Former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has voiced concerns about the eroding trust in democracy across Africa due to recent political crises.
He emphasized the need to “rejig” the democratic system to restore public faith and ensure that democracy leads to economic development. These remarks were made during the Democracy Dialogue 2023 event organized by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) with the theme: “Breaking New Grounds in the Democracy Development Nexus in Africa,” held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Jonathan, who served as Nigeria’s president from 2010 to 2015, emphasized that leadership should prioritize translating democracy into economic well-being and development.
He expressed alarm at the increasing instances of civilian governments being overthrown on the African continent, which, he argued, underscores the urgency of reforming the democratic process.
“In recent years, democracy in the continent has caused a serious crisis. The challenges of poverty and unemployment have created a crisis of trust in the hearts of our citizens,” Jonathan stated. “As leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure that democracy endures by adhering to the rules of law, respecting the rights of the people, strengthening public institutions, and implementing policies that positively impact the lives of our people.”
The annual Democracy Dialogue, an initiative of the GJF, serves as a platform to bring together stakeholders from across Africa to critically examine democracy’s state and practice on the continent while offering suggestions for improvement.
Jonathan highlighted that the dialogue’s primary goal is not to target any specific nation but to foster effective communication and set agendas for political development in Africa.
“I must sincerely appreciate the enthusiasm of the people of Bayelsa and other Nigerians for their contributions to the success of this event,” Jonathan said. “Your presence is a demonstration of your faith in our democracy and your determination to make contributions to proffer workable solutions to the challenges of leadership in the African continent.”
During the event, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse, who served as the royal father of the day, urged leaders with symbols of authority, whether crowns or constitutional seals, to ensure they carry the people they govern along in their actions and policies.
The keynote address, titled “Making Democracy Work in Africa,” was delivered by Prof Patrick Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (June–September 1960).
Additionally, other prominent African leaders, including Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission, will participate in panel discussions on the future of democracy in Africa, highlighting the critical importance of the dialogue in shaping the continent’s democratic trajectory.