Wednesday, October 8, 2014


8th October, 2014

The Federal Government (FG) has warned South Africa about its business investments in Nigeria like MTN and DSTV. It reminded South Africa how it has hitherto provided a conducive business atmosphere for it to operate unhindered.

The warning came as a fallout of the diplomatic row between the two countries over the seizure of large amounts of money sent by the Nigerian government purportedly for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency. It will be recalled that the sum of $9.3 million was seized by the South African government about three weeks ago while another $5.7 million was again seized two days ago.  

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regards FG’s warning to South Africa as subtle blackmail. So FG can fight South African companies now? Where were you when MTN was milking us dry? Where were you when poor workers were being forced to buy sim cards at the rate of N33,000 each? Are you aware that the same sim cards now sell for N50 only today and sometimes given out free?

We know the meaning of providing “a beneficial environment for South African companies like MTN, DSTV and a host of others to do business unhindered”. Our government looked the other way as MTN exploited the Nigerian jamaheer (masses). As a digression we may ask FG if it is true that top Nigerian officials and members of the National Assembly use toll-free MTN sim cards. Does Aso Rock recharge its MTN sims? Our leaders allow service providers to skin us to a pulp just because the leaders enjoy toll-free calls 2-4-7! Nigerians are victims of divide et impera.

Yet we cannot blame South African companies which did legitimate business in Nigeria unlike our own government which seeks to conduct illegal and clumsy transactions in a foreign land, a land where executive impunity is taboo, a land where there are no sacred cows, a land that respects due process and the rule of law. Now the wind has blown and we have seen the ruff of the hen. FG should stop leading Nigerians by the nose.

Can FG really fight South Africa over this scandal? For instance, can FG ask Nigerians to boycott South African products? Will Nigerians support their government in this fight? The reality is that FG needs its citizens to fight South Africa. This is not likely with the current disconnect between the Nigerian rulers and the citizenry.

For FG therefore, asking Nigerians to boycott South African products is not even a viable option. FG has lost the moral right to do that. There is hunger in the land. Thousands are homeless and hopeless. Our graduates are jobless and all FG can do is to ask them to drop their MTN sim cards and their beloved DSTV. We advise FG not to step on the cobra’s tail.

MURIC reminds FG that leaders command respect through refined and dignifying behavior and taking the tax-payer’s money out through the backdoor has already deleted the words ‘dignity’ and ‘integrity’ from FG’s vocabulary. Patriotism cannot be pushed down people’s throats, it flows naturally down the funnel of good leadership.

Nigerians will be proud of their country when kleptomania in government circles becomes an alien culture; when there is respect for the rule of law; when 16 ceases to be higher than 19; when opposition figures, their vehicles and their aircrafts enjoy freedom of movement; when the police give due respect to opposition governors and the judiciary; when the party secretariats of the opposition are respected; when probity and accountability reigns; when…

In fact Nigerians are presently grateful to the South African authorities for exposing these illegal deals. Africans say everyday is for the thief, the owner has one day only and that single day is like D-day. This is what has happened.

Nigerians deserve respect. Those who voted for President Jonathan deserve better treatment. FG is dehumanizing Nigerians by ignoring every request for explanation when something goes wrong.

Has President Jonathan addressed Nigerians over the first $9.3 million? Has he given any explanation on the new $5.7 million? Where is our $20 billion? Where is our $10 billion? What happened to Stella Oduah’s armoured cars? Nothing.

FG acted with impunity in each of these cases but as we say in Africa, “A child who rejects home-training will be taught the lesson of his life outside”. That is what South Africa has done to FG. Nigerians are happy that their arrogant government met its Waterloo in Pretoria. Nobody should expect the over-worked, under-paid and over-taxed jamaheer to fight FG’s battle. Those who eat alone must fight alone.

We put it to FG that the money seized by the South African authorities was not meant to better the lot of Nigerians anyway. FG’s excuse is sheer afterthought while its warning is in bad taste. We advise FG not to play the bully with South Africa. Nigeria is not in a position to adopt gunboat diplomacy.  

Finally, we advise FG not to carry out its threat against South African businesses in the country because this is capable of backfiring. Thousands of Nigerians engage in legitimate works in South Africa. These innocent Nigerians will be exposed to both economic and physical threats if Nigeria hits South Africa’s business interests. Unlike Nigerians who are unhappy with their government, South Africans will quickly align with their government and treat every Nigerian on the street like a thief and a rogue.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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