By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
LAGOS— Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Matters to the President, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has tongue-lashed South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, over his negation of the death of 116 Nigerians in xenophobic attacks by his fellow countrymen.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa in a strongly worded statement bemoaned as irresponsible the failure of the minster to realise the fact that xenophobia is a social disease which his countrymen needed to be cured of.
Noting with irony that Nigeria’s past assistance to South Africa has fetched xenophobia, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa remonstrated with the South African Home Affairs minister over his lethargic response that the death of “more than 100 Nigerians” should be sorted out at the diplomatic level.
She said: “It appears that Mr. Gigaba would rather dwell on and entertain himself with diplomatic niceties when the welfare of Nigerians resident in South Africa are at stake now more than any time in recent history.
“His response to the xenophobic attacks, which has now become a recurring decimal on Africans, most especially Nigerians living peacefully in their host country of South Africa was, indeed, unfortunate.”
“While it’s no longer news that law-abiding Nigerians in that country have borne the major brunt of these attacks, the news by the Home Affairs Minister that his country is trying to get rid of criminals in his country at the time when indiscriminate mayhem and looting of law-abiding Nigerians is very suspicious, to say the least.
Even if this unguarded statement must be taken in its face value, we wonder if wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing of their African brothers is the most sensible excuse to give. The home affairs minister should have been more guarded and introspective in his statements so as not to further fan the embers of xenophobia that may get out control if care is not taken.
“Nigeria and South Africa have a long-standing diplomatic relationship in which the former played a critical, if not a pivotal role that culminated in ending apartheid, among so many of her positive interventions.
“Indiscriminate killings, in which 116 deaths have been recorded of her people MUST not be how Nigeria should be paid back. Xenophobia is such a debilitating social disease, based mostly on ignorance, in which its carrier also suffers. I therefore suggest that the home affairs minister should engage in the mass education of the South African people about the debilitating effects of this disease with immediate effect.
“It’s apt to mention at this juncture that the home affairs minister only met with African consulates forum, an association of African consuls general, based in South Africa recently , despite the fact that this meeting was long overdue.
“Mr. Gigaba’s response to the mayhem that a segment of the South African people perpetrated on law-abiding Nigerians in South Africa smirks of insensitivity, and it’s therefore very reprehensible, if not unacceptable. In view of this unfortunate statement, I am therefore restating my earlier call on the African Union (AU) to take up the South Africa’s xenophobic issue as a matter of urgency.
“The days that the Nigerian government will fold its arms while its citizens are maltreated to the point that some of them have lost their lives for no just cause are long gone.”