Monday, 27 February 2017

South Africa's Xenophobic attack and the Ghana -must -go case

Ghana-must-go bag is a locally made bag in Nigeria with different sizes and colours and capacity. It is used mostly for interstates travelling and moving of goods and foodstuffs. When I was quite young, the name 'Ghana-must-go' fascinated me because a sack bag was named after a country and I was tempted to assume that the bags were either made in Ghana or the manufacturer is a Ghanian. Whichever, I was interested in knowing the inspiration behind the name so I asked my parents about it. They laughed heartily to my question and told me how Nigerians matched against Ghanians in Nigeria during Maj.Gen Buhari Regime and it was in a way instigated by the then military head of state. 'It wasn't a violent match' my father was quick to add, we just wanted them to go back to their country and develop their economy and it worked peacefully. Majority of the illegal immigrants moved back to Ghana with sack bags that we later named 'Ghana-must-go' and it's the name till date.
The Igbos call it Obodoyibo but in English language it can be referred to as 'abroad'.Abroad is a name we give to some Western countries that offers many opportunities, has a good economy and low cost of living. America for example is 'abroad'; the first time my Aunty travelled to the UK, she called us with excitement in her voice to inform us that finally she's in 'abroad'. Every family in Nigeria will like to boast about their relatives abroad; I have an uncle that lives abroad, my cousins are all in obodoyibo and so on but 'abroad' can not be anywhere, especially not just any  African country, it must meet our standards and South Africa is the only African country that has met our qualifications so far. So Ghana is Ghana and South Africa is 'abroad' and one needs  visa, international passport and flight ticket to get there. Statistics has shown that a handful of Nigerians live in South Africa for obvious reasons; Schooling, good economy, infrastructure, their minimum wage is about $260 and ours is $60.
About two years ago a Xenophobic attack was launched by South Africans against Nigerians and other African immigrants in South Africa which took the lives of about eight people because they think the foreigners are siphoning their businesses and source of livelihood. My father was angry about the attack so as were other Nigerians because it wasn't the first, I think the first was in 2008 which claimed the lives of 60 people. My father took it personal, it was as if the attack was against his dignity, his soul and spirit. He felt wounded and betrayed, he told me stories of the Apartheid and how they (himself and other well meaning Nigerians) boycotted lectures and fight against the Apartheid and how they celebrated the release of Nelson Mandela. 'It was like our own fight' he said and in many ways we have come to see South Africans as our own brothers. In a fist of revenge, he broke his MTN simcard, called our relatives and told them to boycott Shoprite and DSTV and any other south african investments in Nigeria. All these he did out of mild irritation and anger; ofcourse anger has a long history of restoring dignity and setting things right and the xenophobic attack subsided and reduced until about three weeks ago.
My SA based friend called me to inform that there was another Xenophobic attack in Johannesburg, SA. The victims were alleged to be drug dealers, human traffickers and bad people but all the victims were Nigerians and this made it troubling to me. Why only Nigerians? And there was outrage online between the two countries and I was surprised how most people (SA citizens & even some Nigerians based in SA)supported the attack. I was surprised how people believed that jungle justice is the best way to deal with crime. Let's assume that the victims were guilty of the alleged crimes but Victimhood is not a Virtue and treating them badly will not in any way curb out crimes rather it will leave a wound on their dignity.
I was arguing with someone online about the attack and he was quick to pointout the Nigeria's Ghana-must-go case and it has never occurred to me that there's is a relationship between these two occurrences. In many ways the Ghana-must-go case was more of an awareness than an attack, It wasn't a Xenophobic attack and nobody's life was endangered during the march. There's still a good relationship between Nigeria and Ghana, my hair dresser here in Nigeria is a Ghanian. I want our SA brothers to apologise for the attack and to know that every Nigerian is not a drug dealer and even if there's then such individual should be reported to the SA Drug and law enforcement agencies like we have here in Nigeria. I want them to 'love' and not just any love but the Igbo translation of 'Ifunanya' which is 'to see'. I want them 'to see' that dignity is as important as food and Victimhood is not a Virtue, to also know that jungle justice is not justice at all.
There will always be this collaboration between Nigeria and South Africa, and most recently Big Brother Nigeria (a Nigeria reality show) is being shot in South Africa. In many ways we still see SA as 'abroad' and I can't count the number of Shoprites in Lagos alone and the number of Nigerians that subscribe monthly to DSTV, not to mention the millions of Nigerians that use MTN sim and buy costly data to access the Internet and am one of them. We should start 'to see' the brotherhood and the more we collaborate, the better it will be for Africa.

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