South Africa appears largely not remorseful on the terror its people have unleashed on Nigerians and other immigrants in that country, consequent upon which some groups and Nigerians are suggesting how the Nigerian government should further respond to the challenge, writes KUNLE ODEREMI.
THE whole world is still watching with trepidation, the episodic xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. While the attendant outrage rages, organs like the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) are involved in either diplomatic talks or shuttles to douse the intense fury. And with some of its nationals killed and others losing their property and business to the attacks, Nigeria especially is desperately trying to stoke the fire by dispatching a special envoy to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa on the crisis, with Nigeria’s High Commissioner in South Africa expected in Nigeria this week to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the predicament of his countrymen preparatory to the Federal Government making an official pronouncement on the option to be adopted in the smouldering diplomatic face-off between the two leading countries on the African continent.
The leadership of the National Assembly is, in the meantime, awaiting the outcome of the diplomatic shuttle initiated by the executive arm of government to guide on how it should handle the belligerent posture of the South African authorities on Nigerians. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership advocated the template used by the then military government to deal decisively against the apartheid regime as part of the sterner measures to arm-twist imperialists. The APC believes nationalization of South African Assets will send a strong warning to the former apartheid enclave that Nigeria can still bite.
Other prominent citizens and groups in the country have added other options that the Buhari administration should consider to force South Africa to appreciate the rights of Nigerian immigrants. Most of the propositions underline the vision of Nelson Mandela. In the early years of the decades of his incarceration, the prisoner of conscience otherwise called the Mandiba by his admirers, had expatiated on his ultimate mission in the painful struggle against racist South Africa. He unambiguously declared his readiness to pay the ultimate price in his quest to have a free society devoid of segregation. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” Nobel Prize winner had said.
As the big brother of Africa, Nigeria spread and shared a large chunk of its human and material endowments with countries that were not in need. South Africa had benefited more than a fair share of the magnanimity. In cash and kind, especially technical expertise, including the Technical Aide Corps scheme, as well as direct and indirect military assistance and intervention that fast-tracked the liberation struggle in Southern Africa were readily provided by Nigeria to other countries. Notwithstanding the huge voluntary and humanitarian services, Nigerians face persecution in the hands of South Africans, including their government, who now profiles Nigerians as crooks, criminals and drug peddlers. Whereas a number of the South African leaders enjoyed to the fullest scholarships in Nigerian universities, logistics to keep the apartheid regime on edge, and Nigerians assisted in forming the National committee against Apartheid (NACAP) to mobilise for the African National Congress (ANC) now the governing party in South Africa, as the anti-apartheid battle was regarded as a Nigerian project with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Sunny Okosun complementing the inputs of musical idols like Bob Marley.
Beyond the ongoing efforts by the Nigerian government to restore the dignity of Nigerians facing dehumanizing treatment and experience in South Africa, other citizens have offered individual perspectives on the way forward.
One of the individuals is a former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, who cautioned against possible backlash of any step the two countries might be contemplating over the crisis. Adeniran suggested diplomatic option in resolving the face-off between Nigeria and South Africa to avert possible backlash.
Adeniran said: “The security and welfare of Nigerian citizens anywhere in the world should be the number one priority of the Nigerian government. A high-level diplomatic efforts to resolve the various issues with the South African government should have started by now. It is good news to hear that President Muhammadu Buhari will go to South Africa in a matter of days. Not a single Nigerian life should be lost any longer. The best solution is through diplomatic channels, in view of the the spillover effects of other alternative course of action by the two key African countries.”
The pro-democracy and human rights organisation, Pro-national Conference (PRONACO), however, advocated “very stern measures” against the act of ingratitude by South Africans to a country that made huge sacrifices to guarantee freedom for the former apartheid enclave. PRONACO, through its spokesman, Comrade Wale Okunniyi, the body said the measures should include severing diplomatic tie with South Africa which the organisation accused of envy. “We think Nigeria should apply a very stern measure against the South African government and also demand adequate compensation for all Nigerians affected by xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Part of the stern measures should include a petition to both African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) and possible withdrawal of diplomatic relations with the south African government temporarily. Our investigations have revealed that the xenophobic attacks by some citizens of South Africa on Nigerian successful business immigrants in South Africa is essentially borne out of misguided envy and jealousy, which to us are ungrateful acts to all, as Nigerians did to help black South Africans during apartheid.
It’s against the tenets of pan-Africanism.” Similarly, a former president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN), Comrade Peter Esele said Nigeria could apply economic pressures if diplomacy failed to compel South Africa to do the needful over the crisis. “Diplomacy is the best approach. If that fails then we can apply economic pressure on their various business by denying their bosses Visa. I am against attacking their businesses as most of them are franchisees and the various properties that houses them are owned by Nigerians. Reprisals attacks is a no go area.
The average black South Africa are so poor that they hardly travel to neighbouring countries. The ones are mostly professionals and white. We also mustn’t give room to hoodlums to loot and wreak havoc on fellow Nigerians. The police must deal decisively with those trying to drag us to beastly mode of the South Africans,” Esele stated. On its part, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said the president of both countries should take the matter to the AU for quick intervention. The general secretary of ACF, Anthony Z Sani, the organisation stated: “We condemn the killings of foreigners in South Africa under the pretext of xenophobia.
And given the fact that the victims are mostly black Africans, and also the fact that both Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Mohammed Buhari are seminal figures in African Union, we would suggest President Buhari should take the matter to African Union and cause an immediate meeting of AU to discuss the matter with a view to finding lasting solution to the dastardly killings that have festered for too long now. “More so that Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Buhari have expressed their concerns and have condemned the killings of foreigners under whatever guise.
If the foreigners have run foul of the laws of South Africa, the best approach is for the authority to fish them out and sanction them in accordance with the relevant laws instead of allowing South African people to take the laws into their hands and kill foreigners indiscriminately,” ACT stressed.
In his own remark, the South-West PDP leader, Chief Eddy Olufeso said Nigeria needed to put its house in order if it hoped to earn respect in the comity of nations. “Make Nigeria strong at home and you will be respected abroad,” he said in a terse response to the question from Nigerian Tribune on how the crisis should be handled by the authorities.
A political leader in Ogun State, Chief Lanre Banjo said the demand for compensation and recall of the Nigerian High Commissioner for consultation, by Nigeria should serve as warning to South Africa over the uncivilized behaviour of its citizens. Banjo decried: “It is unfortunate that Nigeria has to lose lives and properties in South Africa and Nigerians were forced to react after a huge loss in economic and human terms before our government began to act.
The steps taken so far by withdrawing our Ambassador, demanding for security and compensation are in order, but the Nigerian government has demonstrated too much uncaring attitude. Our people that reacting must not further punish Nigerians by inflicting injuries on the lives and properties of Nigerians at home.
The form some people have reacted so far does not directly affect the South African people. South Africa and the whole world will laugh at us should our policemen use unnecessary force to sniff life out of our people, while our people are being killed in South Africa.”
Banjo chided President Muhammadu Buhari for “his lazier faire attitude towards the problem before now, just as Banjo claimed that “neither did the administration of Buhari “see it as a challenge to make home better by studying what is compelling Nigerians to seek green pasture outside the country.”
The leaders of South Africa are seemingly unperturbed by the pervasive anger across board over the ceaseless xenophobic attics on the citizens of other countries in their midst. Their government has dismissed with a wave of the hand Nigeria’s demand for compensation for the victims. One of the top government functionaries is spitting fire and brimstone after profiling Nigerians as criminals. Is Nigeria ready to equally talk and cat tough in the face of the belligerence of South Africa?