Xenophobic South Africa and hypocritical Nigeria – Vanguard

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Nigeria. The supposedly pious will zealously and sanctimoniously disembowel pregnant women and disgorge fetuses. Some innocent non indigenes of the wrong faith will have to choose between dying by the knife or drowning in a well. Hopes and livelihoods will disappear. Many, fortunate, will run hundreds of kilometers to the safety of their hometowns . Neither the victimized living nor the butchered dead will be accorded even a semblance of dignity. The dead will be lumped onto lorries , open tipper trucks and driven to hurriedly dug pits , graves, in the dark in the interest of national unity. And the living will get no redress, no rehabilitation. The instigators and the perpetrators , to whom all impunity belongs , will walk away free.
And the House of Representatives that has found its voice in the wake of the South African crises will offer tepid resolutions and nothing more. And the government will console not the bereaved but the trouble makers , so that -”we can move forward”. And they will set up a committee and the committee will come up with papers that will be discarded by the government because the committee was in any case, a ruse.
You die , you die and life goes on . Or how else can it be interpreted? You die for nothing! “No one is greater than Nigeria” they always say. So sleeping rabid dogs are left to lie, free to bite and bite again.
Egregious evil is often banal. And the banality of gross unspeakable acts of inhumanity is the reason the whole of humanity must always be on guard . 800,000 skulls in 100 days. Rwanda . Man’s capacity for monstrous evil must never be underestimated. Common every day people when intoxicated by the brew of hate served them by unscrupulous powerful , self seeking , elements can perpetrate mind boggling evil against fellow humanity. If it were not so thousands of Germans – drivers, doctors , priests, nurses would not have actively cooperated with Hitler and the Nazi regime to achieve the holocaust. And many other good men would not have acquiesced by being passive.
The Zulu king spewed hate and parts of South Africa went aflame. South Africans have been noted to exhibit an exceptionalism , a shared self perception as non Africans . And many have tried to find the reasons for such a ‘superiority complex’ or sense of otherness . Their struggle against apartheid may have conditioned them and foisted on them a sense of uniqueness sufficient to justify the conception of brother Africans as “others”. But nothing can explain a penchant for naked hate filled violence by black south Africans against black Africans of other nationalities. The current spate of attacks is preceded by other such events. Everyday street interaction reveals a population seething with hate for black immigrants in many parts of south Africa
Many South Africans allude to the fact that many of the foreign African nationals in their country engage in nefarious activities and help to worsen the deteriorating crime situation in the country. A particular charge is laid against Nigerian nationals for drug peddling, advance fee fraud and armed robbery. It is true that years of apartheid has left many black south African youths and families impoverished and educationally backward. These black communities suffer many social dislocations and deprivations and all of these have contributed in raising family and social tensions. Such communities can ill afford aggravation of broken situations by immigrants. But rather than employ mob justice and barbaric methods , why wouldn’t such an aggrieved society use the criminal justice structures and immigration processes to stem any such foreign criminal proliferation.
The other popular but patently spurious refrain is that black immigrants have usurped jobs meant for locals. And this , however viewed , is a ludicrous charge. If jobs exists locals always get priority. And this is acceptable worldwide. And if locals consider the jobs beneath them or lack the expertise to fill the roles then immigrants would naturally take up the roles. Hard working, law abiding immigrants benefit all nations. Why would the success of black African immigrants engender murderous envy in a predominantly black country where whites dominate at all levels. Whites live in opulence, legacy of apartheid .
Blacks live in squalor , no thanks to Botha and his ancestors . Yet down trodden indigenous black Africans transfer murderous aggression to fellow sympathetic black Africans. South Africa has deep seated problems of social inequality which scapegoatism can’t solve . And at the risk of being misconstrued as a racist, why are South Africans targeting only their black African fellows if their xenophobia is borne of economic desperation ? Why are immigrants of other races so welcome where the fellow black Africans aren’t? White South Africans must be on their guard, the tiger may turn on them soon.
Many African nations sacrificed so much in the fight against apartheid and the inexplicable lukewarm attitude of South African leaders in the wake of the attacks has baffled many. A group of hitherto shackled people who, in their dark days , lived off the benevolence and charity of others in the spirit of African brotherhood. And whose freedom was purchased by the contributions of sweat and blood by many African nations. People , who privileged on the identity of ‘Africanness’. How can they so treacherously now turn their backs on Africa and repudiate African brotherhood and murder and burn Africans on the streets of Durban in day light?
But Nigerians have so much to learn from these events. The Zulu king asked foreigners to pack and go. That was extremely irresponsible and the gravity of the offence he committed lies in the enormous influence he wields. The Oba of Lagos, recently,made a worse pronouncement. He swore by Allah and promised death for all Igbos he voted contrary to his imperial dictations. Many have called for the head of the Zulu king for instigating this chain of calamitous events and many of those screaming from their rooftops in Nigeria were not heard after the Oba’s venomous pronouncements .
Before the Oba could be asked “ what were you thinking?”, many rose to his defence without any squeamishness. And even well known human rights activists and social crusaders went dumb. A few mustered a few whimpers in the spirit of political correctness but betrayed themselves when they sought to control , moderate and limit the grief of the primary victims.
Those who felt victimized and outraged were often asked , peremptorily , to let sleep dogs lie and move on. When Femi Falana managed to ask the Oba to apologise reminding him of the crimes he had committed, we were told it would be sacrilegious for the Oba to apologize. An Oba who is no longer a sovereign , whose word is no longer law anywhere, cannot tender an apology for a grave moral and legal infraction he committed against millions in Lagos? Come to reality, this is not 1800.
The Oba defiantly refused to apologise, and the state failed to take any action against the Oba and , by so doing, set a dangerous precedent. People charged with the constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order cowered and abdicated their duties. The South African Human Rights Commission is investigating the Zulu king but the Nigerian Human rights commission known for barking and not biting only rendered a couple of perfunctory and ineffectual howls. The Oba and Lagos state government have conveniently swept the matter under the carpet. It is my prayer that the seeds of discord sowed by the Oba and watered by a manifest disregard for the feelings of his victims in the failure of a proper resolution of the matter do not sprout and bear fruits someday .
And someone wondered why the Oba should be sanctioned since , as she put it , – no one died. But the gravity of such a grave moral and criminal offence is not primarily determined by its actual immediate physical consequences. Nothing grieves a victim more than the remorselessness of a conceited offender. Oba’s refusal to apologise is an aggravation of the offence, moral and otherwise, he committed. And that lack of penitence is in itself immoral.
“ Lagos is not a no man’s land” many yelled in the wake of the Oba’s saga , yet some of them would cheer Nigerian youths who rallied to defend themselves , holding their grounds in Durban and Jo’Burg and repelling violence with violence. They aren’t particularly asking their countrymen who live in Durban to pack and come back. It is easier to ask why a legal immigrant in Durban is not entitled to his peace than to understand that a Nigerian citizen in Lagos does not owe his continued flourishing there to anyone’s magnanimity. Let any returning Nigerians pass through and pay homage to the Oba. Let them lay some of their woes at his feet. Perhaps experience will teach best.
Lagos, I insist, is comparatively, very accommodating. Be it in Kano , Aba, Markudi or Jos , amongst those yelling and tearing themselves up and decreeing death to south African businesses here are people who make living intolerable for non indigenes. In many parts of Nigeria , especially up north, non indigenes sleep with eyes wide open, live on the precipice of disaster because locals would leverage on any breakdown of law and order and prey on their lives and property.
Yes, amongst some who actively took part in the killing Gideon Akaluka and amongst others who endorsed that heinous crime by their eloquent passivity are later day human rights activists whose sense of moral outrage is only touched by distant events like xenophobia in South Africa. But they will kill and maim fellow Nigerians in exercise of religious and ethnic bigotry and retain equanimity
The pictures coming from south Africa are gory and horrific. Conspicuous free flow of moral outrage is good and hopefully will be effective deterrent. But emotional outpourings are not enough. While we demand firm justice against perpetrators and protection and rehabilitation for our citizens and others, we must soberly reflect on the goings on in that country and we must internalize the experience.
Women and children have been decapitated severally following religious riots in northern Nigeria. Thousands have died in Plateau state in many ethnic /religious confrontations between indigenes and “settlers”. Instigators and perpetrators have always walked away and victims have never been rehabilitated. So we can make demands on South Africa but we must set same standards for our selves. Punish offenders, soothe victims, re- orient the society.
Let justice, peace and unity reign.

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