8th March, 2012
Africans and indeed the world have been taken aback by the ongoing diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa. The source of the misunderstanding is the rash deportation of Nigerian nationals from South Africa for purportedly being habitues of yellow fever. Since South Africa cast the first slur, Nigeria has responded in similar fashion- deported South African citizens as well.
This action by the two countries has been disappointing. As long time allies, the two countries have a long standing affiliation that dates back to the period when South Africa was yoked with apartheid.
Moreover, the two nations now sit on the prestigious United Nations Security Council on behalf of Africa. This explains why this current uproar is disheartening, because they are supposed to utilise the
outlet of soft-diplomacy to solve whatever misunderstanding exists between them.
In recent times, South Africa has been treating Nigeria and her citizens with disdain. We recall the recent xenophobic attacks spearheaded by black natives of South Africa against black nationals of other nations residing in that country. The excuses cited, whimsical as they appeared, were enough for the perpetrators to attack innocent and hard-working citizens who travelled to that country in search of green pastures. Directed at Nigerians particularly, the attackers said their black counterparts from other places cart their resources as well as their women away.
Obviously South Africa has forgotten the role Nigeria played to extricate her from the stranglehold of apartheid. Because of the need to liberate South Africa, Angola and Mozambique, Nigeria made Africa the centrepiece of her foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s. This country played host to a number of African National Congress activists, many of whom were fugitives from the witch-hunting white supremacist regime back home. Who can forget the material and diplomatic resources that Nigeria committed towards the free South Africa project? Who can forget how Nigerian diplomats spoke ceaselessly at international fora for the liberation of South Africa?
At this point, all of that commitment has been wished away and Nigerians are treated with disdain in South Africa. South Africa forgets easily that Nigerians contribute greatly to keeping their economy afloat. Nigerians own high profile investments from Johannesburg to Cape Town, from Soweto to Durban and other areas. These impact greatly on her Gross Domestic Product, GDP. Besides, a horde of other Nigerian professionals- medics, intellectuals, engineers and others lend their skills to South Africa’ new status as a force to reckon with globally. It is really sad that after making these tangible contributions to her growth, South Africa still thinks so lowly of her benefactor.
We think it is time to let peace prevail. Both countries need to exercise some level of maturity and allow peace to prevail. It doesn’t matter who eats the humble pie, sanity must be allowed to prevail.
Nigeria has shown her courage and willingness to defend her citizens anywhere in the world.
But it is time to wave the olive branch. Leaders of the two countries must get on the round table and iron out their differences. Blames must be accepted and pledges to make amends in regard to future conduct obtained. As two of the most respected countries in Africa today, if this strain is allowed to endure, it can affect the continent’s already negatively perceived image. Both countries need to work together so as to continue to push for a common front while defending Africa’s interest elsewhere on the world stage.