In the wake of the recent Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Nigerian Lawyer and Human Right advocate, Enwongo C Cleopas, lends her voice against the vicious attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
Cleopas, known to be very vocal in societal issues, took to her Facebook page to highlight the history and diplomatic ties between Nigeria and South-Africa.
Read the post below:
‘’This is going to be a mini-history lesson, one that my friends on WhatsApp asked me to bring to a larger audience. I have not had the desire to give any personal commentary on political issues in Nigeria since the February elections but I had to do this, first for myself and for others who might learn a thing or two from it.
The Xenophobia attacks usually gets to me insanely because when I reflect on all of the ways Nigeria staked her life and resources for South Africa to gain her freedom, their mistreatment and hate for us is not just sad but abominable.
I don’t know where Nigeria got it wrong, but there was a time that we stepped up for others, even if it was just us alone doing that. There was a time that Nigeria was the Big brother and first child, who while learning how to walk, helped her baby siblings to crawl and eat. That we are not any of those things again today breaks my heart. And that we are turned against at every corner saddens me greatly. We are a shadow of everything great.
The first time my history teacher in Air Force taught my history class the role that Nigeria played in ending the Apartheid regime, I was so proud and walked a little taller because of the knowledge of who we were as a people and as a nation.
Nigeria was still a baby nation, barely months old, in 1960 with a newly gained independence under Tafawa Balewa when she responded boldly to the racial discriminations, oppression and, killings of the Blacks in South Africa. Before now, no country (black or white) dared oppose the white masters in SA but Nigeria did that. Nigeria aligned herself with the black anti-apartheid leaders and groups like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) who were fighting and resisting the apartheid regime.
Nigeria was the ONLY country to first call for an end to the Apartheid regime. We did not just stop by writing or voicing our allegiance to our black siblings alone, we took severe economic and political decisions, even when they weighed heavy on us just to make sure that Freedom was actualized in South Africa.
A brief outline of what we did;
1. Nigeria provided financial and material aids to the ANC and PAC party to enable them resist the apartheid leaders.
2. Nigeria provided military training to the guerilla fighters of the ANC party.
3. Nigeria set up a special fund called the South Africa Relief Fund (SARF). This was to help provide economic, social and educational relief for black victims of the apartheid regime.
4. Every Nigerian Civil and Public servants gave a 2% donation from their salaries to South Africa. (1970-77)
5. Nigerian students in all schools voluntarily skipped their lunch so as to add to the contributions of monies for the SARF goals. (1970-77)
6. Nigeria created a special education fund and exchange program with the aim of ensuring free education for the beneficiaries of the program, and to ensure that the academic progress of black south Africans were not truncated by the bloodshed and instability of their government. Many South Africans came to study in Nigeria for FREE. (1970s)
7. Nigeria received and provided a safe space/accommodation for many black South Africans who sought refuge, including many of their party leaders on exile. (1960-1990s)
8. Whenever a Black South African had their passports seized to prohibit international travels, Nigeria provided them with a copy of our own passport so that their right to movement was not infringed upon.
9. Nigeria was the only country in the world to set up a committee solely committed to the education of her citizens on the ills of the Apartheid regime and to campaign fiercely against it and it was called National Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP) – 1960
10. Nigeria deprived itself of an estimated $41 billion because it refused to sell oil to South Africa in protest of the White minority rule.
11. The Obasanjo led administration had every cabinet member contributing $1,500 each to the SARF and more personal donations from concerned Nigerians. In fact, from Tafawa to Obasanjo, all successive heads of government in Nigeria made personal donations and tasked their cabinet members too.
12. Nigeria lobbied for the creation of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, galvanizing other African countries to follow in her step. This committee had Nigeria chairing it for 30 years.
13. Nigeria outside her personal Fund vehicle created, made donations of about $39,040 to the UN Educational and Training Programme for Southern Africa. – (1973-1978)
14. Nigeria boycotted the 1978 Olympic Games in New Zealand, also led/organized a sport protest where 32 out of 56 countries boycotted the 1986 Commonwealth Games as a message to the Thatcher led administration on their silence and complicity in the Apartheid terrors. This was a game changer and a strong statement that made the world sit up and pay attention to Nigeria’s unalloyed support with their brothers/sisters in South Africa.
15. From 1960 to 1995, Nigeria had alone spent over $61 billion to support the end of apartheid, more than any other country in the world, according to the South African Institute of International Affairs.
I could on and go, and I am certain that the people in my parents’ generation and historians can add more to the above, but I will end with this.
Nigeria might be a really upside down country that drains and exhausts me, daily, but there was a very short while that we spoke with unity of voice, not according to the alignment of our colonizers but because we felt and understood the struggles of our closest neighbours in times when no one else was there to do that. There was a time we had a spark and a glimpse of greatness and purpose even in our forced state; North, South, East and West.
I really don’t know what else to do but maybe in times like these, I will remind myself of something we could have been.’’