FULL TEXT OF THE 4TH NIGERIAN TURKISH NILE UNIVERSITY CONVOCATION LECTURE DELIVERED BY DR. OGBONNAYA ONU, MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA IN ABUJA, ON FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2016

PROTOCOL:

I sincerely thank the Vice Chancellor, Members of both Council and Senate of the Nigerian Turkish Nile University (NTNU) for inviting me to speak on “The Effect of the Emergence of All Progressives Congress (APC) on the Promotion of World Peace” at its 4th Convocation Lecture. This University, which was established in 2009, has made very important contributions to the development of our dear nation. You have achieved so much within so short a time. Indeed, you have achieved far more than your young age should normally permit. I am convinced that you will achieve far more in the years to come. I am happy that your vision is to pursue academic excellence and you have already vigorously pursued your mission of providing the highest possible quality of university education with the state-of-the-art infrastructure to your students so as to get the best from them in a competitive world. It is important that you do this, because Nigeria needs the best and only the best is good enough for Nigeria. Your aim to be a center of excellence in science, technology and culture so as to produce graduates that are self-reliant, tolerant, creative, confident and enterprising, who are ready and prepared to face and solve the problems of Nigeria, Africa and the World is highly commendable. We thank you for working very hard to ensure that in the future, education is made available for every student, regardless of gender, financial status, ethnicity, religion and nationality. I will like to use this opportunity to congratulate the students who will be graduating tomorrow. I wish you the best in your future endeavours.

As you are a member of the “Association of Universities” located in different Continents of the World, you should continue with the pursuit of excellence so that one day, in the future, you will be ranked as the best among them and also endeavor to aspire to be one of the best universities in the world. This can be achieved if you adhere strictly to the motto of the University which is “actualize your dreams”. It is not only the students that should dream. The University should also dream big dreams. You must never relent, until your goal is achieved.

I must not fail to specially commend many Turkish citizens who have continued to make enormous contributions to the development of Nigeria. Your investments are not only in the area of education but also in healthcare delivery with the potential to soon commence open heart surgery as well as the search for peace in the community. Your injunction to “reserve in your heart a seat for everyone” promotes the culture of co-existence, mutual understanding and interaction among persons of different religion, culture and ethnicity. I salute your efforts. Nigeria and Turkey are great nations. Both countries have an ancient, rich and a glorious past, where ancient civilisations flourished. Our two countries have, over the years, maintained very cordial relationship. We can learn from one another. We share many things in common. Turkey, in seven years’ time, by October 29, 2023 will celebrate one hundred years as a secular Republic. Nigeria, two years ago on January 1, 2014 celebrated one hundred years as a nation. Also Nigeria and Turkey have suffered from insurgency, militancy and terrorist attacks. The world will continue to benefit tremendously as the two countries continue to work together.

In the world today, we live on the one hand in exciting but on the other in depressing times. New planets have been found. Space scientists on September 28, 2015 confirmed the existence of flowing liquid water on Mars, one of the planets in our solar system. Also on September 10, 2015, scientists announced to the world that the human family tree had grown beyond what they had earlier known as they uncovered in South Africa new early human species: Homo naledi. Also for the first time in human history, many people strongly believe that by effectively using the important tools of science, engineering, technology and innovation to convert the available natural resources into goods and services, abject poverty can be fought, defeated and eliminated. In more than one thousand years the leaders of the Orthodox Christian Churches met for the first time exchanging views and comparing notes. Also for the first time in more than forty years the leaders of the European Union met without any representation from the United Kingdom, the second largest economy in Europe and a nation that at some time in the past had extensive influence in all the time zones of the world.

Just as a number of developments raise our hope, lift our spirit and excite our emotions as human beings, so also do conflicts, pain and human suffering shock and depress us, as avoidable conflicts spring up in many countries of the world. For instance, the world was shocked and felt very bad when bodies were washed ashore on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea as desperate refugees tried unsuccessfully to cross the Mediterranean Sea and gain admission into Europe. The beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, which should be used for recreation, have unfortunately become the place to recover dead bodies. The world was dismayed as desperate refugees tore small holes through barb wires erected to stop them as men, women and children set aside their human dignity, went down on their knees, and squeezed themselves as they crept through those holes. The sight of children, exposed to bad weather under very difficult circumstances, pricked the conscience of very many people. As we turned on television sets in our homes and offices and saw a large mass of refugees: men, women and children walking on foot along railway tracks determined to get to their destination, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that what drove these refugees out of their homes, must have been very serious. This ugly sight would have continued except for the widely publicized deal which the European Union had such that Turkey which provided a home to as many as 1.9 million refugees in August 2015, arising from the Civil War in Syria would restrict the flow of migrants into Europe. Today, immigration has become a major issue determining the outcome of elections and referendum, in many countries of the world.

As I stand before you, in this beautiful hall, on the sacred soil of Abuja, the Capital City of our dear nation, my mind is worried and I feel very unhappy as I remember so many young Africans who in the bid to escape from the hardship at home, try to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life in Europe. Day after day, week after week and month after month, many of these sons and daughters of Africa die as overcrowded boats capsize, leaving behind many dead bodies. Even with the news of this tragedy, more people are not deterred as they still attempt in large numbers to cross the Mediterranean Sea in both good and bad weather. The desperation can only be explained by huge excruciating pain in their hearts. The colour of the water of the Mediterranean Sea is gradually changing to red with the blood of these innocent men, women, boys, girls and children running away from a Continent of their birth which they rightly call their home. This is indeed very sad.

If we even look at Africa, many questions agitate our minds. It is widely known and also accepted that Africa is so rich that virtually all important mineral resources are found in commercial quantities in the Continent. Why then should Africa be so rich, while Africans are so poor that many of them risk their lives and forgo their human dignity as they desperately struggle to leave their homeland for foreign lands in search of a better life? Why is it that people from countries in other Continents come to Africa, in large numbers, to take our resources to help develop their various nations and yet Africans cannot use the same resources in their various homes to develop their own countries for the happiness and prosperity of Africans?

This has been so because of the intense struggle for power as many leaders spend most of their time and available resources to secure themselves and their exalted positions such that they devote very little time to improve the welfare and well-being of their people. Such leaders go to any extent to remain in power. They stop at nothing to weaken and if possible to strangulate the opposition. This is so even in a multi-party democracy where there are many political parties, the opposition political parties are so weakened that one political party, the governing party, is so dominant as to produce virtually all the leaders in the country. By doing so, they believe that with a very weak opposition, they can continue to remain in power as any challenge against their rule would be feeble at best. In order to achieve this, they move very quickly to weaken and emasculate all other institutions of State. With weak institutions, they find it easier to deny their citizens the protection of their fundamental human rights. They then manipulate elections such that the votes no longer count and the voters no longer matter; as citizens can no longer exercise their basic right to select who governs them. When they face the barrier of the thick wall of term limit, in order to perpetuate themselves in office, they quickly embark on the amendment of the Constitutions of their various countries. In some cases, the term limit is completely set aside to pave way for life presidency. In other cases, this may result in a monarchical presidency where at death a son succeeds the father as president.

When the people find themselves helpless in determining the political future of their country, hopelessness sets in. Since the vote is no longer an option, every other means is exploited and utilised to attempt at effecting change in government. Protests, demonstrations, mass disobedience, disorder, popular uprising, riots and crisis become common place. Violence is everywhere as lawlessness sets in. Repression and the use of the instruments of coercion by the State to control the situation may be successful at the expense of the loss of lives and also the loss of freedom through incarceration of citizens. Where this fails, the situation may degenerate into a civil war splitting the people, very often, along the divisions of language, religion or ethnicity. Very often in such an environment peace is discarded, economic development to a large extent is stunted and the unity of the country is threatened.

The origin of many of the conflicts in many countries in different Continents of the World can be successfully traced to the struggle for political power through illegitimate means. To a large extent, these conflicts are self-inflicted arising from the greed of certain persons who should be servants of the people but rather behave as if they are above the law. Liberia which was founded in 1822 and became the first Republic in Africa on July 26, 1847 experienced Civil War and was nearly brought to her knees because of the struggle for power. Somalia had one of the largest numbers of warlords in the world, each fighting to control his own portion of the country. As a result, the country did not see peace for many years due to the struggle for power. Rwanda, in the past, suffered the worst humanitarian crisis in recent human history where hundreds of thousands of innocent people were buried in mass graves; many more lived as refugees in neighbouring countries again due to the struggle for power. South Africa witnessed the humiliation of apartheid where majority of South Africans lost their full citizenship rights in their own country which attracted international attention, concern and action again due to the struggle for political power through illegimate means. South Sudan, one of the World’s newest nations, which gained independence on July 9, 2011, after over 20 years of guerilla warfare, which claimed the lives of over 1.5 million people and over four million persons were displaced. The independence was achieved as the outcome of an agreement that ended Africa’s longest running and deadliest Civil War of the 20th Century. It is sad that South Sudan has herself been engulfed in Civil War which displaced as many as 2.2 million people all because of the struggle for power. The list is almost endless.

Also mention must be made of the popular uprising, mass protests and riots that swept through many countries in North Africa and the Middle East. These arose from the near powerlessness of the opposition political parties against the poor performance of their governments. In these countries, the leaders were continuously in office for a very long period of time between two to four decades. They kept winning every election with even an increasing margin of votes. The people became fed up. They could no longer wait. They adopted the self-help method and took the laws into their own hands. Acting alone in some places, while in others they were assisted from outside, they were successful in removing from office the Presidents of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

In many countries where these leaders had ruled for a very long time and died in office, the effect on their countries after their death had been adverse. The calmness often observed during their lifetime is similar to the calmness observed during their lifetime is similar to the calmness observed on the surface of very deep waters whereas underneath, the flow of water is often swift. In the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, President Felix Houphonet-Boigny was in office for 33 years starting from 1960 to 1993 when he died. After his death, a chain of unpleasant events took place. The country between 2002 and 2007 was plunged into a Civil War which effectively split the country into a Muslim rebel held North and a Government controlled Christian South. Similarly in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz, better known as Tito was elected President in 1953. He repeatedly won re-election and on April 7, 1963, a new Yugoslav Constitution proclaimed him president for life of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He died in office in May 1980, a few days before his 88th birthday. After his death, the Balkans experienced a lot of turmoil and political instability which resulted in the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into many countries.

It is clear that the struggle for power is the root cause of many of the conflicts within countries in the different parts of the world. This drains the energy of these leaders who consider themselves as irreplaceable. They regard their personal interest as the national interest. For them, the nation is made up of themselves and their families. Hence, the bulk of resources of the State are often used to keep them in office. For them, every opposition is a challenge and no opposition can be tolerated. This unfortunate environment restricts creativity and limits innovation. There are many countries in the world that live by foreign aid, whereas, they should on their own have vibrant economies stronger than some of the countries that even offer them aid, In Africa alone, as many as 44 countries depend on development partners to execute development projects.

Most distinguished ladies and gentlemen. I speak to you with a heart carrying a burden. Those near me may see tears developing in my eyes. They may also see worry written on my forehead. As I continue to stand before you, I clearly see with the hidden eye of my mind those young men and women who died in the Mediterranean Sea in their search for a better life as they plead with every breath they can command saying loudly that we, men and women of this generation, you and I, should ensure that their death should not be in vain.

It is important for the peace and prosperity of the world that their death should not be in vain. That explains why an idea was conceived, nurtured and implemented to give hope to opposition political parties particularly in the developing world where two strong political parties have not evolved in the polity. In countries with multi-party democracy, where the governing party is the overwhelmingly dominant political party and the opposition political parties are many, weak and fragmented, they should never lose hope. The opposition political parties should come together not as in an alliance or a coalition but in a merger where they will give up their individual identities so as to become one political party. Coming together in a merger is like mixing sugar and water. They become one. It is only in tasting the new solution that its constituent parts can be detected, However, coming together in either an alliance or a coalition is like mixing water and oil. No matter how hard we shake the mixture, they can never be one as the oil will always be on top of water.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) is the first successful merger of major opposition political parties not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. Three opposition political parties, now defunct, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) gave up their identities and formed the APC with groups from the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). It was later that the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) joined the APC. The APC then became the largest opposition political party in the history of the country. The APC was born out of a huge sacrifice. All the leaders of the three political parties that gave up their identity at the ward, local government, senatorial district, state, zonal and national levels gave up their offices. Nigerians supported the APC. Hence the APC made history when less than two years as a political party it transformed itself from an opposition political party to become the governing political party in the country. The APC produced the President of Nigeria and hence became the first opposition political part in Nigeria to win election at the presidential level. The APC also made it possible for an incumbent President to be defeated thereby paving the way for Nigeria to witness for the very first time, at the presidential level, a transfer of power from one political party to another.

Nigerians should have hope. Things will improve. The hard times will not last forever. The APC will deliver. President Muhammadu Buhari will deliver. The APC Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over government when Nigeria was in trouble. The damage will take time to be corrected. We must remember that at the time of take-over, a sizable part of our territory was under the occupation of insurgents, our image abroad was poor and economic indices were in decline. The price of crude oil had slumped and this exposed our vulnerability as a mono product economy. This is so because no sufficient attention had been paid to science and technology. If we build roads today, they will certainly get bad tomorrow. We need to invest in science and technology so as to promote creativity and innovation which will help us produce new products and services that will provide a continuous stream of revenue to help us build more roads, bridges, railways, dams and look after the needs of our security and intelligence community. When we took over, it was like Nigeria had a very big and deep sore. Whatever you do to it, it is painful. If your cloth touches it, it is painful. If you want to treat and dress it, it is also painful. We cannot because it is painful then refuse to treat and dress it with the hope that one day the sore will heal and the injury will go. Let us continue to be hopeful for the future of our country is bright.

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The story of APC is one that all opposition political parties in different countries of the world, particularly the developing and emerging countries where the culture of two strong political parties in a multi-party democracy has not evolved, should embrace. The opposition political parties, no matter how weak they may be individually, the story of APC gives them hope that if they can come together in a merger, they will muster the strength to defeat the governing political party. This opens the way to use the ballot box to change governments that have not performed to the satisfaction of the electorate. There will therefore be no need to use any form of violence which could degenerate to civil war, creating immigration and refugee problems for the world in an attempt to change governments. The APC story thereby promotes world peace.

Most distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the APC story is the story of a political party. No, it is more than a political party. Indeed, it is an idea. No, it is really more than an idea. It is a revolution, one not fought with guns and knives but with ideas. Ideas that can positively change the world. Ideas that can not only prevent conflict, but works for peace and harmony.

I thank you so much. May the Almighty God bless Nigeria, Turkey and the world.

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