7 Mar 2015

Moroccan King snubs President Jonathan

The Moroccan monarch, King Mohammed VI, has rejected a request from President Goodluck Jonathan for a telephone conversation, saying it was an “inappropriate” move by the Nigerian leader to curry electoral favour just weeks before a crucial poll.

Mohammed VI snubbed Mr. Jonathan’s request last week, saying it was more of an attempt to seek electoral favour than a genuine diplomatic act, the country’s foreign ministry said Friday.
“The request by Nigerian authorities for a phone conversation between HM King Mohammed VI and Nigerian President was refused by the Monarch who deemed it inappropriate on grounds of the upcoming elections in Nigeria,” the Moroccan Foreign Affairs ministry said in a statement.
The statement explained that the monarch rejected the request for a phone chat and the sending of a Nigerian envoy to the country because Mohammed VI viewed the overture as an attempt by Mr. Jonathan to take advantage of Morocco’s influence to secure Muslim votes in the forthcoming election.

Confronted by an increasingly popular opposition, in perhaps the closest election in Nigerian history, Mr. Jonathan is frantically exploring unusual avenues for support, particularly from the largely Muslim northern region of the country.

Mr. Jonathan’s closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, comes from Northern Nigeria and has a cult following in the region.

A move to patch the diplomatic relation with the influential Moroccan monarch is seen as a potentially impressive step that may endear the president to some Muslims.

Relations between Nigeria and Morocco have been anything but cordial for years, largely over Nigeria’s decision to support the independence of the Western Sahara region of Morocco.

Nigeria recognises the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the separatist group, the Polisario Front.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front has led an armed insurrection against the Moroccan government for decades. Western Sahara is a largely desert region but rich in petroleum and phosphate deposits.

Nigeria has lobbied the United Nation to set up human rights monitoring group to investigate right abuses by Moroccan forces in the area, a position the Moroccan monarchy frowns at.

The Moroccan foreign ministry made it clear in its statement that Mohammed VI refused to speak to Mr. Jonathan partly because of “Nigeria’s positions regarding the sacred national, Arab and Islamic causes”.

Credit: Nicholas Ibekwe/Premium Times

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