Fearing backlash at home, some prominent Nigerians are distancing themselves from the World Economic Forum in South Africa, but activist and former Minister of Education, Dr. Boy Ezekwesili, is sticking to her guns and staying.
She has lashed back at those criticising her participation in the forum, which she sees as an avenue to vent her disgust at the xenophobic attacks. In a televised parley, she wondered how the African Continental Trade Agreement (AfCTA) could be achieved with black on black violence.
But the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has defended participating Governors and other Nigerians at the forum stating they were already there before a decision was taken Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to boycott the WEF.
On Thursday, he told State House correspondents in Abuja, “The forum started a long time ago and the governors were already there before our decision was taken”.
Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Plc, Jim Ovia has withdrawn his participation over the attacks on Nigerians and other Africans there, just as Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa /NEPAD, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, called for immediate engagement between the governments of Nigeria and South Africa to end the hostilities arising from the attacks and killings of Nigerians in the former apartheid nation.
Governor Kayode Fayemi has also denied that he is attending the WEF. A statement from his office by Senior Special Assistant (Electronic Media) to the Governor of Ekiti State, Kanmi Olatoye claims he is attending another event put together by South Africa-based journalist, Dele Olojede.
“Contrary to some misleading online reports, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi was not at the World Economic Forum in South Africa.
“Rather, the Governor is in South Africa to honour an invitation by a long time friend and one of Nigeria’s most celebrated journalsits, Mr Dele Olojode at the “Africa in the World Festival of Ideas” which held in Stellensbosch far away from Cape Town.
“More importantly, the event already held before the decision of the Federal Government to boycott the WEF programme,” Fayemi spokesman said
Among others spotted in South Africa are Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai and Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.
Senator Nnamani noted the laudable steps already taken by the federal government on the matter and urged that further approach needs to be adopted to forestall a recurrence.
According to him, “the attacks, maiming, burning and ultimately killing of Nigerian in South Africa is condemnable. This frenzy of wanton destruction, social displacement, loss of properties and means of livelihood is reprehensible.
“Immediate engagement of both nations is needed as soon as possible to stop it. And stop it in finality.
“I sincerely commiserate with families of the victims of the South Africa xenophobia. I hope that this will be the end to the attacks.
He cautioned against reprisal as that would exacerbate the situation adding that as the Big Brother Nigeria plays in Africa, “we must stand on high moral ground above South Africans to bring solution to the problems”.
Senator Nnamani however urged the government of South Africa to take responsibility to end xenophobic attacks saying that “Africa must work and stand up as one people”.
He noted that Africa is already challenged by hunger, disease and poverty pointing out that confronting the continent with the crisis of xenophobia would further encumber her growth and development.