By CHARITY MOONGA –
ON February 28, heads of State and Government officials gathered in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja to celebrate that country’s 100 years of existence.
Nigeria’s centenary celebrations coincided with the Heads of State and Governments meeting on national security dubbed “Human Security, Peace and Development: An Agenda for Africa”.
Zambia was represented at the meeting by Defence Minister Edgar Lungu and more than 30 Heads of State and Government officials from Africa, Europe and other continents attended the conference, including local and foreign participants.
The celebrations were characterised by pomp and splendor.
Among those that attended the celebrations were Presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia and Prosper Bazombaza of Burundi.
President Helen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and the former Secretary-General of Organisation for African Union, Salim Ahmed Salim, who led the Tanzanian delegation, attended the celebrations in Abuja.
Others were the President of Mauritania, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz; Ethiopian President, Hailemarian Desalegh and the European Union President, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Israel was represented by its Minister of Agriculture, Yair Shamir.
State Counselor Thomas Shannon represented United States President Barack Obama.
The major highlight of the celebrations was the international conference on peace and security in Africa which was held at the Abuja International Conference Center.
The celebrations featured the conferment of honours on 100 Nigerians, with about 40 per cent of the awards to be presented posthumously.
In a Communiqué issued just after the meeting, the World leaders unanimously resolved to reshape global security apparatus in a manner that would enable them tackle the growing spate of terrorism in Africa.
The world leaders also resolved to stem the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which aid terrorism and other trans-nationally transmitted organised crimes.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina who read the communiqué, said the leaders recognised that the enemies of the State today in Africa were faceless and driven by religious extremism, ethnic mistrust, rivalries, and propaganda of hate.
“African leaders now agree that an act of terror against one nation is an act of terror against all,” read the Communiqué in part.
The leaders agreed not to use their countries as havens for terrorists and to cooperate to adopt protocols that allow countries to pursue terrorists well into safe havens in other countries and manage their political boundaries to end trans-boundary terrorism and insurgencies.
“As Heads of State, we promise to work even harder against terrorism in Central African Republic. We promise to address insecurities and insurgences which are coming from among others religious extremism,” the Communiqué read in part.
The conference further noted that the fight against terrorism was a battle for democracy, even as it called for greater cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing.
According to the communiqué, the participants of the conference lauded the efforts of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to deal with the menace of Boko Haram sect, adding that the leaders pledged their solidarity and support of their various countries to the war against terrorism in Nigeria.
African leaders resolved to redouble their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and culture in their respective countries especially through greater commitment to good governance, transparency and the rule of law.
They noted that the cost of governance, elections and electioneering should be reduced to deliver the full dividends of democracy to their people, even as they commit to work harder to address the scourge of terrorism that threatened human security, peace and development in several African countries.
It was agreed that Africa and the international community should act in concert to reduce the drivers of illicit trade and transfer of small arms and light weapons.
The African leaders noted that the youth bulge in Africa and rising unemployment among the skilled and the educated were a major challenge to human security, peace and development.
The leaders, however, called for an urgent reduction in inequality and ensure inclusive growth, including social policies that would improve access to food, water, housing and education, that were crucial to inclusive social participation.
The African leaders pledged to double their efforts to strengthen democratic governance and the rule of law.
They further resolved to work together to end youth unemployment and create jobs for them in Africa.
They agreed to address the challenges of climate change and empower women to enhance human security and development.
Earlier, Malawian President Joyce Banda urged other African leaders to emulate Nigeria in the efforts it was making to stop acts of terrorism.
Ms Banda said there was need for African countries to remain united in fighting terrorism in the continent.
Gambia President Yahya Jummeh stole the show when he received a standing ovation as he called for an end to terrorism in Nigeria which he described as black Africa’s power house.
Mr Jummeh condemned use of religion to perpetrate acts of terror and drew deafening applause as participants interrupted his speech and gave him a standing ovation throughout the period the speech lasted.
He argued that since God himself created all human beings, it was not man’s duty to dictate to the creator who to allow into His kingdom, neither was it for man to tell who his neighbours would be in heaven.
He maintained that “true Muslims do not kill in the name of religion,” adding that the Quran permits Muslims to live in peace with their neighbours, irrespective of what they believe or practice, more so, as it is Allah’s duties to judge all mankind.”
“As for my Muslim brothers and Christians, as a Muslim myself, l am saying that God did not prescribe violence and any good Muslim should abide by that. Only Allah will decide who enters heaven,” he said
There was need for Africans to continue to nurture the culture of peaceful co-existence and embark on strides aimed at industrialising the continent, as a way to ensure peace and development.
“We appeal to all Nigerians to reconcile their differences peacefully and maintain Nigeria as a strong and unified power house of black Africa.
“There is no country in the world that is comprised of one region, one religion and one ethnic group. The beauty of Nigeria and any country for that matter lies in her cultural, religious and regional diversities.
“Our diversities should be a source of strength, unity and pride and not division, weakness and violence,” he said.
He said the continent would remain grateful to Nigeria for its leadership role and observed that Nigeria had continued to use its resources to promote peace, development and democracy.
“Africa and the civilised world will remain grateful to Nigeria as an indispensable giant in the advancement of our African civilisation,” he said.
Earlier when he represented President Michael Sata at the celebrations, Mr Lungu commended Nigeria for the significant strides that the country had made in attaining social and economic development.
Mr Sata said that the Zambian Government appreciated the major strides Nigeria had made since its independence.
“Nation building is not an easy task as it calls for commitment as shown by the Nigerian Government,” he said.
Mr Sata, however, sent condolences to the people of Nigeria over the recent terrorist attacks in the north part of the country which left 29 school children dead.
“We salute the Nigerian President for his gallantry. Your leadership bolsters our confidence that the conflicts that characterised Nigeria in the recent past will be resolved.
Zambia was proud to be associated with the leadership of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan considering the strides the country it had made in achieving democracy,” he said.
Mr Sata urged the people of Nigeria not to relent but to fight to even greater heights to address the challenges facing that country today for the benefit of Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
He said that countries throughout the world should learn from Nigeria’s social and economic development strides that thecountry had made during its 100 years of independence.
Mr Sata pledged Zambia’s commitment to further cooperation with Nigeria.
Earlier when he addressed delegates, Nigerian President Jonathan expressed sadness at the deaths of students due to the terrorist attack.
He called on African countries to address issues of peace, security, and human development that had continued to be a challenge to many African nations.
French President François Hollande was the special guest at the celebrations.
The conference was held amid tight security and Nigerians from all walks of life started gathering at the conference centre as early as 06:00 hours.
However, in an interview, Mr Lungu urged Zambians to embrace the positive aspects Nigeria had made in development.
He said Zambia should embrace the positive aspects of Nigeria and learn from that country’s positive achievements as it celebrated 100 years of existence.
Mr Lungu said Zambia had a lot to learn from Nigeria’s wealth of experience in economics and politics.
“Nigeria and Zambia have so much in common and it will be unwise for us as a nation to ignore the learning experience,” he said.
He said it was important for Zambians to learn from the West African country knowing that despite the many problems the country had gone through, the Nigerians remained united.
“Nigerians have had their problems but over the years they have remained united so we need to look at these positive attributes and learn from them” Mr Lungu said.
As observed from the above, Zambia, and indeed many other African countries have a lot to learn from Nigeria as they strive in their quest to attain their agenda for “Human Security, Peace and Development.”