It’s sad, very sad but we must admit that xenophobia is still subsisting in today’s world.
Xenophobia did not start in South Africa and it will not end in South Africa. Nigeria now a victim, has aggressively indulged in xenophobia before. The worsening economic situation in most countries of the world is encouraging xenophobia and there is no solution in sight. As a matter of fact it will become worse. Even within nations and within the various ethnic groups there is economic discrimination. It will become more aggressive and turn more violent later. It will happen earlier than expected. There is frustration everywhere. Everyone is under pressure in the words of Rastaman Kimono.
In our desperation anyone can be a scapegoat– neighbours, friends, foreigners, etc. The immigration policy being pursued in the United States of America is part of xenophobia. Even the referendum of United Kingdom to quit the European Union commonly referred to as Brexit held on June 23, 2016 of which fifty-two percent were in support of leaving the union, is another form of xenophobia. Even the recent closure of our borders could be interpreted as another form of xenophobia. Imagine the way we celebrated the closure of the borders.
According to Wikipedia, Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. Xenophobia can involve perceptions of an in-group toward an out-group and can manifest itself in suspicion of the activities of others, and a desire to eliminate their presence to secure a presumed purity and may relate to a fear of losing national, ethnic or racial identity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”. According to UNESCO, the terms xenophobia and racism often overlap, but differ in how the latter encompasses prejudice based on physical characteristics while the former is generally centered on behavior based on the notion of a specified people being adverse to the culture or nation. In other words, xenophobia arises when people feel that their rights to benefit from the government is being subverted by other people’s rights.
In short xenophobia is fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia (1913-1978) was Prime Minister of Ghana from 1969 to 1972. As a nationalist leader and Prime Minister, he helped to restore civilian government to the country following military rule. In 1969, he invoked the Aliens Compliance Order and deported an estimated 2.5-million undocumented African migrants, the majority of whom were Nigerians.
Expectedly most Ghanaians hailed Dr. Busia’s action. On January 13, 1972, he was overthrown. Later fortune smiled on Nigeria. Drilling of oil commercially by Shell, Mobil and Agip doubled in the Niger Delta. The oil money was steady and hopes were high that Nigeria could prosper, despite the brutal military regimes that marred that period. In the 1970s the economy exploded when oil prices soared worldwide. The golden decade had arrived and the country became Africa’s wealthiest, securing its title: Giant of Africa. By 1974, Nigeria’s oil wells were spitting out some 2.3-million barrels a day. The standard of living improved. There was an influx of people from the farms into the cities; when they travelled, robust iron boxes were generally preferred over cheap plastic sacks. The influx came not just from within Nigeria, but from across the region. Even Nigeria’s leader at that time, General Yakubu Gowon was reported to have boasted that money was not Nigeria’s problem but how to spend it. Suddenly Nigeria became an Eldorado.
Suddenly Nigeria entered the oil boom era. A lot of migrants from Africa came into the country in search of jobs and greener pasture. Nigeria was like the U.S.A., Britain, Germany, South Africa etc of today, that many Nigerians are queuing up for visas, so as to elope to. During the oil boom period, there were jobs that Nigerians were shy or reluctant to do. Such job includes Driver, cobbler (shoe maker), tailoring (Obi-Oma), security guard, cook, gardner, etc. As such, those immigrants that came to Nigeria, were more than willing to do jobs. In fact, in Lagos then, most cobblers, tailors, drivers, etc. were Ghanaians.
On September 24, 1979, Dr. Hilla Limann (1934-1998) was sworn-in as the elected President of Ghana. Seven days later, on October 1, 1979, Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari was also sworn-in as the President of Nigeria. They became friends. The friendship extended to parliamentarians of both countries. There was a strong bond between Ghana and Nigeria at that time. The relationship between Nigeria and Ghana broke down on December 31, 1981, when Jerry Rawlings deposed Dr. Limann in a coup. Initially, President Shagari refused to acknowledge Jerry Rawlings as the President but later he had no choice. In 1982, Flight Lieutenant General Jerry Rawlings raised an alarm that President Shehu Shagari wanted to help Hilla Limann to overthrow his Military Government in Ghana. Nigeria stopped the shipping of crude oil on a lone deal to Ghana. And as this animosity continued between the both governments, so did it between citizens of both countries.
By 1983, Nigeria’s economy was collapsing due to mismanagement and the golden era of Nigeria was fading. And then came the oil crash. Global oil prices started to dip in 1982, when large consumer markets such as the United States and Canada slipped into recession and demand was low. By 1983, the price of a barrel had fallen to $29, down from $37 in 1980. At around the same time, the US began producing its own oil, further cutting demand and causing excess supply. Nigeria, its economy almost exclusively reliant on oil, was hard hit. By 1982, 90% of the country’s foreign reserves had been wiped out. Food prices skyrocketed and salaries became erratic. Poor policy decisions at the highest level of government only made things worse. Ghana’s nightmare was being replayed in Nigeria. As it began to feel the crunch, Nigeria started to turn inwards looking for scapegoats. By 1982, politicians started to use words like “aliens” in their manifestos in preparation for the 1983 general elections. They blamed African migrants, especially Ghanaians, for the flailing
President Shagari won the election for the second term. On December 31, 1983 he was toppled by Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Months after General Buhari took over nothing improved economically. The prosperity that General Buhari promised never came in spite of imprisoning prominent politicians. For the first time, Nigeria started to queue for essential commodities like sugar, salt, milk, etc. There was anger in the land. On April 15, 1985, the Nigeria government ordered an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrants to leave the country by May 10. If they failed to do so, the government declared that it would be ‘constrained to take necessary steps to ease them out of the country’. Residence permits for aliens would in future carry a special seal to cut down on forgeries, while identity cards would be introduced for Nigerians. The Ghananian government sent a delegation to beg General Buhari to extend the May 10 deadline for the expulsion of the aliens. Few hours after their departure, Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Major General Muhammadu Magoro announced that there would not be extension. Most returnees went home penniless. Many were searching for food and water. It was a nightmare. Expectedly the world condemned Nigeria’s action.”
The recent xenophobia in South Africa was carried out by a mob. The one carried out in 1969 in Ghana and in Nigeria 1983 and 1985 was a state policy carried out by Ghana and Nigeria government. Xenophobia is bad, very bad indeed. It should not be encouraged. It should be condemned no matter what.