Xenophobia: Nigeria should adopt tit-for-tat approach – Dr Oshinowo, former SA to Ex-Pres. Obasanjo

Dr Gbolade Oshinowo is a former Special Assistant (SA) on Political Matters to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In this interview, he examines the renewed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and how government has handled the matter.

Excerpts:

Nigerians in South Africa have suffered yet another round of xenophobic attack. Do you think the Federal Government is proactive enough in the way of handling the matter?

I don’t think so. The government is too reactive. At this point, a pattern has already been established. This is not the first time South Africa is attacking Nigerians. So, for this latest one, there is no excuse to be caught napping. I would have liked the government to be more proactive. If there was already in place a policy statement that anywhere in the world Nigerians are attacked, government will take a definite step, this one would not have reoccurred. For some years now, Nigerians in South Africa have been attacked with no consequence. And that is very bad for Nigeria because it will send a wrong signal to international community that anything can be done to Nigerians. Like most Nigerians, I am not particularly impressed by the government’s handling of the situation.

President Muhammadu Buhari has already sent a delegation to South Africa. What will they be telling the authorities there?

I suppose they will say Nigerians should no longer be attacked. A sovereign nation does not protect its sovereignty by begging. They should have taken a definite step to pre-empt that kind of attack.

What do you think the government ought to have done to prevent this attack, which they did not do?

I cannot presume to advice the government. They know better, they have more information than I have at my disposal. But I think in international diplomacy, this kind of attack should have been tit-for-tat. And there is precedence during the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan when a number of Nigerians were expelled without any provocation. What the Federal Government did at that time was to also expel South Africans. And that brought the desired results, as Nigerians were recalled.

You must have also been following the recurring clashes between the military and the police. Is this a supremacy contest and why do they seem to be working at cross-purposes?

It is part of dysfunctional government. I don’t think it is a good thing, but when a government is not good, there will be lack of coordination. It is a lack of coordination.

The timeline given by the government for the commission of enquiry set up to investigate the Taraba incident has lapsed, but no report is yet made available. Is this not also an indication that the result of findings may still be swept under the carpet?

Most Nigerians including myself have no confidence in that kind of measure. This is because the government has not inspired any confidence in its handling of any matter.  One thing with this government is that there is impunity. People commit all sorts of crimes and get away with it. When state actors like the military and the police are involved in that kind of impunity, then it affects the very essence of governance. If you do something wrong, there must be consequences. But this government does not seem to have imbibed that. It has not been able to demonstrate the capacity to do that.

Then, what do you have to say about the general security of the country?

Security is non-existence. And it is an indication of failure of government because security is the first responsibility of the government. We never had it so bad in Nigeria. When a citizen suffers any loss, it is a loss as to what to do. You don’t know who to report to, you don’t know who to turn to. And even when you report, you doubt whether you can get any remedy.  Self help is the order of the day now and first sign of a failed state. It is when people lose absolute confidence in government that they result to self-help, which erodes the authority of government and creates problems for everybody. And it could result to anarchy.

Again, the scheming for 2023 has started. 

That again is one of the characteristics of Nigerian politicians. All the times, they are on the field politicking. And that is why there is no much governance in the country. One would have thought that the government would concentrate all its efforts on delivering the promises made to the people before they secured the mandate. But immediately, they begin to look at the next election. They think politics is all about winning elections. It’s tragic!

As usual, power contention is between North and South. Where do you expect power to reside after 2023?

If the South is unable to present a united front, power will still remain in the North.

How will there be a united front when the Southwest and Southeast are both scheming?

There is a feeling that the Southeast has been marginalized for too long. And if we are serious, 2023 is an opportunity to correct that. But as you have observed, the South does not have unanimous position. And without southern solidarity, it will be difficult to confront the North. All of this, of course, is begging the question because a school of thought says it is high time Nigeria allowed meritocracy so that it wouldn’t matter where anybody comes from, the most competent will run for position and will be considered on their own merits.

Are the Igbo likely to get support of the Southwest?

I don’t know. It depends on so many factors. With what is happening now, it is difficult to predict.

Already, the Northerners have told the Southeast to stop issuing threat, saying it will not guarantee the Igbo presidency.  Don’t they have the right to be agitated for being so marginalized?

Of course, the Southeast does not have monopoly of threat. In any case, threat has never helped. I remember the case of Niger Delta in 2015, but they didn’t get presidency. Alliance is very important. Without having alliance with the Southwest, the chances of having the slot will be very slim. Several times, the North has had alliances with the Southeast. Even Buhari has had alliance with Southeast on two occasions. If it is the question of alliance, the Southeast is more in tune with the North than the Southwest.

But they seem not to be getting reciprocal support from the North? 

An observer must be wondering how committed Southeast is to the Nigerian project. In one breath, they are no longer Nigeria, they are Biafrans.  In another, they say they want to be Nigerian president. That creates a problem. Doesn’t it?

What do you have to say about $9.6 billion slammed on Nigeria?

It is another sign of a dysfunctional government. The more you hear about the story, the more you know that the problem is not about the Irish company or the UK. The problem is from Nigeria. Those who were supposed to do their duty did not do it.

How can Nigeria get out of it?

Of course, there is always a way. We can always negotiate. All of this shows that Nigeria has lost its place in many respects.

How do you see the relationship between the executive and the legislature in the next four years?

Nigeria now has an acquiescent legislature, which may very well be a rubber stamp. For those who think the problem was because the legislature did not cooperate well with the executive, maybe they see that this is a positive development. But I am not sure that was the problem. For me, we need a legislature that will be very alive to its responsibility in its oversight function with the government in the best interest of the people. They should know that their allegiance is to the constitution and the country and not to the president. – Culled from The Sun.

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