President Muhammadu’s Oct. 2-4 state visit to South Africa must have surprised many Nigerians. The reason is that the visit, though scheduled since 2018, came after days of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in Johannesburg and other South African cities last month. Buhari was outraged by the attacks, which were not the first. He stopped Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from attending the World Economic Forum’s summit on Africa which South Africa was hosting then. That country’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa himself was not sure Buhari would come calling after the Nigerian leader’s strong condemnation of the violence meted out to Nigerians. Ramaphosa, in his first public reaction to the attacks, said he hoped Buhari would still honour the invitation to visit South Africa. In the event, Buhari did. The visit went off as though nothing ugly had happened to becloud it.
The communique of the two presidents’ meeting said they had pledged to take all measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the September attacks on foreigners in South Africa. President Ramaphosa acknowledged that the attacks on foreigners were not consistent with the values and principles underpinning the country’s constitutional democracy. He assured President Buhari that the South African government was in full control of the situation and several interventions, including engagements with the diplomatic community and others, were underway. He said further that “South Africa is an integral part of the African continent and, in this context, advocates for a peaceful, vibrant and sustainable Africa and that as Africans, we all have a shared commitment to foster peace and greater continental unity”. On his part, President Buhari, who condemned the attacks on Nigerians, expressed his profound gratitude for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to him and his delegation. The two Presidents appreciated the vast nature of the two countries’ bilateral cooperation which covers, amongst others; Trade and Investment, Energy, Mining, Defence and Security issues, Justice, Police, Immigration, Tourism, Environment, Education, transport as well as Science and Technology. “ In this regard, the two Presidents took note of the thirty-two (32) signed Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), and committed themselves to ensuring that those which are in force are fully implemented while those which are not yet in force are to be revived for implementation,” the communiqué stated.
Both Presidents noted with great satisfaction the economic cooperation between the two republics and welcomed the steps to increase trade volumes as well as private sector investments. They welcomed the important role of the Business Forum, which took place on the margins of the state visit. They also endorsed the decision to establish a Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade, and Investment. The inaugural meeting of the Council would be held not later than April 2020, in Abuja. It is expected to serve as a critical vehicle in facilitating and promoting private sector participation in the economies of both countries. They took note of the significant footprint of South African businesses operating in Nigeria in sectors such as telecommunications, mining, aviation, banking and finance, retail, property, entertainment and fast food industries. They also noted and welcomed the business activities of Nigeria’s small, micro and medium enterprises, as well as the investment of Dangote Sephaku Cement in South Africa.
Given the depth of the talks between Buhari and his host and the wide range of decisions taken as well as the assurances given by Ramaphosa to protect Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa, the Nigerian leader’s visit had been worth the trouble. Yes, the attacks still hurt but Buhari had shown maturity and statesmanship by going ahead with planned trip to South Africa. After all, it is said, two wrongs do not make a right.