Following the recent of President Muhammadu Buhari visit to Rabat, former Nigeria’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Belgium and the EU, Prof. Alaba Ogunsanwo, has called for deepening of ties between the two countries.

Ogunsanwo made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.

He said that the suspicion of Morocco in some quarters, including the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and members of the international relations “is misplaced’’.

“The president was told that Nigeria being part of expanded ECOWAS with Morocco a member or part of a Continental Free Trade Area in Africa will lead to stifling the tiny industrialisation we have and that will lead to youth unemployment.

“Unfortunately, President Buhari believes it.

“That is where we are and will be until he (Buhari) changes his mind and accepts that Nigeria has nothing to fear from a Rwanda, Niger, Mali, Senegal and so on.

“Can we lead Africa if we reject African states themselves and expect them to decide that we should represent them as a permanent member of the UN Security Council?

“We should ponder over these issues carefully,” he said.

President Buhari signed a number of bilateral agreements including three agreements on agricultural cooperation, a gas pipeline and a basic chemicals platform.

Further discussions will focus on strengthening existing agreements on the fertiliser industry, education cooperation and the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project.

The two countries are also set to establishing a basic chemical platform to harness Nigeria’s vast natural gas resources and support Morocco’s phosphate industry.

This is sequence to earlier visit in December 2016 by King Mohammed VI of Morocco to Nigeria, as part of the North African country’s shuttle diplomacy in its ECOWAS membership bid.

Ogunsanwo, however, said that whatever was left of misgivings regarding Morocco’s ECOWAS bid would fade the moment Nigeria ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

“Once we accept the AfCFTA sponsored by the AU, the issue of Morocco in ECOWAS becomes mute,” he said.

Nigeria, in spite of being in the forefront of the campaign for regional free trade, suddenly developed cold feet when it came to signing the agreement in Kigali.

Consequently, the country is yet to ratify the agreement.

Ogunsanwo, who currently teaches political science and international relations at the Lead City University, Ibadan, said most of the arguments against Morocco were not helping the debate.

“The argument that Nigeria’s greatness is entirely dependent on our total dominance in ECOWAS affairs, which Morocco’s entry would deal a major blow is untidy.

“That this can be so loudly proclaimed by Nigerians gives the impression of our not being sensitive to the views of other ECOWAS members.

“We assume they love our domination and would therefore not be happy to see that domination reduced.

“It is like saying openly that Nigeria bestrides the ECOWAS world like a colossus and the other states walk underneath our huge legs and peep about to find themselves dishonourable graves.

“This can hardly be expected to persuade our ECOWAS neighbours to reject Morocco’s entry. If anything, they will welcome it,” he said.

Ogunsanwo also considered unassailable concerns over Morocco’s geographical proximity to the West African.

According to him, the ECOWAS name should not be an obstacle to expansion with a view to incorporating willing partners.

He said all the regional groupings were ultimately working toward and looking forward to a future of one continental economic union as envisaged in the Abuja 1991 Treaty on African Economic Community.

“That others wish to join ECOWAS is evidence of its relative success, compared with other regional groupings,” he said.

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