Why Confab Report Must Be Looked Into – Gambari | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Why Confab Report Must Be Looked Into – Gambari

Posted: Sep 9, 2015 at 2:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Professor Ibrahim Gambari was Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs during General Muhammadu Buhari’s first coming as Head of State in 1984. He moved on to serve at the United Nations as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative and was the Chairman of the National Anti-Apartheid Committee for over 20 years. A delegate to the 2014 National Conference, he was among the 20 prominent Nigerians honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award on the 20th anniversary of the publication of Thisday Newspapers. He spoke to Temidayo Akinsuyi. Excerpts:

What is the essence of this award?

Prof. Ibrahim Gambari

Prof. Ibrahim Gambari

First of all, there were two categories of awardees. There was what they call ‘The 20 Game Changers’ which tends to be Nigerians of the younger generation but our own category is what  they called  ‘The Lifetime Achievement Awardees’ of which I was honoured to be one of the twenty individuals that was honoured. The purpose of the award is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first publication of the Thisday newspaper. So, to me, it is a great honour to be one of the 20 Nigerians that was recognized for their contributions to the society, to Nigeria and I guess in my case, they also mentioned my contributions to  Africa and the international community.  My special thanks goes to the publisher of Thisday newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena  for considering me worthy of this award.  Secondly, as I said in my acceptance speech, I will also want to thank all the seven Nigerian heads of state for giving me the opportunity to serve, because no matter your background and experience, if you are not given an opportunity to serve, you will not be known and you will not be recognised.  Though, I didn’t go into details, I mention that there were seven Nigerian heads of state that I have served. First, President Shehu Shagari who appointed me as the Director- General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs.  Also worthy of note is then head of state, Muhammadu Buhari who appointed me as the Foreign Minister of Nigeria. Also,  General Ibrahim Babangida who gave me the opportunity to serve as Nigeria’s longest ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations for almost 10 years.  In between that appointment, I had served Chief Ernest Shonekan, late General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo briefly both as civilian president and military head of state.  I also want to thank two Secretary- Generals of the United Nations,  Mr. Kofi Annan, who appointed me as Under Secretary- General and Special Adviser on Africa and subsequently, gave me the opportunity to serve as the first Non- Western Under Secretary- General and head of the department of political affairs in its present configuration.  When he left, Mr. Ban Ki- Moon asked me to remain for about two months as the Under Secretary- General for political affairs and then he later appointed me as special envoy to Myanmar, Burma, Iraq, Compact and then finally as the head of the only Joint Peace Keeping Operations of the African Union and the UN  in Darfur and Head of the United Nations, African Mission in Darfur, from where I retired voluntarily in 2012. Finally, I dedicated this award to all the victims of Boko Haram and violent extremism in our country, in the continent and all over the world.

How do you feel being honoured alongside prominent Nigerians such as Justice Musdapher, Igwe Achebe,  Coomasie and others?

On a lighter note I feel old to be in the company of  Chief Alex Duduyemi who was celebrating his 80th birthday.  So, I feel that in am in the company of senior citizens of Nigeria. But seriously, these are people who have given a lot to the country, who have achieved a lot in their respective field. And I really feel greatly honoured. Among the 20 honoured, we have three Chief Justices of the federation, Justice Kutigi, Justice Mukhtar and Justice Musdapher.  We also have traditional rulers which is also one of my constituencies. Don’t forget that I come from Ilorin, from the ruling family there.  In that group, you have the Obi of Onitsha, who incidentally, I have a second affinity as he also went to Columbia University  in New York, one of the Ivy League universities in the United States where I had my masters and PhD.  We also have the Emir of Zaria, Alhaji Idris. If you can recall , in my adult life  I taught at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria.  The Emir regards me as his son and I go to the palace very frequently to perform any little thing the Sarkin wants me to perform.  We also have in that group of 20, industrialists, jurists, royal fathers, and also my namesake Ibrahim Coomasie who was a former Inspector- General of police and currently the head of the Arewa Consultative Forum.  He was also the chairman of the northern delegates to the 2014 national conference of which I was also honoured to be a delegate.  As regards the national conference, I have said it publicly and I will like to repeat it that when you have 492 Nigerians who have come together for almost five months and produce recommendations that are in three categories. One, those things that can be implemented on the authority of the executive. The second set of recommendations are those that required change in our laws, therefore the national assembly has to pass the legislation and third, the few that requires constitutional amendments which requires both the national assembly and states house of assemblies. I think it will be a pity if those reports, about 20 on various subjects ranging from defence to security, revenue derivation, local government autonomy, foreign policies, and the economy and so on. All these reports were adopted by consensus. It will be a pity if we throw the baby out with the bath water simply because they have some feelings in some quarters that the conference was organized by the former president who had ulterior motives. In any case, whatever the ulterior motives were, they were not achieved. Some people even felt that the conference was convened in order to have a new constitution so as to prolong his tenure or to have a new arrangement of a six years single tenure for which former president Goodluck Jonathan will be eligible. In any  case, none of those was achieved. The regime has gone. The Nigerian people voted him out and his administration. So, we should look at this report critically and those that are consistent with the vision and philosophy of the president and his party should be seriously considered for implementation.

With this award, what should Nigerians expect from you?

I have always regarded myself as somebody to whom Nigeria has given a lot and therefore from whom a lot should be expected. As long as God gives me life and sound health, I am prepared to continue to do my best in whatever capacity or situation I find myself in order to contribute because the future of our country is at stake. We are still struggling with the fact that we are endowed with tremendous human resources and enormous mineral and natural resources but we have not really managed to transform these into a position of security, wealth and welfare that is commensurate with what Almighty has endowed us with.  Compare us with Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia all those countries that by the time of our independence we were at par with them in terms of GDP but have now overtaken us in terms of physical infrastructures development, quality of education, quality of health services, and the percapita income of their people. It is not justifiable that we should not rise to our full potential. And I pray that it will happen.

What is your advice for Nigerian youths?

****The youths should work extremely hard and have faith in themselves and in their future. They should think beyond themselves beyond ‘what can I get now’ and ‘how much can I get now? But work for a future that will be brighter for them and for their own children****. They should work to make Nigeria great where they can go anywhere in the world and say ‘I am a Nigerian’. And they will be treated as a person of respect and dignity, not to be toyed with, derogated or scorned but as citizens of a very proud nation.