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, despite the dangers that continue to harm its own citizens, Nigerian government’s efforts over the years have been in empty rhetoric. Nigerians have been rather unfortunately protected by such banality as, “the federal government condemned, in very strong terms, the recurring and renewed attacks on Nigerians in South Africa,” and in the case of the prohibitively maintained Nigerian legislators, theirs is to, “ask the federal government to take a harder stance against the South African government.” Always, however, it is all sounds and fury, signifying nothing.
In fact, there was even a time, in 2017, the South African government was as good as calling the bluff of its noisy Nigerian counterpart, while dismissing the xenophobic claim. It even went ahead to tag the senseless killings as response to the rampant drugs and prostitution common in vandalised centres. While South African government finds it convenient to gloss over crimes by its citizens, whom are being goaded to crime because its inability to adequately cater for them, it still goes ahead to ingeniously blame the victims of those crimes. Yet, Nigerian government, whose citizens are some of the greatest victims of South African crime, could only lamely huff and puff to no end, without action.
In the case of the late Ndubusi-Chukwu, the report that Nigerian government had dispatched a senior officer to monitor South African government investigation of the murder seems the right step on the surface. But what comes after investigations will have been concluded?
The Nigerian federal government needs to know it continues to fail its citizens if what follows each time Nigerians come to harm in foreign countries is predictable pattern of verbal condemnation, then the media summoning of the other countries’ diplomats, as it has been in the case with South Africa. Could Nigerian government not exploit the humongous economic ties between the two countries to get South Africa to offer more protection to Nigerians in South Africa? It also begs the question of the works and functions of the Nigerian consulate in South Africa if it cannot liaise with its host country on the urgent needs for proactive measures to stem the tides of hate mongering towards and senseless killings of Nigerian citizens in South Africa.
While it is agreed that some Nigerians are engaged in untoward activities in South Africa, it is a given that they are made to face the full of wrath of the laws of the land of their host; and not a senseless mob action, which harms law abiding Nigerians too. This should be the basis of the Nigerian government engagement with their South African counterparts. Nigeria should thereafter resolutely demand a deterring action against South Africans who senseless wreak harm on harmless Nigerians.
Nigerian government must show its citizens that it values them more than its economic ties to South Africa and could go as far as choosing them over those ties, if South Africa will not respect the sanctity of their lives!
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