Opinion: Xenophobia, South Africa & the World: Some Recollections, Call for Prayer, Sincere Global Action; By Prof John Abhuere, FNIM

The news of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other countries in South Africa reached me in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. It made sad about hatred taken too far, lives and plans abruptly terminated and people forcibly dispossessed. It immediately raised some existential issues of humanity being violently debased and life being cheapened. Then it jogged memories and recollections of historical recollections such as the demands of globalization, the Ghana must go episode in Nigeria under president Shehu Shagari in the early 1980s and the nationalization of the British Petroleum much earlier in August 1979 by the Military government of Nigeria to punish Great Britain for selling oil to apartheid South Africa and its untold negative effect on the country’s economy.

The nationalization move was only one of the spirited efforts by Nigeria to ensure the liquidation of colonialism and the apartheid regime, free the black from bondage and ensure majority rule through democratic practice. According to a report in the Washington post n 1979 by Jay Ross, Margaret Thatcher then Prime Minister of Britain described the Nationalization exercise done in the spirit of African brotherhood as extraordinary move”.

But British extra ordinary response took off heavy pounds of flesh from Nigeria which kept her limping for some time though with pride. Nigeria made the sacrifice so that South Africa and their neighbors then still under colonial bondage would be free. Now disgrace is the reward. It is good that the president of South Africa had condemned the act, but as it were South African youth have forgotten those critical support which contributed to change the tide of oppression and unchained the black people from slavery forever.

Having suffered much deprivation before freedom came and been nursed and nurtured by the great Nelson Mandela the modern day apostle and Chief exponent of forgiveness and peaceful racial coexistence, the protesters ought to be more circumspect and discretional. The South Africa ought to show greater respect and gratitude to Nigeria than what obtains today. The great Nelson Mandela recognized Nigeria’s role in the liberation of those parts in his speeches and writings but I am not too sure that the youth as commanders of his tomorrow understood and learnt useful lessons from his sermons. Just too bad. Today the world needs prayers and sincere global action to save her from the destruction and waste caused by the cancer known as xenophobia.

“No condition is permanent” observes the wise man. Thus we should all be careful. This is the lesson from Ghana for Nigeria and the rest of the world including Ghana. When the the ‘Ghana must go’ thing happened in Nigeria I was in England as student of development studies at the University of Wales SWANSEA South Wales and Chairman Nigeria Society. I was not happy because those being sent away were youth who were not responsible for the decisions that weakened the economy of Ghana. Besides, l had many friends from Ghana one of them a name-sake who was exceptionally brilliant especially in our Costs & Benefit Analysis class. He was a strong Ghanaian patriot just as I am a a Nigerian patriot. We got on fine. Then the bombshell came to test my loyalty to friendship and country. My analysis using the CBA suggests that the exercise has no much economic benefits but could have some political value for the government. Those who were being sent out Nigeria were helping the country by doing those menial jobs Nigerians were unwilling to do. The artisan were even helping to train some Nigerians in some trades.It was thus a misplaced aggression by a government that was faced with a very failing economy. But when Radio SWANSEA came calling for a Nigerian view I went both patriotic and diplomatic: “The news from home is still very hazy. There is no diplomatic rift between Nigeria and Ghana- two great brotherly nations. It is all a brotherly affair.

However there is misunderstanding over non-registration with the immigration department where those without the correct papers being asked to go and correct them:no rift. Ghanaian are our friends and brothers now and forever. We must learn to be each other’s brothers keepers”.

But look at the turn of events later. The dark days of Ghana are over at least for now. Nigerians are there now as students. While we hope that they do not wake up one morning to start driving Nigerians out as a result of pent-up xenophobia, it should be observed that no condition is permanent. Man cannot e stay in one place.There would always be the need to move from one country to another. The same need to expand the frontier of economic activities which gave rise to the age of global navigation for opportunities that led to the “discovery” of Africa, India , America etc has not diminished. It is the nature of man to search for greener pastures.

To paraphrase the Holy Bible:Treat others as you would like to be treated. It might just be your next time. Thus it is morally wrong and unwise to rise in arms against some people making some living legitimately in your country forcing them to lose all their wealth at a go and at times even their lives unjustly. And all these are happening at a very advanced stage of globalization. Some have drawn attention to crimes such as prostitution, drugs etc involving foreigners. This is no excuse for violent xenophobic attacks because the dictum is simple: when you are in Rome, you behave like the Roman-obey laws and order of the authorities. This means that if foreigners break the laws treat them in accordance with the law and punish them accordingly. If this were the case there would not be any need looking for planes to take citizens home from South Africa.

As observed earlier, when Nigeria sent Ghanaians and others packing, the economy was bad and in need of damage control. From all indications the South African economy is down low and they are probably looking for scapegoats. If this is true, then the elite must playing out a very dangerous political elite game in South Africa. Africa and the rest of the world must recognize this danger and work hard to ensure economic prosperity to reduce the misplaced aggression which xenophobic attacks are. The world must act in concert to ensure that things work fine in the global interest of peace.There is something still good in globalization.

This leads me to welcome Burna Boy whose whose amazing performance in New York, UnitedS States of America resonated here in Canada – thanks to the power of globalization. For example when the sad news from South Africa reached me I was reading a good report in the Lethbridge Herald about going the Nigerian Musician Burna Boy (Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu) who according to the paper ‘blazes trail in US’. He had recording business with”. Queen Beyonce who flew him into Los Angeles to record a song….” -thanks to the connecting power of globalization The Artist who reportedly coined the term “Afro fusion” was named as the Best International Artist at the BET Award in June this year, participated in the sound track for the for one of the 2019 most anticipated films’ in the US,etc.

It was really a good story about the Nigerian and Nigeria by Gary Gerald Hamilton of The Associated Press NY in Lethbridge Herald ofSept 7, 2019. The Burna Boy’s story was a refreshing diversion from Internet fraud, drug related offenses, prostitution, terrorism for which many Nigerian youth had been better known in the more recent past. At least not all Nigerians, not all black peoples are bad,are fraudulent. So the impact of globalization on youth , on the economy was on my mind wondering if Burna boy would have had the opportunity without ICT.

Now the gospel of Xenophobia says: stay away from us. Is it wise, or necessary to remain in your father’ compound when opportunity exists outside.Xenophobia in an age of globalization is conflictive and retrogressive. The rising wave of xenophobic attack in a highly globalized world is contradiction of values.This must be the new age of acute divisionism and ideological war in form of high tension between the demands of globalism and narrow xenophobic dispositions.

Globalization demands opening of borders to allow goods and services to flow the consumer unhindered. Xenophobia is exactly the opposite: pleas go away, please stay away, shut the doors, we don’t want your love -your friendship and presence are.poisonous . It is the return of the savage time of barbarism .Globalization thrives on love and trust and free movement of goods and and services. Xenophobia is hatred, restriction and mistrust personified. We must all reject Xenophobia. Unfortunately we are all guilty. Instead of fighting it, we are spreading it with words and actions both within individual countries and across national boundaries.

The xenophobic attacks in South Africa only just recent example of the insane or dastardly act. They were a travesty of the norm and what is decent in humanity. They were unnecessary and they betrayed serious knowledge gap. I was shocked by the utter debasement of humanity by their mob actions . Truly, I was horrified, terrified beyond words,sad and disappointed by the cruelty of what I heard and saw in the videos which showed the excessive wickedness of man to man. Specifically I saw anger on display, mob action, extreme hatred, the near break down of law and order and much more I saw death flying in the air as fire roamed uncontrollably in accordance with with the direction or commands of the wind.

Apart from those who were jumping down from the roof top of a high rise building without aids or assistance waiting, there was a pathetic one who was set on fire and struggling for life with hundreds of people watching as though in a cinema hall, and as if the punishment was not enough, a callous man walks to add a quick burning card board to accelerate the pace of death. No human feelings anymore It was a horrible show of Stone Age mentality.

It is a shame that such barbarism was happening in Africa the cradle of world civilization and in South Africa the chief beneficiary of human kindness and cooperation and global contributions and support in winning freedom , power and dignity and whose legendary leader Nelson Mandela- Madiba was the chief and greatest exponent of forgiveness as source of strength and powerful tool for nation building since Gandhi the lawyer master architect of the principle of truth, non-violence and forgiveness. It is simply unbelievable and I wished it was untrue- at worst a horrible dream.Yes, we must reject violence and xenophobia and embrace love and peace. Globalization would always have its haters and critics such as this writer who strongly believe in the protection of infant industries, a heavy role of the state in economic affairs of developing countries but as a phenomenon that has swept across the globe, it has its many good points .

At least it has contributed immensely to the improvement of the world especially communications in the land, the sky and the sea. Can South Africa do it. alone today? Are they now proponents of apartheid by other name-xenophobia?

Or are they now telling us to swallow our pride with bended kneels to accept the poor view expressed by the arch racist and top exponent of apartheid policy PW Botha Prime Minister/ president of Apartheid Africa to the effect that Black people are incapable of self governance because of tribalism and hatred and xenophobia is their common game. To him give them guns they kill each other and preach tribalism because they hate each other”. And give them government their leaders would loot the treasury. In short Black peoples are xenophobic because of of hatred, lack of love and more importantly because they have what he calls ‘weak and negatively constructed brains”.

Well as one who participated in protests against Apartheid regime as active member of Anti Apartheid Society in London, I hate to quote from Botha. Thank God there has been Mandela whose achievement in life are enough to disprove the Botha Insane generalization. However as Nigerians would say “na condition make cray- fish bend.’ The crude behavior of some Africans today tends to Botha’s racially jaundiced view of the Black Man. As they say in Esanland “don’t behave like a slave, if you do not like to be called a slave”. I think we can behave much better, show better conduct and healthier attitude to others.than what I saw during the outburst of xenophobia in South Africa.

I know that Lai Mohammed had explained that the people seen in those videos were not Nigerians but they are members of human race. I am concerned with them as human beings who met their death suddenly and violently in the most beastly manner as a result of man’s inhumanity to man due to hatred of the xenophobic complexity. Our collective humanity has been thoroughly debased and fast crumbling and we have to act fast and decisively to save the situation. The fake aspect of the news is that they are not Nigerians but as part of humanity we need to be concerned with the sanctity of life so cheapened by fellow members of the human race and to condemn the hatred, barbarism and the inhuman way they were despatched from this world – the planet of man and women.
We sincerely have to pray and work hard to make the world a safer and more secure place for us and to be able to live in any part of it as one chooses. This was why I supported his early intervention and plea for calm and restraint from destruction and other forms of retaliation .

It is for the same reason I rejected the call for nationalization and all such stuff emanating from fits of anger. Nigeria has done well to evacuate her citizens home, but what next for them? I asked this question because of some experience of a then young Nigerian who was persuaded to return home from the US after post graduate studies. He returned home and for the next three or more years had no job and no funds to to do business. Frustrated he checked back to the US. Can we now begin to remain in our fathers’ compound hungry while food abounds outside for the willing, hard working, honest and law abiding citizens. This is why global leaders must show genuine interest in solving the problem of hatred and xenophobia to allow free movement of labour, goods and services across countries.

Author: News Editor

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