As you are reading this today, Nigeria will have began to evacuate hundreds of its citizens from South Africa. Abike Dabiri, Chairwoman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission told media outlets in Abuja that up to 600 Nigerians had registered to return home from South Africa where a string of xenophobic attacks has targeted them. This is one more step that the Nigerian Government has taken to respond to the wanton attacks on its nationals in South Africa by hoodlums and criminal gangs seemingly prodded on by hate statements from even top South African politicians promoting ethnic cleansing.
The sad commentary with regards to Nigerian victims in South Africa is the accusation that the nationals engaged in economic crimes, human trafficking and particularly drug dealing. For a country that tries and condemns its alleged corrupt more in the media than in the courts, where bandits attack villagers in their sleep and kill them, where kidnappers have continued to operate in broad daylight on a national highway of importance as the Abuja – Kaduna artery incessantly, the xenophobic attacks in far away South Africa would have been a mere itch on the emotions of the Buhari government.
But graphically exaggerated social media reports elicited a public angst back home and to a lot of surprise, a government which has hardly responded with empathy to disastrous experiences of the local population rose up to the crisis, taking decisive steps laudably so. It was a different Buhari government.
The South African High Commissioner was called in and he went on the defensive. Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa was recalled and an envoy was despatched to South Africa with a carefully worded rebuke of Prime Minister Rahmaphosa. Stopping only short of severing diplomatic ties and nationalizing South African businesses in Nigeria, government counseled its nationals to return home and work at it. The despatched envoy conveyed Nigeria’s deep concern over intermittent violence against Nigerians and their property and business interests in South Africa over time. President Buhari urged the South African Government to take visible measures to stop violence against citizens of brotherly African nations, reminding that South Africa was one of the leading countries on the continent, a status that would be easily diminished by the destructive happenings.
The incident has forced a review of the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular in South Africa. Gingered by Buhari’s action, other affected African countries took their own proactive measures to review their relationships.
As Nigeria sees to the evacuation of its nationals from South Africa, it should be a source of our concern that the South African incident could spark similar reactions in other countries where Nigerians seem to migrate to and engage in abuse of the freedoms guaranteed there. The task now remains for the Government to brace for it. Same way we asked “Ghanaians to go” in 1983, leading to the coinage of the Ghana Must Go polypropylene bags, we must prepare to be asked as Nigerians to also go. The circumstances are similar. Our country today, like Ghana was then, is bad, with resources plundered by the elite, leaving suffering masses to wander the earth. Nigeria and her people must react to South Africa same way Ghana and her people did to Nigeria way back then. Needed is a national rebirth, a change of orientation and direction with methods which President Buhari must be quick to deploy for immediate results.
Nigerians suffer hatred in nearly all the countries where they seek to sojourn. Our people have an attitude that distinguishes them not because they are the only bad elements but because of the population. Nigerians never migrate in small numbers. They commonly consider wherever they are, as home, forcing hosts to tolerate their flamboyance, profligacy, hyperactivity and gregariousness. Nigerians are significant high fliers in all fields of endeavour that include technology, medicine, art, and philosophy. Nigerians can rule the world. Sadly it is the criminal activity that gets the headlines, making success the cross the people bear.
Nigerians agree in unison that it is a shame that conditions back home are so bad that generally citizens are forced to flee the country to safer and greener pastures. Professionals like medical doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, teachers of all cadres and more have left the harsh circumstances in the country to earn a living abroad. There, citizens will continue to bear the brunt of success. The times now require for Nigeria to build a better country. There is no time to think of options. President Buhari must decide and act, and see that immediate, midterm, and long term solutions to all facets of our problems are addressed with resources that we have in abundance.
In the immediate, government must reach out to all aggrieved with an olive branch. The wounded nation wants to hear healing words continuously from the President. He must address the deep lacking of a sense of belonging which has arisen from the government’s deficiency in inclusiveness, whether it acknowledges so or not. Communities feel deliberately marginalized and ostracized, hence the resort to group disobedience or migration to lands where one can be comfortable even as a nobody.
Policy statements with regards to fundamental challenges namely insecurity, infrastructure deficits, human capital development particularly youth employment and empowerment sound very good to the ear. Unfortunately execution is through a circuitous method that leaves government and the people shortchanged by public officers. It is abnormal that insecurity has defied all costly government measures, and it is trite to consider expectations of the people from the government as too high. They emanate from the promises made before the granting of popular mandate in 2015 and again in 2019.
Every day Nigerians are left frustrated that there is an elite conspiracy to stifle progress, and that corruption still persists; that the prolonged battle with Boko Haram is clandestine, that the worsening insecurity is a ploy to pillage over the running blood of the citizenry. Does no one dare tell President Buhari all this? The capacity of the government is far much more than being achieved, more so given the abundance of resource.
The real revenge against South Africa is not that our criminal elements pillage South African investments in Nigeria, or that Nigeria nationalizes their investments, or that the Super Eagles thrash Bafana Bafana. Let us build functional mega cities with the allure of South Africa, out of every one of our State capitals. Let us grow our economy to be characterized more by yielding blue chip companies than by mushroom limited liabilities. Let us give safety and quality to life, pursuing excellence in sincere expressions of faith, tradition, art, culture and tourism. And we can do it. This would be the real revenge.