Liberia’s outgoing president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been honoured in Nigeria’s southeast state of Imo with a statue, chieftaincy title, the state’s highest award and a road named after her.
Sirleaf honoured the invitation of Governor Rochas Okorocha who had been criticised for conferring the same honours on embattled South African President Jacob Zuma last month.
The first elected female African president was first conferred with a chieftaincy title by the traditional leaders of the state at the Eze Imo Palace and then awarded the Grand Counsellor of Imo State.
This was followed by the street-naming and a visit to the Rochas Okorocha Foundation College in the state capital Owerri which admits under-privileged students from all over Africa.
“I have seen leaders of Africa build schools, roads, give scholarships, and so on, in all of these things. I have not seen any of them go beyond the ordinary by gathering indigent children of Africa from all of our countries, bring them together in one family, sharing together,” Sirleaf praised the foundation which has 10 colleges across the country and admits five children every year from each African country.
She met the students and advised them to study hard and “be the best in the world”.
The unveiling of the statue at the Ikemba Ojukwu Square in Owerri was done during a ceremony attended by dignitaries and leaders of the state.
Her statue stands next to that of South African President Jacob Zuma and yet-to-be-unveiled statues of Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Kwame Nkrumah, and Governor Rochas Okorocha himself.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf thanked the state for the honour which she says is exceptional and the first of its kind she has received.
“My alma mater, Harvard University, honoured me with a statue but it was not like this. There weren’t people like this and it was just a little one in a corner,” she said.
A lot of Nigerians have attacked the governor for spending an unspecified amount of money to honour African leaders.
He addressed the criticism saying: “I erect statues to immortalise people so that children yet unborn can know about them. History is dying in Africa, we must keep it alive.”
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