Last month, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe angered Nigerian officials and the country’s citizens by calling them “corrupt” in remarks during his birthday luncheon celebration. Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Martin Uhoimoibhi (pictured) responded to the claims as he spoke with a two-man delegation from Zimbabwe, saying that President Mugabe’s words were “unkind and dishonourable.”
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Uhoimoibhi, speaking for the entire Nigerian government on Thursday, spoke at length about President Mugabe’s swipe and made mention that the two nations were close allies at one time. At the time, Mugabe said:
“Are we now like Nigeria where you have to reach your pocket to get anything done,” President Mugabe said. “You see we used to go to Nigeria, and every time we went there, we had to carry extra cash in our pockets to corruptly pay for everything. You get in to a plane in Nigeria and you sit there and the crew keeps dilly dallying without taking off as they wait for you to pay them to fly the plane.”
The controversial Zimbabwe leader’s comments came as a shock, considering Nigeria has assisted in the liberation of the country and there was no sign of strife between the nations.
Uhoimoibhi said it was disheartening that not only did the utterance not reflect the reality in the country but that it came from a sitting president of a brotherly country.
He said: “We considered the remarks denigrating and unstatemanlike on Nigeria and Nigerians in general. We want to present the strongest protest on that statement. We thought it was most unkind and very dishonourable.
“So we take the strongest exception to it and we protest it for its partial inaccuracy, and also for the unfriendly attitude that it conveyed from the President towards Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Still, Ambassador Uhoimoibhi expressed diplomacy toward Zimbabwe, saying that its citizens are welcome to Nigeria but made mention that President Mugabe’s view of the county stands as an egregious offense. As Face2Face Africa wrote last month, President Mugabe’s comments appear hypocritical since his very own country has been accused of being one of the most-corrupt countries on the continent.
Sandra Appiah of Face2Face Africa opined:
[The comments are] very interesting coming from the president of a country where corruption has polarized almost all political, private, and public sectors.
In fact, according to an Afrobarometer report released last year in Africa, Zimbabwe shared the top three spot with Nigeria and Egypt as Africa’s most-corrupt countries.
And recently, President Mugabe raised eyebrows when he spent £3 million on a lavish wedding for his eldest daughter, Bona. Although Zimbabwe is currently bankrupt and economists predict that the government will not be able to pay public servants in time — if at all — President Mugabe added insult to injury when he alluded to wanting a personal pay raise during his birthday luncheon.
Ambassador Uhoimoibhi also had sharp words for South Africa, where some citizens have been violent toward Nigerians and levied what the official called “racist attacks” against his countrymen there.
Last week, 10 Nigerians were hospitalized, after a mob of commercial taxi drivers attacked a group in Pretoria while another unknown gang assaulted a group in Johannesburg. Also in Pretoria, 25 stores owned by Nigerians were looted by gangs as well.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any act of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination perpetrated by whomsoever, and we are appalled that this incident occurred from a country we hold in a high esteem and which is a brother country to Nigeria,” said Ambassador Uhoimoibhi.
The response to Zimbabwe from the Permanent Secretary will be delivered to President Mugabe’s governmental staff by its Head Of Chancery, Stanley Kunjeku.