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We’ll discourage sit-tight leaders in West Africa, says Yar’Adua

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua met with African Ambassadors to Brazil in the course of his State last Wednesday and spoke on what can ensure development

President Yar Adua
President Yar Adua

I want to express my gratitude to all of you for having turned up at the Airport yesterday to receive me. I was very elated by the gesture and I am very grateful. I thank you very much for the show of solidarity and African brotherhood. I’m pleased and highly delighted to see this large number of African Ambassadors in Brasilia.

I think in all my visits, this is one of countries that I have seen a very large number of African Ambassadors. I have no doubt in my mind that our continent is fully and ably represented in Brazil which is a regional leader in South America. I believe each one of you represents not only your country but also the entire African continent. For that reason, all of you must be current with events on the entire Africa continent with respect to the interest of not only your country but of all countries in Africa.

I can see that this is evident in the very tradition you have established here of meeting with any African Head of State who comes here so that you can discuss with him and listen to him to give you briefs on the issues concerning the African continent. As all of you must be aware, we face similar challenges in Africa, all our countries face similar challenges as a result of comparable historical experiences which we have gone through in the last century.

You are all aware several of our countries had to struggle and fight against foreign domination in the past but half a century after independence, most of us are still bedevilled by problems concerning peace, security and stability on our continent. And this has underlined one of the major challenges facing our continent.

Sustainable development gives rise to happy livelihood to communities but we also know this can take place only in an atmosphere of peace, security and political stability. The continent and its leaders and also our continental organisations of African Union are aware of this fact and one of the efforts being made is to ensure sustainable peace and political stability and security in the continent and in our countries so as to create the environment for sustainable development. That is why our focus and emphasis have been made on peace, security and political stability.

At the continental level, the African Peer Review Mechanism is one of the mechanisms we have evolved as a continent to ensure peace, stability and security. What we have also done is the insistence now on constitutional democracy and abhorrence of changes in government that are unconstitutional and violent in nature. I think this is a major challenge on our continent today and in Nigeria we have been making efforts to put in place a stable political system anchored on free, fair and acceptable elections.

On the African continent over the last half a century, many countries have had political instability and rapid change of governments through unconstitutional means and this has affected the efforts of sustainable development very seriously. We must ensure political stability so that we can plan and implement good policies and have continuity not like the past half a century where we had wasted a lot of energy and time that could have been used for articulating and implementing developmental policies.

In Nigeria for instance, since our independence in 1960, the year 2007 was the first time we ever had a civilian to civilian political transition and a peaceful change of power from a civil administration to another civil administration. So far now, we have enjoyed a decade of consistent stable civilian government, that is from 1999 to 2009.

Until now, that is something we have never achieved in the country, since our independence. We are working hard to ensure that we sustain this gain that we have made and ensure continuous stable politics in Nigeria.

This is why my administration has embarked on the reform of our electoral process so that we can have a good electoral process and decent democracy and ensure credible and acceptable elections that will form the basis for building trust in the system we are operating.

We are also making this effort at the sub-regional level, that is ECOWAS. We have had elections in Ghana which has been applauded globally. In Guinea Bissau where elections held with the run-off just concluded, the head of my delegation and ECOWAS, Dr Chambas has called to say it went well and a winner is already being declared. I understand the candidate of EAITC won the election with 63% of the total votes in the Run-off elections.

But because of the challenges in the country where vital institutions have broken down, I am calling a Donor-Roundtable on Guinea Bissau in Abuja when I get back to ensure that we are able to get fund to assist the government to carry out institutional and security reforms and to carry out the economic investment that are required for the government to stabilise and for the regime to solve the problems of security and economic challenges. And in the Republic of Guinea Conakry, we have been talking with the administration of Captain Kamara and we have insisted that the elections be held by the end of this year.

At the stakeholders’ conference of ECOWAS, Africa Union, EU on Guinea Conakry we have discussed with them and we are prepared to carry out a credible election for the military to handover power by the end of this year. Once that is done we will do the same thing with regards to building institutions by calling another Donor-Roundtable to enable them consolidate the gains of this stable political system for Guinea Conakry.

We are also talking to President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Voire to hold a credible election by the end of this year. If we are able to achieve this, we would have achieved our goal of ensuring political stability and putting a stable democratic system not only in Nigeria but throughout the West African sub-region. But we are also having an emerging issue in Niger Republic where the President will finish his second term which is the constitutional limit by December this year.

But efforts are being made to extend his stay in the first instance by three years to 2012 and then subsequently on a sit-tight basis. I have sent a delegation from ECOWAS to talk to President Tanja to have a rethink. We have also sent a joint delegation of ECOWAS, African Union, EU and UN but there seems to be no positive response.

As soon as I get back to Abuja I will invite President Tanja to come to Abuja because we need political stability, peace and security for us to pay attention to issues of development, education, human development and the other many challenges we have on the continent. These efforts are also being replicated at the African Union level so that on the continental level, the AU wants to ensure that within this decade we achieve total political stability in Africa so that the entire continent can focus its attention on developmental issues.

We have NEPAD which was designed to provide infrastructure that will support a modern industrialised country. During our last two summits, we placed much emphasis on integrating African economies taking cognisance of the fact that the economic ties between individual African nations with their old colonial masters are much stronger than the ties between ourselves even in terms of movement of people.

You find for example in Nigeria that you can’t fly to Niger Republic which is our neighbour; you have to go through Europe before you can get to Niger and in a lot of African countries this is the case. So we need continental wise infrastructure that will integrate our people and we need structures that will ensure free movement of our people within the continent, structures that will ensure that we have a common market and we move towards assisting one another economically.

This is what the AU is working towards now but we need this stability, peace and security to be able to make progress towards these objectives. We found out that some of the key challenges confronting us today as a continent are still issues of poverty, maternal mortality, disease, Access and quality to education and quality of the education, employment and a lot of other challenges while ignorance still pervade most of our nations in Africa. But as I said earlier, one of the key areas we have identified is lack of critical infrastructure.

On this we have decided to work together with our partners in the developed world. We appreciate all their efforts, they may help with aids and grants but clearly only we in Africa can solve our problems for ourselves. Our salvation is in our hands. For our economy to develop we must put in place critical infrastructure like power and energy as well transport that will ensure mass movement of goods and people.

We need railway, waterways and good interconnected road networks. In Nigeria we are aware of all these challenges and that is one of the reasons we introduced Vision 20-2020 and we have identified seven critical areas of infrastructure which we call the Seven-point agenda that will enable the nation accomplish this objective. While we work on these plans, we are also conscious of our responsibilities to our other African countries.

For instance, in our national gas master plan, we have also included the West African gas pipeline which is now being constructed from Nigeria to Benin, Togo and to Ghana and we have plans to extend it up to as far as Senegal. And we have just signed an agreement and we are signing other agreements and launching, by next year, the Trans-Sahara gas pipeline project which will essentially go through Niger, Algeria and Europe and in that way, it can branch to other African countries which will be required to provide one of the sources of solving our energy problem. Nigeria we have realised is more a gas nation than an oil nation but for several years this potential has been untapped but now we are investing into gas where we have a reserve of about 183 trillion cubic feet. That is the direction we are going but as we go into the gas area, we want to avoid all the mistakes we made with regards to our crude oil exploitations and that is why we are reforming the entire sector.

That will benefit not only our country but the entire continent when we finish with our plans because we want a network of gas pipelines not only to the developed world but to several African countries. Even from the point of view of NEPAD, other African countries like South Africa is designing such regional and continental project that will come to link the continent to provide some of the critical needs in terms of energy and electricity. I thank you once again for the honour of this courtesy call and for giving me opportunity to interact with you.
•President yar’Adua made the remark on Wednesday during his State visit to Brasil


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