At the 47th Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and government of ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana on May 19 he delivered a moving speech which centered on integration among the country, the growth of democracy and economic development.
Below is the full speech by Nigeria’s outgoing president.
I must start this brief remark by expressing my profound appreciation to you, the Government and People of Ghana for the warm reception accorded me and my delegation since our arrival here in Accra. The traditionally warm hospitality that has been extended, inspires admiration of the brotherly people of Ghana. It also certainly underscores the committed, forthright and exemplary leadership that you have personally offered our sub-region since assuming the Chairmanship of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
2. Similarly, may I also thank the President of the ECOWAS Commission for the earnest efforts that went into the convening of this 47th Ordinary Summit of ECOWAS. It is no wonder that our Organisation continues to move from strength to strength in the face of both the strong leadership provided by our Chairman and the tireless work of the Commission under its President and staff.
3. As we are all aware, this Summit coincides with the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of our Organisation. I believe that this milestone calls for acknowledgement of the exceptional vision of the founding fathers which has inspired a united approach to addressing our common challenges. Unity of purpose and action has enabled us to build our strength as we move forward to enhanced sub-regional cooperation and integration. The significant progress we have made so far, can only be sustained and built upon through even closer consultations, collaboration and cohesion amongst us.
4. With regard to our integration agenda, it must be said that we have achieved considerable progress. We have gone beyond our Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods, to the harmonisation of trade and our customs codes. The achievement of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff and Trade Liberalisation Scheme, are vital signposts in the Convergence Criteria required for our Common Currency regime. In our resolve to further enhance trade and facilitate transportation, work is in progress on the construction of the Lagos-Abidjan Highway which will be complemented by the implementation of the Joint Border Posts Reconstruction Projects across our borders. In the last few months, for instance, President Boni Yayi and I were able to lay the foundation stone of the Joint Border Post between our two countries at Seme border.
5. My country, Nigeria, remains fully committed to the goal of an integrated and single West African community of nations and people. We have, therefore, spared no efforts in ensuring the early detection of conflict and in taking necessary measures for its elimination in our sub-region. We do so on the strong conviction that without peace, there will be no development; and that our peoples cannot be weaned out of poverty and deprivation without development.
6. I have profound satisfaction and pride, especially when I see the remarkable progress that we have achieved together for our sub-region. Our exertions in the quest for solutions to the political and security challenges that occasionally threaten the peace and stability of our nations is the hallmark of our common resolve to achieve our integration agenda. Indeed, our outstanding record on this score remains a model for all of Africa’s other sub-regional Organisations.
7. I recall that as Acting President, I became the Chairman of ECOWAS in 2010. This was a unique honour from my colleagues for which I remain grateful. The first challenge that we confronted was the situation in Niger. Happily, through dogged efforts on our part, we were able to resolve it and the country returned to democratic rule. General Salou Djibo who oversaw the return to constitutional rule in Niger is today a student at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria.
8. In Cote D’Ivore, ECOWAS followed through in its commitment to enduring democracy by standing firm behind the winner of the Presidential elections in 2010. We are pleased that our brother, President Alassane Ouattara took his rightful place and went on not only to provide leadership to his country, but also as Chairman of ECOWAS.
9. Similarly, in both Guinea and Guinea Bissau, we remained focused on the goal of ensuring that viable political solutions were found for the political and security challenges that they were experiencing. That peace and stability and democratic governance have returned to these brotherly countries underscore our commitment to finding viable solutions to the problems of our Sub-region.
10. As Co-mediator, I visited Mali and met with all the stakeholders in early and difficult time of the crisis in the effort towards return to democratic rule, maintenance of peace and articulation of a viable political process. Nigeria participated in all the negotiations and meetings coordinated by ECOWAS at various venues that eventually produced a political timetable for the holding of democratic elections in Mali. Therefore, let me take this opportunity to felicitate with our brother, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Government and people of Mali for the historic Peace and Reconciliation Agreement signed in Bamako on 15th May, 2015, by all parties. It is our hope that this Accord will signal the end of the Malian crisis.
11. With respect to the situation in Burkina Faso, fully aware of the serious consequence for stability in the region, our Chairman, President Mahama, President Sall and myself paid a consultative visit to Burkina Faso to engage on a plan of action to return the country to constitutionality. This initial engagement was subsequently followed-up by necessary ECOWAS mechanisms which assisted in calming the then tense political situation. I, therefore, urge that the stakeholders stay firm on the political roadmap that has been agreed by all parties.
12. Your Excellencies, the consolidation of democracy, the elevation of the rule of law and the deepening culture of good governance across our sub-region today, is the product of our solidarity and the growing effectiveness and integrity of the institutions and mechanisms that we have put in place. The elections in Ghana and Senegal were largely peaceful on their own without controversy and indicate a maturation of democracy in our sub-region. Equally, in Benin, Sierra Leone and now in Togo, we have made tremendous progress in consolidating democracy in our sub-region.
13. Permit me therefore to congratulate my brother, His Excellency, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, on his recent re-election as President of the Republic of Togo. The successful conduct of that election devoid of violence and held in a free, fair and credible manner further confirms that democracy has indeed come to stay in our sub-region. We look forward to the same happy and tranquil outcome in all the member states where elections will also take place later in the year and subsequently.
14. Your Excellencies, while we are making real progress in many core areas, there are issues that require our attention. In the past few years, we have witnessed a growing wave of young men and women from our sub-region undertaking very perilous journeys across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The phenomenon, given its hazardous nature, has claimed many lives and assumed humanitarian crisis. ECOWAS in the first instance, should earnestly address this problem. I also urge that this matter be tabled at the forthcoming 24th Summit of the African Union in June in South Africa. At the level of member states, we should take necessary action to address the root causes of the crisis
15. Occasionally, our decision-making mechanisms which should, naturally, inform our consensual positions on matters that touch on our collective and sub-regional interests is not always upheld. Occasionally, our solidarity seems to face severe tests in the face of individual discretions on critical issues. I recall here our disparate positions and actions at crucial moments on the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in 2011, and also, the choice of a candidate for the post of President of the African Union in 2012.
16. Again, at our last Session in Abuja, it was resolved, after due deliberations, that ECOWAS should adopt a single candidate for the post of President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Today, we have no less than four candidates from our sub-region alone vying for the post as against four candidates representing the other four regions of the continent. Our experience with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), with the European Union (EU) is yet another example.
17. This recurring disposition elicits negative signals from our partners and other regions of the continent. It goes against the grain of the solidarity we all too often, display in dealing with other challenges. We must rise above it in the larger interest of our sub-region.
18. Your Excellencies, as you are no doubt aware, this is the last Summit that I will be attending as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In 10 days time, precisely on the 29th of this month, my successor, President-elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, will assume the mantle of leadership of my country. I feel deeply satisfied that the tree of democracy planted in my country and in our sub-region, has taken roots and is blossoming. I have, no doubt whatsoever, that under the watchful guidance and nurturing of Your Excellencies, that tree will continue to bear abundant fruits.
19. Let me, therefore, seize the opportunity to express my profound appreciation for the understanding and cooperation that you accorded me all these years, especially during my tenure as the Chairman of our Organisation between 2010-2012. The personal rapport and chemistry that I have enjoyed with each one of you, my brother and sister Presidents greatly facilitated the decisions that we were able to take and the concrete measures we took on behalf of our sub-region. As the new Administration takes over, I am confident that the bonds of friendship between Nigeria and each member state of our cherished Organisation and Nigeria’s role within ECOWAS, will grow even stronger. I urge you all to extend the same friendship and fraternal cooperation that I have received from you to my successor.
20. Once again, Your Excellencies, I thank you for your friendship and the unalloyed support. I wish you well as you steer the affairs of our sub-region. The future of our Organisation and West Africa is in good, safe and capable hands. I shall, even out of office, continue to give my modest support to our noble cause of unity, peace, stability, and development of our sub-region.