South Africa is much more developed than Nigeria but complacency and laziness seems to be a cross SOME South Africans carry. However, some of them are so large hearted and display the direct opposite of the word XENOPHOBIA. Nigeria on the other hand is blessed with a high percentage of hardworking citizens who try to improve themselves at the slightest opportunity but Nigeria’s burden seems to be in its underdevelopment. This has become a very big issue in Nigeria such that a lot of Nigerians travel out of their country, seeking greener pastures at the mercy of other countries. Canada, United States of America, United kingdom, France, Australia, South Africa (amongst others) are countries that have experienced the after effects of this phenomenon. You find a lot of Nigerians doing exploits in other countries but not being able to be so impactful in their own countries because of the plague of underdevelopment. Therefore, given the fact that South Africa is more developed than Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians travel to South Africa for better opportunities.
So did I, years back, in the name of seeking educational and medical greener pastures, especially as I am a sickle cell warrior. Hardly did I know that I was in for an unforgettable experience. It took me time to adapt to the weather and to discover that most South Africans are more receptive when you speak their language. They never consider that they have 8 official languages which include English. So many times, on the road when I lost my way and asked for directions, every South African I asked for direction responded in another language apart from English. This was despite the fact that I asked for directions in English and they could tell from my accent that I wasn’t South African, they just didn’t care.
During a seminar at a certain university where I applied for my masters, they all began to speak Afrikaans not caring that I was present and I didn’t understand the language. A large percentage of them hate foreigners, especially Nigerians and I find this so appalling that it makes me pray for Nigeria’s deliverance more than before. If Nigeria were as developed as South Africa, there’ll be no need to travel to countries like South Africa; where Xenophobia is rampant. What they don’t understand is that it is wrong to use a few people’s sin to represent a whole race. Yes! SOME Nigerians are bad, corrupt, drug dealers, yahoo plus but not ALL Nigerians are bad, some of us fear God and keep his commandments.
I remember the last xenophobic attack they launched on all foreigners. I was in the taxi and I kept hearing Nigeria! Nigeria!! Nigeria!!! Fear gripped me and I kept observing while hiding any clue of my nationality. When I got to my bus stop, I jumped out with a sigh of relief. There was chaos around me. You could see that some of these people are sick. They seized the opportunity to go into people’s homes, and shops to rob and beat them for no just reasons.
If you’re a Sickle cell warrior, you’ll know that fear is a powerful catalyst for crisis. Minutes after I dropped from the taxi, I began feeling a strange sensation coursing through my body and spreading very fast. That sensation was familiar!!! Fear gripped me again. I grabbed and swallowed the pain killers in my bag fast. Ten minutes later, not sensations any more but pain. Full, fledged pain, unleashed from the bottomless pit of sickle cell. There and then, I knew the “heartless pain crisis” had arrived amidst a xenophobic attack and I feared what it was about to do to me. Eish!!! The wrongest time for crisis. I prayed hard: “Lord, please let this cup pass over me”. Right there, I felt a jab inside my bones and I stopped in my tracks as the pain reached another peak. It was killing me already, I couldn’t walk, I suddenly felt dizzy and everything became dark, gross darkness on the road…, Mon Dieu! C’etait tres mal. Wrong timing, wrong location and fear; three very bad combinations; if you know what I mean as a sickle cell warrior. I could feel death reaching out to me with its cold hands. I had no strength left in me as I gave in to the” heartless pain crisis” and collapsed.
Hours later (can’t specifically say how many hours), I regained consciousness and saw a drip attached to my hand as a Doctor approached me. He gave me a thorough look, asked a few questions and wrote something for the Nurses. The Nurses came back with some giant capsules for me to swallow and took my blood samples; puncturing my veins severally. The following day, the Doctor came back with my results; I had been transferred to another hospital where I would be closely monitored because they could not comprehend “my kind”. I left the hospital the following day, partially recovered but decided not to go to the hospital I had been transferred to. After all, most of these people hate foreigners and I wasn’t ready to be used as a specimen for their research nor an instrument for vendetta.
They did their best and helped to tackle the “heartless pain crisis” but their knowledge of Sickle Cell was limited as it wasn’t a common disease in this part of Africa. Sickle Cell Disease is more common in the western region of Africa than the Southern region. As such, the medical attention I received was limited. From my personal experience, I can say South Africa has one of the best medical services in Africa, they follow the western standard and they keep updating their knowledge by investing in thorough research. However, sickle cell disease is not on their list of priorities.
What South Africa doesn’t know is that despite the fact that sickle cell disease is not common in South Africa and most South Africans don’t have it, countries like Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, e.t.c, have it. Unfortunately, they are too embittered to realize that Indigenes of these countries live in South Africa, they fall in love with South Africans, marry them and procreate. What is the result of the procreation? Will it produce another victim of sickle cell? What if it does? Will there be another xenophobic attack. I say No! To whom much is given, much is expected. You’ve got a lot of medical facilities and give priority to research. Yes, there is the bone marrow transplant and stem cell but you can do more. I urge and implore the government and leadership of South Africa to focus on more important things like finding a cure to SCD, rather than wasting their energy on acts like xenophobia. Continue research on sickle cell disease, encourage your indigenes to do a genotype compatibility test and stop finding faults on your fellow blacks through xenophobic attacks.
Oluwafemi Ajayi – The WinningWarrior as she calls herself lived in South Africa and has battled with Sickle Cell Disease all her life. She is the founder/president of the ‘Gail Sickle Initiative; a foundation that unites Nigerian Sickle cell patients (warriors) in diaspora in order to assist other Sickle Cell patients (warriors) back in Nigeria. She also advocates against the stigmatisation of warriors. She has a Master’s degree from Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa and she is currently trying to process her Doctorate degree.