By Eneidneze Etete
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South Africa, though adjudged as one of the most civilized and developed in Africa, has after many years of surviving apartheid in the hands of Britain, endorsed what it suffered under the former colonial master, as normal. The country which has a hangover of xenophobia – fear of aliens, has continued to displace anger on immigrants in its land. Its citizens have many times, and even recently attacked, harassed and killed foreigners in its domain, for fear of outsmarting them in the use of resources, besides getting re-colonised.

The citizens of many countries have been victims of the brutality by South Africans. Events indicate that government of the country tends to overlook the primitive acts as well as care less about protecting the aliens who are the victims of xenophobic attacks, even in major cities. The government of South Africa has hardly called its youths and security operatives that are perpetuating the dastardly acts to order, let alone arresting and prosecute them.

Nigerians, known for their courage to search for greener pastures even in the land of death, are not left out of the palaver in South Africa. Despite the supportive roles of Nigeria to South Africa during the apartheid era, and to independence, South Africa, haven got solid footing has being paying back in bad penny, except during the regime of Late Nelson Mandela, the symbol of the countries struggles for liberty. In recent times, diplomatic relationship between the two former friends, have been full of gimmicks and row which are gradually turning them to foes. Critical incidents that depict the frosty relationship are the denial of Nigeria from procuring arms and ammunitions from that country; seizure of a private jet allegedly owned by Pastor Oritsejafor and the cash meant for purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram; MTN’s violation of telecommunication regulations and imposition of staggering fine by Nigerian Government as a chance to diplomatically retaliate; alleged arrest of some South African mercenaries who aided Boko Haram in Sambisa Forest and the recent protests and threats by Nigerian students and militants in the Niger Delta to retaliate South Africans and their firms in Nigeria.

The actions of South Africans and in fact their country portrays lack of interest in continental and global image and reputation that they and their nation ought to cherish. The country and its citizens are rather basking in the bad publicity and battered international public relations, which xenophobic acts are earning them.

Granted that aliens are also to blame, for not adhering to the laws of South Africa in their social and economic dealings in that country, South Africans are themselves to blame. They are deeply involved in criminal and social vices as well as sodomic acts that are legalised by its government, thus opening the gate of hell. It therefore, ought not to expect less than what any alien gives does.

The recent xenophobic attacks in the country have attracted a barrage of reactions across the world, compelling experts in international relations/diplomacy, political science, international communication/public relations, international business and others to voice their concerns as well proffer solutions. Nigeria no doubt is not left out in these regards. Down to the Niger Delta, where, threats of violent retaliation has been allegedly reported from militant camps in the creeks, there are pundits, speaking on the matter.

In Bayelsa State, the heart of the Niger Delta of Nigeria, two prolific social scientists whose callings are in the areas of politics and international relations, have barred their minds and offered solutions to the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, how aliens might cope and diplomatic solutions that ought to be applied to end the disturbing row between Nigeria and South Africa. Hear them in their separate views.

Our Embassy Is Not Dynamic … Talks Need To Be Held

  • Ambassador Ekpebu Fumes

Ambassador Lawrence Epkebu says Nigerians are usually attacked silly in South Africa because Nigeria’s Embassy in that country is not dynamic enough to tackle problems facing its citizens in there.

Making this assertion in a telephone interview with this journalist, Ambassador Epkebu attributed the ineffectiveness of to poor funding, inadequate modern facilities as well as inadequate training and non-utilisation of professionals, as part of the reasons that might be affecting the performance of the embassy and ministry of external affairs.

Epkebu as an oversea-bred professional diplomat and professor who traverses the terrains of politics, public administration and international relations, however, described the feud between the two countries as a “very complex issue” which ought to be handled with diplomatic tact. To him, for the matter to be successfully addressed, Nigerian Government needs to investigate the causes thoroughly as well as use professionals so as to get the proper solution.

Despite the chequered relationship between the two countries, Epkebu believes that peace talks between the two countries could still help to stop the crisis.

“International relations is very dynamic, not static. Former friends become enemies, and former enemies become friends. It depends on the ability of countries to manage friendship for a long time. It takes a lot of maturity to manage”, he explained.

Such steps, he said are also necessary to prevent the crisis from escalating into dangerous retaliatory actions from Nigerians and also from South Africans in return.

The diplomat and academic stressed that the case of Nigeria and South Africa is most pathetic considering how they were good friends during the apartheid era, in which Nigeria gave financial support to South Africa during its struggle for liberation from Britain. More than that, he recalled that Nigeria, also gave financial support to South Africa’s return to self-rule, especially by helping to fund the Africa National Congress (ANC), on which platform, the Late Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner emerged as the first black president in that country.

“We did so much for them, to the extent of attracting sanctions from Britain. Now they are attacking our people”, the astute diplomat lamented, stressing that there is no permanent foe in international relations, thus the need to resolve the row.

One aspect brought to the fore by Ambassador Ekpebu is the violation of laws of South Africa by aliens, which is a possible cause for the xenophobic attacks. Aliens, according to him are reported to be indulging in pushing hard drugs as well as perpetuating prostitution in the cities of South Africa. These acts, for this news maker could actually offend the sensibilities of the citizens of South Africa. Hence, he advised that, aliens in that country should shun such activities.

This factor has been linked to the xenophobic attitude of the South Africans. According to Epkebu, South Africans catch in on the excuses of drug deals and use of their citizens for prostitution business to act out xenophobic tendencies against aliens.

“If aliens are dealing in drugs or prostitution …, using South Africans, South Africa can use it as a ploy to deal with Nigerians.

“If aliens are doing such things in your country, you won’t be happy”, he pointed out, decrying however that going to the extreme of killing aliens because of such acts, was not the best.

Thus, Nigeria “… has to be careful and find out what is actually causing the problem … are Nigerians pushing drugs and using South Africans for prostitution?” These, according to him, ought to be unraveled, and affected Nigerians should be called to order. This call from the foreign relations don is vital, considering the recurrent issues of some Nigerians, being caught and executed by hanging or given other penalties, for drug peddling, prostitution and human trafficking abroad, especially European and Asian countries.

Like former president Goodluck Jonathan and many other Nigerians, Ambassador Lawrence Ekpebu wants the Justice Legbo Kutigi National Conference report that has gathered dust in the presidency to be dusted and implemented. A member of the Bayelsa professional contingent to the defunct conference as well as deputy chairman of the committee on foreign policy and international relations, Ambassador Ekpebu, wants the recommendations on establishment of a foreign service commission to control recruitment, training, provision of facilities, welfare and disciplining of diplomats and embassy staff as well as provide policy advice to the government to be implemented right away.

He added that the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa and others in other countries should be well-equipped, fully funded and manned by the right professionals, to make for effective administration and proactive tackling of issues of violation of the rights of its citizens abroad.

These views expressed by Ambassador Lawrence Ekpebu are not far from those of Prof. Ambily Etekpe, who though, anchored his views on force theory of international relations when peace theory which stresses diplomatic overtures seems not to be working. He spoke expressed his opinions on phone with this journalist, unfolding his feelings on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa; the efforts of Nigerian Government; threats by Niger Delta militants and solutions to the strife. Hear Prof. Etepke:ROUROUR GOVERNMEHE SITUATION REQUIRES URGENT ACTION

… Government Is Too Weak … The Situation Requires Urgent Action

  • Prof. Etepke Suggests

Still full of the human rights crusader-orientation he imbibed abroad during his studies in political science as well as NGO career at the Ex-President Gowon’s foundation, Prof. Ambily Etekpe puts the buck of unending attack of Nigerians in South Africa on the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He was quick at explaining his position, first by expressing how badly it hurts any Nigerian who hears of the hate-induced attacks, whether it is mere harassment as Nigeria’s Government announced, and not killing of Nigerians over there. That is perhaps a diplomatic mendacity designed to stop violent retaliations down here. But Ambily sees through the strategic ambiguity in the announcement.

“I feel so bad because if I remember, in 1980, Nigeria took centre-stage in the issue of apartheid in South Africa. Even, when Olusegun Obasanjo was military Head of State, he sold crude oil illegally to South Africa and had loggerheads with Britain.

“Joe Garber as Minister of Foreign Affairs raised funds for South Africa. I was a student in the United States of America at that time. Nigeria paid high price for the liberation of South Africa.

“So if there is one country that South Africa should respect, it is Nigeria. They have done it before, and are doing it again and again”. It is very sad, Etekpe enthused.

He added thus, “I think our government is very weak. Two weeks ago or so, they did same thing and are still doing so”, a development that has made him to take a radical position on the issues.

For him, the protest by the National Union of Nigerian Sudents (NANS) is a step in the right direction.

“I commend the action of Nigerian students against the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa because the situation requires urgent action”, the Niger Delta environmental rights crusader and researcher on oil and environment stated.

He recalled with nostalgia, how students used to rise up against unwholesome acts of foreign governments against their citizens or those of other countries. One instance, which he vividly recalls and which he also participated in, was when Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu visited the United States of America, when he was a student there, and students marched to express their feelings against injustice to humanity.

But, as lover of peace, Ambily put a caveat to the radical stance as he advised youths that violent retaliation ought not to be the best solution to diplomatic impasse between or among countries.

He however, noted that the threats by youths could be as a result of the Federal Government’s weak position on the issue hence reprisal is being considered as the quickest solution.

The die-hard activist and professor of political science suggested that Nigeria should henceforth be proactive in tackling violent actions against its citizens abroad, before they get out of hand. He gave the example of how America rises to the occasion by using both diplomacy and force to deal with countries or aliens who attack its citizens. He used the row between America and India as a case to buttress his argument.

This approach, suggested by the political science don is not in tandem with some Nigerians, who feel that South Africa is more developed and technological advanced as well as more equipped with war arsenals than many African countries who might not successfully adopt force to settle scores with it. For Nigeria, some believe that the juicy revenues accruing from South Africa’s Multichoice, owners of DSTV and those accruing from MTN, also of South Africa and other companies, might always make Nigerian Government to think outside the box on use of force in settling matters with their South Africa. This is even more so considering the excruciating economic situation of Nigeria which the current regime is yet to revamp.

Prof. Etekpe feels that, the implication of not acting urgently against South Africa, despite any economic negatives that may arise, clear. Hence he cautions that “...we should be proactive and nationalistic, not to allow students and individuals do something” untoward.

He added that militants in the Niger Delta allegedly gave ultimatum to South African companies in the region to vacate because government is weak, adding that if government does not act, then room might be created for others to act in unpalatable ways.

Etekpe, advised Nigerians in South Africa to be careful, but noted that no amount of carefulness would stop South Africans from attacking them because they are the owners of their country, adding that the only coping mechanism was for Nigerian government to protect nationals up there, and even those at home.