Credible elections crucial to Nigeria's greatness-Britain

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Britain on Thursday said that Nigeria’s greatness in the coming years would be determined by the conduct of the 2011 general elections.

It, therefore, charged the Independent National Commission to make good its promise of making the elections free and fair.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bob Dewar, stated Britain’s position on the poll in a paper he delivered at the Nigeria-Britain 2010 Akintola Williams Annual lecture, in Lagos.

Dewar, whose paper was titled “Nigeria and Britain: Modern Partners,” said that a transparent electoral process would also lead to the greatness of Nigerians and other Africans.

He also restated Britain’s preparedness to partnering with Nigeria in fast tracking its economic growth through improved bilateral trades and relations.

The High Commissioner said, ‘‘I believe that Britain is Nigeria’s logical partner for democracy. We are roots from the same tree. We share common values and system. I think this is Africa’s century, Nigeria’s century.

“Britain wishes to support Nigeria to build a strong democracy. It will like to support you (Nigerians) to create a high growth and job opportunities.

“I know that with a smooth transition, you will become the beacon for Africa in the 21st century. Credible elections will ensure the greatness of Nigeria and Africa.’’

Dewar, who observed that Nigeria had not realised its dreams in its 50 years of existence, advised Nigerians to look forward to new hopes and expectations.

He also wondered why Africa could not progress with Nigeria as its “ home.”

“I believe Britain needs a relationship with Nigeria on the international stage. Nigeria has great potential to grow economically,’’ the diplomat said.

Dewar added that some Asian countries who were once on the same level with most African countries had fared better.

“Some of the Asian countries that were at the same level with most African countries have by-passed Africa. But it can recover. Nigerians in Britain are commendable. They make good contributions in all facets of British life – sports, business politics,” he said.

He, noted, “Nigeria is urbanising rapidly. I like to salute Nigeria for its vitality which manifests in its cultures, buildings, potential and languages.”

Dewar reiterated that Britain’s interest was for Nigeria to succeed.

Vice- President Namadi Sambo, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Kenneth Gbagi, noted that bilateral trade between Britain and Nigeria had improved “our economy.”

‘‘We hope that our relationship will be deeper to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015,’’ he said.

Two other speakers — Dr. Niyi Adedeji and Dr. Mohammed Salami — urged Britain to stop giving aid to Nigeria because they amounted to waste.

They alleged that such aid were always siphoned by Nigeria’s leaders.

Salami, a lecturer at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said that Dewar’s comment on Africa and Nigeria’s potentials were purely diplomatic.

Meanwhile, a former National Security Adviser, Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Gusau, has said that he is not too old to rule Nigeria.

Gusau, a Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, is 67.

He enjoined Nigerians to pay less attention to the talk about “generational change” and focus on the ability of each aspirant to deliver.

Gusau, who spoke with journalists on Thursday after submitting his nomination form at the Peoples Democratic Party headquarters in Abuja, argued that they were many countries where old men had ruled and succeeded.

He said, “ The issue should not be generational shift; it should be the capability to deliver. If an old man is capable of delivering the Good, so let it be.

“Mohammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, was in his 80s when he developed Egypt to what it is up till now. The great miracle of China, the economic recovery, it was initiated by a man of 87 years and it is the programme going.

“So, it is not the generational shift, it is the capability to deliver. Abdullahi Wade is in his mid 80s in Senegal and he is doing extremely well.”

Gusau denied being a surrogate of former military President Ibrahim Babangida and promised not to step down for him.

But he said he was ready to step down for any consensus candidate picked by the North.

When asked when the “wise men” saddled with the responsibility of picking the consensus candidate would come up with their recommendation, he said since he was not one of them, there was no way he could answer such a question.

He described his relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan as cordial, adding that he spoke with the President before resigning his appointment.

Gusau said, “I had a very good relationship with Mr. President. Even yesterday (Tuesday), I talked with him before he (Jonathan) left for the United States.

“I am contesting against the President because this is democracy. I told him I have an ambition and he said yes, ‘you can achieve your ambition by contesting, go and contest’. That is it.”

The National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, who received Gusau, said that the calibre of presidential aspirants gave him hope that Nigeria would be in good hands.

He said, “ I am excited at the calibre of presidential aspirants coming up for this general elections. It means Nigeria will be in good hands.”


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