I want to think that babies cry the way they do at birth because it is their first time making contact with the negative energy present in the world, as if transmitted in thick waves. It is an energy fuelled and powered by the intense animosity people direct at each other. They cry because they feel how ugly it is and they want no part in it.
The feeling of extreme disgust and intense dislike for a person or a group of people defines the word hate. Hate, as an emotion in itself, is rather benign and at some point we’ve all had some form of hatred for something or someone and if you haven’t, then I must say that you are pretty unique and rare and I aspire to be like you someday. As logical beings, we are expected to work through our differences and reconcile them as best as we can manage for a peaceful co-existence. Again, I reiterate, hate in itself is a benign emotion but the hostility stemming from it and directed at certain individuals leaves in its wake people whose chests are filled with even more hate, heaving with the promise of a deadly revenge. Ideally, systems are put in place to curb these excesses but what happens when these systems break down or aren’t effective at all?
Nigeria as a country consists of multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural groups. Since the amalgamation of the country in what is akin to a forced marriage, the couples involved have continued to sleep with their backs against each other, refusing to consummate the marriage and acknowledge each other. It is no surprise that the country has experienced an escalation of tensions across all demographic divisions as most hate charged and potentially dangerous speeches are centred on ethno-religious identities. These are usually catalysts to the ever-simmering violence. Nigeria has been described as one of the most deeply divided nations in Africa. For selfish reasons masquerading as selflessness, many leaders play on this mélange of religions, culture, ethnicities and political identities to exploit the gullibility and blind loyalty of the people to the aforementioned groups to further their own agendas.
The herder-Fulani problem in Nigeria has existed since the beginning of Nigeria’s fourth republic in 1998 and this violence has killed more than 10,000 people, displacing thousands. Hate, if not curtailed is sure to boil over, spilling in the form of violence. Hate begets hate as there is sure to be retaliatory attacks.
“The Igbos are criminals, be careful of them!”
“The Yorubas are treacherous and will screw you over without a second thought, be mindful of them!”
“The Muslim Hausa and Fulani are prone to violence, avoid them!”
These narratives on the conflicts between the major ethnic and religious groups have been pushed and peddled for as long as I can remember and has resulted in the sharp divide of the nation. These words incite hate, breeding in people who are deeply suspicious of each other, stereotyping and ostracising a whole group for the actions of a few.
In late August 2019, Africans woke up to the gory image of acts of brutality wrought by South Africans on their fellow Africans. The South African government acknowledged the attack but bit down hard on their tongues when it was time to call it what it really was, what the whole world knows it is, a Xenophobic attack. They rather chose to mince their words referring to it as an act of criminality. This attack wasn’t the first of its kind as over the years there have been cases of sporadic violence against African foreign nationals and their businesses in parts of South Africa. Statistics show a total of 200 Xenophobic related deaths since March 2018. On September 1st, there was an organised group march calling on foreigners to leave. The people who were armed with various weapons chanted, ‘Foreigners, go back!’ This is nothing short of a hate crime. I was repulsed by the burning image of a man, identified as a Zimbabwean who was reportedly beaten, stoned and burned to death by a mob. Following the verbal abuse from other African nations who reminded South Africans of the Pan-African help rendered to them during the apartheid system, many South Africans responded by explaining their apparent hatred for the immigrants, mostly people from other African nations. While there were South Africans who were apologising on behalf of their nation and people, others got on their social media platforms to tacitly justify this violence, explaining that the foreigners were taking away their jobs and occupying their communities, constituting a nuisance. In response, South African-owned businesses in other African nations were targeted and destroyed. Their shops were looted and had to be shut down for safety reasons. There was a movement to boycott South African products and a consensus by the wronged and aggrieved African nations to give the proverbial cold shoulder to South Africa. This act undermines the activities of those who pushed the idea of Pan-Africanism with the aim of unifying the African continent for growth and progress.
South Africans have seen what it means to feel like a foreigner and be treated as such in their own home. Apartheid left a bitter aftertaste in their mouths, a constant reminder of the horrors of that time. The seed of hate was planted in the hearts of South Africans during the period of apartheid. It fed on the rich soil of anger and resentment, sprouting into a garden of thistles that cuts deep into anyone they suspect plans to steal a flower from their home.
As a Nigerian, I feel especially vexed at South Africans for the way Nigerians and other Africans were dehumanised in their country. I understand this hostility and where it stems from, albeit it is not okay. It is wrong for our eyes to be baked shut with the dust of hate that we use to employ guerrilla warfare to eliminate other people for our survival. It is a never ending cycle. Hate attracts hate and even more hate.