By: President Goodluck Jonathan
May I use this opportunity to say how delighted my delegation and I have been since our arrival in South Africa. I am also deeply appreciative of the warm hospitality and reception accorded to us. This is also evident in the manner the leadership of the Parliament has received us this afternoon. All of these are consistent with the well-known South African hospitality. I wish, particularly, to thank my brother, President Jacob Zuma, for extending the invitation to me to pay this State Visit to South Africa.
Mr Speaker, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed a great honour to be given the opportunity to address the Joint Sitting of members of this august body, the South African Parliament. As the arm of government charged with the important responsibility of making laws for the good order and governance of South Africa, the role of Parliament is crucial to the progress of this country and the welfare of its people.
Harmonious relationship between all the three arms of government, especially between the legislative and executive arms, is imperative for the objectives of good governance, and national progress. We in Nigeria are delighted to know that both the Executive and the Legislature in South Africa have forged a strong bond for the people’s benefit. It is an example that is worthy of emulation by some other countries where the doctrine of the separation of powers and cordial intra-governmental relations still remain a knotty challenge.
At this forum, it is only proper that we acknowledge and pay tribute to those who made the freedom and democracy which our two countries enjoy today possible. Generations of young Africans grew up in the last 50 years to witness and study the singular and collective heroism, as well as the inspirational examples of many icons of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, Chief Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, the Madiba, President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Thambo, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, and other men and women of valour and integrity who were imbued with the spirit of sacrifice, patriotism, and devotion to the common good.
This new “Rainbow Nation” where freedom and equality are now established as inviolable principles is the product of their vision and dedication.
Similarly in Nigeria, our people will forever remember the efforts and contributions of Dr. Herbert Macaulay, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Ernest Ikoli, Margaret Ekpo and many others who fought hard to secure Nigeria’s independence from divisive, colonial rule. These men, and women, in our two countries, paved the way for the freedom we enjoy today. The people’s liberty was well fought for and earned.
The huge debt that we owe the heroes of our history is not to be complacent with the freedom of our people and the democracy that we have established. We can stand on the shoulders of the icons of our history: in so doing we will be able to look much farther into the future, but this also comes with a responsibility and a duty: the duty to ensure that as leaders in Africa today, we also leave worthy legacies for successor generations.
Mr Speaker, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, twenty-two years ago, Africa’s living legend, President Nelson Mandela, was released from prison. Since then, your country has travelled, more steadily on a path of progress and grown in stature. We do not only have a new South Africa under black majority rule, its institutions and processes have become inclusive. A new generation has emerged that is fired by a sense of unalloyed patriotism and common destiny.
Here we are, today, with the Head of State of another African country addressing the Joint Sitting of the Parliament of a free, independent and democratic South Africa that has assumed its rightful place in the comity of nations.
We have arrived at such a moment as this, because the people of South Africa never gave up their belief in the rightness of their cause in their quest for freedom and equality. The peoples of Africa and the rest of the civilised world did not also relent in the support they gave to the people of South Africa to remove the shackles of racism, apartheid and colonialism which combined to hold them down for so long.
The role played by individual nations, including my country Nigeria, in the struggle for the emergence of a new South Africa that is non-racial, independent and democratic is already part of the special linkages between our two countries. In those dark seasons, Nigerians stood by their South African brothers and sisters, because we shared your pain and concerns. Today, we also stand shoulder to shoulder with you as brothers and sisters and as partners, working together in pursuit of mutually beneficial interests.
Suffice it to say that throughout the long-drawn, anti-apartheid struggle, although we were not geographically contiguous, Nigeria was, nevertheless, considered a Frontline State, by the sheer fact of our commitment to the just struggle for freedom in Southern Africa.
It is important to recall, that this was a cause every Nigerian was committed to, not just those in government, but the people themselves. It was for this reason the Southern African Relief Fund (SARF) was created.
This was funded with deductions from the salary of every Nigerian worker, irrespective of rank, both in the public and private sectors as well as donations from ordinary Nigerians in all walks of life, including students. This fund was placed at the disposal of the liberation struggle.
Nigeria provided scholarships for students from South Africa. Our musicians waxed albums in support of the anti-apartheid struggle, a memorable one in this respect being Sonny Okosun’s timeless piece, “Fire in Soweto”. Our poets wrote protest literature denouncing man’s inhumanity to man; whenever South Africans protested against injustice, Nigerian students also took to the streets in support and solidarity.
At the international level, Nigeria gave leadership at the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, as it then was, the Commonwealth and several other for a in the fight against apartheid. For instance, we chaired the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid (UNSCAA) for most of its existence.
We spearheaded the boycott of the Commonwealth Games. We nationalised the assets of British Petroleum (BP) and kept away from our borders those who had dealings with the then racist minority regimes in Southern Africa, all in the course of the fight against apartheid and minority rule. Your struggle was our struggle, your pain was our pain, and today, your freedom is our freedom.
Mr Speaker, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, South Africa and Nigeria have been placed by destiny to play a leading role in the emergence of the new Africa – a renaissance Africa, whose beginnings are already evident. This new Africa would be a democratic, united and peaceful Africa and its construction is the challenge of our time.
At a time when many developed countries of the world are facing the challenges of economic and financial crises, including the sovereign debt crisis, Africa’s economic growth rate seems to be on the upward trajectory.
Today, in the area of governance, the story is also positive: we have many more democratic nations in Africa than at any other time in our history. Sadly, however, democratic institutions are still weak in many African countries; there are also conflicts and routine violations of the rule of law. These are being addressed by our sub-regional and regional organizations on the basis of commonly agreed peace and security protocols.
In addition, African legislatures must see the need to insist on respect for the rule of law and accountability in the conduct of governmental affairs across Africa. More than ever before, we Africans must take our destiny in our hands and make a success of it.
At no other time than today, should the continent as a whole, and our two countries in particular, focus our minds on the nature and direction of this renaissance. On the 25th of this month, Africa will be celebrating the golden jubilee of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union. The major task of the continental organisation was to liberate the African continent from the vestiges of colonialism, racism and apartheid.
As we take stock of the achievements of our continental organization, it is also appropriate that we reflect and decide where our continent should be in the next fifty years. That destination has to be a democratic and united Africa that is at peace with itself and can compete with the rest of the world.
Mr Speaker, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no doubt that in the global scheme of things, Africa has emerged as the new frontier for trade and investment. This provides another opportunity for our continent to embark on the road to economic emancipation, now that the political liberation of the continent is almost complete.
In the context of this new interest in Africa, it is important that African leadership across the continent recognises the extra burden of responsibility
expected of it to manage the situation in a manner that would be beneficial to our people. There is certainly a lot more that we can do.
We must work together to put an end to the exploitation and exploration of Africa’s resources for export without any value added; in this regard, African countries must transform from being primary sources of raw material into producers to create jobs and opportunities for our people. We must check the loss of Africa’s trained manpower to already developed countries, these are the very people we need to scale up our economies as well as improve our public and social services.
We must work together, to promote trade and investment among our countries and build trans-national infrastructure in such critical sectors as trade, telecommunications, and transportation in order to fast-track the process of people-centred, continental integration.
We must check the illicit transfer of huge sums of money to the developed world from Africa through sharp practices such as transfer pricing, tax evasion and corruption, all of which contribute to Africa’s economic under-performance.
Many African countries are faced with the challenges of terrorism and other acts of violence which compound security problems across national and regional borders. African leaders, and particularly our parliaments, must commit to the plan to check the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The production, circulation and use of these arms and weapons pose a serious threat to political stability and the safety and welfare of the people.
Our two countries are placed in a unique position to lead all of Africa to the promised land where poverty, inequality, want, disease, communal and inter-state conflicts would largely be a thing of the past. South Africa and Nigeria, with our robust economies and large markets, are well placed to accelerate the emergence of this Renaissance Africa.
Happily, we already have a mechanism established to drive our bilateral relations in all its ramifications. It is heartening to know that our Bi-National Commission which functions at a very high level is successful. In this connection, as we continue the implementation of my country’s transformation agenda, I am happy to report that the outlook on Nigeria’s economy remains positive with strong fundamental.
Even in this challenging global environment, Nigeria’s growth rate which averaged nearly 7% over the past 5 years is expected to reach 7.2% in 2013, according to IMF forecasts. This makes Nigeria one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
South Africa as a major investor in the Nigerian economy is a major beneficiary of this development. South African companies like MTN, Standard Bank, Multichoice, Multilinks, the Protea hotel chain, Shoprite, among others are actively engaged and are actually thriving in virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy from telecommunications to power, education, aviation, construction, hospitality, entertainment and retail trade.
Nigerians are also active in the South African economy. Our Bi-National Commission must however begin to pay careful attention to the need for balance of trade between our two countries in order to make our economic interactions truly beneficial.
Mr Speaker, Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, our two countries have not been found wanting as can be seen in the leadership we are giving to our respective sub-regions as well as to the continent as a whole. We must realise that we can achieve more, acting in concert than acting alone. We in Nigeria are committed to doing more to discharge the responsibilities that providence has placed on us. I have no doubts that South Africa will also continue to do the same.
The same spirit should be adopted in tackling the challenges that face our continent in the international arena. Here, I have in mind the non-representation of Africa in certain organs of the global governance architecture notably the permanent membership category of the United Nations Security Council.
For a start, it is important that we work together to ensure that the reform of the United Nations system is accorded the priority that it deserves and resolved speedily. The commitment of all Africans should be to strengthen Africa’s place in the United Nations. It is not a matter of competition but putting Africa in the best light.
As we look into the future, I see ground for optimism and hope. I see an Africa on the rise, an Africa that is resilient, upbeat and confident about its capacity to handle its challenges. All we need is to mobilise the required political will and to be relentless in our quest to achieve our collective dream. Acting together, we have already achieved milestones that some thought impossible such as ridding our continent of the triple scourges of colonialism, racism and apartheid.
The role of the Legislature in helping to bring this about cannot be over-emphasized. It is for this reason that I call on you, distinguished and honourable members of Parliament, to join hands with the Executive and the other arm of government both in this great country and the rest of the continent to bring about this African Renaissance.
My presence here today signals a spirit of renewal of our partnership. Together, we will make Africa great. Leadership comes with sacrifices. As leaders in Africa, we must commit ourselves to break down barriers and foster regional trade and integration.
We must build stronger and more resilient economies to create jobs and unleash hope for millions of our people. The dark periods are over, a new era has begun.
Mr Speaker, this great rainbow nation has bequeathed to humanity, a beautiful story of unity in diversity. It is an amazing story of triumph over daunting challenges in very difficult circumstances.
By demonstrating to the world that diversity can be a spring board to peaceful co-existence, unity and progress, South Africa and South Africans have reaffirmed that the colour of our skin; the language we speak and our religious beliefs are only accessories to existence not existence itself. At the core of existence is the dignity of our humanity.
Now together we must sing the song of democracy and development so as to defend our dignity which has come under the assault of deprivation and poverty. Now together, we must stand in solidarity for economic and social justice for our people.
Together, we shall continue to make Africa a land of delight, a land of great hope and glorious aspirations where dreams come true, for us and the generations to come.
Mr Speaker, very distinguished members of parliament, the words of your National Anthem continue to inspire us:
“Nkosi sikelel’Afrika… Nkosi sikelela thina lusapho lwayo...” (Lord bless Africa … Lord bless us…We are the family of it.
Once more, thank you for this opportunity to share a few thoughts with you.