General News Thu, 29 May 2003

Kufuor Urges Nigeria to Resolve Polls Crisis

Ghanaian president, John Kufuorr, yesterday advised Nigeria to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis following the recent general elections if she wanted to keep her leadership position in Africa.

"We are not unaware of the dispute that accompanied the last general elections in Nigeria, and a peaceful resolution will go a long way to determine the political future of the country", President Kufuorr said at a lecture organised to mark the inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo's second term in office.

He called on losers in the polls to accept defeat in the interest of peace and stability, saying: "we have all followed the recent elections with keen interest . . . the size of Nigeria is an asset and a handicap to the country", he added, saying that Nigeria's size had posed a problem to successive governments and made it difficult for democracy to flourish.

He suggested that the imperfections in the elections were akin to the case of a glass being half full or half empty and opined that the elections were an improvement on past efforts.

President Kufuorr who spoke on: "A fresh dawn for Africa", told the large audience at the ECOWAS secretariat, Abuja, venue of the lecture, that Nigeria and Nigerians have a special place in Africa particularly in the West African sub region and that "when Nigeria flourishes, it has the potential to lead the continent and if it goes negatively, it will reflect on the entire continent".

He said, after noting that her history of coups d'etat has affected the democratisation process in Nigeria, that the task of sustaining democracy rests with the legislature which he said has the potential to downplay ethnicity and religious politics.

"The legislature provides a bond for national unity and progress", he said, and called on the nation's judiciary to ensure that nothing was done to truncate democracy.

While congratulating President Obasanjo, he urged him to see himself as Nigeria's president and take pains to consult with Nigerians irrespective of religion, ethnic or social background.

President Kufuor described President Obasanjo as a man of destiny who has been in the leadership position at critical periods of Nigeria's history and reminded Nigerians of the need to move the nation forward. "Africa needs a prosperous Nigeria. A prosperous Nigeria, which is good for Nigeria, the ECOWAS and the entire African continent".

The Ghanaian leader who also spoke on the need for a new Africa with committed leaders said the only way for the continent out of its present predicament of underdevelopment was for those in leadership positions to provide good governance devoid of corruption and full of sound economic policies.

The Head of Nigeria's Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan who was the chairman at the lecture, identified a resilient economy and a loyal, credible and strong opposition as major ingredients for a prosperous democracy in Nigeria but pointed out that democracy cannot thrive on empty stomachs.

He said that democracy needs a virile, vibrant and objective press to checkmate corruption and a principled political class and that good governance can only be assured when only those who have legitimate means of livelihood get opportunity to lead.

"Those motivated by greed and self-enrichment through corruption should never be allowed to get power", he said, stressing that leaders would contribute to guaranteeing democracy if they lived above board.

Source: Daily Trust (Abuja)