President Akufo-Addo interacting with the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II and Gen Abdul Salami Abubakar, former Nigerian Head of State (right)
President Akufo-Addo yesterday held members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) spellbound when he delivered the keynote address at their 58th annual general conference in Abuja.
The event, which was held at the Abuja International Conference Centre (AICC) in the heart of Nigeria’s capital, saw many in attendance.
Present were the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mahmoud Abubakar Balarabe, Ghana Bar Association (GBA), President Benson Nutsukpui and Ghana’s Attorney General and Minister for Justice Gloria Akuffo.
After delivering a stimulating address under the theme ‘Building and Sustaining Institutions in Africa, the Importance of Peaceful Elections (democratic transitions) in Nigeria, and Impact on Attracting Investments in Nigeria and Africa as a whole,’ President Akufo-Addo took part in a discussion session with the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, born Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who was the host.
His responses on issues concerning the African continent and its economy stunned his audience in the auditorium, earning him intermittent applause.
The respected Emir of Kano, an economist and former Governor of CBN, who was obviously elated, admitted that“as an African, I must say I am extremely inspired to see leaders like you ruling our countries.”
“As an economist, I am pleasantry surprised that a lawyer has such grasp of my subject of study; and as someone who is a generation behind you, you have changed my perception of Septuagenarians…I am sure I speak for everyone here to say that we are all proud of you to see that we have leaders like you in Africa,” he said to a spontaneous applause from the hall.
He continued: “We believe that as more of you step up and show that leadership, the hope that we have in African growth and development is not misplaced.”
He wished President Akufo-Addo well in his quest to help transform the economy of Ghana and the face of political leadership on the African continent while expressing the hope to visit him soon in Ghana.
Emir Sanusi was of the belief that it was not enough to hold successful elections every four years or to be able to criticize a government and have a choice of hundreds of radio and TV stations.
Instead, he observed that “the biggest challenge that we face on the continent today is widespread poverty, and until we eradicate it, Ghana, Nigeria, and indeed, Africa cannot really join the international comity of nations on an equal basis.”
“We have a great battle to fight and win, and that is the battle to provide our people with a good quality of life. The structure of economies bequeathed to us by the colonialists was aimed at servicing their needs, essentially raw material exporting economies,” he indicated.
He stressed the need to transform African countries to better serve their own needs.
President Akufo-Addo commended the government and people of Nigeria for the recent transformation in their agriculture which he said Ghana was emulating through the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programmes.
He emphasized that “the time has come for us to trade in the world economy not on the basis of raw materials, but on the basis of things we make. Trade between us in Africa is minimal and our share of world trade is negligible. We have to improve both substantially. The Good Lord has blessed our lands, and we should exploit these resources to benefit our peoples.”
President Akufo-Addo also touched on his campaign for a free education from primary to secondary school in Ghana, saying “we must start with investing in our children and young people as the surest way to guarantee a prosperous future.”
In the first year of its implementation, he revealed that “90,000 more Ghanaian children gained access to Senior High School in 2017 than in 2016. It’s anticipated that in September this year, 180,000 more children will be admitted into senior high school. We want to make sure that every Ghanaian child, no matter the circumstances of their birth, no matter where they are born, are not denied an education,” adding that “this is the only way we can create an educated workforce to accelerate the process of development.”
President Akufo-Addo posited, “On the matter of education, I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending that all African countries adopt the policy of free compulsory education from kindergarten to senior high school because this is one of the most important things we have to do if we are to make the transformation from our current state to prosperity.”
President Akufo-Addo also urged members of the legal fraternity, in Ghana, Nigeria and the continent to uphold the integrity of the profession, and thereby ensure that the rule of law is upheld at all times.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the legal profession has a rarefied position in our societies and lawyers are assured of a special status.
“In both our countries, Nigeria and Ghana, it must be a source of pride for us that lawyers were in the forefront of the fight for liberation from colonialism. Indeed, since independence, lawyers have moved seamlessly between politics and the legal profession,” he said.
Whereas the legal fraternity has a lot to be proud of in the role played by lawyers in trying to promote democracy in our countries, the President stated that it’s also true that lawyers have not always done themselves proud.
“The sad truth is that there have always been lawyers ready to find a way to justify some negative developments, no matter how bizarre. It is not surprising, therefore, that sometimes our profession has attracted the most cynical of comments,” he said.
“I hasten to add that this is not a new phenomenon as the legal profession has been bashed throughout the ages; be it from Shakespeare and the much argued over ‘first, let’s kill all the lawyers’ or the line from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, ‘The law is an ass — an idiot.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Abuja, Nigeria