Viva Africa!

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In the midst of the ongoing outcry over xenophobic attack of black foreigners in South Africa, it is only wise to stop and think for a moment where this is leading.

If, like mine, your answer is that ‘this cup will pass’, then there is need to employ diplomacy in every step and eschew self righteousness because, in my humble opinion, we are all to blame – the government of Nigeria that has long sold the country’s birth right and put it’s citizens at the mercy of foreigners (home and abroad, whites, greens, blue yellow and fellow blacks), the government of South Africa which appears complicity as proven by a foot-dragging president and a sentiment-spilling Minister, a situation which has now made the Nigerian government to speak diplomacy with a frowned face. Then, of course are the ordinary Nigerians who push their aspirations to the point of self entitlement In foreign lands and the ‘hopeless’ South African miscreants  who, like their counterparts in Nigeria take advantage of the situation to vandalise and loot stores.

If we value the lives of the remaining Nigerians in South Africa, we must understand that reprisals is not the solution. I do not want to go into the issue of ratio of Nigerians in South Africa and vice versa or which side will suffer more economic loss if we both go the burning and looting spree. Rather, let’s allow the governments of both countries, and possibly the African Union to handle this the best ways possible.

Talking about the logs in our own eyes, we are so quick to blame xenophobic attacks when we swin constantly in bottled ethnic and religious discrepancies.

That aside, we must understand that, even with the free evacuation plan for Nigerians in South Africa by Air Peace, more than 70 percent will still be unwilling to return. Return to what jobs? what security? What health services? If I may ask.

Come to think of it, it is not the entire South African cities that are boiling. I hear many other Nigerians are going on with their daily activities without intimidations.

There are Nigerians who have lived in that country all their life, who have investments there, who are married to South Africans and have grown up kids.

If we understand that once upon a time, Nigerians chased Ghanaians away and, ironically, are finding a better haven in Accra, Kumasi etc today, we would understand how possessive and selfish we can be as Africans whenever our farms yield better.

Should I want to join the protest, what do I boycott, who do I snub and how? I’ve been thinking. And as I plan to attend the Toronto International Film Festival next week, the only thing that comes to mind is an African entry ‘Knuckle City’ by acclaimed South African writer/director, Jahmil X.T Qubeka. But why should I do that to creativity, especially if there is no evidence that personally, the filmmaker is in support of the madness going on in his country.

There are few African entries at TIFF this year. These include Nigeria’s ‘The Lost Okoroshi’ by Abba Makama (who may not be attending the festival because of Visa issue); ‘Knuckle City ‘ by Jahmil  and ‘Crazy World’ by Uganda’s gonzo action autuer, Isaac Nabwana.

If I understand Jahmil’s kind of film funding, his latest might just be another co-production flick that could make it, not entirely a South African film.

I like the fact that the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) is not boycotting South African entries outrightly, even though it is joining the protest.

The proviso, according to AFRIFF Founder, Chioma Ude, is to review all South African films submitted to the festival “with the intention of expressly removing any film and banning any filmmaker from the festival that has positively expressed xenophobic ideas or any kinds of bigotry.”

Recall that in the midst of arguments over the inclusion of Roman Polanski’s film at Venice Film Festival last August, Festival director Alberto Barbera defended his decision, saying: “We have to distinguish between the art and the man” when judging the works of the filmmaker, who was convicted for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1978.

The issue of xenophobic attacks in SA is a sensitive one, and we must look at how individuals with a voice have approached it.

I particularly like the voice of South African comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, who cited statistics in 2017 that of the 2.3 million immigrants living in the country, 1.6 million are Africans, and they claim less than 0.00001 percent of the country’s wealth.

He said: “Yours is complete misplaced anger, prejudice and xenophobia built up out of inferiority complex created by decades of apartheid and oppression. I don’t see fellow African as a competitor but a fellow compatriot who is struggling to feed his family and have some comfort in this short life-time.”

We must think beyond today. ‘Viva Africa’ is a phrase mostly used by South Africans.

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