President of the Senate

 Federal Republic of Nigeria

At a dinner to formally commerce the International IDEA

Workshop on National Dialogue, Constitutionalism and

Democracy in Nigeria on September 25, 2001 at the Sheraton

Hotels & Tower, Abuja, Nigeria.


The Chairman of the occasion,

His Honour, Justice Pius Langa,

the Deputy President of the South African Constitutional Court, My Lady, Ms Mbether, 

the DeputySpeaker of the National Assembly of South Africa,

Distinguished International Participants and Scholars,

Distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,

& Honourable Commissioners,

Respected Envoys/Diplomats present here today,

Captains of Industries and Commerce, & Members of the Press Corp,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Good evening.


I am particularly delighted to be in your midst this evening. I am glad that our International Participants made it safely to Nigeria from their respective countries. Today’s gathering/dinner is essentially to flag off a national workshop on National Dialogue, Constitutionalism and Democracy in Nigeria at the instance of International IDEA. Immensely pleased for being invited to this dinner. 


On behalf of my entourage I thank the organisers for the sumptuous meal served us. Let me straight away salute the International IDEA for their bold initiatives in sponsoring talkshops, workshops, seminars and lectures on attributes of healthy and stable democratization in the third world generally and more particularly sub-Sahara Africa.


The theme for the present workshop: National Dialogue, Constitutionalism and Democracy in Nigeria is most appropriate, suitable and instructive to our nascent democracy. May I recall that, a vital legacy of modern government is participatory democracy. This form of government unlike others encourages tolerance of divergent views on every issue. Its fundamental rules are tailored to promote

governance by consensus, consultation, dialogue, jaw-jaw instead of war-war and compromise. 


It is therefore imperative that for a government to serve the ends of its people optimally it must strive to put in place a rule-based process of governance which encourages continuous dialogue on major national agenda.


Interestingly, our prehistoric traditional African heritage elaborately accommodates rulership by consultation. It is also trite that a typical African village headship settles communal conflicts through dialogue and mediation in contradistinction to the western adversarial adjudication.


In our present effort at rediscovering a people-orientated government based on rule of law, constitutionalism, enthronement of natural and fundamental rights and participatory democracy, it is critical that a cultivated and institutionalized mechanism be put in place to highlight the merits of dialogue, result-driven debates and constructive disagreement.


To achieve this laudable desire, its is my view that our educational/institutional curricula must be overhauled. Our approach to corporate governance must be fine-tuned. At the same time our professional bodies must begin a conscious and structured enlightenment programmes aimed at readjusting the mind-set of the



Admittedly, this is an era of internationalisation and globalisation of politics. A civil strife in one country in varied proportion affects other countries. This scenario replays itself in significant dimension at the level of ethnic, tribal and religious conflicts. Recently, Nigeria witnessed unprecedented insurgence of ethnic and religious militant groups. 


Their stock in trade is violence inflammed by primordial sentiments. To their misguided champions, reasoned dialogue have given way to anarchical disposition. Painfully, the history of mankind is full of data that violence has never been a credible and efficacious alternative to dialogue in the resolution of human conflicts. To stem this unpleasant development, the Human Rights Community and political elite must be in the vanguard of the era of consensus re-

approachment, dialogue and collectivism in leadership.


I therefore enjoin participants at the National Dialogue, Constitutionalism and Democracy in Nigeria to come-up with a blueprint that will address our prevalent national malaise of reluctance to resolve political, ethnic and religious differences through the mechanism of dialogue.


My dear distinguished audience, it is this re-awakening to the imperative of leadership by consensus and consultation as a critical factor in sustaining our emerging nascent democracy that informed my style of leadership of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as its presiding officer for the past one year. 


As the President of the Senate, I must note with delight that I have enjoyed the support and co-operation of my colleagues irrespective of party affiliations. We

have collectively strengthened the leadership of the National assembly with focused vision on the sustenance and survival of our re-discovered democracy. 


We do devote time in our working schedule to critically appraise ourselves as well as enlighten and educate ourselves on the virtues of mutual respect, informed criticism, constructive disagreement and routine formal and informal consultation in the handling of our National assignment. This approach has indeed contributed in stabilising the politics of the nation.


Undoubtedly, we have been criticised. We have even been blackmailed but our resolve to provide our people with abundance of democracy dividend is firm and resolute. In this regard, we shall continue to find solace in the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “the prosperity of a country depends not on the abundance of its

revenue … but it consists in the number of its cultivated citizens, in its men of education, enlightenment and character.”


Indeed, our society, our country, and in fact our world stands to benefit immensely not from abundance of revenue but from abundance of cultivated and educated men and women who are sufficiently and progressively amenable to dialogue, consultation, consensus and compromise in their daily activities.


It remains an undeniable fact, that ours is a constitutional democracy, we recognise the existence of the three arms of government. We equally recognise the various tiers of government. However, my leadership of the Senate appreciate the inherent danger posed to our fledging democracy by unjustified antagonism and vain posturing.


Understandably, I have with the support of my colleagues piloted the business of the National Assembly in the direction of stability of the polity which is sine qua non to meaningful progress and development. We shall continue to maintain cordial working relationship with the other arms of government without compromising entrenched constitutional roles. 


That is the spirit and essence of constitutional democracy. After all, political power and influence which serves no constructive purpose has no real justification for its possession. Your Excellencies, distinguished law makers and scholars, gentlemen and ladies, I sincerely believe that the timing of this workshop is most appropriate to enable our continent open a new vistas that will sensitise the need for creation and enthronement of new values and standards in our national discourse and interactions.

I have no doubt that the workshop, which will take off in a couple of hours from now will showcase robust and insightful deliberations and discussions on this topical issue.


Once again, I thank you.