South Africa has been in the news all week following what has been described as xenophobic attacks on mostly African migrants, triggered by a speech made by Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, who said foreigners “should pack their belongings and go.”
King Goodwill is a learner. It is not a big deal to say nasty things about other people. We all do. It is a big deal when you do not know where to say those nasty things. Look at Oba Akiolu. He understands Nigerians. He knows that he can say nasty things to Igbo people and nothing will happen. He knows that he can say nasty things to Igbo people while endorsing a candidate and that candidate will still win elections. That is why he was bold enough to be captured on video talking about lagoon-bound opponents. In Hausa they say: “Wani ya yi rawa ya samu tafi, wani ya yi rawa ya samu mari.” Meaning: while one person may dance and get an applause, another may dance and get a slap instead. King Goodwill needs to learn Hausa. Then he would have known that South Africa is not Nigeria where hate speech begets applause and even wins elections. He would have known that in his country, foreigners, instead of being poorer than residents and begging for food and favours like sensible, grateful foreigners do, have decided to have shops of their own. You do not come to a person’s house and sit on a stool higher than the householder. It reminds me of the rumour of a certain ex-governor in north central Nigeria who allowed his commissioners sit on the floor around him, for fear they may be higher than him while sitting. The said ex-governor also allegedly had an unspoken rule that cabinet members never dress as nicely as him.
But you know, I understand those South Africans who are trying to expel foreigners from their country. To start with they have certain exemplary qualities. They are great listeners. They listen to their king intently. They also know how to take initiative. The king only said that foreigners should pack their bags and leave. He did not mention how they would leave, whether by boat or air or fleeing machetes and fire. But they listened to King Goodwill and decided to take matters into their own hands and chase presumptuous foreigners away. They follow by example. The South African government has recently created stiff immigration rules that have made it hard for many people who were previously legal migrants and students and workers to continue living in the country legally or have their families join them. They are finishing what the South African government has started.
If just ten percent of the Nigerian population were as diligent in their followership as those South Africans, Buhari would not have to do very much to rid Nigeria of corruption and indiscipline. Because let’s face it, Nigeria’s problem is not its leaders alone. It is the persons who beat traffic lights, who pay for their kids to pass exams, who demand bribes to give people employment, who fill up public establishments with people from their ethnic group, who discriminate against people from other religions, who refuse to follow queues, who have no respect for privacy or personal space, and those who greedily pull out four pieces of Orbit chewing gum when you offer them the pack instead of just showing some self respect and taking only one. Especially that last group of people. Nasty human beings. They will be one of the problems of the Buhari administration. They deserve to go to jail.
On behalf of all those foreigners who do not know their place in South African society I want to formally apologise to the good subjects of the Zulu warrior King Goodwill. I know how annoying those foreigners can be. I apologise for them wanting to get a better life. I apologise for them having the audacity to own shops and want to make money off South Africans who really, by virtue of their special position in this continent should be getting things for free. I apologise for the worst among them, the disgraceful foreigners who try to steal South African women. Horrible people.
Just to be clear, I am not one of them. If I ever apply for a South African visa in the future, I promise to pay my repatriation fee, not try to work or find love, and leave as quickly as I finish whatever took me there. In fact, I promise that if a South African woman does so much as come near me or offer me a compliment, I will spring up and say in a loud, unmistakably aggressive tone: “Get thee behind me”. And walk away very quickly. Because I have respect. Because I care.