Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigeria has denied campaigning for former African Union (AU) Commission President Jean Ping in his re-election bid against eventual winner Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa.
The country was reacting to widespread belief that it spearheaded the campaign for the Gabonese, who lost to the South African Minister of Home Affairs in the election, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last weekend.
''You see, that perception was a wrong one and we said it earlier on that Nigeria was not in this race. We were not campaigning. We did not campaign for anybody,'' Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Olugbenga Ashiru said in an interview with the local Punch newspaper, published Friday.
''We just took a position which was principled along with our ECOWAS members and we stood by it. But as usual, people can insinuate that once Nigeria was not in the camp of South Africa, it means that Nigeria is against South Africa. We are not against South Africa,'' he said.
Nigeria's lack of support for the South African candidate had been interpreted in many circles as a reflection of the power play between the two continental powerhouses, but the minister said the relations between them are cordial.
''Don’t forget, we just concluded a bi-national commission with them (South Africa) where we agreed on a number of issues that will promote bilateral relations between the two countries,'' he said.
The minister dismissed insinuations that Nigeria may suffer the consequences of its lack of initial support for South Africa’s candidate, saying: ''Nigeria is a strong country in Africa. We are a leader in Africa and you must realise that in Africa, when major decisions are taken, when major issues are being discussed, Nigeria will always be part of that decision. I do not agree that there will be any conflict.''
-0- PANA SEG 20July2012