President Muhammadu Buhari Monday went down memory lane, recalling roles played by Nigeria in engendering majority rule in South Africa, and ending the apartheid segregationist policy.
Receiving in audience Mr Jeff Radebe, Special Envoy of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa at State House, Abuja, the President recounted that he was a junior military officer to Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo, who were military heads of state at different times in the mid to late 1970s.
According to President Buhari, “Going back to historical antecedents, we made great sacrifices for South Africa to become a free state. I was a junior officer to Gen. Murtala Muhammad, and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. They were not operating in a democracy, but they got Nigerians to support them in the bid to see a free South Africa.
“Our leadership was quite committed to the cause. We made sacrifices, which younger people of today may not know. During my last visit to South Africa with the late President Robert Mugabe, it was very emotional, as Mugabe spoke about Nigeria’s contribution to free South Africa,” he noted.
The President extended appreciation to President Ramaphosa, through the Special Envoy, “for coming to explain to us what happened in South Africa recently, leading to killing and displacement of foreigners.”
President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African President, pledging that relationship between the two countries “will be solidified,” while describing the xenophobic attacks as “very unfortunate.”
Mr Radebe apologized on behalf of his President for what he called “acts of criminality and violence” that recently occurred, adding that “such do not represent our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans.”
He said South Africa was an integral part of Africa, and is fully committed to peace and integration of the continent.
The Special Envoy disclosed that 10 people died during the attacks – two Zimbabweans and eight South Africans. He said there was no Nigerian casualty.
He added that South Africa remains eternally grateful for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid, and hoped that the coming visit of the Nigerian President would solidify relationship between the two countries once again.