Suckers and xenophobic South Africans
I WAS doing my post-graduate studies in the United States in the winter of 1978 when the first in the TV series of Alex Haley’s book, Roots, was on air.
The following morning, I felt ashamed of myself as an African whose ancestors sold the American Negroes to the White man as slaves and now there in the U.S. scrambling with them for the crumbles that fell under the table in terms of jobs and opportunities. I was never a part of their struggle and should not come and reap where I did not sow.
There and then, I made a promise within myself that even though I was a Permanent Resident with only two years left to become a Citizen, God willing, I would not stay one day more than necessary in that country. I finished my studies in June of that year and left in August 1978. I have not been back since.
To my mind, the current Xenophobia that has gripped South Africa within the past few weeks has its base in South Africans looking at foreigners as suckers, who are reaping where they did not plant.
Like the black Americans, South African blacks suffered the horror and injustice of apartheid for ages with no foreigner in sight to fight along with them in the trenches.
To the rest of Africans at that time, South Africa was like a leper’s colony where no black person would pray to be. Never mind the lip service of governments playing to the gallery with the issue at that time, the South African blood is what was spilled, unlike the Congo where foreigners really fought.
Like slavery, apartheid was eventually abolished and the dust had hardly settled when foreigners started flocking in to share the resources that were not even enough for South Africans black themselves. According to reports, the black population has more than doubled since, with majority being foreigners.
They suffered under the apartheid regime and when it was time to reap the fruits of their labour, there came the foreigner with his long spoon sponging on them. They were never used to foreigners as a South African recently wrote.
They viewed other Africans as ‘Africans’, while they are South Africans, more decent and civilized. Nigerians have been Xenophobic in the past and even now, except we have no choice.
We like imported items, but as soon as a foreign company comes here to be producing the items, we start counting how many Nigerians are there, how badly they are treating them, all sorts of rules we begin to apply.
Eventually we end up frustrating them. The Igbo man in Lagos is a “foreigner” and was being “deported” not too long ago, one madman was even saying they should all be killed in their own country.
The Hausas were routed out of Sagamu, still not too long ago. No Nigerian woman would want to go to a hairdressing salon owned by an identified foreigner unless she pretends to be a Nigerian.
No killing of any human being is justifiable under any circumstance, but sometimes if you push the goat to the wall, it would bite. South Africans fought apartheid, now they are fighting suckers and spongers. The killings must be stopped, but let Nigerians and other foreigners the South Africans don’t like leave their country for them. Let them enjoy the fruit of their labour. •Dr. Akinyooye lives in Ibadan.