Olukayode Ajulo is the former National Secretary of the Labour Party. He says while the Federal Government deserves commendations over its decision to drag the South African Government to the African Court of Human and Peoples Right in Arusha, Tanzania over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, it is quite a paradox on the country’s own internal xenophobic venom. He also spoke on other national issues.
Nigeria and South Africa are on the brink of a diplomatic row over xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. What steps do you suggest to resolve the issues?
The xenophobic attacks in South Africa stems from the standpoint of misplaced anger and hatred on the part of South Africans towards other Africans most especially Nigerians. It is sad and appalling that South Africans failed to address their minds to their not too long history of apartheid for which Nigerian played a key role in ending. This unexpected behaviour of unprovoked attacks on Nigerians cannot be justified because they are not reflective of the true spirit of Africa.
The attacks are capable of having a spill-over effect on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement in force between 27 African Union member states. Hostilities between the two biggest economies in Africa will have negative affect on the continent. Data at present has shown that South Africa is one of Nigeria’s top five export destinations as the country exported goods with total value of ₦325.5 billion within the period. Currently, over $60 billion trade volume has been affected drastically within few days of the xenophobic attack. We must not allow this to happen. Sincere dialogue remains the best option to resolve the issues.
The Federal Government is considering dragging the South African Government before the African Court of Human and Peoples Right in Arusha, Tanzania. What exactly can the court do?
The legal option by the Federal Government, which I commend the Attorney General for, is predicated on Nigeria’s ratification of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Right which was signed on May 29, 2004. The mandate of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Right is to monitor respect for human rights on the African continent in line with the instruments. It is elementary principle of international law that a state is entitled to protect its subjects, when injured by acts contrary to international law committed by another state, from whom they have been unable to obtain diplomatic action or international judicial proceedings on behalf of its citizens.
What is the jurisdiction of the court?
The court is empowered to hear cases brought against African states for failure to respect human rights. It is able to issue binding judgements in such cases and where violations are found, may award compensation and other remedies to victims. The court has made pronouncements on various issues ranging from its declaration that the mass deportation of hundreds of Gambian workers by Angola was a violation of their rights to freedom of movement, liberty and right not to be treated in an inhuman and degrading way to its decision that the detention incommunicado without trial of at least 11 journalists by Eritrea was a violation of the journalists’ right to freedom of expression, right to liberty and fair trial. However, it is quite sad that despite the well-considered decisions of the court, some member-states have refused to comply with its decisions. Well, I hope the reverse will be the case in this instance.
Is it not paradoxical that the Federal Government is fighting the terrible treatment of Nigerians in South Africa, but is quiet on similar situation back here in Nigeria?
It is quite paradoxical that what comes to mind at the mention of ‘xenophobia’ is South Africa. However, the literal meaning of the word ‘xenophobia’ is a strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners. It is not far from the truth that Nigeria is a country with more than 250 ethnic groups and with an estimated population of about 180 million people according to the 2006 census which makes it by far to be the most populated country in the whole of Africa.
Consequently, under this arrangement, the level of interaction between and among individual ethnic groups, cultures, traditions, religions from different backgrounds has translated into ethnic and political misunderstanding, mistrust, dominations, conflicts and crises as one may not be considerate with one another. As a result, there are fears, suspicions, intolerance, grievances and greed domination among most communities in the country and especially in the North which has so many ethnic minorities.
It seems quite apparent that we are forever at war with one another and forever tilting the pendulum of blame from one ethnic group to the other for the same evil we ourselves perpetrate as we are always looking for ways to outsmart one another politically, economically and physically. The cyclical nature of ethnic bigotry in Nigeria is quite unbelievable. It is pertinent to recall that during the civil war in this country, hatred was directed against the Igbo, then against the Hausa, then the Niger Delta during President Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan administrations. The tide has now turned against President Buhari and the Fulani herdsmen. So I will agree that technically in Nigeria, we have our own version of the xenophobic venom.
Why then is the Federal Government clamping down on groups like Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), #RevolutionNow among others?
Recall that the Boko Haram sect was officially banned in Nigeria by the Federal Government and declared terrorist groups in 2013. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation successfully prosecuted many of the members of the sect for sundry offences under the Terrorism Prevention Act.