Akufo-Addo: ECOWAS must deal with root cause of insecurity in region

Akufo-Addo says human insecurity challenges within the ECOWAS region remain an existential threat to the progress and prosperity of the region

President Akufo-Addo, who is also the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), says the root causes of instability and insecurity in the Community, must be addressed if the region’s quest to integrate is to be fully realised.

All efforts to integrate the West Africa region, according to President Akufo-Addo, cannot be achieved if instability and insecurity are allowed to prevail in any of the sovereign countries of the region.

Speaking in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, on 24 March 2022, at a ceremony to celebrate the 20 years anniversary of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, President Akufo-Addo, said human insecurity challenges within the ECOWAS region remain an existential threat to the progress and prosperity of the region.

“It is worth noting that attempts at integrating West Africa, will be negatively affected in countries in the region continue to battle with the human security challenges which confront our peoples.

“No country would like to integrate with a country whose house is on fire. West Africa integration, the dreams and aspirations of our forebears cannot be achieved without peace and stability in the region,” he said

To effectively deal with the phenomenon of insecurity and instability in the region, President Akufo-Addo, observed that there is an urgent need to tackle the situation from its very root causes.

“Efforts must therefore be made to address the root causes of insecurity and instability in ECOWAS such as underdevelopment, poverty, corruption, inequitable access to resources, youth unemployment, human rights abuses, climate change, weak law enforcement and governance institutions, and unconstitutional change of government, in order to consolidate peace and prevent relapse into violence as a feature of State management” he added.

Ghana/Nigeria relations

President Akufo-Addo, in his address, noted that “apart from musicians “Shatta Wale” of Ghana and “Burna Boy” of Nigeria, threatening to spark off a diplomatic incident recently, Nigeria and Ghana have always been siblings even though we (the two countries) quarrel and disagree occasionally, we love each other”.

“Indeed, it always comes as a surprise to realize that we do not have a common border. During the colonial times, there was a lot of interaction between the civilian and military intelligentsia of our two countries,” the President stated.

“Many of them received their higher education in the same institutions in the common imperial centre of Great Britain (Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics, etc.) and the regular sporting competition between Achimota School of Ghana and Kings College of Nigeria span many lifelong relationships,” he added.

World Cup qualifier

According to President Akufo-Addo, “the post-independence era has also maintained and indeed, intensified this interaction and intercourse between” Ghana and Nigeria.

“There have also been ugly episodes like when we expel citizens from each other’s countries and there are healthier and happier times when we clash in sports”.

“I believe an encounter on the football field between our two countries remains one of the best in the world”.

“I have no doubt that the 2022 WORLD Cup qualifier matches between our two countries which begin with a tie in Kumasi tomorrow (25 March 2022) will provide another colourful chapter in the annals of the rivalry,” he said.

Yar’Adua Centre

The Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre was established by the friends, family and associates of Shehu Yar’Adua to honour the legacy of one of Nigeria’s foremost contemporary leaders and inspire future generations with his life of service

The centre’s vision is the pursuit of “a Nigeria united across ethnic and religious divides” and a nation “committed to justice and democracy”.

Its mission is to among others, “promote national unity, good governance and social justice by creating platforms to engage citizens, policymakers and stakeholders in national conversations that foster an inclusive and prosperous Nigeria”.

Profile of Shehu Yar’Adua

Born in Katsina on March 5, 1943, to the late Mutawallin Katsina, Mallam Musa Yar’Adua, young Shehu was greatly influenced by his father’s strength of character and capacity for leadership.

A member of the Katsina Emirate Council, Mallam Musa Yar’Adua was one of the leading lights of Nigerian political development and a pillar of political wisdom. During the First Republic, Mutawalli served as a member of the House of Representatives, Federal Minister for Establishment, Nigerianisation and Training and later as Minister for Lagos Affairs.

Shehu Yar’Adua was educated at Katsina Provincial Secondary School and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, U.K. He returned from Sandhurst in 1964 as a young second lieutenant not long before the Nigerian Civil War broke out. Major Yar’Adua’s capture of Onitsha in 1967 is regarded as the decisive battle that led to the end of the bloody conflict that consumed millions of lives.

The Civil War had a tremendous impact on Lt. Col. Shehu Yar’Adua. Disheartened by the devastation he witnessed, he recognised the futility of disunity based on ethnicity, region and religion. He understood that a united Nigeria was a prerequisite for the nation’s growth and development.

Colonel Shehu Yar’Adua served as Federal Commissioner of Transport in 1976. He was credited with establishing a blueprint for the development of Nigeria’s transport sector as well as the reorganisation and decongestion of the nation’s ports.

Upon the assassination of Head of State Murtala Mohammed in 1977, Yar’Adua was named Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters and promoted to Major-General in the Obasanjo Administration. At just 36 years of age, he was the youngest officer to hold the rank on the African Continent.

Among many accomplishments, perhaps most significant was the Administration’s successful conduct of elections and historic handover to democratic rule in 1979.

As the first military government to voluntarily hand over power in Africa, General Obasanjo and General Yar’Adua recognized that enthronement of democracy was the only way to ensure stability and social harmony in the country.

Upon retirement, Yar’Adua joined the business world with a view to providing important private sector services with partners and investors.

He established a publishing company, cultivated agricultural holdings, developed manufacturing oil service and shipping facilities and incorporated Habib Nigeria Bank. He established the Islam in Africa Organisation and served as Chairman of the National Mosque Committee where he oversaw the funding and construction of the National Mosque, Abuja.

In April 1978 he was turbaned Tafidan Katsina, a traditional title he inherited from his father. But the return of a military regime without commitment to handing over to a democratically elected government led Shehu Yar’Adua to join politics.

He was prepared to lead the political class through the familiar antics and obstacles set by his former colleagues in uniform.

Shehu Yar’Adua was a gifted politician. His grassroots politics were void of ethnic bias and religious or regional sentiment. His organisation, whether PF or SDP or PDM, dominated the political landscape of the country, breaking what he dubbed the “siege mentality” which had dogged politics since 1914.

His aspirations for the SDP Presidential ticket were inspired by a desire to give the nation the committed and responsible leadership it so desperately desired and deserved.

He advocated a new national purpose designed enrich lives, inspire patriotic pride and serve the common good of all.

As a presidential candidate, Yar’Adua continued to break barriers, beating formidable home-based opponents and winning primary elections across the nation. Just when he was poised to win his party’s presidential nomination, his election was annulled and he was banned from further participation.

Without bitterness or rancour, Shehu Yar’Adua devoted himself to playing the role of advisor, mentor and counsellor through new rounds of elections. He continued to steer the country toward democracy.

Always a courageous leader, Yar’Adua stood in the forefront to demand a timely handover to a democratically elected government. But those who sought to perpetuate themselves in power plotted to arrest and jail him and others in order to remove any obstacles that stood in their path.

Even when his death sentence was passed, Shehu Yar’Adua’s spirit and determination were not broken. From Kirikiri Prison in 1995, he wrote, “Please don’t worry too much about me. It is the sacrifice some of us must make for our country to be free.”

Shehu Musa Yar’Adua died two and a half years later in Abakaliki Prison. The country lost a gentleman and a hero, but the structures he built could not be destroyed. The democracy we now enjoy is testimony to Shehu Yar’Adua’s courage and leadership. It is his courage and leadership that we continue to celebrate.

Wilberforce Asare

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