ALTHOUGH the mob actions against South African businesses in Nigeria were ill-advised and regrettable, they helped shake the President Muhammadu Buhari government for once to take needful actions.
Apart from these violent reprisals which ended up hurting the interests of innocent compatriots, the decision of many African countries to boycott the World Economic Forum, WEF, in South Africa might also have played a big role. The Federal Government took a number of emphatic measures that calmed the frayed nerves of Nigerians.
For probably the first time ever, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, sounded like a man in charge, declaring: “We have made it clear that what has happened in South Africa is totally unacceptable. Enough is enough. We are going to draw the red line here. We are not going to accept it again”.
The Federal Government had hitherto adopted a lukewarm attitude to the attacks probably because of their concern that some of the violence were either inflicted by Nigerians on fellow Nigerians or as a result of community uprising against our criminal elements in their country.
Either way, the argument does not hold water. It is the duty of the South African government to control all forms of criminality in its jurisdiction by firmly implementing their laws, whether it concerns their citizens or foreign nationals. It was their failure to act responsibly that gave way to mob actions. Corruption and conspiracy by the South African authorities fuel these xenophobic actions.
The Nigerian government should have wielded some of the big sticks at its disposal long ago. It was failure to do so that encouraged their South African counterparts to keep a blind eye on xenophobic crimes within their populace.
With billions of dollars of South African businesses in our economy and our looming strategic presence on the continent, the Federal Government can more than repeat the diplomatic reprisal that the Goodluck Jonathan government activated in 2012 when South Africa insolently deported 125 Nigerian travellers from Johannesburg airport over whimsical yellow fever vaccine issues. South Africa was forced to beg and withdraw its action.
Going forward, we call on Nigerians in South Africa to stay put, stick together and await further developments. They should only return if they feel it is absolutely necessary to do so. Nigeria, having played the leading role in liberating the Black population from Apartheid, are inalienable stakeholders in South Africa.
The South African government should bring the full weight of the law on all criminals in their country but adopt zero tolerance to the harassment of law-abiding foreign nationals, especially Nigerians.
President Buhari should seize the scheduled opportunity of the impending summit with President Cyril Ramaphosa to end xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.