…—Meets Malawi, Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea Presidents
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Malabo
President Muhammadu Buhari has advised African political leaders to respect the right of citizens to make their choices in elections.
President Buhari said that the right of people to vote and determine who leads them should not be treated lightly.
Speaking at a bilateral meeting with Lazarus Chakwera, the President of Malawi at the sideline of the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on Friday, the President said to strengthen the democratic fabric and ensure smooth conduct of elections, “we must convince the people that we respect them, and this is by allowing them to choose whoever they want.”
He acknowledged that the path to democracy in African countries had not been a smooth one, recalling that he had been to the Supreme Court three times before he got to be President, adding “I had to openly disabuse the minds of our colleagues. We are a developing country, that we should not be demoralized.
“We have to go through these processes. We must trust these institutions to do what is right. Present the evidence. Don’t give up. Keep on pushing.”
The President explained that the merit of one’s case, not religion, or ethnicity or section will determine success in political endeavors, saying that his meritorious cases in court were thrown out by judges who more or less shared the same sentimental backgrounds with him.
He said, “So, I say go for merit. Don’t stand on ethnicity or such other divisive factors.”
Speaking on the relationship between Nigeria and Malawi, and that of the Southern African Sub-region in general, President Buhari said his predecessors in office, especially the late General Murtala Mohammed laid out the continental rule of engagement placing Southern African countries on Nigeria’s priority list.
According to him, “We are acutely aware of the problems of Southern African countries, more than most others,” said the President.
“Murtala virtually left the country to Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, then, and faced up to Europe and America on the problems (of apartheid). He was very energetic and patriotic. We will continue on that path.”
President Buhari said he greatly valued his meeting with President Chakwera, giving assurances that he will pay attention to the issues brought to the meeting.
The Foreign Affairs Ministers of the two countries were directed to take the matters forward.
President Chekwara described President Buhari as a statesman and a role model, saying that his country was willing to learn from Nigeria’s experience in agriculture, infrastructure development and in managing security and violent extremism, which, he said, were creeping into the South African sub-region.
He said while both countries were together in the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, his country’s wish was for a speedy trade relationship with Nigeria.
President Chekwara asked for convening of a meeting of technical experts to discuss trading pacts, Memoranda of Understanding and agreements.
“There is no way we won’t relate to the biggest economy in Africa. Our older brother should hold our hands and we walk together,” said the President.
Later, Carlos Vila Novo, the President of São Tomé and his spouse met President Buhari and the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari.
The Sao Tomean President got assurances that Nigeria will continue to play a brotherly role in the affairs of sister African countries.
The President also received in audience the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who came to thank him for honoring the invitation for the Extraordinary African Union Summit in his country.