The killing of Nigerians: National Association of Nigerians Students squaring up to South-Africa government with an ultimatum

You can say it again that these definitely are not the best of times between Nigeria and South Africa.

Threatening the several decades of cordial relations that cut across diplomatic, cultural, educational, and more importantly economic are the reported deaths of Nigerians in their numbers either in the hands of ordinary South Africans or officers and men of its police.  

So far, close to two hundred cases of what can be described as extra-judicial killings have been documented by relevant stakeholders in Nigeria. You can say that is quite alarming.

In a way, this is quite surprising, for two countries whose relations started during the struggles against the white minority rule.

It would be recalled that Nigeria and Nigerians contributed significantly in terms of moral, political and financial supports towards the emancipation of their sister African state which culminated in the release from the prison and ascension to the presidency of the country by the now late quintessential freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

Mandela would go on to prove to be exemplary and an embodiment of what a true Pan-Africanist should be and he was loved, adored and literally worshipped not only by the continent’s political leaders and hoi-polloi alike but by the same world over. He was a powerful point of reference in leadership.

He scored many first, arguably. This is a man who completely forgives his arch-tormentors. He even appointed elements from his adversarial race into office as a deputy among others. He never used the presidential villa during his one-termed tenure of office.

And when he retired from active politics, he moved into true statesmanship providing the much-needed rallying point for internal social cohesion and international respect.   

In fact, many of his continental-wide compatriots suffered from what can be described as a Mandela syndrome with many trying to be like him but failed.
The relations blossomed further in the post-apartheid era when Mandela held sway in the areas of diplomacy and economy with many South African businesses making landmark incursions into the Nigerian economy. Today, we have them in their numbers and doing really good.

In a sudden twist, all the goodwill that Africans and Nigerians especially living in South Africa have enjoyed over the years seems to be fast evaporating. Xenophobic attacks and killings by South Africans have now replaced the old order of communally mutual respect for their fellow Africans.

But the signs have been there for the discerning. There were times when Mandela himself had put down firmly any act of reciprocal evil by South Africans towards the white minority.     

And concerns were openly expressed in several quarters about not only how to manage the cult of Mandela but what becomes the fate of people South Africans considered as their enemies.

And truly that is how things have played out because of the killings of Nigerians and the maltreatments meted out to immigrants from other African countries started immediately after the demise of Nelson Mandela.

Clearly, to me, this is a modern-day re-enactment of the biblical tragedy involving Israelites in Egypt captured in the damnable line: “And another king reigns over Egypt who does not know Joseph”.

And I’m not surprised one bit. After all, we have been told by the political savvy that interest is the only thing permanent in political calculations.  

All that Nigerians and indeed other African countries did for South Africa during their trying times have become historic relics belonging in too distant past that remembering them has proved to be an uphill task for both the South African political class and their followers.  

And like their Egyptian forbearers, they take pleasure in scorning, maiming and killing their Nigerian benefactors whose singular misfortune is daring to brave the distance to come and share in the South African dream and prosperity.
The recent intervention by the NANS is coming after these spates of killings of Nigerians in South-Africa and the perceived lack of political will on the part of the government to engage its South African counterpart.     

After repeated warnings by the NANS, South African businesses in Nigeria were reportedly picketed a few days ago across the country.

And it also issued a 7-day ultimatum for same businesses to vacate the country or face the wrath of the Nigerian Students.

Depending on what the analyst in each and every one of us chose to see, the militant actions or posturing, if you like of NANS, have attracted commendations and condemnations in equal measures.

Those who commend it see their action as a step in the right direction because the government has not deemed it fit to take the bull by the horn and call the bluff of South Africa. 

Successive governments to them have been complacent about the welfare of Nigerians scattered around the world.

To add salt to injury, the South Africa foreign minister in a recent statement regarded the claims that Nigerians are being killed in South Africa as false. This could only indicate one thing and that is what the media is reporting is a figment of their imaginations even where a piece of video evidence is available.

Those who have condemned the actions of NANS see it as complicating the situation. To them, South African businesses in Nigeria are employers of labour who are mostly Nigerians.

And to halt their operations could jeopardize the employment of these Nigerians and at the same time send the wrong signals to other would be foreign investors.

While both sides of the argument are valid; I believe, however, strongly that NANS should take the battle rather to the doorsteps of government and ensure that the needful is done to highlight the premium it placed on the life of every Nigerian regardless of where they live. 

International diplomacy from what I know is an extension of domestic politics. Nigerians don’t take themselves serious hence they are not taken seriously in the diaspora.

All that will change if only there is a deliberate re-calibration of every socio-economic policy and program of government with a view to guaranteeing meaningful life to every Nigerian at home.

And when we go abroad it would be as investors and not as desperate economic scavengers willing and ready to do just anything to survive including criminality.  This over the years has demeaned our humanity and makes the country the laughing stock in the comity of nations.

We can put South Africa and South Africans to shame if we work on our areas of strengths and deepen our comparative advantages in international trade. Our businesses too should think of trans-continental expansionist models being vigorously pursued by South Africa and South Africas.

They do not have a monopoly of wisdom or trade acumen. It is just that we have been complacent over the years and the side effects are just catching up with us. It is high time we march forward boldly into the realm of the Nigerian dream. If there is none, we should not hesitate to craft one. 

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