In Rainbow nation?… Aniagolu revisits Nigeria’s role in apartheid South Africa, xenophobia

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja Bureau Chief

Rainbow Nation? is a historical and sociopolitical account of the apartheid struggle in South Africa. Authored by Professor Emeka Aniagolu, the book provides an in-depth analysis of the apartheid struggle, the key players as well as life in post-apartheid South Africa.

It, however, goes further to discuss xenophobia, which has become a new narrative in the country and how it has undermined the apartheid struggle.

Published in 2021 by Fahimta Books, the book provides students of history and international relations research material on the apartheid system of governance, the resultant effects on the Black South African economy as well as their psychology.

Aniagolu, while explaining the question mark on the book, says that it interrogates the current xenophobia that has dwarfed what South Africa should have been in the continent.

According to Aniagolu, though the name, Rainbow Nation, was coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe South Africa after its first democratically held election in 1994, the expectations of many appeared to have disappeared.

“They were negotiating for a new South Africa with the hope that racism would be done away with, there would be no hunger and that poverty would be eliminated.

“But they have not been able to achieve all these. They have not been able to achieve even land reform. That is the reason they are economically displaced and are landless on their own land.

“So, the title makes sense in describing the situation in South Africa,” he said.

At the book’s recent public presentation, Professor Osita Ogbu described both the author and his book as intellectually complex; deeply historical and futuristic; authentic and fearless.

“Both are exciting and troubling to encounter- they reveal our ignorance but leave us richly more knowledgeable,” he said.

Before his recent title, Aniagolu already had 17 books to his credit, nine of which are Afrocentric fictions.

Some of his earlier books include Black Mustard Seed published in 2002, nominated for the Commonwealth Writers Prize; Ozo: A Story of an African Knighthood, published in 2005, which centres on issues of honesty, personal integrity, ethical values and heroism that are closely related to the exalted Ozo title in Igbo society; Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Multicultural History of Western and World Civilisation published in 2008; Co-Whites: How and Why Women ‘Betrayed’ the Struggle for Racial Equality in the History of the United States published in 2010 and The Tale of Two Giants: Chinua Achebe & Wole Soyinka published in 2016.

Why a book on South Africa and the liquidated apartheid regime when there is numerous challenge confronting the author’s native country, Nigeria?

The reviewer attributed this to the author’s versatility and expertise as a historian and sociopolitical analyst as well as his credentials as an African ‘intellectual freedom fighter’.

He said the history that gave birth to apartheid and socio-political conditions of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa is hugely important in constructing an inclusive, renascent country, and very pertinent for all those interested in national integration and nation-building.

“It is, therefore, important that the text is accessible to many,” he said.

The book comprises 16 chapters packaged in beautiful 339 pages. The author began with the origin of the apartheid system in South Africa. In this chapter, he brought his readers to the fact that apartheid was never a stand-alone policy but was rooted in the racist ideology of early colonisers across the globe.

In chapter four, the author highlighted the role of frontline states, including Nigeria, and the strategies deployed in gathering firsthand information through interview with significant actors in the struggle.

On the recent Xenophobia, Aniagolu blames this on deprivation, powerlessness ignorance and the loss of self-confidence arising from apartheid.

However, the author insists that Xenophobia is a result of widening income inequality in South Africa.

According to him, this is a result of the failure of the black empowerment programme, which benefited the black elite.

“Cronyism, poor leadership and a government that has relied erroneously on the market for redistributive actions conspired against the two programmes. I have said elsewhere that poverty is not what drives crime but the inequality and the widening inequality that denies the majority of her citizens any stake in the nation now or in its future,” the author says.

In ‘The Media & Xenophobia in South Africa,’ the author indicted South African media for its apathy in the report of carnages that characterised xenophobia actions.

According to him, “the practice of journalistic “neutrality” in the face of the ongoing horror of xenophobia violence in South Africa leads one to infer that the people behind South Africa’s print and audio-visual media sympathize with, if not support the South African perpetrators of horrendous xenophobia behaviour, as though they feel that victimized African immigrants deserve what they get.”

Aniagolu said that South African media should have used its platforms to condemn such dreadful act as well as dispel the stereotypes used by Black South Africans to justify their xenophobic attacks on African immigrants in South Africa.

Borrowing from the words of the reviewer, The Rainbow Nation is much more than its title as it “provides African perspectives to historical events that shaped apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa; places in its right context the significant roles played by different nations, institutions, personalities, and coalition of persons from across the globe; and the nuances that created the impetus for the actions they took.”

This book is well researched and comes in a neat and appealing print. It is considered highly resourceful for scholars, policymakers, diplomats and the general public.

The article was first published in The Guardian Nigeria

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