Liberia Honors Obasanjo

Saturday, 26th May 2007
The University of Liberia also conferred an honorary Degree of Laws on President Obasanjo
The University of Liberia also conferred an honorary Degree of Laws on President Obasanjo "for his services to the advancement of peace and security".
Photo Credit: James Garresen, II/Executive Mansion
Monrovia, Liberia - Liberia’s highest honor, the Most Venerable Order of Knighthood of the Pioneers, with the grade of Chain Collar of State, has been conferred on Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, at an impressive ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.

In a citation read by Protocol Official, Mr. Emmet Kennedy, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said she was conferring the honor on President Obasanjo in recognition of the outstanding success the Nigerian leader has so laudably achieved in his military, political and diplomatic career. The citation, according to an Executive Mansion release, recounted the numerous contributions President Obasanjo has made on the international stage in championing the African cause.

“As Chairperson of the African Union, you were noted for your strong and unwavering stance against undemocratic assumption of power, and this you demonstrated by your rejection of three governments instituted by coups d’etat,” the citation recalled. The citation further noted that Nigeria, under President Obasanjo’s leadership, has taken and continues to do so honorably, the burden of many crisis-ridden nations, such as Liberia.

“Through your astute leadership, you kept the torch of peace-building alive on the African continent. Liberia will never forget the role Nigerians played, and continue to play, at heavy cost, to their lives,’ adding, ‘when all seemed lost, and no country dared venture putting their citizens at risk in rescuing Liberia from the brink of anarchy and annihilation, it was you, from your famous statement: ‘when your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t ask the cause of the fire, but help to quench it first before asking,’ and with this in mind, ‘you took the bold step in putting the boots of Nigerian soldiers on Liberian soil for the second time, as a vanguard force after which the largest peace keeping force followed.”  “That singular action”, the Liberian leader noted in the citation “and many others before and after, carved for you a special place in the inner hearts of all Liberians.”

Seemed visibly moved by the sentiments, the Nigerian leader said he was touched by the honor bestowed upon him. Mr. Obasanjo said whatever he did, in his private or official capacity, or whatever Nigeria has done to help where help is needed, particularly in Liberia, “we’ve done it to help ourselves.”  Mr. Obasanjo said the events in Liberia must teach all a lesson that none of us in Africa, South of the Sahara, has crossed the line of conflict, destruction, violence and death.”

Mr. Obasanjo noted that Africa will not make progress until all Africans work together. The Nigerian leader praised President Johnson Sirleaf for the progress made thus far since she assumed the Presidency of the country. “Anybody who has been here lately would know that changes are being made. It takes time for things to happen, don’t expect it overnight,” President Obasanjo cautioned, emphasizing that it takes peace and security for development to take place.

President Obasanjo said though he will be leaving office on Tuesday as President of Nigeria, his task as a factor in the development of Africa will not be ending. “With me now having the key of Monrovia and this great honor, I think you will see me more often, than you will want to…I will ask you to bear with me,” drawing warm reception from the audience.

The Nigerian President paid special homage to President Johnson Sirleaf, describing the Liberian leader as an exemplary woman in Liberia and the African continent. “You have been a model; I am saying this with admiration and a bit of anxiety, because the men are not taking it for granted that power belongs to them.” Taking a swipe at the centuries long male domination of political power in Africa, the Nigerian leader vowed to change the trend. President Obasanjo drew loud cheers from mostly females in the audience when he said, “we will change Africa from being a male dominated to being a gender friendly and gender equitable society.”

Meanwhile, the University of Liberia has conferred an honorary Doctor of Law degree on the Nigerian leader. At a ceremony at the University, the Institute’s President, Dr. Alhassan Conte, said the Institution was conferring the honor on President Obasanjo for his services to the advancement of peace and security and the emancipation of the African continent.  President Obasanjo said the honor by the University marked a high point of the overwhelming warmth accorded him. He assured Liberia that his country will continue to stand by Liberia. “Nigeria’s commitment to Liberia is assured; you will not walk alone; we will always be with you.”

Saturday’s ceremony attracted a respectable turnout of government officials including the cabinet and members of the National Legislature, members of the diplomatic corp, traditional leaders, Heads of non-governmental organizations and cultural dancers as well as students and citizens who lined the routes leading to Monrovia early Saturday morning, to welcome the Nigerian leader. The visit which came upon the invitation of President Johnson Sirleaf, marked Mr. Obasanjo’s last visit to Liberia as President of Nigeria. 

He steps down next Tuesday as President, following elections in that country last month. President Johnson Sirleaf is expected to attend the inauguration of Mr. Obasanjo successor, on Tuesday, May 29, in Abuja.  President Obasanjo left the country for home on Saturday afternoon following the investiture and honoring ceremonies.