Is ‘coming home’ the answer to the xenophobia question?
At the beginning of the video, it’s hard to tell what exactly is happening. People are angry, smashing things, circling something. Is it a protest? Is it a march? A riot? There are no banners, no chants. Shot from a high angle the faces of people below are inscrutable.
The videographer moves a little closer, zooms in, there’s flash of silver, it looks like a metal trash can. It’s being raised high into the air then and smashed down on something, repeatedly. Another second passes until you realise that it’s not something, but someone. The bin is repeatedly brought down on the man’s body, another man lifts what looks like a stool and joins in. The man lying down is defenceless but tries to scramble away, only for the mob to drag him to the ground, kicking and punching him repeatedly. He lies in a foetal position trying to absorb the blows before making another run for it. He is stopped again as more men continue to smash things on his body, on his head.
The video comes to an abrupt end like these videos often do and the fate of the man lingers, as do many questions. The source of the video is The Association of African Students in India and among other videos is this one, showing the brutal attack of an African man by an Indian mob. There’s a follow-up video of the man lying on the floor as police inspect the area and a third video of a man bleeding after purportedly being attacked: “Please our African brothers should stay indoors for now,” says a voice in the video “It is very serious…it’s not a joke.”
He’s right, it’s not a joke. Xenophobic attacks against Africans, in particular Nigerians, seems to be on the increase at an alarming rate. Last month there were multiple attacks on Nigerian students living in northern India, including the one detailed above. According to a report by CNN, nine Nigerians were attacked, and two were hospitalised. And it’s not just in India.
Last year in Italy, a Nigerian immigrant was beaten to death. In South Africa, xenophobic attacks against Nigerians have become frequent. In February, the News Agency of Nigeria reported attacks and looting of Nigerian owned businesses in Pretoria West. Ventures Africa reported that Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, had met with the South African High Commissioner about the matter. “We have lost about 116 Nigerians in the last two years. And in 2016 alone, about 20 were killed [in South Africa].”
The issue has become so bad that according to Vanguard, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Oyeama, revealed that Nigeria and South Africa have set up a 24-hour warning system to ‘protect Nigerians from unwarranted attacks.’
Reaction to these incidents usually follows a similar trajectory. Outrage; how can Nigerians be treated so badly with such a level of seeming impunity, what are the governments of these nations doing? What is Nigeria doing to protect her citizens and ensure their safety? The level of violence, vitriol and anger directed towards Nigerians is shocking, particularly because Nigerians welcome all nationalities who come to their own country, at times to their own detriment.
Then there’s the solution: Come home. “I am tired of reading headlines like Nigerians being beaten in Goa, Nigerian Beaten in India, Nigerians Killed in South Africa, Nigerian murdered in Dubai, Nigerians deported from Libya, etc. Na only Nigeria waka come?” said one user on Nairaland. “If you are not wanted in foreign lands, come home!” “What are you people doing in India? If they don’t like you, come back!” said another. “Home sweet home, However, damaged the country is. it’s still ours… come back home,” chimed another user.
This might seem like sound advice, but is it? No one should have to deal with xenophobia, racism or abuse under any circumstances, but rather than asking people to ‘come home,’ shouldn’t we look inward and try to tackle the reasons that have led to people leaving in droves in the first place?
Despite reports of ‘Nigeria rising,’ the country is still suffering from ‘brain drain’. Nigerians that travel abroad usually do so for a better quality of life and who can blame them? The 2016 Center for World University Rankings, ranked the top 1,000 universities in the world and despite having 150 universities, not one Nigerian tertiary institution made the cut. Unemployment is rising, poverty is rife and infrastructure is almost non-existent. So what exactly are these people coming home to?
Nigeria is one of the few places I know where, perhaps, we should figure out how to ‘home,’ so that people don’t feel pushed to leave; then we can encourage others to come back.”
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