26th May, 2012
Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged Nigerian and South African governments to ensure that relationship between the two countries does not deteriorate. Obasanjo, at a Banquet dinner held in his honour by the South African chapter of the Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), on Friday in Johannesburg, said the two countries had a lot to gain from each other.
“There is no reason why Nigeria and South African relations should deteriorate, we must all make sure that, that should not be the case, because we have so much at stake.Whether we like it or not, if we do it well, the economy of Nigeria and South Africa will continue to be the largest in African continent to drive the continent’s economy,’’ Obasanjo said.
He, however, condemned in strong terms the frosty relationship between the two countries as a result of the yellow fever document saga.
“To me leadership matters, I am not justifying anything, but I am saying that relations that existed between Nigeria and South Africa in those hale days should not be allowed to diminish or deteriorate because we have so much at stake.
“Things like yellow fever should not be allowed to affect the good things between the two countries.
“I am not blaming the leadership at high level, but whoever that was responsible for that decision should be heavily punished,’’ Obasanjo said.
He said the xenophobia attack on Africans by some South Africans was condemnable.
“Immigration of people will always take place, be it for political, economy or social reason. There should be free movement of people within the continent, just like what we have in ECOWAS region.
“Boundary demarcation should just be for administrative purposes.’’
He recalled the contributions of the Nigerian governments towards liberation struggles in the Southern African region.
“Nigerian government donated about N25 million towards the liberation struggles in the Southern African Region, and Nigerian civil servants were made to voluntarily donate five per cent of their salaries to the South African Relief Fund,’’ Obasanjo said.
He said there was perfect understanding between Nigeria and South Africa when he was the president and former President Thabo Mbeki was in-charge in South Africa.
“There was a perfect understanding between Nigeria and South Africa when I was the president of Nigeria and President Mbeki was in-charge here.
“South Africa will not show interest in any position Nigeria wants and Nigeria will not show interest in any position South Africa wants, both of us have a way of lobbying other African countries to support us for any position,’’ Obasanjo said.
Mbeki, who referred to himself as a Nigerian, said Nigeria provided leadership in Africa towards eradication of apartheid regime in South Africa and liberation struggle in Southern Africa as a whole.
“Nigeria, through the leadership of President Obasanjo provided the leadership the ANC needed in the continent.
“After the Soweto massacre of 1976, the ANC decided to take some young black South African out of the country to get education.
“Nigeria had a huge number of those Soweto boys educated in various Nigerian educational institutions; most of those Soweto boys are today university professors and top government and ANC officials.
“My wife was the coordinator of that programme, I was always in Nigeria, which made the ANC to appoint me as the contact man in Nigeria,’’ Mbeki said.
He said there should be no hostility between the two countries due to the long historical relationship that existed between them.
“There should be no hostility between Nigeria and South Africa due to long historical relationship we had.
“President Obasanjo, people and governments of Nigeria stood by us financially and materially during the struggle to end apartheid.
“It is important to build people to people relationship, to sustain the relationship for the benefit of our governments and people,’’ Mbeki said.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the President of Inkatha Freedom Party and a member of the South African parliament, said that the government and people of South Africa owed it a point of duty to apologise to all Africans for the xenophobia attack.
“South Africa owes all Africans apology for the xenophobia attack.
“South Africans should be ashamed of attacking their fellow brothers and sisters that stood by them during the struggle to end apartheid and attain the freedom we all enjoy today.
“I am putting this call at the parliament,’’ Buthelezi said.