South Africa pervasively in Nigeria!

While we all condemn the South African xenophobic attacks, it is important that we ask ourselves a fundamental question. Are we really pained with the attacks and sincere in our condemnations?

As I analyse the attacks, I find it very difficult to agree that we are sincere and genuinely troubled with the South African situation. Reason being that across the length and breadth of Nigeria, there are pervasive actions and inactions of our leaders that clearly demonstrate their intensive creation and support for situations that cause attacks similar and worse than the South African ones.

If we are genuinely concerned with South African situation, the best way to demonstrate it is to committedly ensure that we do not replicate the causative factors in Nigeria. Unfortunately, we seem to be doing exactly the opposite –creating, supporting and sustaining the sources of such attacks.

These include the different forms of wrong and lack of policies, actions and inactions of oppression, marginalisation, tribal persecution, negligence and other social vices that negate or suppress the freedoms and opportunities of citizens.

When our governors confiscate over N500 million monthly in the guise of security votes rather than use the money to improve the primary and secondary education or the health sectors of their state, then we are preparing for attacks similar to the South African ones. Not only do they confiscate hundreds of millions of naira, many of them seem to have abdicated their governance responsibilities such as job creation and provision of basic development amenities.

Rather than innovatively govern their states, many prefer to junket across globe with obscene displays of very wasteful life styles while escalating the unsustainable debts of their states. In such situations which is regrettably true of many of our states, the only feelings and behaviour that will emerge and grow will be that similar to the ones that cause xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

When through ineptitude and negligence, we are now confronted with about $85 billion debt and a possible liability of about $10 billion, we are getting ready for a fiscal crisis that will embolden attacks similar to South Africa.

As about 100 million Nigerians cannot afford the basic needs of life and described as extremely poor with the supposed ameliorative economic plans evidently ineffective, then we are preparing grounds for attacks worse than South African ones.

This is also the case when the major sea ports in the country remain largely inaccessible, power generation seemingly impossible, and farm cultivation significantly reduced due to unprecedented insecurity. With our villages and communities repeatedly attacked with many killed, injured and others permanently displaced within their country, are we not worse than South Africans.

South Africans are killing and chasing away foreigners but we are killing and maiming fellow Nigerians – our country men, women and children. With many of those killed and displaced helpless and unable to fight back, the feelings of hate, oppression and desire to revenge are deep.

An encounter with my Uber driver, Jonah from Chibok is a vivid example of South Africa in Nigeria. After running away from Chibok about 8 years ago, Jonah is unable to return or visit his most cherished village, powerless to see or even hear from his mother and younger ones. He is left frustrated and deeply embittered while he toils for daily survival on the streets of Lagos.

As we have millions like Jonah in almost all parts of the country and with no clear and convincing plan to properly address their pitiable and avoidable sufferings, we have South Africa in Nigeria!

When the security architecture of the country is evidently one sided in a plural society of intense mistrust, are we not deliberately flaming situations for more suspicion and crisis. Relatedly, when elections in areas perceived to be dominated by specific ethnic group are deliberately and violently disrupted to disenfranchise the group in order to achieve preferred electoral outcomes, then we are preparing for South Africa.

Moreover, as such barbarism received little or no condemnation from our leaders and treated with levity even by relevant security agencies, then we are encouraging the development of negative sub-cultures and beliefs akin to ones in South Africa.

When very patriotic calls for the restructuring of the country based on overwhelming evidences that we are in a wrong direction and failing in all measures of acceptable human existence are ignored, we are beckoning and signifying that we prefer the attacks similar to South Africa.

The problem is not really with rejecting calls for restructuring, the frustration is the inability of the few who reject it to provide a convincing alternative or even commit to a proper discussion on the merits and demerits of restructuring for our dear country.

While being in power can create illusionary understanding of our sad state as a country, it is important that our leaders remember that power is transient and that today and tomorrow will become yesterday. To this end, the commendable legacy for our leaders is to listen to wise counsels such as the rapidly growing calls for the restructuring of the country, rejigging the security architecture of Nigeria and developing/executing a well-crafted economic development plan that is sustainable and pro-poor.

Continuing to reject these genuine calls from South West, South East, South South, North Central, North East and even North West can only be described as allowing the feelings and sentiments that led to the South African attacks to fester and grow in Nigeria.

When about 21 million brothers and sisters are reported as unemployed while our government continue to borrow mainly to sustain the lavish lifestyles of very few Nigerians, then attacks similar to the South African ones might not be far.

While verbal condemnation of the South Africa or boycotting the World Economic Forum are commendable, what is more appropriate is genuine and effective actions to address the causes of crisis and attacks similar to that of South Africa.

FRANKLIN NGWU

Franklin Ngwu is a senior lecturer in strategy, finance and risk management, Lagos Business School (LBS) and a member, expert network, World Economic Forum. E-mail- fngwu@lbs.edu.ng,