Xenophobia: Nigeria vs South Africa

24 Apr

In one of his essays, Emmy Godwin Irobi likened Nigeria and South Africa to the Biblical Aaron and Moses, who were endowed with the responsibility to bring Africa out from the bondage of despair, decline and underdevelopment. He noted that history has imposed “the enormous task of finding solutions to some of the most pressing African concerns” on the two regional powers.

To say it my way: South Africa is losing its grip on the continent which is not good enough. Not economically or in strength but in goodwill and respect. On the other hand, Nigeria seems to be gaining ground which is welcome news for black Africa to an extent. But it is still not good for a reason.

Now, to link it with Irobi’s comparison. Yes, Nigeria is now touted the largest economy in Africa and it has more rich men in the top 50 list than South Africa but that’s not all. Going it solo isn’t a bad idea, but not the best.

Truth is: Nigeria is not ready to lead Africa, at least with the look of things presently. Albeit it has been a slow and steady move to this point, Nigeria needs more time to fully get a grasp of things if it will stand in the forefront.

Without doubt, the world’s most populous black nation has what it takes to be at the top economically and in every other facet. It’s just that it has been faced with several challenges that, if rid, could have promoted the country beyond this point some years ago. Several years of clueless moves has made it a mockery of many.

Now, it needs time to rearrange things within its ambit and position itself as the giant it has been touted to be. How soon that would be done is a question only a few – if any – could answer.

In the mean time, while trying to set its feet firmly on the ground, Nigeria needs South Africa – as well as people of both nations. Working together, which I think has been lacking in recent years, will help keep both countries on their toes as they strive to deliver better services to their people instead of a non-beneficial and secluded relationship with one looking aloof at the other.

We all know it’s been going on for long. Quietly – or maturely, depending on where you are. I know Nigerians have more than a thousand complaints about something South African. I haven’t been to the other side to know how it’s been. But the step by Nigeria to recall its envoy, one of the most serious in recent years, tells me the government might be going en sync with the people.

Hence when I read the South African response to the recall over the xenophobic attacks, the unfolding episode seems more undiplomatic to me. Nigeria recalls diplomats, South Africa responds with a sense of suspicion of a hidden agenda, reliving the memory of South Africans who had died in Nigeria some months earlier.

This wouldn’t have been the case if Nigeria had not made the move in the first place, a move I’ll consider a little extreme if there isn’t anything hidden about the issue other than most of which we’d known.

I hope it will be for the better. If not, the direction the rigmarole is going will not augur well. It would be better for some smaller countries to lead Africa. O/

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