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‘Proposed Buhari, Ramaphosa meeting a welcome development’

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[FILE] President Muhammadu Buhari (right) and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, during the latter’s visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja… PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA


Former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, Amb. Joe Keshi, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to discuss the issue of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians objectively with his South African counterpart, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, when the two of them meet in October with a view to finding a lasting solution it.

Keshi, who spoke with The Guardian in a telephone interview, expressed optimism that the slated meeting between President Buhari and his South African counterpart would be a very good avenue for President Buhari to ventilate and address some bourgeoning issues that have been threatening the relationship between the two countries.

Recall that the two leaders agreed to meet on a yet-to-be stated date in October this year to discuss issues relating to the wellbeing of their citizens and ways to further strengthen trade relations between the two largest African economies.Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed this development in a statement in Abuja last Saturday.

“In a telephone conversation with the South African leader at his country home in Daura, Katsina State, President Buhari accepted an invitation to visit the (South Africa) country,” the presidential aide said.

According to him, the two leaders will consider recurrent issues concerning the wellbeing of the Nigerian community in South Africa and the need to promote trade and investment.It is expected that the issue of the increasing wave of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians residing in South Africa, which recently triggered the picketing of South African businesses in Nigeria by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) necessitated the meeting.

Keshi, therefore, said he was happy that the Nigerian government and its South African counterpart have agreed to meet sooner than later. “I just think Nigeria needs to articulate all the problems in our relationship, particularly the treatment of Nigerians in South Africa.

“I also hope that the foreign Ministry and the immigration department would properly brief President Buhari on the stringent conditions South Africa places on any Nigerian trying to travel to their country and the way forward.”Keshi also charged Buhari to insist on seeing the perpetrators of the recent attacks against Nigerians are brought to book.

“I sincerely hope that some other salient issues like bilateral trade agreement would be brought to the table for proper discussions with a view to resolving all.”

Speaking further, the former US envoy said Nigeria needed to recognise South Africa as a friend, competitor and as a rival country and therefore work out a policy to be able to measure with South African terms. He advised Nigerians in South Africa to comport themselves in a way that they won’t arouse jealousy from South Africans and obey the laws of the land.

While admitting that some Nigerians in South Africa also engage in some unlawful activities, which also cause problems, Keshi urged Nigerians in other countries to behave and abide by the rule of law in those countries.Rationalising the manner in which the Nigerian Association Students (NANS) picketed some South African companies in Nigeria, the envoy said NANS position only helped to highlight that there were some irritations in-between the two countries as a result of the continuous attack on Nigerians.

Stating that the attacks and the counter reaction by the Nigerian students shouldn’t threaten the long time relationship between the two countries, Keshi argued that the attacks were not just meant for Nigerians but rather on a certain category of foreign workers living in South Africa.

Admitting that the ugly development between the two countries was a complex one, Keshi stressed the needs for the two countries to seat and address their differences before it gets out of hand.

On what Nigerians in South Africa should do, the Keshi advised Nigerians living in South Africa to organise and coordinate themselves in a way and manner that will not arouse jealousy from the people they live with. “Finally, we need recognise that South African, particular blacks have began to have serious economic problems and anger against the government and we must be careful,” he noted.

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