Former Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili, Governors Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; and Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, have all been heavily criticized by Nigerians for not cancelling their trips to South Africa in the heat of the xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa.



Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State was in South Africa for something different, not WEF [Twitter/@GovKaduna]

The federal government of Nigeria had withdrawn its participation from the African edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) which is currently taking place in Cape Town, South Africa; and recalled its Ambassador to South Africa as tension between the two biggest economies on the continent heightened over the xenophobic and reprisal attacks in both nations.

For most of Wednesday 4th and Thursday 4th of September 2019, Nigerians took to various social media platforms to blast the quartet for not following in the footsteps of the Nigerian leadership and celebrities who had boycotted events in South Africa until diplomatic relations are repaired.



Oby Ezekwesili fired back at critics who had a problem with her visit to South Africa in the age of xenophobia (Oby media)

Ezekwesili had stated that as a private citizen, she had a right to attend whatever function she chose to. Besides, she added, she was taking her battle against South Africa right to the country’s doorstep, which she did as you can read here. 

In his defense, Fayemi said he was already in South Africa when the latest xenophobic attack took up all the space on every social media and digital news platform in the land.

“Contrary to some misleading online reports, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was not at the World Economic Forum in South Africa”, Fayemi said through his Senior Special Assistant (Electronic Media), Kanmi Olatoye.

“Rather, the governor is in South Africa to honour an invitation by a long-time friend and one of Nigeria’s most celebrated journalists, Mr. Dele Olojode, at the Africa in the World Festival of Ideas, which held in Stellenbosch, a university town in South Africa’s Western Cape province.



Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti says he was in South Africa before the government pulled out of WEF (Punch)

“More importantly, the event already held before the decision of the federal government to boycott the WEF programme”, the statement added. 

El-Rufai was at the same event as Fayemi.

Emir Sanusi told Daily Post newspaper that he only got to know about fresh xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians when he was already in South Africa.

“I actually arrived SA on Tuesday morning and attended the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, not knowing what was happening.



Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi Lamido says he left South Africa when he learnt of all that has happened (Kano Emirate)

“I went there on two categories: one on an invitation by a friend and second on my personal capacity to deliver a paper at the forum. I and those who invited us…we all boycotted the conference immediately we heard of the diplomatic row.”

Emir Sanusi added that, “When we heard of the violence against Nigerians, we never went back to the forum and in fact I’m coming back home tomorrow.”

Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, announced on Thursday, September 5, that he was quitting as a panelist at the WEF as his way of protesting the xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians in South Africa.



Jim Ovia, Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, left the WEF panel in protest (Zenith Bank)

“Following the hypersensitivity of the issues surrounding the lives and well-being of Nigerian citizens living in South Africa and to contribute his voice against the poor state of security regarding foreign nationals living in Africa, the Founder/Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia has withdrawn from further activities at the World Economic Forum Africa 2019, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa”.

The diplomatic row between South Africa and Nigeria has led to the closure of embassies of both countries in Pretoria, Lagos and Abuja.


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