Abuja â€” Prominent African leaders attending Nigeria’s 50th independence celebrations yesterday challenged the country to take the lead in the continent’s struggle for economic self reliance just as it did during the campaign for self-rule from colonial masters.
The leaders which included the President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleef; former South African President, Dr. Thabo Mbeki; former Namibian President, Dr. Sam Nujoma; former Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas and the President of Zambia, Rupiah Banda, were unanimous that Nigeria has the capacity to ginger the continent into economic and political revolution that could lift the countries out of economic dependence.
Nujoma, who extolled Nigeria’s dogged support for the struggle for political independence from foreign rule, said time has come for the continen to focus on the next stage in the struggle for economic independence.
Liberian President, Sirleef , on her part, said Nigeria’s image has loomed very large on the world stage with a population of 150 million , adding that Nigeria’s presence could be felt all over the world.
Recounting Nigeria’s contribution to peace in Africa and Liberia in particular, Sirleef said her country owes its survival to Nigeria’s support and commitments to regional peace and economic development.
She was of the opinion that Nigeria had played a key role in the economic development of the continent through her assistance in forming various economic bodies.
Sierleef said Liberia cannot thank Nigeria enough for the assistance given to it but would only add its voice in the support of the proposal to have Nigeria occupied the permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.
Speaking in the same vein, former President of South Africa, Mbeki, expressed gratitude to Nigeria for her laudable and patriotic contribution to the struggle for the emancipation of Africa countries from foreign rule.
“After celebrating 50th anniversary, the question for Nigeria is what next? Nigeria has to champion the course of strengthening the capacity of African Union (AU), especially its peace keeping architecture and to re-design the relationship between AU and the United Nations, as well as ECOWAS and the United Nations, ” he however said.
Former Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Ibn Chambas, while x-raying Nigeria’s contributions to sub-regional growth, said the country has supported the regional organisation with funds, and also responded urgently to regional emergencies.
He said the expectation is that Nigeria would be able to exhibit similar maturity in conducting free and fair general election in 2011.