By Florence Israel, Abuja
The Federal Government has said that Nigeria will deploy cultural diplomacy as a tool to put an end to the incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
Speaking on Friday while receiving the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mnguni, who paid him a courtesy visit in his office, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said relevant parastatals such as the Nigerian Council for Arts and Culture, Nigeria Tourism Development Commission and the Nigerian Film Corporation are set to embark on series of activities in South Africa to further strengthen the ties between the two countries.
These activities are said to include joint musical concerts, co-production of films, visit of popular Nollywood actors and actresses to South Africa as part of a Nigerian delegation on confidence building trips, exhibitions featuring Nigerian delicacies entitled, “A Taste of Nigeria” and a town hall meeting for Nigerians resident in South Africa with a view to encouraging dialogue on the way forward in the relationship with their hosts.
“Nigeria is keen to work with South Africa to put an end to these attacks, deploying the soft power of ‘cultural diplomacy’, which is widely regarded as an effective tool in this regard,” the Minister said.
“These activities and many more, which we are working on as I speak, will kick off in the weeks ahead, and will not be a one-off event. While the diplomats do their own thing to continue to strengthen bilateral relations between our two countries, we at the Ministry of Information and Cultural will deploy, and ensure the sustenance of Cultural Diplomacy in order to make it more effective in bringing our peoples together,” the Minister explained.
He also stressed the need to build people-to-people relations, with a view to strengthening the understanding between the peoples of the two foremost African nations and stemming the tide of xenophobia.
“Therefore, what we are kick-starting today, with the visit of Your Excellency, will have ramifications far beyond the shores of Nigeria and South Africa. For long, Nigerians have treated South Africans as their brothers and sisters. Over 120 South African companies, perhaps more than those of any other African country, are doing business in Nigeria, thousands of Nigerians regularly travel to South Africa for business and leisure, and – historically – Nigeria played a front-line role in helping to end the scourge of apartheid in South Africa.
“We must spare no effort in strengthening this brotherly spirit between our two countries. We have no doubt that the deployment of the soft power of ‘cultural diplomacy’ will be a major tool in this effort, and we will leave no stone unturned in this regard,” he said.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed concluded by saying that if the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa was more cordial, it would have a reverberating effect on the whole of Africa.
In his own remarks, the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mnguni, hailed Nigeria for its invaluable contribution to the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid.
He said South Africa is now committed to reciprocating the gesture by developing stronger ties with Nigeria.
“After sharing trenches, we are now a free people. Thanks to your relentless fight side-by-side with us. When we got our freedom, we had to change and develop ways of building a new South Africa and New Nigeria and new Africa,” Mr. Mnguni said.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador, Lulu Louis Mnguni during a courtesy visit to the Minister in Abuja on Friday.