An environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, has joined Nigerians pulling out from their upcoming engagements in South Africa in solidarity with victims of the ongoing xenophobic attacks targeted at Nigerians and other Africans in that country.
In a statement Wednesday, Mr Bassey, the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), said he has cancelled his speaking engagement at a conference tagged Financing the Future, which was scheduled to hold on September 10-11 in Cape Town.
Mr Bassey, who was invited as one of the Global Ambassadors, noted that “having watched the spate of hate and xenophobia being played out on the streets of South Africa, he is deeply disappointed that political leaders could allow things to degenerate to the level that is being displayed”.
“The hate and the resultant violence against “others” remind us of the dark apartheid days and appears to underscore the deep disruptions that swirl under the surface of a profoundly unequal society,” he said.
The statement said Mr Bassey had agreed to attend the conference, obtained a visa and received the international air ticket for his participation.
“But he had to cancel the appointment as a mark of honour to the victims of the mindless violence to other Africans living in South Africa.”
The activist said the violence against Nigerians in South Africa should agitate the entire continent.
“The African Union (AU) should urgently step up and play a role in realigning the mindsets of all Africans, irrespective of colour or location.”
He said it is time for “our government to draw the line and demand that leaders in South Africa should make efforts to improve the lives of their people and get the nation to work rather than indulge in banditry and shedding of innocent blood.
Mr Bassey also admonished Nigerians at home not to vent their anger and frustration on South African businesses in Nigeria, stating that “two wrongs never make a right”.
He called on the presidents of Nigeria and South Africa to take a hard look at their countries; “to step up in defence of citizens’ right to life no matter where they live”.
Earlier, Nigerian singer, Tiwa Savage, and comedian, Bright Okpocha aka Basketmouth, pulled out from their upcoming events in South Africa following the xenophobic attacks.
The xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians and other nationals in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and other cities have left several people dead and businesses and private properties burnt.
South African authorities say they are responding promptly to curb the violence. More than 70 persons have been reportedly taken into custody since Monday.
Nigerians have expressed outrage about the attacks, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to take decisive measures against South Africa.
The president sent an envoy to South Africa on Tuesday for an on-the-ground assessment of the situation.
On Wednesday, Nigeria said it would recall its Ambassador to South Africa, Kabiru Bala.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was also scheduled to attend the World Economic Summit in Cape Town, boycotted the event.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians have been attacking South African businesses in Lagos and other Nigerian cities in retaliation to the xenophobic attacks.
The Nigerian government has, however, cautioned its citizens to stop such attacks.