The ongoing war declared on Nigerians living in South Africa which has sparked off protests in Nigeria, brings to the fore, the penchant by the Buhari administration to mismanage crisis.
Over the years, there has been on and off xenophobic attacks on Nigerians with the federal government not bothering to seek a sustainable solution to the menace which, has claimed many lives and properties, flaying tempers and threatening the African sisterhood as the South Africans repeatedly try to chase Nigerians off their shores.
Under the Buhari administration, these attacks fueled by claims of criminal atrocities by some Nigerians in their midst, envy and pronounced fears of being over-run by foreigners expressed by even police chiefs and some community leaders, have received mere cosmetic responses despite the heavy casualties each outing leaves in its trail. That failure to address the root of the problem while striving to maintain the cord that binds us as Africans, has snowballed into an international face-off on Tuesday and aggrieved Nigerians attacking businesses belonging to South Africans, Shoprite and MTN shops in Lagos.
The early warning signs were and have been flashing long enough for the two sides to have addressed the issues bringing forth the attacks but as has been the case with this government, including the realities that got the country the $10bilion dollars slam for a business breach in the British court, government action has been very slow in coming. It was not until Monday when tempers had soared too high to be calmed. A government’s first responsibility is to its people but Nigerian government hardly cares about the welfare of its citizenry much less those outside.
Desperate situations demand desperate measures but in Nigeria, except cows are at risk, government rarely acts. For days, we watched via Social Media as South Africans caged in our citizens in that country burning their businesses and cars and chanting, ”Go, Nigeria go!” while all the presidency could do is arrange to send an envoy that was to arrive South Africa September 5, after much preventable damage had occured.
Our president and his vice were yet to speak even as it has become clear the main object of the xenophobia in South Africa are Nigerians.
This is why Nigerians are constantly being abused outside. Nigerians in Austria have been complaining for a long time, over serious abuse, indiscriminate detention by the Austrian police and nobody is listening or acting to help. Encouraged by silence from our government, other nations including Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, China, Malaysia, etc., have been dehumanizing our citizens in their countries.
In contrast, when the Nigerian High Commission in Washington tried to make access to visa difficult for Americans wishing to visit Nigeria, the US government simply applied a quick retaliation by increasing their visa fees for which Nigeria had to eat the humble pie of pushing down her visa fees. That is the act of a government that cares for its citizens.
The Buhari administration must address this South African menace with toughness to end the madness once and for all. It must also calm the already frayed nerves of Nigerians at home who are feeling the harsh insult on their psyche to avoid the reprisal attacks witnessed in South African owned businesses like Shoprite and MTN.
At the same time, government should work with Nigerians in the Diaspora to check-in those perpetrating criminality thus giving other Nigerians a bad name as well as restore sanity in the country by reviving and establishing where not in place, structures that build sustainable development. Nigeria today is a failed state which in the first instance, created room for the mass exodus that has thrown so many of our citizens into South Africa, providing room for the heightened anxiety and anger against them by the South Africans.
A revived Nigerian social and economic system will see many in the Diaspora coming back home.
For the African Union, the xenophobia issue should be addressed before it becomes a cancer destroying inter-relationships in the continent. About time our leaders took up the challenge by Russian president Putin that though blessed with vast resources, Africa has become a burial ground for leaders who stash the continent’s wealth in the West and only return to Africa to be buried. Time enough to change our narrative to a productive Africa which, can take care of herself.