SOUTH-AFRICA MUST BE WARNED
When two Elephants fight, it is widely believed the grass suffers. This aptly describes the ongoing diplomatic war between two African Elephants, Nigeria and South-Africa. This ofcourse would not be the first time the two countries would follow the cold war path. Many would not forget not quite long ago when xenophobia and xenophobic attacks engulfed many parts of South-Africa with Nigerians most especially living peacefully, being systematically attacked.
The Nigerian government under the late Yar'adua paid lip service to these unwarranted attacks and several attacks on its citizens abroad. It was not until when things had deteriorated to this level over Yellow Fever cards that as usual, the powers that be began a war of words, spitting venom, threatening fire and brimestone and retaliation over what should not have happened in the first instance.
This writer has argued in many places that Nigeria's foreign policy and relations with not only its neighbours but fellow African brothers depicts us as too friendly and brotherly and for that reason have placed us on a path where we are faced with insults, dehumanization and disrespect or how else could we explain comments from the late former Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi, who had argued for a balkanization of Nigeria between religious lines coupled with the brutal manhunt and needless deportation of Nigerians living there and the harsh treatments metted on Nigerians in nearby Ghana, where Nigerians are forced to pay huge taxes before business is being done?
It is quite unfortunate that our foreign policy have slept over issues like this and only portrays us as creeping giant of Africa. For all the salt we are worth, we must begin a process of cleansing our foreign policy, foreign missions and relations with others so as to make every Nigerian abroad seen and treated with full respect.
Having said this, it is unbelievable that a country like South-Africa whose freedom from and fight against apartheid was fiercely tackled by more than five Nigerian leaders could pay us back with back stabbings and all forms of witch-hunting for flimsy excuses. Nigeria more than any country of the world ensured that black and majority rule became a victory for the people of that country, donating money, logistics and ensuring sanctions on the international stage upon the apartheid minority rule. Even when Britain remained disinclined to punish the apartheid regime, Nigeria was quite vocal at the Commonwealth, leading to the boycott of the Commonwealth games.
It is quite saddening that South-Africa had suddenly forgotten where it was coming from and those who gave it a safe landing when she needed it the most. It is for this reason that despite the deepening crisis in the nation's economic and socio-political enclave which forces Nigerians to move abroad, our citizens must be protected and therefore as a Nigerian, this writer supports whatever attitude and act the Nigerian government metes out to her fellow South-African brother.
South-Africa with its actions gives many the impression that some elements within its immigration and police establishments have an axe to grind with Nigerians over past issues, else the accusation that those deported had on them fake Yellow Fever cards and improper documents smacks of nothing but sheer disrespect for the rule of law and international conventions.
If truelly these Nigerians possessed fake documents or cards, other proper channels ought to have been exhausted rather than single handedly resorting to deportation. South-Africa fails to understand that many of its business interests which is embedded in its foreign economic diplomacy and foreign policy and abounds in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria could be threatened by their sordid actions. She has failed to understand that many of its nationals and business interests commit several business malpractices and because nobody cares how you do business in Nigeria, such action by South-Africa could further expose them to governmental scrutiny.
Nigerians are fed up with the dehumanising body checks at airports and harsh scrutiny abroad. We are tired of the fact that because we are Nigerians, other countries must treat us shabbily and without respect. We must begin to appear bold enough to confront nations who take Nigerians for a ride. We must paint a picture to nation's of the world that we are a no nonsense people when it comes to protecting our nationals abroad. Our foreign missions must always be at alert and take full responsibilty of shielding and protecting Nigerians faced with harsh treatments abroad.
The actions of the South-African government is uncalled for and for that reason must apologise for it. However, the Nigerian government must be on its feet to ensure its citizen at home feel the pulse of government. If social justice and welfare of the people had been championed for years, Nigerians would not take needless risks travelling abroad and humiliated in return. The government must see to it that the gap between the have and have not is reduced to the barest minimum. South-Africa owe us a lot and must not jeopardise the long standing friendship we have shared for decades. If they refuse to play by the rules, we must teach them that we as a nation can play dirty. It is not hard to see.
RAHEEM OLUWAFUNMINIYI is a social commentator and political analyst who resides in Ibadan. He could be reached via