By TONY AILEMEN, Abuja:
Former President George W. Bush of the United States (U.S.) and ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain yesterday advocated a tougher war against corruption in Nigeria with Bush saying that those who loot public treasury should be in jail.
Also, international support for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan increased weekend following separate visits by Bush and Blair to the State House in Abuja.
However, speaking earlier at a special luncheon hosted by the former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice as part of activities lined up for the 15th THISDAY Awards in Abuja Bush said, stealing public money is not good governance.
“When leaders steal from the people that is bad governance, they ought to be in jail,” he said.
In separate remarks Blair said “corruption is wrong, it is the least efficient way of doing things and it is important that the next election must be free and fair and nobody should try to interfere.
Elaborating on the issue, Bush said: Bad governance is when you steal peoples money that is entrusted in your care. That is the hallmark of what is bad governance. When you ask me what is good governance. It is honest officials who are there to serve the interest of the people and will make sure tax payers monies are spent on education, health among others.”
Both leaders said transparency, accountability and war against corruption among public officials are necessary ingredients for good governance.
Both leaders said Africa is important in the new world and the development of Nigeria is important to the development of Africa . But in spite of all the support Africa gets, the future of Africa should be shaped by Africans. Both Bush and Blair said the interest of America and Britain in Nigeria during their tenure in office was spurred by poor indices of development especially health, debt burden and capacity building.
For instance, Bush said he was concerned by statistics of HIV/AIDS when he was in office. He said, over 50,000 infected persons had access of anti-retroviral drugs but by the time he left office it has increased to over 2 million.
Both leaders argued against protectionism and encouraged free trade. However, they agreed that agriculture subsidies in the developed nations hamper the potential of African farmers for export.
On Press freedom, they said vibrant and healthy press is good for societal development and democracy. They said the freedom of the press must be exercised with some responsibility, and that stories must be factual to make the right impact and must be devoid of sensationalism.
On women empowerment, both leaders recalled having strong women around them as mothers and spouses when they were in government, explaining that human capital development is the greatest resource of a nation and so discrimination against women is a colossal waste of human resources.
Blair said “it is wrong and stupid”, adding that “If you want a tough job done get a woman to do it”.
Bush and Blair explained the sensitivity of their respective countries to terrorism against the background of September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. For example, Bush said, “We are still very nervous after 9/11”.
Meanwhile Dr. Rice has said there is something that Nigerians must do to strengthen democracy in the country. These include:
“Demanding accountability of the government, overcoming old grievances by government, overcoming grievances by society, overcoming grievances by the people, and overcoming grievances one by one.
“And a multi ethnic and multi religion state, the overcoming of grievances through democratic institutions is of absolute necessity.”
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