Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ghanian President says imbalanced development causing insecurity in Nigeria

Former Ghanaian President John Kufour has identified imbalanced development as a major cause of insecurity in Nigeria saying the situation is forcing the country to pay a higher price than it should to sustain its role as the giant of Africa that it could and should be.

This is as President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan harped on the need for a crises free Nigeria in order to transform the country in line with the agenda of the incumbent administration.

Both presidents spoke at the 52nd Independence anniversary lecture titled: 'Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation' held Tuesday at the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.

According to Kufour, who observed that only a government that delivers on security and development could ensure its longevity in office, the resourcefulness of Nigerians is yet to have full impact on the development of the nation.

He said this shortcoming is also detrimental to the country claiming its rightful position as 'giant of Africa' from which other nations on the continent could benefit from or copy from as a role model to model or gauge their development.

His words: "Naturally, imbalanced development that involves horizontal inequalities is an important source of conflict and that is costing Nigeria the opportunity to be the giant nation that it can and should be."

"Nigeria has globally acclaimed assets which it needs to evolve into a strong, stable state with powerful strategic influence, spanning the entire continent of Africa and far beyond. The question then is why Nigeria does not seem to get its act together to play its role of destiny for itself and for the rest of Africa," he queried

He said: "The challenge is to accelerate the pace of development by using institutions of the federal Constitution as a nursery ground for producing leaders who are national in outlook and with a missionary zeal to transform this nation.

"This will help to mould the contending ethnic and religious groups into harmony and help to remove the perceived mutual distrust among them.

"Leaders so emerging would not be limited to championing the causes of their home state, tribe or religious group, but rather focused on deeds and pronouncements which convincingly and positively impact on the entire citizenry of the federal republic.

"Nation building is the systematic evolution of the political, economic, social and cultural well-being of all the various component parts of the state.

"Indeed the transcendent factor should be the common citizenship of all the stakeholders no matter the tribe, gender, religion, economic or social status as your Constitution stipulates.

"If there is no security, there is no liberty and if there is no liberty, life is not meaningful and society reverts back to the law of the jungle i.e. the survival of the fittest and man's primary objective of forming a state is defeated

In his own speech, President Jonathan attributed the current insecurity in the country to the handiwork of those who, despite the government's achievements in transforming Nigeria, employ every means to discredit it, stressing that there is no way any government can record progress with incessant security breaches such as the ones that characterise the Nigerian polity today.

"The key issue we are discussing is about peace and development and of course we all know that there is no way you can talk about development when you have a lot of crisis. In fact some people make more money when there is crisis and when there are crisis is like a country in a state of emergency, anything goes.

"Crisis is one aspect but generally if there is no peace is extremely difficult for the ordinary people to survive though big players in economy may survive. Ordinary citizens having small and medium enterprises cannot come out to do business during crisis and of course it affects the economy. So you must have peace to develop.

"Peace is one of the cardinal marks of a leader. In the monarchy in the olden days, the king had maximum power but for your kingdom to be stable you must have the military strength. So without stability of any state we cannot development.

"I agree totally with President Kufour who really gave us the break down of the kind of security situation that we have.

"When you talk of insecurity of using bombs and guns to kill people what has been described as physical security but in terms of social security, food security, health and the justice system all have to do with the security of individual.

"But I believe what we face in Nigeria though not peculiar to us, one of our greatest problems is what I described as political security. Government can continue to provide physical security but also very important is the political security. When you have an ending political conflicts in Nigeria, the country cannot develop.

"I believe political security is a big issue. There is this axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword is used to kill and destroy but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have society with these unending political conflicts, it is there on the media whether print, electronic or social media, it brings a lot of insecurity to the system and some times people begin to doubt your government.

"For example when we were contesting election we promised it will be free and fair, I was convince I must do that even if I will loss the election. After our election in 2007, even the presidents in our neighbouring West African states were finding it difficult to congratulate us because the observers felt the election was not properly done. That haunted us even when we travelled out and I promised myself that if I have the opportunity to preside over an election, I will do something different even at my expense at least for the sake of the country. And we did that but unfortunately, even though there were crisis in some parts of the country, observers felt the election was reasonably free and fair compared to others. But immediately after that election, not quiet six months, the kind of media hype that started hitting us made us to stop and ask where is this coming from?

"I said I did not just come out from the blues to contest the election, I was deputy governor for six and half years, I was a governor for one and half years, I was a vice president, and before election, I was the president up to April when the elections were conducted, people knew me. So within this period including when I even acted, if I was that bad will people have voted for me? So for Nigerians to have voted for me overwhelmingly that means there must have been something they were expecting and definitely six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgement. But the media condemned me.

"And I believe is not just the media, like when we talk about the Boko Haram, we have political Boko Haram, religious Boko Haram and criminal Boko Haram. So also in the media, you have the professional media and the political media. That is why I talk about the political media, because of the interest of 2015 whatever you do is immaterial, the government must be brought down. And that mentality cuts across most African countries and even outside Africa.

"So addressing insecurity is critical in developing African state. When you have this ending political conflict especially in a country like Nigeria that is highly religious and with high ethno-tribal sentiments, it becomes very potent to even create a lot of problems for government.

"So I will plead with us as Nigerians that whenever we elect government into power at whatever level, at least for the sake of the country allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating the system.

"So as government we are committed to creating the environment. I'm pleased with the way President Kufour spoke on the issue of transformation. I agree that the leader must be the key actor for transformation but those who will implement are the citizens. For instance, during the election, we advocated one man one vote, we were totally committed and I said it that nobody should rig election for me. But Nigerians believed that we were sincere and because they knew we were sincere, that took the life of its own. No I don't need to go and preach again. We have monitored elections in Edo and other places, nobody wants to compromise with his vote. Is government that created that environment but is not government that will enforce it, it is the citizen.

"That is why we are a bit worried that sometimes when government create the environment, whether economic, social or even the media, but how the citizens use those privileges matters so much.

"Take the media environment for instance, we signed the Freedom of Information bill into law, it became the freedom of Information Act, but are we using it in the way we are suppose to use it? Are some of us not abusing the privileges? The media environment that should have helped our transformation agenda are being used negatively, these are some of the issues we need to address.

"The way Nigerians challenge and abuse me, yes the president has enormous power but if you use that enormous power to some extent you will look like a dictator. In a democratic setting, you want to create an environment where people can create their opinion and that is why people are allowed to talk freely and demonstrate. But are we doing so properly"

One of the discussants, Prof. Ihedu Ivwerebo, said Nigeria has been attempting to enshrine democratic system which is a culture. He said all the past 13 years experience was part of the culture.

He stated that the challenge facing the country was leadership infidelity. "The elites are unfaithful to Nigeria that made them. They go out and speak evil of the country," adding that impatience of Nigerians that we ought to have arrived was also contributing to the challenge.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, said the lecture marked another critical milestone among programmes of independence. He said deeper knowledge of national issues would offer solutions to national problems, assuring that the President will remain committed to discussions and that the anniversary lecture has come to stay.

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