By Nathan Nwakamma
The Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, say Africa is not getting its fair share from the Commonwealth.
Both leaders of Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS) spoke in Yenagoa on Saturday at the opening of the 74th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Executive Committee meeting.
Ekweremadu said that with the exit of Britain from European Union, a new era had come in the Commonwealth and urged Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Africa Region to prepare for the current realities.
“Britain has left Europe and we are going to look for new friends, we are going to sign new partnership agreements, we are going to look for new partners.
“As we go into this new era of Commonwealth, Africa must be ready to put on a new thinking cap for better negotiations, for better deals. Yes, we must put money for the sustenance of the Commonwealth.
“But we must ask ourselves, do we get enough returns for our investment in Commonwealth? Gambia asked itself this question and left the Commonwealth.
“There used to be Commonwealth scholarship, do we get enough of those scholarships? If we say we have a Commonwealth, is it commonwealth of nations or commonwealth of the people?
“I think what we need is a Commonwealth of people where everybody has a sense of belonging to such a super national organisation, where a Nigerian, a Ghanaian, South African, Kenyan, can go to the UK without having a visa.
“That is what is Commonwealth. We have different sets of Commonwealth. We have Commonwealth of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, among others but our experiences are not the same.
“So, we must ensure that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It is left for Commonwealth to ensure that it is indeed a Commonwealth.
“We must be able to lift one another to ensure that we work for their improvement and development.
“So, we want those countries God has blessed to help bless others to lift up out of poverty, ignorance and disease. That should be the position of Africa as we go into a new era of Commonwealth,” Ekweremadu said
He suggested that Africa must enter into new partnership agreements that would deal favourably with members that were emerging democracies, adding that Africa must send its best brains to negotiate on its behalf.
“It is time for us to say enough is enough. It is either we are with them or we are outside. But I think we should be inside, but we want to be inside and be taken care of, let our concerns be attended to.
“As long as we have one superior race against another, as long as we have unjust society, all the fights and struggle for peace will be in vain. That is the point we are making.
“Until everywhere is peaceful, until we care for ourselves, until we care for our race, until we say that everybody matters, until we deal with everybody with sense of justice irrespective of whether in our nations or international arena, until we feel a sense of belonging that government is taking care of the citizens and that their leaders care about them, we are going to continue to harvest insecurity, problems, fights and people struggling,” Ekweremadu said.
Dogara, represented by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Nigerian Content, Rep. Samuel Ekong, said legislators must ensure that their task of law making, appropriation and oversight were strengthened to deepen democracy.
“African parliamentarians should wake up to the reality that with the Brexit, the Commonwealth will pick up still because the British government will seek new partners.
“We will remain a struggling economy as long as they continue to leave us with just raw materials and bring us finished products.
“But we must in our engagement insist that there must be value addition in our production chain right here in our domains as this will create employment opportunities and ensure that our export receipts increase.
“It would ensure that our revenue inflows are better off.
“Otherwise, we will engage in a situation whereby we continue to pick the crumbs while they bring the finished products and increase our import bills and continue to add pressure to our revenue base.” Dogara said.
Gov. Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa; his Deputy, retired Rear Admiral John Jonah, and the Speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr Konbowei Benson, attended the ceremony.
Also, the three senators representing Bayelsa at the NASS – Ben Murray-Bruce, Foster Ogola and Emmanuel Paulker, among other dignitaries and foreign delegates are attending the meeting.