Abuja — "There is a vicious cycle in Africa where the struggle for political power leads to conflicts that bring up poor governance and create hardship which fuels the struggle for change of leadership, thus creating further conflicts and poor leadership."
With these words yesterday, former President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the desperation of some African leaders to hold on to power, a situation that has brought avoidable woes to the people on the continent.
Jonathan spoke in Abuja at a one-day peace conference themed “Peaceful Elections and National Development” organised by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF).
He also noted that Africa’s relatively slow growth and poor performing economies are linked to the preponderance of conflicts, and that many patriotic Africans will not deny the fact that at the root of most of the conflicts ravaging the continent is the desperation that often characterises the struggle for power.
He stressed that the 10 most developed nations on this earth are those that experience the least conflict while the 10 least developed countries, many of them here in Africa, are the ones wallowing in the worst form of conflict. “The reality is that any leader who is committed to the development of his country will do everything to save it from turmoil and conflicts.”
According to Jonathan, the work of the foundation focuses on credible elections, peaceful transitions, good governance, as well as promoting youth and women empowerment.
He said he had promised, upon leaving office as president in 2015, that he would be channelling his energy towards serving humanity in another form which is no less edifying, “along the lines of the focus of my life’s struggles, personal philosophy and ideals.”
“It is my considered view that as African leaders, we must change our approach and disposition towards stewardship. We must get to the stage where we should be more interested in developing our people, rather than ruling or just governing them. A development-minded leader is visionary and selfless. He does not seek power at all cost and will not wield it for his own sake.
“There is no gainsaying that when politicians resort to desperate measures in the bid to occupy important political positions, they run the risk of plunging their countries into serious crises that often lead to loss of lives, degradation of values as well as destruction of private and public assets.
“This breed of politicians often ignores the fact that to be patriotic is to love your country and be prepared to live and die for her honour, reputation, freedom, progress and the ascendancy of the common good. You can restore destroyed infrastructure almost to its former state or even better, but you cannot easily repair people’s psyche, reconcile aggrieved persons and restore hope in a nation, once they are damaged in destructive leadership struggles,” Jonathan said.
On the forthcoming general elections, Jonathan charged politicians to put Nigeria above all political considerations. “Politicians particularly those seeking elective offices must ensure that the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians is placed above their political ambition.”
Jonathan warned that there would be dangerous consequences for Nigeria and Africa should things go wrong with the polls.
“For democracy to endure and be productive on the continent, African politicians and other stakeholders must realize that true heroes of leadership are not those whose desperation to impose their will endangers society, but those who have the humility to subjugate their personal ambitions to the collective interest of their nations. Our political leaders must realize that the greatest and most enduring legacy to leave behind is that of peace and development.
“We are convinced that any one, either in government or outside government, who truly loves Nigeria, will not want to play the role of the villain by lending his support to any action that instigates crises,” he said.
The former president expressed worry that despite the marked improvement on the regularity and number of democratic nations, election-related violence has continued to be experienced in many African nations, often to the detriment of peaceful co-existence, economic growth and sustainable development. “Good governance is the fertile ground upon which peace and sustainable economic growth are planted.”
He maintained that in a democracy, periodic, credible and peaceful election is the necessary gateway to improved governance and people-oriented development. It is reassuring to note that democracy is being consolidated on the continent, with elections now conducted routinely by many African nations, he said.
“This year, hundreds of millions of Africans will go to the polls in at least 20 nations, from the south to the north of the continent, including Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa where general elections are holding.
“As the ongoing democratic process in Nigeria unfolds, with the rest of the world watching with keen interest, we are also mindful of the worries of Nigerians on whether it would end peacefully.”
The Chairman of the occasion and former head of state, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar lauded Jonathan for his statesmanship in ensuring that the 2015 general elections did not witness any violence.
He urged other African countries to emulate Jonathan not to take their people for granted when they make their decision to elect a new leader.
The special guest of honour and former Liberian president, Prof. Amos Sawyer, expressed worry over the manner in which the image of the judicial arm of government is being tarnished by the executive arm of government.
“I hope all issues involving the judicial arm of government are resolved so as to bring the institution to its integrity being the last hope of the common man.”
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, in his presentation titled “Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Causes, Consequences and Options for Prevention” listed some of the immediate causes as stereotyping, rumours and hate speech which he said triggers fake news.
The cleric urged Nigerians not to take the laws into their hands by ensuring that the forthcoming elections are peaceful, credible and transparent.