• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo


Naijaphobia, curse or cause


The recent recrudescence of hostility between Ghanaians against Nigerian traders has retained the incidences of naijaphobia in the front burner, where it has been since the show of shame in South Africa. I chose to refer to all these cases as Naijaphobia, deep-seated hostility   against Nigerians, and at worst, blackophobia, unjustifiable hostility against blacks.  We all know that in these places where it happened and continues to happen, the so-called whites continue to do their legitimate and illegitimate business unperturbed.  The only new development is that Ghanaian traders have blamed their acts of lawlessness on the closure of Nigerian borders, which is probably harming Nigeria traders and citizens more than Ghanaians. Both the citizens and government of Ghana have become increasingly hostile to Nigerian businesses at least in the past one decade.

Whenever Ghanaian government initiates any policy on foreign businesses, it is actually directed at Nigerians. This included the policy that foreign businesses should pay a fee of $300,000 to be allowed to do business in Ghana. That is N11,000,000.00! If those Nigerian petty-traders in Ghana had N11m, they would not have gone to Ghana in the first instance. I also wonder how many Ghanaian traders who could afford to pay a licensing fee of $300000 in Ghana or elsewhere. But that was Government policy, backed by law.  The Ghana Union of Traders Association formed themselves into an enforcement arm of the government and crudely roughened some Nigerian traders over the $300,000 license fee. Eventually, that matter died or so we thought.

Then, the government of Nigeria decided that the best economic policy to pursue in this year of our Lord 2019, is to close its land boarders, in a situation where Nigeria controls about 75 percent of the ECOWAS market. This is to encourage Nigerians to go into rice cultivation and to curtail revenue leakages. The minister of information said the other day that 6 million Nigerians have gone into rice farming since then. But many Nigerian businesses are comatose and the newly elected President of T&C group of MAN, Barr Uchenna Okafor last week declared that 70 percent of their products are for the West African market. And while we closed the legal routes, the 1001 illegal and unmanned routes continue to blossom.

Consequently, importers who ordered their goods through the official boarders were caught pants down. These included Nigerians who bought from or sold goods to the Ghanaian market. How can the attack against, and closure of Nigerian shops impact on the boarder closure and in a situation when government pays deaf ears to the cries of Nigerian citizens? I believe that the Ghanaian traders have lost out in the competitive arena, together with other pent-up animosity, and they are holding onto all straws to dislodge Nigerian traders. So far, at least 1000 shops have been closed and GUTA still based their action on the contentious Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Act 865 and the flouting of ECOWAS treaty by Nigeria. So GUTA has taken it upon itself to be an extra-legal enforcer for the government of Ghana and the ECOWAS authority

The same thing had happened in South Africa, where the people suffering harsh socio-economic woes, decided to vent their anger against the easiest targets, Nigerian and other black businesses. This is irrespective of the fact that 85 percent of the country’s wealth is owned by white families, who constitute 8 percent of the population. As was the case in Ghana, the government looked the other way while Nigerians were being attacked, dispossessed and murdered. One Nigerian, lost up to N60 million in the attacks. In some instances, the security officials get involved in the heinous act, as in the case of the police officer recently convicted and sentenced for the murder of a Nigerian. The perpetrators branded all Nigerians as criminals, drug barons, sex-trade consultants and so on. But why did they not deploy their advanced security system to track and deal with the guilty ones? What of the nationals of other countries also molested and dispossessed? Anyway, there was global outrage, most exhibited by the booing of the president of South Africa in Zimbabwe.

Nigerians vented their anger on businesses linked to South Africa, an act that impacted more on Nigeria than the targeted “enemies”. About 5000 jobs were lost and MTN shareholders suffered losses running into billions of Naira.   There was tension everywhere in Africa; social and cultural engagements were cancelled; Nigeria recalled its High Commissioner to SA and shunned the World Economic Forum in S/A; National Association of Nigerian Students issued quit notice to South Africans/ while Zambians attacked SA businesses and withdrew from an international friendly.

Alen Onyema and his AirPeace patriotically rose up to the occasion; President Buhari visited and jaw-jawed with the South African authorities but the attacks have continued. It continued because ‘blackophobia’ is a state policy in South Africa, where it is not an offense and because the government  did not deal with the perpetrators, who are thus emboldened to continue with the carnage, where government has deliberated frustrated foreigners who wanted to renew their papers and where Nigerians  were frustrated from returning, where the current President made some xenophobic statements during his campaign . It continued because the presidents were drinking tea and taking pictures, activities which do not affect the perpetrators or the victims

While local and global attention was focused on South Africa, a lot more was happening in Libya, which has been in multidimensional crises since the exit of Ghadaffi. The number of Nigerians that have been sent packing from Libya in the past one year is in multiples of those that forcefully exited S/Africa. Up to this moment, they are still returning   in batches and with their tells of woes.

A lot has happened since all these developments. Former present Obasanjo had asked Nigerians to be prepared to return to South Africa; about 120 Nigerians are in the death row in Malaysia; Libyan returnees have been calling on Obaseki to come to their help and the fate of the Nigerian returnees, especially, their integration, is still uncertain.

So, are we cursed or are we the cause? I believe that we are the cause, both as individuals and as a country. We are the cause as individuals when we rush to other countries on the false belief that the grass is greener on the other side because they have seen some foreign residents showing some real or fake affluence. We do not take pains to find out what obtains in those countries, what they can and cannot do there. And unfortunately, some of us, like the indigenes, get involved in unholy activities. We are the cause as a country because our country has been so hostile to businesses and non-concerned about its citizens that the undeclared war-cry is “everywhere but home”.

We have also not done enough to protect the interest of our people in the diaspora or obtain justice on their behalf. We have not told the foreign countries and their nationals, enough is enough. Afterall, if there is no roforofo fight, the bush path behind your compound will not close. At times, our officials speak and act on behalf of the foreign countries, condemning our people, even when they have not had the full details.  I believe that we are not cursed; we are the cause!

So, are we cursed or are we the cause? I believe that we are the cause, both as individuals and as a country. We are the cause as individuals when we rush to other countries on the false belief that the grass is greener on the other side

Other matters: Because of an ordinary dog!

In 2016, one Mr Joe Chinakwe became an instant celebrity because he named his dog Buhari. He was arrested by the Ogun State police command, detained for about 20 weeks; 100 lawyers assembled to defend him and eventually the case died. The dog also died, killed by his neighbours. Just because of an ordinary dog.  At that time, I had reminded my readers that I once called my dog, “Eselu” in honour or dishonour of a political pestilence terrorizing Anambra state at a given time. I also reminded them of our peoples’ saying that “Ihe onye balu nkita ya ka o na aza” (Whatever you name your dog, becomes its name) and I suggested the establishment of a National Dog Naming Agency (NaDNA). Ik Muo: The man, the dog and need for National Dog Naming Agency (NaDNA) (Cityvoice, 10/9/19).

Incidentally, when the man named his daughter Aisha, it went un noticed. This is in a country where a compatriot was applauded and even celebrated for naming his dog Jonathan, during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.  It also happened in a world where the former US Cice President, Joe Biden was ecstatic when he encountered a dog named after him. He actually cheered the 4-month-old dog and gave it a hug during the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act in Capitol on 22/3/17. Sydney, the owner of the dog had named it Biden because Biden ‘is probably my favourite politician and favourite elected official’ So while one dog-owner ended up in detention for naming his dog Buhari, another was celebrated for naming his dog, Biden. But That is by the way.

Dogs have been named the best friends to homosapiens but people have also suffered because of ordinary dogs! Robert Black was recently jailed for 23 weeks and banned for having dogs in the next 10 years, while his two dogs were taken away from him, because he was seen punching his dog.  A concerned citizen reported him to the authorities and this was confirmed by the CCTV. Jailed for punching his own dog? The Whiteman has time for everything! Meanwhile, Sergey Koudryavtsev has been jailed for 26 years after he stabbed his parents, (aged 68 and 69) to death because of a disagreement over an ordinary dog at Keninston in May 2019. He called the police to report himself over the murder. Amos Price, a 30-year-old unemployed man was jailed for 18 weeks and banned from keeping animals for life because of Animal cruelty. He had unleashed his dog on his neighbour’s cat, which was mauled to death. He received only 18 weeks jail terms because he had pleaded guilty. And just early this month (3/12/19) a 2-year-old boy, young Mason, died when he ran into their burning home to save his puppy, as his parents were busy trying to fight the fire, in Arkansas

When people kill their parents because of a dog, when somebody is jailed for punching his dog or because his dog killed a cat, then…. But I don’t blame them. If they spent 8 hours to and from work daily, if they do not have access to water and have light only for 2 hours a day, if their take home pay cannot take them home and if they encountered 60 checkpoints in a distance of less than300 kms, they will not have the presence of mind to pay such attention to dogs!