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Contributor: Anonymous
Nigerian Minister Denies slur on Mandela

South African president Nelson Mandela says he accepts the denial issued by a senior Nigerian government official who had been accused of insulting him and his country. Nigerian Information Minister, Walter Ofonagoro, had reportedly told a media seminar in July that South Africa was ?a white country with a Black head of state?. The alleged comments drew sharp criticism from South African authorities who demanded a formal apology, but Mr. Ofonagoro, quickly denied making the remark.
President Mandela, meeting two visiting Nigerian envoys in Johannesburg the following Thursday (July 31st), said that he had put the matter to rest: ?I must accept what he (Ofonagoro) says. I have fully accepted his explanation and it had never at all affected the relations between South Africa and Nigeria.? He denied his meeting with the Nigerian envoys had anything to do with the reported insult. He said the talks involved what he described as a sensitive matter but refused to give any details.
Information Minister Mr Ofonagoro is a controversial politician who has worked both for discredited civilian and military governments in Nigeria and is not new to controversy. He is currently embroiled in a well-publicised conflict with the boss of Nigeria?s majority state-owned Daily Times, Peter Enahoro. Enahoro - a respected journalist - said remarks made by Ofonagoro could damage his efforts to rebuild the ailing daily paper which has run for more than 70 years: ?...one can only pray that these developments are not sabotaged by the Honourable Minister?s remarks,? he said Enahoro. In remarks earlier published in other newspapers, Ofonagoro had described the Daily Times as ?sick and heavily in debt?. He said the government would do nothing to bail out the newspaper which he said was antagonistic.
Enahoro hinted at the possible cause of the discord by revealing that since he took over the Daily Times last year, the company had refused to pay for air tickets and accommodation requested by the minister. He has also stopped the practice of allowing ministry officials to place personal advertisements for free. Enahoro, who edited the Daily Times at the age of 24 in the 1960s, is the brother of Anthony Enahoro, the exiled leader of the NADECO group which opposes the rule of military ruler General Sani Abacha.

** The Nigerian officials who met Mr. Mandela were briefly detained when the plane bringing them from Nigeria landed at the wrong airport. South African government sources described the incident as ?a misunderstanding?.
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