BY VICTORIA OJEME
ABUJA— Barely a month after President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe made derogatory remarks about Nigeria and its citizens, the Federal Government, yesterday, reacted, describing Mugabe’s statement as “unstatesmanlike and dishonourable.”
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhoimoibhi, made the condemnation while addressing a two man delegation from Zimbabwe.
Mugabe had, during his recent 90th birthday luncheon hosted by the Service Chiefs and the Public Commission, described Nigeria and its citizens as corrupt.
Mugabe, while addressing the delegates at the occasion, said Zimbabweans were now almost behaving like Nigerians who, according to him, have to be corruptly paid for every service.
Reacting to President Mugabe’s derogatory remarks, the Permanent Secretary said the Federal Government was deeply concerned that a sitting President whose country Nigeria had assisted immensely during its liberation struggle and had enjoyed cordial relations with, could take “considerable time to vituperate about Nigeria, reflecting what we considered to be a strong aversion for our country.”
Uhoimoibhi said it was disheartening that not only did the utterance not reflect the reality in the country but that it came from a sitting president of a brotherly country.
He said: “We considered the remarks denigrating and unstateman like on Nigeria and Nigerians in general. We want to present the strongest protest on that statement. We thought it was most unkind and very dishonourable.
“So we take the strongest exception to it and we protest it for its partial inaccuracy, and also for the unfriendly attitude that it conveyed from the President towards Nigeria and Nigerians.
“Nigerians are Afrocentric people. We are very proud of the role we have played throughout our history to uphold the dignitary of the black race and the black man wherever he exists.
“We are immensely proud of our history in the liberation struggle. Nigeria, even though it was geographically different, distant from Southern Africa, was regarded as a frontline state.
“This was not a struggle that we fought half heartedly. We fought that struggle with all our heart, with our mind and every Nigerian citizen paid the prize for that struggle.
“Your pain was our pain; your struggle was our struggle. We believe your freedom is our freedom. But for the number one citizen of that country to regard Nigeria in a term in which the statement of the president was reported to have represented Nigeria with what was most unkind, hostile and unfriendly, we hope that this does not reflect a long-standing aversion for Nigerians.”
The permanent secretary, who gave the assurance that Nigeria would not change its Afrocentric policy, stressed that the country would continue to work for the good of all mankind and indeed the black race.
He said: “We have the utmost respect for Zimbabweans. You are welcome to our country but we are not happy and we are most unhappy indeed at this utterance.”
Slams South Africa
Ambassador Uhoimoibhi, who also reacted to the racist attack on Nigerians by South Africans, called on the South African government to checkmate such act.
He also enjoined South Africa to ensure that in line with “all appropriate actions consistent with commitment of South African government to international standard of behaviour and the cordial relations that exist between our two countries, those matters are dealt with in appropriate way.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any act of racism, xenophobia and discrimination perpetrated by whomsoever, and we are appalled that this incident occurred from a country we hold in a high esteem and which is a brother country to Nigeria.”
Receiving the memoir and the note from Uhoimoibhi for onward delivery to the Zimbabwean government, the Head of Chancery, Mr. Kunjeku, promised to deliver the message.