Xenophobia, to me, was just like any other big word in the dictionary. Present but seldom used. In fact, I might have noted its meaning just once in school when we still had Social Studies classes and we were taught a lesson on societal vices (or something like that).
Xenophobia was almost like racism, my teacher had said. But, “it is racism among your own people”. For the life of me, I couldn’t make sense of that.
How is one racist towards his own people? Well, fast forward many years after and I have the answer.
A black man can get very spiteful towards a fellow black man up to the point of violence. The way I remember it, the first time we experienced xenophobia as a country was during the 2015 incident in South Africa. We brushed it off because peace must reign. It has happened again. But unfortunately; boys are not smiling.
When random videos of black people assumed to be Nigerians broke out on the internet early this week, we went crazy. Social media caught fire with people calling for boycotts and promising a fiery retaliation against South Africans.
The Government started to circulate one press statement after the other asking for total calm and cooperation with home authorities to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. Story. Nobody wanted to hear any rubbish talk about diplomacy.
So, people decided to act and guess who started the chain of events that went down around Nigeria? Fellow Lagosians of course!
They started with what I think is a sign of the demarcation between the affluent and the struggling. The Circle Mall at Jakande. These people broke in and started with the ‘South African shop’ – Shoprite.
It was a riot. People’s belongings were lost, some got injured and a man lost his life. This was just the beginning and the inspiration for what followed later that day in other parts of Lagos.
At Novare Mall, it was open season. Nobody seemed to care for their safety or the essence of what kickstarted the riot. People were just running about trying to snatch anything they could carry.
In fact, there was no store left untouched and if there is any, I hope their stars keep shining bright. Flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, purses, groceries, clothes, jewellery – everything was fair game. It was like watching sugar-high kids running around at a birthday party. Only in this case, bullets and tear gas bombs were the only things that slowed them down.
There is no question that these people even knew what xenophobia means or that they were thinking of the dead Nigerians in South Africa. No. This was hunger, plain and simple.
Lagos is just hunger and a constant struggle for daily bread hidden under metropolitan glamour and the façade of legit hustle. People are hungry in this Lagos. And any opportunity to let evil take over is welcome.
What else would turn a right-thinking man into a petty thief if not hunger?
I hope the people upstairs are seeing the underlying issues that this xenophobia season has revealed. Otherwise, this was just a waste of time.
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