Festus Mbisiogu, CEO, Blue Diamond Logistics, China and Coordinator of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Guangzhou chapter, has decried the xenophobic attacks against foreigners especially Nigerians by South African youths and called on the Federal Government to review its bi-lateral relationship with South Africa.
In this interview, he spoke on various issues.
What would you say is responsible for serial xenophobic attacks mainly against Nigerians in South Africa?
It’s just envy. Go round the world, you see Nigerians doing wonderfully well virtually in all fields of human endeavour and most times, the citizens of their host nations may not be as hard working as our people. Nigerians are talented and they display these talents wherever they reside only for their host to become envious which I believe is the major reason for xenophobic attacks against our citizens especially, in South Africa. They hide under the cover that Nigerians are robbing them of job opportunities in their countries. One thing you cannot take away from Nigerians wherever you find them is hard work. What South Africans forgot is that the reward for hard work is success hence, they are not happy with the flamboyant lifestyle of some Nigerians in their country.
Why are Nigerians insisting on remaining in South Africa even when the youth there have renewed call for foreigners to leave the country?
No country is an island; we need each other. After all, these Nigerians pay taxes to the South African government and they are law abiding. It is not true that Nigerians are resisting leaving South Africa, rather, they are leaving in batches. It is high time Nigeria leaders changed the narrative by creating an enabling environment for businesses to flourish. Lack of infrastructural development especially, erratic power supply are some of the reasons for backwardness of the nation which have resulted to young Nigerians migrating to other countries in search of greener pasture. Yes, many Nigerians in the Diaspora are finding it difficult to return home because not much has changed in the country as the rate of unemployment is unbearable. So, many of them prefer to remain in South Africa than to come back to the country because Nigeria is not better either. The adage “North, East, West and South, home is the best” may not mean much to them. South African youths dare not ask whites to leave because their economy is properly managed by the whites. Also, we should not forget that Nigeria did the same to Ghanaians when we called for “Ghana must go” in 1983. What was our anger? Our anger was that Ghanaians were taking our jobs such that the best teachers, doctors, lecturers, shoe makers and barbers were Ghanaians.
You have over a decade been advocating for steady electricity supply through your Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Good Governance Initiative (GGI) as key to industrial growth and employment generation, so far how has government responded?
Thank you for this important question, like you rightly stated, I have been going round the nation advocating steady power supply in Nigeria using China as a case study, but like you rightly observed, this call has not yielded positive result. The secret of China as Asian Tiger is simply, uninterrupted power supply. It disturbs me to see Nigeria that is naturally endowed laying fallow and majority of her citizens living in abject poverty because past administrations did not give priority to infrastructural development with the proceeds from oil. In China, every family manufactures one product or more because electricity is constant and the Chinese government supports small and medium enterprise through loans and other financial facilities as well as free export support incentives. That is why China remained the second biggest economy in the world. Diaspora Nigerians are creative and we do unimaginable positive things especially, in Guangzhou where I live. Guangzhou is predominantly Nigerian business area and the Chinese government records daily cash return of over $5 million on business transactions with Nigerians contributing 80 per cent of its Small Medium Enterprise (SME) and this has improved business between Africa and China. I have at different fora highlighted the negative effects of lack of steady power supply and the danger it poses on the economy and health of Nigerians. The power situation is sad considering the fact that at this time of the nation’s history, 80 per cent of economic activities is run by generators as an alternative source of power. I was happy to hear President Muhammadu Buhari promise to assemble a strong team of Nigerians and allies to implement the administration’s transformation plans and proposals which include increased power generation within four years and also lift 100million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This can only be achieved through stable power supply. There is need for the present administration to declare state of emergency in the power sector and thereby concentrate on how to deliver uninterrupted power supply to Nigerians. What about the health implication and the resultant effects of this constant power failure. For example, within one year, over 6, 000 Nigerians lost their lives in generator fume incident. Generator fume is hazardous to human health which has led to loss of lives as a result of carbon monoxide. I want to use this medium to call on the ministers of power not to be overwhelmed by internal and external forces that are benefitting from the system who have continued to be a stumbling block on the way of the nation’s attainment of stable power supply. The sector requires a no-nonsense person like President Buhari to be fixed hence, I thought Buhari would have also double as minister of Power because it required only a courageous man with gut like Mr. President to confront the cabals who are bent at ensuring that steady power is not realized. How can the nation attract Foreign Direct Investment? Without foreign investments there will be no job creation and there won’t be economic growth.
Recently, the Federal Government signed 6-years electricity roadmap agreement with the German company, Siemens, it shows that government has yielded to your advocacy?
I hail President Muhammadu Buhari for the gesture because it is timely and a right step in the right direction towards meeting his administration’s target of creating 100 million jobs in 10 years. Steady power holds the key to economic growth in the country. I commend President Buhari for choosing to execute the power deal in three phases through Government-to-Government framework as the arrangement will cut off the involvement of middlemen so as to achieve value for money and deliver reliable power supply to Nigerians. Mr. President’s approach is different unlike the old order when middlemen’s involvement overwhelmed past ministers of power as they could not deal with internal and external forces that are benefitting from the system. So, I urge the Federal Government to adhere and insist on quality stipulation of German and European standards as agreed with the company and ensure that the project is delivered to Nigerians in competitive period too. However, government must keep an eye on the parties involved, Siemens, Transmission Company of Nigeria and Electricity Regulator and ensure that they heed to the Presidential advice by working together towards achieving the Federal Government target of 7, 000 megawatts in 2021, and 11, 000 megawatts by 2023 up to the phase of 1 and 2 respectively if Nigeria must attain 25, 000 megawatts of electricity in 2025 when the contract is expected to end. In terms of economic cost to the masses, I sympathize with Nigerians who spend their hard earned money on fuel as every family uses generator as source of power.
Do you support recent reprisal attacks against South Africa businesses in the country by Nigerians?
No, I don’t support that even though their anger is justified, but we cannot set our cities on fire as this will not recompense for the lives of our innocent fallen citizens in South Africa. While I support stronger measures to be taken at the diplomatic level against South Africa, Nigerian government must make informed decision that will ensure that adequate compensation is paid to the victims of the attacks which include reparation, rehabilitation and protection of rights of Nigerians by the South African government.
You said we should take another look at our bilateral relations with South Africa and review it, what are the areas you want government to review?
Every area of the bilateral relations between the two countries should be reviewed. It is unfortunate that South Africans have forgotten so soon the big-brother role Nigeria played during the Apartheid era in that country. Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of anti-Apartheid movements. It is on record that Nigeria spent close to $60billion in the struggle to end Apartheid reign in South Africa. Without the country’s big-brother role in the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa, there is little doubt that the country will still be fighting today. Nigerian government issued not less than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel overseas. Almost all the musicians in Nigeria including late Sonny Okosun and you Dickson wrote hits songs like, “fire in Soweto” in 1977 by Okosun to commemorate the 1976 Soweto Uprising against Apartheid in South Africa. I also, remember one of your songs, “Free Nelson Mandela” which you (Dickson) released in 1989. I won’t forget musicians like Majek Fashek, the Mandators, Oris Wiliki and Ras Kimono, just to mention but a few. These artistes wrote emotional songs demanding the release of Nelson Mandela and an end to Apartheid regime in South Africa. Even today, South African businesses are flourishing with the huge support from Nigeria. In spite of all these, Nigerians are being attacked and killed mindlessly in that same South Africa. South Africa is not the only country that had benefitted from the fatherly figure and contributions of Nigeria in the Africa continent; this situation seems to have emboldened some other African countries that also owe their freedom or security to Nigeria to begin to attack our people resident in those countries. Liberia is another case in point. Recently, while the Liberia’s President, George Weah came to thank President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians for her longstanding support to peace and stability in his country; some Liberians like South African youths, bereft of a sense of history, have also begun to attack Nigerians. It is worthy to note that Nigeria was one of the first countries to deploy troops in Liberia in 2003, and was among the last to leave, hence Nigeria’s troops finally left in February 2018. Therefore, a stronger diplomatic measure should be taken against South African
Few months ago the Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi petitioned FG and South Africa over killing of Ebonyi indigene, Mrs. Elizabeth Ndubuisi Chukwu in a hotel in South Africa while attending a Conference organized by the African Insurance Organisation, why are Nigerians the target of attack?
This is one of the numerous attacks against Nigerians by the South Africans. The mysterious and unresolved death of the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Institute of Nigeria, Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, who was found dead in one of the rooms at Emperors Palace Hotel and Convention Centre on June 13, 2019 where she lodged must not be swept under the carpet.