Monday, December 16, 2013

Nigeria Deserves Better Appreciation From South Africa, Says Akinboye

Many a time innocuous sentiments from non-state actors in the international relations find their ways into national issues and bilateral relations. This may have informed the organisers of the Nelson Mandela’s memorial service cum burial not to have accord Nigeria any significant role during the celebration of the demise of the great African leader. In spite of the incontrovertible fact of history that Nigeria, far more than any other country, played a leading role in the freedom of Mandela from prison and the liberation of South Africa.
   Many Nigerians, particularly those in active work life when apartheid held sway in South Africa, watched with bemuse of how Mandela’s former tormentors took the centre stage during the burial, making speeches and glorifying the man their countries wished had died in the apartheid gallows.
   Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Dr. Solomon O. Akinboye, speaking yesterday with The Guardian, expressed shock at
the way South Africa has treated Nigeria during the ceremonies.
  “I’m certainly not comfortable with what I call Nigeria’s passive participation in Nelson Mandela’s memorial and burial plans. This is against the background of Nigeria’s active and total commitment to anti-apartheid struggle, and the need for the country to play active role in the funeral ceremonies of the symbol and icon of that struggle. For instance, I expected the Nigerian President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, would be among the six world leaders that were slated to give tributes at the memorial service. It is an irony that the only African leader that gave tribute at the occasion was the Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba,” he said. 
  While the platform was given to the United States’ President, Barack Obama, and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose countries not only egged on the repressive apartheid regime in South Africa, but also labeled Mandela a terrorist, to pay tribute to the man, Nigeria was not given any chance and Nigerians from all walks of life fought tooth and nail to save this African leader and his people from the claws of their oppressors.
   The contribution of Nigerians to freeing both South Africa and Mandela was monumental. Nigeria, for its commitment to put an end to apartheid in South Africa was considered a leader of the Frontline States established to achieve democratic rule in South Africa. The group raised funds and soldiers to prosecute war against apartheid. Other members of the group were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
   Nigeria also played a vital role in the establishment of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid (UNSCAA). This was partly responsible for Nigeria occupying the chair of the committee more than any other country until it was scrapped.
   Nigeria established the Southern African Relief Fund (SARF), which was funded with deductions from the salary of every Nigerian worker, irrespective of rank, both in the public and private sectors as well as donations from ordinary Nigerians, including students. The fund was disbursed by African National Congress (ANC) leaders, as they deemed fit.
     Besides these, Nigeria provided scholarships for students from South Africa while South African freedom fighters whose passports were seized by the apartheid government were given Nigerian passports. Whenever South Africans protested against injustice, Nigerian students also took to the streets in support and solidarity. Nigerian musicians, like the late Sunny Okosun and others, waxed albums in support of the anti-apartheid struggle, while Nigerian poets wrote poems to condemn racism in South Africa.
   Nigeria never let go of any opportunity to denounce apartheid; Commonwealth Games were boycotted while the assets of British Petroleum (BP) were nationalised.
Nigeria was a friend to those who opposed apartheid and an enemy to friends of the racists.
  Nigeria-South Africa relations, according to Akinboye, has long been characterised by love-hate relations, and this is unfortunate because given again Nigeria’s undiluted anti-apartheid role and the country’s articulated post-apartheid foreign policy, this is least expected.
  The university said the relation was characterized by total hatred during apartheid period, again based on Nigeria’s and persistent anti-apartheid position.”
    Explaining what could have gone wrong when black South African took over the government, Akinboye noted that aside from Nigeria’s poor human rights record particularly during the military regime that made the late Mandela to move a motion, then, that Nigeria should be suspended from the Commonwealth following the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa by the General Sani Abacha-led military junta, Xenophobia is the main cause.
 “Xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa and the recent repatriation of Nigerians from the country on a flimsy excuse that they do not have authentic visa is another factor,” he said.
   On if Nigeria should expect special relationship with South Africa, Akinboye, agreed, saying this goes without much debate.
   “Nigeria certainly deserves much more cordial relationship with South Africa, going by historical trajectory and antecedents. Indeed, the two countries are expected to be the engine of power for Africa, and should, therefore, foster cordial relations between each other.”

Via: Guardian Reporter

No comments: