Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09:09

The Nigeria South Africa Issue – Again

By Foluso Phillips, President, Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce, Lagos

The current situation that is metamorphosing between Nigeria and South Africa is extremely disappointing and is a failure of leadership on both sides of the equator.

An inability of both countries to work together will be a great loss to Africa and even greater loss to the very people who are being naïve in their senseless and ignorant attacks on people who should be their neighbours in the community.

The failure arises from the South African leadership’s seemingly lackadaisical attitude in dealing decisively and aggressively with the criminal acts being undertaken – almost to the point of condoning such even at the level of the Police. Nigeria’s leaders have failed by not being as aggressive with the current government for these atrocities as it was with the old white South African Government on the atrocities meted out to black people.

Several strategic actions were taken by Nigeria, which contributed significantly to the pressure brought on SA by the global community to end Apartheid starting with the release of Nelson Mandela from jail. Nigeria should not be forced to begin to adopt the same economic, political and social sanctions against South Africa. After all, the loss will be significantly on the South African side as they lose a vital market for South African products and services and a great political ally on the global platform.

The leadership at both Government and community levels have not been truly honest with themselves and I must say without bias that the Nigerian Government and people have tried very hard to make the welcome of South Africans – business or otherwise, a pleasurable one. Nigeria was described as one of the most generous and outspoken of the African States supporting the ANC during the struggle. But beyond this and well after the official closure of Apartheid, Nigeria has cooperated economically with South Africa, sometimes to its disadvantage.

In spite of the economic frustration being felt by some South Africans, taking such frustration out on their neighbours is not the right way to go. The rule of law should persist, starting with those who are being accused of dealing in drugs and other crimes and then dealing with those who feel that jungle justice is the way to go, in addressing these real or perceived crimes.

Evidence to date shows that it is certainly not about black South African reprisals on criminals but intolerance, envy and yes, a failure of the South African Government to deliver on its social and economic promises. But then again, who has in Africa?

The leaders of both countries have to decide if they do want a special relationship – like that, which the UK and USA claim to have – or not. With that decision made, then action must be clear in making such a desire a reality. If the corporate world of both countries is working well together – at least in Nigeria - then it should not take much more to get the rest to work. But that declaration must be made.

The South African government must take decisive action against all criminal elements in their society and not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. The South African people honestly need to be educated about the need to live and work with other Africans, even if past favours carried out to encourage their freedom from apartheid are to be put aside. After all, most of the people causing these atrocities were either not born, were only babies or very young teenagers at best at the height of apartheid, so they cannot see, understand or appreciate what was done by so many countries, including Nigeria, to make them wake up every day in a country that they can call theirs. Do not forget that it has been 21 years since “independence” and they are not forgetting what they did not experience in the first place. But they need to be told, because that is what it means to be truly African, or what is this ‘Ubuntu’ all about?

It’s not enough for the business community to get on with life, we have to bring the social, cultural, religious and community of young people together to share a different kind of prosperity not reserved only for the businesses and corporate giants of both countries, but for all. If this is not done, yes, businesses will be affected, products will be rejected and living peacefully in both countries will become a problem. These challenges do not happen overnight, they creep up on you to wake up one day and realize that both countries have become polarized. Then it will be too late and will be the greatest failure on the African continent. We are all responsible.

  • Phillips is also CEO and Chairman of Nigerian Consulting and Management Company, Phillips Consulting
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