Former Nigerian military head of state and two-time President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in an exclusive impromptu interview over lunch at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State.
This was after a teleconference seminar on Monday September 16, 2019, he spoke on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, why Nigeria led the crusade against apartheid and could do so again if the need arises and why South Africa must take measures to heal the wounds of the attacks, pacify and reconcile with affected countries like Nigeria.
Obasanjo statement read, “It is unfortunate. Only last week, I got a letter from Prince (Mangosuthu) Buthelezi, who I worked with in the days we were fighting Apartheid.
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He was the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, IFP. Even when I met Nelson Mandela in prison and I talked about Buthelezi, Madiba said, “Oh, Comrade Buthelezi is a freedom fighter in his own right.”
So, when the unfortunate incidents of xenophobia were happening in South Africa, Prince Buthelezi had the presence of mind and thoughtfulness to write me a letter expressing his own disgust about what was happening in South Africa, and also sending to me some of the communications and statements he had made, including statements appreciating and acknowledging the roles played by Nigeria and the roles played by me in particular. He dated that letter 11th of September (just last week) and I got it the same day.
I replied. And I did not make it public because I wanted his permission to make it public. And today (Monday, 16th September 2019) I sent a message to him and I said the letter I wrote to you which is a letter between two brothers, may I have your permission to release it to the Press? And he said it is a beautiful letter. You can release to the Media. Which I have just done.
And basically what I was saying in that letter was that it was unfortunate that leaders who should speak out against these sad occurrences are not doing so when, and as they should do, and that encouraged those perpetrating the xenophobic incidents.
I thanked him for the position he has taken and the positions a few brothers in South Africa have taken. I made the point that South Africa is entitled, along with other African countries, to claim leadership in Africa.
That leadership will not be entitled if countries decide to encourage xenophobic incidents. Two, I made the point also that we in Africa played the role we played against colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa not because we want to gain anything in terms of material gain but on principle that we black people believe that no black person anywhere in Africa and indeed anywhere in the world should be treated as a second class citizen in his or her own country or anywhere in the world because if we don’t do that, then we all will become second class citizens in the world.
The third point I tried to make was that in the international community most of the countries that have developed are countries that opened their borders to migrants, and those migrants really do not go out with emptiness. Some of them have education, some of them have skills.
Some of them have experiences, some of them have entrepreneurship and some of them have guts and can make contributions in the country they have just adopted as their country of abode.
I also made the point that wealth creation does not come through xenophobic attacks that it comes through actually encouraging openness. When it comes to crimes, you don’t take the law into your hands. You have the laws in your country and anybody who has gone against the law and is an inhabitant of your country you let the law take its course.
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Whether the person is a citizen or non-citizen, once he resides in your country, the law must take its course.
“I think that the government of South Africa should do what it should do to pacify those that have been hurt by xenophobic attacks, reconcile with the countries where those people come from and take measures along with Nigeria to do whatever is to be done to put this type of misbehaviour behind us.
“In Africa we should be talking about friends and brotherhood, particularly now that we are talking about free trade areas.”