President Goodluck Jonathan was on Friday in Windhoek conferred with the “Order of Welwitschia’’, Namibia’s highest national honour, by his counterpart, President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the decoration of President Jonathan with the honour was the high point of the 24th independence anniversary of Namibia.
The ceremony which took place at the capacity-filled Independence Stadium, Windhoek, was attended by the founding president and father of the Namibian nation, Dr Sam Nujoma.
The Prime Minister of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, cabinet ministers, members of the Namibian parliament and other senior citizens were among dignitaries who also witnessed the event at the 35,000 capacity stadium.
In his speech, Pohamba said the honour was conferred on Jonathan in recognition of the selfless contributions by the government and the people of Nigeria to Namibia’s national liberation struggle.
He said that the contributions were deeply imprinted in the chronicle of Namibian history and they would forever be grateful.
Pohamba noted that despite the geographic distance, Nigeria played a prominent role together with the frontline states in supporting the liberation movements in Southern Africa, including SWAPO of Namibia.
He also applauded Nigeria’s steadfast and consistent contribution to the resolution of conflicts and the maintenance of peace and stability in Africa.
He said that his country specifically recognised Nigeria under the leadership of Jonathan for acting decisively to resolve the crisis in Cote d’ Ivoire, Mali and other parts of Africa.
The Namibian President who was elected in 2005 and re-elected 2010, assured his people that come March 21 next year, he would stepped down and hand over to a democratically elected president.
He said he was aware that there were about 22 people aspiring to take over from him.
Pohamba assured that the Namibian general elections, expected to commence later in the year, would be conducted in a free, fair and peaceful environment.
In a citation read before the decoration President Jonathan, the master of ceremony said that successive Nigerian government had stood with Namibia in thick and thin.
She said the distance notwithstanding, Nigeria consistently appropriated specific budget for the liberation movement during the SWAPO struggle for independence.
“Many sons and daughters of Nigeria sacrificed their lives for the freedom and independence of Namibia,’’ she said.
She also paid tribute to President Jonathan for demonstrating astute leadership in confronting the challenges faced by Nigeria and the African continent.
In his response, President Jonathan thanked Pohamba and the people of Namibia for the award which, he said, underscored the long-standing relationship between the two countries.
“Although I have been given the honour as Nigeria’s President, I recognise that this gesture rightly belongs to the Nigerian people on whose behalf I am privileged to serve.
“I want to thank you also for the privilege and opportunity of sharing this independence anniversary celebration with you.
“Twenty-four years in the history of any nation is no mean achievement. This occasion rightly provides an opportunity to reflect on the blessings of your independence and freedom.
“It is also a special time to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead,’’ he said.
Jonathan reiterated that Nigeria and Namibia had come a long way in bilateral relations, beginning from the time of the struggle against colonialism and racial domination.
He recalled that Nigeria and Namibia worked side by side, shoulder to shoulder with faith and commitment in common destiny.
“Even though we are geographically distant from each other, Nigeria was proud to identify with Namibia as it did with other brotherly countries in this sub-region.
“Your struggle was our struggle, your pains were our pains and today, your freedom is our freedom,’’ he said.
Jonathan also paid tribute to the elder statesman and leading Pan-Africanist, Nujoma, and all Namibia freedom fighters for their vision and personal sacrifices that won their nation’s freedom and independence.