By Olowogboyega Oyebade
Do you know that the State of Osun has got much to celebrate in the duo of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Mr AdegboyegaOyetola? Do you know that these are quality minds that know what the issues are? Can you beat “Miracle 2014” when Ogbeni bonded together all past Governors of the State in one political net…..Isiaka Adeleke, Chie Bisi Akande, Prince Oyinlola, and Ogbeni Aregbesola himself? Do you know that through this uncommon bonding, Senator Omisore is sitting together with Mr Adegboyega Oyetola today to chart a progressive course for the State? Do you know that it is a rare attribute to know how to organize people? Can you imagine how Ogbeni bonded together in love….the Iyaloja, Babaloja, the NURTW, RTEAN, Farmers’Associations, Okada Riders Association, Students Groups, Theatre Groups, Artistes Groups, Workers’ Groups, Pensioners’ Association, Journalists’ Associations, Drummers Associations, Cooperative Unions, traditional institutions, religious groups, State Boys’ Associations, name it, all welded together to promote peace? Do you know that this bonding is the secret that makes Osun the safest State in Nigeria?
Have you not wondered how Aregbe weaned the State from spending government resources to sponsor people on pilgrimage? Do you not wonder how he commissioned to be written and published the History of every town in Yoruba land? Do you know that without firing a bullet, the State of Osun now has a public holiday observed for traditional religion? Have you heard of ‘Karele Oodua‘, a pilgrimage season for all traditional religious practitioners in the diaspora to come to the State of Osun for pilgrimage and tourism? Do you know that the care for the elderly, school feeding, social protection programmes and State Health Insurance Scheme are going on unhindered? Do you know that the various public-spirited initiatives of Mrs Kafayat Oyetola including the campaign against open defecation threatening the lives of 47 million Nigerians, and the capacity displayed by the First Lady are keeping the women folks in the State busy and relevant? Do you know that bonding with other political leaders and firming up of the security architecture in the State are still going on? Are we not enough good news to celebrate these iconic leaders? We are! We are!
Do you know that a serving Senator declared to the world that Ogbeni Aregbe is a detribalized Nigerian? Do you know that to be detribalized is a virtue that is in short supply in the world? Do you know that the prejudice we nurse against other people is the common manifestation of Xenophobia? Do you know that it is a beast of all nations, mostly put in silent mode? Are you familiar with the music of Fela titled ‘Beasts of No Nation‘ ….a movement “into another spiritual game”? Do you know that the refrain of his music “Aiya-kata”! “O’feshe-Lu”! is a euphemism of the beasts in us?
Are you familiar with the classic plays of William Shakespeare, particularly “Merchant of Venice”? Do you know that Shylock, the money-lender in the play who refuses to collect the payment of debt owed him because it was late is a xenophobic attack on the immigrant Jews in Europe during the Victorian Age, as Shylock insists on taking a pound of flesh instead of the money lent? Can you remember that Portia, the judge says: “Therefore, Jew, though justice be thy plea, but remember that in the cause of justice, none of us shall see salvation…” ? Do you know that the Yoruba wars of the 18th and 19th centuries were fueled by greed and prejudice, a xenophobia of sort? Do you know that it is not peculiar to us? Do you know that in the ancient Greek society, foreigners were referred to as “barbarians who talked in thousands”? Do you know that in the height of the Roman Empire, people of other nationalities were seen as being only fit for slavery? Do you know that as we speak, the non-European Brazilians are still contending with identity crises in Brazil?
Do you know that as we speak, a muslim in Canada is perceived as a potential terror machine and has to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt in any encounter with security agencies, particularly after the 9/11/ 2001 attack in the United States? Do you know that the 4 million Venezuelan refugees are passing through serious discrimination in Columbia, Chile, and other neighbouring countries where they are currently sojourning? Do you know that there are serious social tensions between Guyanese of African descent and Guyanese of Asian descent in Guyana? Are you aware that in Mexico, serious racist tension is in the air between Mexicans with light skin tones and those with dark skinned Amerindians? Can you forget the story behind the heroism of Rosa Parks in the United States? Can you forget in a hurry President Trump’s signing of the original travel ban (Executive Order 13769) on nationals of some originally seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya) which were listed as “countries of concern”? Are you aware that in 1991–92, Bhutan deported about 100,000 ethnic Nepalis? Do you know that in 1998, Indonesia riots over higher food prices and rumors of hoarding by merchants and shopkeepers degenerated into anti-Chinese attacks? Do you know that in 2005, a UN report expressed concerns about racism in Japan? Do you know that Xenophobia in South Korea has been recognized by the UN as a widespread social problem? Are you aware that in a 2010–2014 World Values Survey, 44.2% of South Koreans reported they would not want a foreigner as a neighbour? Do you know that Jordan does not allow entry to Jews with visible signs of Judaism or even with personal religious items in their possession?
Are you aware that according to the 2004 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government was viewed to have done “little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country’s Arab citizens.”? Do you know that Isi Leibler of the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs argues that Israeli Jews are troubled by “increasingly hostile, even treasonable outbursts by Israeli Arabs against the state” while it is at war with neighboringcountries? Do you know that in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel has often been accused of airing anti-semitic broadcasts, blaming the Jews for a Zionist conspiracy against the Arab world? Have you found out why Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen, a neighbour and a fellow Islamic country while Yemeni children are dying of hunger bombs and diseases? Do you know that a study that ran from 2002 to 2015 into social attitudes by Harvard University has mapped the countries in Europe with the highest incidents of racial bias to include the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Slovakia as well as Malta, Italy, and Portugal? Do you know that in France, the children of North African Muslim immigrants and Jewish children are always at logger-heads?
Do you know that in Germany the Nazi racial policy and the Nuremberg Race Laws against Jews and other non-Aryans represented the most explicit racist policies in Europe in the twentieth century? Are you aware that these laws deprived all Jews including even half-Jews from German citizenship? Do you know that in Hungary in 2008 and 2009, nine attacks took place against Romani in Hungary, resulting in six deaths? Have you forgotten that between 2007 and 2008, many national and local political leaders engaged in rhetoric during campaigns that they had plans to expel Roma from settlements in and around major cities and to deport illegal immigrants? Do you know that in Netherlands, in the early 2012 the Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom established an anti-Slavic and anti-Romani website, where native Dutch people could air their frustration about losing their jobs because of cheaper workers from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania? Do you know that in 2010, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation after one year of research, revealed that anti-semitism was common among Norwegian Muslims? Do you know that Russia, Sweden and Ukraine are not spared of this climate of prejudice? Do you remember the 2004 attacks on foreigners in Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire? Do you know that slavery still persists in Mauritania? Can you forget in a hurry the October 2006 in Niger where some “Diffa Arabs” were round up to be deported to Chad ,during which two girls died? Can you now see that xenophobia is a beast of all nations, including South Africa? Come along, please.
Have you read King Solomon’s Mines written by Rider Haggard and published in 1885? Do you know that it is anVictorian adventure story of a search of an unexplored South African region of Africa by a group of adventurers led by Allan Quatermain? Do you know that the novel propelled different adventures for mineral explorations into South Africa by English, Scottish and Dutch adventurers? Are you aware that the adventurous Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa in 1652 to establish a provisioning station for passing ships? Do you know that they were followed by the French Huguenots and German citizens who came for commercial farming? Do you know that by the end of the 18th century, the British annexed the colony and at the same time, the Boers established their independent Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State? Do you know that in 1870 diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, while in 1886 some of the world’s largest gold deposits were discovered in the Witwatersrand region of Transvaal? Do you know that the British annexed the area with the force of arms during the Boer War which witnessed the placement of Boer women and children in British-built concentration camps? Do you know that the mineral deposits and the large agricultural practices laid the foundations of industrialization in South Africa? Do you know that the industries came at a price by giving rise to the organization of the first South African trade unions? Do you know that in 1948 the National Party won the national elections, and immediately started Apartheid policy which was racial, a policy that gave artificial distinctions to white minority group and impoverished the black majority group? Do you know that this is the theme of the novel ‘Mine Boy’ by, Peter Abrahams published in 1946? Do you know that the novel explores the institutions that discriminate against working-class black Africans and poor immigrants? Do you know that the plot of the novel is about Xuma, a black immigrant miner in search of work at the gold mines under a very humiliating condition? Do you know that these indescribable conditions that are para-phrased in the ‘Mine Boy’ are better expressed in the poem ‘Nightfall in Soweto’ by Oswald MbuyiseniMtshali, a South African poet of Zulu origin? He cuts in:
NIGHTFALL IN SOWETO
1. Nightfall comes like
a dreaded disease
seeping through the pores
of a healthy body
and ravaging it beyond repair
3 I am the victim.
I am slaughtered
every night in the streets.
I am cornered by the fear
gnawing at my timid heart;
in my helplessness I languish.
5. I am the prey;
I am the quarry to be run down
by the marauding beast
let loose by cruel nightfall
from his cage of death.
7. I tremble at his crunching footsteps,
I quake at his deafening knock at the door.
“Open up!” he barks like a rabid dog
thirsty for my blood.
Can you now see that Nightfall in Soweto symbolizes terror, insecurity, fear and violence that go on all night long in South Africa from time immemoriam? Do you know that as it was in the beginning in South Africa, so is it now? Do you know that as a demonstration against Indians in South Africa, the racist regime passed the Immigrants Regulation Act of 1913, which provided for the exclusion of “undesirables”? Do you know that the Township Franchise Ordinance of 1924 was intended to “deprive Indians of municipal franchise”? Do you know that in 1994 and 1995, gangs of armed youth destroyed the homes of foreign nationals living in Johannesburg? Have you forgotten that in 2008, a terrible spate of xenophobic attacks occurred in Johannesburg during which 56 people lost their lives? Have you forgotten that in 2015, xenophobic attacks occurred in South Africa, mostly against migrant Zimbabweans when 7 people were hacked to death? Do you know that on the 25 March 2019 xenophobic riots targeting African immigrants broke out in Durban and Johanesburgleading to the death of 3 people? Do you know that on 1 September 2019 riots and looting targeting shops owned by foreign nationals broke out in Johannesburg leading to the death of several Nigerians? Do you know that according to a report, no fewer than 117 Nigerians were extra-judicially killed in South Africa between 2013 and 2018?
Are you aware that a Pew Research poll conducted in 2018 showed that 62% of South Africans viewed immigrants as a burden on society by taking jobs and social benefits and that 61% of South Africans thought that immigrants were more responsible for crime than other groups? Do you know that between 2010 and 2017 the immigrant community in South Africa increased from 2 million people to 4 million people? Do you know that a report by the Human Sciences Research Council identified four broad causes for the violence: relative deprivation, specifically intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing; group processes, including psychological categorisation processes that are nationalistic rather than superordinate, South African exceptionalism, or a feeling of superiority in relation to other Africans; and exclusive citizenship, or a form of nationalism that excludes others?
Do you know that Nigeria boycotted the World Economic Forum holding in South Africa? Do you know that MTN has shut down all stores, service centres across Nigeria? Do you know that despite the fact that the South African Embassy has been closed here and the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa has been recalled? As part of the enormity of the disappointment our country received from South Africa, do you know that the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, spoke on the matter at a press briefing in Abuja last week and advised President Buhari to cut off all diplomatic ties between the two countries, bar South African Airways from flying to Nigeria and implored all Nigerians to stop patronising South African businesses in Nigeria including MTN; Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC and Multi-Choice, owner of DSTV and GoTv? His voice cuts in:
. “This is the time to show commitment to our citizens ….by boycotting South African goods and businesses. ..Nigeria contributed over 60 billion dollars to the struggle against apartheid. You will recall that even Nigerian students contributed their allowances to the struggle. ….We cannot be talking about African economic integration at a time when the world is talking about the role of small scale businesses and those involved in the small scale businesses in South Africa are having their economy destroyed and sometimes, their lives lost. . ….We should no longer sacrifice our own national interest for… a people who does not recognise the role and huge sacrifices that our country has made … to defend the interest of the African continent. “
Do you know that the Nigerian government urged its citizens in South Africa to take advantage of a free flight to return to the country? Do you know that the government has cautioned its citizens against reprisals after some South African-linked businesses were attacked in Lagos and other cities? Do you know that the Ooni of Ife Oba AdeyeyeOgunwusi is lending his voice to break the impasse? Are you aware that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that the country would not severe diplomatic ties with South Africa following the current xenophobic attacks on Nigerians when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Diaspora? Do you know that he said taking such action would not be in the interest of Nigerians in South Africa as available statistics from the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria indicated that over 800, 000 Nigerians are legally living in South Africa? Do you know that he cautioned that any attempt by the country to cut diplomatic relationship with South Africa would greatly affect Nigerians and their huge investment there? The voice of Oyeama cuts in:
“We are not thinking to the stage of diplomatic ties called off. There are various options. We are not by any means at a stage where we are breaking diplomatic relations with South Africa. We just met with the senate committee to review the situation with regards to South Africa and we looked at all the possible options we analysed the possible causes and agreed on a road map going forward. Part of that road map on the executive side Mr. President has dispatched a special envoy to South Africa who would be holding discussion with the South African government at the very highest level. … We are extremely concerned now to ensure that there will be adequate compensation for property that have been damaged… We are particularly determined to particularly make sure that this crisis does not re-occur. We have to ensure that this will be the last time we will ever be meeting to talk about Nigerians attacked in South Africa and to take definitive measures.”
Do you know that the two demands of Nigerian government from South Africa namely: the compensation payment and that security mechanism be put in place to make sure that these kinds of attacks do not recur are tall-order demands? How do we calculate compensation for over 200 lives lost between 2013 and 2018? Can Nigerians alone be compensated? Do you know that the present conditions in South Africa cannot make the government of that country to guarantee that xenophobic attacks will not happen again? You care to know why? Come along, please.
Do you know that South Africa deals in export goods which include gold, diamonds, coal, iron ore , platinum, machinery and equipment, cars, fruits, wines, foodstuff , ground and air military hardware? Are you aware that the economy of South Africa is the second largest in Africa, after Nigeria? Do you know that it is the most industrialized and diversified economy on the continent? Do you know that South Africa is an upper-middle-income economy by the World Bank – one of only four such countries in Africa (alongside Botswana, Gabon and Mauritius)? Do you know that it is among the G20, and is the only African member of the group? Are you aware that South Africa held its first multi-racial elections in 1994, an election won by African National Congress (ANC)? Do you know that the 1994 government inherited an economy in bad shape as a result of various economic sanctions on it during the period of the Apatheid regime? Do you know that from 2009 to 2018, theunemployment rate stood at at 25 per cent, thus raising the crime wave? Do you know that in the second quarter of 2018, unemployment rate is now 29 per cent? Do you know that in April 2017, political tensions in the country arose over the sacking of nine cabinet members including Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan by President Jacob Zuma, an action that made S&P Global cut South Africa’s credit rating to junk status on Monday 3 April 2017? Do you know that Fitch Ratings followed suit on Friday 7 April 2017 and cut the country’s credit status to the sub-investment grade of BBB-, thus making the South African rand to lose more than 11% in the week following the cabinet reshuffling? Do you know that the rich mineral industries in South Africa are still in the hands of the white settlers? Do you know that bulk of the rich agricultural land is still with the minority white settlers? Do you know that the persistent high unemployment rate interacts with other socio-economic problems such as: inadequate education, poor health and high levels of crime to give vents to prejudice and xenophobia? Do you know that the population of South Africa as at 4th September 2019 is 58,691, 060 and that a quarter of this population live on less than US$1.25 a day?
Do you know that only 41% of its population have any kind of job (formal or informal)? Do you know that unemployment rate has fuelled crime, inequality and social unrest? Do you know that the global economic downturn made the problem worse by wiping out more than one million jobs? Do you know that the high crime wave led to human capital flight from South Africa in recent years to Europe, Asia and United States, resulting in exodus of white professionals from key services? Do you know that women are discriminated against in employment opportunities? Do you know that the country tries to curb this by enacting Employment Equity Act, No. 55 of 1988 (aimed at promoting women’s participation in mainly private sector jobs)? Do you know that the social benefits in South Africa in not all-inclusive? Do you know that the social assistance grants are non-contributory and are financed out of general tax revenues without any links between contributions and benefits? Do you know that the state old age pension, received by over 80% of the elderly, is a non-contributory pension? Are you aware that refugees from poorer neighbouring countries including immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and others are major reserves for cheap labour in the informal sector, resulting into mass unemployment for the citizens? Do you know that the Trade Unions in South Africa are very strong? Do you know that there is a persistent wage differential between unionised and non-unionised workers in South Africa, suggesting that unions are keeping wages higher for their members? Do you know that many employers prefer illegal immigrants that will accept low wages than unionized indigenes that will press for higher wages through the Unions? Do you now see that the immigrants taking low wages are just in the mine-field and are easy targets of attacks by thousands of unemployed youths in South Africa? Do you know that illegal immigrants are also heavily involved in informal trading?
Do you know that the Black Economic Empowerment Policy that gives rise to Codes of Good Practice to promote individual ownership by black people has been criticized for placing lesser educated people in more important positions in the workplace and their failure to perform to the standard required has had an immense impact on the economy? Can you imagine how President Zuma under-rated the institutions by marrying multiple wives and diverted State resources to build personal ‘palace’? Do you know that such demonstrations of lack of capacity in accountability are putting the economy into stress? Do you know that the number of unemployed advanced from 6.20 million to 6.65 million in the first quarter of the year 2019? Do you know that a Senior Lecturer in Economics, in University of Johannesburg gave reasons for this unedifying state to include: the parlous state of the South Africa’s public finances, the slow growth of the economy, tax revenue collection repeatedly below forecasts, debt levels rising rapidly and are now at their highest levels in the post-apartheid era and the poor performance of state-owned enterprises necessitating large-scale government support? Do you know that recent developments since the tabling of the 2019/20 Budget in February 2019 have only made the situation worse rather than improving it? Do you know that the country is still under downgrade of government debt to ‘junk’ by a third ratings agency, a situation that may lead to an outflow of investment and exacerbate matters further? Can you now see why adequate compensation cannot be attempted by South Africa to any country including Nigeria for the savagely death of our citizens? Can you now see why South Africa cannot proudly say that xenophobic attacks will stop? Do you know that it is a nation currently in custody, economically speaking? Do you know that the honey-moon is over? What do we do in the interim?
Do you know that the harsh truth is that we shall live with the matter for a long time? Can you believe that we suffer the same fate in Nigeria? Do you remember the case of Gideon Akaluka in Kano… a Nigerian beheaded in Kano for alleged blasphemy? Is it not good to go and read the report of ‘The Independent’ of Wednesday 16 August 1995 of how one Gideon Akaluka, a young Igbo trader was beheaded in broad daylight and those who killed him walked around the city parading his severed head? Do you know that Akaluka’slawyer said he had obtained affidavits which proved that his client was not at the compound at the time and that the woman allegedly guilty of the offence for which he was killed was not his wife? Do you know that no one has been arrested for Akaluka’s murder? The voice of a former presidential candidate, Late Maitama Sule, on the incident cuts in:
“We may end up with a revolution which is just not religious, but may be political, social and economic. Symptoms of revolt loom large on the horizon today. It is a group of disgruntled elements who are out to vent their anger who are joined by some irresponsible, undesirable waste products of humanity.”
The voice of Reverend Father Kukah on the incident cuts in:
“Let’s be clear: there are Nigerians who have invested heavily in violence, in ignorance, in poverty, in turbulence. Because it is when you now have this anarchic situation, that they present themselves as the praetorian guard.”
If not, why are we having harvest of death all around? Why are we having senseless killings? Why is it that humanity in us is taking a sudden flight? Can we promise those who are to arrive from South Africa that they will not be killed here or kidnapped or raped, even as soon as they arrive in our country? Imagine that the two Catholic Priests recently murdered in cold blood in the East and Benue State were asked to counsel Nigerians in South Africa to head for home for security? What would they say? Would they not taunt us by saying: “ Physician! Heal thyself!”? Imagine that Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin, the daughter of our revered leader PaFasoranti who was recently murdered, were to be given the opportunity to address Nigerians currently persecuted in South Africa, what would she say? Do you think that she would urge then to race home to Nigeria? Imagine that Gideon Akaluka wakes up today, what will he say? Why are we not counselling our citizens living abroad to conduct due diligence in keeping to laws of the host countries, live in communities like the Jews and comporting themselves? Do you know that our foreign missions have to work on our citizens living abroad so that they can see themselves as ambassadors for the country? Do you know that ‘devils’ are everywhere? Yes! Xenophobia is the beast in all of us. ….a beast of all nations! We must appreciate our President for being pro-active. He has shown love. He has demonstrated capacity. And to the celebrants…..the Great Oranmiyan and Ileri Oluwa, congratulations. Let the music play on… The voice of Joyce Cary interludes:
Each in another’s eyes finds light.
Each in another’s eyes finds compassion.
This is the moment of pity,
This is the moment of love.”