Last week, I was among the presidential delegation that visited Jordan. The King of Jordan, King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, had invited President Muhammadu Buhari to the World Economic Forum for Middle East and North Africa. Jordan is one country with a rich history. It is the only country in the world, which shares border with three continents. It is bounded by Egypt in the African continent, Israel in Europe and Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in Asia. It is also home to the Dead Sea and the River Jordan.
The Jordan River or River Jordan is a 251-kilometre-long (156 mi) river in the Middle East that flows roughly north to south through the Sea of Galilee. Jordan and the Golan Heights border the river to the east, while the West Bank and Israel lie to its west. Bible scholars would readily recall that the River Jordan has a major significance in Judaism and Christianity since many believe that the Israelites crossed it into the Promised Land and that Jesus of Nazareth was baptised by John the Baptist in it. The Church songwriter in his hymn, ‘Over The River Jordan, We Shall’, enjoins Christians to take crossing of this river very serious.
To understand what “crossing the Jordan River” metaphorically means to a Christian you have to first understand what it literally meant to the Jewish people. As Christians, they look back at the moment the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into Canaan’s land as a rite of passage. Once they crossed that river the promise became reality – and reality surpassed expectations. Their miraculous crossing affirmed God’s presence with them and His promise to remove their enemies from the land.
So, when President Buhari took the issue of terrorism and other forms of insecurity bedevilling Nigeria to that country, it seemed as if the Nigerian leader heeding to the biblical metaphor of taking the people of Nigeria to the promised land. It is instructive to note that the Economic Forum was for the Middle East and North African countries. But President Buhari was invited because of the strong relationship between the two leaders. Jordan has been one of the key supporters and partners of Nigeria in its war against Boko Haram.
On arrival at the airport at Ammam, we undertook another one hour drive to the Dead Sea, the venue of the event. At the event, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, before calling on President Buhari to give his keynote address, congratulated the president for his re-election for a second term. He said discussions at the forum would focus on new ideas, entrepreneurship, innovation, environment, peace and reconciliation.
On his part, President Buhari who urged world leaders to work towards narrowing gaps in social and economic opportunities for citizens as panacea to rising conflicts across the globe attributed the Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria to lack of inclusion. He said rising opportunities of prosperity for some people, while others struggle to survive, trigger tensions and conflicts.
“It is at this point that we must ask ourselves how we, as a region, got to this point. The answer, at least in the case of Nigeria, is the lack of social and economic inclusion. As Nigeria celebrated being the largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Nigerians were migrating in droves through harsh desert conditions and across treacherous seas to seek what they believe would be a better life in Europe. Ladies and gentlemen, I strongly believe that the lack of social and economic inclusion was the root cause of many challenges we are experiencing,’’ he said.
President Buhari said the changes taking place across the world in technology, population, migration, trade and geo-politics had been yielding both positive and negative results in different parts of the world, even as he called for more collaboration across borders to alter tides of frustrations that fuel conflicts.
“It is my view, that no region of the world has felt the full impact of these dramatic shifts and shocks like the Middle East and Africa – North and Sub-Sahara. On one hand, our region is blessed with a very young, vibrant, enterprising and dynamic population. We also have valuable natural resources that are the envy of many nations.
“These assets and endowments contributed to our region experiencing some of the highest economic growth rates in the world. On the other hand, however, we have also been hosts to some of the deadliest conflicts in recent history. The deaths, damages and destructions caused by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram over the last 10 years will take decades to repair,’’ he added.
President Buhari said terrorism around the world, including Boko Haram, had been significantly degraded, stressing that the insurgents no longer control any territory in Nigeria, but the country had been left with the task of rebuilding.
“In this digital age where physical borders no longer exist to protect even the most secured nations, the only way to overcome predatory and divisionary forces is for all well-meaning nations to work together for the greater good of mankind. Simply put, cooperation amongst sovereign nations is no longer a choice. It is an absolute necessity,’’ the President said.
He told the gathering of leaders, entrepreneurs and economic experts that Nigeria’s population is 190 million, and by 2050, estimated to hit 390 million, making it the third most populous country in the world. President Buhari said he spent the last four years tackling security issues in the country and implementing policies that make the economy more inclusive.
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