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The myth of IMF competence rating
Ministers in their native countries, based on the premise of the supposed competence that the western-anointed 'experts' are deemed to have manifested in the various World Bank and IMF positions to which they are regularly appointed by the powers that be in the western world.
However, it is highly debatable if an individual can be said to be the most suitable candidate for appointment to the position of Finance Minister of an African country primarily on the basis of prior official functions in the IMF or World Bank. It is in fact highly instructive to note that the Western nations themselves do not generally recruit their own Finance Ministers from the ranks of World Bank and IMF officials, even though they often lean heavily on Third World Governments to appoint such 'experts' to serve as Finance Ministers. Could there be more to it all than meets the eye?
Coming now to the issue of whether or not Nigeria actually owed any money at the time that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is held to have performed the 'great feat' of reimbursing the whopping sum of $12 billion (twelve billion dollars) to western creditor nations, it is important to first answer a number of crucial questions. These are:
- How and when were these alleged debts incurred?
-In the case of Nigeria, how much wasallegedly borrowed, and how much has so farbeen paid back to the supposed creditors?
-Are these alleged debts legitimate debts, and are they truly enforceable?
- What are the true roles of the I.M.F and the World Bank in the debt collection scenario?
To come to a proper understanding of the current Third World debt situation, it is important to recall that the entire situation has its roots in the immediate aftermath of the successful move by OPEC countries in the 1970's to increase the price at which oil was being sold on the world market. It was the first time in modern history that suppliers of a raw commodity had succeeded in joining forces to oblige the industrialised countries to pay a fair price for raw products.
The western countries, however, eventually had the last laugh, since the ensuing increase in income for the oil producing countries (known as petrodollars), ended up being deposited in the western banks.
With so much cash available in the banking system, representatives of major western banks like Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, Barclay's etc. fanned out all over the world, cajoling the governments and leaders of Third World countries to contract loans for development projects, on the premise that these loans were being offered at extremely low interest rates. The bait at the time consisted in holding out the hope to Third World countries that the successful execution of these so-called 'development projects' (which were also concocted by 'experts' dispatched from the western countries) would enable the Third World countries to achieve the same level of well-being and development as was then prevalent in the western world.
Any questions arise from the circumstances in which the original loans allegedly owed to the western nations were offered and accepted by the Nigerian leaders who contracted such loans in the past. First of all: Was there not some element of deception involved in providing loans at supposedly low interest rates, only for these interest rates to be jacked up unilaterally by the lenders in subsequent years without any possibility of recourse on the side of the borrowers
Secondly, were these loans legitimately incurred, given the fact that most of the governments that incurred the loans were not elected governments that truly represented the people of Nigeria? In this connection, it is pertinent to recall the well-known international principle of odious debts, formulated by Alexander Nahum Sack, a former Minister of the pre-revolutionary Russian government who subsequently became a Professor of International Law in Paris.
Sack pointed out in very simple terms:“If a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needsor in the interest of the State..., this debt is odious for the population of all the Sate. This debt is not an obligation for the nation;it is a regime’s debt, a personal debt of thepower that has incurred it, consequently it fallswith the fall of this power.”
For greater clarity, Professor Sack added: “The reason that these ‘odious’debts cannot be considered to encumber the territory of theState is that such debts do not fulfil one of the conditions that determine the legality of thedebts of the State, that is : the debts of the Statemust be incurred and the funds from it employedfor the needs and in the interests of the State.”
For any fair-minded person, most of the debts alleged owed by the people of Nigeria cannot be said to be legitimate debts for four crucial reasons.
The first is that the vast majority of these debts were incurred by corrupt and unelected military regimes whose power to enter into valid contractual agreements on behalf of the peoples of Nigeria is wholly questionable.
The second reason for the illegitimate nature
•Probing the vexed issue of Nigeria’s external debts
Drastic reductions in government expenditure, leading to dramatic cuts in health care services, education, and other social spending. Under the dictates of SAP, there have also been wholesale privatization of state-owned enterprises under the pretext of making them run more efficiently, leading to widespread job losses, and enabling corrupt leaders and their front men and cronies to pocket key state-owned entities at give-away prices. In this respect, the shocking revelations that have emerged from the on-going Senate probe into privatisation merely represent the tip of the iceberg!
It is obvious that SAP strategies dictated by the IMF and the World Bank have been enthusiastically embraced by successive Nigerian Governments, beginning with the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, for purely selfish and self-serving motives.
Another direct consequence of the IMF-inspired SAP strategies is that our currency has been severely devalued and rendered virtually worthless in relationship to the currencies of the major western countries, a situation that has been welcomed with glee by Nigeria’s ruling elite, which has thereby been enabled to run vast scams based on speculating against the naira through the multiple new banks they have set up specifically for this purpose.
This is why a small handful of Nigerians continue to grow tremendously richer by the day, while the vast majority of the citizens of this country are groaning under the burden of the hardships imposed by the debt collection strategies of the IMF and the World Bank. In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the local beneficiaries of the fraudulent debt claims of the western nations continue to hail the IMF and the World Bank and to insist that we should go periodically to beg the fraudulent cartel of insatiable debt collectors known as the Paris Club for so-called “debt forgiveness”. We also need to consider the fact that over and beyond the issue of the Third World debt, other questions also need to be raised.
First of all, it is a well-known fact that the current prosperity of the key western nations is built on the free slave labour that was forcibly provided for several centuries by millions of slaves who were carried away from the African continent to toil for free in America and the West Indies. No reparation or compensation has ever been paid to Africa by the beneficiaries of the horrors of the slave trade, which devastated the African continent, while building up the New World economies for the direct benefit of the European powers. Even more to the point, the same Western powers colonised and exploited Africa for over a century during the colonial era.
Have these nations ever paid one kobo for all the raw materials they extracted for free from the African continent during the period of colo-nial occupation of the continent? Have they ever paid for the forced labour to which they subjected the colonized peoples while they were in control of our countries?
It is interesting to note in this connection that as recently as in 1945, Germany and Japan were forced to begin paying reparations to nationals of countries who were deemed to have been forced to work in German and Japanese labour camps during the Second World War. In fact, reparations are still being paid to the supposed Jewish victims of Nazi war crimes to this very day!
Why then are the peoples of Africa not entitled to some form of reparation and payment for all the exploitation to which they were subjected by the colonialists?
After all, colonialism was only officially brought to an end after 1960! Are Africans not human beings too, and were they not placed in labour camps and forced to labour for free at gunpoint by the colonizing powers? In the light of the above considerations, it should be obvious to any fair-minded person that the claim that Nigeria owes the western countries any money is pure fiction. The truth is that it is THEY who owe us money! They owe us money as reparation for the damages inflicted on us by several centuries of slave trade. They also owe us money for all the raw materials they illegally exported from our country during the colonial era. (For instance, the Shell petroleum company is widely believed to have been exporting oil from Nigeria for several years before we even got to know that such a commodity existed!)
In the light of the forgoing explanations, it is obvious that we owe NOTHING, and we should have paid NOTHING!
Viewed from this perspective, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s much touted “achievement” in paying off alleged foreign debts said to be owed by Nigeria was far from being in Nigeria’s true interests. Even if it were to be accepted (contrary to what has been demonstrated above) that we were actually owing money to the western countries, was it justified to make a bulk reimbursement of such magnitude at a time when our country lacked sorely needed funds for such crucial needs as health care, education, infrastructure development etc? Why have other debtor nations not followed in Nigeria’s footsteps? It has often been argued by the proponents of the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala/Olusegun Obasanjo ill-advised and injudicious rush to pay money back in bulk to the Paris club group of predator nations that failure to do so would have resulted in dire consequences for Nigeria.
This point of view however flies in the face of the easily verifiable fact that the heavens did not fall when countries like Argentina and Brazil insisted that they were incapable of keeping up with the scheduled repayment of IMF/World Bank loans in the early years of the present century. All that happened was that the debts were renegotiated and rolled over. Why would Nigeria have been in a weaker position than the major Latin American nations to renegotiate its schedule of payments?
Unfortunately for the admirers of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, there is little reason to believe that she actually achieved anything useful during her tenure of office as Finance Minister under General Olusegun Obasanjo. This being the case, has President Goodluck Jonathan not already doomed his nascent administration to early failure by recruiting an IMF anointed “expert” to occupy a key position in his cabinet?
Time will soon tell!
•Dr.Ola Balogun, film maker and musician,lives in Lagos
keynote address delivered by Prof. Wole Soyinka at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual Conference held in Port Harcourt.
LET me begin by confessing, without any fudging, that it was with very mixed feelings that I finally agreed to join you today at your annual conference. Some wounds dig deep into the human psyche, and continue to suppurate long after they were inflicted. Such, in my case, was the trial and execution of my late colleague and friend, Ken Saro-wiwa and his eight co-defendants in this very city. I have written about it, both in prose narrative and in anguished poetry, so I am saying nothing new. When I discovered that the chairman of your association was the very prosecutor in Ken’s case, I changed my ‘yes’ to a ‘No’. Then came the arguments for and against from NBA’s intercessors. The argument that tilted the balance, ironically, was never proposed at all. This was - could it possibly be that NBA was seeking an engagement on the issue, with the aim of arriving openly, and on the very scene of a singular trauma, at a measure of closure?
It was an intriguing possibility, one that I found frankly seductive. And now the timing, unsuspected at the time, turns out to be providentially propitious over and above any original considerations, Law having thrust itself to the forefront of national concerns, and not quite in a manner that redounds to her dignity. So let us at least dispense with that abnormal event that remains a transformative watershed in the lives of many of us, to which we all responded, and still respond, even subconsciously, in our inner directed, individual ways.
It would be irrational to have failed to take note taken of the circumstances under which Law then existed. I do take into consideration the regard under which Law and Justice were held during that reign of dictatorship dementia. That regard was, in one word – disposable. At best, patronizing and condescending, at worst, contemptuous. And yet it was different only in style and execution from the democratic equivalent that the nation has since experienced, such as the sack of Anambra State for over three uninterrupted days, overseen by an agency of the Law - the police. The same enabling environment was provided during the trashing of the Oyo State House of Assembly under what claimed to be democratic governance. What happened in the court premises of Ibadan, the brutalization of members of the Bar during judicial hearings for the restoration of legitimate governance to Oyo State, again with the same arm of Law looking on - all these were hardly different from what obtained under Sanni Abacha during the trials of Ken Saro-wiwa and his colleagues. We shall not even bother to enumerate the rash of extra-judicial killings, unsolved till today, mostly of political challengers.
In this very Port Harcourt, the Ogoni Nine defence lawyers, led by Gani Fawehinmi, were harassed and manhandled, their documents scattered to the winds. They were denied a level playing field. They were insulted and deprived of meaningful defence space. Cameras captured the scenes of this reversion to state force of intimidation at its crudest, contemptuous of opinion, local and external. Images were projected in gory detail. International observers were disgusted. The defence could only operate with one hand tied behind its back and, in the end, Gani Fawehinmi and his team withdrew - controversially – from their brief.
My view till today is that it was not Gani Fawehinmi and his team who should have withdrawn, but the Nigerian Bar Association, including its prosecuting member. It was prime setting for collective affirmation of the principle of Law, even under dire circumstances, indeed most especially under the direst circumstances, where an issue of life and death was involved. As with most other dramatis personae – direct or merely peripheral – of that painful drama, closure remains a destination much desired. I do not think that we shall attain it at any one encounter but, lancing the tumour of evasion and letting out the scab covered pus of Truth is one way of inching closer to that moment of closure. We have moved beyond recriminations, but all social organisations need to learn from the past, open themselves proactively to challenges of an abnormal nature, work hard at options of creative alternatives even where society is suffocated under the horrors of insensate, all-consuming power.
Today – and I speak of immediate, ongoing events - the problems of Law, and the challenges to her ministers are vastly different, but the implications for society remain the same – a severe drought on the judicial landscape, a deficit in public confidence, a questioning of the very viability of the legal recourse. It goes beyond a House divided against itself, asks whether the Citadel of Law has ever been much more than a long sustained mirage whose promise as a shimmering oasis of justice has finally evaporated.
One of the most riveting images of that struggle against the Abacha tyranny remains, for me, the picture of a former president of this same Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba with one eye blackened and nearly closed from an encounter with the outlaw enforcers of Ken Saro-wiwa’s direct murderer, the dictator Sanni Abacha. It was clearly a defining moment when an officer of the law discarded his wig and gown, having decided that only direct identification with the Civic Will remained as the last remaining recourse for the restoration of social justice. It is wrong that such a stark situation of limited choices should be imposed on a guardian of the portals of Law, but it is a choice where, when taken, reminds us that in the pursuit of democracy, the commonwealth of humanity sometimes requires methods of commitment outside the privileged bounds of one’s professional constituency.
We shall return to this theme shortly, and in greater detail, as we proceed. But first let us situate the nation’s governance experience within a continent’s formative history. As the last straggler clambered onto the ‘unity’ conveyance, the OAU in the early sixties, and was applauded into the chambers of the United Nations, Africa, many claimed, had finally come of age.
Had she? Was there something missing perhaps? A crucial lack that has resulted in the hideous destabilization of the continent North to South and East to West? One does not propose for one moment that this absence was solely responsible for a continental – not merely stagnation but - retrogression. That would be over-simplifying the complex nature of the organism called nation, and nation especially of the deleterious genesis of colonialism. One also concedes that coming of age has never implied entering a phase of existence that is devoid of stress, retrogression, or uncertainties. What we wish to call to mind is simply this: in the process of the emergence of the African modern state (in company with a number of Asian and Latin American states) one governance option was constantly given short shrift, irrespective of ideological leaning. That missing item is not much of a riddle. We only have to ask ourselves, taking an example each from two extremes of the ideological spectrum, this question: what was the abandoned option that was common to one nation of extreme radical Left - Sekou Toure’s Guinea - and another of the extreme Right, Mobutu Sese Seko’s Congo Zaire? Answer: Democracy. Even where Democracy was the starting acceptance as in Ghana, it was soon jettisoned. The culture of inclusive participation, constitutionalism, even law, Human Rights and accountability quickly became cumbersome. ‘Liberal democracy’ was pronounced like a dirty phrase, it stood in the way of the anti-colonial struggle, the African Personality etc. At times it was even deemed a sign of ‘western decadence’, a call to ‘bourgeois individualism’. It has taken upwards of half a century for the process of reversal, the ‘wind of change’ that was first sniffed by Harold Macmillan in apartheid South Africa, to traverse the continent, gathering force and turning into a veritable hurricane by the time it touched down in the Maghreb, toppling dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Democracy has a reticent characteristic of never appearing glamorous, no, not the way ‘radical’ sounds and positions itself. It is such a mundane expression, so pedestrian. It seems to drag, and we all prefer to sprint. Democracy could even be the name of a daily attire, of a farm implement or a social get-together. It is worn so threadbare in discourse of measured sobriety that many hanker for a change of clothing that stands apart from basics – flashy, ideally embodied in the unquestioned, charismatic leader. Paradoxically however, this same Democracy often appears difficult to sustain. Let us probe into the interstices of this state of governance evolution a little more closely.
Democracy may be viewed as a social platform – emphasis on platform, that is, a level plane, or better still, a trampoline - but balanced on three legs. Those three supports are anything but linear. They are much closer to those intricately carved traditional three-legged stools whose legs intersect in the middle, then stretch outwards to rest firmly on flat ground. In the type of stools I speak of, the legs are, to all appearances, carved from a single piece of wood with impressive ingenuity. One of those legs is known as the Constitution – written or unwritten, a set of protocols that enables society and defines its mode of functioning. The second is Law – a code of social regulations and modalities of adjudications that is sustained by its own autonomous structures and agencies. We also know that Law existed in pre-literate societies where enforcement was just as rigorous, or lax as lax we know it today.
Regarding that latter option in the provenance of Law - laxity - just to help us along, to remind us that role designation is not always the same as role fulfillment, compelling us to keep our feet on the ground, is a current commentary on the derelictions of Law by an executive governor. He voices a frustration that is the daily plaint of millions of Nigerian citizens. Thus, in The Guardian of August 17, 2011, we encounter this item:
“Governor Adam Oshiomole, swearing in his new state Solicitor-General, seized the opportunity to declare that the maxim – “equality before the law” must be practiced to the fullest for people to have implicit confidence in the nation’s democracy.
Oshiomole goes on to elaborate further on this in a personal, direct, experiential manner, down to earth:
“Before I came into government, I have always had the feeling that there are certain persons in society whom. through collusion by people in the Ministry of Justice, appeared to be above the law. They could kill and walk out freely. If they cannot help prosecute them, they can charge them in a manner and water down the charges such that no reasonable judge would convict them on the basis of the evidence presented. When the evidence is so compelling then they cannot be watered down, they resort to endless adjournments” etc. etc,
Law, in short, is also subject to manipulation. However, flawed or flawless, Law is not a leg of our tripod that can be dispensed with. Democracy cannot exist without it. However, the active core of Law is bound within that summative maxim “equality before the Law” even more profoundly than other popular guidances such as “justice delayed is justice denied” etc. etc. ‘Equality before the law’ cannot be detached from the very ontology of Law, any more than “equality under the constitution”. Infringement of either provision renders them invalid, inoperable, defunct and undermines, not only Democracy, but society itself. Again, let us bear this in mind as we proceed.
The third leg of our tripod, the Civic Will – I glancingly referred to it earlier - is a paradox since it is an extract from, and also finds its expression in the vital beings that make up society – that is, the citizenry, yet it remains a nebulous aggregate of that public pulse. Needless to remark that it is not codified, and it certainly is far more ancient than either Law or Constitution, and in fact may amount to the record of a people’s history. Take any one of those three supports away and – the result is predictable. A two-legged stool is simply not viable, even when carved to intersect somewhere along the middle.
This operation of the three supports is one of mutual inter-dependency. Social evolution has complicated the operations of both Law and Cosntitution, sometimes even while claiming to streamline both. That is one of the paradoxes of development – we should not complain but do our best to unravel such complexities and find a new language and mode of transmission for their ready absorption into public understanding, observances and application. Law of course interprets and adjudicates provisions and ambiguities in the Constitution where necessary. The Law also intervenes in the province of Civic Will – a ready example is the enforcement of Human Rights, without which Democracy cannot even begin to be conceived. Take a look at the recent history of this nation for instance, where the Civic Will has to be exerted again and again on the streets. As a nation, we would still be subject to those obsolete colonial laws that required citizens to obtain a police permit before any assemblage or procession in public spaces. That colonial law, as it was claimed to exist, was tested under the Constitution, and overturned through the very functioning of Law on behalf of the Civic Will.
Under the allegedly democratic reign of Olusegun Obasanjo that degenerated fast into a police state – as many warned at the time - you will all recall that a procession of women in Lagos, on their way to deliver a letter to the state government, was tear-gassed. Now why were those women on the streets? What was the content of their letter? They were women whose children had perished in the inferno of a crashed plane. These mothers, and others who joined them in an expression of solidarity, were tear-gassed, baton charged and arrested. They included members of the very association assembled in this hall, perhaps even present here today. That was a gross encroachment on Civic Will by an agency of one of the Democratic supports – the Law - a warped presumption of responsibilities that was irresponsible and inhuman, and it demanded the re-assertion of the Civil Will on all fora – the media, through the Law itself, or simply and defiantly – Back on the Streets!
Civic Will is seemingly inert, but is easily the most dynamic and eloquent leg of Democracy. But first, we must avoid any over optimistic assessment, or romanticisation. Civil Will is not homogenous. It can prove contradictory, fractitious and even self-desructive, acting against its own interest. Indeed, it is best to see this support that is the Civic Will as a composite, a mosaic that is not cast as a single mould, but welded from sometimes incompatible scrap-iron pieces, fragmentary and fragile. That is the safer image. It ensures that we do not find ourselves astonished and rear-ended when it breaks apart and flies off in contradictory directions, leaving it prey to its traditional enemy, Power. Its authenticity sometimes proves as elusive as that other problematic entity that is glibly called - the public good.
We know also that the Civil Will is not necessarily authenticated by the highest decibel or expressions of intransigence, nor is it determined by its proneness to volatility and destructiveness. If it were, the recent disturbances in the normally phlegmatic United Kingdom would be deemed an expression of that nation’s Civic Will, or the homicidal myopia of the Boko Haram, or its predecessor the Maitasine, as representative of the Nigerian Civic Will. Civic Will is subject to internal stress, even as it takes the battle to its partners and rivals in the democratic construct – the Law and the Constitution - the latter as a referential point, the former as its controlling, reconciling or interpretative agency.
Yes, it is sometimes necessary that the Civil Will take the battle to the Constitution. This should not be surprising. The Constitution is – or should be – an expression of the Civic Will, not its suppression. When it has emerged as the latter, and as long as such a constitution is not legitimized by the patent, transparent and collective activity of the people on behalf whom it has been fashioned, there will be tensions. And as long as the Law purports to act on behalf of such a document of suppression, there will also be repudiation of the Law in that regard. In short, a recipe for social anomie. The Constitution saves itself – at least, saves itself to fight another day - because, in-built into its provisions, are the mechanisms for possible change.
It is disheartening that humanity is forced again and again to that ledge of desperation where it must express its own unflinching resolve against the encroachment of Power. The example, first of Libya, but even more horrendously of Syria are humbling lessons, inspiring but also near unbearably agonizing. To watch the Syrian populace emerge again and again, unarmed, despite being cut down by the cowardly agents of al-Assad, the mass killer of Syria, picked off methodically like fish in a goldfish bowl, with children singled out also by snipers in order to inflict the maximum anguish upon, and thus demoralize their parents, is to be confronted all over again with the resilience of the collective human spirit in its seizure of that immaterial bequest of the human psyche called – Freedom. Even if African governments, including ours, have largely remained silent or tepidly disapproving of this daily butchery of the Syrian people, I take on myself the presumption of conveying the solidarity of the Nigerian people to their Syrian brothers and sisters – this, alas, is all we have to offer. I express our moral disgust at the criminality of the usurper of their collective sovereignty. in the estimation of all decent people, al-Assad has excommunicated himself from the human community, and we look forward to the day when he, and his henchmen will be tried for gross crimes against humanity. History is on the side of the people. Their Civic Will is being stressed to a degree that one cannot quite recall in the past half century. Their cause is humanity’s historic cause and, in all humility, we salute their courage. Theirs is a costly struggle, but triumph they shall in the end.
Such luminous, inspirational instances apart, one still recognizes that the Civic Will is not a seamless mould, is not homogenous and is not proven by belligerent energy. The question then becomes, how else, by what means other than violence, can Civic Will be determined?
Let us not mystify an answer that is so glaring, so obvious that it is amazing it should ever rise in contention – that answer is, Dialogue. Next, how do you organize a Dialogue? I have heard that question posed and it deserves its dismissal as a monumental distraction. There are numerous ways in which a nation can dialogue with itself. We are not short of precedents in this very nation, some genuine, others fake, purely rhetorical and insincere, constituting an equally monumental distraction away from the genuine dialogue. We engaged in one a few years ago, which was clearly nothing more than an opportunistic device for a private, illegitimate power agenda. We shall not go into those particularities. What needs to be emphasized is that, where dialogue is lacking, monologues take their place, and these can be of nation destroying intransigence. Either that or - silence, ominous silence that erupts eventually in irreversible consequences.
It could be of course that Dialogue is totally unnecessary. There are voices we hear regularly which preach that our nation has reached that stage where Dialogue has become superfluous, where the character if the nation is so indelibly stamped on its operations that dialogue becomes not just a distraction, bur a force for destabilization. Let us assist them even further in their disposition. We shall offer that the other two structured legs of Democracy – Constitution and Law (unlike Civic Will) are so firmly established, so intricately woven into the fabric of civic being that they have indeed become the incontrovertible expressions of the Civic Will itself and thus, must be taken as immutable. We shall further advance that Civic Will is not necessarily grasped in events of overt manifestation, such as Dialogue, that it is already expressed in the operations of Law and Constitution. Why expend time and money on something that already exists and is seen to be functioning?
Constitution, that third partner in the democratic tripod, is a candidate for such easy dismissal. It has not have passed – in the Nigerian case – the test of a product traceable to the manifested expression of the Civic Will, and many will attest to its identity as the concoction of a minuscule minority cabal known as the Military Mafioso. Today, even if that document is not to the satisfaction of huge swathes of the nation’s population, it has become, we shall propose, its expression, simply through its operation along symbolic processes such as elections, functioning institutions such as legislative houses, and the participation of millions of Nigerians in the populating of those chambers. If I may express this through a Yoruba proverb: ti ewe ba npe l’ara ose, oun na a d’ose. Traditional soap we know normally comes wrapped in leaves, so, translate that as: give it sufficient time and the wrapping leaf of the soap also turns to soap. Civic Will is no more mystical or illogical than that law of Nature, where even inert matter finds its destiny with seeming passivity but in reality, produces a dynamic result.
Thus, when a constitution of the most alienated originationation remains unchallenged, is actually cited as the legitimisation of acts, policies and structures of governance, then that constitution, we may argue, becomes an expression of the Civic Will.
But suppose the structure that is upheld by these three legs appears to be tottering? I asked this question not so long ago in Abuja. I recall the exhausting, largely tautological rebuttal that this received from a governor, known as the Comrade governor, who had been invited to contribute some remarks. I had to chalk that down, by the way as a unique experience. I was the Keynote speaker, he was just a discussant. My speech lasted fifty minutes, his nearly one hour and twenty minutes, so there was no room left for other discussants, audience participation, or even the final response by this Keynote speaker. In the United States it is known as filibustering – I simply had not known that the tradition had been imported to Nigeria with the presidential system. However, let us pass over for now and stick to substance – at least on the present occasion.
His interjection, the sum of which was that the nation as a democratic state was hale and hearty, in no need of a medical check-up or second opinion, is even something to which I am willing to grant plausibility. Nations have been known to survive in a state of advanced decay or through merely living on the brink. Some are dubbed banana republics, others client nations to more forceful and productive ones. They carry out orders which may or may not coincide with the interests of the people who constitute the nation. We have known these nations both of the right and left – the satellite nations of the once Soviet blocs, the Third World supply depots of the capitalist bloc whose leaders swagger through the corridors of the United Nations contributing nothing of their own to the progress of their own nations or of the world.
These so-called nations are no more than nation spaces. We cannot claim ignorance of the existence also of nations simply classified as “failed states” yet they seem to have taken to heart the proposition of that colourful politician/businessman, also from Edo state. When he was told that his son would not be nominated for a second term as governor, having failed woefully in the first term, his response was, “So what? If you sit and exam and you fail the first time, aren’t you allowed a “re-sit”? So maybe ours, which has been classified a failed state in company with others, is also having a re-sit. But permit me to pose this question: isn’t the mark of seriousness the will to do extensive revision before a re-sit? So let’s take the proposed dialogue as a “re-sit”, and proceed to an in-depth revision exercises.
The dynamics of mutual testing of interests – collaborative, adversarial, territorially expanding and retreating, contending and conceding until attaining an even keel of functional interaction, are part and parcel of the operations of Democracy, deepening and strengthening in the interests of the people it is meant to serve. There are benign, even creative challenges, needless to say, and there are malevolent, simply destructive ones. Neither Law nor the Constitution is written in stone and where the Constitution is not itself a product of Civic Will, it is especially vulnerable. As already emphasized, Civic Will can itself become a facilitator of any imposition, including despotism, real or incipient, simply by the culture of complacency, of acquiescence and collaboration in the operations of any set of protocols of association, however lop-sided. The Nigerian constitution today enjoys that dubious civic validation. It may be a grudging accommodation, it may be resentful, it may indeed be hostile but, yes, the Constitution is the nation’s document of self-validation – but that is not the same as saying that it has thereby come to stay. Visit the motor park any day and it will not take you long to find a bus or a lorry emblazoned with that truism: No Condition is Permanent.
Even absence or omission is not permanent. Augmentation or rectification – owing to developed or diversified needs, a changing world with unaccustomed challenges, newly encountered models for possible emulation - it is all part of social development. So now, let that reminder bring us down to some topicalities. Let us address one item to which some constituent units of our national estate have woken up as an unjust but rectifiable absence. We have reached a point in nation becoming where abstractions, while useful and stimulating, sometimes distance the urgent realities in which we are involved, so this is a good moment to refer to the recent controversy over a call for the insertion of a missed arm of our banking system, and ask why it is being elevated nearly to a ‘do-or-die’ affair. Surely, to bank or not to bank, belongs in the province of human choice. So far, no one has advanced any evidence that the entry of an Islamic bank contravenes the Law or offends letter or spirit of the constitution.
That recent cri de coeur - a cry from the heart – of the Sultan of Sokoto is a useful entry point into this subject and his cry actually opens out into two dimensions. First, I find myself in empathy with him – “why do people try to islamise….” etc. etc . I however expand it to read – why do people attempt to force into a religious mould, any religious mould – clearly social issues, negative or positive, transparent or obscured, projected or actualized etc. etc. Why on earth should Islamic Banking become a hot-air issue, with inflammatory discharges going back and forth, drum wars resounding, clerics, politicians and pundits at one another’s throat?
The recent upheavals across the largely Arab/Islamic world have nothing to do with christsian banking, any more than the five-day mayhem in more or less Christian England have the least connection with the existence of Islamic banks which I have seen occupying the same street with Christian originated banks, even though the latter are not so described. Islamic banking has not been mentioned as a contributory factor to the devastating collapse of European and American banks and the economic meltdown of the world. Islamic banking was not responsible for the hideous, mind-boggling corruption among several Nigerian banks, executives of which flouted that moral injunction contained in ancient Mosaic commandment – Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet they neighbour’s goods, least of all when such goods are placed in your sacred charge as highly paid, over guardians.
Islamic banking is not responsible for the violent unrest in the Niger Delta, the massacres of Idi, Zaki Biam, Bauchi, Kaduna, Gombe. Maiduguri etc etc. I have not heard Islamic banking cited in the manifesto – if any - of Boko Haram. It never featured in the statement of purpose of its predecessor, the Maitasine, whose followers butchered mainstream moslems with even greater zeal that they dispatched christians and the so-called ‘infidels’ of other faiths. Islamic banking is not responsible for the failure of Nigeria to have acquired sustainable electric power in sixty years of independence. It is not responsible for the breakdown of all human public services – from education to health and shelter, nor is it responsible for the total eradication of moral restraints that once existed in the nation, producing the new lucrative pastime of totally dehumanized criminal minds – the kidnapping of human beings – even the aged, feeble, or simply vulnerable for ransom. Only two years ago, at a lecture in Lagos, I urged the need to conserve and protect a nation’s youth as its primary asset – little did I know that this was already being taken literally, manifested in the stuffing of children into car boots ln order to extort millions of blood-soaked Naira.
I frankly do not understand the fuss. Banking laws exist. If an Orunmila Bank were to be proposed by followers of orisa, and it does not breach the nation’s laws, then such a proposal need not give anyone sleepless nights. And even if the Law is held to oppose it, orisa followers are entitled to take the initiative and make a case for a change in existing laws – that is their democratic right and no one can take it away from them. I shall be among the first to open an account with the Bank of Orunmila, based on Ifa precepts. Until one is established however, I shall join Pastor Tunde Bakare in opening a solidarity account with the Islamic Bank whenever it begins operations, as long as its terms are favourable to the needs of a seventy-seven year old writer without pension, but thankfully with minimal needs.
The extension – by implication - of the Sultan’s protest is, for me, a far more potent charge directed at society, and crucial to the setting for this gathering. It implicates two of the legs on which we have posited the democratic edifice – Law, and Constitution. It is inevitable that we expand the provenance of this challenging lament, since it is one that is not limited to any one religion. It thrusts its interrogatories beyond Nigeria and onto other lands and societies, so let us simply re-phrase it to read: “Why do people theocraticize…..” straightforward concerns of secular existence? The question applies to a particular cast of mind, usually moulded and fixated during impressionable years. By its adult phase, such minds have become inflexible and calcified, incapable of responding to any kind of phenomena except through theocratic lenses. The thrust of that question goes to the heart of democracy, and determines the basis of the democratic order. And yet, what other order is possible for harmonized co-existence in a pluralistic society differentiated by faith, history, and customs?
Here is a familiar example – trite, yet persistent, a recurring decimal in public instruction. The Plateau government, recently passed a law forbidding that women be dressed in trousers, under a supposedly Christian ethic of ‘proper dressing’. What business, in heaven’s name, has Christianity to do with a woman’s trousers? During an earlier bout of puritanic fever, this time in one of the south-eastern regions – I forget which, since state boundaries never seem to stop moving – one such resurgence took place under a military regime. As we have learnt to expect – and that gifted psychiatrist, Franz Fanon, had identified the syndrome in his seminal work, THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH - the first line victims of the oppressed are always the next in line down the ladder of misery, a symptom of frustration and impotence that finds release in vengeance - not on their oppressors - but on other wretched of the earth. Mob rule took over.
While signing her autobiography on a guest’s copy of ‘The Thing Around Your Neck,’ her latest work, her calm demeanor was unmatched as her almond shaped eyes peered deep into the guest’s eye, probing the intension of buying her new book. She would prefer every guest at the book launch not to buy a book they will not read.
What bothers her is why people don’t read nowadays. She is also concerned with the fact and saying that the best way to hide a secret from a black person is to put it in writing, is becoming a reality today. Welcome to the world of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the foremost young fiction writer to come out of Nigeria in the past decade, as she reveals the secrets hidden in books.
Of course, she despises the poor reading culture in Nigeria and on the continent at large. “People come up to me and say, ‘I am so proud of you and your success, but I don’t read,’ with no shame whatsoever. We are raising young people who don’t think that reading is important. It really bothers me that more people don’t read. They say if you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book,” she says sadly.
Apparently, Nigerians spend less time going through books, indulging rather in other mediums, but it is only the bookworms, according to her, are a select group who are fighting an uphill battle to make reading cool again.Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), won the Best First Book award in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her second, Half Of A Yellow Sun (2006), set during the Biafran war, won the Orange Prize. She is a 2008 MacArthur Fellow (otherwise known as the genius award), ‘The Thing Around Your Neck,’ her latest work and her books are set texts across the world.
Moreover, her short stories have been published in celebrated literary journals and her novels have been integrated into school curriculums worldwide.
With these books, she has made the Nigerian experience coffee table discussion among literary critics, bookworms and fans spanning the different continents of the world. Though Adichie’s stories mostly revolve around Igbo Nigerian characters, but she does not merely tell Nigerians stories, she tells human ones.
She is not trying to step into the big shoes of Chinua Achebe, Africa’s foremost literature giant and her mentor. Of course, the shoes will be oversize. But Adichie seems to toe the same line of Achebe in telling the Africa stories exactly the way they are.
Growing up in a university campus in Nsukka, Nigeria where her father was a professor and her mother an administrator, afforded her the opportunity to live in the same house Achebe once lived. This also meant a great deal of exposure to books at an early age in addition to her middle-class upbringing. But most of these books had very little to do with her own reality.
What I read were British and American children books, she once said when delivering her now famous 2009 talk on the danger of the single story. “When I began to write, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading… about things with which I could not personally identify,” she narrates.
But things changed when Adichie discovered African books, because of writers like Achebe and Guinean poet Camara Laye, her perception of literature changed, and she started to write about things she recognised and realised that people like her could exist in literature.
Truly, Adichie has come of age as confirmed by Achebe. “Adichie is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. She knows all too well about the power of the story,” Achebe proudly remarks of his most likely successor in African literature. Funny enough, when she was a child at school, her report cards followed a frustrating pattern. Her grades were all As, but the teachers’ remarks gave her parents headaches. “She is stubborn, arrogant, she has no respect,” wrote one, after she told him that he was wrong about something. “I remember being angry with my father, being angry with the teacher, just feeling this sense of injustice that I hadn’t been allowed to speak,” she laughs. “I just didn’t shut up, so I got into trouble.”
Her teachers must be spitting now, because she has not shut up since and she is doing rather well writing and speaking her mind. She was once asked, “If Achebe were alive, what would you say to him?” He is living in New York and they have met. But she has avoided getting to know him well. “I want to keep my hero separate.”
Impressively, Adichie’s ‘The Thing Around Your Neck,’ her latest collection of short stories, is like her, a dazzling hybrid of Nigeria and America, raucous and thoughtful, fun and furious. Her study and writing have taken her out of the country severally, but when she is in Nigeria, she teaches writing workshops in schools to the kind of children who do not have the upbringing, steeped in literature, that she had.
Most importantly, she feels a sense of huge goodwill from her country and “not just from the little writing circle in university towns. She is stopped in the street by people who want to argue about what her characters did. She has heard about people calling their children Chimamanda. What more can she ask for.” But watch out for more mind-blowing, exciting and revealing books in the pipeline, as the young Nigerian writer expected to venerate Achebe is not done yet.
As the fall of the 42-year-old regime of Libya's eccentric leader Muammar Gaddafi approaches, one of his most important legacies will be his mischief in Africa. After seizing power, Colonel Gaddafi modelled his rule on Egypt's pan-Arab leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. However, he failed to win support from Arab governments offended by his populist appeals to the "Arab street". Angered by the lack of Arab support, in contrast to strong black African backing following western-inspired United Nations economic and travel sanctions on Libya in 1992, Gaddafi swapped his pan-Arab robes for pan-African garments. These sanctions were eventually lifted in 1999 with the help of the South African leader, Nelson Mandela.
Despite claims of his popularity in Africa, Gaddafi was viewed with widespread suspicion. Libya became isolated within the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) following Gaddafi's 1980 military intervention in Chad. Most governments boycotted an OAU summit in Tripoli in 1982. Gaddafi sent troops to bolster brutal Ugandan autocrat Idi Amin's regime between 1972 and 1979. He called for a jihad by Congolese Muslims against the autocratic western-backed regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. In the 1990s, Gaddafi provided military training to vicious rebel groups in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and backed Tuareg rebels in Mali. In 2000, widespread xenophobic attacks in Tripoli and Zawiyah against thousands of black African migrant workers led to several deaths, damaging Gaddafi's pan-African image. Following religious-related massacres in Nigeria last year, he called for the dismembering of the country into separate Muslim and Christian states.
More positively, Gaddafi established a $5bn fund that invested in hotels, mobile phone companies, mosques and mining companies across Africa. He also did more than any other leader to ensure the creation of the African Union (AU) in 2002, hosting several meetings, and forcing Nigeria and South Africa to react to his frantic drive towards creating a federal body. The "Brother Leader's" quixotic vision of a United States of Africa – an all-African army and common monetary union – was, however, rejected by most African leaders. Gaddafi's delusions of grandeur were evident in his coronation as the "King of Kings" by 200 traditional African leaders in a bizarre ceremony in 2008.
The Libyan leader's ambitions, however, often failed to match political realities on the ground: all seven regional integration schemes that Gaddafi attempted in Africa failed. While using his oil wealth to buy influence within the AU, many governments took his money, but did not necessarily support him. Gaddafi finally ascended the chair of the African Union in 2009, but only after South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo had left the political stage, leaving leaders of lesser stature unable to obstruct his ambitions.
His patronising bid to serve a second consecutive term as AU chair was, however, soundly rejected. He tried unsuccessfully to serve as a peacemaker in Ethiopia/Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau, and was accused of coddling fellow military putschists in Guinea, Mauritania, and Madagascar. Thabo Mbeki famously clashed with Gaddafi, while his successor as president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has enjoyed better relations with him, enabling him to serve as an AU envoy to Tripoli during this crisis.
The Libyan case, however, has revived the historical diplomatic rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria. Though both countries, as non-permanent members of the UN security council, voted to support Nato's intervention in Libya, Nigeria recently became the first African country to recognise the national transitional council: sweet revenge for Gaddafi's call for the partition of Nigeria. The Zuma administration, has, however, been stung by criticisms within the ruling African National Congress (in which Gaddafi still enjoys much popularity as a revolutionary leader) that South Africa's support of the UN resolution to protect civilians had opened the door to Nato's regime change agenda. Mbeki has also been involved in a vocal campaign, with 200 African personalities, to oppose the Nato intervention for having sidelined the AU. These pressures explain Zuma's cautious approach that delayed the unfreezing of some of Libya's assets, and South Africa has sought to stay close to the AU position of not recognising the country's transitional council.
Ironically, while Gaddafi became increasingly isolated in his bid to lead Africa, his status as an international pariah appeared to have ended with the unilateral dismantling of his weapons of mass destruction programme in 2003. He subsequently co-operated with European governments to deter African migrants seeking to reach Europe. Salivating western leaders from Italy, Britain and the US (now among Nato countries seeking to topple his regime) queued up outside his tent in Tripoli to sign lucrative oil contracts. Lord Palmerston had famously noted that countries have neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, but permanent interests. The strange disappearance of Libya's self-styled "King of Kings" and his abandonment by his former African and western friends certainly confirm this dictum.
Dr Adekeye Adebajo is Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, South Africa, and author of The Curse of Berlin: Africa After the Cold War (Hurst, 2010).
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria utterly condemn the barbaric, senseless and cowardly attack on the United Nation’s Building in Abuja this morning.
The President believes that the attack is a most despicable assault on the United Nations’ objectives of global peace and security, and the sanctity of human life to which Nigeria wholly subscribes. He extends his sincere condolences to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and all members of the United Nations family who have lost loved ones in the heinous attack.
President Jonathan reaffirms the Federal Government’s total commitment to vigorously combat the incursion of all forms of terrorism into Nigeria, and wishes to reassure all Nigerians and the international community that his Administration will spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. The President has also directed all relevant government agencies to assist in the search and rescue effort at the UN Building, and ordered heightened security across the Federal Capital Territory.
He urges all Nigerians to cooperate fully with the government in its efforts to expose the desperate elements who promote violence, terrorism and division in the
While noting that by today’s attack, we are once again reminded of the international character of terrorism and its indiscriminate targeting of innocent civilians, President Jonathan affirms Nigeria’s determination to continue to play its part in the global effort to eradicate the scourge of terrorism in all its ramifications. He urges all Nigerians and foreigners resident in the country to go about their normal affairs with the full assurance that the Federal Government and its law enforcement agencies will continue working diligently to ensure the full protection of lives and property in the country.
Reuben Abati, Ph.D
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
August 26, 2011
Picture credits: Guardian, vanguard, Thisday
A Nigerian and Two south Africans made the Forbes' List : Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was ranked 87th, Maria Ramos ranked 93 and Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita ranked 97
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian, " made headlines when she left the World Bank in July, where she was a managing director and the second-in-command, to become the finance minister of Nigeria. While it shocked some supporters who saw her as a contender for the Bank's top job, it also brought a sense of deja-vu. From 2003 to 2006 she served as finance minister of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose administration was known for liberalizing the Nigerian economy, building close ties with the U.S. and closer ties with prominent Nigerian businessmen. Okonjo-Iweala's main achievement was to secure a debt write-off of $18 billion from Nigeria's creditors." At the moment she was appointed Minister of Finance and head of several Economic Groups by President Jonathan. She is probably the most powerful woman in Nigeria.
Maria Ramos, South African, "In the first half of 2011, Maria Ramos managed a 19% rise in profits at Absa Group, majority-owned by Barclays and South Africa's largest bank, and despite continued lending caution expects the second half to follow suit. This year the economics-trained chief began the integration of Barclays and Absa's African units as part of its "One Bank in Africa" strategy and to push regional growth. Before coming to Absa in 2009, Ramos had a rich public-sector career. She was the Group Chief Executive of Transnet Limited, the state-owned rail, pipeline and ports agency. From 1996 to 2003, Ramos served as South Africa's director general of the National Treasury for its first post-apartheid government. She moves between a high-octane job and high-profile life, married to South African politician Trevor Manuel, who served as finance minister for over a decade."
Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, South African: "A tough year for ArcelorMittal South Africa's CEO, which reported drooping returns and pessimistic projections for coming quarters in late July when stock prices hit their lowest low since 2008, slumping to roughly $9/share. Nyembezi-Heita told investors that she's keeping a close eye on the economic situation worldwide and its effects on the mining industry in her country but says much of the trouble can be attributed to a slowdown in construction. Fiftyone-year old Nyembezi-Heita has led the South African arm of the global steel company, based in Luxembourg, since 2008. Arcelor Mittal South Africa is the largest producer of steel on the continent with a production capacity of 7.8 million tons annually."
This year's No. 1 in the ranking, German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- recognized as the "undisputed" leader of the EU -- is key to curing what ails the euro zone. As the Arab spring turns into the autocrats’ summer, No. 2-ranked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provides encouragement to dissidents, while Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg (No. 5) and Twitter’s Katie Jacobs Stanton (No. 56) empower the rebels storming the barricades with an uninterrupted newsfeed -- or a way to report in 140 characters or less.
Michele Bachmann (No. 22) is rocking the 2012 presidential race while Sarah Palin (No. 34) is still playing coy. We have lots of business leaders too: women from Silicon Valley and Wall Street and Main Street; entrepreneurs of import, like HTC’s Cher Wang (No. 20), Zhang Xin (No. 48), billionaire cofounder of real-estate empire SOHO China, and media marquise Arianna Huffington (No.31).
The Power 100 Women are not just newsmakers -- they are custodians of the news. Jill Abramson (No. 12) makes her first appearance as new executive editor of the New York Times. BBC News, run by Helen Boaden (No. 51), reaches some 34 million viewers weekly. Probably best known are the televised journalists: ABC's Christiane Amanpour (No. 44) and Diane Sawyer (No. 47), Ann Curry of TODAY (No. 66) and On The Record's Greta Van Susteren (No. 75).
Other famous faces make the list this year because they have exploited their celebrity status to build global businesses or champion humanitarian causes. Lady Gaga (No. 11) raised over $200 million to fight HIV/AIDS while Angelina Jolie (No. 29) continues her work as a U.N. ambassador.
The United Nations counts two power women in the ranks: Josette Sheeran (No. 30) of the World Food Programme, the world's largest humanitarian agency, and Helen Clark (No. 50) of the UN Development Programme. Other nonprofit leaders include CARE USA's Helene Gayle (No. 36) and Judith Rodin (No. 71) president of the 98-year-old Rockefeller Foundation.
German Chancellor Merkel ranked number one in the list
Ten percent of the list has bank accounts in the 10 figures, including the self-mades Oprah (No. 14) and J.K. Rowling (No. 61). These billies do more than just eat bonbons: Walmart heiress Alice Walton (No. 85) is opening her preeminent collection of American art to the public with the Crystal Bridge Museum on 11/11/11, while Georgina Rinehart (No. 19), the richest woman in Australia--and said to be on track as the richest person in the world in 2012--is using her wealth to campaign against national environmental reforms and taxes.
Christine Lagarde (No. 9), France's former finance minister, for example, is now managing director of the I.M.F., and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (No. 87) switched from the World Bank to finance minister of Nigeria. Susan Wojcicki (No. 16) was upped to SVP at Google and Denise Morrison (No. 80) was promoted from COO to CEO for Campbell Soup. She's one of 29 CEOs here. Dilma Rousseff (No. 3) and Yingluck Sinawatra (No. 59) were elected as president of Brazil and prime minister of Thailand, respectively, now in a club of eight heads of state on the list.
Many powerful women were missing in the list including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Obiageli "Oby" Ezekwesili, a Nigerian national, Vice President for the World Bank's Africa Region and wife of Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel.
THE LIST: http://www.forbes.com/wealth/power-women/list (The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women)
Picture credits: Forbes
Information credit: Forbes, Huffington Post
The celebration of the Civil Right Icon: late Rev. Martin Luther King
"The memorial sits on the National Mall between memorials honoring Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. It includes a 30-foot (9-meter)-tall sculpture of King and a 450-foot (137-meter)-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from his speeches.The sheer size of the sculpture of King sets it apart from nearby statues of Jefferson and Lincoln, which are both about 20 feet (6 meters) tall, though inside larger monuments. Sunday's dedication ceremony will mark the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. President Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, is scheduled to speak at the dedication." AP
President Obama will honor the great ocassion with many civil rights activists and many citizens of the world.
Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin poses in front of his work at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, August 22, 2011. The memorial to the American civil rights leader will be officially dedicated on August 28, the 48th anniversary of King Jr's "I have a dream" speech. REUTERS/Jason Reed
James “Plunky” Branch plays his soprano saxophone near the new Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Credit: AP Photos
Nigerian Governors say Sovereign Wealth Fund is unconstitutional
The Nigeria Governors` Forum (NGF) has called on the Federal Government to suspend the operation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), saying it is unconstitutional.
The governors made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting on Sunday in Abuja, the nation’s capital, which was read by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, South-South Nigeria.
Mr. Amechi - River state
“Members resolved to call on the Federal Government to suspend the operation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund until all issues are resolved because it is unconstitutional,” the communiqué stated.
Earnings above the budgetary benchmark price of crude oil, are expected to be transferred to the fund set up to replace the country’s excess crude account.
The governors agreed to support the UN initiative on consultative competition on the achievement of the MDG’sat state levels.
They also called for the de-regulation and de-centralisation of electricity generation.
The communiqué stated that the governors reached the decision after listening to a comprehensive presentation on the need to increase the supply of electricity and reduce regulatory bottle-necks by the Executive Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Commission, Dr Sam Amadi.
Polio eradication campaign
The governors re-affirmed their commitment to the first polio eradication quarterly campaign in which most states participated.
They urged the states that were not able to participate in the programme to do so as soon as possible.
"A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a state-owned investment fund composed of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, property, precious metals or other financial instruments. Sovereign wealth funds invest globally. Some of them have grabbed attention making bad investments in several Wall Street financial firms including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch. These firms needed a cash infusion due to losses resulting from mismanagement and the subprime mortgage crisis. Most SWFs are funded by foreign exchange assets. " - Wilkipedia
For all his bluster and bombast over the past four decades as Libya’s quirky ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was mysteriously and conspicuously absent as forces of the six-month-old Libya rebellion encircled what they believed to be his ultimate Tripoli hideout, the Bab al-Azizya compound.
Even the leader of the rebel movement, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, admitted he did not know if Colonel Qaddafi was holed up inside — or somewhere else in Libya, or another country. He is wanted not only by the rebels but by the International Criminal Court, which in June issued a warrant for his arrest.
Colonel Qaddafi, 69, has not been seen in public for more than two months. His once prolonged televised diatribes have stopped. The only indications that he may be in the compound have been the arrests of two of his sons in Tripoli as well as a series of fuzzy audio recordings — the most recent of them Sunday night — promising he will not leave Libya and exhorting Libyans to spill their blood for him to the end.
Rumors have swirled in Libya and elsewhere that he may have secretly slipped out of Tripoli before the rebel movement’s surprisingly speedy invasion of the city over the weekend.
South Africa’s Foreign Ministry on Monday publicly refuted speculation that it had sent an airplane to fetch Colonel Qaddafi and his family. Maite Nkoana-Mashabae, South Africa’s foreign minister, told reporters in Johannesburg that the government had sent aircraft only to evacuate the staff of its embassy.
“I am amazed at any insinuation of South Africa aiding anyone,” she said when asked if South Africa was trying to help Colonel Qaddafi. “We know for sure he will not come here.”
Rumors over the weekend that Colonel Qaddafi may have fled to asylum in Venezuela also proved false.
Abdel Moneim Al-Houni, the Libyan representative in Egypt, who proclaimed his allegiance to the rebels on Monday, told reporters in Cairo that the rebels in Tripoli admittedly do not have a firm grasp on Colonel Qaddafi’s whereabouts. However, he said, “We believe that his family, his children and grandchildren are there and we expect him to be there with them hiding in Tripoli.”
Rebel forces takes over capital city Tripoli
He added that there were reports the colonel may have fled to the Mediterranean city of Surt, his tribal home, where support for him is said to remain strong. That possibility suggested an outcome to the Libya conflict in which the colonel and his kin would be confined in some sort of internal exile.
The prime ministers of France and Britain, which have managed the NATO air campaign that assisted the Libyan rebels, both said on Monday that they could not confirm Colonel Qaddafi’s location.
Colonel Qaddafi’s last public appearance was on June 12, when he was photographed playing chess in Tripoli with the visiting president of the World Chess Federation, Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, an equally eccentric if less powerful personality from Russia who claims to communicate with aliens from outer space.
Stephen Farrell contributed reporting from Cairo.
New York Times
When Peter Obi was campaigning for the governorship election he created for himself an image of a business expert with the capacity to magically transform Anambra state hence Anambra people had a very high expectation, even when Ngige came in through the back door and was doing some good works people were still wishing that the person they gave the mandate should come and take them to the next level.
In March 2006 that dream came through and everybody celebrated the dawn of a new era for massive transformation and realization of the Anambra of our dreams. More than five years after he became governor the high expectations of Anambra people (that made Peter Obi to almost become a religion) have not been met. It is not that Peter Obi’s government has not recorded some notable achievements (especially in the area of rural development- currently about 6 bridges are at various stages of completion) but there is huge expectation gap which so far he has not been able to meet; but for Ngige Anambra people did not expect much from him hence he easily surpassed their expectations.
For example in the Education sector, during his campaign Peter Obi told us that Anambra school system will be transformed to the extent that even his kids will come back and school in Anambra state. Even though there is some piecemeal approach to rehabilitate some school buildings but till date there is no standard secondary school in Anambra state that is worthy of governor’s children; I am not demanding that his children should come back to school in Anambra but can the governor beat his chest today that there is one secondary school in Anambra he can send his own child to. I almost wept the day I saw the state of Anambra state University late last year. Please( for the sake of the children whom he preaches that he loves) let Anambra State Executive Council visit Gombe State University so that they can have an idea of how a state university should look like( Gombe is not an oil producing state hence no excuse of Gombe having more money). It did not take Gombe State government large percentage of their yearly budget to build the university; it only took vision, political will, modest cost of government contract and sincerity.
When Peter Obi came in 2006 he told us that Awka the state capital is an emerging slum, people were happy two years later when he announced that the master plan for Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha is ready; that he will transform these cities to standard cities that will be a model in Nigeria (people’s expectations went very high again), almost three years later there is nothing to show that any form of master plan is being implemented, buildings and shops are still being build indiscriminately in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi and none of these cities are illuminated at night.
Anytime I pass through Onitsha in the night(from 8pm) from Asaba it looks so deserted that it always seems as if the Biafran civil war was still on or that it just ended. Onitsha has not been able to achieve its full potential as a commercial hub because it functions only for 12 hours unlike other commercial cities that function for at least 18 hours; this is because there are no social infrastructures to support it to function up to 18 hours like a normal commercial city. This is same sad story for Nnewi that should be the manufacturing hub of Nigeria.
There is still no visible improvement in the social infrastructure of Awka the Anambra state capital, even the Awka stadium and the golf course projects have been abandoned despite the promise of this government to complete all ongoing projects since March 2006.
People always marvel at how Peter Obi (almost on a weekly basis) will pass through Enugu and sometimes Owerri, Asaba and even Umuahia and still be comfortable with the poor level of infrastructure in Awka. The only means of relaxation known in Awka is beer parlour (that is why an average male resident has pot belly- which is not healthy); there are no sports complexes, recreation parks, cinema etc
Till date there is no plan of fulfilling the promise made by Peter Obi to put Anambra state on tourism map by developing of Agulu Lake and Ogbunike Cave into major tourist sites in Nigeria. Also the Ikenga Hotel owned by the government in Awka has been left to rot away; government should have privatised it or concessioned it to private sector to manage (even Protea hotels manage smaller hotels than Ikenga Hotel).
I believe that three years that is left of his government is enough to make amends and be on the same page with Anambra people again; if His Excellency can take time off and do a self appraisal.
Ezomike Ikechukwu, Public Affairs Commentator Lagos Nigeria.