Row between S/Africa, Nigeria needless – Mbeki

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A former South African President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, on Friday expressed displeasure over conflicts involving his country and Nigeria.

He stated that he was pained to hear about conflicts and tensions between the two countries.

Mbeki spoke in Lagos at the second edition of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, where he was the recipient of the award.

He said, “There would be no need for me to address parochial issues or passing matters about relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. I feel troubled to hear about such issues.

“I have been deeply troubled to hear about absolutely and unnecessary tension between Nigeria and South Africa, but neither of us has any need for such tension and conflict.”

Thanking the organisers of the award, Mbeki said it was humbling to be associated with one of the greatest African leaders of the 20th century, saying Africans should learn to imbibe the virtues of great leaders rather than making statements about them akin to protocols.

“I like to suggest that our universities should try to combine and publish books on exemplary leaders like the late sage for younger generations to know about great leaders, which are good and noble for them to also avoid their mistakes,” he added.

Also, President Goodluck Jonathan described the late Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as a selfless leader and an indefatigable political leader who earned the respect of the world with his rare virtues.

The President was represented by his Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Jones Arogbofa (retd.).

Jonathan further said the late sage was an “encyclopaedia of elections” that elected officials could learn from.

He stated, “Awolowo’s foresight in leadership, infrastructural development and visionary educational policies would keep people wondering how he developed such ideals. Two factors that stood the late sage out, among others, are discipline and selflessness.

“He was clearly a man of modesty, despite his huge influence in the polity. He was not a person known for selfish ambition as all he did was in the interest of the people. There is no doubt in my mind that Awolowo’s legacies and selflessness were the hallmark of his stewardship. That is the true essence of the man, Chief Awolowo.

“You cannot doublespeak and sit on the fence on the issue of national security and claim the virtues of Awolowo. You must be prepared to join hands in times of national emergency for the growth of the country.”

Jonathan also described Mbeki as not only an eminent son of South Africa or a true and worthy son of Africa, but also a great father of Africa.

In her welcome address, the Executive-Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, said awarding the late sage’s prize for leadership to Mbeki further deepened the focus and ideals of the project.

She said, ” Following the first award to Professor Wole Soyinka in 2013, we naturally wondered how we could possibly match, let alone surpass the standard that was set at that inaugural outing. Today, however, I think we can safely say that we are on our way to the successful sustainability of the prize, given the calibre of the second awardee, His Excellency Mr. Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa.”

Awolowo-Dosunmu added that Mbeki deserved the award for his unique leadership qualities, selflessness and dogged struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

She also noted that the late sage led a life dedicated to the betterment of Nigeria and Nigerians.

” For us at the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, the custodian of the Chief Awolowo’s intellectual legacy, and for me, personally, there is a special sense of fulfilment today. Chief Awolowo’s total dedication to Nigeria and the well-being of all Nigerians is legendary,” she stated.

Also, a former Head of State and chairman of the event, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), congratulated the recipient while also commending the foundation for its insight.

The Chairman, Selection Committee for the award, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said the task of selecting Mbeki was unanimous for he demonstrated the cherished values and characteristics of Awolowo such as discipline, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.

“Cerebral leadership, formulation of ideas with exceeding proficiency in management are part of Awolowo and Mbeki’s virtues, ”he added.

An Ijaw leader and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, congratulated Mbeki, noting that the country needed selfless leaders to exhibit leadership traits of the recipient.

Clark said, “Awolowo is now a sage. There is no one I can compare with him, so we all have to follow in his footsteps. There is no one like Awolowo in Nigeria today. Let us all aspire to be like him.”

Those who attended the event included former governors of Ekiti, Ogun and Osun states, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Chief Bisi Akande respectively.

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