“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
How time flies, when Nigeria used to be the giant of Africa in all ramifications, ranging from her booming economic scope, military strength, devised cultural heritage scattered across the six geopolitical zones and solely relied on as the continent’s big brother by the other 51 African countries going by her warm reception given to other nationals whose countries were going through what could be described as an “unrealistic/bleak future” back in her glorious day.
During the apartheid era in South Africa, Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of anti-apartheid movement, with Nigerian government issuing more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking asylum.
Nigerian Activists stage series of protests in solidarity of the persecution their own brothers (South Africans) were going through on their own land/soil including students unions that were not left out of the struggle as well as musicians amongst them is Sunny Okosun of blessed memory who wrote the hit song “Fire in Soweto” in 1977 to commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid in South Africa.
Sequel to the end of apartheid in 1994, South African businesses sought for professionals to immigrate, this was an opportunity for Nigerians home and in diaspora, many grabbed the offer. It is estimated that there were over 25,000 Nigerians living in South Africa .
Relations between the two countries were damaged in 2012 when 125 Nigerian travellers enroute South Africa were denied entry under the implausible ground that they hold invalid Yellow Fever certificates. In retaliation, Nigeria govt expelled 56 South Africans. This prompted the two countries to enter into discussion around easing travel and removing some visa restrictions as a means of enhancing bilateral relations and trade.
But the question on the lips of many Nigerians at the moment is, why the hostility and brigandage against your fellow brothers who stood by you against all odds so that the great Madiba land is liberated from the woes of yesteryears?
Come to think of it, South Africa is not alone in all of this as other African nations have tagged Nigerians with permanent derogatory remarks synonymous with fraudsters, criminals…….
Recalling vividly my trip to Ghana and the unsavory experience right from the Cotonou’s boarder to Lome up to the Ghana’s Aflao border where I and my colleagues’ identification as Nigerians subjected us to intense scrutiny which could be likened to the accounts of Dr. Newton Chuka Jibunoh in his book, “Me, My Desert & I”, in the course of crossing the Sahara desert to Europe where he narrated his unpalatable encounters with fellow African brothers during the great land journey from Nigeria to the United Kingdom.
With the latest happenings and online videos emanating from South Africa where other African nationals including Nigerians are being hunted down by their hosts in the most barbaric and in despicable manner all in the name that they no longer find jobs to do as a result of foreigners scooping all the available jobs, (If this is actually true, then permit to scream God in Zulu language) one cannot but cry for Mother Africa as there is serious fire on the mountain for the black continent if South Africans could use that as excuse to kill their fellow brothers.
What saddens me most in all of these is the attitude of the Nigerian Government towards all this scenario particularly the statement credited to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba-Ibrahim, when she said no Nigerian lost their lives in the attacks contrary to reports in some media. But the question is, must we wait for a Nigerian life to be lost before actions are taken? I’m sure she knows that other nationals are daily loosing their lives, Nigerians businesses are daily being attacked and facing arson. She ought to know as well that Xenophobic attacks did not just start today in South Africa, it has been raising its ugly head way back 1984 (during apartheid) up to this present moment with death of Nigerians recorded. If the African Union and the Commonwealth are silent on this, must we as a nation wait for the deed to be done before we realize that South African government has failed not only the continent but the world?
And as if that was not enough, the National Assembly sent a “strong delegation” to South Africa to liaise with their counter parts in order to register it’s displeasure over the incessant attacks which I believe sanctions should have been put on South African and it’s envoy in the country. I am of the view that stricter measures would ensure in complacency from SA Police Service and its sister agencies in the future. Due to the country’s enormous business interest all over Nigeria, there’ll be compliance to all resolutions that had been reached prior this latest attacks.
However, thumbs-up to Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa who had earlier criticized the South African government over the attacks, as she responded by saying that xenophobia had become a social disease which some South Africans need to be cured of, following comments made by the South African Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba who said the issue of the xenophobic attacks will be settled at a diplomatic level.
How long will it take the Nigerian lives to make meaning and why must we die for them to know we are dying even right at home?
“Profit should never come at the cost of human blood. Any government that places profit before people is pure evil.” – Suzy Kassem
Adewale Momoh is a journalist, blogger and a writer.