A fatigued former President John Agyekum Kufuor, with a lost voice, had to hand over his role as keynote speaker to former Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Joe Ghartey, at the first ever inaugural independence lecture to mark Nigeria’s 51stanniversary of nationhood on October 1.
His voice was hoarse but he managed to deliver his speech.
Mr Kufuor had just flown in from Yamousoukro, Ivory Coast following an earlier engagement in Liberia and so he won the sympathy of his audience when he told them about his problem even as he set the ball rolling with the address before retiring to his seat.
Before he took his seat, he treated his audience to a humorous anecdote of how Nigeria, when he assumed office as president, supported him to overcome the challenge of ensuring the free flow of oil to the country.
He expressed gratitude for the gesture which he said was also extended to the provision of $40 million loan to secure equity to make possible the operationalising of the West African Gas Pipeline Project.
During a political activity in Washington, President Kufuor asked his colleague President Olusegun Obasanjo for the facility, in response to which the then Nigerian strongman called the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and before long, a deal was sealed.
“Obasanjo said, ‘Ngozi can you help my brother?’ The lady nearly fainted when I asked for $80 million. I reduced it to $40 million and it was provided for us to do the project,” Mr Kufuor stated.
Vice President John Mahama and former President John Agyekum Kufuor agreed on the need for shared values between their two countries so the dream of a sub-regional integration could be realized, when they took turns to address theme of the lecture ‘Leadership Role Of Nigeria And Ghana In Sub-Regional Integration Of West Africa.’
Former President Kufuor, who delivered the keynote address, described Nigeria as his other home to buttress the bond between the two countries.
It behooves leadership in the West African sub-region to get all citizens to accept the realities of integration.
The black gold, which he noted was the reason Nigeria attained its status on the continent, was now available to all countries in the sub-region, he said, charging that as the celebration went on, there was the need for reflection.
Regarding ECOWAS and the journey so far, former President Kufuor said that even though the glass was not half full, it was not half empty, pointing out that many hurdles had been surmounted towards regional integration. “We have a long way to go but the future is bright,” he said.
Vice President John Mahama called for the reaping of the economies of scale by the members of ECOWAS through the adoption of appropriate policies. So many protocols, he recalled, had already been signed regarding integration, adding, “We do not need new ones now. Now is the time for action.”
Ghana and Nigeria, he said, could set the ball rolling by, for instance, establishing a common customs union so that other countries, when they were qualified, could join.
The speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, one of the speakers, said although members of the regional grouping could be commended for putting military dictatorships behind them, democracy was not an end in itself.
The end of democracy, he said, should be development for the community and better lives for the people through good governance.
The auditorium of the College of Physicians and Surgeons was filled to the brim, with a motley audience who had responded to the invitation for the maiden independence lecture of the most populous African country.
Former President Kufuor received an ovation when his feat of handing over to a rival political party and not hanging on to power as others did, was highlighted by Senator Ekweremadu during his delivery.
Nana Akufo Addo, flag-bearer for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was among the dignitaries at the event.
Source: A.R. Gomda
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