The increasing attacks on Nigerians in Ghana, Togo, South Africa and other countries on the continent can no longer be treated with levity by Nigerian authorities. The xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa which have become legendary have also led to the death of many Nigerians while their property is either looted or destroyed.
Therefore, the recent attacks on Nigerian traders in Ghana and other West African countries deserve an urgent probe by the Federal Government. The government should investigate the circumstances that led to the unwarranted attacks. The government should also address expeditiously the case of Professor Augustine Nwagbara, who was relieved of his job at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, over a leaked conversation with some Nigerians.
Nwagbara, a professor of English at the University of Lagos was on sabbatical at the Ghanaian university when the incident occurred. I shall return to this issue shortly. With the rising attacks on Nigerians in Ghana and Togo, it has become necessary for the government to review its relations with her neighbours, especially Ghana, Togo, Mali and other African countries where Nigerians are frequently subjected to xenophobic attacks.
The Federal Government must review its foreign policy in the wake of the vexatious attacks. Our Big Brother posture in African affairs must be tailored in favour of our national interests. The concept of Africa being the centre piece of our foreign policy is nebulous and needs to be clearly redefined.
Our Afrocentric foreign policy vision is no longer sustainable in view of hatred shown to Nigerians by some of our African brothers and their governments. The relationship between Nigeria and other African countries, especially Ghana is well known. Our relationship with South Africa is equally well known, especially during the apartheid struggle when Nigeria became one of the frontline states.
Nigeria carried the struggle on its head and gave scholarships to many South Africans to study in Nigerian universities. Nigerians and Ghanaians have co-existed and have shared history of colonialism and independence struggle. The great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah championed the pan-African movement of the 60s.
It was Zik that inspired Nkrumah and even sent him to the same university Zik went in the United States. Zik started his journalism in Ghana during the heydays of his nationalistic struggles that eventually led to Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Many Ghanaians live and work in Nigeria as teachers, artisans, traders, journalists, doctors, and what have you, yet they are not being molested.
They are allowed to even criticize us and lampoon our government but they have not been censored the way the University of Education, Winneba censored Professor Nwagbara. Those who went to University of Maiduguri in the late 80s will remember the popular Ghanaian barber, Mensah, who plied his trade under the tree near Murtala Muhammed Hall. He was never molested.
Therefore, the recent harassment and termination of the appointment of Professor Nwagbara by the authorities of the University of Education, Winneba, for holding a personal opinion is crude, barbaric and unbecoming of a university, the presumed purveyor of knowledge and truth. It is a reminder of the Hobbesian state of nature where life is short, nasty and brutish. It is hoped that the university in question is aware that while facts are sacred, comments are free.
On no account should anyone be persecuted or victimized for his comments even if the Ghanaian government or the university is uncomfortable with such views. The kangaroo trial of Nwagbara and his subsequent removal from his job which the university admitted he was not found wanting having described him as a fantastic lecturer without paying him for the month of June when the incident took place is most odious.
It is on record that Professor Nwagbara worked up to June 19, 2019, before he was summarily dismissed without his entitlements. The Ghanaian government must make sure that nothing untoward happens to Professor Nwagbara and his property. The way the University of Education, Winneba, handled the Nwagbara case is devoid of due process and respect for his human rights under existing labour laws and ECOWAS protocols on movement of people and services within the sub-region.
It is against Africa Charter on peoples’ rights. It is a travesty of rules of engagement. It is a mockery of the universalism in university education. It is against academic freedom and the defence of truth which a university worth its name must stand for always. The University of Education, Winneba, should be able to tolerate divergent views.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the University of Education, Winneba, overreacted in handling the case of Professor Nwagbara. The university must revisit the issue and ensure that the lecturer gets his entitlements and his property. The Nigerian authorities should not watch while Nigerians are being attacked in Ghana, Togo, South Africa and other African nations.
It is high time we reciprocated such ill treatments of Nigerians on the citizens of those countries working in Nigeria to teach them a small lesson. We cannot be harbouring them in Nigeria and accord them VIP treatment while our nationals in their countries are criminalized and visited with xenophobic attacks of the worst order.
It is sad that Nigerians in Ghana are charged crazy levies to stay and work in that country whereas their citizens here roam about as the owners of the land. Nigeria’s Big Brother role in Africa can never be construed for weakness. The Federal Government must henceforth bare its fangs on those countries that maltreat Nigerians. It can no longer be business as usual. Nigeria should show these countries that it can bark and bite at the same time.
Our being the Giant of Africa must never be at the detriment of our citizens. There is urgent need to assert Big Brother status in favour of our citizens. The nationals of ECOWAS nations in our midst without valid papers should be asked to go. Some of them are security risks and may be fueling the insecurity in the country.
Our foreign policy with these unfriendly nations must be reviewed. These countries should never take for granted our meekness and philosophy of live and let live. Some of them living here have abused their welcome.
We shall begin to treat their citizens the way they treat ours in keeping with the principle of reciprocity. The Federal Government must not be afraid to wield the big stick when necessary. We have given them enough carrot treatment. It is now time to use the big stick.
In politics and diplomacy there are no permanent friends. What should be permanent is our interest. Our foreign policy objectives must be tailored to protect our interests.