Comment at end
26th February, 2010
Still catching up with Blair’s recent Africa visits.
BACK TO YESTERDAY – FOR NIGERIA’S TOMORROWS
[Pictures from a Condi fan club website. And why not. I hope she stands for US President next time round.]
Clearly Tony, George and Condoleezza still get together from time to time.
Reports follow below of Tony Blair’s visit to Nigeria. By the way, if you want further evidence that Mr Blair is still working closely with the present British government, notice the below highlighted section:
Former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, last Saturday said Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the ”institution of Government” in Nigeria have handled the difficult situation in the country with skill.
Blair congratulated the Acting President on his assumption of office, saying the Government of the United Kingdom was pleased with the resolution of the political situation in Nigeria.
Blair, who spoke to newsmen after meeting with the Acting President at the Presidential Villa, described the current situation in Nigeria as ”unique and pretty difficult.
“I say to the Acting President that I want to thank him for the wise way he and the institution of Nigerian government have handled themselves in last few days and I want to say it has been a pretty the difficult situation and I think they have handled it with skill,” Blair said.
Giving insight into his closed-door discussions with Jonathan, Blair noted that the Acting President and the Nigerian legislature had shown a willingness to ensure that Nigeria moved forward “in a proper way.”
”He (Acting President) was explaining to me the importance of maintaining the right constitutional process and we both agree that one of the greatest things to have happened is returning democratic government and we would want to see that maintained.
“That relationship is a strong one, and I want it to stay strong.
“I have done lots of work with the previous president of Nigeria while I was in the office and we know that without Nigeria fulfilling its potentials and exacting its leadership, it will be greatly difficult for the whole of Africa.”
Speaking at the closed-door session, the Acting President extolled relations between Nigeria and the UK, describing it as very cordial.
Jonathan appreciated the British Government for its solidarity and encouragement to Nigeria on the recent political development , and expressed optimism that both countries will continue to strengthen ties between each other.
The Acting President said the Federal Government is committed to institutionalizing good governance and credible elections in the country.
He commended Blair for his commitment to Africa and acknowledged his support towards developmental initiatives on the continent.
BEDNETS TO FIGHT MALARIA
Since July 2008 Mr Blair’s Faith Foundation has also been foremost in the bednet/end malaria campaign in Africa. See video here.
Former prime minister Tony Blair has called for concerted efforts to combat malaria during a visit to Nigeria.
The country accounts for a quarter of the one million malaria deaths annually in Africa.
“Malaria has no barrier and does not discriminate. When we think of malaria we think particularly of children and women, and how to prevent it becomes particularly imperative,” Mr Blair said.
He was attending a training workshop of Christian and Muslim faith leaders on ways to combat malaria.
Some 75 million Nigerians – half the population – get infected with malaria at least once a year, while around 24 million children under the age of five suffer up to four bouts each year.
The workshop focused on the use of bed nets to help prevent contracting malaria, which is a mosquito-borne disease.
The government plans to roll out 62 million bed nets in a country where nearly 300,000 people succumb to malaria each year.
Around 97% of the 150 million Nigerians are at risk of infection, says Roll Back Malaria, a global initiative aiming to eradicate the disease.
Blair lauded Africa’s largest Muslim and Christian alliance, the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association (NIFAA), for its role in combating malaria.
“This model of inter-faith action can be readily adopted to join the state and public sector in other developing countries if government and funders are willing to provide external support to make this a reality,” he said.
“That is at the heart of my own faith foundation. When faith communities collaborate and work together for justice and human development, there is a pay-off. That is, things get done and then respect and understanding between them grows,” Mr Blair added.
Blair arrived in Nigeria on Friday on an African tour that will also take him to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
THISDAY’s Nigeria at 50, 2010 Awards
“BLAIR LED G7 TO GET NIGERIA DEBT RELIEF”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is in Nigeria for the THISDAY’s Nigeria at 50, 2010 Awards, yesterday relived the diplomatic interactions that contributed to the success of their administrations.
Speaking at an Inter-faith Malaria Initiative organised by the Nigeria Inter-faith Action Association with funding support from Federal Government, World Bank, Centre for Inter-faith Action on Global Poverty and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation held at the Kuje Town Hall in Abuja, Obasanjo said the former British premier made a significant contribution to Nigeria’s exit from the Paris Club and other creditor nations.
Obasanjo, whose entry into the venue of the event elicited wild, nostalgic cheers from the audience, said while he travelled round the globe to get Nigeria off the Paris Club debt yoke, he received promises from world leaders which were not fruitful thus prompting his government to search for a facilitator and a member of the Group of Seven industrialised nations (G7) which they found in Mr. Blair.
He said the debt relief allowed the country to channel resources into the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) projects notably funds needed to fight infant mortality and morbidity occasioned by such diseases as malaria.
“Since I left public office, I have engaged in issues of health and education which are very critical and I have always looked for an opportunity to meet Tony Blair and say thank you.
“In my eight years of leadership, Blair was in the vanguard of support in the area of health but more importantly in the area of debt relief. I visited world leaders but we needed somebody in G7 to get us debt relief. Blair led G7 to get us debt relief.
“What that has done for us is that the money we would have used to service debt is now being used on MDGs for infant mortality and other things. The money we used for the MDGs came from there,” he said.
He commended the inter-faith initiative which he said was deployed under his administration to tackle HIV/AIDS and it worked.
“People hear Nigeria as a land of religious crisis and destruction of lives. This one is about peace. Why are we not telling the world that we are religious and not religious fanatics. What we hear after the terror incident involving Nigeria is that when we call terrorism, Americans catch cold,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
In his remarks, the former British premier recalled that he spoke severally with President Obasanjo on his African Commission initiative which led to the commitment of huge sums of money to alleviation of poverty in Africa for which the former president was instrumental.
He commended religious leaders notably the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop John Onaiyekan, for their commitment in the fight against malaria and noted that the coming together of religious leaders on the effort to eradicate malaria and other initiatives would go a long way in ensuring religious harmony in the country.
“The issue of religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st century as political ideology was to the 20th century. In an era of globalisation, there is nothing more important than getting people of different faiths and cultures to understand each other better and live in peace and mutual respect; and to give faith itself its proper place in the future,” he said.
Also yesterday, Blair visited Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at his Akinola Aguda residence, Presidential Villa, Abuja and commended him for holding the country together in the face of the daunting political leadership facing the country.
Blair also expressed concern about recent political developments in the country and thanked Jonathan for the skilful way he has handled the country.
Fielding questions from newsmen at the end of about 30 minutes parley with Jonathan, Blair expressed satisfaction that the relation between Nigeria and the United Kingdom had remained very strong over the years. He expressed the hope that Nigeria would continue to play a leading role in the African continent as it’s mandatory on her.
Said Blair: “First of all I would say I am delighted to have seen the Acting President and to discuss with him and hear from him the situation here in Nigeria and the wider region and we were able to talk about some of the issues that are of mutual interest to the relationship between Britain and Nigeria. That relationship is a strong one, and I want it to stay strong.
“I have done lots of work with the previous president of Nigeria while I was in the office and all of Africa and we know that without Nigeria fulfilling its potentials and exacting its leadership, it will be greatly difficult for the whole of Africa.
“I said to the Acting President that I want to thank him for the wise way he and the institution of Nigeria government have handled themselves in the last few days and I want to say it has been a pretty difficult situation and I think they have handled it with skill.”
When asked what the response of Jonathan was on the issues discussed. Blair said, “He was explaining to me the importance of maintaining the right constitutional process and we both agree that one of the greatest things to have happened is returning to democratic government and we would want to see that maintained.
PLUS CA CHANGE
‘CYNICAL PRESS’ (2002)
‘Tony Blair has arrived in Ghana from Nigeria where he had earlier launched his fiercest attack yet on the “cynics” who criticise his global ambitions.
Addressing Nigeria’s national assembly in the capital, Abuja, he said there is nowhere to hide from international terrorism, crime and drug traffickers.
And, without naming the Conservative Party or other critics, he said: “The cynics say ‘why should we succeed now when we have failed before’, but that is what they have said throughout human history.
“If we listened to them we would still be in the dark ages.”‘
ARE THE CYNICS STILL CRITICISING HIS GLOBAL AMBITIONS? OF COURSE NOT. THEY’RE IGNORING THE PROGRESS HIS AMBITIONS HELPED DEVELOP & SUSTAIN.
Just as Tony Blair was ending his African trip Nigeria’s ailing, but not elderly president Umaru Yar’Adua returned to the country
President Umaru Yar’Adua was taken to a clinic in the presidential palace but his condition is unknown and it is unclear whether he is capable of resuming his duties.
Two aeroplanes landed in the dead of night at the sealed-off international airport in the capital, Abuja, and a convoy of government vehicles including an ambulance were seen speeding along the heavily guarded highway back to the city.
“I can confirm that the President has returned,” Mary Ikoku, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Information, told the Telegraph. “I have not seen him myself so I don’t know his condition.
“He arrived in what I can call an air ambulance and he was transferred to Aso Rock, so I don’t imagine he is in the best of health.” Aso Rock is the presidential palace, located just outside the capital, Abuja.
“We are sure he will be back to work soon,” added Ikoku. She said that she did not know whether Yar’Adua would attend a rescheduled cabinet meeting later on Wednesday.
The 58-year old leader arrived from Jeddah, where he was being treated for acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart.
He has not been seen in public and has issued only one brief statement since he left for Saudi Arabia in November, forcing government officials to approve a temporary transfer of power to his vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan, earlier this month.
But Yar’Adua’s return has created fresh confusion over who is in charge and renewed fears of a constitutional crisis.
The acting President postponed a cabinet meeting on Wednesday and summoned ministers to a briefing. Analysts say he has been behaving in an increasingly assertive fashion.
Adding to the confusion, an unnamed ally of Yar’Adua told Reuters news agency “the acting presidency lapses once the president sets foot on the shores of Nigeria”.
A spokesman at the British Embassy in Nigeria said “we continue to encourage the government of Nigeria to act in a way that is consistent with the constitution and the principles of democracy and the rule of law, as they have done during President Yar’Adua’s absence.”
Quite what this will mean for Nigeria in the next 50 days, far less 50 years, is an open question.