Former President Goodluck Jonathan, has decried the recent spate of coups in Africa where civil governments are being overthrown, saying democracy in the continent needs to be rejigged and put in proper direction.
Jonathan spoke during Democracy Dialogue 2023 organised by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation with the theme: “Breaking New Grounds In The Democracy Development Nexus in Africa” held in Yenagoa, yesterday.
He expressed worry that in recent years, democracy in the continent has faced serious crisis, including the challenges of poverty and unemployment, which, according to him, has created a crisis of trust in the hearts of the citizens.
According to him, “democracy in the continent has gone through a period of crises that thrive by social tension, coup d’etat, insecurity and poor management of electoral process, which in itself is a threat to our democracy in Africa.
“Recently, we have experienced jubilations heralding the overthrown of civilian administrations in Africa, people jubilating military overthrowing civil administrations, such victory songs will not last long, but it shows that Africa needs to rejig her democracy.
“As leaders, we have the responsibilities to ensure that democracy endures by adhering to the rules of law, respecting the rights of the people, strengthening public institutions, ensuring that we implement policies that will impact positively on the lives of our people.”
He added, “I must sincerely appreciate the enthusiasm displayed by Bayelsans and other Nigerians for their contributions for the success of this event, your presence is the demonstration of your faith in our democracy and your determination to make contribution to proffer workable solution to the challenges of leadership in African continent.”
The former president pointed out that the theme of the dialogue underscored the fact that the people need to see democracy beyond elections and what happens after by the way of good governance.
In his welcome address, Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, called on the international community to observe the November 11 governorship election in the state in order to protect the integrity of the process.
He said the decision to re-elect him or choose a governor for the state should be the people’s prerogative but, however, expressed concern that some of his opponents were resorting to violence, intimidation and brigandage to subvert the will of the people.
“On November 11 this year, Bayelsans will be going to the polls to elect a governor. I hope I have done enough to merit their endorsement for a second term. The decision should be theirs to make.
“Sadly, some of my opponents do not think the people of Bayelsa are entitled to that choice and are resorting to violence, intimidation and brigandage to subvert the will of the people. I am inviting you all back here to be observers of the process,” he said.
The governor noted that the introduction of armed non-state actors in political contests poses a greater threat to democracy than the military, noting that unless the people insist on building strong institutions capable of resisting the antics of strong men, more countries would be affected.
“The introduction of armed non-state actors in political contests poses a greater threat to our democracy than the military. And unless we insist on building strong institutions capable of resisting the antics of strong men, more and more countries will be infected.
“The antidote is the rise of accountable leaders, vibrant civil societies, and engaged citizenry who shape their own destinies and demand transparency, justice, and equal opportunities.”
The governor said the timing of the conference could not have come at a better time in view of what he described as “recent epidemic of military takeovers in the sub-region, which have woken us rudely from our sweet dreams that Africa has come a long way from an era marked by oppressive regimes and limited civic participation.”
According to him, “the re-emergence of this malady should be a source of concern for all of us. We as politicians and the chief drivers of the democratic culture cannot completely absolve ourselves in this matter. Because we inadvertently create the environment for such behaviour.”
In his keynote address, a former director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the Kenya School of Law, Prof Patrick Lumumba, suggested that Africans should look inward to solve their problems, adding that the sit-tight African leaders were responsible for the frequent coups in the continent.
In his remarks, the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, Ogiame Atuwatse III, who was the royal father of the day, urged those that carry symbol of authority, be it crown or constitutional seal, to always carry the interest of the people they govern along in their actions and policies.
He said why the black man is not respected across the world no matter his social and academic attainment is that the world has not yet found a black nation that is excellent.
Also speaking, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Dr Omar Touray, blamed the lack of development in Africa on weak institutions that have failed to hold leaders accountable.
In her goodwill message, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, called for strengthening of democratic institutions through inclusiveness of women, youths and the vulnerable in the society.
The panel discussants were former president of Sierra Leone, Bai Koroma; former Vice President of the Gambia, Fatuomata Tambajang; Prof Ibaba Samuel Ibaba and Amb. Joe Keshi among others
Dignitaries at the event included former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; Bayelsa Deputy Governor, Sen. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo; deputy governors of Oyo and Bauchi states, serving and former national and state lawmakers, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, King Bubaraye Dakolo, King Joshua Igbugburu among other traditional rulers.
CAS Lauds Troops For Exceptional Performance In South-East Operation
Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, has lauded Nigerian Air Force (NAF) troops for exceptional performance in ongoing Joint Task Force in the South-East code-named “Operation Udo Ka II”.
Abubakar said this yesterday in Enugu during his maiden visit and tour of operational and training assets and facilities within NAF Ground Training Command (GTC), Enugu.
He noted that NAF troops had done exceptionally well and recorded series of success in the joint operation meant to keep the South-East safe and secured for all.
The CAS noted that the GTC Command was highly important to NAF as it housed the ground component (non technical component) as well as a unit of air component necessary to ensure the attainment of the mandate of NAF.
He said: “Today, we are in Enugu, which is the host of the GTC Command in our maiden visit and we are here to interact with the NAF personnel, see the facilities and infrastructure on ground.
“We are also here to encourage the personnel to continue to do the good job they had been doing before now.
“The GTC Command and the Air Training Command are key to all of our activities in NAF and the two commands ensure we have the adequate and skilled manpower for all our activities and operations.
“I am also here to strengthen our activities within Operation Udo Ka II, which Enugu is the headquarters, and see how we can achieve greater successes more than what we are having now and ensure that South-East is totally secured.”
He disclosed that 750 personnel were currently undergoing training and would be graduating between December 2023 and January, 2024.
“These training are important to us in terms of our operation; and the current number is very significant amount of manpower to be injected into our operations and other activities in the country,” he said.
On the inspection in the new GTC Command Headquarters, new 553 Base Services Group (BSG) Headquarters and BSG Annex; Abubakar said that he was quite satisfied and impressed with the pace, level and quality of work done already.
“I have taken out time to inspect the projects and asked questions about the projects and I tell you that I am satisfied with what are on ground and all our assets and facilities are well maintained and protected,” he said.
The NAF boss commended NAF officers, airmen and airwomen in GTC Command for “doing a good job and keeping the flag flying high” as well as extolled their sacrifices and commitment to duties as well.
“I am very happy for their performance. We at the NAF headquarters, we are doing all we can to make sure they have all the necessary support and equipment as well as welfare and accommodation to carry out their jobs effectively,” he said.
He assured NAF personnel of doing more by providing all necessary infrastructures to ensure the maximum working of the GTC Command.
The CAS also inaugurated a renovated airmen’s club and new Mrs Rakiya Abubakar Children’s Park as well as inspected the water treatment and reticulation system and the hospital within NAF Base, Abakpa in Enugu.
UNIBADAN Lecturer Wins Best Thesis Dollar Prize
The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), University of Lagos, has announced Dr Muhammad Ribadu as winner of this year’s Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D thesis in African Studies award.
The Director of the institute, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, made the announcement in a statement issued to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.
Ribadu, of the University of Ibadan, will be rewarded with a total of 1000 dollars, a plaque and a certificate.
Falaiye said a total of 18 entries for the 4th edition of competition were received from various universities in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa
He gave the title of the winning thesis as: The Social Context of Gentrification in Lagos State; Ph.D (Jan. 2023) Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan.
“The first runner up for this competition was Oluwaseyi Popogbe, currently a lecturer at the Department of Economics, Crawford University in Ogun.
“The title of his thesis is: Social Exclusion and Poverty in Selected Coastal Slum Areas in Lagos State; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) Department of Economics University of Lagos.
“The second runner up position went to Dr Charles Akwen, currently a lecturer at the Department of English, University of Lagos.
“Akwen’s thesis is titled: Notions of Identity in the Literary Creativity of Odia Ofeimun and Yang Mu; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) English Literature, University of Lagos,” the director stated.
He said that both the first and second runners up would be awarded plaques and certificates in recognition of their contributions and hard work.
Falaiye noted that the competition was in honour of Prof. Rahamon Bello, who was the 10th Vice Chancellor of the university, at the time the institute was inaugurated.
The prize money is usually donated every year for the award by friends of Prof. Bello.
Falaiye said that Dec, 6, had been fixed for the presentation of the awards.
The Tide source reports that the award was first presented in 2020.
States, LGs Lack Infrastructure To Manage Ecological Fund, Shun Queries – Perm Sec
The 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government councils have no structure in place to manage Ecological Fund.
The declaration was made in Abuja, yesterday, by the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Project Office, Malam Shehu Ibrahim.
Ibrahim made the declaration at an interactive session with the House Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund.
He said since states and local governments began to share the fund with the Federal Government they had not been able to put structures in place to manage their share.
The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities in the country.
Ibrahim told the house committee that the sharing of the fund among the three tiers of government followed a court decision.
He said governors and local council chairmen never welcomed queries about how they deployed the ecological funds.
“It is a `no-go’ area,’’ he quipped.
“They don’t want to see officials of the Ecological Project Office near them; so we cannot ask them how they spend the money,’’ he added.
Ibrahim said also that all motions by the National Assembly regarding intervention on ecological project matters had been treated.
“The Ecological Project Office acts expeditiously on documents sent to it to solve problems; it looks at some of the gaps within the motion and tries to fill the gaps, and we have had more than five of such motions.
“ The Ecological Project Office does not handle funds; it only appraises projects and makes recommendations to the president,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary explained that it is the Ministry of Finance that manages the fund and the projects.
He stressed that it was a misconception that the Ecological Project Office is in charge of funds and at liberty to decide on where projects would be sited with the money in its coffers.
He said whenever there were interventions; the Ecological Project Office informed affected communities and went with the contractor to hand over the projects to the community.
This is to enable the community to take ownership of the intervention and communicate their observations to the project office.
Responding, Rep. Sani Jaji (APC-Kaura Namoda/ Birnin Magaji), chairman of the committee, said there should always be stakeholders engagement before embarking on ecological fund intervention projects.
He noted that the projects were stakeholders’ projects and failure to include the stakeholders would always lead to security breach.
“So many things happened with UNICEF’s polio vaccine rejection; but when it included stakeholders, people began to accept the vaccine.
“It is critical to involve stakeholders and ensure equity. Security cannot be the reason why you won’t execute projects in certain parts of the country.
“The perception about your office is that there is money out there; so you need to change that perception and let people know that you have limitations about the execution of projects,’’ he said.
Jaji challenged the Ecological Fund Project Office to provide the needed advice to the president to enable him to take the correct steps.
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