Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Ibadan | 29 April 2015 | 8,319 times
It was another day of book-reading when the recent assembly of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Oyo State Chapter, was held at Preboye’s Plaza. And, as usual, several poems, written by different poets, who are members of the association, were read to participants. Different topics of interest were treated: ranging from love, courage, adventure to calamity and ‘phobia’.
“If you want to be my friend, be my friend
Taking over my job is not a friendship deal
Don’t you hear what the elders say?
Money strains friendship.”
The above excerpt was taken from a poem read by Folu Oyeleye entitled ‘Povertyphobia’ which, according to him, was the root cause of xenophobia, a brutal and inhumane development which seems to be trending now in South Africa. The ongoing and yet-to-be settled xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and some other foreign nationals resident in South Africa was given more attention, as it sparked off controversial comments after the reading. The audience participation was apt and educative enough. The poet did not only read, but took it to the point of angrily acting the poem which further embellished and enlivened the moment.
Encapsulated in the first four lines of the poem is the question of giving a particular scenario a second thought, which many had not really considered. Reasons were revealed why sentiment should not deprive us of cogitating deeply, questioning and considering other people’s reasonableness on issues.
This identifies the fact that South African nationals, who are being globally reprimanded for their abominable act against their fellow blacks, must have had more than enough reasons why they have been lynching foreigners in their own land. They must have been afraid of one particular thing or the other, infesting their land: the foreigners.
But why? The truth is: Why are people not questioning foreigners usurping the jobs and businesses of these people? Why are people not considering the situations and economic reasons of the South Africans? The understanding is, African countries have not taken time to fathom the reasons inherent in the attack by South African citizens on Black foreign nationals from Mozambique, Malawi, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and particularly Nigerian immigrants. It is fear of poverty in their land.
Little wonder the poet asked: “Should I daze my brain and deprive myself of deep thoughts? Should I close my eyes and not see the rightful colour? Should I seal my lips, the bold lips of my conscience.” This, therefore, is the position of the poet.
Of course, the pogrom rearing its head, thawing relationships of African countries is questionable. But then, whose fault? Who is to blame? The African immigrants in South Africa, enjoying the citizens’ dividends, or the South African citizens who are afraid of wallowing more in poverty, hence killing the devourers of their wealth? In fact, this really calls for deeper thought. Unfortunately, many black South Africans are taking revenge against fellow Africans, instead of challenging the systemic cause of their enduring poverty.
The poet explained it better as he puts it thus:
“Should I allow you tear my thighs?
Tear my tears in the name of consanguinity
Joint eating is not interesting
Not interesting if not all contributing.”
Going down memory lane, the poet bitterly recounted those days when the moment of peace reigned among the African countries: Time when Nigeria fought tirelessly against apartheid in South Africa. He lamented the current situation of African countries in the aspect of keeping cordial relationship with one another. He brought back to mind those days when citizens gained free entrance into their different countries with love and sense of belonging, which made the consaguinous bonding, among African countries, exemplary and reflection of true unity. Now that the table seems to be turning, is povertyphobia fastly manifesting in South Africa? Yes!
Reacting on the support given during the fight against apartheid in South Africa, the poet cleverly asked: “Must you become pests because you have removed pests?” Is this not factual enough?
Just like the Yoruba will say: Ajo ko le da ni ile – which means “no place can be like home” – that is the lesson which these attacks boil down to. The poet’s mien underscores why the different countries in Africa should be well-built and made habitable for all. Of course, the man in Washington will only care for America.
The poet, re-angling his submission from a very sensitive, sober point of view, explored the reality which the Nigerian economic context has added to the whole woes and chaotic experiences of her sons and daughters in South Africa. Euphemising this in his lines, he asserted:
“Oh stop the lamentations
Ask insightful questions
Where is the oil money gone
That slavery is now the answer
Splashing and siphoning fortune
Squandering riches round the globe
Your children now victims of Xenophobia
Embedded in those lines is message of melancholy to Nigerians in the Diaspora, who are being killed, all in the name of searching for greener pasture in uncharted territories. Truly speaking, Nigerians that are being killed today would never have been. If Nigeria’s economy of today had not been destroyed yesterday, how would her sons have been enslaved in another man’s land? The effect of the wastages and squander spree of the leadership is what is telling on us now. Nigerians have no reason to be slaving anywhere in the world, but the bad management of her economy is making her citizens to be predisposed to dangers of migrating to other countries.
•Photo shows some participants at the event.
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