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Xenophobic attacks: For how long should our countrymen brand us bad?

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By Mark Columbus Orgu

AFTER a careful look at the various arguments concerning the incessant attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, which also resulted to some youths attacking South African-owned businesses like Shoprite and MTN, most social critics have described these incidents as unfortunate and against the growth of the Africa continent. Meanwhile, African leaders have condemned the act, reiterating the sacrifices made by our African heroes, to keep Africa as one family. The late Nkrumah, Nyerere, and even Azikwe, were all promoting oneness, and made us to see reasons to share brotherly love rather than hatred.

Xenophobic attack in South Africa

Like Martin Luther King Jr. used to say: “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cuff the chain of hate and evil. The greatest way to do that is through love. I believe firmly that love is a transforming power that can lift a whole community to new horizons of fair play, goodwill, and justice”. This is what those South African plotters would have done, and follow the rule of law to engage Nigerians, who they might have considered to be a threat to their rightful job opportunities as alleged.

Another trending story was the alleged involvement of Nigerians in drug business, and the pollution of their land. But the truth is that crimes are found everywhere; so the burden of proof cannot be upon Nigerians living in South Africa. The South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, has accused most Nigerians living in the country of illegality, describing the xenophobic attacks as an embarrassment for her country.

South Africa’s xenophobia: A gathering of many demons(Opens in a new browser tab)

She was quoted as saying on the South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC: “Our government regrets all violence against foreign-owned stores or Africans from other countries who are resident in South Africa.” She, therefore, ordered the closure of the country’s high commission in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and its mission in Lagos, following threats made to the diplomatic staff.

The question is: Should we now repay evil with evil or follow the teachings of Christ, who preached against retaliation? Well, that is a discussion for another day. Meanwhile in a short conversion I had with a friend(name withheld), who is a Nigerian and resident in South Africa for more than a decade, he described most attacks against Nigerians in South Africa as sad, but had this to say: “Indeed, this has been our concern; the majority of Nigerians in South Africa are engaged in nefarious activities ranging from drug-dealing, financial crime, human trafficking and using locals for prostitution.

“I must add that the concerns of South Africans are legitimate; unfortunately, they are addressing it in a barbaric manner. In the wake of these attacks, our government needs to persuade  Nigerians to conduct themselves as responsible residents of this country. It is regrettable that innocent Nigerians are affected by the barbarism of some uninformed South Africans; however, the blame must be equally shared as well as the solutions.

“Let me use this platform to discourage Nigerians at home from damaging the property and businesses of South Africans. Believe me, the root of this problem is the conduct of our countrymen. Let us utilise the energy in talking to ourselves; the whole idea of hitting it big overseas is a mirage; the only difference between these countries and ours is that they have a better government and social infrastructure. It is really sad to see fellow countrymen destroying our identity as Nigerians just because of the pressure back home.”

The questions before us are: when can we regain our pride of our founding fathers, where is our dignity, even with all the free gift of nature, that God has given to us as a country? Yes, we have bad leaders who lack vision and direction. Our young ones find solace outside their country just because the few have engaged national wealth to themselves. It is time to rethink Nigeria, otherwise, more damaging situation will arise if nothing is done to engage our young Nigerians productively.


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