By Anietie Ukpe

The advent of democracy and recourse to the rule of law has been identified as the reason for the recent growth and progress in most African countries.

Governor Godswill Akpabio stated this while presenting a lecture at the 2014 Annual Lecture of NewsAfrica Magazine, held at The Dorchester Hotel, London.

Governor Akpabio who was also honoured as the Leader of the Year by NewsAfrica, identified that in recent years, several African Countries have recorded significant progress and economic development largely because of the institutionalization of democracy by some African leaders.

The Governor who spoke on the topic “Delivering Dividends of Democracy: An African Experience” acknowledged that after decades of military dictatorship in most countries in the continent, democracy came like the dawn for Africans.

“Military dictatorship was characterized by the suppression of human rights and privileges, corruption and nepotism. It was a winner-takes-all system,” adding that the current experience in Africa can be likened to a “summer of freedom, bringing with it a government of the people, by the people, for the people which has set us on paths of glory and reinvention.”

Citing Paschal Fletcher of Reuters, Chief Akpabio noted that, “The continent that was a byword for poverty, chaos and bloodshed only a few decades ago, providing a media feast of famines and wars, is slowly but steadily notching up gains on the democracy scorecard too… Combined with better economic management by many governments”.

Akpabio mentioned some African leaders like the Governor of the Province of Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Moise Katumbi Chapwe and President Paul Kagame of Rwandawho have both recorded notable growth in their respective economies since assumption of office few years ago.

The Akwa Ibom State Governor who also applauded the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria re-iterated that the 15 years of democracy in the country has recorded more gains in the country than the 35 years of military rule.

Such gains include the regulation of the communication sector, which led to the introduction of Global System for Mobile Telecommunication (GSM) in the country; passage of the freedom of information bill; the revolution in the aviation sector; establishment of more Federal Universities and other higher institutions; the deregulations of the downstream sector of the economy; the reintroduction of railway transportation, the construction of many dual carriageways among others.

“Despite the challenges of insecurity, which I believe will soon be history, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has instituted laudable policies, programmes and interventions that shield the Nigerian economy making it the 26th largest economy in the world and the largest in Africa.

He also listed some dividends of democracy in Akwa Ibom State which has transformed the State into a preferred destination.

Such programmes include the free and compulsory education, turn key infrastructure, free medical care, and quality road network among others.

He maintained that Akwa Ibom State is now a reference point in democracy and good governance.

According to him, “We have within the last seven years turned a state with a dearth of infrastructure, into an investment hub and tourist delight.”

Among those who spoke at the event included, was the Chairman of Business Council on Africa, UK Mr Patrick Orr who set the tone by commending the Governor for his transformation programmes in Akwa Ibom State.

Also speaking, the Publisher of NewsAfrica Mr Moffat Ekoriko said Chief Akpabio was the only man to be honoured with the Leadershiip Award by the Magazine, after the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Anan who was earlier honoured in 2002.

Mr Ekoriko said Akpabio was voted “for showing uncommon leadership in a country where leaders see their success in office in terms of personal wealth…and for giving hope of a greater future for Nigeria, a key country in Africa.”