This Day (Lagos)

3 March 2013

Nigeria: Strengthen Democracy or Risk Instability, Jonathan Warns Fellow African Leaders

President Goodluck Jonathan, on Saturday warned that African leaders must work harder to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in their countries or face the continuous threat of political instability with its attendant societal dislocations.

Jonathan spoke while addressing members of the Ivorian Parliament in Abidjan during his state visit to Cote d'Ivoire.

According to him, the present generation of African leaders must rise to the challenge of managing contests for political power in a manner that assures greater collective security and peaceful co-existence.

A press statement, received by PANA, quoted the president as also warning that leaders of emerging democracies in Africa must never succumb again to the lure of dictatorship as the surest way of bottling up grievances and dissent in their countries.

"We are ourselves daily confronted with the multiplicity of demands and expectations that are the hallmarks of multicultural societies. There are some, here and elsewhere, who might think that the straight jacket of a dictatorship is the surest way to bottle up these grievances and dismantle dissent.

"That is wrong. Nothing strengthens a society more than openness and a leadership courageous enough to understand the inherent positives that flow from these contending demands. As African leaders, we have to, calmly and dispassionately, harness these energies and utilise them to serve the best interest of our people.

"Indeed, it is self-evident that people who feel secure and free, governed by the rule of law and not by the whims of men, are less likely to go to war with each other, either within or across borders, than those who do not.

"We therefore risk the very institution we are trying to build if we exclude the people who voted us into power in the governance process. That is why we have to build strong institutions and allow the rule of law to take root. Democracy without strong institutions defeats its own objectives," President Jonathan told the Ivorian MPs.

He also told them that political leaders in Africa must do more to alleviate and ultimately eradicate abject poverty from the continent as it dis-empowers people and retards growth and development.

"We must assiduously promote the welfare of all citizens and create the enabling environment in which they can fully realise their aspirations and potentials. This would enable them, as stakeholders, to invest in the protection of peace and stability of our countries. And this is achievable," President Jonathan said.

Noting that it is generally acknowledged that there are billions of dollars waiting to be unlocked by improved trade and economic relations amongst countries in the West Africa, the President also called for the loosening of the "bolts of bureaucracy" that currently stifle trade in the sub-region.

"My own countrymen and people form a sizeable proportion of the population of this wonderful city. They have brought their energy and skills to enrich the economy and culture of Abidjan and other towns and villages in this country. That is the African spirit at work. That is the way we should see ourselves. Borders divide us physically, but our spirits are one and indivisible.

"The borders we defend so resolutely nowadays are, after all, fairly recent creations. Useful as they may be, they must not be more important than the welfare of the sub-continent and its peoples," he said.

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