Oby Ezekwesili and Jim Ovia participating in a discussion before the latter headed the criticism and withdrew from the confab and jetted to Nigerian immediately
By Ayo Kehinde
Despite that the Federal Government officially announced its boycott of the World Economic Forum, WEF, holding in South Africa as part of the measures to protest the xenophobic attack on Nigerians for the past three days running, some of Nigerian governors, businessmen and public personalities have jetted into Cape Town for the confab or another personal or social engagements. Some are denying but the pictures tell a different story.
The governors involved are Ekiti state Governor Kayode Fayemi and his Kaduna counterpart, Nasri el-Rufai. Other high profile Nigerians include Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank, presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, Oby Ezekwesil and Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11,
At a World Press conference in Abuja on Thursday, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed restated, among other things, why Nigeria boycotted the WEF.
He said: “Nigeria is recalling its High Commissioner to South Africa, in addition to boycotting the World Economic Forum on Africa being hosted by South Africa. And plans are on to evacuate Nigerians who are willing to return home from South Africa. Of course, a number of other measures are also being considered by the government to keep Nigerians in South Africa safe..”
In solidarity, even countries in the same economic union with South Africa boycotted the WEF; they are Tanzania, Rwanda and Namibia. Rwanda is not a member of Southern Africa Dev Community, SADC, though.
Even worse, according to Nigerians, is that the governors, Kayode Fayemi and Nasri el-Rufai are from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which expectedly should maintain a solidarity with President Buhari at these trying times for the country.
el-Rufai, Sanusi and Fayemi strike a pose in SA
Moreover, Fayemi is the Chairman of the governors Forum, an umbrella political pressure group of 36 governors in Nigeria.
Though Ovia announced his withdrawal early on Wednesday morning, the pull out was however announced in far away South Africa. in a statement on Thursday, he said, he had been billed to speak on “the hypersensitivity of the issues surrounding 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”
Ezekwesili said she would use the occasion of the confab to register her protest against the barbaric attacks, an explanation that infuriated Nigerians the more.
The governors themselves and their image minders have tried to explain their presence in the southern African country.
A tweet by Governor of Kaduna says “ Happening Now. Governor Nasri Ahmad @elrufai with other senior officials of the Kaduna State government are in Prtetoria, visiting DENEL SCO LMD, manufacturer of defence equipment and strategic partner for innovative defence and related technology solutions.
Ezekwesili in a tweet said” “Those who have genuine concern about my being at @wef in South Africa, should please know that my decision was thoroughly considered. I am in South Africa leveraging my ensure (sic) that @GovernmentZA never again looks away while our citizens are attacked, maimed and killed. In another one she said “My vision is always to stand for the weaker. This is a role I play within and without Nigeria. For me the next three days in South Africa are programmed to achieve a set of specific action by the @Government ZS. Our citizens’ preservation is what matters to me , not noise”
In the reaction, #GovFayemiWasNotAtWEF, posted by Fayemi’s Special Media Adviser, Kanmi Olatoye, said Governor Kayode Fayemi was not at “the World Economic Forum in South Africa.”
“ Rather, the governor and his wife travelled to South Africa over the weekend for a short holiday to privately celebrate their 30 years of marriage on Monday September 2. Meanwhile, they had previously also scheduled 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 Stellensbosch far away from Cape Town. More importantly, the event held before the decision of the Federal Government to boycott the WEF Programmed.
Yet many Nigerians are not taken in by what they consider self-serving explanations, particularly when the missions were undertake during the heat of the attacks against mostly Nigerians in South Africa. Insensitive, unbelievable, double standards and opportunism are the key words used by Nigerians in their reactions.
Fayemi in blue pointing across at Emir Lamido who is having an animated discussion with -el-Rufai during a round table at the confab?
Veteran journalist, human rights lawyer and author, Richard Akinola on his Facebook wall queried the moral behind the continued presence in South Africa of these public figures, “even if they were there before the xenophobia issue occurred,” adding, “why can’t they cut short their stay and return to the country like Jim Ovia did? The truth of the matter is that the present mood in the country is averse to their SA visit, even if their visit predated the problem. Nigerian’s don’t forget. This is a challenge to their handlers”.
On this Adekule Funmilayo in his comment, said;
“But they said the event was held before the FG’s boycott of WEF. In that instance, the posting of photographs in the heat of this moment is a serious mischief by some elements…”
In a comment to Akinnola, Hallmark newspaper publisher, Emeka Obasi said the governors, emir and Oby carry a moral burden to show example. He said Oby and the governors and other who were in South Africa at the moment should not have been there at this time. “Oby must come to equity with clean hands. She cannot approbate and reprobate”, he said.
But no other authority than the government has okayed the attendance by these high profile Nigerians. Minister for Foreign Affairs , Geoffrey Onyeama told State House Correspondents in Abuja on Thursday that WEF is an international conference which was not organized by South Africa.
“Those governors and other individuals were already in South Africa before a decision was reached for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to boycott the WEF due to xenophobic attacks in South Africa”. He said the attendance by the governors “is not an affront to the decision of the Federal Government”
Still some pained Nigerians point out that celebrities like Tiwa Savage and Paul Okporocha, alias Basketmouth boycotted the shows they were billed to hold in South Africa at a great cost to their finances and wondered why more visible persons like governors and the Emir could not hide their business and social preferences to show some sensitivity to the issue.
The tweets and Facebook reactions were still pouring in as at press time.