The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) calls Nigeria a zoo. From what has happened in South Africa in the past few days, it seems the former apartheid enclave is worse than a zoo. Animals in a zoo are under control. But South African animals are wild and uncontrollable. They have killed and still kill and burn innocent foreigners, including Nigerians, in their midst. They also indulge in looting of their properties. They call it xenophobia – intense hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers. It is barbaric and condemnable to say the least. But it is important to note that while we attempt to remove the speck in someone’s eyes, we should not gloss over the log in our own eyes.
First, let us examine the speck in South Africa’s eyes. A few years ago, the beasts in that country threw two Senegalese and a Mozambican off a moving train. In 2000, two Nigerians were among those who died in another attack. On April 18, 2015, some deranged beings brutally murdered Emmanuel Sithole from Mozambique and seven other people. Those who escaped death had their shops looted. About 10 people reportedly lost their lives in the current madness. Their only crime was being foreigners. There are many other instances.
The major worry is that the South African government appears to be in tacit support. It has not taken any decisive action to stop it. And when a deputy minister of police, Bongai Mkongi, tried to justify the savagery, you need no soothsayer to tell you how their mind operates. Recall that the Zulu King, Goodswill Swelithini, also reportedly precipitated the 2015 similar attacks when he allegedly called on foreigners to go home.
No wonder the whites dealt with them during the apartheid era. Even then, the world, especially Africa, rallied round the country’s black population. Nigeria particularly played a prominent role in the fight against that obnoxious system. And due to its noble role, Nigeria became one of the frontline states though it is not a southern African country.
Unfortunately, South African youths have forgotten this history. These are illiterate and lazy youths. Unfortunately too, some Nigerian youths acted in similar manner. They angrily moved against some South African interests in Nigeria. They torched and looted some MTN offices and Shoprite supermarkets in some parts of the country. This action forced MTN to close its offices nationwide. South Africa also shut down its High Commission in Nigeria.
In response, the Federal Government took some commendable actions. It not only recalled the country’s High Commissioner to South Africa, it also boycotted the World Economic Forum held in that country last week. Nigeria’s leading airline, Air Peace, volunteered to evacuate our citizens willing to return from South Africa free of charge. It was good and reassuring breathing the air of patriotism coming out from many Nigerians.
However, it would have been more reassuring if we had frontally tackled our own brand of xenophobia. The other day, some beasts killed a Catholic priest, David Tanko, and set his corpse ablaze in Taraba State. The priest had gone for a peace meeting on Tiv and Junkun communal conflict. A few days ago, some Hausa and Yoruba youths clashed in Lagos over a minor misunderstanding. Terrorist herdsmen have also been killing and kidnapping people in different parts of the country.
The South-easterners have particularly found themselves at the wrong end of the Nigerian equation. Any time there is crisis in any part of Nigeria, they are always the major victims. This is because of their itinerant nature. In 1966, there was a pogrom against them in the North. This resulted in a 30-month civil war. Millions of our citizens died. Intermittently, they face xenophobic attacks in different parts of the country.
In this country, justice is on vacation and the worst form of xenophobia is injustice. Or how do you describe the fact that in our unity colleges, for instance, a boy from Zamfara State who scores 2 will get admission before my son from Anambra State who scores as high as 139? They say this is to fulfil the federal character principle. Fair enough. But why was this federal character not observed in many federal and security appointments in the current dispensation? Why has the present government blocked its ears to the calls for restructuring which will give every section of the country a sense of belonging and justice? Why has the government shied away from effective reform of the country’s justice system?
Look at what happened in the Osun governorship election of last year. The exercise recorded massive infractions. The Osun State election petitions tribunal noted those anomalies and ruled in favour of justice when the matter came to it. But the appeal tribunal murdered that justice on the altar of legal technicality. This drew our march to genuine democracy backwards. The nation eagerly awaits the judgement of the presidential election petitions tribunal. It is hoped that justice will be served in the case and that the learned judges, without fear or favour, will elevate justice over technicality in their soon-to-be-announced verdict.
This is not forgetting the economic injustices in the country. The rulers are busy amassing wealth and allocating resources to themselves while the masses live in penury. Currently, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. This dire economic situation is partly what has pushed some of our countrymen to foreign lands to look for greener pastures. Even with free Air Peace ticket, many Diaspora Nigerians will not come back.
We pride ourselves as the most populous country in Africa. That is true. But big population without effective law and order confers no advantage. That is why serious companies now find Ghana a better environment to invest in than Nigeria.
In simple terms, we are gradually losing our relevance in the world. Today, South Africans are asking us to go. Tomorrow, Ghanaians may follow suit. Until we take the bull by the horns and tackle our variegated problems frontally, other nations will continue to take us for a ride.