By Ita Offiong
This is the sad tale of most Nigerians who fled stark realities at home for an envisaged golden fleece in foreign climes. Some of them even sold their belongings, including their houses and cars just to finance their trips. Others embarked on the hazardous adventure across the Sahara and the Mediterranean in a brash move to secure a foothold in Europe. In this craze to flee one’s fatherland, even a fellow African country could be considered a potential better prospect than staying back; hence, the sojourn of not a few of our citizens across the length and breadth of the continent is an irresistible lure to many even at the peril of their very lives. Nigerians in South Africa for instance have continued to be at the mercies of their hosts’ vagaries of temperamental disposition for sometimes now. At the slightest provocation, Nigerians easily become preys to the unprovoked gods of the xenophobic denizens of this once domicile of apartheid regimes. Over the years they have lost both lives and livelihoods during such frays. For a country whose slogan is, inspiring new ways’ adopted to improve its tourism drive, one could not but wonders if phobia to foreigners is not a negative reaction to this effort?
Nigeria will tolerate few attacks on her citizens in other countries with a philosophical rationalization but certainly not South Africa, whom she did so much for when it mattered most in the fight against that racial segregation of those dark years. Today, it is a travesty of a time honoured universal axiom that one good turn deserves another as hatred of varying proportions are daily meted to Nigerian residents by the same people who benefitted from the magnanimity of African brotherliness, Nigerians lavishly displayed towards them.
As Nigerians continue to suffer various indignities in the hands of their South African hosts, one only hopes that the newly inaugurated executive of the Nigerian Union in South Africa led by Mr. Adeola Olubajo would use that platform to bring to fore the many injustices Nigerians have continued to suffer in that land to the appropriate quarters even beyond the shores of the two governments. South Africa is a signatory to International Human Rights Treaties and has also signed more than 40 bilateral investments treaties with other countries including Nigeria.
The Nigerian embassy in South Africa should continue to drum into the hearing of their belligerent hosts about the role played by Nigeria in liberating them from the nearly 5 decades of those repressive regimes of apartheid. They should also be reminded that no country has monopoly of violence as many South African businesses and nationals thrive un-molested in Nigeria.
Outside the shores of Africa, Nigerians are not spared unimaginable degradations and sundry assaults. For instance early in the year, BBC reportedly announced vicious multiple attacks on students of Nigerian extraction in India. Also the Daily Sun Newspaper reported last May that up to 535 Nigerians in China are serving various prison terms for drugs-related offences but the truth is that not all of them are culpable, some are punished because they did not have legal representation during trial. The story is not different in Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey, Dubai and Bangladesh. In Germany, for instance a Nigerian was reportedly thrown out of a moving train when he allegedly could not afford his fare.
While the list is inexhaustible but the most disturbing trend is the continuous deportation of Nigerians all over the world since the beginning of this year, from countries such as Cameroon, Libya, UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Spain to mention a few .
The plight of Nigerians abroad would continue to fester as foreign missions are said to have bad records of not being concerned about the welfare of their fellow citizens in Diaspora. They neither speak up nor rise in their defence. Could this be a case of complacency, timidity or lack of temerity?
Government should rise to the occasion and address the obvious distressing national economic under-development. A viable economy will make traveling abroad for greener pastures a less attractive venture. This, to say the least, presents a more compelling national imperative to save our eroding national pride.
Finally, seasoned, qualified and competent people should be engaged in foreign service to actualize the purpose of establishing these missions abroad.