Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has received a national honour for his “personal integrity and exemplary leadership”, conferred by the President of Equatorial Guinea. The Nigerian leader flew to Guinea on 14 March for a two-day visit to hold meetings with his counterpart, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
The two leaders are expected to hold talks on maritime security to protect territories in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. During his visit, Buhari, who took office in May 2015 defeating incumbent leader Goodluck Jonathan, received the Highest National Honour at the presidential palace in the capital Malabo.
The award was conferred on the Nigerian leader for “his personal integrity, exemplary leadership, style and courage to fight terrorism in order to ensure peace and safety in Africa,”Buhari’s spokesperson said in a statement.
During the investiture ceremony, Buhari called on all African countries to come together and tackle common challenges.
“On behalf of my country, Nigeria, and the people, I will like to express profound gratitude for the honour given to me and my people. The reality of the situation now is that there had never been a time in history for greater neighbourliness, for security and economic stability than now,” he said.
President Mbasogo said it was an honour for his country to confer the award. “We are here to recognise the son of the soil. On this occasion, we deem it fit and appropriate to decorate the son of Africa for the great work he is doing in Africa, which includes tackling a great menace to the continent, Boko Haram, ” he said.
Mbasogo also pledged support Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram, which has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009 and was deemed the world’s deadliest terror group, surpassing its ally, Islamic State (Isis), in November 2015.
Mbasogo, 73, is the second president of Guinea. The leader has been in office since 1979, after overthrowing his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema.
Mbasogo overthrew his uncle in a bloody coup in 1979 and placed him on trial for alleged crimes committed during his presidency, including the genocide of the indigenous Bubi people, mass murder and embezzlement of funds. Nguema was executed by firing squads in September 1979.
After assuming office, Mbasogo implemented some reforms including granting amnesty to political prisoners and reopening religious sites his uncle had closed. The country adopted a new constitution in 1982. Since taking the lead of the nation, Mbasogo has won all the presidential elections, sometimes being the only candidate running for the post.
His leadership is considered by some as corrupt and repressive and abuses including disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions, are widespread.
Mbasogo, who proclaimed himself a God, has been defined as one of the worst dictators and one of the world’s wealthiest presidents. In 2011, he was appointed as chairperson of the African Union , a position he held for one year.