THE grief of a mother who lost her son painted her expression. She wailed inconsolably; held by three women who besides consoling, guarded her against launching into acts capable of adding to the family’s misfortune. The cause of her grief; her son who left Nigeria for South Africa was brought back a corpse.
Her world probably shattered, just as the family fortunes showed prospects. Her son didn’t die in conflict; his death was not linked to any xenophobic attack, rather killed by a fellow Nigerian in South Africa. Incident like this gains ground today in Nigeria.
The death toll of Nigerians fell by xenophobia in South Africa according to statistics stands between 250 and 300 people, perhaps insignificant figure but not in a foreign land. Besides incalculable loss of businesses and properties. South Africa holds the highest rate of Nigerians killed unjustly in any foreign land. Whenever the news of any Nigerian attacked or killed in South Africa breaks, often, people in Nigeria attributes it to Xenophobia. This seems to paint an average South African as xenophobic. Given that a people who seem to have lost sense of history perpetrate xenophobia on Nigerians, against the massive support of the Nigerian government in the fight against apartheid.
Strangely, a new spate of killings may soon eclipse the figure of xenophobic attacks; Nigerians against fellow kins. Surge in death of Nigerians killing themselves in South Africa is worrisome. In the spate of four days, two weeks ago, three Nigerians were killed in South Africa. One involved the stabbing of Mr. Bonny Iwuoha, in Turfontain, Johannesburg in front of his house. Another Nigerian, Gozien Christian was stabbed to death by three unknown assailants. The third case happened at Sunnyside in Pretoria notorious for cult-related murders by Nigerian cult groups.
The Consul-General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mr. Godwin Adama condemning the incidents said that the killings were not xenophobic-related. “It is clear that as much as any form of criminality and xenophobic attacks against foreigners, including Nigerians in South Africa is condemnable, the killings do not fit into xenophobic attacks.”
Last year, the immediate past Nigeria Ambassador to South Africa, Ahmed Ibeto disclosed that Nigerians themselves contrary to claims of xenophobic attacks were carrying out the recurring incidences of murder involving Nigerians. He said from the statistics of killings and their remote and immediate causes available to the Nigeria Embassy, most of the incidences were because of conflict between Nigerians.
The South African story is one bag with two negative narratives for Nigerians. Just before the curtain fell on apartheid in South Africa, Nigeria has large community presence in Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroun among other African countries and still thrives with no records of xenophobia launched against them nor were there incidents of them, killing one another.
Understandably, people leave their country for greener pastures. When a country faces challenges as the economic crisis plaguing Nigeria, people leave in their droves for a better life elsewhere. The norm outside one’s country is to foster brotherly love with fellow country people in a foreign land. Sense of communal affiliation should be one reason to bind them together the more, forge common front to unite as a family than kill one another. The killings create room for many questions. Why kill a fellow countryman in another country.
A business executive, Mr. Uzo Okoye, points to rivalry for the reason behind the killings stating that Nigerians left the shores of the country for South Africa to engage in unhealthy rivalry where mistrust towers above brotherliness. “It beats my imagination, how people could leave their country in search of greener pastures to kill themselves. Even when they have established relationship in Nigeria, hardly do they sustain the momentum when they are in South Africa. A common belief is that they engage in cutthroat competitions over there.”
In another view, many Nigerians argued that greed has always factored in the way some Nigerians conduct their businesses in South Africa. A lawyer, Mr. Ekene Ani, concurs to that. He sees mistrust manifests in shady deals Nigerians conduct over there, where someone tries to corner proceeds of a deal, or tries to outsmart one another as a huge problem for Nigerians in South Africa. “The story of shady deals fall out is common among Nigerians in South Africa. It’s normal for people to disagree and best when disagree to make peace. Unfortunately, that is not the case with some Nigerians in South Africa. They fall apart to kill themselves, the other party can’t let go since the transaction drenched in illegality, something they can’t report to the South African authorities. ”
Some people though unhappy with situation rather lay the blame on the Nigerian system. One such person is a Public Relations consultant, Mr. Ernest Mbamalu. He views the exodus of Nigerians to other countries in search of greener pastures as failure of the Nigerian government. “I’m not against people living the country to earn a living. No place in the world will you have all the citizens of a country residing in that country. The problem is where they leave in their thousands and millions for a better life in another country.
Continuing, he said, “from the 1960s up to the 1980s, when Nigeria’s economy was buoyant, how many Nigerians were desperate to leaving the country for greener pastures? We have foreigners striving to come and live here. Most foreign expatriates preferred to be paid in Nigerian naira than in their local currencies. If Nigerian still maintained a vibrant economy, we wouldn’t have our people move to South Africa, which they see as advanced country on the African continent. Fix Nigeria’s economy and we won’t have what we are experiencing from South Africa.”
The battle for territorial control between drug barons which often results in deaths and destructions was the reason Mr. Onyeama Mba, a social commentator gave for the reasons why Nigerians go after themselves. “Nigerians in South Africa who are into drugs don’t like people encroaching into their territories. Besides, any act of betrayal be it from their aides and workers leads to death.” The situation he said has gone bad that drug barons track their victims even to Nigeria to kill the person.
“Remember the Ozubulu Massacre of August 6, 2017, where some assailants traced their victims to St. Phillip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Anambra State? Though it may not involve drug deal, it illustrates how mean these Nigerians could be. Any businesses fall out often results to death which is uncommon in Nigeria.” He called on federal government to collaborate with the South Africans authorities in monitoring the activities of Nigerians in that country, since they have a better security system to stem the tide of Nigerians killing themselves in South Africa.