The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have said that Africa is not getting a fair deal from the Commonwealth of Nations.
They spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, on Saturday, during the 74th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Executive Committee meeting.
Present at the meeting were Governor Seriake Dickson; his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd.); Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Konbowei Benson; three sentors representing Bayelsa at the National Assembly – Ben Murray-Bruce, Foster Ogola and Emmanuel Paulker, among other dignataries.
Specifically, Ekweremadu said with the exit of Britain from European Commission, a new era had dawned in Commonwealth, urging Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) to prepare for it.
He said, “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 Commonwealth, but we must ask ourselves, do we get enough returns for our investment in Commonwealth? Gambia asked themselves 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, etc. can go to the United Kingdom without having a visa. That is what is commonwealth. We have different sets of Commonwealth. We have Commonwealth of Canada, Australia, Newzealand, 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 Africa must enter into new partnership agreements that deal favourably with those members that are emerging democracies, insisting that Africa must send their 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 and that 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, whether in our nations or international arena, until we feel a sense of belonging that government is taking care of them and that their leaders care about them, we are going to continue to harvest insecurity, problems, fights and people struggling.”
Also speaking, Dogara, represented by Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Nigerian Content, Mr. Samuel Ekong, said parliamentarians must ensure that their primary responsibilities of law making, appropriation and oversight were strengthened to deepen demoncracy.
He said, “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 and 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.”