BY SHRI K.R.NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF
MR. OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
NEW DELHI, TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2000
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and
behalf of the Government and people of India it gives me very great
pleasure to welcome you Mr. President and the distinguished members
of your delegation.
there are moments when a nation is aware that it has reached a milestone.
Tomorrow is such a moment, when, in the first year of the new millennium,
we shall celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indian Republic. Your
presence, Excellency, as Chief Guest will add lustre to that occasion.
It will be the demonstration of India's fraternal relationship with
Nigeria and indeed the whole African continent. We are grateful to you
for having so kindly accepted our invitation.
recall that day on 19th November, 1996, when I had the honour of being
present as the Vice-President of India while conferring upon you the
1995 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development. You
were then, Excellency, in prison in Nigeria. But Mrs. Stella Obasanjo
and your son Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo were with us then. On that occasion
I had quoted from what you had said about your approach to public life
and leadership. You had said, Excellency, and I quote "My objective
in and out of government is to serve the public as best as I can ...
I put ordinary people first and I would like them to know that at least
I share their main concerns."
has its own ways, Excellency, of fulfilling its promise. To-day, you
are in government and at the helm of democratic Nigeria, the very symbol
of the resilience of the spirit of a people in their search for representative
government. We in India, believe that it is not a co-incidence that
you have been chosen to fulfil this promise. History will recall very
few leaders who have voluntarily renounced power, and retired for doing
constructive work and service to the people. We pay tribute, Excellency,
to your spirit of sacrifice and your role in restoring democracy to
Nigeria. As a democracy ourselves, we know that the will of the people
will ultimately triumph. But we also recognize the contribution of leadership.
In the fragile years after our independence we were fortunate to have
a leadership which nurtured democracy. Democracy to-day is a firmly
established fact of life in India. Similarly, we believe Nigeria is
fortunate in having you as the leader to guide its destiny in the transition
from military dictatorship to the full-fledged democracy. We regard
Nigeria as one of the natural leaders on the African continent. Its
immense size and its rich natural resources combined with its strategic
location and its democratic ideology make it a new voice that compels
attention as the world moves into the new millennium.
challenges before India and Nigeria are similar: economic development
and the removal of poverty, illiteracy and ill-health from our countries.
We acclaim the measures you have initiated for the economic recovery
and development of Nigeria "in an air of absolute freedom" as you have
Excellency, the first requirement for developing countries like India
and Nigeria is to meet the aspirations and the rising expectations of
our people. We in India are working for peace, progress, stability and
peaceful co-existence in our region, just as Nigeria does in her own
part of the world. History united us in our struggle against colonialism
and apartheid and is bringing us together closely again as countries
belonging to the developing world and the nonaligned movement in the
struggle for creating a new, equitable and peaceful world order.
our bilateral relations are growing at a satisfactory pace. Nigeria
is one of India's largest trading partners in Africa. New areas of economic
co-operation and investment are opening up and need to be pursued systematically.
We believe India's developmental experience, particularly in agriculture,
and in the area of small and medium enterprises, could be of relevance
to Nigeria's development. We have also made important strides in the
fields of information technology, telecommunications, railways and electronics.
Our on-going interaction in the area of human resource development is
capable of introducing vitality into our co-operation.
It is a matter
of enduring satisfaction that many Indian professionals and a large
Indian community have found in Nigeria a second home and many of our
big companies are involved in the development of Nigeria. The Indo-Nigerian
Joint Commission, which I believe, is to shortly meet in Abuja, will
provide the appropriate forum to review the entire gamut of our bilateral
relations. We are confident that your visit will give added momentum
to our co-operation and friendship to new heights of achievement.
me end, Excellency, by once again saying how happy we are that you are
with us on the historic occasion of our Republic Day.
I now request all the distinguished guests to raise their glasses in
- to the personal good health and happiness of His Excellency Mr. Olusegun
Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
- to the prosperity and well-being of the friendly people of Nigeria,
- to the friendship between our two countries and peoples.