Lincoln Towindo, in ABUJA, Nigeria
Zimbabwe and Nigeria share common developmental aspirations that the Second Republic is nurturing in the spirit of Pan-Africanism to enhance the fraternal relations developed between the two countries during the days of the liberation struggle, Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga has said.
Addressing the media on arrival here where he is set to attend today’s inauguration of Nigeria’s president-elect Bola Tinubu, VP Chiwenga said the West African country played a critical role in supporting Zimbabwe’s Independence aspirations.
Dr Chiwenga, who is representing President Mnangagwa, will join other leaders attending the swearing-in ceremony of Mr Tinubu and his deputy Kashim Shettima at the Eagle Square in central Abuja this morning.
“First and foremost, I have come here to represent His Excellency, the President Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa,” said VP Chiwenga.
“He is the one who is supposed to have come, but he delegated the duty to me because of other pressing matters back at home. So we have come here because we as Zimbabwe, first and foremost, Nigeria assisted Zimbabwe quite a lot during the war of liberation.”
Nigeria, said the Vice President, was among the first African countries to attain independence from Britain in 1960 before leveraging its newly-found freedom to support liberation movements across the continent, including those in the then Rhodesia.
“By the time our struggle was intensifying, they were already independent” said Dr Chiwenga.
“And they played a major role during our struggle by assisting us in every way they could, including putting money into the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) as it was back then, but they also gave funding to the Liberation Centre as they assisted Zimbabwe and that we will not forget.”
He said the Nigerian government also facilitated training of the country’s military ahead of attainment of Independence in preparation for integration of the warring military forces.
“You might be aware that the current Deputy President of Senate, Lieutenant-General (Retired) Mike Nyambuya was among the first group of cadres who came for training here . . . some came even before we got our independence and some soon after our independence.
“So they helped train our cadres in the Airforce and the army.”
“And we treasure that because it then assisted us during the time when we were integrating the three armies because we now had a quite a number of our people who had been trained.
“From there, we have been with Nigeria in both the OAU and then came the AU (African Union) and all the international forums.”
In a show of close bilateral relations between the two countries, VP Chiwenga said, a number of former Nigerian presidents had observed previous elections in the country.
Earlier, VP Chiwenga, who was accompanied by Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Martin Rushwaya, was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by Zimbabwe Ambassador to Nigeria Maxwell Ranga, embassy staff and Nigerian officials.
President-elect Tinubu’s inauguration marks the 7th consecutive democratic transition of power in Nigeria and will usher in the West African country’s 16th leader.
On Thursday last week, the president-elect was conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR), which is exclusively given to presidents.
Mr Tinubu, candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, won the February 25 presidential election, garnering 37 percent of the vote, beating rivals Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party) who polled 29 percent, and Peter Obi (Labour Party) 25 percent.