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By Abayomi Adeshida,  Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  Special Envoy mediation mission in Mali.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan has challenged African Leaders to demonstrate a special interest in the current quest for lasting peace in Ethiopia so as to provide a platform upon which democratic ideals and political leadership that are workable within plural societies can be guaranteed on the African continent.

Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who weighed into the political crises playing out in Ethiopia also  urged both the central government and authorities in the troubled region of Tigray to come to some understanding and end the hostilities that are currently threatening the lives and property of the people there.

Dr. Jonathan who was the Keynote speaker on Tuesday evening at the the J-K Gadzama 13th Annual Lecture in Abuja reasoned that the intervention of  African leaders in Ethiopia would demonstrate a  considerable interest in the peace process in Ethiopia, as a guarantee for peace and stability on the continent as well as a demonstration to the world that Africans are capable of working out their differences.

Delivering a paper titled, “Redefining Democracy: Yearnings of the Minority in a Democratic Setting”, he urged African leaders to practice democracy of inclusion and not the one that would alienate the minorities and increase tension in the polity.

In his charge to the leaders in Africa, Dr. Jonathan said, “I call on the central government, and the regional government of Ethiopia to come to some understanding and end hostilities there. I also call on African leaders to show considerable interest in the peace process in Ethiopia.

“In some places where  democracy failed, it was probably because a section of the population which felt insecure and vulnerable had embarked on the unfortunate mission of taking up arms against the state.

“We have seen that happen in some African countries. We are witnessing a similar scenario playing out in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

“For any country to make sustainable progress, it has to devise ways of integrating all its ethnic, religious and demographic groups, and harvesting all its resources from across the length and breadth of the nation. A nation progresses, and its development gets duly consolidated, when both majority and minority potentials are aggregated for enduring strength.

“Any society that blocks off a percentage of its population, because of the politics of majority rule will not go as far as it could have, because a significant percentage of human resources and endowments that reside within the minorities will not be adequately deployed to catalyse national growth, ” President Jonathan warned.

He continued by informing the audience at the virtual event that, “that is why nations that offer equal opportunity to both men and women tend to do better in all indices of human development than those that permit discriminatory policies. A good example is Finland where gender does not count in the scheme of things and in the affairs of the nation.

In his welcome address, the Founding Principal Partner, J-K Gadzama Law Firm, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama pointed out that, “Democracy  is more likely to develop and endure when all segments of the society are free to participate and influence political outcomes without suffering bias, interference or reprisal.

“Its is therefore on this premise that we examine the “Yearnings of Minority” and take a critical look at “Redefining Democracy” to reflect the intents and goals of the Constitution.

“Thankfully, we have some of the best minds in our midst that will do justice to the topic of discussion providing a long lasting solution in the roadmap of our nation’s development.

“It is based on this background that I consider it a rare privilege to have His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, GCON, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to speak on the topic.

“His Excellency is democracy personified as he is a man who is not only a firm believer in the ideals and tenets of democracy but dreams, lives, speaks and breathes democracy.

“His singular action averted a rather gloomy prediction about Nigeria and brought a paradigm shift and food for thought for leaders in Africa,” Gadzama told the audience.

Some of the dignitaries who have served as Chairmen and Special Guests at the previous editions of the Lecture series include, Former Head, Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; The 14th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II as well as  Former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais, Justice Alfa Belgore, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, Justice Walter Ononngen and the incumbent  Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed.

The series has also paraded notable dignitaries as Guest Speakers. They include, a renowned lawyer in the United Kingdom, Prof. Oba Nsugbe who served as the Guest Speaker in 2008 and an expert from Infrastructure Finance Corporation, U.S.A., Dr. Gerald Tanyi who was the Guest Speaker for the 2009 Leture series.

Others include a distinguished senior member of the Bar, Aare Afe Babalola who was the Guest Speaker in 2010; a distinguished elder and senior citizen, Prof. Jerry Gana who delivered the lecture as the Guest Speaker in 2011 and Former Minister of Information, Mr. Frank Nweke (jnr) who was the Guest Speaker in 2012.

The Guest Speaker at the 2014 Lecture series was a leading legal practitioner based in the United Kingdom, Alan Jones; the Guest Speaker for the series in 2015 was honoubable Justice C.C. Nweze; but by the time the 2016 series of the Public Lecture was hosted by the same organizers, the Guest Lecturer was a respected senior lawyer and pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

The 2017 lecture series was addressed by an eminent lawyer and first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke; the Guest Speaker for the lecture series in 2019 was a Former Vice-President of the World Bank, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili while the Guest Speaker at the 2020 series of the lecture was the Chairman Dialogue Group of Companies Limited, Dr. Mahdi Shehu.

President of the Nigerian Bar Association who was one of the four-man panel of discussants at Tuesday;s event, Olumide Akpata pointed out that, “if there is any institution that will protect the rights of the minority, it is the judiciary.

“Conversations that are based on justice, equity and  fairness in a plural society like ours would make the agitations by the minority groups recede into the background.

“I want to seize the opportunity of the platform provided by this event to stress the fact that it is incumbent on our leaders in this country to look closely into the issue of National Orientation to find other ways of addressing the problem of minority agitation in the country.

“Those in the level of leadership should pick up the challenge and create platforms for national integration that we must continue to promote like the National Youth Service Corps and the Unity Schools across the country.

“As a Benin boy, I was a student of the Kings College, Lagos but as we speak today, I have brothers scattered across every part of the country. If our leaders would pay some attention to this suggestion, it would make everyone to have something to hope for as a Nigerian.

“Before I leave this event, I see the need to emphasize the fact that as Nigerians, if we want to move forward together and become one of the great nations of the world, we must pay due attention to resources allocation so that minority agitation would be silenced permanently in the country,” Akpata submitted.

Chairman of the Public Lecture who sat through the three hours of the event through a virtual participation, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Bello warned that as long as Nigerians are unpatriotic, the road to the greatness of the country would be rough.

Delivering a closing remarks, the Minister said, ” In my view, the critical thing that has been disturbing the wheel of progress in this country is patriotism.

“People in positions of authority should be God-fearing, just and be equitable,” he concluded to draw the curtain on the event which held for the first time within the S.M.A. Belgore Hall, J-K Gadzama Court, Abuja in compliance with the Covid-19 protocols on social gatherings.

Other discussants present at the event were the Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke and the Chairman Young Lawyers Forum, Mr. Tobi Adebowale.

Royal Ftahers at the eveny include the Amayanabo of Bonny, King Diette Spiff and prominent Traditional ruler from Bayelsa State, King. A.J. Turner.

Former President Jonathan was accompanied to the event by the Former  Deputy Governor of Edo State and Former Chief of Staff to the President, Chief  Mike Oghiadomen;  Former Attorney General of the Federation, Muhammad Bello Adoke; Former Minister for Special Duties, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki and Former Minister of State for the FCT, Yeye Jumoka Akinjide.

Others include the Former Deputy Governor of Nassarawa State and Former  Minister for Information, Mr. Labaran Maku; Former Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Bawa;  Former Chairman FERMA, Engr. Olajide Adeniji and Former Member House of Representatives, Hon. Tijani Kiyawa among others.

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