Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan and other African leaders on Monday met and deliberated on how to strengthen democracy in West Africa.
They met at the opening session of of a high-level dialogue, organised by the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA).
The two-day event, with the theme, “West Africa: Rising to the challenges of consolidating Democratic Governance” was held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital was also attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Also at the event were: former Vice President of Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajanb, former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma and Ogun state governor, Dapo Abiodun, among others.
Obasanjo and Osinbajo in their separate remarks declared that, West Africa and indeed Africa are currently going through a perilous storm following political instability in some parts of the continent.
Obasanjo, who is the chairman of CoDA, in his welcome address, condemned military take over of democratically elected governments in some African countries, saying democracy in West Africa and indeed Africa requires urgent attention.
The former President lamented that, coup d’etat, election fraud and political violence and instability have crippled the growth of Africa.
Obasanjo insisted that, power grabbing and governance through the gun will not help African nor procure democracy through judiciary, stressing that the continent needs “a peaceful democracy that has respect for the will of the people and the future of our nations.”
Obasanjo said, the only way African continent can develop is through peaceful democratic transition of governments.
He said, “In recent years, we have witnessed a return of coup d’etat, election fraud and political violence resulting in instability and threatening the developmental gains we have made in the last couple of decades.
“I feel very sad and it gives me great concern when I see the democratic system we have painfully built collapsing. And I believe there must be a solution because the problem is human and all human problems can be solved by human beings. That is why the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) under my Chairmanship and the OOPL have brought all of us together today to discuss pertinent issues affecting governance in West Africa, including the challenges and then to seek the way forward.
“Achieving this may not be easy but it is a must if we want our nation to make progress, it must entail responsible management of diversity which makes everyone feel a sense of belonging and be a significant part of the whole.
“Peaceful coexistence has been a hallmark of Africans even before the emergence of colonial era and we cannot accept anything less in this modern age.
“We need stable environment to grow our economies and ensure that countries develop in a sustainable way. Such all inclusive democratic environment will fast track developing our economy and will strengthen our security and promote general progress.”
Osinbajo while delivering his keynote address, bemoaned military incursion into democratic regimes of some African countries.
“This is a moment of peril for democracy in our region because we are navigating a perfect storm of adverse circumstances, a world economy that is reeling from recessional shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, price and supply discruption from the war in Ukraine, the emergency of armed non state actors, poor challenges associated with catering for the youngest populations in the world”, Osinbajo said.
He called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and other African organisations to rise up to the challenge and do more in ensuring political and economic stability of the West Africa and Africa at large.
Osinbajo said, “We must not allow our continent to become as it was in the cold war era. A fetter or proxy wars and great power conflict, we know from experience that this would result a deepening or the recession of democratic values in Africa.
“The militarisation of civil society whether by local military regimes or rival foreign military industrial complexes can only set us back by several decades.
“Our commitment to democrisation must be predicated on the aspiration of our people and not from the whims of foreign powers.
“The recent spate of military coups across our continent and attempts at military coups not only potends the risk of a damaging democratic recession, but it also takes us back to the circles of extra constitutional disruptions that plagued us decades ago.
“Since 2017, there has been 12 military coups in Africa and half of them occurred since 2020. Two months ago, the democratically elected government of Burkina Faso was overthrown while only in February there was an attempted coup in Genuine Bissau which was thankfully repealed.
“This much is clear, we know that we cannot secure the Africa that we want by turning back the hands of the democratic clock. We have walked this thorny roads before, we many decades worth of bitter experience and impeachable lesson of our history, a clear lessons of our history is that despotisms cannot guarantee the security and prosperity of our people.
“No matter how dire our circumstances may be, we now have concrete proof that resort to extra constitutional regimes is not the way forward.”