Africa has a future. For many centuries, generations of Asians and Europeans have trooped into the continent for human and various natural resources. But, Africa and Africans have struggled to liberate themselves from the shackles of stagnation and underdevelopment that have characterized the region for many decades.
More frequently, news of despicable and dastardly acts against humanity break, while those in position of leadership watch with reckless abandon.
The recent and recurring spade of xenophobic attacks in South Africa against other African nationals is one symptom of Africa’s backwardness, primitivism, barbarism, and failure of leadership.
Immigrants from countries like Nigeria, Mozambique, Somalia and Zimbabwe are often regarded by South Africans as competitors for jobs and social services because of the increasing number of foreigners who came into the country.
According to the South African Home Department, there are over 32, 000 Somalis, 1-3 million Zimbabweans, and over 250, 000 Nigerians living in South Africa. But this is never an excuse for the attacks against them.
What is happening in South Africa today is simply a failure of leadership. Failure on the part of Government to provide the basic needs of its citizens or take action to protect the life of foreigners.
Those who have followed developments in that country since the end of apartheid can attest to the fact that anti-immigrant sentiment has lingered for long, but successive governments did little to curb it. For instance, between 2008 and now, not fewer than 350 people were gruesomely murdered in South Africa on account of xenophobia. In all of those cases, what did the South African government do to either bring the perpetrators to justice or prevent the recurrence of attacks?
Today, some Africans find themselves in the unfamiliar position of protesting the actions of the same communities in South Africa that they once stood with in solidarity. Angry citizens and governments across the continent are lashing out at South Africa and its businesses, denouncing what its people in and around Johannesburg did to immigrants from other African countries last week. For example, Tanzania has suspended flights to Johannesburg. Madagascar and Zambia are refusing to send their soccer teams. Nigeria has recalled its ambassador and pulled out of a world economic economic forum, while protesters are busy on the streets with protests and in some cases vandalizing South African-owned businesses including Shoprite stores and offices of telecommunications giant MTN.
Two popular Nigerian musicians too, Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage, said they were boycotting South Africa. We commend their efforts and those of other Nigerians who lend their voices in solidarity with our persecuted brothers in South Africa.
We pray that this current spade of xenophobic attacks on our nationals in South Africa today triggers sustained action not only against the South African government and its people, but ultimately against those things that have held our nation aback. The killings, maiming, banditry and kidnappings, among other social ills within Nigeria are not any different from those perpetrated against Nigerians abroad. President Muhammadu Buhari must demonstrate the same level of commitment, if not more, in addressing these internal challenges that have caused our country even far greater pain and embarrassment.
In doing this, a distinction must be made between preventive and repressive measures.
Firstly, President Muhammadu Buhari will need to push for what the European Commission Committee on Culture referred to as ‘information and awareness campaigns, cultural exchange and multicultural education’ between both countries on the one hand, and as suggested by Comrade Adams Oshiomole, APC National Chairman, diplomatic sanctions involving the nationalization or threat of nationalization of South African owned companies should the xenophobic attacks continue, on the other hand. These, will practically force the government and people of South Africa to take urgent steps towards compensating victims as well as addressing the root and remote causes of the attacks.
Secondly, Government must work hard enough to provide the good life for its citizens so that more Nigerians do not have to face dehumanizing treatments abroad in search of greener pastures. Rather, the country should be attractive enough to lure citizens in diaspora back home to contribute their quota in the development of the nation.
Finally, our government has a duty to nurture and lead the continent on the path of realizing its full potentials. But this cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of unemployment, worsening social problems, the persistence of injustice, ignorance and, more generally, lack of hope in the government, among other factors. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government must promptly address these challenges in line with the administration’s ‘Next Level’ agenda, so that Nigerians, may one day not only rise against foreigners as in the case of South Africa, but also government or even one another (as is already happening in some parts of the country).