By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Sunday with a surprise awaiting him.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who will be inaugurated on Monday for a new five-year term, served as the driver, as he drove Buhari to the sprawling newly built Friendship Park for a private dinner.
A photo posted on social media showed Abiy on the wheels of an SUV, as Buhari sat next to him.
The presidential plane carrying President Buhari and some of his entourage touched down at the newly constructed VIP terminal at Bole International Airport at 5:06 p.m. (Nigerian time).
The Nigerian leader, who was granted a full guard of honor by the Ethiopian National Defense Force upon his arrival.
Abiy met him as Buhari got off the plane.
After the Honor Guard inspection, the Prime Minister motioned for the President to get into an SUV, took control of the wheels, taking him straight to the newly built spacious Friendship Park for a private dinner.
The dinner was attended by the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, and the President of Senegal, Macky Sall.
While in Addis Ababa, the Nigerian leader is expected to deliver a message of goodwill at the inaugural event to be held in historic Meskel Square.
President Buhari will join other African leaders, who will attend the event in person, including the presidents of Djibouti, Kenya, South Sudan, Senegal, Somalia, Uganda and the Prime Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo.
A statement released on Saturday by Mr. Femi Adesina, spokesperson for the president, said President Buhari would also attend a state dinner at the National Defense Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Regarding the importance of President Buhari’s visit to the country, Nigerian Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union, Victor Adeleke, told reporters that:
Nigeria and Ethiopia enjoy warm and cordial relations, they are also the two largest democracies in Africa, in this sense, the presence of President Buhari at the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister Ahmed is an indication of the president’s commitment to strengthen democracy in Africa. ”
The ambassador, who simultaneously holds accreditation with Djibouti and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), explained that the visit would also provide President Buhari with an opportunity to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Ethiopia.
He added that over the years there had been a great deal of eagerness and zeal on the part of the two countries to cooperate on positive agreements, part of which had led to the exchange of official visits at the highest level. .
You will recall that then Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegne visited Abuja, Nigeria in July 2014, where he was a guest of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a similar vein, at the invitation of Prime Minister Ahmed, President Muhammadu Buhari paid a state visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February 2020.
“Nigeria and Ethiopia are both working on several areas of bilateral cooperation, including defense, aviation, science and technology, industry, trade and investment. , agriculture, health, youth and sports development, communication, information and media, “he said.
He also noted that Nigeria had provided assistance to Ethiopia through the Technical Assistance Corps program.