By Suleiman Umaru
Given the frequent Xenophobic attacks by aggrieved South African Blacks on foreign Nationals including Nigeria in Durban and spread to Johannesburg, the country’s Commercial nerve center and other major Cities in the country, penultimate week Cyril ramaphosa, the South African, President heaves a sigh of relief over anticipated State Visit of President Muhammadu Buhari , to the country on October.
Not that the attack on Nigerians in the wake of the crisis had been hanging on the neck of the South African President like a sword of Damocles that he had to run down to Nigeria last month to see Buhari to talks things over with him. He was said to have invited him to the country to see things himself.
The initial impression in official circles was that the South African government was behind the coordinated attacks by the Black South Africans on foreign nationals as the attackers were armed with AK 47 and other sophisticated weapons .Note that since information emerged on August 10, 2019, about the Katsina state born Nigerian President , security have been tightened in Pretoria and other South African major cities, ahead of the visit.
The planned State visit was said to have been communicated to the South African government in order to prepare the ground for the visit. Ramphosa, may not kept the information between him and the ministry of Foreign Affairs, alone , as he was said to have prepared the mind of the mind of the people about the Nigerian President State visit and the need to troop out enmase to welcome him.
he was said to have made it clear to the people that the visit was to ‘’reinforce the strong bonds between the two countries and jointly develop responses to challenges affecting people and businesses in South Africa and Nigeria’’.
As a prelude to the anticipated State visit, Ambassador Ahmed Abubakar, Director General, National Intelligence Agency, NIA and was dispatched as a Special Envoy to South Africa, last Thursday , to convey the government’s feeling to Ramaphosa, on the recent events in South Africa , in the context of the strong and cordial relations that had characterized the interaction between the two countries over the years.
Acting on the mandate given to him, Abubakar, the NIA, boss, was said to have met the South African President on Friday, September 6, 2019, to deliver the message from his Nigerian Counterpart to him .An elated Ramaphosa , who could not hide his feelings over the Special Envoy message from Buhari, , pledging Nigerian’s readiness to assist South Africa in finding a lasting solutions to its security challenges was said to have reaffirmed the relationship between the two countries as being ‘’firm and strong ‘’. The South African president was said to have further told the Special Envoy, that the two countries have been ‘’resolute in their shared commitment to building an Africa at peace with itself and others’’ and would never allow any problem to come in between them to destry the Cordial relation.
There is no gain saying the fact that the violence which had triggered in in Durban and spread to Johannesburg as well as other major Cities in the country, has stocked concerns about relations between the two African biggest economies.
In apparent reaction to the crisis, the government had recalled Bala Kabir, its Ambassador in South African for briefings, forcing the South African government to close its Embassy In Abuja and Consular office in Lagos, for fear being attacked by angry youths.
The fear became pronounced because of the recent attacks on MTN Group facilities in Ibadan, Kaduna and Super market chain , Shprite in Abeokuta and Lagos, by angry Nigerian Students. The attack on the South African Companies in Ibadan, Kaduna, Abeokuta and Lagos,, according to security sources, could have spread to other major Cities in the country, but for the quick intervention of Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, who mobilised his men to beef up security around the South African Companies.
Last Saturday, there was a rumour making the rounds that there was an explosion in the South African Embassy in Abuja, to further dampen the enthusiasm of the South African government not to re-open its High Commission and Consulate office in Nigeria, forcing Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture to speak out . Mohammed had described the rumour as ‘’fake, orchestrated by the desperate Opposition People Democratic Party, PDP, to cause panic and chaos among the populace’’, urging the people to ignore it.
The minister disclosed that the video of the alleged bomb explosion , which hasd gone viral in the Social Media, was the bomb explosion at Emab , near Banex, in Abuja, on June 25, 2014, during former President Goodluck Jonathan led PDP government.
Appealing to Nigerians to expect more of such fake information in the days and weeks ahead because of the recent events in South Africa and attack on some MTN facilities and retail outlet Shoprite in some parts of the country in order to further create bad blood between the two countries. ‘’This is just the beginning ‘’he had said.
Note the South African government fears that the Xenophobic attacks on the foreign nations including Nigerians, and their business, in their country , might force the nigerian government to take measures that might adversely affect South African businesses, particular, MTN, Multi-choice, a digital Television network and the retail outlet, Shoprite, which were said to be repatriating millions of dollar, annually to South Africa, to further boost its development drive.
Already, there had been calls on the government to nationalize the South African Companies since the people could attack Nigerians, without casting back their mind to reflect on the support given by the country to free them from the obnoxious apartheid regime.
Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo state and National Chairman, of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, was very outspoken on this. He was said to have also taken advantage of the a recent visit to the President accompanied by Yahaya Bello, the APC , Governorship Candidate, in the forthcoming Kogi state governorship election to further draw the attention of the President of the President on the need to deal decisively with the South African Companies to force government to their knee. Unknown to him, the President ,who has been in regular touch, with his South African counterpart, was not ready to do anything that would further strain the relationship between the two countries.
Recall that there had been plans on ground by officials of the ministry of Foreign Affairs for the evacuation of distressed Nigerians living in the country. Going by the arrangement on ground, the evacuation exercise , ought to have commenced on Friday, September 6, 2019, but was said to have been shifted to Saturday, September 7, 2019.
Anthony Ogbe, minister for Consulate and Immigration, at the Nigeria Consulate in Johanesburg, said the exercise is free , noting that there will be no payment for documents for those without International Passport.
Appealing to interested Nigerians who were ready to leave South Africa to register as at last Friday, and be prepared to travel by Saturday after providing the necessary information but that was how far Ogbe could. Geofrey Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs , at the instance of Buhari, was said to have made adequate arrangement with Air Peace , one of the notable Airlines in the country to evacuate the distressed nigerians out of South Africa for free.
Ramaphosa, the South African President may have known the implications of Nigerians leaving the country in their thousands which might adversely affect the economy that he quickly reached out to the Nigerian President to have a rethink about the plan of the evacuation Nigerians from his country as the government is doing everything within its powers to resolve the crisis in order not to repeat itself again.
He was said to have assured Buhari and other African Presidents that they have no reason to worry about the security and protection of their citizens as the situation was under control. This may have informed why Air Peace could not commence the evacuation exercise of the distressed Nigerians on Saturday as expected.
Security watchers informed The Magazine that since information leaked about the Nigerian President anticipated State Visit to South Africa, on October, it has given Ramaphosa, the South African President, a thing of joy.
He had expected to use the opportunity provided by the last World economic Summit hosted by the Country, which had attracted Heads of States and Governments from different Asian countries, North America, United Kingdom, UK, and African to meet the Nigerian delegation which ought to have been led Yemi Osibajo, a Professor and the Vice President . Not that the President had cancelled Nigeria participation at the Summit to show its anger to the South African government over the Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in the country and their businesses.
Iis not surprising why there is jubilation in several quarters in South Africa, that Buhari , is coming to the country on a State visit. Unconfirmed report said MTN, Multi-Choice and retail out Shoprite, officials, are closely working with the South African government to give Buhari a rousing welcome. In spite of the fact that the South African government and its Companies in Nigeria have made adequate preparation to receive the Nigerian President and his entourage, it is not yet clear, whether the President would still keep to his promise of the State visit. This is because there have not been any official Statement from the Presidency since bubakar, briefed the President on the return to deliver a message to Ramaphosa, the South African Presiden. But Diplomatic sources said, all hopes are not yet lost as there is nothing to show that the Nigerian President would not keep to the plan of the State visit to reassure South Africans that Nigeria would never abandon them in this trying period.
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