I bring you fraternal greetings from Nigeria. I am pleased to use this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for the warm reception accorded us since we arrived this beautiful country.
I thank the leadership and members of this august assembly for inviting and receiving me so warmly. I am particularly grateful for this honour, especially, for suspending your well-deserved recess in order to receive me. It is indeed the hallmark of true friendship to be so honoured by such an important arm of government. We are not surprised because Kenya is well known for her hospitality.
Even though we are separated by distance, we have many things in common. It will be of interest to you that while the National Anthem of Kenya starts with “O God of All Creation”, the second stanza of the Nigerian National Anthem starts with “O God of Creation”.
We are two nations bound together in love of God. Kenya, like Nigeria, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. Kenya is also a nation that has resolved to live together no matter its differences and divisions, just like Nigeria.
Nigeria, therefore, along with many other members of the international community was particularly pleased at the peaceful outcome of your last election that ushered in a new Administration and a new National Assembly. Kenya disappointed the pessimists and reaffirmed that Africans can manage their own affairs. We should be allowed the space to do so. We commend and congratulate the leadership and entire people of Kenya for overcoming the challenges you faced in order to achieve such a peaceful election.
Our quality of leadership is inferior to none neither is our sense of dedication to the common good below par. Our commitment to the upliftment of our peoples is paramount. Our vision is clear; our sense of mission remains ever resolute. Indeed, this has run through the entire gamut of Kenyan history. Your struggle for independence and dignity was a major struggle.
Here we must remember the heroes of the past: the leaders and members of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), also known as the Mau Mau, whose revolt between 1952 and 1960 gave impetus to the struggle for independence. These men and women paid the supreme price. Their blood watered the tree of liberty and inspired nationalists in other parts of our continent and even beyond. But for them, Kenya would not have attained its freedom when it did. To them, we owe a debt of gratitude.
The moral justification of the revolt has been further proved by the recent agreement by the United Kingdom to pay compensation to the victims and their descendants. While no monetary compensation would ever be enough for lives lost, we join Kenya in celebrating this moral victory.
We are the new generation to whom the torch of leadership has been passed by our forebears. We shall neither let the flame go out nor betray the sacred trust bestowed on us. Our generation must bring about the desired change for our people. We are determined to do so. We shall neither waver nor quit. We intend to fulfill our manifest destiny.
Bilateral relations between Nigeria and Kenya have remained warm and cordial. Happily, they are now at the level of a strategic partnership for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples. This is right as the East finally meets the West in active and close collaboration to move forward the African development agenda. This is consistent with the objectives of the African Union which enjoins the best of African home-grown solutions; turning current challenges into opportunities for peace, security and sustainable development.
As Africa celebrates its Golden Jubilee, we must pause and reflect on the future of our continent in the next 50 years. The questions are: What will be Africa’s place in a world that is increasingly knowledge-driven and inter-dependent? Should Africa be content to remain a mere producer of raw materials and net importer of manufactured products? Indeed, what is Africa’s vision for itself at its centenary? These are the new and pressing challenges before us; the battle against poverty, being one of them. Nobody is going to fight for us if we do not fight for ourselves. Nobody is going to show us the way to economic prosperity if we do not show ourselves the way. The economic liberation and development of Africa lies in our hands.
We must devise innovative and dynamic policies to fully develop our potentials. We have to think together as Africans, cooperate as partners, improve our communication links, expand inter-African trade and take our continent to a higher level in the global order.
I am therefore happy that the recent visit of President Uhuru Kenyatta to Nigeria underscored the need for our two countries and Africa to come together and work as one. It augurs well for our relationship that, during that visit, we signed an agreement for the establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation, which provides the basic framework for closer bilateral collaboration for the mutual benefit of our peoples. Again, during the current visit, our officials and key private sector operators have been discussing modalities and strategies to actualise our shared aspirations and development objectives.
There is no doubt that additional legislation will be necessary to bring many aspects of our relations to the required level. The importance of this esteemed Assembly in this regard cannot be over-emphasized.
We have a responsibility to ensure Africa’s successful renaissance. We must continue to act to eradicate want, ignorance and disease through the unlocking of our inventive genius. We must continue to open up political spaces for the free expression of ideas. We must build a society where justice reigns supreme, granting fairness and equality to all before the law. Africa also has to add further impetus to its integration process. We must re-double our efforts to actualise our dream for an African Economic Community (AEC).
For sustainable development, we require peace. We must all work together to put an end to conflicts and wars on our continent. We must confront all acts of terrorism wherever they occur, as they endanger the safety of our peoples and societies as well as disrupt economic activities. Here, I must commend the efforts of Kenya, along with other African countries in helping to stabilise the situation in Somalia. Nigeria is proud to be part of this effort as demonstrated by our active participation in the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Knowledge remains a veritable tool of social mobility and advancement. It has enabled mankind to conquer unknown frontiers, surmount intractable problems and overcome enormous challenges. Therefore, education remains the key to unlocking the door for development and fostering improved well-being, both for the community and the individual. Science and technology have vastly changed the world we live in and their trajectory on this revolutionary path is unstoppable.
To develop as we should, we must put in place in all our countries, well designed policies and strategies that give young people ready access to qualitative education. The strategic objective should be to make our youth independent thinkers, innovators, developers, entrepreneurs and community builders who can create jobs and add value to society.
We must harness and properly channel the energies of our youth for economic growth and social development. Africa’s youths are one of the continent’s greatest assets. Much of the continent’s immense promise for the future rests on their youthful shoulders. We have a duty and responsibility to nurture them and ensure their growth to the full extent of their potentials.
I am happy to note that the Kenyan Constitution reserves thirty per cent of seats in Parliament for women representatives. This is a progressive development to be commended, indeed emulated by others as it enjoins gender equality and sensitivity across the spectrum in appointment to public offices. It is a development we applaud, even as we in Nigeria are committed to achieving the same goals. Besides pursuing a policy of equal opportunity in employment between gender in our public and civil services, we have opened up all cadres of the Nigerian armed forces, including regular combatants, to women who can now aspire to the highest ranks possible for the first time in our history. More than thirty per cent of Cabinet positions and other key political appointments are held by women while the judicial arm of government is headed by a woman as Chief Justice of the Federation.
These actions are not taken simply because we want to comply with international conventions or United Nations resolutions. They are taken deliberately because they are right and fair. Indeed, it is the correct approach to take if we genuinely desire to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustain them thereafter as envisaged by the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Besides, they are in recognition of the important role which women continue to play in our respective countries. Such women as Prof. Wangari Maathai of blessed memory, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a tireless environmental campaigner must be celebrated.
I call for collaboration between our two legislatures. This can only be beneficial to our two countries and peoples. It would engender exchange of useful ideas and best practices with a view to strengthening our institutions, promoting human rights and deepening democracy. In this connection, I encourage Honourable Members of the Kenyan Parliament, to participate at the forthcoming African Legislative Summit 2013 taking place in Abuja from 11-13 November this year. Such collaboration can only enrich and reinforce the African Legislative Agenda for Development.
The need for a harmonious working relationship between the Legislative and Executive arms of government cannot be over-emphasized. Happily, such harmony exists in Kenya between all the three arms of government. This is how it should be to ensure that our governments are able to deliver positive dividends of democracy to our peoples.
Nigeria and Kenya are committed to democracy, the rule of law and the devolution of power from the centre to subsidiary tiers of government as a veritable model of governance. In this regard, Mr. Speaker, we in Nigeria are delighted that Kenyan democracy is alive and well as was amply demonstrated by the peaceful elections last March which ushered in the present administration. The events which attended the elections of 2007 can now be seen as unfortunate aberrations which did not in any way represent the natural inclination of the good people of Kenya, to live in peace and harmony with each other.
I believe I share the sentiments of the government and people of Kenya when I say that we in Nigeria do not embrace democracy and the rule of law in response to external pressure or demand. We have embraced democracy and its underpinnings such as free, fair, credible and transparent election; rule of law; respect for human and peoples’ rights, because they are the right things to do and they are good for us.
We do not seek the validation or endorsement of our democracy outside the collective will of our people, the citizens and electorates of our respective countries. Democracy is not a one-size-fits-all system; rather it is a dynamic political system which must be operated within the particular context it finds itself.
The African renaissance to which we are all committed calls for the consolidation, building and strengthening of institutions. It calls for reinforcing institutions of government with the power, credibility and resources they require to perform to their optimal levels.
Kenya and Nigeria share similar positions on a wide range of issues on the African and global agenda. Thus, we have committed ourselves to the global fight against terrorism whose trans-boundary nature calls for concerted efforts on the part of the international community. We are also against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which fuels the upsurge of conflict and terrorism in many parts of the world, including our African region.
We welcome the recent conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty, which Nigeria has already signed. As a matter of fact, we think that the time has come for the international community to consider the idea of reparation from the manufacturers and purveyors of these weapons of small arms and light weapons, which for us are the weapons of mass destruction.
The on-going debate about the emerging global governance architecture should be of interest to our two countries and Africa as a whole. The existing international system is undemocratic and unfair. Africa’s non-representation in the Councils and Chambers of international decision-making in the past was always explained in terms of our lack of sovereign independence. This claim is no longer valid.
We call for the reform of the inherited global governance institutions. We call, especially, for the reform of the United Nations and its Security Council.
Africa and other regions of the world, either not represented at all or inadequately represented, should be admitted into the permanent membership category of an expanded UN Security Council. Similar expansion and reform should also apply to all the other multilateral institutions with lopsided membership such as the Bretton Woods institutions. This would ensure that the decisions of these organisations enjoy the respect and credibility of their members.
Therefore, we need to build this continent together with one mind and one goal. We need to consolidate our democratic practice. We need to revolutionise our economies. Democracy must deliver development to the people. From the edges of the blue waters of the Mediterranean to the beautiful shores of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, our people are united in demanding for the enthronement of a system that recognises their role as the ultimate source of power and development in the society.
As we look to the future, we see a new Africa that is ready to take its rightful place in the comity of nations. This new Africa, the shape of which is already becoming evident, can only become manifest through deliberate and concerted efforts on the part of the present leadership and followership across the continent.
Africa cannot afford to stand still. This is Africa’s season to gather and unite. This is Africa’s moment to rebuild. This century is ours. We must claim it for our continent and for the good of the world. Kenya and Nigeria must work hand-in-hand to herald the new Africa that would be democratic, united, developed and industrialised. An Africa that is, finally, at peace with itself and at peace with the rest of the world.
Mr. Speaker, very distinguished members of Parliament, I end my remarks with the motto of your country, the Republic of Kenya. Harambee! Let us all pull together! Let us soar as Eagles.