JUST IN: Former President Goodluck Jonathan delivers a powerful speech in Malaysia, reveals secret to global peace

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Former president of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has advised young people around the world to unite with the old so as to forge a common front. Jonathan spoke on Friday, September 8, in Sarawak, Malaysia, as a guest at the International Summit on Peace organised by the Junior Chamber International.

He also noted that “the conscience and integrity of leaders are germane to solving societal problems.” Making a presentation at the event, the former president quoted the late Maitama Sule as warning that the youth must relate well with elders in any society.

The former president with some of the organisers in Malaysia. Credit: Goodluck Jonathan “As an organisation of dynamic young global citizens aiming to positively impact our world, I had expected that JCI would be seeking the attention of a youthful serving leader, to inspire the world’s young, at an important Summit as this.

“But then I took a second look at your theme and consoled myself that even as a former President and a much older person, I may not, after all, be an unsuitable choice.

“This is because both the young and the old have key roles to play, in matters of leadership and peace,” he said. Jonathan thanked the organisers and added: “I have to say that I am encouraged by the successes recorded by your organisation in galvanising young people around the world for good causes and promoting peace on our planet. “I believe that if more societies and organisations would join JCI in this crusade for global peace, the world will be a better place for all of us.”

He said he had earlier thought that the JCI would look for a younger and dynamic person for the presentation instead of him. He however changed the thought saying: “This consideration also reminded me of a statement by one of Nigeria’s elderstatesmen and sage, Alhaji Maitama Sule, who died just two months ago.

“He once said: ‘The young breed without the old breed will breed greed’. I believe, in saying so, he meant that the young and old must come together for a better tomorrow.”

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Conscience Based Leadership: The Secret to Global Peace
and Security
A Presentation by Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan, (President of Nigeria
2010-2015) at the International Summit on Peace organized by JCI
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, September 8, 2017
1. Introduction
It is my pleasure and a great honour to be invited to give the keynote
speech at this very important Peace Summit organised by Junior
Chamber International (JCI), holding here in Kuching.
First, I have to say that I am encouraged by the successes recorded
by your organisation in galvanising young people around the world
for good causes and promoting peace on our planet. I believe that if
more societies and organisations would join JCI in this crusade for
global peace, the world will be a better place for all of us.
My heartfelt gratitude also goes to the entire people of Malaysia and
the good people and Government of Sarawak for the rare hospitality
they have put on display during this conference. You have indeed
proved that Kuching is a City of Unity and place of generosity.
I must say that when I was first informed of this invitation, my initial
reaction was, ‘why me?’
As an organization of dynamic young global citizens aiming to
positively impact our world, I had expected that JCI would be seeking
the attention of a youthful serving leader, to inspire the world’s young,
at an important Summit as this.
But then I took a second look at your theme and consoled myself that
even as a former President and a much older person, I may not, after
all, be an unsuitable choice. This is because both the young and the
old have key roles to play, in matters of leadership and peace.
This consideration also reminded me of a statement by one of
Nigeria’s elder statesmen and sage, Alhaji Maitama Sule, who died
just two months ago. He once said: “The young breed without the old
breed will breed greed.” I believe, in saying so, he meant that the
young and old must come together for a better tomorrow.
The general theme for this Summit is ‘Peace is Possible’ under which I
am required to focus on Leadership for a Peaceful World. For
emphasis, I will present my paper under the following heading:
‘Conscience Based Leadership: The Secret to Global Peace and
Security.’ This is consistent with my belief that the conscience and
integrity of leaders are germane to solving societal problems.
First, let us examine the interplay of the driving words; leadership,
conscience, and peace.
2. Leadership
Again, I commend JCI for the initiative of this discourse which is
centered around critically examining the role leadership plays in
ensuring peace in a community. Such exercise is crucial in the life of
any group or organization. For us as members of the human society,
constant interrogation of the character of leadership is essential in
removing the existential threat, its poor application poses to our world.
Each time I think about leadership and how important it is in our lives,
I always remember a quote attributed to Alexander the Great, King
of the ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedon. He said: “I am not afraid
of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep
led by a lion.”
This is a powerful epigram that has however been interpreted variously
overtime, to suit diverse dispositions and ends. As a democrat who
believe in building strong institutions, rather than strong men, I don’t
completely agree with the author. But I see his submission as speaking
to a particular perception of leadership which we need to further
interrogate. It is the view that leadership holds a commanding
influence in the affairs of men, and that our fate is intertwined with
that of our leaders.
Over the years, the term leadership has evolved and in its evolution,
many people now see a title or an office as leadership. But that is an
erroneous outlook on leadership. The best leader does not borrow
power from his office or position. Rather, he adds influence to his office
or position.
I admire your internal notion of leadership at JCI, especially the “One
Year to Lead” philosophy which you have espoused. This tends to
concisely capture the attributes that support and sustain peace in our
In my view, this your philosophy teaches two critical lessons in
1) Leadership as the embodiment of a distinct aptitude that leads to
answers to societal questions, and provides the optimism that keeps
communities on track.
2) It is equally that structured game which every driven and spirited
individual, out to make a difference in the lives of the people, gets an
opportunity to play, in line with the rules.
I highlighted the last five words above because of the threat and
catastrophe that often follow the decision by some leaders to either
disobey or change the rules, especially those involving scope and
3. Conscience
Conscience aggregates an individual’s moral sense of right and
wrong which in turn directs his behaviour. In governance, leaders are
faced with the same choices, and that is how conscience rules our
world, for good or bad.
Another compatriot, an Islamic cleric, and writer, Usman Dan Fodio,
who was born in the 18th Century and died in the 19th Century
portrayed conscience in a very remarkable way. He said:
“Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it”. What this tells
me is that truth is the guiding light in all human interactions, including
governance. It tells me also that it is the balm that heals the
conscience of every leader and directs him to do right. Without truth,
the conscience of a leader will no longer heal, but bruise the people.
The best leadership flows from inspiration and not from power or force
of arms. You can only inspire people when your leadership is governed
by your conscience and the support of the led.
Power centric leadership is ego based. Looking at human history in
the last 100 years, you would notice that ego based leadership has
brought untold hardship to humanity and set us back decades. On
the contrary, conscience based leadership has again and again,
been shown to be the only type of leadership that can engender
world peace, progress and unity.
Adolph Hitler was an ego based leader. He commanded a large
army, and was also an intelligent leader. But because he was not
governed by conscience, everything he built came crashing down
and his name will forever go down in history as an anathema.
On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi, while leading the cause for
India’s independence, did not command troops. But he easily
galvanized his people’s support and liberated vast India from
colonialism with his conscience, civility and power of his conviction.
Ditto for Dr Martin Luther King Jr, whose son I met last year in Atlanta,
United States. Dr King was a man that did not command a single
armed man. He was not the political head of any community. His word
was not law. He could not dictate his wishes but he inspired a nation
with his conscientious speeches.
Despite not controlling the instruments of government or the media,
Dr King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech remains one of the most famous
speeches of the 20th century. Though he did not hold a political office
or control great wealth, he was able to inspire a nation to unite and
discard segregation and racism and mobilize together toward the
ideals of their Founding Fathers.
But what is the difference between Adolph Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi
and Dr Martin Luther King Jr? They were all charismatic, disciplined,
driven and highly intelligent to the point of genius.
The difference between them was not in their genes which were
Caucasian, Asian and African-American. No. If that was the only
difference that mattered, then we would not have had bloodthirsty
tyrants in Africa and Asia.
The difference between them is that both Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and
Mahatma Gandhi were led by conscience while Adolph Hitler was led
by ego. Conscience builds, ego destroys.
4. Peace
When we narrowly consider peace as the absence of conflict and
freedom from violence, we tend to forget that peace is actually the
end result of responsible leadership.
The United Nations has done a good job by reminding us that more
than expressing a state of being, which is the absence of conflicts;
peace means dignity and well-being for all.
The immediate past Secretary-General of the UN Mr. Ban Ki-moon
captured this succinctly in 2014 when he said: “Peace means access
to education, health, essential services which … must be nurtured
through the dignity, rights and capacities of every man and woman.”
Similarly, the African Union has devised mechanisms for promoting
peace, security and stability on the continent by focusing on
measures that address such issues as widespread poverty, youth
unemployment, poor governance, illiteracy and lack of free and fair
Every person on earth is entitled to the right of peaceful co-existence
with others. Unfortunately, peace building has become one of the
greatest challenges facing our world today. There is no part of the
world that is completely at peace or immune from crises or violent
The world is not lacking in peace initiatives which can be found in all
corners of the earth. Yet, the challenge of conflicts, wars and terror
continue to visit violence, grief and poverty on human populations.
5. A Bird’s-Eye View on Causes of Global Conflicts
If leaders were to match their words with action in meeting their
obligation to the people, there is no doubt that we will be moving
closer to the peaceful world we all dream of. But how can we attain
that state when those dictatorial traits including ego, authoritarianism,
supremacy battle, fight for territories and the tendency to distort
existing order, which threaten global peace and cause wars, are still
very much with us?
A recent report on Global Peace Index released by the Institute for
Economics and Peace showed that the economic impact of conflict,
in 2016 alone stood at $14.3 trillion which translates to about 12.6% of
world GDP.
The research also indicated that “the world continues to spend
enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very
little on peace.” If anything, this colossal effort which is directed at
fighting already lit fires, should tell us where to place our priorities. That
would be concentrating on those deliveries that make our people
human, keep them safe and cater to their happiness, rather than
spending so much, just to show our might.
6. The Nature of Conflicts in Africa
In Africa, where I come from, the causes of conflict had mostly been
traced to weak institutions, poor democratic practices and political
On a different level, the struggle for power by African politicians had,
more often than not, unleashed widespread violence in their countries
which robbed those nations of the stability and peace needed for
sustainable development and economic growth.
Even in cases without manifest violence, politicians often undermined
democratic principles, emasculated people power and placed
themselves above the electorates. In that situation the views of the
people, who wield sovereignty with their votes, no longer counted as
they should. And once the people lose their right to truly elect their
leaders, accountability, which brings about good governance,
becomes the first victim.
But the good news is that the situation is no longer that bad.
Democracy is already being consolidated on the continent of Africa,
with good success stories. From Cape to Cairo, and the Gulf to the
Horn of Africa, elections are being conducted by many African
nations in peaceful and transparent manner.
7. Development and Peace
There is a clear correlation between a nation’s social and economic
standing and its position in the global conflict index. That is why richer
nations, with better human development profiles experience fewer
crimes, violence and conflicts than the poorer ones.
Around the world, nations with the highest progress on the United
Nations Human Development Index (HDI) are those with good
education, free press and functional democracy. In the top ten
category are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands,
Germany, Ireland, the USA, Canada and New Zealand. All these
nations have high education standards, a vibrant democracy with an
unstifled opposition, genuine separation of powers and a free press.
Meanwhile, the nations with the lowest progress on the United Nations
HDI are those ones either experiencing full blown dictatorship or
nations that have placed democracy under threat. In the bottom 10
are nations we all know, with many of them in Africa, either currently
in conflict, or just getting out of it.
8. My Approach
Since you specifically invited me to share my experience as a political
leader and President, with the forum, I will, therefore, like to mention
some of the things I did in office, to build a peaceful society.
I can confidently say that in all my public life, I was inspired to lead by
conscience. This is in agreement with my personal philosophy which I
first proclaimed while running for the office of the Governor of my
home state Bayelsa in 2006, and re-echoed when I ran for the office
of the President of Nigeria in 2011 and 2015.
Then, I made it clear that my political ambition is not worth the blood
of anybody.
Ever since I said that in November of 2006 in Yenagoa, capital of
Bayelsa State, I have always lived by it. This philosophy informed my
decision to concede the 2015 Presidential election, even while the
results were still being collated.
8:1- Strides in Education
Let me give an example of one way I was inspired to lead by my
conscience. In Nigeria, there were 10.5 million (about 15% of the
population) out of school children who were of school age, going by
UNICEF figures, as at the time I became President. This was a
disproportionate portion for my country which was quite alarming,
considering that many other developing nations with much higher
population had fewer numbers of out of school children.
Over 80% of these children for which majority are known as Almajiri
came from the northern part of Nigeria, where I recorded the least
votes in the elections I contested. Knowing the value of education , I
could see that the ugly situation was limiting the opportunities of these
children and negatively affecting the development of my country.
That was why my administration decided to build 165 Almajiri
Integrated Model Schools which combined both western and Islamic
education in its curricula. They were designed to have significant
impact in reducing the number of out of school children, and opening
the space for them to dream like other kids in other parts of the nation.
Constitutionally, the Federal Government which I led was not
obligated to build primary and secondary schools. It is the
responsibility of the states and local governments. But I believed that
without providing education to these children, the country would be
fated to spend more money in fighting insecurity.
My administration took education seriously because I saw education
as the weapon with which we could break the bond between
illiteracy and crime levels. For instance, it was obvious that Boko
Haram terrorists were exploiting these innocent children in the
northern part of the country and using them as canon fodders to
destabilize the country. The situation was so awful that security reports
indicated that even parents were alleged to be giving out their
innocent and illiterate children to terrorists for suicide bombing.
I am a firm believer in education, and just as I had said elsewhere, any
nation that does not spend its wealth in educating its youth will
eventually spend that wealth to fight insecurity.
With my one and half years stay as the governor of my State, Bayelsa,
one of the remarkable things I tried to do then was to upgrade and
improve infrastructure in our educational institutions in my
determination to encourage more children to go to school, and stop
them from taking to crimes.
I also revived the award of post primary school scholarship to bright
students from mainly the rural communities and sent them to the best
secondary schools in Nigeria. I introduced a concept of building two
specialized post-primary institutions as centres of excellence for gifted
and talented students. My aim was to build role models who will inspire
others in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
I believed that one of the most effective ways of discouraging
restiveness and other crimes that are prevalent in the Niger Delta,
Nigeria’s seat of oil exploration, was to build role models to give hope
to other disenchanted youths. The whole idea was using education to
solve social and security problems in my country.
When I eventually became President, I thought it was time to
mainstream this programme to the centre, by expanding the
opportunities for qualitative education at all levels, to every hardworking
Nigerian youth.
Throughout the time I was in office, education enjoyed the highest
sectoral allocation in the nation’s budget. This was why we were able
to scale up our education programmes, especially at the tertiary level,
where there was an obvious need to address the challenge of
insufficient spaces for our youths. We built 12 additional conventional
universities and two more specialised institutions including one
maritime university and a police university. With that, we expanded
the opportunities to educate our youth in relevant fields, and produce
the manpower needs of our economy.
For a nation to truly develop, it must cultivate a crop of manpower
that could revolutionise its technological advancement. For this
reason, we introduced the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme
for Innovation and Development (PRESSID). With this programme, we
offered scholarship to the best of our first-class graduates from the
technical disciplines, to embark on further studies in the world’s
leading universities. The idea was to send them to these institutions to
acquire technical skills that are relevant to our development goals.
To reduce tension and conflict in the Niger Delta, we equally
implemented a programme for the training of the youths in different
disciplines, skills and technical vocations relevant to our economy, in
many local and foreign institutions.
8:2 – Economic Empowerment and Job Creation
Nigeria’s population estimate in 2011 when I became President was
put at about 163 million. More than 60% of this number was made up
of young people. For a country with such huge population and faced
with obvious youth bulge, we considered that Government must be
resourceful in creating opportunities for employment. To make
progress, we came up with innovative programmes, including the
Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN), which
encouraged young people to establish their own businesses, create
jobs and stay away from crimes.
YOUWIN proved to have been quite successful in promoting
entrepreneurship among youth and women. The process involved
recruiting thousands of awardees with realistic business proposals who
were then given take-off grants, trained and attached to successful
business people for proper guidance. Most of them ended up
establishing flourishing enterprises that generated more than 27,000
jobs in its first two years.
A World Bank-funded study, led by senior economist David McKenzie
compared YOUWIN to similar programmes in many countries and
stated that it performed better than most of them. Part of the report
said: “This programme would be more effective at creating jobs than
the fiscal stimulus in the United States…The cost per job created also
compares favourably to many job creation policy efforts in
developing countries, which have struggled to find significant effects
on employment.”
The World Bank was so impressed by YOUWIN’s success in creating
thousands of entrepreneurs and generating jobs that it is now
encouraging its replication in other countries.
AN Oxford University scholar James Burton who recently conducted a
research on the success of YOUWIN programme also concluded that
it outperformed programmes specifically targeted at employment
generation in other countries, and encouraged other African nations
to emulate it.
Burton further said: “YOUWIN was two and a halftimes as efficient as
a 2013 management consulting program in Mexico, four and a
halftimes as efficient as a 2014 wage subsidy program in Jordan and
almost ten times as efficient as a 2011 vocational training program in
Related to this was our agricultural transformation agenda which
quickly transformed the agricultural sector and boosted local food
production and food security.
We achieved that through establishing a fresh paradigm in farming,
by cultivating a new generation of young and proud commercial
farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs we preferred to identify as
‘Nagropreneurs’. The programme, became so attractive to young
university graduates, that it encouraged many of them to go into
large scale commercial farming. By the time I left office in 2015, over
100,000 youths, had benefited in one way or the other from this
My administration also supported the technological drive of our
youths by creating the environment for the setting up of two vibrant
ICT incubation centres in Lagos and Calabar. Many of you may recall
that Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg chose to visit Lagos as his
first stop during his recent and only visit to Africa. His main attraction
was the Lagos software centre, the Co-Creation Hub (CC Hub) which
has become quite successful, because it has produced many thriving
Nigeria’s vibrant film industry is also an area that bears the stamp of
my Government’s massive support to our enterprising youths. The local
film industry known as Nollywood, has grown phenomenally within a
very short time, to become the third largest in the world, behind
America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood. That impressive record
became possible because of my Government’s support and grants to
the budding film industry.
It was as a result of this support that Nollywood was able to rapidly
boost its capacity to the extent that by 2014, it contributed 4% to
Nigeria’s GDP. It was the first time the industry would feature as a
factor in Nigeria’s economic growth and national GDP computation.
We were able to implement these innovative programmes because
my administration made youth entrepreneurship the plank of our
In peace building you cannot underestimate the role of women, who,
on the average, make up half of the population of most societies. As
President, I encouraged plurality and gender balance by
mainstreaming women into Nigerian politics and public service. I
ensured that more than 30 percent of the positions in my Government
were occupied by women. It was the first time in our country that
women would attain that level of prominence in governance.
To encourage more women to go into business, the YouWin
programme also had a special cycle for women only.
My idea was that a group that makes up to 50% of our population
cannot be ignored. If we truly desire to develop, grow and take care
of our social problems, we must empower women to be able to
narrow the space for conflicts.
Even out of office, I remain committed to mentoring young people
and women to start their own businesses. This is one key area of the
work of my foundation, the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, which is
also focusing on fostering transparent elections and peaceful power
transfer in Africa.
8: 3 – Promoting Democracy and Good Governance
My interest in free and fair elections and peaceful transfer of power
from one administration to another is borne out of the experience of
instability and poor democratic practice in Africa.
One of the key ways to instill the culture of sustainable development
is to improve the quality of governance. An important step in this quest
is to sanitise and strengthen the electoral processes.
I strived as a key political figure to consolidate peace and cultivate
democracy not only in Nigeria but across the Continent of Africa.
Supporting democracy became a key focus of my administration’s
foreign policy objective, such that we devoted much effort to
brokering peace and restoring democracy in many West African
countries including Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Cote
My administration identified the electoral process as Africa’s own
Augean stables that needed redemption. In our case, I appointed
very competent people who had no personal relationship with me, to
serve in my country’s electoral commission. My Government ensured
that the autonomy of the commission was guaranteed. To avoid
excuses, we also made sure that the commission was fully funded.
The result was that my administration conducted the 2011 and the
2015 general elections, and all other polls without my interference.
8:4 – Free Press and 2014 National Conference
As I said earlier, it is not only when weapons are deployed that nations
could be said to be in conflict. Many nations are in conflict today
even when cannons do not boom and guns are not being fired.
Two key things we did to calm nerves and defuse tension in Nigeria
were to ensure a free press and to convoke a national conference.
In May 2011, my administration signed into law the Freedom of
Information (FOI) Act in order to accord the media the abiding
freedom required for its watchdog duty, as well as give the people
unrestricted access to information on the activities of Government.
The development expanded the space for healthy interactions and
deepened citizens’ freedom to express their opinions on any issue;
thereby reinforcing their place as important partners in the way they
were being governed.
The 2014 National Conference brought together about 500 Nigerians
from all walks of life to deliberate over a five-month period and come
up with recommendations on how best to run our federation, and
guarantee a better future for our country.
The conference gave both the young and old the opportunity to
exhaustively discuss and agree on the issues that agitated their minds
on the workability of Nigeria’s federal structure. I believe the
recommendations of this confab, if implemented, would go a long
way in solving Nigeria’s structural problems. These and other steps we
took, helped bring down tension, promoted national cohesion and
gave Nigerians hope for a better tomorrow.
9. Conclusion
In closing, I must point out that in as much as we desire peace, we
have no choice but to admit that crises and conflicts are part of
human society. So long as people exist on earth, so long as they
remain adherents of different faiths, and the foraging for food and
man’s other basic needs do not cease, there will always be conflicts.
What matters then is our approach to resolving the conflicts as they
arise, and ensuring that they are not allowed to snowball into bloody
clashes and wars.
We now live in a world that has become more integrated, where
physical borders are becoming less and less restrictive, especially
within regional formations. The positive effect of this development is
that travel and trade across boundaries are becoming easier and
more fulfilling. But so is the ease with which transgressions like drug
trafficking, crimes, conflicts, terrorism and arms and ammunitions cross
national boundaries.
I had made the point that giving our youth the right education,
providing job opportunities and business skills will help the world
become more secure and peaceful.
But beyond that, nations can significantly reduce conflicts through
limitations placed on arms. World leaders on both sides of the divide,
the side of the manufacturers and that of the flashpoints, should
genuinely collaborate to ensure that action is expedited on the
ratification of the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, (ATT) to enable it
to come into full force.
There is no gainsaying the fact that uncontrolled spread of small arms
and light weapons had been responsible for the sustenance of major
conflicts in Africa and other parts of the world.
Let me reiterate, therefore, that there is no better way of achieving
global peace and security than submitting ourselves, as individuals,
young people, political leaders, organisations and other members of
the human race, to the dictates of our good consciences. That way,
we will be able to build the world that is close to our dreams, and
restore the dignity which God Almighty has given to man as the
master of His creation.
I thank you all.

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I am a writer, a motivational speaker. I am a mom and a wife. I studied engineering. I am a language coach. I do charity. I am the voice for THE voiceLESS Working for a beautiful Nigeria.

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