Our involvement in xenophobia


It’s sad, very sad but we must admit that xenophobia is still subsisting in today’s world.

Xenophobia did not start in South Africa and it will not end in South Africa. Nigeria now a victim, has aggressively indulged in xenophobia before. The worsening economic situation in most countries of the world is encouraging xenophobia and there is no solution in sight. As a matter of fact it will become worse. Even within nations and within the various ethnic groups there is economic discrimination. It will become more aggressive and turn more violent later. It will happen earlier than expected. There is frustration everywhere. Everyone is under pressure in the words of Rastaman Kimono.

In our desperation anyone can be a scapegoat— neighbours, friends, foreigners, etc. The immigration policy being pursued in the United States of America is part of xenophobia. Even the referendum of United Kingdom to quit the European Union commonly referred to as Brexit held on June 23, 2016 of which fifty-two percent were in support of leaving the union, is another form of xenophobia. Even the recent closure of our borders could be interpreted as another form of xenophobia. Imagine the way we celebrated the closure of the borders.

Economic distress leads to social unrest, breakdown of law and order and stagflation. Social unrest is generally characterized by the general dissatisfaction of a group and the unconventional and sometimes violent way people tend to show it. One example is rioting or when a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way.

According to Wikipedia, Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. Xenophobia can involve perceptions of an in-group toward an out-group and can manifest itself in suspicion of the activities of others, and a desire to eliminate their presence to secure a presumed purity and may relate to a fear of losing national, ethnic or racial identity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”.

According to UNESCO, the terms xenophobia and racism often overlap, but differ in how the latter encompasses prejudice based on physical characteristics while the former is generally centered on behavior based on the notion of a specified people being adverse to the culture or nation. In other words, xenophobia arises when people feel that their rights to benefit from the government is being subverted by other people’s rights. An early example of xenophobic sentiment in Western culture is the Ancient Greek denigration of foreigners as “barbarians”, the belief that the Greek people and culture were superior to all others, and the subsequent conclusion that barbarians were naturally meant to be enslaved. Ancient Romans also held notions of superiority over all other peoples, such as in a speech attributed to Manius Acilius, “There, as you know, there were Macedonians and Thracians and Illyrians, all most warlike nations, here Syrians and Asiatic Greeks, the most worthless peoples among mankind and born for slavery.” Despite the majority of the country’s population being of mixed (Pardo), African, or indigenous heritage, depictions of non-European Brazilians on the programming of most national television networks is scarce and typically relegated for musicians/their shows. In the case of telenovelas, Brazilians of darker skin tone are typically depicted as housekeepers or in positions of lower socioeconomic standing.

In short xenophobia is fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners. Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia (1913-1978) was Prime Minister of Ghana from 1969 to 1972. As a nationalist leader and Prime Minister, he helped to restore civilian government to the country following military rule. In 1969, he invoked the Aliens Compliance Order and deported an estimated 2.5-million undocumented African migrants, the majority of whom were Nigerians. Before then the Nigerians had grown annoyingly enterprising, their business acumen sharper, to the detriment of Ghanaian businesses. It was this order that forced my late friend, Dr. Wale Oloyede, the former deputy Comptroller general of prisons from Ghana to Nigeria. Mr. Layi Alabi, former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank was also affected. Also partly affected by the order like many others was Chief Christopher Adebayo Alao Akala (69), the former governor of Oyo state who is from Ogbomoso. In fact, the First Baptist Church in Oke-Elerin in Ogbomoso and its environ became a refugee camp for the Nigerians deported from Ghana. Also affected by the order was my in-law, Chief Edward Afolabi Abimbola (1930-2017), the Lijofi of Idanre Land the first industrialist to build a bicycle factory in Ghana. When the factory was opened on January 16, 1969, the event made a front page lead in the DAILY GRAPHIC on January 17, 1969. Chief Abimbola married a pretty Ghananian princess, Miss Lucy Menya Dudome of Peki town in Volta Region, Ghana in 1965. When he was evicted from Ghana, he was only allowed to take his wife along with him and was forced to surrender all his properties in Ghana. So prominent was he in Ghana before 1969, that the Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo became his guest while in exile in Ghana.

Under Ghana’s Alliance Compliance Order, Nigerians and other Africa and non-African immigrants were forced to leave Ghana as they made up 20 percent of Ghana’s population at the time. The returnees were mostly children but of Nigeria parents. They knew no other country than Ghana and that was during the Nigerian civil war. Mostly affected by the order then were Yorubas from Ogbomoso, Ikirun, Ilorin, Oyan, Offa, Inisha, Oke-Imesi, Ogotun, Ejigbo, Ede and other towns from the then Western states. They lost their properties and money in Ghana for they were given less than fifteen days to pack out. In spite of appeals by then head of state of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon and other African leaders especially, Emperor Haile Selaisse of Ethiopia (1892-1975) and President Hamani Diori (1916-1989) of Niger Republic, Dr. Busia rejected those appeals. Dr. Busia’s order of November 19, 1969 was that all aliens without valid residence permit were ordered to quit the country within fourteen days, that is, latest by December 2, 1969. Official explanations for the expulsion as offered by the Government of Ghana included the following: i. that there were about 600,000 registered unemployed in Ghana, which would be relieved by the expulsion of the aliens; ii. that the continuing balance of payment deficit was worsened by immigrant workers and traders who remitted home some of their earnings; and iii. that the aliens engaged in smuggling, especially of diamonds. Another important reason for the expulsion order of 1969 was the economic misfortunes that befell Ghana. From the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s, Ghana experienced severe economic decline. It should be recalled that the Ghanaian economy was cocoa dependent; providing over 70% of foreign exchange earnings for the country.

To Be Continued Tomorrow.

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