The two main superpowers in Africa, are Nigeria
and South Africa.
However, animosity between these two superpowers
has heightened in recent times, with an influential
Nigerian student body, demanding that all
South African-owned businesses leave Nigeria
as soon as possible.
The National Association of Nigerian Students,
Nans, which represents university students
at campuses across Nigeria, has picketed branches
of South African telecoms giant, MTN, and
those of supermarket chain, Shoprite, turning
away staff and customers.
Those protests were sparked by the death of
a Nigerian woman, who was reportedly strangled
in her hotel room, during a visit to the South
African city of Johannesburg.
Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, is just the latest
Nigerian to die in South Africa, in apparently
An autopsy revealed that she had died of unnatural
causes consistent with strangulation, but
officials say CCTV footage showed that nobody
entered her room.
The police are still investigating.
The Nigerian media seem to report at least
one such incident every month, with numerous
news outlets, using the same telling headline:
“Another Nigerian killed in South Africa”.
While local media reports suggest that 800,000
Nigerians live in South Africa, official South
African records say the number is about 30,000.
It is not clear if the official data includes
“We have faced enough…
These killings must stop.
The South African government must, as a matter
of urgency, do whatever it takes to protect
the lives and property of Nigerians living
there”, said Ahmed Lawan, the head of Nigeria’s
But it is unclear whether the South African
government is committed to protecting Nigerians,
or other migrants.
The police arrested more than 650 foreign
nationals, including traders who had their
goods seized, in Johannesburg earlier this
A court ordered that 489 of them be deported
within 30 days, because they were not legally
in South Africa.
During a parliamentary debate, Nigerian legislators
suggested that the foreign ministry should,
from now on, issue travel alerts to Nigerians
planning to visit South Africa.
A Presidential Aide, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, met
South Africa’s Deputy High Commissioner to
Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, and demanded an investigation
into Mrs Ndubuisi-Chukwu’s death.
Mr Moroe was also invited to meet Mr Lawan,
and he expressed the South African government’s
concern about the situation.
“On behalf of the government of South Africa,
we express our sincere condolences,” Mr Moroe
About four million immigrants live in South
Africa, according to official UN data, although
some contest the accuracy of this figure.
South Africa has a history of xenophobic attacks
by black people, who accuse citizens of other
African countries, as well as Asian countries,
of coming to steal their jobs.
The wave of xenophobic attacks that swept
South Africa in 2008, claimed at least 62
Subsequent incidents, particularly in 2015,
have displaced thousands of African migrants,
and led to the large-scale looting of their
shops and other businesses.
It is alleged, that South Africans detest
Nigerians, because they believe Nigerians
are criminals, are too loud, and Nigerian
men steal their women.
Also, they claim Nigerians are arrogant, and
they do not know how to talk to people.
South African protesters included this, in
a petition to their Home Affairs Department,
during an anti-immigration march in the capital,
Pretoria, in 2017.
Nigerians, on the other hand, believe that
South Africans are simply jealous of Nigerians,
of their self-confidence, and their ability
to thrive and outshine.
The tension between the two nations brings
to mind, a proverb in the Igbo language, about
a man who lays his pile of clothing by the
riverbank, while skinny dipping in the river.
A naked madman comes along, grabs the clothes
and dashes away.
Desperate to retrieve his clothes, the other
man jumps out of the river in the nude, and
chases after the madman.
Two naked men running through the streets,
who, then, is the madman?
Nigerians have nothing to gain by being lured
While the student group’s intentions may be
noble, it probably has not considered the
thousands of Nigerians employed by MTN, Shoprite,
Multi-Choice, and the many other South African
companies that are household names in Nigeria.
Forcing these businesses to leave, or crippling
their operations, would only worsen Nigeria’s
already grim unemployment statistics, and
the loss of the valuable services they provide
would leave a vacuum.
“Please, be patient,” Mrs Dabiri-Erewa told
students wanting to drive out South African
firms, encouraging them instead to exercise
restraint, while awaiting the outcome of diplomatic
According to Nigeria’s government, the leaders
of the two countries are scheduled to meet
in October, in South Africa.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, and
his South African counterpart, President Cyril
Ramaphosa, will discuss among others, issues
relating to the wellbeing of citizens.
Nigerians have responded to the news with
great hope, that President Buhari will use
the opportunity, to demand tangible measures
from South Africa, to deter its citizens from
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