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The rumble with Jo’burg

Nigerian critics come in different hues. There are those sick and tired of being sick and tired of the rut and therefore in a hurry…

Nigerian critics come in different hues. There are those sick and tired of being sick and tired of the rut and therefore in a hurry to change it. Then there are others who talk just to hear their own voices. Yet there are empty barrels who make noise to get noticed for rehabilitation.  The last group are the worst of the lot if you ask me. They know the impact of populism but they are crass opportunists with no real intention of changing anything. In fact, the only reason they complain is not having had the opportunity to take what they consider their own share. Once they get close to the system, they are worse than leeches. They make the struggle for change look hopeless. You could open an excel worksheet for the who is who in public discourse and categorise all.

Nigerians do not take kindly to people who denigrate their sovereignty. Our collective pride is our best asset. We run from soldiers and kill and go; we dodge Boko Haram bombs and cow before armed robbers; but if you try our collective psyche, you find out that we can truly rally. One field of rallying is football. You may not catch me dead either watching or discussing it, but give Nigerians a good team and a great match, and all the isms and schisms suddenly melt like butter before a searing hot blade. At a time we all thought we had reached rock bottom, there we were smoking hot on the decision by some health and immigration officials who dared to call our national document a fake.

By what parameters a foreign government determines that a document produced and endorsed by a sovereign nation is fake without that government categorising it so, beats my imagination. How airport officials can categorise the documents of 128 Nigerians as fake, shocks and awes. This is pure nonsense. Nigeria has taken this nonsense from South Africans for too long. I am surprised that nobody remembered how some latter day film maker in South Africa produced the highly offensive District 9 under the guise of artistic license. Or the fact that whenever Nigeria went to the left, South Africa somehow finds that the right is best. As in their support of Laurent Gbagbo against all sane permutations of the situation in Cote d’Ivoire; or their support for Muammar Gadaffi when it was evident that the man was a goner?

It is rather so quick for the new generation South Africans to consider people makwerekwere today. In the late 70s, even students sacrificed their stipends to help South Africa defeat apartheid. Nigeria paid more than just cash; the only altruistic military leader we had died for supporting the independence of frontline states. His suspicious assassination prevented Nigeria from enjoying the first cleaning of the Aegean stable. The death of Murtala Mohammed created room for the rise of blockheads who later became head of states and ruined our nation with their political mind games. Yes, Nigeria has lost it. Yes, our dull and dour leaders have shown cleverness in looting rather than constructing, but we deserve some respect as a collective. Certainly, we deserve that respect from South Africa.

One hopes that this spat would be the beginning of something concrete on the foreign level. But then there are unanswered questions. It is great to see Ambassador Ashiru fight so gallantly on this one score. He combined his long years in the foreign service, a career in which he saw Murtala establish Africa as the centrepiece of our foreign policy through Area Boy Diplomacy and no diplomacy at all to his return to the ministry. Yes, it was good to see him talk tough and get what he demanded (the apology) even though it came from an official lower than the rank of a permanent secretary.

All that said, let us hope that this would be the beginning of a new foreign policy thrust. Let us hope that the era in which Nigeria pretends to be a dustbin big brother accepting every form of gabbage has ended. America bullied and badgered Egypt to let go its citizens being tried in that country. America will go to war for one single seemingly inconsequential citizen than allow its sovereignty to be dragged on the floor. That is what governance and nationhood is all about. If it is good for America, it should be sauce for Nigeria.

One is a bit disturbed, that Nigeria quickly accepted the ‘apology’ and went further to say it would raise a delegation to South Africa. What is that delegation going to do in Jo’burg? Shopping? Or is it going to apologise for pushing South Africa’s nose to the pan? It is absolutely unnecessary and would make Johannesburg think that we need them – we don’t. Infact, we don’t need anybody. We have resources, human and material to do anything only if we harness them. South Africa has more businesses here than we have teachers, doctors, traders and layabouts anywhere in their land. They should protect their interests while we respect their sovereignty. But the question I did not get answers to by the time of writing is – who was the Big Man deported with ‘the rest’ that complained putting the whole of Nigeria in this frenzy? I am waiting for the first medium to file an FOI request for the full manifest of the deportees. For all you care, it could be out before you read this. Then all the pieces of the jigzaw would be in place.