37. Xenophobia: An Opportunity For Sober Reflections By Nigerians

Problem Overview

Xenophobia can be defined as a fear for foreigners or strangers. This fear creates a very tense relationship between the locals and perceived guests who may not necessarily be citizens from foreign nations. When nursed to extreme levels, this fear could lead to violent attacks which bears its fair share of unpleasant and grave consequences often resulting in the maiming of fellow human beings or the outright and senseless loss of human lives. These murderous outbursts are also accompanied by the wanton looting and destruction of property perceived to belong to the foreigners or strangers. Xenophobic attacks do not merit any iota of justification or commendation from any rational mind and must be condemned in its entirety by all and sundry. This is the strong position of this summary post.

Nigeria has been on the center stage of various xenophobic incidents around the globe including the latest wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa. While we are rightfully entitled to collectively express our outrage and solidarity for our compatriots who are the unfortunate victims of this despicable dilemma, there is also a dire need for some sober and inward reflection on our part on the reason our citizens seem to bear the brunt of this scourge wherever and whenever there is a major xenophobic outburst across the globe, particularly in South Africa.

Possible Aggravating Factors

Undeniably, a xenophobic fear is nursed by a person of low self confidence; however there could be other underlying aggravating factors which contribute into translating this fear into actions of extreme violence. Understanding these factors might provide insight on the reason we mostly fall victims to incidents of xenophobic attacks outside the shores of Nigeria. Three of such volatile factors are highlighted below.

Please note that it might be easier to appreciate these highlights if we are to swap places with the local populace in such areas. In addition, we cannot deny experiencing the effect of some of these factors right here in our country Nigeria which is strongly divided on ethnic boundaries. Within the context of our country, we could be perceived as strangers when we find ourselves in any region that is not our ethnic stronghold.    

1. The Brutish And Intimidating Behavior Of Foreigners Or Strangers.

A stranger or foreigner in another person’s homeland, or country is required to be of good behavior. The stranger or foreigner must be seen to be respectful to the local populace, their environment, their culture or indeed any other laws peculiar to the society of the indigenes of the location.

There might be certain areas of resentment regarding local issues or habits by the foreigner or stranger, however these resentments must be respectfully expressed when the need arises. It would never portend well for a visitor to engage in unruly discussions with a person who has the unilateral advantage of being on their home ground.

Travelling within our country Nigeria requires a display of this trait of respect whenever a person finds themselves outside areas of their ethnic stronghold where they may be considered strangers. For instance, it would be extremely disrespectful for a Southerner to openly disrespect the domestic ethics of a Northerner because it appears odd at first glance and vice versa.

The advice of wise providence for a stranger or foreigner, who does not see the need to be respectful to a person in their home ground, would be to refrain from paying a visit for any reason.  

2. An Uncontrolled Inflow Of Undocumented Foreigners Or Strangers.

An uncontrolled inflow of (undocumented) foreigners or strangers to a particular location might arouse an unfriendly attitude from a local who might feel threatened by the prospect of scrambling for resources which might be perceived as scarce with the foreign guests. This fear is especially heightened when the staying time of the visitors appears to be more permanent than temporary. It is very human for any local perception of fear that the visitors appear to be in competition with them over resources that are their rightful entitlement of existence.

A real-life illustration of this challenge can be appreciated by understudying Hillbrow; a city in Johannesburg, Gauteng province, South Africa. Sadly, it can only be said that the notoriety of the Nigerian image created by the majority of our citizens living in this city is frightening enough to scare away most South Africans and indeed most persons of average courage.

In fairness, I am most certain that we would never tolerate such glaring domination from any group of foreigners within the boundaries of our country Nigeria. We had frowned and reacted to such domination by undocumented immigrants in 1983. Our government (with our collective consent) forcefully expelled over 2 million West Africans mostly Ghanaians from Nigeria. They left without any compensation for their abandoned properties and there was no international uproar because we acted within our rights of autonomy as a sovereign nation.  

3. An Increasing And Unbalanced Share With Investments And Properties

A perception of an unbalanced growth in investments and properties favoring the foreigners or guests could draw the ire of the local population especially if the investments do not reflect the active participation of the locals either as employees or co-owners. While the laid-back attitude of the locals to work may present plausible argument for this trend, it will definitely not hold any substance in the minds of the local population who could choose to react aggressively in response.

Within the context of this factor as a fuel which can create the fear that can lead to xenophobic attacks, a close observation of some major acclaimed investments of South African origin in Nigeria would reveal that these investments (Shoprite, MTN, Stanbic Merchant Bank, and Multichoice) provides employment for thousands of Nigerian citizens, while their services are benefited by a lot more people. Undeniably, we could have a lot more small scale investments in South Africa, but there are no comparable Nigerian investments that reciprocates the same strength of employment or scope of service for South African citizens in their own country.

Closing Remarks

The pain and sadness resulting from the loss of lives and property experienced by our compatriots in areas prone to xenophobic attacks can never be understated. However the highlights of this summary post calls for a deeper and sober reflection on urgent steps we need to take as a country to mitigate the exposure of our citizens to the embarrassment of xenophobic incidents within and outside our nation (especially South Africa).

A cursory comparison of the geographic size, human and material resources of both countries would reveal that Nigeria has a huge potential advantage. The Nigerian land mass of approximately 923,768 sq km reasonably compares to that of South Africa estimated at 1,219,090 sq km. The Nigerian population is estimated at 195 million far more than that of South Africa estimated at fewer than 60 million. Our overall diverse mineral resources are far more than that of South Africa with our crude oil as an easy citation of measure. So the biggest question on the lips of the entire world is the reason we cannot translate this huge potential of our great country into any meaningful kinetic effect.

The Nearly Infinite Potentials Of The Nigerian Nation – A Tip Of The Iceberg.

Achieving this feat is within our capacity as a nation and would provide the opportunities of the better life we mostly seek outside our shores right here in Nigeria. It would also enable an ability for us to establish foreign investments in other nations which would provide employment opportunities for their citizens at the scale we currently enjoy within the shores of our country from investments by other nations. This is the wisest channel to direct our thoughts and effort in order to earn the respect of the greatness we once enjoyed as the giant of Africa.

Arise O Compatriots…

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