5th October, 2021
Former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been decorated with the award of the African Bar Medal of Merit by the African Bar Association (AFBA) at the ongoing 2021 AFBA Annual Conference in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
Jonathan received the award on Monday alongside three other former Presidents at the opening ceremony of conference where he also presented a paper on accountable governance as a panacea for unending conflicts in Africa and the place of the legal profession. The other awardees included former President of Niger Mohammadou Issoufou, former President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In presenting the award, AFBA President Barrister Hannibal Uwaifo described them as Africa’s good governance ambassadors and thanked Jonathan for his efforts in promoting peace and democracy on the continent.
Jonathan who spoke on behalf of other awardees expressed his delight and described the recognition as an inspiration to do more to promote peace and people-oriented governance in Africa.
He said: “It is a delight to me, my family and friends, that such an esteemed continental body has also elected to honour me, alongside other prominent African leaders, with the award of the African Bar Medal of Merit.
“I am grateful to the leadership of the African Bar Association (AFBA), led by Barrister Hannibal Uwaifo, for their recognition of my modest contributions to the advancement of democracy and good governance in Africa.”
In his paper entitled ‘Accountable Governance as Panacea for the Unending Conflicts in Africa: The Legal Profession as the Driver’, Jonathan urged legal professionals to rededicate themselves to the task of protecting the rule of law in their commitment to equity, peace and progress in Africa.
According to him: “The rule of law is more potent in preserving societies than the rule of man. A functional legal system should therefore serve as a hope enabler and catalyst for peace, societal order, growth and development.”
“African lawyers both at the bar and the bench, therefore have a great role to play in advocating for the rule of law in our nations. In fact, the role of the state attorneys is critical, if Africa will witness reduced conflicts. I urge lawyers and judicial officers not to compromise their integrity in the process of upholding the rule of law and resolving disputes either in the courts, or via the various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.”
He said further: “We are in challenging times for which I will say that the world, particularly our continent, needs accountable governance now, than ever before. Africa is often described as a theatre of conflicts. Decades of socio-economic and political conflicts have persistently constrained accountable governance.
Although I am addressing members of the Bar, my focus is on the legal profession as a whole, because except the bar and bench work in concert the legal issues on the continent cannot be successfully resolved. The hands of all members of the legal profession must be on deck to bring about good governance, peace and sustainable development in our countries. “
In establishing a correlation between functional governance and security, the former President noted that “lack of accountability leads to conflicts and insecurity while accountable governance almost always leads to peace, stability and development.”
He averred that one of the most critical purposes of law in the society is to preserve the moral sanctity that binds the people, describing law as the upholder and provider of order.
The former President also made a case for free, fair and credible elections and urged legal professionals to lend their weight towards deepening democracy in Africa.