Column Opinion

South Africa, So Unlike Nigeria

By Zainab Suleiman Okino

A few weeks ago, South Africa was in turmoil, having witnessed a reenactment of violent uprisings reminiscent of its ugly past, the apartheid era and the early days of post-apartheid politics in what was termed black-on-black violence then; Mongosuthu Buthelezi’s ethnically divisive Inkatha Freedom Party was in a power tussle with African National Congress, (ANC).

 This time, the Jacob Zuma prison-induced violence cost 337 lives; 79 in Gauteng province and 258 at KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma’s place, on whose behalf the protesters marched to the streets before looting followed. The former president, who is being tried over allegation of corruption, was given a 15-month jail term, for contempt of court after his refusal to show up. The ding-dong affair degenerated further into protests by his supporters and before you know it, the country was engulfed in more crisis of arson, looting and killings.

Like Nigeria, where peaceful protests often turn violent, South Africa’s similarly became violent and bloody. Such anger found expression in the //EndSARS ‘movement’ last year, which soon spilled over to the street. It started as an organized revolt of the youth against entrenched police brutality; calling out government peacefully, before it was hijacked by hoodlums leading to violence, killing of security and paramilitary personnel, arson on businesses and government property. The economic cost from the //EndSARS protest was put at N1.5tn according to Financial Derivatives Company, while that of South Africa was so far put at 1.36 billion dollars.  For South Africa, the vices that followed made the protest seem like a scene from Nigeria where such problems are common, but in actual fact, the South African protest was planned, going by the rivalry between former President Zuma and current President Cyril Ramophosa on the one hand and the KwaZulu/ business interest groups vehemently supporting Zuma and against his trial from day one. Other than that, the actions and reactions are different and I dare say, South Africa is still light years ahead of Nigeria in many respects. 

In the first instance, how is it possible to arrest and charge to court any ex-president of Nigeria, for whatever infractions without his ethnic group and partners in crime crying foul. Two, it is definitely not possible in Nigeria for any court to send a former president to prison, even when they or their appointees steal Nigeria dry and leave the country in penury or debt overhang. The only exception is the late Sani Abacha, whose infamous Abacha loot became a mantra only because of his ignominious rule after the annulment of the June 12 election and the manner of his death. If he were alive, no amount of allegation of embezzlement would have led to his prosecution not to talk of being jailed. Which gutsy judge has the courage to do so? In Nigeria?

However, after dithering for a while, Jacob Zuma turned himself in and now serving his jail term. In our type of presidential system, the president wields so much power, he can do no wrong.  The Nigerian president is the most powerful in the world; he is deified and his support base is solid. So how could such a man of power turn himself in?
 On its part, the South African government allowed Jacob Zuma to return home for his brother’s funeral. Didn’t former Sultan Dasuki die, while his son, former NSA Sambo Dasuki was in prison. Was Sambo given the opportunity to go for his father’s funeral. What about Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky who has been incarcerated for over five years now. Or was Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12 election ever allowed to see the day daylight until Abacha passed away? 

You won’t be wrong to think that Zuma and current President Cyril Ramphosa belong to opposing parties. No, both ex and serving presidents belong to the same political party, the ANC even if different factions. This is almost unthinkable in Nigeria where the party in power gives unalloyed support to ex and serving president under their umbrella, right or wrong.

 Disgraced Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 over allegation of corruption after he lost the support and loyalty of his party, the ANC and after his approval rating was said to have dropped to 34 percent. Could that have happened under Obasanjo, Yar’adua, Jonathan-PDP days or the Buhari-APC government? Who in the ruling APC dares pass a vote of no confidence on Buhari as ANC did to Zuma in 2018?

Zuma’s rule amplified the ethnic (and racial) divides for which South Africa became infamous but this time between the black ‘population and its large ethnically Indian community’ in Kwazulu-Natal province. The violent eruptions further damaged the reputation of the long-established party in Africa-the ANC and of course the credibility of government, even as people have begun to lose faith in the party, once associated with the revered father of the nation, Nelson Mandela. In Nigeria the ruling party is courted by all-opposition and the likes, so does its credibility matter? 
A few people including a Radio DJ have also been arrested on charges of incitement to commit public violence, but in Nigeria they are simply unknown gunmen, who never get arrested or tried. 

Right of reply

 Re: As banditry eclipses the North, by Abdullahi Musa

I read your article in Premium Times. I however know you are a big shot on the Board of Blueprint newspaper, the online version of which I read daily. We ordinary citizens used to think that media practitioners always had their ears to the ground. Rampant, pervasive insecurity in the North has erased that thought. Our thought now? Nobody knows the causal factors behind insecurity, and nobody knows the solution.In medicine, it is vital to know the cause of the disease before a cure is found. Who are bandits? Besides collecting ransom, why do they kill innocent villagers, impose penury on them? And why only in the North?

I read in the last seven days or under, the comment of either CAN or Church leaders that El- Rufa’i invited banditry to Kaduna State due to his acidic comments. He was saying something, but it seems nobody cares to decipher. I doubt if by acidic comments the religious leader meant El Rufa’i’s comments that he would not negotiate with bandits.An eminent person, who has appointed himself as a kind of spokesperson for the bandits (I mean Shaykh Gumi) said that if the federal government refuses to negotiate with the bandits, the killings would continue. And they have! Who are the bandits? Are they under one unified command? What do they want? Gumi must know. Then how did he come to know while Hajiya Zainab, a seasoned journalist does not know? Nobody cares.

I used to respect El- Rufa’i, but not any longer. For I have come to perceive that he believes in a soulless development: with bulldozers flattening the corpses of hapless citizens. Yet, since he is a political actor, I will benefit if I try to understand his thought process.I believe he refuses to negotiate with bandits because he believes they are sponsored. Does he know their sponsors? Likely. Does he believe he will have the upper hand in this deadly political battle? May be that would not concern him, if he would be able to continue with his soulless development. Is there a Chikun (or something like that) local government in Kaduna State?  That is where Bishop or Pastor Adeboye decided to set up his Bethel school. And that is where the recent abduction of students took place. And it falls perfectly into the narrative of Muslims persecuting Christians. But nobody cares.

A year or so back I was active on Facebook. That’s where the impossibility of the Nigerian nation manifests itself fully. I can’t remember what the exact topic of discussion was, but it had everything to do with insecurity in the North. A Biafran replied to my comment with venom: you (Northerners) aren’t seen nothing yet; insecurity will envelop the region right from the Sahel to the whole North. Empty threat? May be. Plausible? Yes, facts on the ground support him.
Ours is the most destructive type of politics. Seems to me that whatever achievement Nigeria recorded as a nation was because of military rule, where the nation was sacrosanct. Today, political actors believe that the nation should be destroyed if their demands are not met. This is who we are. All other 200 or 300 plus tribes must suffer because of the feud between three majors: Hausas, Yoruba, Igbos.Ohanaeze stands by Kanu. Afenifere supports Sunday Igboho. Why?  Because they created them, they are doing their bidding. All Northerners could have been deaf by now as a result of the thunderous screams that could have emanated from the South had ACF decided to stand by Boko Haram leaders were they to come to trial.

Five years into the first republic, Igbos attempted secession, they are still at it. What would comfort Southerners? To have a situation where Northern Muslims would be permanently excluded from federal power? When they wage war against federal character commission, they want to create an impregnable barrier against Northerners from joining federal service: competence simply means Southerners. 

Why is it that Northerners do not want to form their own nation Hajiya Zainab? Is it because they have no oil, no sea? I prefer to believe it is because they have leadership that does not think strategically.Lastly: I ask for forgiveness if I offend you. The greatest threat to Nigeria as a nation is its journalists. The press in the South West is the PR unit of Afenifere.  That in South east barks on behalf of Ohanaeze. They ensure that their citizens are permanently inebriated on the toxic concoction of tribalism.

When Arewa ‘permanently’ had the reins of federal power, Radio Kaduna (Hausa service of course!) was used to keep ‘yan Arewa enslaved to Arewa Establishment. With numerous FM stations now littering the North, wither Radio Kaduna? Come to think of it, there is Ray Power in Kano, does Arewa have a station in the South? If there was, it could have long been burnt down by the armed wing of Afenifere  (OPC), or by Ohanaeze’s IPOB. Are Northerners willingly, heedlessly, marching towards extinction?

Abdullah Musa writes from Kano.

Contact the writer: zainabokino@gmail.com, 08098209791

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