By KENNETH DARENG
XENOPHOBIA has now become a common word to an average Nigerian. Thanks to the media particularly the social media platforms which have elicited mixed reactions on the recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.
What is now trending particularly on the social media space is pictures of thugs brandishing weapons of mass destruction while some depicts scenes of violent attacks on some individuals or young men and women carting away valuables from shops already broken into.
Unfortunately some of the reports may not have reflected the actual picture of what was on ground. In some cases there were reported cases of misinformation and outright falsehood on account of some of the events in South Africa.
In a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report recently by Maya Hayakawa, it highlighted that, “There are numerous videos on the attacks in South Africa and most of these contain videos and photos purportedly showing violence. But do these visuals reflect what really is happening in South Africa? There is this video here being distributed widely on WhatsAPP. It shows a building on fire and individuals jumping or falling from the roof.
“People sending it are claiming that it is from South Africa but actually, this building on fire is in the city of Surat in Western India. The fire took place in May 2019.
“Another footage on line showed a man being burned alive. He was accused of robbing a woman’s handbag but many are sharing the video claiming it depicts the currently ongoing xenophobic violence in South Africa. But our experts have actually confirmed that the video is from Jo’burg, South Africa and it was recorded in January 2019.
“See, social media is awash with graphic photos and videos that appears to stoke tensions and uncertainty in the country. That appear to confuse many people who find it difficult to tell what is real and what is not.
“What complicates things further is that much of the footage being shared is not fake or doctored but its context is sort of being distorted to make it look like it shows what’s happening right now in South Africa. “But the impact of the social media, outcry has been far reaching added BBC Africa correspondent Maya Hayakawa.
In another report by BBC’s Yemisi Adegoke, she added that, “What is happening in South Africa has been felt in a huge way here in Nigeria. We’ve seen both peaceful and violent protests and it’s not just misinformation about the attacks that is stoking anger.
“A video of the South African Deputy Minister of Police speaking about the presence of foreign nationals in South Africa had been shared widely, but it’s actually a clip from 2017.
“Popular Nigerian blogger Linda Ikeji shared a photo of a burnt MTN office claiming that it has been set alight in Lagos. It was in fact a picture of another fire from another state in 2015”, stated Adegoke.
Xenophobic attacks are not a new phenomenon in South Africa. In fact, records show that attacks against foreigners have been recorded since 1994. However, the attacks hit the peak in 2008 and again in 2015.
But what makes it different this time? According to Peter Mwai who barred his mind to the BBC in an interview monitored by the SUNDAY STANDARD said. “This time you have social media and information travels very quickly and to some extent, the fake news that has been trending on social media have been sort of adding fuel to the fire. For everything that you come across on social media, don’t believe it on face value. Learn to question before you share it with your friends”, adds Peter Mwai.
Meanwhile, the consequence of such negative reports in some cases have resulted in creating rage and tension across Nigeria. For instance, angry youth in their hundreds had taken to the streets protesting the continuous killing of Nigerians in South Africa.
They attacked businesses linked to South Africa, whose citizens have been ceaselessly killing Nigerians and destroying their businesses. There was an attack on Shoprite outlets at Circle Mall in Lekki Lagos, which turned bloody. MTN facilities in Apapa, Lagos and Uyo, Akwa Ibom State were torched by angry youths.
However, in his reaction to the reprisal attacks on South African businesses, Mr. Simon Abah, an Abuja based public commentator stated that, “the reaction emanating from Nigeria is understandable. No one should tolerate malevolence. But when some people begin to say that South Africans do not have monopoly of violence, and that Nigerians should promote a culture of reciprocity, a tit-for-tat, then I have to ask, what value are we trying to propagate with this stance?.
According to Abah “There is difference between policy of state and the policy of hoodlums which government overtime has not been able to use the bully pulpit to rein in.
What happens in South Africa is very condemnable but is not a policy of the South African government but thugs, poverty stricken South Africans, probably with no capacity for anything, just envious of Nigerians doing well in South Africa. If they could descend so low forgetting about humanity, then why should we, as Nigerians also descend so?.
According to Simon Abah, “it behoves on the South African government to take care of their citizens who are forever jealous of Nigerians. Xenophobic attacks have happened elsewhere but governments reined in miscreants that started troubles against foreigners and why not South Africa.
“The South African government has not lived up to its billing to nip these frequent attacks in the bud Abah further said. “It is not the job of the High Commissioner in South Africa to do so, it is not the job of a diplomats on ground in a foreign land to legislate against prejudice which man cannot stop, Abbah added.
“The ANC has failed the people of South Africa. The man in the hinterland and many cities live in the slums and the economy is still in the hands of the white people.
“The concept of integrated pluralism has not worked in South Africa. The chief reason is that the South African lacks the capacity to learn the trade of the white man but is envious of the blackman who only buys and sells quipped Simon Abah.
However, the reality is seen by many observers that many do not understand that most Nigerians living in South Africa do not produce anything apart from the business of buying and selling. Does buying and selling develop any country on earth? Such was the question answered by Mr. Reuben Kolawole, a businessman who spoke with the SUNDAY STANDARD in Jos. He noted that, “buyers and sellers are always at the mercy of manufacturers who can shut them out of business at a moment’s notice.
“I was shocked to hear a Nigerian on TV say that Nigerians are messing up most countries. We need to appreciate each other as Africans, and government must also inspire pride in Nigeria and create the right environment for Nigerians to thrive back home instead of seeking gold which is not available on the streets of any foreign country”.
Also lamenting to the SUNDAY STANDARD, Joshua Akims, a student of Business Administration also wondered, “How many North Africans do you see in Nigeria? If they must travel, it is for short term business and education. But Nigerians are all over the place even in poverty stricken countries you will still trace Nigerians there.
“Perhaps it is the failure of leadership that has bedeviled our country over the years especially with the absence of jobs and other infrastructure that could even encourage young entrepreneurs to depend on the country for socio-economic progress.”
Aminu Jibrin also told the SUNDAY STANDARD that instead of Nigerians blaming the South Africans, Nigeria should rather increase its international diplomacy and not sorties for its sake, but engage in value driven, branding exercises and move away from the tit-for-tat.
“If in the 16th century era, leaders were aware of the dangers of not allowing xenophobia to fester why is South Africa a rallying point for xenophobia in Africa?” Jibrin wondered.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government had in its reaction over the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa described the situation as unfortunate and says,” its too early for South Africans to forget how Nigeria fought apartheid”.
Speaking on the attack, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that. “Nigeria will no longer tolerate hate crimes in any form against its citizens who are doing legitimate business in South Africa.
Also condemning the attacks, Senate President Ahmed Lawan said, “xenophobic violence is most condemnable anywhere, more so in South Africa, a country whose citizens benefited from the unwavering support and solidarity of Africans and freedom lovers across the world in their historic struggle against the evil of apartheid.”
“The enormous contribution of Nigeria to this historic struggle is underscored by its recognition as a front-line state in the prolonged confrontation against the powerful racist regime that had held generations of Southern Africans in bondage and sub-human conditions. The liberation of South Africa was rightly celebrated across the continent and the black world as a final emancipation of Africans from colonialism and apartheid.
Lawan further stated that, “it is therefore an unacceptable irony that a section of South Africans would so soon after now, choose other Africans in their country as targets of mindless violent attacks over frustrations for which innocent victims have no control.”
However what may not be a fallacy is a documented killing of Nigerians in which the national newspaper of Wednesday September 4th 2019 published what it termed A to Z of some killings in South Africa in 2019 as follows:-
February 3: An unnamed Nigerian in his mid 20s was killed by the police;
March 15: another unidentified Nigerian, 44 was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sunny Sidem side, Pretoria.
April 5: Goziem Akpenyi was stabbed to death in Bellville stadium parking lot in Cape Town. He was stabbed by three unidentified black South Africans after an arguments.
April 6: Bonny Iwuoha, 48, from Ihite/Uboma in Imo State was stabbed to death in Johannesburg. He was trailed and killed in front of his gate at Turf road Turffontein.
April 9: ThankGod Okoro was reportedly shot death in Hamburg, West Rand, Johannesburg by the South African Police.
April 27: Samuel Nkennaya, 34 was killed because a mob claimed he kidnapped a six year old girl. He was mobbed with his friend Chinonso Nwudo outside a supermarket.
April 28: Ebuka Udugbo was allegedly killed by South African Police after being beaten to a pulp and died in police custody but the police said he committed suicide.
May 3: Okechukwu Henry, an indigene of Imo State and used-car dealer was stabbed to death in Mpumalanga;
June 13: Ndubisi-Chukwu, the Deputy Director General of Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) was killed in her hotel room;
July 6: Mr Ozumba Tochukwu Lawrence was murdered by an unknown gun man at Koppe, Middleburg, Mpumanlanga South Africa;
August: A 46 year old Nigerian business man, Pius Ezekuwem was killed in South Africa’s Eastem Cape Province by a group of eight policemen. According to the Nation report; in all, over 118 Nigerians are believed to have been killed between 2016 and 2018 in violent manners. Businesses and properties, have either been burnt or looted adds the Nation publication.
Perhaps in a bid to prevent further attacks on its citizens in South Africa, President Muhammadu Buhari had apart from engaging the South African government on a diplomatic shuttle, directed the immediate evacuation of Nigerians willing to come back home.
According to the news report monitored by the SUNDAY STANDARD, a total of 188 Nigerians arrived Lagos on Wednesday, 11th September from South Africa on board Air Peace flight MEN2759. The returnees landed around 9.30am becoming the first set of Nigerians to be repatriated from South Africa over xenophobia attacks.
Furthermore, the Federal Government is considering legal action against the South African government for its failure to act as required.
SUNDAY STANDARD sources gathered that the Nigerian government is urguing that South Africa was obligated under the African Charter on Human Rights and the United Nations Charter on Human Rights and the United Nations Chapter and other international human rights Instruments to protect foreign nationals in its territory.
According to the source, “we are entitled to sue where diplomacy appear not to be working in this case and South African authorities seem complicit.
“Nigeria is a party to the African Chatter on Human and People’s Rights, having ratified the charter on June 22, 1983.
“The country has also ratified the protocol to the African Charter on the establishment of an African court on Human and People’s Rights since 20th May 2004.
“So we can approach the court to seek redress for Nigerians who are victims of this senseless and unprovoked attacks” the official source said.