Hilary hits Nigeria: Your problem is failure of governance
By Our Reporter
Thursday, August 13, 2009
• President Umaru Yar’Adua welcomes Mrs Hillary Clinton, the visiting Secretary of State, USA, to the State House, Abuja on Wednesday.
Photo: The Sun Publishing
United States Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton, Wednesday night delivered a damning verdict, blaming Nigeria’s inability to take her seat among the 20 top nations in the world on failure of governance.
Answering questions at a Town Hall meeting organised by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the U.S. Embassy in Abuja with the theme Nigeria: Towards a better future, Clinton noted that Nigeria could have featured at the last meeting of the G20 nations, but for myriad of problems, notably corruption, bad governance and the concentration of wealth among few top people to the detriment of the masses.
She asserted that it was up to the citizens to shape the country’s future.
Clinton also identified faulty electoral system as a setback. And to get things right, she stated unequivocally that Nigeria must have a truly independent electoral council that would guarantee free and fair election and give the citizenry the much-desired benefits of democracy.
While stating that the foundation of democracy was trust, the US Secretary of State, also reminded that such democracy should be nurtured by free election, just judiciary and a solid democratic institution.
“We recognise that Nigeria is at a cross-road and it is imperative that citizens be involved and engaged in helping to chart the future of this great nation. “Today I’m in Nigeria, a country that produces two million barrels of oil a day, has the seventh largest oil reserve than any country in the world.
“But according to the UN, the poverty rate in Nigeria has gone up from 46 per cent to 76 per cent over the last 13 years,’’ Clinton said.
She gave reasons why Nigeria was still at a crossroad to include the destructive legacy of colonialism, devastating civil wars and other external forces.
“But as President Barrack Obama said in Ghana, the future of Africans is up to Africans and the future of Nigeria is up to Nigerians,” she said.
Clinton further said: “The most immediate source of the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is the failure of its governance at the local, state and federal levels.
“The 100,200 million barrels of oil importation are staggering, but they do not tell you how many hospitals and roads could have been built.
“They do not tell you how many schools could have been opened or how many Nigerians could have attended colleges,” she said.
Clinton quoted the World Bank recent statistics as stating that Nigeria had lost 300 billion dollars during the last three decades as a result of all of the problems listed above.
“Therefore, it is imperative that we look at where Nigeria is today and in the spirit of friendship and partnership of a country that has made its own mistakes and had its own problems.
“We look for ways to help one another, in particularly to help the people of this country,” Clinton stressed.
On the seven-point agenda of Yar’Adua’s administration, the wife of former US president expressed her government’s support. She, however, expressed conviction that the success of the agenda would largely depend on the efforts of the citizenry.
Clinton believed that the civil society and the media had much to do, stressing that everyone should come together to uphold the tenets of true democracy and be the watchdog.
She wondered why Nigeria had not got her efforts at true democracy rewarded, when countries such as India with about 600 million voters, as well as Indonesia with only 10 years democratic experience, were making commendable headway.
Nigeria, according to Clinton, had a future but she quickly added that there was the need to have free and fair election in 2011.
She, therefore, challenged Nigerians to work hard to achieve genuine democracy emphasizing that, “it is up to you, it is your responsibility.”
On the Niger Delta issue, Clinton assured Nigeria of her country’s support for the peace process. She said from what she was told, government had taken the right steps towards achieving lasting peace in the region.
Participants at the forum included members of the civil society groups, women group, labour and the media.