Former President Goodluck Jonathan gave the keynote speech at the Cal State University’s Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution’s 25th annual Africa/Diaspora conference, in Sacramento California on the 23rd of April, 2016.
Represented by Mr. Reno Omokri, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan also received an award by the center in recognition of his role in promoting democracy and peace in Nigeria and Africa.
Speaking at the event, the representative of the former Nigerian leader spoke on the role Dr. Jonathan played in ensuring that Nigerian remained at peace in the aftermath of the 2015 elections thus defeating doomsday prophets who had speculated that Nigeria may disintegrate based on the outcome of the polls.
Dr. Jonathan said “democracy is the panacea to most conflicts in Africa, and that is why the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation is committed to strengthening democracy throughout Africa by building capacity within electoral institutions and engendering willingness to accept the results of the people freely given via a transparent election process.”
Continuing, the former President said “Until democracy is strong internally, you cannot be effective against conflict and terrorism internally and externally”.
The provost of the university, Professor Mike Lee, praised the outstanding character displayed by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and called for others leaders to emulate his conscience driven leadership.
The director of the center, Professor Ernest Uwazie, also commended the former President and declared that his conduct during the elections made him one of the few statesmen with the moral authority to speak on democratic issues in Africa.
The full speech by the former President appears below.
Being a Keynote Speech Delivered by Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution’s 25th annual Africa/Diaspora conference, Sacramento California on the 23rd of April, 2016.
Let me start by thanking the board of the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution for inviting me to give the keynote speech at its 25th annual Africa/Diaspora conference. I am truly glad to be here.
During my time in office, I came to personally appreciate diaspora Africans particularly after I became intimate with intelligence data about their activities.
Diaspora Africans are the single largest source of capital inflow to Africa. In Nigeria, they remit back home over $20 billion annually. This is far more than what comes in through foreign direct investment, foreign aid and loans from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
To all the diaspora Africans here present, believe me when I say that you are the goose that lays the golden egg for Africa. You should be proud of yourselves.
Can I get a round of applause for our diaspora brothers and sisters here present? (Pause for applause).
If there is anything I have learnt about peace in Africa, it is that peace is more likely where a leader’s ambition is driven by conscience and less likely where the leader is ego driven.
Twenty five years ago, Africa’s largest economies were all under the control of governments whose mandates did not emanate from the will of the people.
In Nigeria, we had a military junta that had just survived an attempted coup, in South Africa, we had minority White Rule characterized as apartheid and in Egypt, we had a one party state with a President that had ruled unopposed for decades.
The proliferation of regimes that acquired power and sustained themselves in office by force during those times also meant that there were many opposition groups who felt that the only option left to them to compete for power was to match violence with violence.
In my home region of West Africa, such opposition led to the first Liberian Civil War which reached its peak between 1990 and 1991.
We also had the Sierra Leonean Civil war which started in 1991.
Both wars were the major conflicts West Africa faced in the last quarter century and they both threatened to take down our sub continent to the extent that, led by Nigeria, other West African nations had to intervene through the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in order to first enforce peace and then keep it.
The point to note is that those two major conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, were by products of the contest for power through violent and undemocratic means. The governments in those nations at that had, in the opinion of many, obtained power not by the will of the people but through military coups and their opposition wanted to usurp their powers by the same means.
If the seeds of national and transnational conflicts in Africa were sown by the violent and arbitrary processes of accumulating political power, then it must mean that the seeds of peace will be planted when we as a continent reverse that process and institutionalize peaceful and predictable processes by which qualified persons may obtain power with the permission of the governed.
That is why I am on record as saying that neither my ambition or the ambition of anybody is worth the blood of any citizen.
Now, do not misunderstand this to mean that we should not have political ambition. No.
Sigmund Freud has already established that man has only two natural urges-the urge to procreate and the urge to be great.
And right there you see why we have conflict. We are fruitful meaning that we multiply in number. And then we struggle for space to dominate.
So our natural urge leads us to aspire to leadership.
The thing is that while nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any citizen, their ambition should be worth the vote of all citizens or at least the majority of the electorate. In other words, blood and violence are not the currency that we should pay for acquiring power, rather, persuasion and coalition building is the new way.
Twenty five years ago, we were not so convinced about this in Africa, but as genuine democracy has swept the continent, beginning from the 1991 wind of change that started in Zambia with Kenneth Kaunda to the election that just held in Benin Republic last month, what we have seen is that as democracy spread, just like light, it has conquered the darkness of war and conflict.
I mentioned Liberia and Sierra Leone as two of the nations whose conflict almost set the whole of the West African sub region on fire.
Well, today, those conflicts have been resolved by the introduction of genuine multiparty democracies in both Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I had earlier mentioned Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt as being under the control of governments that were not truly democratic as at 1991. Today, all three of those nations are for the most part, under democratic rule. I say for the most part because Al-Sisi’s single opponent in Egypt boycotted the 2014 election, but the election was nevertheless adjudged as a true reflection of the will of the Egyptian people.
From the foregoing, I think it is clear to state that democracy is the panacea to most conflicts in Africa, and that is why the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation is committed to strengthening democracy throughout Africa by building capacity within electoral institutions and engendering willingness to accept the results of the people freely given via a transparent election process.
Of course you know that terrorism is a growing threat in Africa and beyond. Elsewhere, I have said that terrorism can only be effectively tackled when states network with each other in much the same way as Nigeria did with the Multinational Joint Task Force with which Nigeria collaborated with Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger to tackle terrorists.
But the important question is this-if you are not able to achieve political stability within your own borders, how will you be able to collaborate with neighboring nations?
In the last 25 years, African nations have been able to come to grips with what it means to be independent and their coming of age in this regard has meant that they have progressed in a continuum of maturity to the next level in the growth of nations-interdependency!
On the African continent, I am proud of the work that the African Union’s Peace and Security Council has been doing. This council is a shining example of the progress nations make together when they work together.
If you look at the record of the AU’s Peace and Security Council vis a vis the efforts of similar bodies in other continent, you would note that since 2004, we have been one of the few continental wide bodies to have achieved reasonable successes in peace and conflict resolution efforts in Africa.
The major reason why there is able to be some form of government in Somalia today is because of the African Union Mission in Somalia(AMISOM) which as some of you may know is an initiative of the AU’s Peace and Security Council.
We have also gone beyond conflict resolution to conflict prevention. The Peace and Security Council is active in conflict resolution efforts in South Sudan and is even right at this moment trying to do the same thing in Burundi.
In Madagascar the effort of this organ of the AU played a big part in preventing an escalation of the crisis that brewed in that island nation following a power tussle.
The long and short of my presentation is that in the last 25 years, Africa has made immense progress in the areas of conflict resolution and prevention and those efforts are geared to achieving internal stability in member nations and the African Union has maintained that such internal stability can best be achieved if the governments of all African nations reflect the will of the majority of the people in those nations.
So you see it all comes down again to democracy. Until democracy is strong internally, you cannot be effective against conflict and terrorism internally and externally because you need the people to be fully behind the government, which they will not be if they did not elect it. Conflicts and terror grows where there is local support, but democracy denies them that local support!
For instance, the reason why Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger could work with Nigeria on the Multinational Joint Task Force is because they have been able to achieve internal country wide political stability as a result of the practice of democracy.
So when you talk about best practices for conflict resolution, my recommendation would be that any practice that allows the will of the people prevail is the best means.
And we have practically seen this truism on display, whether it is in Angola, Liberia, South Sudan or Madagascar.
Finally, let me add that democracy is not complete when some people are disenfranchised.
In many African nations, diaspora citizens cannot vote. This was the situation I met on the ground in Nigeria and I made concerted efforts to change it.
It would have been my desire for diaspora Nigerians to vote in the 2015 Nigerian elections, but unfortunately that did not happen despite my best efforts. In such matters, it takes two to tango.
I was in the executive and the best I could do to reform Nigeria was to convene a National Conference where Nigerians themselves could determine their course as a nation.
One of the issues I had hoped would be tackled is diaspora voting. But all hope is not lost. I will continue to advocate for diaspora voting as a way of deepening democracy in Africa and I urge you all to join in this crusade.
Thank you once again to the board of the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution for inviting me and thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to listen to me. May God bless you all.