by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Former president of the United States, Bill Clinton was special guest at the ThisDay Annual Awards yesterday.The event held at the Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos.
Clinton, who was visiting the country for the sixth time since he left the White House, got a standing ovation as he came up to give his speech. “Since I was here last, how are you doing? Let’s talk about it, as an outsider who cares about you,” he began.
He then launched into trademark wonkiness: “How do you make non-working systems work – and how do you make sure working systems get to the people who need them?” he asked. “Every year, Egypt was producing 400,000 college graduates, but nowhere near 400,000 jobs. India has the biggest middle class in the world (350million), but also the largest number of very poor people in the world (450million).”
Clinton said he was worried about the security situation in Nigeria, linking the Boko Haram crisis in part to the significant inequality between Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country. “It is not enough to fight violence,” he said. “You should also give people something to look forward to every morning. The poverty rate in Northern Nigeria is 72%, in the delta 35% and in the rest of Nigeria 27%. It is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence.”
Pointing to the fact that constitutional democracy is not an end in itself he added, “Majority rule is not enough. There must also be minority rights and individual rights.”
“Bill Clinton spoke more knowledgeably about Nigeria than many Nigerian politicians I know,” said writer Tolu Ogunlesi who was at the event.
A galaxy of Nigeria’s power players were at the event including minister of petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke, coordinating minister of the economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of information communication and technology Mobola Johnson, former minister of information Dora Akunyili, former Edo first lady Eki Igbinedion, lawyer and activist Maryam Uwais, Ekiti’s Governor Kayode Fayemi amongst others. Also present was Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair.
Clinton left after presenting a few awards – announcing that he was leaving Nigeria for Colombia.