Tuesday, September 17, 2019 12:41 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s former leader, Olusegun Obasanjo now seem to be matching in tandem over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in South Africa.
In the past months, the two leaders have been behaving like two rams eyeing each other menacingly . One of the reasons is that the latter, when it pleased him, would fire letters dripping with bile at the President over the way he handles the affairs of Nigeria. Each time Obasanjo did that, the Nigerian populace would engage in acrimonious debates depending on the side one belongs.
Obasanjo exported his epistolary genre to South Africa when he told leader of South-Africa’s Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, that Nigerians had “played great roles in the liberation of different peoples in different parts of Africa, including fighting against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He said such kind gestures were, as PMNEWS put it, not motivated by praises or positions but by a sense of duty and obligation as Africans towards fellow Africans. He added that it was a “fallacy” for South Africa to believe that xenophobia would make more jobs available to its citizens.
He added: “We believe that Africans living in any other part of Africa must be treated as brothers and friends. If they commit any crime, they should be treated as citizens of that country will be treated when they commit a crime, which will mean applying judicial process,” he said.
He advised the South African government to send emissaries to the countries concerned to explain, apologise and agree on the way forward for mutual understanding, accommodation, reconciliation to promote brotherhood in Africa.
So, it was in the process of apologizing that President Buhari received Mr Jett Radebe, the Special Envoy from President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa in State House Abuja on 16 Sep 2019. That day, Buhari went down memory lane, recalling roles played by Nigeria in engendering majority rule in South Africa, and ending the apartheid segregationist policy.
According to President Buhari, “Going back to historical antecedents (in the 1970s), we made great sacrifices for South Africa to become a free state. I was a junior officer to Gen. Murtala Muhammad, and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. They were not operating in a democracy, but they got Nigerians to support them in the bid to see a free South Africa.”
“Our leadership was quite committed to the cause. We made sacrifices, which younger people of today may not know. During my last visit to South Africa with the late President Robert Mugabe, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria’s contribution to free South Africa,” he noted.
The President, as earlier reported on this platform, extended appreciation to President Ramaphosa, through the Special Envoy, “for coming to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to killing and displacement of foreigners.”
President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African President, pledging that relationship between the two countries “will be solidified,” while describing the xenophobic attacks as “very unfortunate.”
Mr Radebe apologized on behalf of his President for what he called “acts of criminality and violence” that recently occurred, adding that “such do not represent our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans.”
He said South Africa was an integral part of Africa, and is fully committed to peace and integration of the continent.
The Special Envoy disclosed that 10 people died during the attacks – two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans. He said there was no Nigerian casualty.
He added that South Africa remains eternally grateful for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid, and hoped that the coming visit of the Nigerian President would solidify relationship between the two countries once again.
Indeed, South Africa was, for two weeks, been a target of global criticisms because of what happened. According to Obasanjo in the letter, mutual understanding and acknowledgment of what needs to be done on all sides are imperative and getting down to doing them is the solution that will serve Nigeria and South Africa and indeed Africa, particularly in this era of Africa Continental Free Trade Area opportunities, he explained.
“In the final analysis, if South- Africa fails to initiate appropriate and satisfactory steps to deal with the issues to pacify affected victims and work for reconciliation, the countries concerned should come together to table appropriate motions at the African Union level first and consider other measures if the situation is allowed to continue,” he added.
As PMNEWS reported, Obasanjo said that most migrants did not migrate to other countries with total emptiness, adding that some had education, skills, experience, expertise, entrepreneurship which could help economies of host countries.
“What has helped most developed countries in the world is openness and receiving migrants with open hands and open minds. In any case, all of us in the world are migrants, no matter where we live, depending only on how far back you want to go,” he said.
Obasanjo urged African countries to develop programmes that would provide a livelihood for its teeming youth population.
He noted that such a measure would discourage the youths from embarking on hazardous journeys to places where their lives would be endangered.
Obasanjo was a member of the Eminent Persons Group with Commonwealth Secretary-General, Shridath Ramphal, Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser and others, set up by the Commonwealth. In that capacity, Obasanjo visited the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela in prison. Obasanjo once recalled that Mandela was always calling him “Olusegun”.
Even before then, the Murtala Obasanjo regime played important roles in liberating the frontline states in Southern Africa and South Africa in particular.