STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN OF GOVERNING COUNCIL, NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, ALHAJI MUKHTAR Z. SIRAJO, FNIPR AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON STATE OF THE NATION HELD AT QTHE CONFERENCE HALL, NIPR HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA, ON THURSDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2019.
As an Institute established by law to set standards and regulate the practice of public relations in Nigeria, advising the polity on reputation and relationship management issues is part of our core mandates.
Nigeria has witnessed in the last few weeks many unfolding events that portend grave challenge to our reputation and relationship management skills within the comity of nations, most current of which is the xenophobic attacks being unleashed against Nigerians and nationals of other African countries in South Africa. Considering our enviable position as the largest economy and most populous black nation, what adversely affects Nigeria will ultimately affect Africa, the black race and indeed global peace and stability.
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), is worried, like all Nigerians and other right thinking people across the world, at these recurring attacks being perpetrated against Nigerians and nationals of other African countries in South Africa. We condemn them as they are unjustifiable, callous and a betrayal of the spirit of the oneness of Africa, coming especially from a people for whom, and by whom the entire continent stood at their hour of need, not very long ago.
These recurring attacks, which have claimed many lives and destroyed valuable properties are now sadly being met with many reprisals in other African countries including Nigeria. Some African leaders, including that of Nigeria are reported to have cancelled already scheduled official engagements in South Africa. Businesses in other African countries with franchise or links to South Africa are increasingly coming under threats as the attacks and responses to them rage on.
Xenophobia is a menace our world must find solution to or it will become the albatross of our age. Only yesterday we celebrated the end to racism and minority white rule in South Africa. Sadly there is a strong nexus between xenophobia and racism as both feed upon hate, prejudice and crass violation of the victims’ fundamental human rights. Xenophobia is a crime against humanity which runs counter to the universal values of sanctity of human life, freedom of movement, mutual respect, open engagement, communication and effective relationship management which underpin public relations practice. NIPR understands the angst and reactions by most Nigerians and other Africans against what is going on in South Africa. We join the critical mass calling on the Federal Government to step up its response to this menace, even as we commend the measures taken so far.
The decision to withdraw Nigerian participation at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, as well as the reported recalling of our High Commissioner in Pretoria will go a long way in reassuring our people of the readiness of our government to, not look away wherever and whenever the interests of Nigerians are threatened.
However, in addressing the situation, we must encourage Nigerians not to fall victim of the mistakes of some of our misguided brothers and sisters in South Africa. Two wrongs can never make a right.
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations lends its voice to other voices of reason and moderation to appeal to Nigerians and all our brothers and sisters across Africa to halt the descent into the gutter of criminality and savagery as we need to show that we are better than those perpetrating these crimes, more so as we believe that this is not what the entirety of the South African citizenry represents.
We must also realize that Nigeria and South Africa are the two African economic giants whose stability and mutual understanding mean a lot to the peace and security of Africa. Whatever challenges that go beyond the control of our two governments might likely lead to unimaginable consequences for the African continent.
Education and communication are central to any successful handling of the craze of xenophobia in South Africa and reprisals in other parts of the continent. Both Governments need to put in place appropriate communication strategies to educate the citizenry on the dangers of xenophobia and the futility of reprisal attacks. We must remember that even though some foreign nationals including Nigerians have been victims of the dastardly acts on the streets of South Africa, there are many others working daily unmolested in top rated organisations in South Africa. There are also many South Africans working peacefully here in Nigeria. Both economies draw huge resources from each other to grow. We must not throw away the baby with the bathwater. Sustaining the current emotional reactions to xenophobia will unwittingly recruit us as disciples of the crime we are all up condemning. Since the Federal Government of Nigeria has stepped up its efforts in engaging its counterpart in South Africa, our appeal is to fellow Nigerians to allow these efforts run their full course.
We however appeal to authorities in South Africa to be more forthcoming in the handling of the issue by getting on top of it, apprehending and meting out appropriate sanctions against those found guilty, so that the notion that these acts are not without some tacit support can be put to rest.
On our part, we appreciate the need for constructive engagement and sensitization of the citizenry to douse the tensed atmosphere. We hereby offer the expertise of our members to the Federal Government so as to enrich its efforts towards addressing this challenge and others in a more sustainable manner. We are willing to design and deploy the right communication strategies to fast track resolution of this and other issues. We shall engage the collaboration of our sister organization in South Africa and indeed the regional Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa to deploy appropriate communication strategies that will reorient both the perpetrators and sympathisers of the victims of xenophobia.
We also wish to acknowledge and commend the gesture said to have been extended by the proprietor of Airpeace to send an aircraft to evacuate Nigerians, who so desire, back home, free of charge. This is a commendable gesture in corporate social responsibility that is worthy of emulation by other entities.
The Nigeria Institute of Public Relations sends it condolences to families of the victims and joins the Federal Government in urging Nigerians living abroad to continue to pursue their undertakings in lawful manners and remain good ambassadors to all of us. Those few involved in dubious activities must desist from such criminal tendencies that could further dent the image of the nation and bring grief to their families when they are caught. Nigeria has the capacity to be the leading light for Africa and you and I must stand up to be counted to ensure that happens.