Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday warned that African countries might experience an outburst of violence if they fail to address the lingering youth unemployment.
He stated this while playing host to the newly appointed President of ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, who led a four-man delegation to his residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Mr. Souza, a Beninoise, was appointed in April.
“On the issue of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, I have maintained that all of us in West Africa, in our different countries and indeed in Africa, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder for as long as we do not pay adequate attention to youth unemployment,” Mr. Obasanjo said.
“A situation where more than 50 per cent of our youths are unemployed is extremely dangerous. We now have a situation in part of West Africa where people now are dying of starvation.
“Is it that we are not producing enough food or if we are producing what we produced evenly, whatever it is it is shameful, it has led us to be begging international community for supply of food to any part of West Africa, it is not right?”
The former president, who is currently a special envoy of ECOWAS to Guinea-Bissau, said the expectations from the sub-regional body when it was established 41 years ago were yet to be met.
He lamented the lack of political will on the part of the organisation to move as fast as it should though it was never envisaged that internal conflicts such as those witnessed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, and Cote d’Ivoire would engage its attention.
He said, “So the attention that we should have paid to the original objectives which is economic integration, economic development, socio economic, economic progress, we have been diverted.
“Of course peace and security is the foundation of any socio-economic development and growth. Of necessity we have to pay attention to base on security.”
Mr. Obasanjo said he was available to give support for the Commission whenever he was called upon.
“My involvement in Guinea-Bissau was an enduring involvement,” the former president said.
“I have been in that development when I was in government as President of Nigeria and Nigeria and ECOWAS appointing me as special envoy that kept my involvement and my interest.
“I want to say this that most of these conflicts, most of these causes of insecurity or breach of insecurity were because adequate attention had not been paid to what I will call inclusiveness, inclusiveness in terms of political, economic and social development of all our countries, inclusiveness gender wise, inclusiveness social wise, inclusiveness religious wise, inclusiveness ethnic wise and we must appeal to our leaders in our sub region to take these issue of inclusion seriously.”
While asking the new leadership of the Commission to be proactive in its activities. Mr. Obasanjo urged it to work closely with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who is the incumbent President of ECOWAS.
Earlier, Mr. Souza said Mr. Obasanjo had always shown commitment to ECOWAS and that he was visiting him to seek guidance on his new assignment.