President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday called on politicians to shun “ceaseless quarrelling” and engage in robust political debates that would strengthen the country’s democracy.
Mr. Jonathan made the call at the public presentation and official launch of the Kukah Centre, founded by prominent cleric and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah.
Among other aims, the centre was established to strengthen national debate, improve governance and encourage Nigerians to take an active role in the country’s leadership.
The centre also aims at promoting conversations among Nigeria’s faith communities, as well as between leaders in faith and public policy.
Mr. Jonathan said Nigeria’s democracy should be deepened by robust debates, stimulation of innovative ideas and healthy engagements by all actors.
“I call on everyone, the political class, our citizens and more importantly, the academic community to rise up to these challenges posed by this initiative (centre),” he said.
“I think we are over defining our democracy today by quarrelling as if democracy is about competitors quarrelling just like motor park workers,” he said.
The president urged politicians to use the 2015 elections to renew their commitment to the country’s unity.
He said: “As elections draw close, I call on all politicians to see this as another opportunity for us to renew our commitment to deepen our democracy and strengthen our bond of unity.
“Democracy is not about political parties and politicians alone, it is not just about winning or losing elections; it is about freedom, about development and above all a forward march of our civilisation and encouragement of creativity.
“It is in this regard that we must seek to identify and support the growth of structures and institutions that will help strengthen our democracy to meet our aspirations as a people.”
Mr. Jonathan noted that policy research institutes like the Kukah Centre had been pivotal to the social economic transformation of leading countries of the world.
According to him, such centres have served as the laboratories of the development, inter-relation and the refinement of key government policies.
He likened the Kukah Center to the Brooklyn Institute in America, which pioneered fact-based studies of government policies, using science as a key to analysis.
The president then challenged Nigerian politicians to draw inspiration from it.
“I’m personally convinced that the centre could not have finer mentor than the revered gentleman of long patriotic standing, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah,” he added.