Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday, hailed President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa over his plans to resuscitate the bilateral commission between his country and other African countries including Nigeria. Obasanjo said he got the hint from South African president when he paid a courtesy visit to him in South Africa.
He further said that he was aware of a planned meeting between Ramaphosa and Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari on the development, urging them to manage the opportunity properly so as to stop xenophobic attacks among other challenges.
The former president said this at his residence in Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta while speaking with newsmen on what he discussed with Ramaphosa during his visit to him. He said ”One of the major things we discussed in this issue of xenophobia or Afrophobia.”
He explained, “I took the opportunity of being in South Africa about three or four days ago to actually pay a courtesy call on President Cyril Ramaphosa and he quickly granted me the opportunity. One of the major things we discussed is this issue of xenophobia or Afrophobia.
“One good thing I discovered among many is that the president said to me that there is so much at stake and whatever mistake we have made, we have to correct it. And I think that was a very good statement and I know that he meant it because, he immediately said look, what can we do or should we do?
“I think that is all we must be doing and be saying and I said my joy is that President Cyril Ramaphosa is ready to do what needs to be done to stop these incidents and to put the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa on the right track.
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“One of the things they are going to do between South Africa and Nigeria is, they are going to have what we established in my term that we called Bi-lateral commission. “During my time, it was at the second echelon level of vice-presidents, deputy presidents, but, now they have raised it to the president’s level and I understand that our own president would be there within the first week of October”.
Obasanjo, however, said his findings have shown that Nigerians are not drug peddlers or criminals as being rumored, saying, most of them are businessmen and professionals that have helped in contributing to the economic development of South Africa. Obasanjo insisted that the ideology by some South Africans that some foreigners are taking their job should be killed because the foreigners are contributing to the development of the country.
He said, “the idea of thinking or saying that foreigners are taking your job that also should be killed because most of these foreigners paid something into the country. “I met more than two Nigerians who are doing legitimate business and the turn overrun into millions of dollars and they employed 50 to 60 South Africans.
“All these must be expressed and must be shown that Nigerians in South Africa are not drug peddler, criminals; they are many of them that are genuine businessmen and professionals and who are making a meaningful contribution to the economy and the social life of that country.”
The former president also commended the South Africa president for his prompt action in sending emissaries to the affected countries. He added, “I believe the president of South Africa did the right thing to quickly send emissaries to apologize to the countries that are affected, countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique and I think this was good.”
Speaking on the role of Nigeria during apartheid in South Africa, Obasanjo explained that the country was not expecting anything from South Africa, but was actions borne out of enlightening self-interest. He added, “we did whatever we did anywhere out of enlighten self-interest, there is nothing like we did this for anyone.
“We didn’t do it because we want to get any accolade, we did it because we believe that for the black people anywhere in the world and for us to allow the black man anywhere to be treated as a second class citizen, then, we are second class citizens of the world. So, that is our principle upon which we do this.
“Of course, the record must be put right and we must let people know that what has been done for all. What do we do for some of the people who helped us during our own civil war; what do we do?. Some people don’t even remember those who helped us, now, South Africa has got rid of apartheid since 1994, the young people who are agitating today, they don’t even know what we did, but, we shouldn’t blame ourselves on that because we did what we did and we will do it again.
“There is no gratitude at such, what is in there is common interest and it was our enlightened self-interest and we don’t demand anything from South Africa for what we did. We did it because we believe it is our responsibility to do it.”