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Tinubu Calls For Regional Military Forces To Strengthen African Economies, Combat Coups, Terrorism

Nigeria’s President Tinubu has stressed the importance of economic integration and regional cooperation to strengthen African democracies.

President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday advocated discussions on empowering regional blocs to establish well-funded standby military forces to help contain military adventurers, rampaging waves of terrorism, and religious extremism.

Tinubu made the call in Abuja in his keynote address at the Summit on the State of Democracy in Africa.

He canvassed for the strengthening of regional economic communities to drive integration and trade ties among African countries in order to deepen democracy and accelerate development across the continent.

The president contended that through bitter experiences, Nigeria had learned that the solution to poor democratic governance was having more democracies.

On his part, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the answer to the myriad challenges confronting democracy in Africa lies in re-examining the model of democracy passed on to countries on the continent by their colonial masters.

Tinubu called for revitalisation of sub-regional blocs, like Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), East African Community (EAC), and Southern African Development Community (SADC), as vehicles to usher in an era of robust intra-African commerce, economic growth, and job creation.

Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, said the immense potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could only be maximally realised when there was concrete economic integration and collaboration at the different sub-regional levels.

Delivering the keynote address, the president urged the regional bodies to prioritise minimising trade barriers, promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth, human capital development, as well as value addition in agriculture and agro-allied sectors.

He said, “We must deliberate on ways through which African sub-regional organisations can help foster better intra-African trade, achieve better food and energy security, promote higher rates of youth employment, alleviate poverty and realise greater prosperity for our people.”

The president stated that a reinvigorated sub-regional cooperation was critical to the successful implementation of the path-breaking AfCFTA by harmonising rules and regulations to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, and people.

While acknowledging the “despair about democratic reversals” due to recent military coups, he expressed optimism over polls held successfully in nations, like Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.

He added, “The tragedies of our nations and histories inspire our concern about the reversals of democratic governments, particularly in West Africa. That’s why we are alarmed by the military coups in Mali, Guinea Conakry, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Gabon.”

Tinubu advocated discussions on empowering regional blocs to establish well-funded standby military forces “to help contain military adventurers and the rampaging waves of terrorism and religious extremism.”

He urged African leaders to respect constitutional tenets, like term limits, and ensure credible elections and autonomous institutions through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to achieve democratic consolidation.

“This summit must discuss ways of making the APRM contribute to achieving good governance and democratic consolidation on the continent,” he stated.

Declaring that Africa could no longer be the “doormat of the world with street beggar economies”, he called for concrete measures through reinvented regional bodies to boost trade, enhance security, and entrench constitutional democracy for development and prosperity.

Earlier, Obasanjo, in his keynote remarks, said the solution to the numerous challenges confronting democracy in Africa was in revisiting the models of democracy passed on to countries on the continent by their colonial masters.

He said leaders across the continent must come together to devise a form of contextual democracy that took into account past experiences, addresses contemporary challenges, and emphasises good leadership, strong institutions, and a stable middle class, all reflecting Africa’s rich cultural heritage.

The former president expressed concern about the growing discontent for democracy on the continent and insisted that the model that would work for Africa was one that took into account the typical and predominant political system as well as one suitably and appropriately placed to serve the objectives of the African people.

In her goodwill message, the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary-General and Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr Amina Mohammed, said the active participation of women and young people in politics and other decision-making processes would strengthen democracy on the continent.

She drew the attention of authorities on the continent to the effective implementation of laws, adherence to the tenets of accountability, and improved investment in democratic institutions, stating that they are critical to the sustenance of democracy in Africa and beyond.

Equally speaking, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and member of the Board of Directors, Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), said the focus of the summit, which was “the state of democracy in Africa,” aligned with the cornerstone of the foundation’s mission and vision.

Mahmoud said participants at the summit were expected to thoroughly interrogate the model of democracy practised in Africa vis a vis current challenges experienced in the continent, to resolve the lingering issues and reshape democracy in the continent.

Meanwhile, the sixth parliament of the ECOWAS parliament considered and adopted crucial parliamentary instruments to guide the progress and implementation of its mandate.

That was part of decisions made on Wednesday at the 2024 Second Extraordinary Session of the parliament held in Kano, North-west Nigeria.

The instruments consisted of the rules of procedure, the strategic plan, and the 2024 work plan of the parliament.

Acting Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament and Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin, in his speech at the session’s opening, stressed the importance of the protocols in facilitating the work of the parliament.

Jibrin said, “This extraordinary session is unique on several counts. During this session, we are expected to hold deliberations and adopt three very important instruments, which bear heavily on the progress and effective implementation of our mandate.

“They are the rules of procedure of the sixth legislature, which was deferred from our inaugural session, the strategic plan of the sixth legislature, and 2024 annual work plan.

“You would agree with me that our rules of procedure are very important, as they make us more efficient and serve as our guide, thereby reducing the chances of our actions and decisions being challenged for procedural deficiencies.

“The strategic plan, on the other hand, will serve as a crucial and indispensable tool in ensuring that our programmes and activities are directly linked with the overall strategic institutional objectives of ECOWAS, while our work plan will set the agenda for our engagements this year.”

With the adoption of the instruments, the stage for the full commencement of parliamentary activities by the community parliament was set, he stated.

Deji Elumoye and Michael Olugbode

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