President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday said the successful conduct of the election in Mali and the fact that the opposition candidate gracefully accepted the outcome was an indication that the financial and military commitment made by Nigeria to the restoration of peace in the Franco-phone country was not in vain.
President Jonathan made this observation when he was conferred with the highest award of Grand Croix de l’Ordre National du Mali (Great Cross of the National Order of Mali) by the interim President of Mali, Prof. Dioncunda Traore, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Jonathan had earlier in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, congratulated Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, on his victory in last Sunday’s run-off presidential election in the country.
Similarly, Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Parliament), Senator Ike Ekweremadu, congratulated Keita as the winner of the election.
Keita, a former Prime Minister of Mali, defeated his rival, Soumaila Cisse, in August 11 presidential run-off.
According to him, the fact that Cisse, of the opposition Union pour la République et la Démocratie, (URD) or Union for the Republic and Democracy in French, accepted the outcome of the run-off conducted last Sunday, showed that reconciliation and reconstruction was possible in the war-torn country.
Assuring that Nigeria would not waver in its steadfast commitment to the sustenance of peace and stability in Mali, President Jonathan emphasised that “we must entrench a hallowed humble democratic value.
“Mr. President, the importance of this is that our substantial, financial, military and material contributions, including the supreme sacrifice paid by two Nigerian Air Force pilots have all not been in vain. The cost not withstanding and in the spirit of African solidarity, I assure you that Nigeria remains steadfastly committed to supporting the course of peace in Mali,” Jonathan said.
Expressing gratitude for the honour, the president reiterated: “Our unwavering commitment in the course of peace keeping and peace building across the African continent is based on our conviction that Africa can only experience sustained growth if we overcome the divisive tendencies which stifles development and weakens political structures.
“I have no doubt, whatsoever, that a politically stable Africa will be a strong and prosperous Africa. As political leaders we owe it to our collective posterity to ensure that we bequeath to them that which will enable them maximise their creative potentials, favourably in the 21st century world,” he noted.
In his remarks, Traore, who expressed the gratitude of Malians for Nigeria’s engagement in curtailing the insurgency of Islamists in the country, which started in January last year, acknowledged the sacrifice made by Nigeria in the face of similar internal crisis it is facing.
“We know how much your country suffers also from terrorism. We know how much Nigeria has needs of its troops, and all the soldiers at her disposal to ensure internal security against forces of evil, who have continued to attack innocent citizens. However, in spite of this internal need and pressure, your country has not hesitated to put her soldiers at the disposal of Mali,” Traore said.
He explained that the decision to confer Jonathan the award was much because of the aforementioned as it was about his planning and his role as an astute mediator at Abuja, Ouagadougou and Bamako.
“Today, thanks to your solidarity beside your neigbours and the solidarity of ECOWAS and African Union as well as the international community, Mali has found peace again, Mali has found again her unity and her democracy which were compromised for long months. It is this Mali which has found itself again and which is very grateful which has sent me today Mr. President to tell you that it will never forget what you have done for her; to tell you of the light which you light in her way when everything was dark and sober,” he added.
Earlier, before he received the award, President Jonathan had congratulated and commended the people of Mali for successfully conducting the elections and taking a major step towards the full restoration of democratic governance in their country.
A statement by Abati said Nigeria looked forward to the conclusion of the process with Keita’s inauguration as president in keeping with the wish of the Malian people as expressed at the polls on Sunday.
The statement read in part: “The president believes that having served capably as his country’s Prime Minister for many years, Keita will assume the Malian presidency with the requisite experience, knowledge and wisdom needed to guide the country towards a speedy return to peace, normalcy, political stability and further development.
“President Jonathan assures Keita of the support, assistance and cooperation of Nigeria, ECOWAS and the African Union as he prepares to assume the burden of leading Mali away from political strife and instability, to national peace and progress.”
Meanwhile, Ekweremadu, who is the Deputy Senate President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said: “The eventual triumph of democracy and stability over separatism, military brigandage and insurgence in Mali is indeed a milestone for good governance, peace, and security for the entire West Africa.
“It is the hope of the ECOWAS Parliament that the president-elect will give the people of Mali a fatherly, transparent, and deeply democratic leadership that will in turn give every segment of the society a sense of belonging irrespective of ethno-political leanings, restore total stability, strengthen democracy institu-tions and put the nation on the path of fast recovery and lasting development.”