Jonathan, Moroccan king spoke, Nigeria insists
DESPITE the deepening diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco, which led the North African country to recall its envoy on Wednesday, sources at the Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have insisted that President, Goodluck Jonathan, had a conversation with King Mohammed VI.
Speaking with The Guardian in Abuja yesterday, the ministry source insisted that the president had last week Friday, spoken via telephone with the Moroccan monarch on the possibility of gaining the country’s support towards Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina becoming the President of the African Development Bank, the election which is to take place in May.
“There was a conversation between President Jonathan and the Moroccan monarch last week Friday and the subject matter was to get the country’s support for our Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina who is gunning for the presidency of the African Development Bank.
“We are not reading their minds.
But we think Morocco is telling another story because they want us to change our policy on the recognition of Western Sahara as an independent state”, the source said, adding that Morocco may have also been angered by the fact that the Ambassador of Western Sahara is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corp in Abuja.
It would be recalled that Morocco currently occupies Western Sahara, though in opposition to the stance of the African Union and Nigeria, both of which have recognised the territory as an independent state.
Reacting to the row, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday asked the Federal Government to explain the cause of the ongoing diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco that has forced the Kingdom to recall its ambassador to Nigeria.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said President Jonathan must in particular clarify the thorny issue of whether or not he spoke with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
“According to published reports, the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry had said President Jonathan spoke on the telephone with the Moroccan King. But the Kingdom, in a very scathing statement, said no such conversation took place.
‘’The statement said: “Morocco is surprised at the incredible twist given by Nigeria to an alleged phone conversation that never took place between HM King Mohammed VI and the Nigerian President.
‘’This is very serious because, in effect, Morocco has called Nigeria a liar. Therefore, it behooves President Jonathan to personally intervene to address such an international embarrassment.”
But the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday described reaction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the withdrawal of Morocco’s ambassador from Nigeria as unpatriotic.
Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said it was unfortunate that the APC chose to be against the government of Nigeria on a matter between Nigeria and Morocco.
According to Fani-Kayode: “It is very unfortunate that rather than join hands with the Federal Government and endeavour to stand shoulder-to- shoulder with their compatriots and their country when it comes to the conduct of international affairs, the APC is always ready to assume the worst about their government and about their President.
“If they want a clarification about the Moroccan affair, they ought to go through the appropriate channels and perhaps attempt to reach our Foreign Minister in order to find out what really happened.
“Our President is certainly not a liar. The only liars here are the APC and their perfidious and conflicted spokesman, Lai Mohammed. Our President and our government have done Nigeria proud when it comes to the conduct of foreign affairs over the last few years and when it comes to building bridges with other nations. This is particularly so when it comes to our relationship with other African countries.
“Our military collaboration with the nations of Chad, Niger and the Camerouns in the fight against Boko Haram and the great successes that we are jointly recording in that bitter fight is a glaring testimony to that.
“Instead of talking about the King of Morocco and who spoke to who, the APC should tell us whether it is true that their presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, in response to a request from some western countries, is considering scrapping the anti-gay laws in our country and pushing through legislation that would allow same sex marriage.’’
Also, a former ambassador has declared that Nigeria will not lose anything from the on-going row with Morocco.
Ambassador Suleiman Dahiru, who had served Nigeria in United States of America, India, Brazil, Angola, Poland, Cote D’Ivore, Pakistan and Sudan, said yesterday in reaction to the row, that if the President of Nigeria had needed to curry the support of anyone for elections, it would have been the King of Saudi Arabia and not the monarch of Morocco.
“I see there may be something else behind this row because if there is any one to talk to on election matters, it would be the King of Saudi Arabia and not that of Morocco.”