By ABBA MAHMOOD —
The post-apartheid South African constitution is perhaps the most liberal constitution in the whole world. It reflects the vision of the victorious African National Congress (ANC) to create a rainbow nation where men and women of every colour and creed live in peace, harmony and freedom in an inclusive nation.
To further confine the anger and bitterness of the past to the past, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established where victims as well as those who victimized fellow human beings came together to confess and forgive each other. That South African model inspired the Northern Ireland reconciliation in that unfortunate part of the UK where, for decades, republicans and unionists, Protestants and Catholics, all of them Irish and white, were fighting and killing each other, conclusively proving that it is not only blacks who fight each other.
South Africa became a model African success story, a real God’s own country that is at peace with itself and at peace with the world, thanks to the efforts of the iconic father of the nation, President Nelson Mandela, and his comrades. There is no country, faith or civilization in the world that is not directly or indirectly linked to the South African history. The Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Indians, Chinese, Anglo-Saxon White, Yellow, Brown not to talk of the majority black Africans, you name it and South Africa has it. It also has the most advanced economy and the best infrastructure in Africa.
Naturally, it attracted people from far and near who come in search of greener pasture. Obviously, not all of these came legally and not everyone is doing legitimate businesses. Nigerians, who like to travel all over the world, were not left behind in the global journey to South Africa. Some of those who go there are well trained professionals who have skills and talents but the majority arrive with just their handbags and brain or brawn.
In no time some overstay their visit visas while many go into criminal activities that in some cases fetch them wealth which they are not ashamed of flaunting. They take away the local women, enticing them with easy money. Such things attract envy and jealousy, especially in the lower class.
To be honest, there are Nigerians in most countries of the world, if not all. There are over 7million Nigerians in the Sudan alone. There are many Nigerians in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, S/Leone, Senegal etc., and no one has complained of their behaviour or attempted to attack them in those places. And, in Libya, where there is virtually no government now, many Nigerians are being killed daily, many more are being deported but the media has not cared to comment on these or sensationalize the stories like it’s being done for South Africa. It appears South Africa itself is under propaganda attack from hostile media.
Obviously, to any discerning analyst, the sensational coverage and growing exaggeration about what is happening to Nigerians in South Africa is part of a grand agenda by some African and extra-African elements to see that these two brotherly nations are at loggerheads with each other and their people view each other as enemies. This is the bigger picture. If Nigeria and South Africa cooperate closely the entire black race has a strong voice and platform in this hostile global arena and if they fight each other as these fake news stories would want, that will be the end of the black race in terms of influence and prestige.
Xenophobia is a powerful word. It means hatred for fellow human beings. The whites of South Africa had held the majority blacks in dehumanizing, subjecting and subjugating conditions for decades. If there are any human beings that the blacks of South Africa should hate justifiably, they must be the white Afrikaaners of South Africa. But they did not revenge or avenge what was done to them by these minority whites. If these South Africans do not hate their white oppressors, what reason do they have for hating any other species of the human race, most especially fellow blacks?
Indeed, if at all there is any attack on anybody else, it must have been a misunderstanding between individuals and not an organized collective thing because, from history, the South Africans have fashioned their country into one that welcomes people, and they have been welcoming people from all over the world without any discrimination. This xenophobia thing is simply not in their character or history.
Most, if not all, South African investments in Nigeria are corporate investments. Such international brands like MTN, DSTV, and Shoprite were brought here by the South Africans to help develop Nigeria and provide much-needed employment and skills. Invariably, these companies are now Nigerian enterprises because Nigerians have the majority shares. So, those attempting to attack these companies to vent their anger are only helping to scare away investors and to destroy what in reality are Nigerian enterprises now with only South African brand names.
On the other hand, virtually all the investments from Nigeria in South Africa are individual investments. Most of these individuals arrived there with nothing but made it through hard work or “hard” work. If they respect the laws of that land that gives them the opportunity to make it in life, surely no one will ever attack them. But, if they break the law, do not respect the sensitivities of their host community and people, or exhibit their well-known arrogance and aggression, certainly they will attract envy, resentment and hatred. This is the crux of the matter in diverse places, including here in many parts of Nigeria.
Another issue that keeps being raised is the fact that Nigeria helped the South Africans during their anti-apartheid struggle. Yes, this is true. But when Nigeria did that, it was freely given in the spirit of African brotherhood and as an expression of Nigeria’s Africa-centred foreign policy. Nigeria did not help our fellow brothers in South Africa during their hour of need only to expect them to pay back or to keep reminding them that a good was done to them in the past and so they should be eternally grateful. The South African struggle was a global one. In any case, it is un-African for a brother to keep reminding another of a past help. That is no justification to allow certain individuals to perpetrate criminality in that country, and when the people show dislike for their acts the criminal elements shout “xenophobia”. This is simply not right and proper.
It needs to be emphasized that no Nigerian lost his or her life in any so-called “xenophobic” attacks in South Africa recently as the Nigerian Foreign Ministry has confirmed. It is equally important to remember that if all the rest of Nigerians in other parts of the world do not suffer such attacks, then those in South Africa should check themselves to find out what they are doing there that is wrong and thus attracting to them the anger and hatred of their hosts. Lasting peace comes with respect and love.
History is on the side of the oppressed.