By Asmau Ahmad
Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has emerged the new Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Tinubu was endorsed on Sunday at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
Tinubu, who is the latest entrant into the exclusive club of Heads of State in West Africa, accepted the honour on behalf of Nigeria.
He pledged to bear the responsibility of the office and run an inclusive administration of the regional organisation.
The Nigerian leader, however, warned that the threat to peace in the sub-region had reached an alarming proportion with terrorism and an emerging pattern of military takeover demanding urgent and concerted actions.
He said insecurity and creeping terrorism were stunting the progress and development of the region, and called for collective action from member-states.
President Tinubu pledged that under his leadership, frameworks would be harmonized to actualize the dreams of ECOWAS.
“On peace and security, the threat has reached an alarming level, and needs urgent actions in addressing the challenges.
“Indeed, without a peaceful environment, progress and development in the region will continue to remain elusive.
“In this regard, we must remain committed to the utilisation of all regional frameworks at our disposal to address the menace of insecurity,” he added.
The President noted that ECOWAS had developed a security architecture, which “covers a wide range of areas that involved kinetic and non-kinetic operations, including preventive diplomacy.
“There is also the Regional Plan of Action on Fight against Terrorism 2020-2024 as well as the operationalisations of the ECOWAS Standby Force on Fight Against Terrorism.
“I will ensure that we immediately harmonise these plans and mobilize resources as well as the political will towards the actualisation of the initiatives.
“As terrorists do not respect boundaries, we must work collectively to have an effective regional counterterrorism measure.”
On his emergence as Chairman on his first participation at the summit, Tinubu said he was humbled and honoured by the trust to assume the leadership of the regional body.
He therefore pledged unalloyed commitment to serve the interest of the community.
“Indeed, I’m humbled and honoured by this trust, and want to assure you of my unalloyed commitment to provide the necessary leadership with dedication to serve the interest of the community.”
To underscore his commitment towards regional integration, the Nigerian leader declared that he would prioritize political stability, peace and security, regional economic integration and strengthening of ECOWAS institutions.
He declared that democracy and good governance remained the abiding cornerstones of peace and sustainable development.
While decrying the emerging pattern of coup d’etat in West Africa where soldiers truncated the popular mandate, Tinubu charged ECOWAS to stand firm in defence of democracy.
“We must stand firm on democracy. There is no governance, freedom and rule of law without Democracy. We will not accept coup after coup in West Africa again. Democracy is very difficult to manage but it is the best form of government.
“There is no one here among us who did not campaign to be a leader.
“We didn’t give our soldiers resources, we didn’t invest in them, in their boots, in their training to violate the freedom of the people.
“To turn their guns against civil authorities is a violation of the principles upon which they were hired, which is, to defend the sovereignty of their nations. We must not sit in ECOWAS as toothless bulldogs,” the President warned.
Tinubu assured the regional leaders of the immediate implementation of his vision for the body, by convening an ECOWAS Extra Ordinary Summit on Trade and Investment in October.
“The event will provide opportunity for Member States to showcase their potentials and encourage match-making, in order to evolve business cooperation among the various organized private sectors within the region.”
The new Chairman further called for the conclusion of reforms on strengthening all ECOWAS institutions.
He assured that, “together, we can shape a brighter future of shared values of peace, democracy, and economic prosperity of our region.”
In his welcome address, the former ECOWAS Chairman and President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Embalo, saluted his fellow leaders for sustaining the vision of the organisation in spite of the global economic headwinds and trouble spots within the region.
He cited Mali, Burkina Faso and Republic of Guinea as countries where the constitutional order had been distorted while congratulating Nigeria and Sierra Leone for the recent successful elections.