A Professor of Political Science in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Femi Mimiko, mni, has described as unnecessary the establishment of an independent Diaspora Commission, which he says tends to compete with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the traditional locus of Nigeria’s foreign policy. He emphasised the necessity of reinvigorating the Ministry to mainstream the task of seeing to the welfare of Nigerians abroad.
Delivering a paper titled “Xenophobia as Bogeyman: A Deconstruction of The Post Apartheid State in South Africa and the Challenges of Development and Regional Relevance,” at a seminar organised by the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University, on October 10, 2019, Mimiko argued that Nigeria did not act properly and expeditiously at the wake of the xenophobic attacks. He observed that it took the deafening outcry of ordinary Nigerians for the government to act on the issue.
According to him, “Nigeria did not act well when the attacks began. It was evident that the citizens were the ones who pushed the government to action, through their outcries, especially on social media. The citizens simply took charge of diplomacy.”
Mimiko also said that President Muhammadu Buhari should not have visited South Africa soon after the xenophobic attacks on foreign African nationals in that country; arguing that the President’s visit should have been delayed in protest against how Nigerians and other Africans were treated: “Nigeria was too eager to take the apology of the South African government. If I were advising the president, I would have persuaded him not to make the trip to Pretoria at the time he did.”
“Yes, it was good they apologised. But President Ramaphosa did not send an envoy until our president had sent his own to South Africa. We should have used a postponement of the President’s trip to negotiate a few things, including compensation for the victims, and possibly, the sanctioning of the Deputy Police Minister that was quoted as supporting the attacks.”
Earlier, the Seminar presenter had located the violence against fellow Africans in South Africa, in the failure of the ANC government to bring to the black population the promise of liberation. The party, Mimiko claimed, chose to retain the structures of apartheid in the economy in order not to destroy its growth prospects. “This has compromised the ability of its government to broadcast the benefits of liberation, and meet the revolution of rising expectations. To explain away its failure, the ANC found it convenient to latch onto the suggestion that immigrants were the problem of the economy.” He argued that the attackers singled out fellow Africans because these were the immigrants within their reach; “they are also the ones investing in the types of businesses the black South Africans had seen as their own exclusive preserve.”
Speaking further, Mimiko noted that the attacks on Nigerians were a demonstration that the country had lost its respect and goodwill among the comity of nations, adding that no country would respect a nation labelled as the headquarters of world poverty.
“Nigeria, a nation with 13.2 million out of school children, a country with the highest mortality rate, will not earn the respect of any nation. People on the streets of South Africa were not unaware of these facts indicating loss of status on the part of Nigeria, which was partly why they moved against our citizens,” he said.
He feared that Nigerians in other countries of the world may also begin to experience unwarranted attacks, “if the country’s leaders fail to foster development and make life bearable for the citizens.”
He concluded that the chances of renewed attacks on foreigners in South Africa were very high as the underlying factors that propelled such in the first instance had yet to be appropriately addressed.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Peter Ogunjuyigbe, underscored the necessity of the discourse on xenophobia in the wake on persistent threats to lives and property of Nigerians and other foreign nationals in the former apartheid enclave. He noted that the seminar further highlighted the responsibility of the Faculty in engaging the University community and members of the public on emerging issues that affect the society at large.
The Seminar was witnessed by students, staff and guests.