Nigeria’s illusion of grandeur and self-characterisation as the Giant of Africa is being exposed daily for what it really is. Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in many countries all over the world, particularly Africa, and the timid response by the Federal Government, portray us as a weak nation pretending to be strong. South Africa serves as a proxy for other nations now treating Nigerians in their country like scum.
When in 2014 the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) after rebasing the economy pronounced Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, many people were sceptical, given all the available indices. South Africa, which we purportedly beat to the second place, not only operates an annual budget four times larger than our own, its two largest banks dwarf all Nigerian banks put together.
Its external reserves have always been much higher and South African investments in Nigeria approach ten times our investment in that country. While virtually nothing works in Nigeria, South Africa runs on autopilot.
Those facts exposing our frailties explain why there are approximately 800,000 Nigerians in South Africa. That is an equivalent of the population of some countries.
As the global economy experiences slowdown, every nation is desperately trying to cope with high rates of unemployment among its own people. It is utterly foolish for any nation to think that its people, most of them illegally, can continue to invade other nations without consequences.
Xenophobia is the latest manifestation of growing intolerance toward immigrants, legal or illegal, worldwide. Almost weekly now, Nigerian citizens are being deported from foreign lands. The South African experiences which involve deportations, murder and destruction of property, is the world’s clear notice that Nigeria cannot continue to dump its emigrants on others.
The lame response of the nation’s authorities to the attacks on Nigerians is a clear admission that we are almost helpless. Retaliation is only viable at the level of diplomacy, and it cannot achieve much.
We must put aside petty quarrels and quests for sectional supremacy and evolve a system that will address our poor quality leadership problems; a system that tackles corruption and expedites development.
Fortunately, Nigeria is naturally endowed beyond measure. We have what it takes to become one of the greatest nations on earth; a nation that is able to keep most of its people at home and become a place where others flock to as we do other progressive countries like USA, UK, Canada, China, UAE, South Africa and others.
The only way Nigeria can regain its global respect is to make this country a place where its citizens will be proud to stay and give their best. Unless we make Nigeria great, Nigerians can never be treated with respect outside our shores.