Nigeria’s authorities issued a cautionary statement on Tuesday regarding what they termed “subtle threats” directed toward Nigerian citizens living in South Africa, ahead of an upcoming Africa Cup of Nations semifinal match that is reigniting existing tensions between the two nations.
The historical rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa has been exacerbated over the years, largely due to their status as having the largest entertainment industries in Africa rather than the largest economies.
The escalation of tensions is particularly evident in football, as Nigeria and South Africa prepare to face off in their semifinal match in Ivory Coast on Wednesday.
The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa expressed concern in a statement, highlighting the prevalence of “inflammatory online comments” originating from South African sources, which predominantly contain veiled threats against Nigerians.
The commission urged Nigerian citizens in South Africa to “be watchful of their utterances, be mindful of where they choose to watch the match … and refrain from engaging in loud, riotous or provocative celebrations should the Super Eagles (the Nigeria team’s nickname) win the (semifinal) match.”
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said the country “does not agree with the apprehension expressed” in the statement, adding: “The advisory is regrettable because it seems to create alarm and unnecessary tension between the citizens of South Africa and Nigerians living in or visiting South Africa.”
In 2019, xenophobic violence in South Africa left 12 people dead.
The rivalry between the two countries was fueled on Sunday when South African sensation Tyla beat four other Nigerian nominees to win the Best African Music Performance Grammy with her song “Water.” Tyla’s win was a “big one for Africa,” Nigerian artist Davido, and a nominee for the category tweeted while congratulating her.
Football and music enthusiasts from both countries see the next stage of the rivalry in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.
Nigeria and South Africa are meeting in a repeat of a 2000 semifinal, which Nigeria won 2-0. Nigeria won the last of its three Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2013, while South Africa’s only win came in 1996.