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BY KEN UGBECHIE
‘Last week, two Nigerians were gruesomely murdered in South Africa. They were shot by gunmen and they died afterwards. The Nigeria Union in South Africa said last Wednesday that the two Nigerians were shot dead in Western Cape Province. Mr. Mike Ibitoye, the Chairman of the Union`s chapter in the province, said that the Nigerians were shot by unidentified assailants.
One of the victims was Mr Ernest Ughakwesili, 42, native of Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State. He was said to have been shot in a night club by gunmen at Strand Area of Cape Town exactly a week ago today..
The second victim Chimezie Oranusi, 26, from Oba town in Anambra State, was shot with a friend in a car at Delst area of Cape Town. The friend is a South African and is still in the hospital receiving treatment. Oranusi died from the gunshot injuries. The South African government is in the know concerning both incidents, but as usual has done nothing.
This latest killings would add to the 116 Nigerians said to have been killed through extrajudicial means in South Africa within the last two years. In the wake of the savagery visited on Nigerians in South Africa late last year, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, expressed strong fury but without fire. That was the most she could do. The External Affairs office of Nigeria is expected to lead the charge in the strongest condemnation of these killings and arresting the trend but it is obvious our officials prefer to sip coffee while superintending the funeral of their citizens.
The situation gets you angrier when you are told that nearly seven in 10 of the killings were carried out by the South African police. Abike showed good anger when she met with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Louis Mnguni in Abuja. A good 63 percent of the killings were carried out by South Africa police who have shown a growing penchant of criminalising Nigerians just to get them out of the way and out of existence.
In one of the instances in December 2016, the Metropolitan Police in Cape Town suffocated a certain Victor Nnadi, a native of Imo State, to death. I am not against punishing errant citizens or migrants but it must be in accordance with the law. To deploy extra-judicial means to exterminate a particular group of people is to say the least bestial and banal. If some Nigerians or any other national commits an offence in South Africa, the law should be allowed to take its natural course starting from investigation, arrest and prosecution in a competent court of law. To adjudge Nigerians guilty to the extent of killing them by any means, fair or foul, by South Africans including the police whose duty is to protect lives and property of the people speaks of the hate and hurt against such people.
Yet, South Africa and Nigeria have come a long way. When black South Africans were oppressed and repressed by the minority white community through the cruel stick and strictures of apartheid, it was Nigeria that showed up for the South Africans. The South African Institute of International Affairs situated the Nigerian brotherly intervention most succinctly. It reported that Nigeria spent a whopping $61billion between 1960 and 1995 in the fight against apartheid. This is not a stipend. Aside the humungous amount committed by Nigeria to end apartheid, notable Nigerian s were known to have championed the cause to end the slavish minority white rule which deliberately retarded the growth and development of black South Africans both in mind and material; segregated them to the backwaters and reduced them to subservient existence. Nigerian musicians gave voice to the push to end apartheid. Nigerian journalists of that era were not left out; they assumed the position of a watchdog over the African country whose citizens were made to look and feel less than humans capable of doing good including taking part in leadership and determining their future.
Many years after the end of apartheid, the average black South African is still timid, unadventurous and lacks enthusiasm in the pursuit of knowledge. A couple of years back on a visit to the beautiful city of Cape Town, a Nigerian friend who did her MBA at the University of Cape Town and is doing profoundly well with her family in that part of South Africa took me into the dialectics and variegated shades of demeaning effects which long years of apartheid visited on the blacks. She said even in the university community including in the classrooms, the black South Africans could still not stand up to the whites. They appear subdued and with a predilection to always kowtow to whites even when such whites are their classmates.
But the same black South Africans are taking out the heat on Nigerians, of all people. Nigeria ought to be respected by South Africans. It is normal and natural that in any community of humans, crime and criminality will thrive. I do not expect all Nigerians in South Africa to be law-abiding; some are drug hounds, crooks of various grades just as some of their South African hosts. But their criminality once established should be tested through the crucible of due process. Stalking and asphyxiating Nigerians especially by South African security agents for whatever reason is unacceptable.
There is a good population of South Africans in Nigeria including corporate bodies. Some of the South Africans resident in Nigeria are involved in one crime of the other; some of the corporate bodies are not clean in their dealings in Nigeria including evading taxes, under-payment of duties and sundry shady deals; nobody has hacked them to death or do anything untoward in retaliation for their corporate criminality.
The Nigerian governments over the years have acted in the most timorous manner. The tenor of citizen diplomacy is sacrificed on the altar of mindless tolerance. No responsible government should tolerate and live with the painful ignominy of having its citizens butchered in a particular country with consistent crude intrepidity. This is where the Nigerian governments have erred. They must show concern for the worth of the lives of Nigerian citizens.
Why is it taking so long for Nigeria to recall her Ambassador in South Africa and asking the South African Ambassador in Nigeria to leave the country as a show of anger? Why is the Nigerian government not demanding compensation from the South African government for the lives of Nigerians crudely hacked to death by irate South Africans and their baleful security agents? The reticence of Nigerian government has emboldened the black South Africans to continue their fatal affront against Nigerians.
This is not the time to send senators, ministers or anybody to share coffee with junior officials in South African government. It calls for Presidential show of strength as a demonstration that our government values the lives of its citizens. The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, must seize the moment and show that the government is deeply concerned about the well-being of Nigerian citizens anywhere in the world. That is what responsible governments do; they stand up for their citizens. They speak for them, defend them and ensure that they are treated with some measure of dignity. This nonsense must stop. Nigerian government must stand up to the lukewarm attitude of South African government and prove to them that Nigerians are not animals but hardworking, expressive, innovative and enterprising beings. South Africa has more to lose in the event of total paralysis of diplomatic liaison between both countries. The balance of trade between both nations tilts in favour of South Africa. This is why the government of Jacob Zuma, even in the face of its tainted image over corruption matters, should arise and stop forthwith the carnage in his country that has turned Nigerian citizens there to games and objects of butchery. Stop this nonsense under your watch, Mr Zuma!