By Victoria Ojeme
Abuja—Following a diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco over whether there was any telephone conversation by the leaders of the two countries, the Federal Government insisted yesterday that President Goodluck Jonathan spoke on the telephone with his Moroccan counterpart, King Mohammed V1.
Nigerian government stated that the discussion however centred on the forthcoming election of the African Development Bank, AfDB, for which the country is lobbying for one of its ministers as president of the bank.
Moroccan royal palace which recalled its ambassador to Nigeria last Wednesday had said last week that the Moroccan king declined a request for a telephone conversation with the Nigeria president accusing the Federal Government of trying to use the king of Morocco to win over Muslim voters ahead of the general elections in Nigeria.
Moroccan foreign ministry, had in a statement said “Morocco confirms, in the clearest and strongest terms, that there has never been a phone conversation between King Mohammed VI and the president of Nigeria”.
However, senior officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity said that Jonathan lobbied for the country’s candidate in the election and did not discuss anything about Nigeria’s forthcoming general elections as they had nothing to do with Morocco.
According to Nigerian foreign affairs officials, ‘’there was a discussion last Friday between the two Presidents on the next president of the AfDB. President Jonathan lobbied the Morocco president to support Nigeria candidate over the election coming up in May. Nigeria is suspecting mischief. We are thinking that there was misinformation somewhere.
‘’The policy is that when your Ambassador misinforms his president, that Ambassador will be recalled to his country. It is wrong for Morocco not to support our candidature.
That discussion has nothing to do with the general election in Nigeria but AfDB election. Our own election is a domestic issue,’’ the officials said, hinting that a formal statement would be issued on the matter today by the ministry.
Also, reacting to the issue, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Poland, Sudan, Cote D’ voire, Angola, the United States of America, USA, Austria and Pakistan, among others, Suleiman Dahiru said that ‘’there’s more than meets the eye’’ over the issue.
“There is something fishy, because if there is any one to talk to in the Arab world on election, it should be the president of Saudi Arabia and not the king of Morocco. In diplomatic relations, it is a very serious issue to recall an Ambassador.
Besides, Morocco is not a serious AU member. It sees itself as an Arab country but still in Africa. If Nigeria is seeking influence in the Arab world, Morocco is certainly, not the place to go but Saudi Arabia.
In any case, Nigeria will not lose anything by the country recalling its Ambassador. They will be the one to lose,’’ Dahiru said.
Come clean, APC tells Jonathan
Meanwhile, The All Progressives Congress (APC) has asked the Jonathan Administration to come clean with Nigerians on the cause of the ongoing diplomatic row between Nigeria and Morocco that has forced the Kingdom to recall its Ambassador to Nigeria, while portraying Nigeria as a liar.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said President Jonathan must in particular clarify the thorny issue of whether or not he spoke with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
‘’According to published reports, the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry had said President Jonathan spoke on the telephone with the Moroccan King. But the Kingdom, in a very scathing statement, said no such conversation took place.
‘’The statement said ‘Morocco is surprised at the incredible twist given by Nigeria to an alleged phone conversation that never took place between HM King Mohammed VI and Nigerian President’.
‘’This is very serious because, in effect, Morocco has called Nigeria a liar. Therefore, it behoves President Jonathan to personally intervene to address such an international embarrassment.
‘’The questions seeking answers are: Did President Jonathan speak with the Moroccan King? If not, who is responsible for this egregious misrepresentation that has embarrassed a whole country and its leader?’’ it queried.
APC said Nigeria, because of its much-acclaimed leadership role in Africa, must not allow such a diplomatic faux pas to go without being addressed, saying other countries are keenly watching the row between Nigeria and Morocco.
‘’Before anyone accuses us of politicising this issue, we make bold to say that we, the APC, and indeed all Nigerians are stakeholders in the Nigeria project. When Morocco branded Nigeria a liar, over whether or not our President spoke with the North African nation’s King, it did not mention PDP or APC. It made a collective reference to Nigeria.
‘’This is why we feel strongly that this issue must be addressed urgently. Until then, all Nigerians, irrespective of their political leanings, will remain liars in the eyes of the international community,’’ the party said.