Late Chinua Achebe said, ” A man that does know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body”.
Indiscriminate killings of Nigerians abroad have received lesser attention until now, we have witnessed the unjust killings of Nigerians in India (Asia), Europe, America, and shamefully Africa itself. South Africa has gained traction recently by becoming the country responsible for the highest number of Nigerian deaths abroad. It is no doubt that Nigeria is among one of the countries in the world with the highest number of skilled migrants, immigration has always had a mixed reception in various parts of the world, intolerance of immigrants in the developed world is often spurred by racism, tribalism and religious bigotry.
Immigrants are perceived as threats to citizens of high-income countries because of the desperation seen in skilled and unskilled migrants who are willing to accept substandard wages for jobs to have a decent life. Corporations have exploited migrant desperation for decent living to cut wages, increasing competition between skilled migrants and natives in order to rake in more profits, and shipping jobs abroad to reduce the cost of production through cheap labour. Natives continue to direct their anger at their governments and the migrant community for being responsible for job loss, unemployment and hardship in the country.
“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit”. Mahatma Gandhi
Politicians have exploited the fear of immigrants to gin up votes, creating an atmosphere of palpable tension, appealing to people’s worst emotions, creating anxiety in the immigrant community which often breed hatred, violence and destruction. What is unnerving is the nativism happening in South Africa, in the era of identity politics where people closely related to each other by race, hew or origin form exclusive political alliances to further their interests, one would expect that Africans or blacks in any country on the African continent should be regarded as sons and daughters.
This is not the case and it has never been the case in Africa, tribalism and nationalism have been weaponized as defence tools against foreigners of African descent in African countries from East Africa, North Africa and to South Africa. Looking at our history, Africa looks like a continent made up of disparate countries with a mildly shared history, we were former colonies with diverse cultures, languages and tribes. We have rich traditions and monumental historical records, ancient civilization started in Egypt, Africa but this pride is not shared by all of us and it feels like some of us do not belong due to territorial boundaries. It is hard for Africans going to other African countries just as it is for Africans getting a visa to Europe.
There is a need to understand what is feeding this intolerance, all over the world, countries have loathed immigrants who want to benefit from their economies, a creeping sense of entitlement is in every citizen or native who feels their forbears and fathers fought, bled, sacrificed and died building the country. The country is not free for all but for citizens only, while there is an understanding that immigrants have also contributed to the country’s fortune, this does not sit well with parents whose bloodline sacrificed for the country only to see an immigrant reaping the benefits at the expense of their own children.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” . Nelson Mandela
Nigerians are hardworking people, notorious immigrants on every soil, we are very sophisticated at everything we do, from education to businesses, innovation to healthcare. There is also a downside to our immigrant history and that is crime, we cannot run away from our identity, we cannot abandon our homes and take pride in being tenants elsewhere without consequences.
If xenophobia has taught us anything, it should be that we need to fight for our country, root out a system that has soiled the dignity of our citizenship, strengthen our civil community, use modern-day innovations like social media and the internet to expose a culture rife with corruption and insider dealings, let us make it shameful for the nation to have unqualified leaders, weak, semi-educated, well educated clever devils and toothless legislators who craft poorly written, badly thought out legislation that sends us backwards every day.
There is a requirement for citizenship, we fail this test requirement every day, an ideal country with high incidence of extrajudicial killings of her citizens abroad would have taken measures to reduce future occurrences of such. This dereliction of duties as citizens paved the way for the social and economic ills we face from within and outside the country.
To simply put it, we are treated the way our country is perceived, there is hardly anything we can do to get past the blemishes of our nationhood. The South-African government cannot have selective amnesia over these killings like they never happened before, we have not been taken seriously by them, a sane response would demand that the SA government enforces the criminalization of the deaths of lawful foreigners at the hands of her citizenry.
On our part, there should be enormous diplomatic pressure placed on the South African government and businesses in our country in the face of injustice or lack of actions. We need to do more beyond expression of outrage, the people are the ones who suffer, reprisal or wanton destruction of South African properties at home serves to widen the chaos and sufferings of the Nigerian people.
“Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problems: it merely creates new and more complicated ones”. Martin Luther King (Jnr.)
The greatest threat to our lives and freedom as a people won’t be from demanding liberty but looking away when it is taken from us.
To our friends in Africa who treat us as alien invasion and infestation of all sorts, please visit your history books, understand the long struggles of your founders so that you may build on their victories and not repeat past mistakes.