This Day (Lagos)

14 February 2012

Nigeria: Clinton - FG Can Overcome Security, Economic Challenges

Photo: Elizabeth Dickinson/IRIN
Port Harcourt.

Struggling against apparent security and economic challenges that have caught the attention of the world, Nigeria and her leaders received words of encouragement and hope from former American President Bill Clinton who spoke in Lagos Monday at the 17th Annual THISDAY Awards for Excellence.

Clinton said it takes a long time to grow democracy. According to him, what deepens democratic ethos is the recognition that people belong to different factions. He argued for respect for the majority, as well as minority and individual right.

As he parted the country Monday night with more words of encouragement, Clinton said Nigeria is not alone in its challenges. "Even if you have economic successes, you will still fight for political freedom," he said.

Pinpointing his source of concern for Nigeria, Clinton said, "I'm really worried about your security problems. I hope the president and the appropriate ministers can figure it out.

"But from my experience as a public servant, I know that it is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence without giving people something to say yes to."

In a veiled reference to the Boko Haram menace, he warned that the rampant poverty that is plaguing the country is felt most acutely in the Muslim north and is fuelling the religious violence now tearing at the nation.

"You can't just have this level of inequality persist. That's what's fuelling all this stuff," said Clinton.

"It is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence," Clinton said. "You also have to give people something to look forward to when they get up in the morning."

However, Clinton acknowledged Nigeria cannot rule out using military or police force when dealing with the instability.

Making references to startling discoveries recorded by scientists working with the Clinton Foundation, the former U.S. president said genetically what the entire world has and needs in common are important.

He ended his submissions by insisting that Africa and the world needs Nigeria, stressing the fact that Nigeria contributes the fourth largest contingent of soldiers to UN peacekeeping operations around the world.

The former U.S. president, who had to be excused to proceed on his journey to Colombia Monday night, was persuaded to carry out the very important function of handing over the pristine trophies to the honourees, beginning with the Lifetime Achievement Awards.

There were 25 of them in this category adjudged by THISDAY's Board of Editors as having made gigantic contributions to the progress and development of Nigeria.

Only two women, Mrs. Priscilla Kuye, a legal practitioner and Mrs. Aduke Alakija, a former ambassador, were recognised in this category.

In handing out the awards, Clinton was assisted by Mrs. Cherie Blair, wife of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.

However, the 17th THISDAY Awards held at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos, was more a celebration of 45 Nigerian women of distinction.

Each of them, according to Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman/Editor-in-Chief of Leaders and Company Ltd., publisher of THISDAY Newspaper, who moderated the event, said the honourees broke barriers, touched lives, and made a difference in a world dominated by men.

As the women were called to the podium to receive their awards, Obaigbena justified the recognition accorded them, while congratulating them for shattering the glass ceiling.

Responding to a question by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former President Clinton said it was becoming old-fashioned for anyone, whether as a husband or in any other capacity, to believe that he can only have the advantage by keeping the other person down.

Clinton added that one of the ways to maintain the presidential system of government and make it less expensive is to have a shorter political campaign period, discouraging big campaign financiers and encouraging smaller contributors.

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