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South African xenophobia, the fire this time (1)

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FOR the first time ever since 2006 when the crime of xenophobia, which had simmered in South Africa over the decades became a major issue, the highly elastic patience of Nigerians snapped last week. They had had enough of the killings and destruction of businesses of their compatriots in South Africa.

Gangs of youths attacked businesses linked to South Africa such as Shoprite, MTN, DSTV and the like, destroying, looting and in some cases setting such premises ablaze in Lagos and other cities.

Unfortunately, hoodlums had taken over, and in Lagos, they also looted Nigerian businesses and robbed passers-by.

The wisdom in the refusal of the security agencies to allow public protests without police permission immediately came to the fore.

An action supposedly meant to send a strong message to the people and government of South Africa became an albatross on our entrepreneurs sharing the same premises and malls with South Africa-owned businesses. We shot ourselves in the foot.

This is one of the dangers of government’s failure to do its job. If the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had not foot-dragged over these years while our people were being slaughtered like chicken (unlike the swift steps taken to rescue Zainab Aliyu from being wrongly executed by Saudi authorities for drug offences in April this year), the violent reprisal by Nigerians would have been prevented.

Whenever leadership and governance fail, eventually mobs take over. And in doing it their own way they often end up defeating the purpose of their uprising.

The violent reprisals not only hurt our own business owners and innocent bystanders, it also led to huge job losses by staff of these South African companies who are invariably Nigerians.

If Nigeria is to learn anything from the strategy of violent reprisals targeting South African companies, it is that it does not pay. It backfires. It is wrong, and we say no to it.

We should not pay xenophobia with xenophobic revenge. Returning fire with fire may send some useful message, but unless it is tactically controlled it will end up causing more harm than good.

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We call on our large army of social advocacy groups to take up this battle against South African xenophobia. It should not be left in the hands of mobs and hoodlums who are criminals in their own right with their own evil agenda.

Advocacy groups should organise peaceful rallies duly observed by the police, putting pressure on the Federal Government to force its South African counterparts to stop the attacks on foreigners, especially Nigerians.

We have seen the power of the people work magic in Algeria, Sudan and Hong Kong.

Only governments can solve this problem, and if they fail we, the people, have the ability to force them to act.


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