By Frank Meke
Like crawling and consuming locusts, South Africans have left no one in doubt that they are willing and have the capacity to consume and eat up anything Nigerian in their country.
What their chewing locusts left, the swarming locusts has eaten and what their swarming locusts left unfinished, their crawling and consuming locusts would finish up.
From their police force and the people, there is no pretending that Nigerians are endangered species and unwelcomed. They loot, burn, kill and destroy Nigerian businesses and families and unknown to many people, it is not all about pride, it is about dominance and presence. It is a socio-economic battle trigged off by the audacity of the Nigerian person to hustle his way out of frustration and intimidation of white dominated economy to which an average South African still find embracingly difficult to overcome.
It is an economic war in which the white South Africans carefully set in motion irritations to get back at Nigerians who are not afraid to trade in any capitalist environment. What the whites Afrikaans would not allow to happen since they lost the political power base to black South Africans, is to watch fearless and very aggressive businessmen from Nigeria to eat up their economic space and drive them out of the market.
To the average black South African hardly exposed to social interactions beyond their communal environment, thereby shut to multiracial relations, the fears of many years of slavery, coupled with natural loathfulness of fellow Africans, particularly Nigerians, made them a willing horse in the race to exterminate other Africans at any point and anywhere.
Sadly, Nigerians forgot too soon who they are and the fact that Nigerians have never failed other African nations when they are at cross roads and pains of development. To those of us in this sector who have kept close watch on our relations in areas of tourism and travel economy, the huge investment and presence to which we gave to South Africa are unimaginable.
Among many others, we gave economic wings to South African Airways and in fact adopted it our national carrier to the chagrin of European airlines that have subjected us to all kinds of intimidation and harassment.
Nigerians would fly six hours to Jo’burg to connect to other parts of the world as open show of support and brotherhood to South African economy just to spite white colonialists’ airlines operating in Nigeria and which insists that their trade documents (tickets) must be exchanged in dollar against Nigerian currency.
At Festac 77 in Lagos and World Cup 2010 in South-Africa, Nigerians rose to applaud the IPI TOMBI, the warrior cultural troupe of South Africa. Indeed IPI TOMBI became phenomenal after Festac because Nigerians gave them a world stage, a global creative arts presence that brought fame, love, sympathy to the cause of colonial rule in South Africa. Nigerians adopted IPI TOMBI as the cultural face of Africa and opened their homes to the swarming locusts out now to destroy us. At the World Cup in 2010, Nigeria created a pan African tourism village and brought the best of our creative arts community to support the hosting of the games, the first in black Africa.
As we moved around from Jo’burg to Pretoria and other cities, during that event I noticed their fear of us and each time I had found myself in South Africa, these fellow blacks could not tolerate our unexplainable happiness and cheerfulness. They are lost to our deadness to life’s many challenges, failings and frustrations to which possibly they found unacceptable.
There are more crimes, muggings and rape in Jo’burg than in Lagos but the story would never make CNN and BBC because we are yet to understand the power of tourism diplomacy. What the United States did to us on Visa fees is a clear manifestation of how any government would respond when its citizens are not getting some respects from other nations. And to my point here, time has come for us to boycott visits or holidays in South Africa. There are no denying the fact the trend to extinguish Nigerians in South Africa is still very potent despite rapprochement by the South African government.
Indeed, it took the intervention and picketing of South African businesses in Nigeria by our students’ leadership for powers that be in South Africa to wake up to the reality of the pains and destruction visited on Nigerians in South Africa.
Just like we have always done, we allowed and encouraged South Africa tourism to thrive and situate a strong foothold in Nigeria while the madness to finish up Nigerians ongoing in South Africa. We never saw any strategic communication line or advert condemning the xenophobic attack against Nigerians, same people, nation to which it would organize annual road shows to open up its so called safe holiday enterprises.
Not once, not anytime, not today and never will happen tomorrow that South African tourism organization and the enterprises its represents, joined hands to object, frown and show sensitiveness to the slaughtering of Nigerians and the burning of their businesses in South Africa. It is annoying and unkind for this very organization which runs and spearheads a business seen and accepted globally as a precursor of peace, harmony and wellness of mankind to ignore these attacks and be bold at same to go about Nigerian cities looking to convince Nigerians to visit a destination which from all intents and purposes, has lost its freshness, security and friendship.
To ask or convince Nigerians that South Africa still has that welcoming smile is to foreclose and deny the reality that recreationists would never come back in body bags. Our conference organizers, business persons and other Nigerians desirous of holiday and intellectual engagements should better stay off South Africa not just for a while but for a long time until our government could really recertify that country of worthiness of our presence.
Unfortunately and sad, the Nigerian tourism space appears hazardous with no clear control and presence. Our ministry still struggles to define its foothold on Information and Culture; a process that left the sector more confused than ever before with many agencies that cannot pull through visions and mentality to tackle the South African Tourism disrespect and insensitivity. As a tourism journalist, one cannot possibly understand the Africaness and culture of uncaring attitude of this outfit.
Our trade operators and tourism media are also convenient collaborators to this slothfulness from SAT and wittingly, are influencers of the “siddon look and wetin Nigeria fit do” arrogant attitude of a South African tourism enterprise that has benefited immensely from Nigeria.
To champion boycott tourism holiday in South Africa is the way to go for Nigerians and thank God the South Africa embassy in Nigeria is now making it difficult for Nigerians to get visas into their country. To visit South Africa and be mugged, robbed and brought back in body bag is your choice.
Let us think Nigeria and develop our home grown tourism, richer and better than any elsewhere than to end up in an unmarked grave yard in a country not pleased to welcome your presence, or that your relations and fellow Nigerians. Let us Boycott South African Tourism, pure and simple.
By Frank Meke