Jonathan, Zuma, Mohammed At Yarâ€™Adua Lecture
Obasanjo, Atiku Extol Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s Virtues
VISITING South African leader, Jacob Zuma, Nigeriaâ€™s President Goodluck Jonathan and former National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Mohammed yesterday spoke of the need to have a stronger Africa; a continent where leaders are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of their people.
Zuma, at the Shehu Musa Yarâ€™Adua memorial lecture, which held in Abuja, also rationalised his countryâ€™s position on Libya before the fall of former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, decrying the western neo-colonial agenda in the process.
President Jonathan, represented by Vice President Nnamdi Sambo, used the occasion to draw attention to the strides that his administration has made in the areas of electoral reforms, infrastructure and social services.
Chief Obasanjo, who chairs the Yarâ€™Adua Centreâ€™s Board of Trustees, said he was a living witness to the late Shehu Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s strategic use of power in the military and politics. He praised the centre for providing social responsibility programmes and public policy pursuits.
He listed the programmes supporting 25 academically talented students from less-privileged families, two communal libraries as well as assistance to the Katsina State government eye centre.
Gen. Mohammed, who was the guest speaker, delivered a chilling message to Nigerians, warning against threats to the health of Nigeria and listing critical reasons the country would remain a weak state if it did not quickly become self-reliant in agriculture.
Speaking on the topic: Actualising Nigeria: The dynamics of power, politics, enterprise and security, Mohammed, quoting Shehu Usman dan Fodio, said: â€œThe crown of the leader is his integrity, his stronghold is his impartiality and his wealth is the prosperity of the people.â€
In the 27-page lecture, Gen. Mohammed extolled the virtues of the late Yarâ€™Adua, but lamented that much has not changed in the country despite the sacrifices of people like the late General.
While urging the countryâ€™s leadership to pay attention to the youths seen as the critical drivers of power, politics, enterprise and security, as unemployment rates in Nigeria has hit 23 percent; he flayed the nationâ€™s dependency on food import despite having the largest tracts of arable land in Africa.
He said: â€œWe cannot feed ourselves. We depend on food import,â€ adding that press reports quoted â€œthe Minister of Agriculture as saying that Nigeria spent N98 trillion ($628 billion) between 2007 and 2010 on importation of food.â€
As if that was not bad enough, he drew attention to the need to fix the countryâ€™s education sector.
He pointed out that published figures show that in Ghana alone, there are 71,000 Nigerian students who pay tuition fees of not less than N155 billion annually, compared to the annual budget for all federal universities of N121 billion.
Drawing parallel between security and population, he said that by the turn of this century, according to reports, Nigeriaâ€™s population would hit about 725 million, at a time when land is depleting due to environmental conditions.
â€œThe quality and quantity of our present population will determine the level of national strength to â€˜actualise Nigeriaâ€™ in the 21st Centuryâ€¦â€ adding that, there was need to ensure that â€œthe rate of increase in our educated population exceeds the rate of increase of our actual population.â€
He concluded the lecture by quoting a letter that Gen. Shehu Musa Yarâ€™Adua wrote to his son on September 12, 1997, from the Abakaliki prison, two months before his death.
He said: â€œI donâ€™t want my children to grow up in a country that has no future â€” a country that you cannot be proud ofâ€¦
â€œI would not have achieved anything if after I am gone, all I have left behind are empty houses and some bank accounts â€” for these are nothing â€” they can be acquired by any idiot.
â€œI want to leave for you something you can be proud of, a legacy of public service and sacrifice, which will influence our country for good, which you will be proud to inherit and which I will be proud to pass over.â€
President Zuma told his audience that the late Yarâ€™Adua was a defender of democracy and a courageous freedom fighter, stressing that Nigeria was a thriving democracy today owing to the sacrifices of people like Yarâ€™Adua, â€œwho paid the supreme sacrifice for the liberation of his people.â€
He quoted Yarâ€™Adua before he died to have said: â€œDo not worry about me. It is the sacrifices that some of us have to make for our country to be free.â€
Zuma spoke generously about the challenges confronting Africa today, alluding to the need for Nigeria and South Africa to work together and lift the continent.
However, his keynote address took a swipe at the West, emphasising that the economic models, particularly the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which they forced on African countries, have now turned out to be a failure in their home countries.
He recalled an edition of The Economist in May 2000, which disparaged Africa as a â€œhopeless state.â€ Yet, this month, the same newspaper is reporting that â€œAfrica is rising,â€ as six of the fastest growing economies in the world are now in Africa.
â€œThe current global economic crisis has put question marks on the western economic modelsâ€¦ worshiped yesterday,â€ Zuma said.
He, however, warned that unless critical resources were mobilised, Africa stood the risk of not meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) just three years to the target date.
On Libya, the South African president criticised those nations that, he said, exploited a genuine demand by the Libyan people to rain bombs on that country and kill its leader.
â€œThe manner in which Libya was treated by some countries of the West will remain a scar for us for years to come. At the upcoming AU summit, we must deliberate so we do not have a repeat.
â€œThe Libyan situation is a challenge. How do we build a democratic Libya? We cannot do it alone. We need the Arab League. It is not just only Libya but also the countries surrounding it.
â€œSome countries have been looking for excuses to intervene in the continent. Libyaâ€™s situation is a reminder of the need to have unity in Africa…â€
He added: â€œFor us to succeed in making Africa a continent of success and prosperity, attention has to be paid to peace and security.â€
Atiku, in his short remarks, while introducing the South African President, said he and Zuma were like soul mates.
He said Zuma was politically persecuted as vice president and removed from office; so, he too, was politically persecuted except the Constitution did not allow him to be removed from office, a comment that drew laughter from the audience.
Among personalities at the event were wife of the late Yarâ€™Adua, Binta and his son, Murtala; former president of Mali and former chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission, Alpha Omar Konare; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru and Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, former chairman of UBA and First Bank.