Saturday, February 22, 2020
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After long absence from Africa,  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to 3 African Countries - Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia on diplomatic mission.  The journey to these African countries will be essentially a mission on combating terrorism, bridge building and trade.



With China, Russia and Europeans  encroaching strongly on  commercial and diplomatic landscape of Africa, it becomes imperative for America to revitalize its standing and dominance on trade with Africa.


"Pompeo is visiting Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia as the Trump administration tries to counter the growing interest of China, Russia and other global powers in Africa and its booming young population of more than 1.2 billion.  His visit comes as the U.S. military considers reducing its presence in West Africa's Sahel region while extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group expand their reach, killings hundreds of civilians. Pompeo last year said the Sahel should be the next focus of the global coalition against IS outside the group's core region."


NOT VISITING NIGERIA



Nigeria is among six countries affected by the new visa restrictions placed by Trump administration  and  the others  including  Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania. The new travel ban policy, which takes effect Feb. 21 has brought some pitfalls with  Washington diplomatic relation with the most populous and richest country in Africa - Nigeria.



Nigeria foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama  and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  Nigeria's Onyema and US Pompeo in Washington DC



Meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo , the Nigerian foreign minister Onyeama said, “We have identified all those requirements, we had actually started working on all of them. We hope to have that up and running very soon and no longer running through third parties. Hopefully once that has been achieved we look forward to being taken off this visa restriction list.”



Associate Press reported: "The U.S. travel restrictions come at a time of growing insecurity in Nigeria. The country's military is still battling a decade-long insurgency by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in the northeast, and also now confronts a breakaway faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group."



"Also raising concerns is the Trump administration's announcement last month that it will no longer be issuing immigrant visas to citizens of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with an estimated 200 million people and a large, often high-achieving diaspora. New visa restrictions also were imposed on Eritrea, Tanzania and Sudan."



"The U.S. military this month holds its annual Flintlock exercises in Senegal and neighboring Mauritania to help train regional armies to counter extremism.  There are signs, though, that U.S. military interest could be waning. Late last year the U.S. switched to a strategy of merely trying to contain extremist groups in the Sahel instead of weakening them, according to a new report by the Pentagon inspector general.  Meanwhile the U.S. has begun replacing some combat troops in Africa with military trainers. Worried French officials have lobbied the U.S. not to reduce its presence in the Sahel, where France's largest overseas military operation leads the fight against extremists and is adding hundreds of troops."


Africa and US have been in cordial relationship since the inception of democratic rule  in most of the African countries. But since the rise of China with its massive investments in Africa, America appears to be taking back seat. But Washington is giving a signal that she is ready to come back to Africa especially on investment and trade. This is the right time for US to speed up  its presence in the continent . Britain after  decamping from European Union is showing much interest in Africa especially in  Nigeria, therefore it is necessary for  America to be leading from the front.  The time for America to regain its foothold in Africa with its cultural and commercial safety net is now.

AFRIPOL

The exodus of Nigerian immigrants to Canada is showing no signs of slowing down. For the fifth year in a row, more Nigerians emigrated to Canada than the year before as data published by the Canadian government shows the number of Nigerians issued permanent resident permits has tripled since 2015. It's a growth rate that outstrips some of Canada's biggest sources of immigrants over the last five years, including India, China and Philippines. The rise in Nigerian immigrants heading to Canada reflects  the North American country’s push to expand its labor force and lower the average age of its workers as its population advances in years. In 2019, Canada welcomed 341,000 immigrants in total (about 10,000 more it targeted) as part of its immigration policy to attract skilled workers.



For middle-class Nigerians increasingly looking to emigrate, Canada holds appeal for several reasons. Its ongoing drive to increase skill-based immigration offers a legal and long-term path not just to residency permits but also citizenship. It’s a prospect that’s alluring given Nigeria’s ongoing economic and insecurity travails, with the political class not appearing any closer to providing the kind of leadership required to turn around the country’s fortunes. In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. And, given precariously low human capital spending on education and healthcare, it’s a reality that will endure for, at least, a generation.

 

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World Bank in the study of poverty in Nigeria have produced a report which  documented  that Northern Nigeria accounts for  87 percent of all poor in the country and South 12 percent.  The detailed, researched and analyzed report was titled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ was released in first quarter of 2020.



According to the report, "Nigeria experiences high inequality along geographic lines, with poverty mostly concentrated in the North and in rural areas. Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing , especially in the North-West zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the North-West and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016. Poverty rates in the southern zones were around 12 percent with little variation across zones. The South-South zone saw the most significant drop in poverty from 2011-2016. Poverty was significantly higher in rural areas of the country in 2016. An estimated 64 percent of all poor lived in rural areas and 52  percent of the rural population lived below the poverty line in 2016. In contrast, the poverty rate in urban areas remained stable at 16 percent between 2011 and 2016."


The report in the detailed analysis drew a wide scope of poverty with its  causative tendencies and ramification grounded on "lack of basic infrastructure, poor social service delivery outcomes, weak resilience in the agriculture sector, stagnating productivity in the farm and non-farm sectors, mismatches between youth aspirations and employment opportunities available in the economy, poor education and health services utilization, weak governance, climate change, and conflict have contributed significantly to the poverty situation in the country. Both location and the demographic structure of the household also play a significant role in defining a person’s poverty status. The risk of being poor is higher in the north irrespective of individual or household characteristics, perhaps indicative of fewer economic opportunities. Individuals with higher education have significantly lower chances of being poor, which reflects higher household incomes."

 

Image result for Source: Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (2017)


It further illustrates  that "Persons living in households with more children and elderly persons are also more likely to be poor because the earnings of the few working-age adults are needed to support the many dependents. Recent literature also suggests that female headed households have a higher likelihood of being poor in Nigeria. Empirical evidence from the correlates of transient poverty shows that farming household head with secondary and tertiary education, access to credit, and larger farm size decreased transitory poverty. On the other hand, larger household size and dependency ratio, and exposure to flood and pest infestation increased transitory poverty. Analysis of the new NLSS (to be available in October 2019) will provide opportunities for more precise and contemporary assessment of determinants of poverty and vulnerability in Nigeria. "


"Nigeria suffers from very poor human capital outcomes, particularly among the poor. Data from the Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures the amount of human capital a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18, shows that a child born in Nigeria today can expect to be only 34 percent as productive when she grows up compared to if she enjoyed complete education and full health. Nigeria’s HCI is lower than the average for its region and income group, and lower than what would be predicted for its income level. Nigeria’s poor human capital outcomes dim the prospects of sustained growth and poverty reduction in the country, with some studies suggesting that between 10 and 30 percent of per capita income differences between countries can be attributed to human capital."

Wednesday, 05 February 2020 21:06

BIAFRA: Documentary marking 50 years

Documentary marking 50 years since Nigerian-Biafran War launches in London

 

Dr Louisa Egbunike’s documentary weaves together an engaging narrative of reflections from authors touched by one of the most devastating conflicts of the 1960s, one that still casts its shadow on Nigerians around the world


On Saturday 25th January 2020, a sold-out Curzon Bloomsbury cinema played host to the launch of In The Shadow of Biafra, a documentary reflecting on 50 years since the end of the Nigerian-Biafran War.


Produced by Dr Louisa Egbunike from City, University of London’s Department of English, and directed by filmmaker and University of Sussex PhD student Nathan Richards, the film juxtaposes a variety of reflections by creative writers – both those who lived through the war, and those who have been touched by its impact on their families both before and since they were born......

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FEBRUARY 5, 2020

 

President Trump’s remarks during his third State of the Union address can be found below—

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States — (applause) — and my fellow Americans:

 

We meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential.  As we begin a new Congress, I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans.

 

Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one nation.  (Applause.)

 

The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda.  It’s the agenda of the American people.

 

Many of us have campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of healthcare and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern, and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first.

 

There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage, together, to seize it.  (Applause.)  Victory is not winning for our party.  Victory is winning for our country.  (Applause.)

 

This year, America will recognize two important anniversaries that show us the majesty of America’s mission and the power of American pride.

 

In June, we mark 75 years since the start of what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade” — the Allied liberation of Europe in World War II.  (Applause.)  On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, 15,000 young American men jumped from the sky, and 60,000 more stormed in from the sea, to save our civilization from tyranny.  Here with us tonight are three of those incredible heroes: Private First Class Joseph Reilly, Staff Sergeant Irving Locker, and Sergeant Herman Zeitchik.  (Applause.)  Please.  Gentlemen, we salute you.

 

In 2019, we also celebrate 50 years since brave young pilots flew a quarter of a million miles through space to plant the American flag on the face of the moon.  Half a century later, we are joined by one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who planted that flag: Buzz Aldrin.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Buzz.  This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets.  (Applause.)

 

In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, redefined the middle class, and, when you get down to it, there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America.  (Applause.)  Now we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.  An amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within reach.

 

We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before.  (Applause.)

 

But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.  (Applause.)

 

Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.  We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future.  The decision is ours to make.

 

We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.

 

Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.  (Applause.)

 

Over the last two years, my administration has moved with urgency and historic speed to confront problems neglected by leaders of both parties over many decades.

 

In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before.  There’s been nothing like it.  We have created 5.3 million new jobs and, importantly, added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do.  But the fact is, we are just getting started.  (Applause.)

 

Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades and growing for blue-collar workers, who I promised to fight for.  They’re growing faster than anyone else thought possible.  Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps.  (Applause.)  The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office.  And we are considered, far and away, the hottest economy anywhere in the world.  Not even close.  (Applause.)

 

Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over half a century.  (Applause.)  African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.  (Applause.)  Unemployment for Americans with disabilities has also reached an all-time low.  (Applause.)  More people are working now than at any time in the history of our country — 157 million people at work.  (Applause.)

 

We passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit.  (Applause.)

 

We virtually ended the estate tax — or death tax, as it is often called — on small businesses for ranchers and also for family farms.  (Applause.)

 

We eliminated the very unpopular Obamacare individual mandate penalty.  (Applause.)  And to give critically ill patients access to lifesaving cures, we passed, very importantly, Right to Try.  (Applause.)

 

My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.  (Applause.)  Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers thanks to our historic reductions in taxes and regulations.  (Applause.)

 

And we have unleashed a revolution in American energy.  The United States is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.  (Applause.)  And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.  (Applause.)

 

After 24 months of rapid progress, our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on Earth, by far, and America — (applause) — America is again winning each and every day.  (Applause.)

 

Members of Congress: The state of our union is strong.  (Applause.)

 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

 

THE PRESIDENT:  That sounds so good.  (Laughter.)

 

Our country is vibrant and our economy is thriving like never before.

 

On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone — almost double the number expected.  (Applause.)  An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.  (Applause.)

 

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.  It just doesn’t work that way.

 

We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.  This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate.  In some cases, years and years waiting.  Not right.  (Applause.)  The Senate has failed to act on these nominations, which is unfair to the nominees and very unfair to our country.

 

Now is the time for bipartisan action.  Believe it or not, we have already proven that that’s possible.

 

In the last Congress, both parties came together to pass unprecedented legislation to confront the opioid crisis, a sweeping new farm bill, historic VA reforms.  And after four decades of rejection, we passed VA Accountability so that we can finally terminate those who mistreat our wonderful veterans.  (Applause.)

 

And just weeks ago, both parties united for groundbreaking criminal justice reform.  They said it couldn’t be done.  (Applause.)

 

Last year, I heard, through friends, the story of Alice Johnson.  I was deeply moved.  In 1997, Alice was sentenced to life in prison as a first-time non-violent drug offender.  Over the next 22 years, she became a prison minister, inspiring others to choose a better path.  She had a big impact on that prison population, and far beyond.

 

Alice’s story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing, and the need to remedy this total injustice.  She served almost that 22 years and had expected to be in prison for the remainder of her life.

 

In June, I commuted Alice’s sentence.  When I saw Alice’s beautiful family greet her at the prison gates, hugging and kissing and crying and laughing, I knew I did something right.  Alice is with us tonight, and she is a terrific woman.  Terrific.  Alice, please.  (Applause.)

 

Alice, thank you for reminding us that we always have the power to shape our own destiny.  Thank you very much, Alice.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 

Inspired by stories like Alice’s, my administration worked closely with members of both parties to sign the FIRST STEP Act into law.  Big deal.  (Applause.)  It’s a big deal.

 

This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African American community.  The FIRST STEP Act gives non-violent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.  Now states across the country are following our lead.  America is a nation that believes in redemption.

 

We are also joined tonight by Matthew Charles from Tennessee.  In 1996, at the age of 30, Matthew was sentenced to 35 years for selling drugs and related offenses.  Over the next two decades, he completed more than 30 Bible studies, became a law clerk, and mentored many of his fellow inmates.

 

Now, Matthew is the very first person to be released from prison under the FIRST STEP Act.  (Applause.)  Matthew, please.  Thank you, Matthew.  Welcome home.  (Applause.)

 

Now, Republicans and Democrats must join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis.  Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland, and secure our very dangerous southern border.

 

Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business.  (Applause.)

 

As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.  We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection.  I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for this tremendous onslaught.

 

This is a moral issue.  The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial wellbeing of all America.  We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.  This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today who followed the rules and respected our laws.  Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways.  (Applause.)

 

I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.  (Applause.)

 

Tonight, I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country.

 

No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration.  Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls, and gates, and guards.  (Applause.)

 

Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration: reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.  Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate; it is actually very cruel.  (Applause.)

 

One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north.  Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country.  Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.

 

Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.

 

The savage gang, MS-13, now operates in at least 20 different American states, and they almost all come through our southern border.  Just yesterday, an MS-13 gang member was taken into custody for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in New York City.  We are removing these gang members by the thousands.  But until we secure our border, they’re going to keep streaming right back in.

 

Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.  I’ve gotten to know many wonderful Angel moms and dads, and families.  No one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache that they have had to endure.

 

Here tonight is Debra Bissell.  Just three weeks ago, Debra’s parents, Gerald and Sharon, were burglarized and shot to death in their Reno, Nevada home by an illegal alien.  They were in their eighties, and are survived by 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren.  Also here tonight are Gerald and Sharon’s granddaughter Heather, and great-granddaughter Madison.

 

To Debra, Heather, Madison, please stand.  Few can understand your pain.  Thank you.  And thank you for being here.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

 

I will never forget, and I will fight for the memory of Gerald and Sharon that it should never happen again.  Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to control its very dangerous border.

 

In the last two years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings or murders.

 

We are joined tonight by one of those law enforcement heroes: ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez.  When Elvin — (applause) — thank you.

 

When Elvin was a boy, he and his family legally immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic.  At the age of eight, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a Special Agent.  Today, he leads investigations into the scourge of international sex trafficking.

 

Elvin says that, “If I can make sure these young girls get their justice, I’ve [really] done my job.”  Thanks to his work, and that of his incredible colleagues, more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Elvin.

 

We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

 

My administration has sent to Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border.  It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.

 

In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built.  I will get it built.  (Applause.)

 

This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier — not just a simple concrete wall.  It will be deployed in the areas identified by the border agents as having the greatest need.  And these agents will tell you: Where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.  (Applause.)

 

San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country.  In response, a strong security wall was put in place.  This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.

 

The border city of El Paso, Texas used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities.  Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.  Simply put: Walls work, and walls save lives.  (Applause.)

 

So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.

 

As we work to defend our people’s safety, we must also ensure our economic resurgence continues at a rapid pace.  No one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year.  (Applause.)

 

You weren’t supposed to do that.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

 

All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.  (Applause.)

 

Don’t sit yet.  You’re going to like this.  (Laughter.)

 

And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before.  (Applause.)

 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Really great.  And congratulations.  That’s great.

 

As part of our commitment to improving opportunity for women everywhere, this Thursday we are launching the first-ever government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.

 

To build on — (applause) — thank you.  To build on our incredible economic success, one priority is paramount: reversing decades of calamitous trade policies.  So bad.

 

We are now making it clear to China that, after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end.  (Applause.)  Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods, and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.

 

But I don’t blame China for taking advantage of us; I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.  I have great respect for President Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China.  But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

 

Another historic trade blunder was the catastrophe known as NAFTA.  I have met the men and women of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, and many other states whose dreams were shattered by the signing of NAFTA.  For years, politicians promised them they would renegotiate for a better deal, but no one ever tried, until now.

 

Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the USMCA, will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers like they haven’t had delivered to for a long time.  I hope you can pass the USMCA into law so that we can bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property, and ensure that more cars are proudly stamped with our four beautiful words: “Made in the USA.”  (Applause.)

 

Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the exact same product that they sell to us.  (Applause.)

 

Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.  (Applause.)

 

I know that Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill, and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future.  This is not an option.  This is a necessity.

 

The next major priority for me, and for all of us, should be to lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and to protect patients with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)

 

Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018, drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.  (Applause.)

 

But we must do more.  It’s unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.  This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it — and we’ll stop it fast.  (Applause.)

 

I am asking Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients, finally.  (Applause.)

 

We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs way down.  (Applause.)

 

No force in history has done more to advance the human condition than American freedom.  In recent years — (applause) — in recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach.  My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.  We have made incredible strides.  Incredible.  (Applause.)  Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.  (Applause.)

 

Tonight, I am also asking you to join me in another fight that all Americans can get behind: the fight against childhood cancer.  (Applause.)

 

Joining Melania in the gallery this evening is a very brave 10-year-old girl, Grace Eline.  Every birthday — (applause) — hi, Grace.  (Laughter.)  Every birthday since she was four, Grace asked her friends to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  She did not know that one day she might be a patient herself.  That’s what happened.

 

Last year, Grace was diagnosed with brain cancer. Immediately, she began radiation treatment.  At the same time, she rallied her community and raised more than $40,000 for the fight against cancer.  (Applause.)  When Grace completed treatment last fall, her doctors and nurses cheered — they loved her; they still love her — with tears in their eyes as she hung up a poster that read: “Last day of chemo.”  (Applause.)  Thank you very much, Grace.  You are a great inspiration to everyone in this room.  Thank you very much.

 

Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades.  My budget will ask Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical lifesaving research.

 

To help support working parents, the time has come to pass School Choice for Americans’ children.  (Applause.)  I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.  (Applause.)

 

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days.  Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.  These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.  And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.

 

To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.  (Applause.)

 

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.  (Applause.)  And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

 

The final part of my agenda is to protect American security.  Over the last two years, we have begun to fully rebuild the United States military, with $700 billion last year and $716 billion this year.

 

We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)  Finally.  Finally.  For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by friends of ours, members of NATO.  But now we have secured, over the last couple of years, more than $100 billion of increase in defense spending from our NATO Allies.  (Applause.)  They said it couldn’t be done.

 

As part of our military build-up, the United States is developing a state-of-the-art missile defense system.

 

Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America’s interests.

 

For example, decades ago, the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capability.  While we followed the agreement and the rules to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms.  It’s been going on for many years.  That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty.

 

Perhaps — (applause) — we really have no choice.  Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t — in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.  (Applause.)

 

As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula.  Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months.  If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.  (Applause.)

 

Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.  Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam.  (Applause.)

 

Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela — (applause) — and its new President, Juan Guaidó.  (Applause.)

 

We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom, and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.  (Applause.)

 

Here in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country.

 

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

 

THE PRESIDENT:  America was founded on liberty and independence, and not government coercion, domination, and control.  (Applause.)  We are born free and we will stay free.  (Applause.)

 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.  (Applause.)

 

AUDIENCE:  USA!  USA!  USA!

 

THE PRESIDENT:  One of the most complex set of challenges we face, and have for many years, is in the Middle East.  Our approach is based on principled realism, not discredited theories that have failed for decades to yield progress.  For this reason, my administration recognized the true capital of Israel, and proudly opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem.  (Applause.)

 

Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years.  In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives.  More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded.  We have spent more than $7 trillion in fighting wars in the Middle East.

 

As a candidate for President, I loudly pledged a new approach.  Great nations do not fight endless wars.  (Applause.)

 

When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria — just two years ago.  Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.

 

Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.

 

I have also accelerated our negotiations to reach — if possible — a political settlement in Afghanistan.  The opposing side is also very happy to be negotiating.  Our troops have fought with unmatched valor.  And thanks to their bravery, we are now able to pursue a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict.  (Applause.)

 

In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban.  As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop’s presence and focus on counterterrorism.  And we will indeed focus on counterterrorism.

 

We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement, but we do know that, after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.  And the other side would like to do the same thing.  It’s time.  (Applause.)

 

Above all, friend and foe alike must never doubt this nation’s power and will to defend our people.  Eighteen years ago, violent terrorists attacked the USS Cole.  And last month, American forces killed one of the leaders of that attack. (Applause.)

 

We are honored to be joined tonight by Tom Wibberley, whose son, Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, was one of the 17 sailors we tragically lost.  Tom, we vow to always remember the heroes of the USS Cole.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Tom.

 

My administration has acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror: the radical regime in Iran.  It is a radical regime.  They do bad, bad things.

 

To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal.  (Applause.)

 

And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed by us on a country.

 

We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants “Death to America” and threatens genocide against the Jewish people.  (Applause.)  We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed.  With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.

 

Just months ago, 11 Jewish-Americans were viciously murdered in an anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.  SWAT Officer Timothy Matson raced into the gunfire and was shot seven times chasing down the killer.  And he was very successful.  Timothy has just had his 12th surgery, and he is going in for many more.  But he made the trip to be here with us tonight.  Officer Matson, please.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  We are forever grateful.  Thank you very much.

 

Tonight, we are also joined by Pittsburgh survivor, Judah Samet.  He arrived at the synagogue as the massacre began.  But not only did Judah narrowly escape death last fall, more than seven decades ago, he narrowly survived the Nazi concentration camps.  Today is Judah’s 81st birthday.  (Applause.)

 

AUDIENCE:  (Sings “Happy Birthday.”)  (Applause.)

 

MR. SAMET:  Thank you!

 

THE PRESIDENT:  They wouldn’t do that for me, Judah.  (Laughter.)

 

Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train and told they were going to another camp.  Suddenly, the train screeched to a very strong halt.  A soldier appeared.  Judah’s family braced for the absolute worst.  Then, his father cried out with joy, “It’s the Americans!  It’s the Americans!”  (Applause.)  Thank you.

 

A second Holocaust survivor who is here tonight, Joshua Kaufman, was a prisoner at Dachau.  He remembers watching through a hole in the wall of a cattle car as American soldiers rolled in with tanks.  “To me,” Joshua recalls, “the American soldiers were proof that God exists, and they came down from the sky.”  They came down from Heaven.

 

I began this evening by honoring three soldiers who fought on D-Day in the Second World War.  One of them was Herman Zeitchik.  But there is more to Herman’s story.  A year after he stormed the beaches of Normandy, Herman was one of the American soldiers who helped liberate Dachau.  (Applause.)  He was one of the Americans who helped rescue Joshua from that hell on Earth.

 

Almost 75 years later, Herman and Joshua are both together in the gallery tonight, seated side-by-side, here in the home of American freedom.  Herman and Joshua, your presence this evening is very much appreciated.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

 

When American soldiers set out beneath the dark skies over the English Channel in the early hours of D-Day, 1944, they were just young men of 18 and 19, hurtling on fragile landing craft toward the most momentous battle in the history of war.

 

They did not know if they would survive the hour.  They did not know if they would grow old.  But they knew that America had to prevail.  Their cause was this nation and generations yet unborn.

 

Why did they do it?  They did it for America.  They did it for us.

 

Everything that has come since — our triumph over communism, our giant leaps of science and discovery, our unrivaled progress towards equality and justice — all of it is possible thanks to the blood and tears and courage and vision of the Americans who came before.

 

Think of this Capitol.  Think of this very Chamber, where lawmakers before you voted to end slavery, to build the railroads and the highways, and defeat fascism, to secure civil rights, and to face down evil empires.

 

Here tonight, we have legislators from across this magnificent republic.  You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii; from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona; from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California.  Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history.

 

What will we do with this moment?  How will we be remembered?

 

I ask the men and women of this Congress: Look at the opportunities before us.  Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead.  Our most exciting journeys still await.  Our biggest victories are still to come.  We have not yet begun to dream.

 

We must choose whether we are defined by our differences or whether we dare to transcend them.

 

We must choose whether we squander our great inheritance or whether we proudly declare that we are Americans.

 

We do the incredible.  We defy the impossible.  We conquer the unknown.

 

This is the time to reignite the American imagination.  This is the time to search for the tallest summit and set our sights on the brightest star.  This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.

 

This is our future, our fate, and our choice to make.  I am asking you to choose greatness.

 

No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.

 

We must keep America first in our hearts.  We must keep freedom alive in our souls.  And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny that one nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise, and the light and the glory, among all the nations of the world.

 

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

 

 

At Washington DC  Mbonu Meets New US Ambassador to Nigeria in Washington DC-Discusses Insecurity In Nigeria.

 

Executive Director of Nigerian-American Council (NAC), and Former Presidential Aspirant in 2019, Dr. Okey Samuel Mbonu, yesterday met with the new US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, in Washington DC, to discuss matters of rising international concern on Nigeria, especially on security and other important matters.


In a brief statement, issued on the sidelines of a Nigeria Event at the Washington DC think-tank, "Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS)", Mbonu said, “the current government in Nigeria may have abdicated its duty to protect its citizens, especially Nigerian Christians, of which images of horrific murders, by Nigerian terrorists, are now at the center of the world attention”.


Mbonu said, “where the government fails to live up to its primary responsibility, of ensuring the safety and security of citizens, they may leave citizens with no option but to revert to the basic human doctrine of self-defense”.


On the direction of Nigeria's political future, Mbonu said, “equity and convention dictates the next President of Nigeria in 2023 would be from the Southeast region of Nigeria”.


On why more political leaders of Nigeria did not speak-out per the murder of visible Christian leaders, such as the Chairman of the "Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)" in Adamawa State, Mbonu said, “many of the Southern and Northern leaders, including Christian political leaders, are enmeshed in massive corruption, which makes them afraid to speak-out, because they fear a dusting up of their corruption files”.



Mbonu also stated that he believes that “2023 will usher-in completely new leadership in Nigeria, it will be an opportunity for new-generation leaders with zero corruption baggage, and 21st Century credentials to emerge on the political stage”.

 

Former Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar issued statement  on Trump Government’s  action to place Nigeria on its travel ban list. He blamed  Buhari's government.

 


"US Travel Ban on Nigeria: Punish Those Responsible, Not the Nigerian People"




"I received with sadness the policy of the government of the United States of America to place Nigeria on its travel ban list.



While I understand the reasons given by the Trump administration (the failure of the Muhammadu Buhari led administration to share information and to address issues of terrorism), the ban does not take into account the pro-American sentiments of the Nigerian public and the solidarity previous Nigerian administrations have had with the United States.



I urge the government of President Donald Trump to consider the history of US-Nigerian relationships. Nigeria was one of the few African nations that joined the US led coalition during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991, when the United States championed the liberation of Kuwait.



The Trump administration may also consider the pivotal role Nigeria, in partnership with the US, played in bringing peace to Liberia, an American sphere of influence, that now enjoys democracy because Nigerian blood and money paved the way for peace in that nation.



Nigeria has also consistently voted in support of the United States and her allies at the United Nations and other multi-lateral world bodies. This is even as we are perhaps the biggest trading partner that the United States has in Africa, even where we had alternatives.



Nigerians love the United States and have been a major force for the positive development of that great nation: 77 per cent of all Black doctors in the United States are Nigerians. Nigerians are also the most educated immigrant community in America Bar None.



Surely, the US stands to benefit if it allows open borders with a country like Nigeria that is able to provide skilled, hardworking and dedicated personnel in a two-way traffic.


The current Nigerian administration may have its deficiencies and deep faults, but the Nigeria people ought not to be punished for their inefficiencies. Once again, I call on President Trump to consider adopting measures that individually target those in government who have failed in their duties, rather than target the entire Nigerian population."

President Trump has placed travel restrictions and outright immigration ban on Nigeria and other five countries Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar,   Sudanese and Tanzanian.



These two Asian and four more African countries  travel were restricted and Trump suspended immigrant visas for citizens of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, and Nigeria and suspended Sudanese and Tanzanian citizens from participating in the U.S. “visa lottery” system.


WHY?

Image result for nigeria ban us travel


“Defending American lives and safety is the President’s highest duty, ”  was the focal point of the travel ban according  to  a statement released by White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham .


The statement further stated : “The new restrictions will not apply to tourist, business, or other nonimmigrant travel,” the White House said in a statement regarding the additional six countries. “The Administration will work with the non-compliant countries to bring them into compliance with United States security standards.”



“It is fundamental to national security, and the height of common sense, that if a foreign nation wishes to receive the benefits of immigration and travel to the United States, it must satisfy basic security conditions outlined by America’s law-enforcement and intelligence professionals.” 


These countries  “fail to conduct proper identity management protocols and procedures, or that fail to provide information necessary to comply with basic national security requirements,”  the  statement concluded.

 


President Trump administration is planning to add Nigeria and six other  countries - Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania - to its travel ban list, as reported by news network Reuters.


According to Wall Street Journal , "Some countries could be banned from participating in the diversity visa lottery program, which awards green cards to people in countries with low levels of immigration to the U.S. President Trump has called for an end to that program, saying it lets undesirable people into the U.S., and he has proposed reorienting the existing visa system toward skilled workers instead."



Nigeria, for example, Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, is a U.S. anti-terrorism partner and has a large diaspora residing in the United States.




"A senior Trump administration official said that countries that failed to comply with security requirements, including biometrics, information-sharing and counter-terrorism measures, faced the risk of limitations on U.S. immigration.





The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The State Department declined to comment.



Under the current version of the ban, citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as some Venezuelan officials and their relatives are blocked from obtaining a large range of U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas."



WSJ reported that visitors overstaying their visa duration maybe partially driven the ban to include Nigeria and others. "In the 2018 fiscal year, 24% of Eritreans on business or visitor visas overstayed their permits, along with 15% of Nigerians and 12% of people from Sudan. Those compared with a total overstay rate in the category of 1.9%."


Speech delivered by Professor Wole Soyinka at the “Never Again Conference” organised by the Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo, to mark the 50 years after the Nigerian Civil War on Monday, January 13 at the MUSON Centre, Onikan Lagos).
Image result for Wole Soyinka @ “Never Again Conference” - 50 years after Biafra Civil War



Last year October, about a week after the nation space that we have generously agreed to refer to as Nigeria, celebrated her 59th year of Independence from colonial rule, I found myself at the Athens Democracy Forum, Athens being of course that former nation-state that claims the honour of pioneering a system of governance that we all today, celebrate under the name – Democracy.




I have no intention of challenging Athens on her claims. What is of note in that claim is simply that the Greeks consider this system of socio-political arrangement of such primal validity, despite numerous challenges and setbacks, that they continue to flaunt it at the rest of the world as the ideal to which all of humanity should aspire. What is even more striking is that much of the rest of the world continues to fall in line, join in the exercise, and propagate its virtues. Two weeks after that conference, I was back on this soil of our own continent on an allied interrogation of history generated concepts. The venue of the second encounter was Dar-es-Salaam, the occasion, the bi-annual Conference on African philosophy.





My remarks today derive largely from issues raised by those earlier exchanges. There is a coincidence of timing and relevance for our present gathering here, both thematically and historically, a coincidence that almost qualifies as a gift of Providence, since all three encounters are geared towards the historic search of humanity for existential choices based on the exercise of collective wisdom. I do not speak of wisdom as an abstract pursuit, a lofty aspiration that exists in a rarefied realm of its own, but wisdom as the very manifestation of the human ability to seize both phenomena and experience by the throat and squeeze them of any lessons they have to offer us in amelioration of human existence. 






That claim is justified by the very theme of this encounter: NEVER AGAIN. It is not the first time most of us here have heard that expression. It is, unfortunately, also not the last time such an exhortation will echo in human caucuses, structured and/or casual, organized or improvised. It is both sentiment and pragmatism, an admission of an error, of an anomaly, of a less than desired expectation of ourselves, what we believe we are capable of, what deficiencies in judgment we consider we are capable of transcending. It is, to sum up, an indication of our capacity for vision, a refusal to be stuck in a mode of thought that discountenances the possibilities of human transformation, of possibilities of transcending present limitations. 



That resolve may emerge from an individual or collective experience. Let me bring it down to the most mundane, accessible level.  Let us say, in a foolhardy moment, we have exceeded the dictates of prudence in spending, overshot one’s budget. What do we swear when the moment of realization descends? Never Again!  Or perhaps – a more literally sobering experience – who still recalls his or her first hangover the morning after a night of over-indulgence? The very first words that emerge in that first flush of sobriety? Again, the two words: Never Again! 


The trouble, of course, is that humanity tends to forget such lessons too soon, and will be found pursuing the same course of action again, all over again and again. We become inured to what we consider our capacity for recovery, even boast of our increasing resistance to the effects of the night before. However, we know only too well that, side by side with that seeming capacity for recuperation, there is a steady erosion of the physical constitution that comes from excess. Sooner or later, the liver – among other vital organs – will take its revenge. That latter analogy is quite deliberate. Power intoxicates and, in that drunken state, human beings become mere statistics. 



Some people remain in a drunken stupor for years, alas, intoxicated by the sheer redolence of power and cheap access to the instruments of force. And so I evoke that analogy to bolster those sober and anxious voices that warn, from time to time, that no nation has ever survived two civil wars. The claim that no nation has ever survived two civil wars may not be historically sustainable but, it belongs to that category of quest that I have referred to as the pursuit of wisdom – in his case, we may equate it with the wisdom of not holding a banknote over a flame just because the Central Bank claims that it is fireproof. Or attempt to hold an exposed electric wire, just because NEPA is notorious for electrical incapacitation. 






Correspondingly, our analogy is sternly directed as a mirror to those contrary voices which boast: “I have fought a war and put my life on the line to keep this nation one, and I am ready to do it all over again.” That bravado, by the way, conveniently overlooks the reality that a parallel, often more devastating toll in human lives and lingering trauma is also exacted from untrained, unprepared non-combatants, burdening the future with a more unpredictable, indeed even irreversible hangover. And that introduces us conveniently to my second conference in Tanzania for which my contribution was titled: WHEN IS A NATION? – with the sub-title, Power, Volition and History’s Reprimand. I believe you have begun to grasp the connection.





If not, let me remind you that Tanzania was one of the five nations that recognized the breakaway Republic of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. Finding myself in that setting, among products of a very special historical formation – pre- and immediately post-colonial African – despite variations in detail, it was an opportunity to interrogate what, if any, could be considered a philosophical or ideological extract from 




a human event that consumed – it is estimated – two million and a half lives within two years. One of the preoccupations of philosophy is of course to immerse its processes in what actually makes humanity – tick. So, there we were in Tanzania, a crucial player in the Nigeria – note, I do not say Biafran but– Nigerian tragedy. Regarded as a progressive nation, with a track record of support for liberation causes both within the continent and outside – such as the Palestinians struggle for nationhood – serving as a front-line buffer against apartheid South Africa and thus incurring punitive attacks from that racist enclave, Tanzania nonetheless chose to go against the tide of opinion within the then Organization of African Unity.





She recognized a secessionist state at a time when such a position was not only unfashionable, but was even regarded by many as an act of race treachery, a rupture of the not-for-discourse, not-for-consideration political ‘absolute’ named: African Unity. ALSO READ: 50 years after: Let’s review issues that caused civil war ― Gowon, Soyinka, Utomi, Anya, Akintoye Yes indeed, that was the conjure word: African Unity. 




Unity as in non-fragmentation, non-divisible, was a proposition in transcendentalism, an Absolute. A modern continent, offspring of multiple rapes – or indecipherable trading treaties – and externally imposed distribution lines, was to be weaned on the milk of a foster mother named – African Unity So let us consider the implications of that collective position. In objective terms, what exactly was it? A historic irony, I propose. 

We are introducing here a very plain issue that goes to the heart of national coming-in-being of any people, that issue being a polarity between volition and – dictation. Perhaps you will now admit the relevance of my commencing reference to that other conference that occupied itself with the ancient socio-political system known as – democracy. The Yoruba have a proverb for that implicit lesson in contradictions – it goes:won ni, amukun, eru e wo, o niat’isaleni. Translation: The knock-kneed porter was told: that load on your head is skewed. His reply was – ah no, the problem lies at the base, in the beginning, not, in the consequence. And so, the question is thrown open as a fundamental proposition: is democracy itself not vitiated, not a sham where the roots of coming-in-being of a people spell dictation, coercion as opposed to – choice? 





Volition? Consent and Participation? Those are the building blocks of Democracy. Democracy is manifested in the act, not in the rhetorical flourish. That is the irony to which I refer, an irony that commenced when the Organization of African Unity adopted the very protocol of the inviolability of national boundaries – that is, the sacrosanctity of given boundaries, dictated, imposed, arbitrary and artificial boundaries, and its members resolved to defend those boundaries to the last drop of our blood. Now, a pause here is mandated. Tomorrow, I know that I shall open the pages of the newspapers and read that Wole Soyinka has advocated the breakup of Nigeria. 




One reporter will educe that from an underlying principle I have just enunciated, jot it down in his or her notebook, and others will copy that conclusion verbatim. Too bad for the nation’s Intelligence Quotient – known as I.Q. I have long given up and will proceed  – as I always have – on my own terms, with my uninterrupted dialogue with history, and in my own mode of expression. Those who wish to catch up can do so in their own time. My extract from that civil war remains what it always was – a simple self-interrogatory: Have we been had?





Absolutes tend to resound with clarity, an exclusionist proceeding that does not tax the brain. Absolutes readily corral even millions into comfort zones of unquestioning receptivity, simply from fear, or even just from the way they sound, not for the implications of their content. Absolutes however remains what they are – glorified sound-bites such as: The sovereignty of this nation is non-negotiable. Yes, what exactly does that mean? We know what it meant for the first-comers at the helm of affairs in the Organization of African Unity. It meant: to each his own, as exists at this moment of history. This is a club of leaders, let us keep things the way they are by respecting one another’s turf. No trespassing. No adjustment of givens. No agitation. No negotiation. 





Again, I warn against reductionism. I do not belittle the passion, the sincerity, the dedication to the liberation of the continent from external control as diligently pursued by a number of those leaders. I do not belittle the ideological determinism of a handful, the will to transform, to catch up the rest of the world and redress the history of enslavement – both by the Eastern and Western worlds, the humiliating racism for which we are on the receiving end, even till today. I do not for a moment underestimate the self-sacrifices and `I do not ignore the vision of a few individual leaders.




I do insist however that protocol of sacrosanctity of colonial boundaries was a self-serving power mechanism of internal control and domination that had nothing to do with a structured, programmatic concern for the African masses who bore the brunt of effects of colonialism and its later, camouflaged successors – including internal colonialism. And thus I continue to ask: Have we been had? Are we still being well and truly had? Do we continue to lay ourselves wide open to be cheaply had?  Well then, consider the state of the world, at that very time that the conference in Tanzania was holding, just last October. Let us take a look over the continental wall and instruct ourselves. 




That conference was taking place, 60 years of modernity after the Nigerian civil war, simultaneously with an ongoing upheaval in a distant continent, Europe, is a former colonial power, Spain. Yes, that power, Spain, was embroiled in a secessionist move by a province known as Catalonia. The initial, dramatic proclamation took place in Catalonia’s own provincial parliament earlier that year, echoing that other allegedly retrogressive move thousands of miles away on this very continent, in this very nation, in a region abutting the Bay of Biafra – that is, history was being replayed full 60 years after the precedent that was set in the Bay of Biafra. 





In between of course, need I remind you of the dismantling of the monolith known as the Republic of Soviet Unions – with the nearly forgotten acronym of USSR? Hindsight or foresight, irrespective of what triggers off recollection, it is all part of our humanity to call history to account from time to time, and most especially in those moments when its obscured fault-lines are exposed. And so we proceed to an even closer scenario – closer that is, even intertwined with our own history as former colonials – the United Kingdom, a fellow Commonwealth nation. 




I refer to the attempted breakup of that once colonial power whose policies in the first place certainly contributed to a violent, devastating resolution on the Nigerian testing ground. The Brexit movement is taking place within a loose organization, so one can claim it is not quite the same as that ugly word, “secession”. However, Brexit did lead,  with remorseless logic, to a renewal – repeat, renewal of the calls for Scottish independence. It is a recurrent agitation that actually resulted in a referendum in 2014– just six years ago – after a motion in the Scottish Parliament. That motion, like Brexit, obtained the assent of the union government in Westminster. 





The UK government under David Cameron found that it had to campaign hard to swing the votes for a “No”. Some here may recall that even Lawn Tennis had a cameo role in that drama since the referendum took place close to the Olympics, and collateral anxieties built up– would Andy Murray compete as a Scot, or as a Brit? If only such weighty issues of governance and nation-being could be reduced to benign proportions such as the uncertainties of the game of tennis! On a personal note, let me reveal here that I was in that very parliamentary house not long after the failed referendum where I addressed the International Society on European Enlightenment. 




It gave me the greatest pleasure to sympathize with members of the Scottish parliament on their abortive act of secession. Closer home, of course, we have undergone the break-up of Ethiopia and Eretria, after decades of human wastage. There is, of course, the resolution of a Sudanese separatist uprising in negotiated divorce. When – or if at all – will a verdict be objectively delivered on whether this was ‘one giant step forward for humanity’, or one harrowing step for socio-political retrogression? 




What matters for those of us committed to a humanist mode of thought is this:  a direction was finally agreed upon in favour of the survival of Sudanese humanity, the termination of its decades-long agony, and the annulment of the unwritten pacts of mutual decimation. Let my comments during a eulogy to our own homegrown secessionist leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was once violently excoriated, later absorbed, after his military defeat, into the bosom of a “united” family – let those comments stand for some of the wider implications that derive – not to all, necessarily – but indisputably from some such events of dubious associations, even of the most benign. 





My eulogy went as follows: “On that day, May 30, of the year 1967, a young, bearded man, thirty-four years of age in a fledgeling nation that was barely seven years old, plunged that nation into hitherto uncharted waters and inserted a battalion of question marks into the presumptions of nation-being on more levels than one. That declaration was not merely historic, it re-wrote the more familiar trajectories of colonialism even as it implicitly served notice on the sacrosanct order of imperial givens. It moved the unarticulated question: 




“When is a nation?” away from simplistic political parameters – away from mere nomenclature and habit – to the more critical arena of morality and internal obligations. It served notice on the conscience of the world, ripped apart the hollow claims of inheritance and replaced them with the hitherto subordinate, yet logical assertiveness of a ‘people’s will’. Young and old, the literate and the uneducated, urban sophisticates and rural dwellers, civilian and soldier – all were compelled to re-examine their own situating in a world of close internal relations and distant ideological blocs, bringing many back to that basic question: Just when is a nation? Throughout world history, many have died for, but without an awareness of the existential centrality of that question. The Biafran act of secession was one that could claim that people had a direct intimacy with the negative corollary of that question.




Their brutal, causative circumstances – I refer to the massacres, the deadly hunts – could provide only one answer to the obverse of our question, which would then read: When is a nation not? In so doing, he challenged the pietism of former colonial masters and the sanctimoniousness of much of the world.




He challenged a questionable construct of nationhood, mostly externally imposed, and sought to replace it, under the most harrowing circumstances, with a vital proposition that answered the desired goal of humanity – which is not merely to survive, but to exist in dignity. Even today, many will admit that, in that same nation, the question remains unresolved, that more and more voices are probing that question – when is a nation? – from Central Africa through India/Pakistan to Myanmar and the Soviet Union – enquire of Cherchnya and the siege of Beslan! Innumerable are the casualties from contestations of that facile and unreflective proposition that whatever is, is immutably ordered, which confers the mantle of a divine ordinance on those spatial contrivances, called nations, even as they continue to creak at the seams and consume human lives in their millions. 




Such arch-conservationists, sometimes imbued with a high sense of mission, see only a sacrosanct order in what was never accorded human approbation, as if it is not its very human occupancy that confers vitality on any inert piece of real estate. Julius Nyerere was too astute not to know that his gesture of recognition was futile. That leaves us one extract – arguably others, but I wish to fasten on just one – symbolic. Translated into the language of propulsive thinking, impelled to extract a lesson from an unrelenting cycle of human wastage, that lesson would read: 




Humanity before nation. Indeed, Nyerere’s justification of his action implied as much. And, when we finally met, during a North-South conference that took place in Lisbon after his retirement, at a critical phase of the anti-apartheid struggle, he reaffirmed the rationale behind his decision. Well, it does not matter whether r or not that alone constituted the rationale for his position – we know he was a politician, and political motives are predictably multiple and interchangeable. What does matter for us today, is the imperative of a ‘revisionist’ attitude, even as a purely academic exercise. For example, ask ourselves questions such as: What price ‘territorial integrity’ where any slab of real estate, plus the humanity that work it, can be signed away as a deal between two leaders – as did happen between Nigeria and Cameroon. 




You seek an answer to the claims of territorial integrity? Ask the fluctuating refugees on Bakassi islands just what is the meaning, for them, of ‘territorial integrity’? Again, I feel obliged to emphasize that this has nothing to do with whether or not one side was in the wrong or right, nothing to do with accusations of a lack of vision, of pandering to, or resisting the wiles and calculations of erstwhile colonial rulers, or indeed, taking sides in a Cold War that turned Africans into surrogate players and the continent into prostrate testing ground for new weaponry. 




No, we merely place before ourselves an exercise in hindsight – with no intention however of denying credit to those who did exercise foresight – we propose that the loss of two million and a half people, the maiming and traumatization of innumerable others and devastation on a hitherto unimaginable scale, by a nation turned against itself even as it teetered on the edge of modernity, provokes sober reflection. That’s all. Sober reflection. A re-thinking that is unafraid, especially as such scenarios, considered in some cases even worse, more brutish, have since followed. 



Need one recall Rwanda’s own entry into that contest in morbid pathology, one that surpasses the Biafran carnage when comparatively assessed in duration and population parameters? All remain active reminders to haunt Africa’s collective conscience –  the existence of which, I know, is an optimistic presumption – and appears to elude the ministrations of politicians and/or ideologies, or indeed theologians. I propose that we borrow a leaf from our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.





I have no qualms in reminding this, or any other Nigerian audience that, such as the ingrained slave mentality of the contemporary progeny of those who sold those exiles into slavery in the first place, that some in this nation actually consider it a duty, even honour, to take up cudgels on behalf of the denigrators of our own kind, of our own race. 




Thus, they proceed to insult those who respond in their own personal manner to such racists, however powerfully positioned and no matter where on this globe – but let that pass for now. My intention is to jog your memories regarding that spate of serial elimination of our kind – the African-Americans – by white police in the United States at that very time, an epidemic that merely actualized the racist rantings of the current incumbent of the White House as he powered his way to the coveted seat in the last United States elections. 






The African-Americans, tired of being arbitrary sacrificial lambs, the victims of hate rhetoric, went on nation-wide protest marches, carrying placards that read: Black Lives Matter. Adopting that simple exhortation enables us to include the millions of victims of failed or indifferent leadership on this continent who are more concerned with power and its accruements, who see the nation, not as expressions of a people’s will, need, belonging, and industry, but as ponds in which they, the bullfrogs of our time, can exercise power for its own sake. It is they who militate against ‘nation’, not – I shall end on this selective note – not the products of migration from purely nominal nation enclaves who perish daily along the Sahara desert routes, who drown in droves in the Mediterranean. They are the ones who confronted the question with, alas, a fatalist determinism. 





They asked themselves the question: When is a Nation?  And the answer of those desperate migrants is clearly read as: not when we left where we called home! As long as our humanity opts for unmarked graves in the Sahara desert, or in the guts of the fishes of the Mediterranean, their answer remains to haunt us all.





Yes, indeed, let us internalize that Africa-American declaration as statement of a living faith, an expression of our humanity that may compel leadership to pause at critical moments of decision, thereby earn ourselves some space where we can re-think those bequeathed absolutes that we so proudly spout, gospels of sacrosanctity, pre-packaged imperatives or questionable, often poisoned“truths” that incite us to advance so conceitedly towards the dehumanisation and decimation of our kind. Any time that leadership, on whichever side, is about to repeat yet again the ultimate folly of sacrificing two and a half million lives on the altar of Absolutes, any absolute, we should borrow that credo, paint them on prayer scrolls, flood the skies in their millions with kites and balloons on which those words are inscribed: 
African Lives Matter!



 

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