By NBF News
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With the successful conduct of the May 2011 general elections, Nigeria now stands a better chance of leading Africa as a political and geographical giant. However, it can only achieve this if the political class and the electorate work to strengthen the democratic process.

Professor Ade Adefuye, Nigeria's Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), recently urged the Federal Government to promote true democracy by making the people to elect their leaders in a free and fair atmosphere. He said this while delivering the 2011 annual lecture of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture (CBAAC) held at the FCT Abuja. Entitled 'Culture and the Making of A New Nigeria,' the lecture, among others, canvassed democratic reforms, noting that among other requirements, Nigeria cannot develop without embracing true democracy.

In a lengthy but incisive paper delivered at Reiz Hotel, Abuja, Adefuye identified a major success in the last 2011 elections but argued further that only when this trend is sustained would the country attain its many development goals. His words: 'Without a proper functioning democracy in which votes count and those who hold political offices are aware that a system is in place by which they will be sent out of office for non performance, there can be no meaningful and sustainable development.''

Still dwelling on the gains of democracy, Adefuye challenged those in authority to ensure that Nigerians had a voice in the selection of those who rule them. He listed many benefits of true democracy, saying failure to achieve free and fair elections might instigate political and economic crises. Although he was quick to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for discovering Professor Attahiru Jega, who gave Nigeria free and fair election last May, Adefuye called for a continuation of the trend.

'We need to dig deep into our past and our culture to keep the government on its feet and ensure the creation of a climate by which true democracy will be the basis of governance…That needs to be solidified because it is only when our leaders realise that the conditions for retaining their positions is effective performance, that we can expect commitment to the will of the people. Our political parties should be internally democratised and we should expunge garrison-politics, the big man syndrome and godfatherism from our political lexicon. Elections should not only be free and fair but should be seen to be so.''

While relating Nigeria's historical antecedents to that of many of its neighbors in Africa, the ambassador observed that Nigeria had always remained a united entity and that its political and numerical strength had equally influenced its foreign policies. Adefuye explained: 'Nigeria should use the inherent factors of history and culture…its cultural relationship with many countries in Africa and the Diaspora as a leverage in the pursuit of its foreign policy objectives. There is no reason why Nigeria should have any problem in clinching the one seat expected to be allocated to Africa in the expanded membership of the United Nations Security Council.''

Adefuye also listed a number of ways in which the country had helped its neighbors but blamed leaders for failing to maximise the potentials for the purposes of economic and political growth. He lamented: 'Nigeria is one of the most naturally endowed countries in the world. We have oil, gas, cocoa, groundnut, palm oil, tin and almost any mineral one can think of. Our people are not only gifted but also hard working. There is no profession on earth in which a Nigerian has not excelled. Our problem has been that of dedicated and informed leadership. The several years of military rule has denied us the opportunity of maximising our potentials.''

Adefuye equally tasked leaders and the people on the need to channel the country's arts and culture towards realising development objectives. 'The Nigerian art and music are increasingly exported, shedding light on the rich diversity of the country. In 1995, Nigerian cultural troupes toured some countries in the Caribbean, including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Between 1992 and 1995,the National Troupe of Nigeria received invitations to perform in the United States, especially in New York. In the literary world, Professors Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe have distinguished themselves.

Young and upcoming starlets like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are worthy cultural ambassadors….One of the most significant approach through which Nigeria can advance its image and relationship is to promote what is distinctively Nigerian, whether it is music, artwork, clothing, literature or food. The huge successes Nigeria has recorded in the literary world, music, sports and Nollywood should be explored to the fullest as comparative advantage.''

Also Professor Tunde Babawale, Director and CEO of CBAAC, restated the importance of culture in the continued search for social, economic and political development. According to him 'Our culture must be made to influence our relationship with ourselves and with others. A nation's culture largely determines its behavior in the international system. Our culture of honesty, hard work and tolerance must be brought to bear on our relationship to the outside world as much as they influence our domestic policy.

Nigerian cultures promote peaceful co-existence by encouraging dialogue, mutual understanding, respect, civility and reconciliation. Potentials of our culture to midwife economic prosperity remain largely underutilised. We can use our cultural heritage to generate income, build social cohesion and peace and mobilise our communities and the rest of Africa for development.''