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Dear South Africa, Nigerians Aren't the Problem, Criminals Are

Dangerous stereotypes make Nigerians the perfect scapegoats for South Africa's crime problem.

My family lives in a small, white Afrikaans-dominated town called Krugersdorp—just forty minutes outside of Johannesburg. As one might guess, I hate it there. But that's a story for another day. Anyway, as you drive from the tree-lined streets of the suburbs towards the center of the town, the scenes quickly switch to that of dilapidated houses (you know, the ones with broken windows and old paint) where sex workers stand on every corner and their pimps are not too far away.

Last year, a woman was abducted in Krugersdorp. Everyone was understandably up-in-arms and the police went into overdrive trying to find her. The woman was thankfully found about a week later after she managed to escape from her abductors. In retaliation, however, members of the community went to the town center and burned down every one of those ugly houses in an attempt to rid the area of the Nigerians they believed were behind the abductions, sex trafficking and drug dealing in the town. Soon afterwards, however, the woman who'd been abducted was found to have made the whole thing up.


Last week, Hillbrow was trending on social media. Let me just say that the suppressed xenophobes jumped right out from many people claiming "concern for the country". One Twitter user spoke about how she was putting aside her "political correctness" and voicing out how she felt Nigerians were a huge problem in South Africa with regards to crime and said that they all needed to go. "Ghana and Cameroon deported hundreds of thousands of Nigerians for the same reasons," she added. Many South Africans agreed with her sentiments despite her latter statement being factually untrue.

READ: Burna Boy to Donate Proceeds from Upcoming Show In South Africa to Victims of Xenophobic Violence

Firstly, it's important to note that South Africa has the highest level of inequality in the world. Just two weeks ago, the government finally declared unemployment a national emergency. One only has to see the presence of several beggars at every traffic light to understand the deep scourge of poverty in the country. Beggars whose desperation often leads to aggressive engagements when you don't have any spare change to give them.

The country also has some of the highest rates of domestic violence and five times the average global femicide rate. What I'm trying to show here is that way before South Africa was dealing with a migrant community of Africans from all over the continent, things have been pretty bad already and for a long time. And when the government is more preoccupied with looting state coffers than they are with changing the plight of their people, the only people who then bear the brunt of the frustrations that South Africans have are foreign nationals and more specifically, Nigerians.

Am I saying that no Nigerian has ever sold drugs, been involved in human and sex trafficking or run a syndicate in South Africa? No. I know of many Nigerian criminals who have been involved in shady activities. I know Nigerian criminals who've scammed fellow students and even family members.

"But the key here is that they are criminals first before they are Nigerian and that difference is crucial."

South Africans are justifiably concerned about the high levels of crime in the country but their insistence on it being a "Nigerian" problem and not a problem with criminals is extremely xenophobic. Instead, we choose to perpetuate archaic stereotypes about Nigerians: they're scammers, pimps, drug-dealers and thieves, without considering how dangerous these stereotypes are particularly to the greater number of Nigerians that aren't any of these things..

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a brilliant Nigerian author, once spoke about stereotypes in her TED talk titled "The Danger of a Single Story". Adichie said something incredibly powerful and that was that the problem with stereotypes is not that they are entirely untrue but that they are not complete. In as much as there are Nigerians and other foreign nationals who do engage in criminal activities, I can bet that there are so many more contributing positively to the country. We forget the students, the young professionals and the teachers who want to build the country with the same ferocity as they would their own. What sense is there in smearing them with the same brush?

South Africans conveniently forget that the migrant community (documented and undocumented) only accounts for a very small percentage of the population of 52 million. As South Africans, we seem to be sitting on a precariously high horse where we attribute none of the crime that occurs to our own people. How many countries abroad are ignorantly saying the exact same thing about South Africans in general?

Let's also not forget that everything is political. The best way for the ANC government to detract from the fact that they have failed to deliver many of the promises they made post-1994 is to shift the blame to this so-called "other". The other that left their home in search of better for themselves and their families. The other that would probably condemn the same behavior we've accused them of.

Xenophobic utterances by South African politicians such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Herman Mashaba and even Jacob Zuma's son as well as manifestos and policies which shun immigrants as a whole, have always sparked violent attacks on foreign nationals.

"South Africans have injured, displaced and even murdered other Africans with impunity and not a damn thing has happened."

And in a global environment that is becoming more and more hostile towards immigrants, nothing will happen.

I will never forget the xenophobic attacks that happened in 2008. I was in my first year of high school and the "burning man" was on the front page of the newspaper. A Mozambican, he had been wrapped in a blanket, fuel poured over him and set alight till he burned to death. Eleven years later, that image has not left my mind.

Now you tell me, where is the justice there?

It's easy to blame Nigerians for everything that's wrong in South Africa. I mean, if not them then who, right? It's convenient to do so. However, like another great Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, once said, "You cannot be a part of the system you are fighting against."

The valid injustices that South Africans are facing, in no way justify the injustices they carry out against Nigerians and other foreign nationals.

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Asake Kicks Off His Year With New Single 'Yoga'

The Nigerian superstar shares his first single of 2023.


Ahmed Ololade Asake, popularly known as Asake, drops a new single for 2023 called "Yoga." The "Mr. Money" crooner shared the single along with a vibrant music video which depicts a deep, spirited, message that is expertly interwoven into the the song, and is primarily sung in the Yoruba language. According to Asake, the song is about peace and zen.

“The song is about minding my business and guarding my peace so no one can disrupt it,” says Asake. The Nigerian artist, who has consistently been releasing hits ever since he became a mainstream sensation, took to social media in the early hours of January 30th, 2023, shared a snippet of the new record with his followers.

The music video, which was directed by celebrated cinematographer TG Omori, boasts of colorful imagery and was shot in Dakar, Senegal. Last year was a highly-successful year for the YBNL signee, with us claiming that 2022 Was the Year of Asake, and stating that the singer's "clear-cut domination of the year was without a doubt."

According to that previous OkayAfrica essay, the Nigerian megastar has historically drawn inspiration from street-hop sonic influencers like DaGrin, Lord Of Ajasa, and Olamide, who poured the hardships in their lives into their music. In "Yoga," Asake uses his signature sonic blend of Fuji music, merged with spiritual affirmations.

Following his debut album Mr. Money With The Vibe, Asake set the tone for a streak of musical success that has been celebrated by Okay Africa's curated music lists, including Best Nigerian Songs of 2022 and Best Afrobeats Songs of 2022.

Watch the scintillating music video for "Yoga" below.

Listen to Asake "Yoga" below

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Photo via Warner Music Group.

Burna Boy's 'Last Last' is Eligible for Platinum Certification

Burna Boy's global smash "Last Last" is set to receive yet another accolade.

Burna Boy released a global anthem when he shared "Last Last" with the world.

The song, which samples Toni Braxton’s "He Wasn’t Man Enough," quickly became the biggest hit of The African Giant's career. And, according to Chart Data, the record has now surpassed onemillion units in sales in the United States. The record is now eligible to receive a Platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The global superstar released "Last Last," in the summer of 2022, and it soon became one of the most memorable records off of his sixth studio album Love, Damini .

Asides from becoming a fan-favorite, the record also quickly became a global phenomenon, earning it multiple weeks on the Billboard 100, where it peaked at No. 44. This is not Burna Boy's first run at the rodeo with an RIAA certification. He also previously received a gold plaque for his 2018 smash hit 'YE,' which played a big role in helping him to amass a growing, loyal fan base.

The celebrated singer continues to make a mark both home and abroad, and in addition to his RIAA recognition, he was featured on Popcaan's latest album Greater Is He. Everything seems to be falling in line for Africa's Giant. He's also set to headline Burna Boy Afro Nation Miami, alongside Wizkid, in May.

Last year, we spoke to Chopstix about crafting the song. He told us:

“Bro, as soon as this song was done — as soon as I hit export — Burna and I had a moment where we looked at each other and we knew that we had caused trouble."

"Trouble" is an understatement.

Music
Image courtesy of the artist.

The Best Nigerian Songs Out Right Now

Featuring Kizz Daniel, Joeboy, Minz, Lojay, Spinall, Ajebutter22 and more.

Every month, artists around Nigeria, one of the continent's biggest musical exports, release new songs in hopes of momentarily owning the hearts and ears of current and new fans amidst a barrage of new releases.

Here’s a list of the best new songs and music videos that have come out of Nigeria this month for your viewing and listening pleasure.

For more music lists, check out our Songs You Need to Hear This Week roundups and our regional monthly lists for Ghana, South Africa and East Africa.

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Photo: The Sundance Institute

C.J. Obasi On Bringing the Legend of Mami Wata to the Big Screen

The Nigerian director saw a vision of Mami Wata, then made a film that became the toast of Sundance and won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematography.

C.J. Obasi’s third feature length film MamiWata has taken Sundance by storm. The mesmerizing fable, which marks the first time a home-grown Nigerian film scores a competition prize at the Sundance Film Festival, delves into the myth of the Mami Wata folklore, a terrifying mermaid goddess popular across West Africa. Obasi’s MamiWata tells a simple enough story of good versus evil, and the importance of maintaining balance while hurtling towards societal change. But Obasi is not your basic filmmaker, and his interpretation of this well-known folklore is a startling cinematic achievement that advances his singular vision.

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Listen to Burna Boy Feature On Popcaan's New Song 'Aboboyaa'


Renowned dancehall artist Popcaan has released his album Great Is He, via OVO Sound, and it features none other than Burna Boy.

The Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Popcaan x Burna Boy, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Mr Eazi, Baaba Maal, Pheelz and more.

In his Imaginative Debut Feature, Walé Oyéjidé Brings Together Elements of His Life’s Work

The Nigerian American director has long used the tools of his multi-hyphenate trade to expand the ways Africans are seen. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, 'Bravo, Burkina!' gives him a larger canvas on which to paint.

Baaba Maal Releases New Single 'Agreement'

Senegal's Baaba Maal shares a new song ahead of his upcoming album, Being.

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Rising Star Khaid Shares New Single ‘Jolie’

Nigerian music newcomer Khaid comes through with a new love song.