Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said Nigeria will deploy ‘cultural diplomacy’ as an effective tool to put an end to the incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
He said this while playing host to the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, at his office in Abuja.
Mohammed said relevant parastatals, including the National Council for Arts and Culture, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation and the Nigerian Film Corporation, will soon embark on a series of activities in South Africa to further strengthen the understanding between Nigerians and South Africans.
These activities include joint musical concerts, co-production in the area of films, visit of popular Nollywood actors and actresses to South Africa as part of a Nigerian delegation going on a confidence-building trip.
Others include exhibitions featuring Nigerian delicacies to be 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, especially in their 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,” he added.
The Minister said there was an urgent need for Nigeria and South Africa, two of Africa’s foremost nations to strengthen understanding among citizens of both countries and stem the tide of xenophobia.
Mohammed said: “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.
In his remarks, the South African High Commissioner 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,” Mnguni said.
“When we got our freedom, we had to change and develop ways of building a new South Africa and New Nigeria and new Africa.”
He said his country is also looking at how best to use the soft power of culture to educate the citizens of the two countries about their time-tested tradition.