Saturday, 25 May 2013

Special Report: African Union At 50; A New Dawn

By AU Directorate Of Information And Communication
Today, 25th May 2013 is an historic day in the life of all daughters and sons of Africa as they celebrate in unison, the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union (AU). Indeed, the 50th anniversary comes at a golden time for Africa as the continent, which was perceived a decade ago as a hopeless one, is now unequivocally on the rise. Africa’s time has come and generates hope. When the leaders of then independent states of Africa signed the OAU Charter on 25th May 1963 in Addis Ababa, it was their hope to see in future, a continent liberated from the yoke of colonial domination, united and self-reliant in all respects.
Today, Africa is free, united and committed more than ever to achieve its socio-economic emancipation in the spirit of Pan-Africanism so as to fully realize the dreams of the founders of the Union. It is therefore an opportune time to pay tribute to the heroes and heroines who liberated the continent, take stock of achievements and pave the way for the next fifty golden years to come. As said by Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and current Chairperson of the African Union, “the major responsibility of the current generation of Africans is to create a continent free from poverty and conflict. I believe this is the new spirit of Pan-Africanism that should inspire current and future generations to fulfill the dreams of our founders for a peaceful, prosperous and united Africa”.
Along with the entire continent, the Diaspora and the friends of Africa, the African Union is today celebrating the past, present and future through a Grand Debate on “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”. However, “as we debate Pan Africanism, fifty years after the OAU was formed, we have to ask some tough questions about our dream for the next fifty years and the Pan Africanist values that continue to inspire us” remarked Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission, in a statement which was received not only by the live audience but also by audiences in Africa and internationally. The tough questions, she said, refer to self-reliance, economic independence, rising social inequalities, integration through modernized infrastructure and industries. To achieve these targets in the future and sustainably change the narrative on Africa, Dr Dlamini Zuma urged Africa to “act with greater speed and a sense of urgency to create free trade areas and towards an African Common Market, strengthen the five regions as building blocks of the Union and facilitate the free movement of peoples and goods”.
Commenting on the grand debate on Pan Africanism and looking forward to a brighter future and self-reliance, Ethiopian Prime Minister Mr Hailemariam Desalegn identified five important measures to be taken, namely development of the agricultural sector, building human and technological capability, building infrastructure, promote the private sector and nurture democratic governance and popular participation.
The debate, which marks the beginning a new era for Pan Africanism and African Renaissance was led by Mr Carlos Lopes, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). It evolved around four major areas: better utilization of economic opportunities, the need to have strategies for the future, challenges relating to governance and changing the discourse on Africa, and the issue of inclusion.
World famous and renowned leaders who contributed to the debate were Dr Donald Kaberuka- President of the African Development Bank; Dr Amina Mama - Gender advocate, writer and academic; Mr Donald Patterson- former Prime Minister of Jamaica and Ms Tendai Wenyika- Chairperson of the Pan African Youth Union. Various interventions were made by African Heads of State and Government present.
The outcome of the Grand Debate as well as the recommendations from consultations conducted by the AU Commission with key stakeholders will inform Africa’s Agenda 2063, a framework that will guide the continent’s development over the next 50 years.

News Release: “No Preferred Candidate In The NGF Elections”------Nigerian Presidency

We have noted with regret the mischievous effort by sections of the mass media to portray President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as an interested party and the main loser in yesterday’s election of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).

Contrary to the impression of Presidential partisanship and interference in the affairs of the Governors Forum erroneously conveyed by some headlines in the media today, President Jonathan who is currently leading Nigeria’s delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa had no preferred candidate in the NGF elections and could therefore not have been “floored” by any other candidate as some newspapers sensationally reported.

President Jonathan has the greatest possible respect for the Nigerian Governors Forum as an independent body of mature, responsible, and knowledgeable elected political leaders who have a critical role to play in strengthening democratic governance in the country, and who are quite capable of running their own affairs without being tele-guided, as some media reports misleadingly implied.

The President has always shown a willingness to work harmoniously with any leadership freely and independently chosen by the Governors Forum for the collective progress and development of all sections of the country and will continue to do so.

He has not in the present instance or ever before, interfered in elections to leadership positions in the Governors Forum. Reports in the media which convey that impression are totally off the mark and the handiwork of mischievous individuals and groups with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord and disunity in the polity.

President Jonathan trusts that as true democrats and respected national political leaders, members of the Governors Forum will quickly resolve the issues and differences amongst them which emerged yesterday and continue to contribute effectively to national development as a strong, and progressive body.

Reuben Abati
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
May 25, 2013

Article: Nigeria Governors’ Forum And The Defeat Of Garrison Candidates

By Salihu Moh. Lukman

The election of Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) finally held on Friday, May 24 and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has emerged victorious. Polling 19 votes out of 35 and his opponent Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau got 16 votes. The election result was significant not just for the NGF but for the nation's democracy. One governor, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State, was absent and did not vote. The election would have held since February but was postponed about twice.

Development around the NGF election is not so much about Amaechi, Jang or the NGF as an association but about the process of affirming the values that recognizes producing winners and losers through acceptable processes. More important, it was about producing leaders through fair elections. The dramas and episodes around the emergence of PDP flag bearers for the election (from Governor Shema to Governor Yuguda and finally Jang) are issues that definitely reflected existing power configurations and the normal divisive strategies using regional boundaries especially in PDP.

Important as personalities represented by Amaechi or Jang and organisations such as NGF, it is the meaning and value associated with them that might have generated interest. Values not necessarily associated with partisan affiliations or ideological commitment but largely driven by current relationship with the presidency. Somehow, given the high interest of the leadership of the ruling PDP against Amaechi and the strategic move to mobilise (and perhaps intimidate) PDP governors against Amaechi, many would have expected that Amaechi will lose the election.

So far, what has happened over the years in the case of the NGF is that consultations have become regular, on monthly basis, and decisions taken were given some life. Successive leaders of NGF, from former Governors Abdullahi Adamu, Victor Attah and Bukola Saraki to current tenure of Rotimi Amaechi, all made their contributions. Through these leaders, NGF gradually evolved and it is still being shaped by so many factors. The interests around the May 24 election of Amaechi have produced additional factors in shaping the process of the development of Nigeria's democracy. There were basically two interests that have developed and become very formidably antagonistic to each other. It is President Jonathan and PDP leadership on the one hand against the state governors represented by Amaechi on the other. The interests have broken party lines. How did this happen?

This may perhaps be as a result of two fundamental factors. The first is that NGF being an association of mainly state governors is an association of equals. The second is that although they (governors) may have come together to form NGF without clear understanding of their potentials, challenges of responding to authoritarian orientation of the presidency, which was inherited after years of military rule come with enormous financial challenges, and over time,  activities of NGF since its formation has created very high consciousness among governors about the capacity of state governments, acting as a collective, to neutralise or contest issues with federal government, represented by the presidency.

One of the reasons that made the NGF elections very interesting was the strong interest of President Jonathan in getting Amaechi out of the NGF. Largely on account of perhaps the role of Amaechi as NGF Chairman in providing leadership to Governors which resulted in situations where the governors contested some issues with the Federal Government, President Jonathan wanted Amaechi out of NGF by all means. Some of the issues that pitched the NGF against the Presidency include the Sovereign Wealth Fund, campaign for constitutional review to reduce powers of federal government in favour of states, review of revenue allocation formula, etc.

In some ways, the fact of the consciousness by governors about their capacity as a collective to contest issues with the presidency is not something that can be nullified through even the defeat of Amaechi. Assuming Amaechi has lost the election, it would have just been a matter of time before any person taking over the position of NGF Chairman finds himself in opposition to some position of the president, including Jang. For instance, will Jang or anyone on the side of PDP support the presidency on matters of discretionary declaration of oil revenue bearing in mind that what they get from the federation account is a function of what is declared which often is less than actual receipt? Will Jang or anyone tolerate unilateral policy initiative from the federal government that will result in committing state governments to expend resources?

These are issues that in so many respects conferred undue powers and privileges to the federal government on matters of controlling resources and revenue there from over states. They are matters that are at the heart of national efforts to redefine the orientation of our federalism. There may be the temptation to dismiss these issues with reference to the performance of the Governors, especially in regard to problems of lack of accountability and mismanagement of resources in our state governments. This no doubt does not invalidate the principles that democratic leadership is driven by the needs of members determined through processes of consultations.

We may disagree with the specification of what any category of people would define as their needs. The fact remain that members of organisations should have the right to determine what they want and it is a normal healthy democratic requirement which should proliferate on a national scale to guarantee national democratic order. Apart from the needs of members, the right of dissent is also an important attribute of democracy. Unfortunately, this too is continually being trampled upon.

Being a member of PDP, Amaechi’s candidature is in itself clearly an act of dissent, if you like rebellion against his own party. Together with Amaechi in this rebellion would be all PDP governors who supported and voted for him. From the result of the election, there are clearly 8 PDP governors, Amaechi inclusive. On the other side is also the fact that two so-called opposition governors, Peter Obi of Anambra and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo have joined PDP in the anti-Amaechi presidency plot.

What this means is that the presidency is gradually facilitating a process of restructuring Nigeria into a bipartisan political orientation based on PDP and anti-PDP divide. From the NGF election, it is a divide in which there are many in today’s PDP that are anti-PDP. They include certainly the 8 PDP governors that are on Amaechi’s side. Peter Obi and Olusegun Mimiko who are today not direct members of PDP are aligned to PDP and it will only be a matter of time before they take their rightful places inside PDP.

Given the contemporary political reality of Nigeria whereby citizens are just fed up by the ruling PDP and all the governance crisis it has produced, any rebellion against PDP may be popular. Beyond rebellion however, there is the fact that the Ameachi rebellion against PDP has all the attributes of being well organised. The fact of the APC governors being united may have definitely played a role. However, more significant was the mobilisational capacity of the anti-PDP rebellion in NGF having succeeded to win the support of 8 PDP governors. It demonstrated the fact that with organisation, the powerful and mighty can be defeated and the people can take charge of their destiny.

Nigerians may have their individual opinion. What is very instructive with the events around the NGF May 24 election of Rotimi Amaechi was that an election held and Amaechi was declared the winner. In so many ways, it was a victory against President Goodluck Jonathan and a victory against PDP. The interesting thing was that acting perhaps under the instruction of President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Godswill Akpabio as Chairman of so-called PDP Governors forum convened another meeting at Akwa Ibom house shortly after and declared that it was Governor Jang that was elected and circulated some purported results showing that 19 Governors have elected Jang. Interestingly, among the 19 Governors that were alleged to have elected Jang include Yobe Governor who was absent at the May 24 meeting where the election held.

It is not so much that the result of the election is being contested but the manner of contest which seeks to basically generate confusion and in the process create legitimacy crisis for the second tenure of Governor Rotimi Amaechi as the Chairman of NGF. One would ordinarily expect that the Governors under Akpabio would seek to redress all grievances from the May 24 election through due process.

Due process could have meant that they make demands which may include asking for another meeting to review the conduct of the elections. And given that they are claiming to have 19 Governors on their side, it would have been a comfortable majority that could have given them the confidence to even move for the removal of Amaechi at the next meeting. The second option would have required that they seek legal intervention through the courts. There is the third option of sanctioning Amaechi and all PDP governors that may have acted contrary to party decisions. This may result in dismal of all PDP governors that are on the side of Amaechi from the party.

The only explanation to justify the position taken by the Akpabio led group of Governors would have been a reflection of their weakness which would have signalled inability to get any of the three scenarios highlighted. Since the PDP and the presidency is in control of security agencies, any confusion may translate into influencing the conduct of security operatives in favour of the Akpabio/Jang group and to that extent therefore coercing structures of the NGF especially  the secretariat to compromise its loyalty to the Amaechi leadership. This will be in tandem with what can be described as garrison mentality that has been driving our democracy since 1999 whereby the position of the President must reign supreme and all party functionaries must subordinate themselves to that. In some ways, this means that the President must win every election in which he/she has interest. Supremacy of members and sovereignty of the people is at best a cliché for those who are interested.

The concern now is not so much that there is an election that was contested and has produced the defeat of the candidate promoted by the PDP and presidency. The main challenge is that the response to the defeat by both the defeated candidate, Jang, and perhaps the ruling PDP is to create confusion that may lead to the dismantling of the NGF as an organisation. The implication of this is that it will give the federal government and the presidency unfettered and uncontested power to govern the country, including trespassing into matters that are constitutionally reserve for states.

This is going to be very inimical to our democratic development as a nation for two reasons. First, it would mean that all organisations in the country must exist at the pleasure of the PDP and presidency. Secondly, should the current approach to orchestrate confusion and delegitimize the NGF succeed, it would mean that any attempt to unseat President Goddluck using constitutional means can be greeted with similar response in 2015. It was the strategy that Laurent Gbagbo employed in 2010 in Cote d’Ivoire following his defeat by Hassan Ouattara which led to months of crisis resulting in loss of lives and property. The international community had to intervene to restore sanity and affirm the sanctity of the 2010 elections.

The lesson therefore is that with the Presidency and PDP being on the driving seat in the unfolding leadership drama in NGF, it may as well be a prelude of what to expect in 2015 should Nigerians decide to vote out PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan out of office. The possible response of both PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan may be to refuse to accept the result and declare himself the winner of the election as opposed to whatever INEC may return. One will hope that this will be a complete wrong scenario. However, it is no doubt a possible scenario.

Against the background of warmongering noise of some militant groups from Niger Delta warning the nation about the consequence of not returning Goodluck for a second tenure in 2015, this may be a way to say that Goodluck will rule Nigeria for a second term with or without the votes of Nigerians. The capacity of Nigerian governors under the NGF to affirm the sanctity of their choice of leadership therefore is the first test of whether as a people, Nigerians can begin to send the right signal to PDP and President Goodluck. That signal should in unmistakable terms resoundingly highlight that all leaders must be elected through constitutional means.

It is also instructive that the victory of Amaechi reflects some political engineering that recognise the need to mobilise across ethnic, religious and regional lines. In fact, what is very attractive with respect to development around the NGF May 24 elections is that divisions are not influenced rigidly by our old primordial lines. What this mean is that moving towards 2015, the defeat of PDP may only be possible through strong mobilisation across all ethnic groups, religions and region.

For our APC, given the central role of our governors in the NGF May 24 election of Amaechi, to what extent will this experience help to prepare our merging parties for the rollout of APC? There may be the temptation to over celebrate. The truth is that APC leaders just need to recognise that Amaechi’s victory is just a reflection of the strength of mobilisation. The message to APC therefore is if APC is to be taken seriously as a party coming with strong potential to defeat PDP, it must come with strong membership mobilisation strategy!

(Lukman can be reached on:

News Release: US Condemns Terrorists Attacks In Niger

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the vicious terrorist attacks on a Nigerien army facility in Agadez and a uranium mining facility, operated by a French company, in Arlit on May 23.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. We express our condolences to the Nigerien people and their government, who have stood steadfast in rejecting violent extremism.

These attacks targeted two of our key partners in the Sahel; Niger and France. 

We commend both nations for their leadership within international efforts to combat terrorism and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to improving the security of the Sahel region and its people.

Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, 
Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC

Photonews: African Union Commemorates 50th Anniversary