Following the latest xenophobic attacks targeting mostly Nigerians in South Africa, Nigerian celebrities including Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage announced that they won't be visiting South Africa any time soon, in protest.

Tiwa Savage at Pulse
Tiwa Savage at Pulse

Nigerians expected their political leaders to follow the example set by their celebrities and boycott events being staged in South Africa. However, it appears, not everyone received that memo.

Fire and fury

When former minister and presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili was spotted at the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, a section of the Nigerian social media space, went completely berserk.

Ezekwesili has received her fair share of slack for showing up in South Africa (Ezekwesili media)
Ezekwesili has received her fair share of slack for showing up in South Africa (Ezekwesili media)
Instagram/Oby Ezekwesili

It was at a time when the federal government of Nigeria announced that it was withdrawing its participation from WEF and recalling its ambassador to South Africa.

Actually, it was President Buhari’s Personal Assistant on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, and a host of APC faithful on Twitter, who pointed the mob Ezekwesili’s way.

“Yes sir, Nigerian government has boycotted the World Economic Forum holding in Cape Town, South Africa, but some individuals from Nigeria including a former minister are attending on their own”, Ahmad tweeted in response to a question posed by Ayobami Oyalowo, a staunch supporter of the governing APC.

Ahmad also responded to a Tiwa Savage tweet; as the singer announced that she was cancelling an event in South Africa because of the xenophobic attacks targeting her compatriots.

“For the love of your people! Surprised to see some Nigerian ‘experts’ in everything governance who spend most of their time lecturing the Gov’t on empathy and the art of prioritizing national interest over individual benefits still went ahead to attend the summit. #StopXenophobia”, Ahmad doubled down, with Ezekwesili in his cross-hairs.

When another Twitter user asked Ahmad who he was referring to, he wrote: “Madam Oby Ezekwesili, sir. She is attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town, South Africa.”

Ahmad clearly knew what he was doing, because before long, Ezekwesili was trending for all the wrong reasons and she was forced to issue a response on her Twitter timeline. 

“Please send that aide to school to get proper education. Who told him that a private citizen like me needs the Nigerian government to decide my participation at the WEF?

"Imagine. I am doing more for our at-risk citizens. Who has time for their nonsense politicking with citizens’ lives?

“Let your Boss know that I am actually leading an effort here in South Africa that will help safeguard our citizens not the childish silly politics his government, aides and praise-singers constantly play with the lives of our Citizens”, Ezekwesili told Ahmad.

The Twitter bashing and defense of Ezekwesili by opponents and supporters alike, segued into Thursday, September 5 and then, there was a twist.

It turns out that a couple of APC governors are also in South Africa for a separate event, a scenario that has now left Ahmad and hordes of APC faithful on the defensive.

Tweets have been fired from all sides of Nigeria’s often vitriolic political twitter space on the subject of whether Governors Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, should be anywhere near South Africa at this time, especially since the federal government pulled out of the WEF and recalled its Ambassador to South Africa.

“We are a disappointing nation. A decision as official as boycotting South Africa to demonstrate our grievances can’t be adhered to by key government officials and a monarch of international repute? What’s the essence of the boycott again? Can you explain this, @BashirAhmaad? Hah!”, writer and critic, Gimba Kakanda fired. 

The exchanges, like the one below, have littered Nigeria’s political twitter space all Thursday.

An aide of one of the governors has told Pulse that the governors are attending a conference called World Festival of Ideas.

This aide also clarified that the governors arrived South Africa last Sunday, long before the latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa dominated social media chatter and digital news platforms. "They wouldn't have attended the event if they were still back home in Nigeria when the federal government severed diplomatic ties with South Africa, that's for sure", says the aide.

South African businesses in Nigeria were looted as a retaliation for xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

South Africa has closed its embassy in Nigeria over fear of reprisal attacks. 

"Out of safety and concern for the employees of the embassy, a decision was taken that we temporarily shut down while we're assessing the situation," said Lunga Ngqengelele, spokesperson of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation.