Between extortion and the sanctity of Petroleum contracts in Nigeria, DRC and Senegal
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
Investors need to know that their investments are safe and that they will be protected by the law in case the other parties falter on their obligations
By NJ Ayuk*
Last week, a commercial court in the United Kingdom gave reason to a claim by engineering company Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID), which demands over USD$9 billion from the Nigerian government over a failed gas deal. The decision follows a 2017 arbitration award and turns it into a legal judgement, which could allow P&ID to seize Nigeria’s international commercial assets.
P&ID’s claim is based on a 2010 contract signed with the government of Nigeria for the construction and operation of a “gas processing plant to refine natural gas (“wet gas”) into lean gas that Nigeria would receive free of charge to power its national electric grid,” the company’s website states. Under the deal, the Nigerian government should have provided the necessary infrastructure and pipelines needed to supply gas to the plant. P&ID would build the plant for free and then operate it and commercialize the output for a period of 20 years.
The company claims that over this period it would have earned USD$6.6 billion in profit, an incredible figure that becomes ever more fantastic as the company claims that the yearly 7% interest it is supposedly charging on this capital has now accrued to USD$2.4 billion, at the rate of USD$1.2 million a day, which closes the full amount at a perfectly round USD$9 billion. The whole situation is in itself extremely puzzling. Afterall P&ID, a company created specifically for this project, is claiming it is entitled to the full amount of what it would have gained over a period of 20 years of work, even though that period would not be over for another decade and some. Further, it is already charging interests on capital it would, if the project went forward, it would still be a decade away from generating. On top of that, it has chosen to pursue the matter in a British court, and has a separate law suite in an American court, when the contract was signed in Nigeria, under Nigerian law, and should be pursued in a Nigerian court, as the Nigerian legal team has repeatedly stated.
Nigeria is seeking an appeal to the decision, but P&ID is not wasting any time in trying to seize Nigerian assets abroad, and it might well manage to do so, at least in part.
Further, P&ID has never even broken ground on the construction of this power plant, which it claims would have benefitted so many thousands of Nigerians. The company has reportedly spent USD$40 million on preparatory work, although it is impossible to attest what that work has been.
Even just looking to the amount spent, work done and compensation sought, the figures seem simply absurd. USD$9 billion corresponds to 20% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves, it would be unthinkable that a nation state would pay that much capital to a small unknown enterprise that invested not but a small fraction of that amount in the country and done none of the contracted work. Further, it is perplexing that a British court would even consider such a decision.
However, this issue represents an important cautionary tale for African governments everywhere. Very few things matter more in the struggle to attract investment and build a favourable business environment that will push the economy forward than the absolute sanctity of the contracts signed.
Investors need to know that their investments are safe and that they will be protected by the law in case the other parties falter on their obligations, as it seems to have happened with the Nigerian government. It is by no means the first time a situation like this happens. Just in March, an international court ordered the Democratic Republic of Congo to pay South African DIG Oil Ltd USD$617 million for failing to honor two oil contracts. This is an unacceptable and unjustifiable loss of capital for the people of the DRC. Particularly taking into account that the loss is incurred because the country’s leaders failed to comply with a contract that could have brought a considerable amount of wealth for the country for many years to come, in both royalties and taxes, as well as help develop its oil industry.
Senegal’s government under President Macky Sall was very smart to avoid this kind of litigation when it was confronted with the issue of the Timis Corporation and its ownership of acreage that included the Tortue field, which is estimated to contain more than 15 tcf of discovered gas resources. If President Macky Sall would have proceeded with terminating a valid contract for the acreage, the Timis Corporation would have engaged in arbitration and would have probably gotten a favorable judgment against Senegal. In the process, the gas fields would have sat dormant and produced no returns for Senegal and its citizens. Sometimes leaders are confronted with tough choices and it takes a profile in courage to find solutions and still respect the sanctity of contracts.
Even with criticism from civil society groups, Equatorial Guinea has honored contracts with U.S. oil companies that many oil analysts believe are unfavorable to the state. This principle has kept Equatorial Guinea’s oil industry stable and US firms continue to invest in new projects like the EGLNG backfilling project with Noble, Atlas Oranto, Glencore Marathon and the state.
African leaders and African nations can not afford this sort of mistakes anymore. If on the one hand, contracts must be respected, protected and followed through, the people in charge of evaluating and signing those contracts must have the project’s feasibility as the dominant reasoning behind any decision. What is the purpose of signing contracts for fantastic projects where there is neither the capital nor the conditions to pull it through. Our economies live out of their reputation too. No investor wants to work in a system where contracts are not honored and where their investments are not protected.
While P&ID’s request for USD$9 billion in compensations seems absurd, companies that see the contracts they sign with African governments, or any governments, disrespected, must have the right to claim compensation, just in the same way that African leaders must be responsible for the contracts they sign and must make sure that situations like this do not repeat themselves. Enough money has been wasted on lawsuits that could be used to benefit the lives of Africans. This is true for the oil and gas industry and in any other industries.
*NJ Ayuk is the CEO of Centurion Law Group, Executive Chairman of the Africa Energy Chamber, author of the upcoming book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
ME, FARAGE AND BREXIT…
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
I was introduced to Nigel Farage in January 2017 by a friend and a business partner shortly after he pulled off the Brexit win. –For those who don’t know him, Nigel Paul Farage is a British politician, broadcaster, and political analyst serving as Leader of the Brexit Party since 2019 and has served as Member of the European Parliament for South East England since 1999— We will connect at events time permitting whenever he is in Washington DC.
At tonight reception honoring him, Nigel directed my attention to the picture below and asked, “Ambassador do you approve?” I guess Nigel wanted me to reach beyond the noise and grasp a deeper meaning of his fight for Brexit. I read the message on the picture and it got me thinking. Think about it as well…
It is well documented that EU policies affect Africa’s ability to address its agricultural and food challenges: Tariff escalation; technological innovation and food export preferences are major challenge that the continent needs to overcome. African shouldn’t be viewed simply as raw material exporters. However, adding value to the exports out of the continent continue to be frustrated by existing EU policies.
According to Calestous Juma a professor of the practice of international development at Harvard Kennedy School “EU charges (a tariff) of 30 per cent for processed cocoa products like chocolate bars or cocoa powder, and 60 per cent for some other refined products containing cocoa.” The impact of such charges goes well beyond lost export opportunities. They suppress technological innovation and industrial development among African countries. The practice denies the continent the ability to acquire, adopt and diffuse technologies used in food processing. It explains to some extent the low level of investment in Africa’s food processing enterprises.
Such High import duties keep products from developing countries out of Europe. Highly processed products are taxed more heavily than raw products. Import tariffs increase the more processed a product becomes. This measure ensures that most imports to the EU are raw products like coffee, cocoa or pineapples which cannot be cultivated in Europe.
MAYBE BREXIT MIGHT NOT BE A BAD THING FOR AFRICA AFTER ALL…just a thought
*Omar Arouna is a Cybersecurity Technologist, Diplomat, International Relations and Africa market entry strategist
You think West Africa’s (liquefied natural gas) LNG-to-power projects are lingering? Zoom in on Benin
August 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Mickael Vogel*
With a population of less than 12 million and a GDP of $10.35bn in 2018, Benin is often overshadowed by its massive neighbour, Nigeria. Yet as African countries try to revitalize their energy sector, bring in private capital and develop gas-to-power, it is in West Africa and Benin that observers should look for positive developments. With recent legislative reforms and a strong political will, the small West African nation is strengthening its place as the capital of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and positioning itself as a big hub for gas and power in the sub-region.
On July 24, French super-major Total signed a Gas Supply Agreement and Host Government Agreement with Benin and its state utility, the Société Béninoise d’Energie Electrique (SBEE). The agreement will see the development of a 0.5 mtpa Floating, Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), the first in West Africa. LNG supplies sourced from Total’s global portfolio are set to start in 2021 and last for 15 years.
This is no small move for a region that has repeatedly tried to develop its gas-to-power infrastructure but has remained faced with financing, infrastructure and regulatory challenges. Between Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, up to 7,750MW of gas-to-power facilities could be installed by 2030 according to Power Africa. In practice however, erratic supplies from the West Africa Gas Pipeline, lack of gas and transmission & distribution infrastructure, unattractive pricing structures and outdated master plans mean that such potential might remain under-exploited.
In this context, the recent signing of agreements with Total brings hope to a region hungry for power. It is first the result of strong political will. Under the leadership of President Patrice Talon, Benin has been implementing a strong Government Action Plan (PAG) since 2016 which places the revitalisation of the country’s energy sector and private sector capital as a pillar of economic development. The formula is working: Benin grew by almost 7% last year and is expected to grow by 6.5% this year (IMF), placing it in the top 15 of the world’s fastest growing economies. And political vision has led a better ease of doing business. Benin has been revising its Electricity Code, and its Council of Ministers approved last month the new framework of intervention for the Independent Power Producers (IPPs), improving investment and operating conditions for private investors in the country’s power industry.
As a result, the agreement with Total will not only see the development of West Africa’s first FSRU, it is also reviving hopes of seeing clean LNG powering future homes and industries across the region. The new gas import project will indeed supply power plants in Benin, such as the new 127 MW power station at Maria Gléta, with regasification infrastructure developed and operated by Total.
Sub-Saharan Africa has a current installed gas-to-power generation capacity of about 18,000MW, 70% of which is in Nigeria. Based on known reserves there is potential for approximately 400GW of gas-fed power generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, with potential developments for 16GW by 2030. According to Power Africa, such additional gas-to-power capacity would require an investment of $113bn in infrastructure, $35bn in demand and $28bn in supply. With a dedicated team of lawyers and experts in gas & power, Centurion (CenturionLG.com) stands ready to assist regulators, developers and financiers in making this ambition a reality.
Nigeria:EKWEREMADU’S ASSAULT AND THE DYNAMICS OF REVOLUTION
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
The assault of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Germany is unsurprising, but shocking. Unsurprising because it’s certain Nigerians would revolt against their leaders misrule someday. It is shocking because many never envisaged such could happen now, and in this manner. The popular support, but low turnout at Omoyele Sowore’s Revolution Now protest, and the fading outcry for his release is a pointer that Nigerians want a revolution, but are reluctant to revolt.
Aside shocking the reluctant populace, Ekweremadu’s assault also stunned the revolution vanguards. Most never imagined any tribe could, at this moment in time, revolt against the same leaders they have been programed to exalt and defend irrationally. Is revolution taking a new, unexpected dimension? Departing the long occupied arena of inter-ethnic confrontations for home?
Ekweremadu is the leading political figure of the Igbo ethnic group. He was Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President for three consecutive terms (2007-2019). Ekweremadu comes next to the late Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first elected Vice-President (1979-1983). Ekwueme and ex-President Shehu Shagari’s government was deposed in 1983 by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s incumbent President.
At the invitation of the Igbo community in Germany, Ekweremadu was in Nurnberg to deliver a keynote address at the Ndi Igbo Second Annual Cultural (new yam) Festival. He was denied entry to the event by irate members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a fugitive wanted for jumping bail to hide abroad after the military unjustly invaded his home. Kanu is undergoing trial for treason at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Nigerian government proscribed IPOB, declaring it a terrorist organization in 2017.
On the instruction of Kanu, IPOB on 17 August, 2019 attacked and tore Ekweremadu’s cloth for allegedly not advancing the course of Igbo independence and not condemning the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen. In all fairness, Ekweremadu couldn’t have done much, being an opposition figure. He spoke against the Military’s Operation Python Dance in Igbo land, but apparently not as vehement as IPOB wanted. Ekweremadu was being cautious. Defending IPOB fervently would have set him against the northern senators who are largely in support of the military invasion and IPOB’s proscription. Not playing along could have resulted in his removal as Deputy Senate President.
It would have also put him at loggerheads with the federal government. The President’s intolerance to criticisms would make him unleash his attack dogs against Ekweremadu. He would have been terribly harassed, arraigned on trumped-up charges and incarcerated. Nigerians won’t be surprised if Buhari arraign him for sponsoring treason and a proscribed organization. The circumstance surrounding the condition at the time puts Ekweremadu at a crossroads: to either pick ‘self’ or ‘us’. He settled for ‘self’ as most of the IPOB members that assaulted him would have done.
Kanu also picked ‘self’ over ‘us’ by abandoning the secession struggle at the most crucial time. Many of the hundreds of families who lost lives and properties are still grieving to date. They surely aren’t happy that Kanu brainwashed their loved ones to fight a battle he has no capacity to win. If those affected are Lustitia, their sword won’t spare Kanu for taking cover abroad after destabilizing the polity. He may neither be contacting the bereaved nor providing them support. If that’s the case, then it is unreasonable for IPOB to assault Ekweremadu for a wrong Kanu is also guilty of.
The southeast governors are more deserving of IPOB’s intimidation than Ekweremadu. They were conspiratorially silent when the python was dancing and IPOB was being proscribed. They failed to speak despite being immune from the incarceration and prosecution Buhari is using to silence critics. Be that as it may, the governors’ silence may not be unconnected with Kanu’s personalization of the secession struggle and uncouth utterances. He singlehandedly issued sit-at-home orders and called for the boycott of elections. This didn’t sit well with the politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural group. Ekweremadu is just a lone voice among these persons. He cannot order them to do his bidding.
But then, one cannot exonerate Ekweremadu of blame. Ekweremadu is elected to represent his constituency and region, not himself. If the wish of the Igbo majority, as it seems then, is to secede, it is Ekweremadu’s responsibility to interface with the federal government and find a middle ground. This should have been done with IPOB and other relevant stakeholders in the know, but Ekweremadu acted differently. His action was largely self-serving. Escaping prosecution from alleged corrupt practices was his priority. He chose to favor ‘self’ when he is elected to represent ‘us’. He deserves to be punished, but through the ballot, not assault.
Ekweremadu was punished for the wrongs of his fellow elites ruining Nigeria. He was made to feel the anger of the people. Nigerians across boards believe the assault is a viable way of making leaders accountable. Assault is immoral, but many are willing to get involved, if it would bring good governance. If corrupt politicians are being shamed, there’ll be less misrule as they and their families can’t stay away from schooling, receiving treatment and holidaying abroad. Nigeria would transform when the politicians have no other choice than Nigeria.
Celebrating new yam festival in faraway Germany is a misplacement of priority, at a time when incessant killings is occurring in Igbo land. Who among the organizers of the festival owns a farm or ever planted a yam? The real farmers who should be celebrating their outputs are being killed and losing their loved ones and farms to bandits. Partying under this situation is a mockery of the farmer’s misfortune. Leadership is service. The huge cost of organizing the events and the travel expenses incurred by dignitaries such as Ekweremadu could have been used to assist those who lost persons and properties during the secession struggle and bandits attack. Wealthy Igbos and the foreign branches of Ohaneze Ndigbo needs to be more philanthropic.
IPOB’s assault on Ekweremadu is somewhat unjust and misdirected. Buhari and his appointees who outlawed the organization and apparently failed to address the challenges in the southeast have been left unthreatened. Those at the helm of affairs are ignored for the governors who can neither control the security agencies nor restore Biafra. The unintended consequence of IPOB’s action is that her real ‘oppressors’ chance to win elections is being heightened by her actions. Defaming the People Democratic Party’s government in the southeast would only help the All Progressives Congress have an easy win in 2023. But for one thing, Ekweremadu’s assault is a message to the President’s top aides that it may be their turn next.
Aside the president and vice, Nigerian leaders can’t get the extraordinary protection they enjoy in Nigeria abroad. Unlike in Nigeria, where protesters are being hounded, the western nations allow people to enjoy their right to peaceful protest. Nigerians in the diaspora would be allowed to air their grievances, but assaults won’t be tolerated. That of Ekweremadu sailed through because it was unexpected. The foreign security agencies would be more present in Nigerian high profile gatherings to forestall future occurrence. IPOB has vowed to give Igbo leaders the Ekweremadu treatment wherever they are sighted abroad. This could create a bandwagon effect. Aggrieved persons and groups from other regions of the country may adopt the same strategy.
Ekweremadu’s assault and Sowore’s Revolution Now are well-coordinated moves against government and high-profile politicians. Could this be the manifestation of the decisions reached when Kanu and Sowore met abroad? Or the hounding of unharmed local protesters attracted sympathy abroad? Is the Buhari government’s intolerance making peaceful protesters adopt a violent approach? Has the government’s high handedness created another menace? Do the aggrieved protesters have a more violent approach of driving home their point in the bag? The time is pregnant.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
The 50th Anniversary of My First Speech at the United Nations And the Bitter Lesson I Learned
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Dr. Gary K. Busch*
During the 1960’s, after Sharpeville, the nations who comprised the United Nations embarked on a plan to restrict capital flows to the apartheid government of South Africa. They passed a number of rules and recommendations attempting to restrict the interaction between the South African Government and the major international banks. The UN’s Special Committee on Apartheid, under the chairmanship of Abdulrahim Abby Farah, the UN representative from Somalia, called a meeting of the Special Committee at the UN New York Headquarters, from 17-18 March, 1969, to discuss the role of the international banks in supporting South Africa and to make a plan to expand the campaign to get these banks to boycott capital interactions with the South Africans.
Invitees to the meeting were drawn from several U.S. groups active in the anti-apartheid movement. I was invited as the specialist on Africa from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and as a Board Member of the American Committee on Africa, led by George Hauser. I had been one of the main contacts for the African liberation struggle leaders who visited the U.S. and had taken many to the House and Senate Committees for meetings. I had also arranged their meetings with groups like SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and others. I was very pleased to be invited to the meeting and hoped to contribute my thoughts on the issue.
We convened in a large conference room in the UN where, in addition to the invitees, there was a substantial group of UN delegates from countries which supported the anti-Apartheid movement. The program opened with an introduction by Ambassador Farah and followed by speeches by the Algerian and Nigerian ambassadors. Oliver Tambo was there on behalf of the ANC and he made a speech. After several more speeches we were allowed to speak.
I was more than ready to speak. In fact, I was quite upset. I had just been looking at the day’s New Yok Times newspaper where I saw a quarter-page ad by the Chemical Bank of New York Trust headlined by the line “The American Capitalist”. It descried the role of the Chemical Bank in arranging a large loan and ancillary financing of a Japanese company to buy iron ore from South Africa. This was the very thing we were meeting to discuss and, with good effort, prevent. I rose and asked permission to read the text of the advertisement into the record of the Committee. I did so and then said “Here you have a major American bank financing apartheid. You should realise that this is no rogue bank; this is the official bank of the United Nations. Your salaries and expenses are paid through this bank. It has branches inside UN installations worldwide. If you want the world to support the Banks Campaign of the UN perhaps you can start with your own bank.”
After a moment of silence heated discussions broke out. Mr Reddy, the administrator of the Committee, confirmed that Chemical Bank was the official bank of the UN. Chairman Farah called upon the Algerian delegate and the Indian delegate to speech who pronounced their outrage at what I had discovered. They. believe it or not, agreed to send a telegram to the UN Secretary-General from the floor of the meeting requesting an urgent response and review. I suggested that the UN Secretary-General’s office was only six floors above us and I would volunteer to hand deliver it immediately. I was told this telegram was the normal procedure for UN business. We broke for lunch.
I was having lunch with Oliver Tambo who was quite pleased with the proceedings so far. He did say to me “You may feel that this was an important blow for the Banks Campaign, but don’t be fooled. Nothing will happen but chit-chat and pointing fingers. The banks will go on lending as usual”. He was wise. There were stories in the press; there were earnest discussions with the anti-apartheid groups; there were fiery speeches from the African delegates. What finally happened as the result of my speech was that the copywriter of the article at the newspaper lost his job. Everything else went, as Tambo promised, out of the minds of the Committee.
I was immensely proud that I had used my opportunity to speak at the UN with some effect but, in retrospect, I had learned an important lesson. One cannot move international institutions by speeches or embarrassment. The United Nations is a permanent compromise looking for problems to work on. It was a bitter lesson for me in my youthful naivete but helped to shape my future expectations. I attach the official Committee report on my intervention and a picture of me before my speech, with Ambassador Farah.
“Although sympathetic U.N. delegations were aware of and concerned about the bank campaign, it was again in 1969 that action look concrete form. In 1966, the General Assembly resolution on the policies of apartheid had appealed to all Slates to “discourage loans by banks in their countries to the Government of South Africa or South African companies,” but in March, 1969, during a Special Committee on Apartheid seminar held at U.N. headquarters, the question of Chemical Bank, a consortium member, being the bank located at the U.N., came to a head. By chance. Chemical Bank New York Trust Company had placed an advertisement in the New York Times the same day as the seminar meeting in which it lauded the bank’s role in securing a deal between South Africa and Japan for the sale of iron. This remarkable situation, where U.N. resolutions were in essence being ignored by the United Nations itself, resulted in proposals by the Special Committee to the Secretary General asking an investigation of Chemical Bank’s role at the U.N. This culminated in a General Assembly Resolution passed in November, 1969, which called upon the United Nations and its affiliates “to refrain from extending facilities to banks and other financial institutions which provide assistance to South Africa and firms registered there.”
* Dr. Gary K. Busch is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals
Celebrating Africa’s digital potential on UN Youth Day
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ime Archibong*
|Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates|
ACCRA, Ghana, August 12, 2019,Many things have been said about the future Africa and its potential, it has been called the Opportunity Continent, the Next Frontier and Africa rising, with all of these true. For me the excitement comes in how Africa can, and will one day lead in the digital economy, not only creating a better future for its young people, but for people across the entire continents, whether here in Africa or elsewhere like in Europe or the US.
Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates. As the world’s human population grows from 7.4 billion people to 8.2 billion people between now and 2025, 40% of that growth will come from Africa, and with more than 628 million people aged below 24, this young, dynamic and innovative population will become one of the most powerful engines of growth the world has ever seen.
Personally, I’ve always been so inspired by the creativity and talent across my home continent – whether it’s creating mobile phone apps which makes motorcycle taxis safer and more convenient, like in the case of Safe Motos in Rwanda and now DRC, or building technological solutions to solve agricultural challenges, like Plantheus, a recent graduate of Facebook’s (www.Facebook.com) NG_Hub Accelerator Program, we see people, especially youth, building solutions daily to local problems and needs. As eager and early adopters of technology, we’ll likely see the next wave of global digital innovations and apps coming from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
Adoption of social media, mobile phones and mobile money are enabling Africa and its youth to leapfrog to the next wave of digital technology. This infrastructure is the foundation upon which so much innovation in Africa is built and will be built over the next five years. At Facebook, we’re committed to empowering young people to build their digital skills and harness them for the future – whether they are digital builders, developers or product innovators.
In the month of UN Youth Day, I’m delighted that we will be recognizing just some of these talents from across the region. Bringing together over 40 Facebook Community Leaders, SMBs, Entrepreneurs, Developers and Content Creators from across Sub-Saharan Africa, under the banner of ‘Celebrating Icons of Change and the Future of the Continent’ – celebrating the positive impact they are having in their community, something which is important to us here at Facebook.
Our commitment across the region remains strong, and Africa continues to be important for us, with this building on many partnerships, programs and initiatives already in place to help develop digital and entrepreneurial skills among young people. Whether it’s training SMBs through digital boot camps, helping interested youth to acquire digital marketing skills and placing them in employment, training women in leveraging digital solutions to grow their business, or bringing together 52,000 Developers from across 17 countries through our Developer Circles (http://bit.ly/2MbZe3t) program, we are excited to play a part in supporting the next generation of start-up founders, investors, developers and change makers.
As one of my favourite African proverbs says “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”, and we look forward to that tomorrow in the years to come.
BUHARI’S CERTIFICATE CONTROVERSY AND THE ESSENTIALITY OF EDUCATION
August 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election has ended, but the contest is ongoing at the tribunal. Politics is a mean game – and politicians devise every means to win. That ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar is challenging the result doesn’t mean he won. He may have indeed lose and still be imploring the tribunal to return him elected. In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that he won doesn’t mean he actually did. He may have robbed Atiku and still be persuading the tribunal to pronounce him validly elected. Aside determining who really won, two major issues are before the tribunal: Atiku’s citizenship determination and Buhari’s certificate verification.
The suits are distinct. Deciding when and where to be born is beyond Atiku’s control, but Buhari could have averted the certificate controversy if he had devoted time to education. Atiku would be suffering for an action taking by the colonialist, if the court rules that he is not a Nigerian, but Cameroonian. The genesis of Atiku’s citizenship case is the 1884 scramble for, and partition of Africa. His citizenship may not have been a subject of litigation, if the western nations had not partitioned Africa. The tribunal thus has an unenviable task of determining Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president, on account of the West’s adjustment of his ancestral boundary, before he was born.
The testimonies and evidences presented at the tribunal revived Buhari’s certificate controversy which started in 2014. Buhari’s witness, Major-Gen. Paul Tarfa (retd) avowed that the Army never collected the certificate of the 1962 course officers during recruitment, as earlier claimed by Buhari. This landmark confession revealed Buhari’s claim that his certificate is with the military in 2014 is untruth. Nigerians thought then President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the military to withhold Buhari’s certificate in order to disqualify him for contesting. Suspicion brew after Buhari won the election and still couldn’t present his certificate, despite being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The certificate-with-the-military excuse became untenable.
Buhari did not attach his certificate to the 2019 presidential nomination form, as lawfully required. To make amends, Abba Kyari, the Chief-of-Staff to the President tendered the president’s Cambridge assessment international education certified statement of West African School Certificate (WASC). Kyari claimed he personally signed and collected the document on behalf of Buhari. Atiku’s counsel argued during cross examination that colleges don’t release certificate to third parties. This assertion is untrue. Colleges do release certificate to third party on the instruction of the graduate, but certain conditions must be met. Such includes, but not limited to: a letter from the graduate indicating that his/her certificate be released to a third party; and such party must provide a valid form of identification.
To strengthen his defense, Buhari brought in Oshindehinde Adewunmi, the Deputy Registrar of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in Nigeria to lead evidence in support of the document Kyari tendered. This unfortunately did more harm than good. When shown the document Kyari claimed to have collected on Buhari’s behalf, Adewunmi stated that the document is not a WAEC certificate, and he has never worked for the body that issued it. The witness said he cannot affirm the authenticity of the document because it does not bear his signature.
A comparison of the two documents Buhari presented – the Cambridge certified statement of WASC and the 1961 result sheet of the Provincial Secondary School Katsina – revealed some inconsistencies. One stated that Buhari sat for eight subjects, while the other stated he sat for six. The name on one is ‘Mohamed’ while the other is ‘Muhammadu’, although Buhari’s witness stressed that both names have the same meaning and are interchangeably used in Islam.
The discrepancies in the documents is making people opine Buhari would lose the case. Their argument is premised on Section 131 of the constitution, which states that ‘any contestant for the position of president of the country must have a minimum qualification of School Certificate or its equivalent’. However, they fail to take cognizance that Section 318 (1c) stated that ‘anyone with primary school certificate who has served in the Nigerian public or private sector, in any capacity, for a minimum of ten years is deemed to have the equivalent of a school certificate’. Buhari is thus qualified to contest and be president having served in the Army for over ten years. That however opens the door to new arguments.
The tribunal can only sack Buhari if his years of military service, which makes him qualify to be president under Section 318 (1c) is declared void. If Buhari joined the military with inadequate qualification, could his years of service be declared void? If Buhari was recruited into the military without a certificate and was not given a duration to produce it, who should be blamed? Buhari or the military? In any case, would it be fair to make Buhari suffer for the wrongs of the military recruitment board as the Supreme Court did to Ademola Adeleke in Osun?
The litigations and embarrassment the certificate scandal has brought upon Buhari could have been avoided if he had dedicated some time to scholarship. He had enough time to acquire more qualifications after General Ibrahim Babangida toppled his military regime in 1983. Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo — Buhari’s senior in age and in the military — bagged a Bachelor and Doctorate after he left office as President in 1999. Buhari is not an accidental president. His three unsuccessful race for the nation’s top job, cumulatively 12 years of aiming for president, is enough for him to have bagged a diploma or degree.
Buhari was yearning to lead but failed to prepare for leadership. This showed in his six-month late appointment of ministers in 2015. It is also manifesting in his abysmal performance and mishandling of sensitive national issues. His lack of ideas, narrow-mindedness and sectionalism is disintegrating the country and hampering growth. He has given little for every much expected. One cannot, in fairness, totally attribute Buhari’s shortcomings to insufficient education. The government of his predecessor who holds a doctorate was a colossal failure.
Nonetheless, that Goodluck Jonathan failed doesn’t mean Buhari should. Buhari’s underperformance hinge on his apologists cheering of wrongs. Justifying Buhari’s failure to get educated is moronic. Many of those defending him severely punish their children for not scoring ‘A’. They want their children to earn higher degrees, but passionately defend a president with a controversial certificate. Some of these apologists demand for Bachelor’s degree, National Youth Service Corps certificate, and five years working experience before they can hire and pay 70,000 Naira (about $200) per month. Such a brazen show of double standard is galling.
Sections 131 and 318 of the 1999 constitution needs to be amended. The framers made it possible for anyone to be president, so long as they can “read, write, understand and communicate in English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission”. The best may never get to lead the rest if the constitution is not amended. The less educated ones would continue to govern; appointing and issuing directives to professors. Nigerian leaders, many of whom are not so educated, controls the resources and earn huge, while the professors and citizens earn peanuts. The professors that should be ruling the less educated are the ones conducting elections to bring them to power.
Nigerian education needs oxygen. The struggle to make ends meet has turned many professors to political job seekers and errand boy. High fees, vast unemployment, and inadequate reward for academic excellence is discouraging people from becoming educated. A friend once said “education is the master key” and “Bata re a dun kokoka” loosely translated “you would wear the best shoes if you’re educated” inspired many to invest in education, but they’ve gained nothing. Politicians and political thugs are the ones wearing the best shoes.
Everyone must endeavor to be educated despite the challenges and discouragements. Buhari and Osun state former governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke’s ordeal is a strong lesson that the education you fail to acquire may be all you need to win tomorrow.
Things are turning around for the good of the educated. Education is changing the game. Faster than anyone imagined. The educated ones are bringing innovation to businesses and taking over the jobs from the uneducated. Booking taxi through apps is gradually gobbling the job of the uneducated drivers. Many people view education has the ticket to working in an office, dressing corporate. No. Education ideally gives you a knowledge of the world around you and the skill to do things in a better way.
The case of Wunmi comes to mind. Wunmi is a female university graduate who studied mass communication, but earns a living from furnishing homes. She uploads furniture pictures on e-commerce platforms and contract artisans to produce them when she has order. The artisans’ inability to open and manage an e-commerce store is fetching Wunmi money. She wouldn’t have been an intermediary if the artisans are educated. She is earning huge, thriving and expanding, while the uneducated artisans are earning less. That’s the power of education. Buhari, Adeleke, and Wunmi are lessons. Learn.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via email@example.com
THE POLITICS OF MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENT AND SENATE’S SCREENING
August 6, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
After several knocks and post-inaugural countdown by Nigerians and the media, President Muhammadu Buhari bowed to pressure. He sent 43 ministerial nominees name to the Senate for screening. This action relit the Buhari leadership competence debate. The Buhari apologists applaud the president for making such crucial nominations in almost two months of his second term; a radical improvement from the first term which took him six months. On the other hand, the opposition contends that Buhari’s ministerial nominees list is uninspiring and untimely. They knock Buhari for not imitating Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom who constituted their cabinets immediately after swearing-in.
Without further ado, the Buharists averred that the Nigerian political climate and workings is different from that of South Africa, the United Kingdom, or any other country. Weighing in, this piece examines the factors that influenced Buhari’s choice and the nominee’s capacity to accomplish the Next Level agenda. It also appraises the quality of Senate’s screening and the relevance of the bow-and-go tradition.
The Lucky 43
Most of the political heavyweights in Nigeria survive on politics. Subtract all they’ve acquired through politics from their asset and you’ll realize why they spare nothing to perpetuate themselves in power. Those who lose elections and those who’ve served their term lobby for appointments. The Minister position is the most sought after. Not many lobby to be Ambassadors. They refrain from residing outside the country in order not to lose their political relevance and structures.
The president’s declaration that he would appoint only those he knows sent shivers down the spine of the hundreds lobbying for ministerial appointment. Many of them have not more than a distant political relationship with the president, but they were not deterred. They all intensified their lobbying through the first lady, the party chairman, and powerful presidential aides, but only 43 got selected.
Facts from 43
The 43 nominees comprise of 36 males and 7 females. Buhari didn’t fulfil his promise of giving 35 percent appointments to women. The youths are not represented as all the nominees are above 35 years. Per geopolitical zone, Buhari nominated 9 persons from the North West, 7 from the North East; 7 from the North Central; 7 from the South West; 7 from the South South; and 6 from the South East. Note that four zones has 7 nominees each, while the Northwest and Southeast has the highest (9) and lowest (6) nominees. The southeasterners are displeased with the margin. They are upset that Buhari selected nominees based on the votes he garnered per region.
During the last presidential election, Buhari scored 5,995,651 votes in the Northwest and a meagre 403,968 votes in the Southeast. It is thus politically not irrational for the Northwest to get more appointment than the Southeast. Moreover, the Northwest is made up of 7 states while the Southeast has 5. Notwithstanding, Buhari’s antecedent suggests that he would have picked less than 7 nominees from the Southeast, if the constitution didn’t mandate him to appoint ministers from every state.
One state in each region has two nominees, except the region where Buhari hails from: the Northwest. Two states in the region, Kano and Katsina have 2 nominees each. This is apparently because Buhari earned more votes in Kano than other states and Katsina is his state of origin. Abuja, the federal capital territory had no nominee. Some argue that Buhari excluded Abuja because the residents didn’t vote for him. That can’t be the case. The exclusion is most certainly an error the presidency is planning to correct.
Team 43 for 2023?
Retaining power in 2023 largely influenced Buhari’s ministerial choice. Majority of his nominees are career politicians who are more skilled in coordinating campaigns than providing good governance. Buhari is probably unmindful that the challenges bedeviling Nigeria requires the service of professionals, not politicians. His nominees comprise of 9 ex-governors, ex-lawmakers, and 12 immediate past ministers. 31 nominees are new to the job; an indication that Buhari is not so pleased with the performance of their predecessors or simply wish to change hands. That does not however tone down the obvious: Buhari sacrificed effective governance for political continuity.
It’s a season of political harvest for Buhari’s loyalists. The ministerial nominees list is an indication that those who worked assiduously for him in 2015 and 2019 would be enormously rewarded. The 43 prospective ministers are a perfect election winning squad. Buhari carefully selected the leading political lords across the states. He nominated the strong who lost elections to keep them active for 2023.
The stakes are getting high. Politicians with weak political structures are being discarded for the influential and powerful. Audu Ogbeh was replaced with George Akume who has many political disciples and a large pocket. Godswill Akpabio and Rotimi Amaechi are being re-energized to install APC in Akwa-Ibom and the South-South. Gbemisola Saraki’s is being strengthened to decimate Bukola Saraki’s political machineries. Olorunimbe Mamora’s nomination has further strengthened team Lagos and Bola Tinubu’s commitment to the 2023 project. Chris Ngige was reappointed to put structures in place for APC to win Anambra.
Timipre Sylva’s is being empowered to revive APC for victory in the forthcoming Bayelsa governorship election. Festus Keyamo is being wired for the 2023 governorship race in Delta State. Emeka Nwajiuba is being tasked to reunite APC and win Imo. The ministerial hopefuls are indeed a perfect election winning squad. Their appointment is to empower them with the federal might and resources they need to deliver victory for the APC in 2023. But one major thing that would determine whether 2023 would be theirs is their ability to take Nigeria to the next level.
The Next Level
The president’s ditching of technocrats for politicians who has no record of exceptional performance in public service may make his administration unpopular. He should have appointed technocrats to kick-start the implementation of his Next Level programs and keep them in office for at least two years. He could then bring in the politicians to continue. The technocrats shouldn’t be sacked. They should be retained as consultants to periodically offer professional advice and assist in formulating government policies. You may disagree with this position, but you can’t help agreeing that it is sensible to start a project with professionals who truly understands what to do and how to do it.
Ministerial appointments should be based on merit, not clout. Buhari must align with the national assembly to pass bills that would make politics unprofitable and corruption punishable by death, if he really wants to make a difference. He must also desist from placing politics above policy. The technocrats he nominated such as Sunday Dare and Pauline Tallen are too insignificant. Be expectant not. The assembled nominees have no solution to Nigeria’s multidimensional problems and would leave the nation worse than they met it. They would most certainly usher Nigeria into greater poverty, insecurity, inflation, and recession. Buhari has the capacity, but lacks the will to turn things around. So also the Ahmed Lawan led Senate.
The Quality of Senate’s Screening
Sending names of ministerial nominees to the Senate with their portfolios is one of the change Nigerians voted for, but never got. This has remarkably hindered the senate from properly grilling the nominees, who also cannot present their goals because they don’t know the ministries they’ll lead. The screening is fruitless. Ministerial nominees are proving their capacity, and the senate is assessing their ability to head a ministry they both don’t know. This fatal, but avoidable error makes the screening a valueless and purposeless exercise.
It is disheartening that the screening is more of endorsement than assessment. The senators’ asininity is shameful and disturbing. They were unable to ask salient questions, quote statistics, reference global happenings, and give recommendations that can move Nigeria forward. They were also unable to correct the erring and over ambitious nominees. None of them could educate Festus Keyamo that the Attorney General, an appointee of the executive, cannot unbundle the Supreme Court that is under another arm of government, the judiciary.
Nigerians are disappointed. Many are casting doubt on Senate President Ahmed Lawan’s capacity to objectively legislate and oversight. He is accused of rubber stamping. Lawan must swiftly redeem his reputation by providing quality leadership. Loyalty to the party and the presidency should not push him to be acting against public interest.
The Bow and go Soft-landing
The bow and go privilege for ex-lawmakers has outlived its significance. Asking nominees to bow and go without answering questions is a disservice to the nation. Lawmaking and administrating require different skills. That the nominees performed when they’re lawmakers – most actually didn’t – does not mean they would perform as ministers. Some of them never contributed to debates or sponsored bill when they were in parliament. Think. Does it mean that the Senate would ask all the 43 nominees to bow and go if they’re all ex-lawmakers?
It is appalling that 10 of the first 14 nominees screened by the Senate were asked to bow and go. Apart from the ex-lawmakers, nominees were asked to bow and go because they are handsome and loyal. Richard Adebayo was asked to bow and go because he is the current Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC. A nominee from the Senate President’s state also benefited.
Some nominees were asked to bow and go because they are women. Majority of the ex-ministers who should be asked to give an account of their stewardship and why Nigerians should reemploy them were just asked to bow and go. Rotimi Ameachi was awarded the privilege because he is an ex-Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly; a position he occupied over 12 years ago. The bow and go privilege shouldn’t be a free-for-all or life time benefit. It has been brazenly abused and should be abolished. The world is moving and Nigeria must move along. We must adopt better ways of doing things for us to have a better nation.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
Ikimi, Ribadu and Politics of defection
September 8, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Theophilus Ilevbare*
In recent weeks the All Progressive Congress(APC) has been rocked with a tidal wave of defection of a founding member in Chief Tom Ikimi and the party’s 2011 presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to the party Nigerians loathe but can’t vote out of power at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). Ikimi’s grievance with the APC hierarchy stems from how he was barred from contesting the party’s chairmanship position.
The ease with which politicians decamp and recamp(return to a party one has left in the past) – the latest addition to Nigeria’s political lexicon – erodes any shadow of doubt if any ideological basis exists for much of what goes on in Nigeria’s political landscape. Defection has become the trade in stock of many politicians who have found such canvassing phrases as “there is no party that is exclusively for the good people or for the bad people,” reminding us of the sameness of the two major political parties as basis for cross carpeting.
Close observers of unfolding political events were not jolted by Chief Ikimi’s official resignation of his membership of the APC, after many weeks of withdrawal from party activities without disclosing his next political destination. His antecedents have shown he has no particular conviction. His political sojourn has seen him traversed the defunct APP, ANPP, ACN, PDP. The former Foreign Affairs Minister was a founding member of the APC. He was instrumental in the alliance that metamorphosed into the mega opposition party. It is only a matter of time before he recamps to the PDP. He has already expressed his readiness to join the ruling party and bring his wealth of experience to bear when members of the ruling party’s BoT, including Chief Tony Anenih and National Vice Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, led by the PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, paid Ikimi an august visit.
Indeed, Ikimi and Ribadu, like every other politician and Nigerian, have every right to exercise their freedom of association with any political party in the country, but it should be consistent with the ideology and principle that defines the character of the politician and his political party.
However, the manner Chief Tom Ikimi and other founding members of the party like Alhaji Attahiru Bafawara, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Brig-Gen Buba Marwa (rtd), Mr Marcus Gundiri among others who helped to nurture the APC to mega status, have drifted to the PDP calls for concern and genuine fears for the future of the progressive party. When such party stalwarts dump the APC in droves, it is an indication that Bola Tinubu, who prides himself as the sole financier of the party, regrettably, is not upholding democratic principles in the affairs of his party. If the APC retains and wins more seats or otherwise in 2015, the party takes the credit, if not the APC will pay the price for his highhandedness. The buck stops with him. This is the party Nigerians are looking up to as an alternate platform to wrestle power from the PDP.
What shall we say of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu? He once described the PDP as a disaster and a total failure in his heyday in the APC. In the weeks leading up to the PDP governorship primaries for Adamawa state bye-election, the former anti-corruption czar joined the PDP, the only party he thinks on whose platform can make him realise his ambition to hold elective office. These days, he regales us with tales of the sameness of PDP and APC. He was quoted as saying ‘there is no party that is exclusively for the good people or for the bad people’ That Ribadu has taken a walk from the APC has raised all sort of personality and ideological issues particularly as it affects young Nigerians who hitherto looked up to such political figures for some sort of mentorship.
Consequently, many have called Ribadu’s character into question, especially those who were cynical about the manner he discharged his duties as EFCC Boss. He seem to have acted in character that is consistent with other Nigerian politicians even if his ‘intolerant’ and ‘ruthless’ stand against corruption gave him a garb of incorruptibility. Since he joined the murky waters of Nigeria’s politics, he has become a turncoat-in-waiting. Indeed, Ribadu the politician is different from Ribadu the crime fighter who once sat atop Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency.
Has Ribadu lost faith and confidence in the APC for allegedly selling out in the 2011 general elections to the PDP Goodluck Jonathan candidacy? If truly Ribadu was sacrificed by his own party whose attitude to winning the election was at best casual, as Ikimi submitted in his lengthy missive to Bola Tinubu, who sold out the party? Could it be that Ribadu’s heart and soul has never been with the APC since then? Has he been hobnobbing with PDP politicians all the while? Or maybe he thought to himself, if the party could sell out at the eleventh hour in 2011, there is nothing stopping the APC from repeating such this time?
Essentially, nothing separates a politician in party A from another in party B. The current wave of impeachment blowing across the country is yet another indication that politicians do not have any genuine intention to serve the people. They seek personal elevation and gains to quench their insatiable greed for power. It is this brand of politics that has thrown up charlatans in political offices and the present leadership bankruptcy in the country.
Elsewhere, lifetime commitments to political parties and ideologies are made that even transcends to generations unborn. Political parties have clearly defined principles that differentiate them from other parties.
Nigerian politicians suffer from compulsive obsessive disorder to occupy political office and will stop at nothing; defecting from one party to another, sponsoring terrorism, blackmail, cultism, rigging and all what not to clinch power. Their desperation to occupy political office and lack of political character cannot deepen democracy. To them, principle should never be an issue on the front burner, ideology and manifestoes mean nothing on the premise of the fallacy that the end justifies the means.
You can follow the writer on twitter @tilevbare.
Africa Leaders Summit presents opportunity to intensify talks on funding for malaria
July 31, 2014 | 0 Comments
Immunization at a clinic in Nigeria[/caption] The African Leaders summit, being held in Washington on August 4-6, will seek to advance trade and investment opportunities between Africa and the United States. Fifty African countries have been invited to convene and discuss ways of stimulating growth and opportunities across the continent. The event, the largest any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, aims to forge stronger economic ties between the United States, Africa and other global markets. The theme of the summit is Investing in the Next Generation, with debate focusing on areas seen as critical drivers for economic growth, sustainable development, and security in the region. On the agenda are food security, leadership opportunities for African women in government and across civil society and health. The latter will see senior health policy makers, Ministers of Health and African leaders discuss current constraints to achieving shared health goals, including malaria. Economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries is predicted to increase but will inevitably be uneven (19 are designated fragile and conflict-affected countries, 11 low income, 13 middle and seven upper-middle income). The International Monetary Fund predicts that four of the world’s six fastest-growing economies in 2014 will be in sub-Saharan Africa. Many countries are already seeing an increase in income per capita, although not necessarily an increase in quality of life, where issues around governance, inequality and access to education and healthcare are yet to be addressed. To ensure sustainable economic growth, continued efforts are needed to improve access to healthcare delivery systems, in particular in lower income malaria-endemic countries. Progress around malaria prevention and control has been well documented. World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that between 2000 and 2012, estimated malaria mortality rates decreased by 42 percent worldwide and by 49 percent in the African Region. Deaths in children under five are estimated to have decreased by 48 percent globally and by 54 percent in the African Region. The African Union and Roll Back Malaria have supported national commitments to creating health policy frameworks and government investment in reducing malaria is having considerable success in some countries. Despite this, malaria continues to pose a major constraint to economic development and remains a critical issue in most sub-Saharan African countries. There were an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2012 (WHO), mostly in sub-Saharan Africa (90 percent) and in children under five. The facts are hard to argue with. A case of severe malaria can change the course of a child’s life: mortality rates from other health related causes are significantly higher and, for those who survive, 19 percent suffer serious neurological and cognitive conditions, including impaired vision, behavioural difficulties and epilepsy. And it doesn’t just affect children. In Nigeria, for example, malaria is the cause of 11 percent of maternal mortality. The loss of a mother substantially increases the risk of infant mortality, while malaria in pregnancy results in severe anaemia increasing obstetric risk and causes low birth weight. In a country where malaria is the leading cause of child deaths, gains made in reducing the impact of the disease will remain fragile without sustained political and financial commitment. Last year, during the Abuja Summit in Nigeria, African heads of state and Government committed to step up the mobilisation of domestic resources to ensure sustainable financing for health, including malaria. And it can’t come too soon. Since the 1930s, there have been 75 documented local resurgences of malaria, the majority linked to decreased funding. Although countries with higher mortality rates and lower national incomes have seen increased investment in malaria control, especially in Africa, domestic government investments across the region are highest in wealthier countries and lowest in countries where malaria mortality rates are high. Malaria control has proven to be a highly cost-effective public health strategy. Lives saved from malaria are estimated to account for 20 percent of all progress in reducing child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, resulting in less infant and maternal mortality, fewer days missed at school and work, and increased productivity. It is widely accepted that poor health can undermine economic growth while good health can enhance it. Continuing to develop new interventions and strategies to prevent and treat malaria, including drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, is crucial to maintaining progress and mitigate against the threat of drug and insecticide resistance. The African Leaders Summit offers a timely opportunity to address constraints to achieving shared health goals. For all 50 countries, discussion around intensifying malaria control and elimination efforts and should be high on the agenda. *Michelle Davis is Senior Communications Manager at Malaria Consortium ,an international NGO working in malaria, neglected tropical diseases and child health. Malaria Consortium works in Africa and Asia with communities, governments and non-government agencies, academic institutions and local and international organisations to ensure evidence-based delivery of effective services. www.malariaconsortium.org ]]>
Why Would A Black Family Get An Aquarium Membership?
February 17, 2014 | 14 Comments
-In defense of my African Maritime Heritage By Sylvie Bello* [caption id="attachment_8573" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sylvie Bello[/caption] In celebration of Black History Month and the Cameroon’s National Youth Day observed on February 11th, I found myself battling stereotypical arguments. Interestingly, a membership to the Oklahoma Aquarium that I had acquired for my 4 year-old niece led to comments from some of my friends and associates that I was acting ‘White’. “How is an aquarium membership acting white?” I found myself pondering aloud. It came as a surprise to them that my decision to get the Oklahoma Aquarium membership was rooted in part because of my deep African Maritime Heritage. My niece Kayla Bello, lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is not only an ocean away from our native Cameroon in West Africa. Tulsa has no beaches and has very little aquatic environments. My family on other hand has a strong maritime background and it was my desire to pass that heritage to my only niece and to future Bello grand kids and descendants. My African Maritime story? Considering that Cameroon is named after River Wouri makes for an interesting historical reference. Briefly, the colonial oppressors upon seeing the multitudes of shrimps in the Wouri named it “Rio dos Camarões” (River of Shrimps). River Wouri runs into the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. I was born and raised in Douala. Growing up, I enjoyed family time at the century old Ngondo Water Festival, the Yupe fish market, had my secondary school graduation picnic at the seaside Base Elf, we visited the Douala Maritime Museum and participating in many boating events in Douala. During Christmas vacations in my paternal village of Mbem in the North West Region of Cameroon, we enjoyed many aquatic activities from bathing and washing clothes in the river, fetching water, and water drumming. Anyone who has had that unique joy of spending time in an African village will know what I am taking about! My secondary school was spent at the prestigious Saker Baptist College, an all girls boarding school in the coastal town of Limbe in South West Region of Cameroon. Our family loved the black sand beaches of Limbe, which CNN recently praised in an extensive coverage. My Dad, Tah Ndi Majang Amos Ngaben Bello studied Geography and Hydrology at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon and at The Hague in Holland. He was an Administrator at the Sea Ports in Douala. Dad was born in Mbem Village in Donga-Mantung Division (on the Cameroon/Nigeria borders), which has with many rivers such as the Mantung River. Dad’s father did fishing and farming. Grandpa Ngaben talked of our ancestors freely swimming into present day Nigeria, this was before the ‘Scramble of Africa’ and the separation of families to form African ‘countries’. My maternal grandfather Papa Christophe Bienvenue Ngassa worked as a government delegate in charge of fishing and hunting licenses in Obala Cameroon’s rainforests. I look back and fondly remember grandpa Ngassa’s visits to Douala with gifts of all kinds of fish and meats. Today, a third generation of Bellos are continuing to explore and thrive in the Maritime field. Unlike the males of our family’s maritime past, this generation of Bellos in maritime are …women! Starting with me, as a teenager, my very first job was as a summer intern at ONPC now known as the Ports Authority of Douala. I returned to ONPC for many summer internships during my high school years. My sister Rita Bello did her university thesis on Sea Port Administration in Cameroon. While another sister, Manuella Bello has a Bachelor’s Degree in Maritime and Transportation Management and is a seasoned professional in the maritime industry. So, though the desire to share our family’s maritime heritage was a strong motivation, a book on Black scientists sparked my niece’s curiosity in aquatic life. You see, last December, my niece Kayla and I, participated in the annual Tulsa Kwanzaa Celebration organized by Ms. Latimer of the African-American Resource Center at the Tulsa Public Library. Several books were given out as favors; one of the books on Black scientists caught Kayla’s eyes. Astonishingly, of the five scientists highlighted in the book Kayla was most fascinated by the story of the great Black Marine Biologist Dr. Ernest Young. Amazing Kayla too may have caught the Bello aquatic bug! After reading the book, we ventured to the Tulsa based Oklahoma Aquarium. I mean, where else in the frigid winter can one show a child fishes and other maritime life? Where else can a child have dreams of being a marine biologists or a veterinarian? Furthermore, consider fishing as a recreation? To our great dismay, the Oklahoma Aquarium has never had a Black History Month event, even in its 10 years of existence. Additionally, its gift shop has zero books on Black scientists not even Dr. Ernest Just, who while a biology professor at Howard University, co-founded the 100+ old Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. With the national cry of Black children and low outcomes of not graduating high school, let alone majoring in college sciences, how can these STEM related institutions that get tax dollars, get away for so long with little or no outreach and culturally sensitive programs for the Black community? Its a good thing that Kayla’s interest in aquatic life was sparked by a Kwanzaa Book donation at the library and her family’s heritage. What about other Black kids who couldn’t get books on scientists or who may not have family members to nurture such interests? They depend on our tax dollars to reach them, and aquariums, that do not have Black History Month events and Black themed books in their gift shops, I believe are failing such kids and failing America as a whole. Thus we as a country cannot fully fulfill President Obama’s wish to out-perform and out-innovate the rest of the world, when (some) scientific institutions are not actively engaged in African American outreach and inclusion. Makes me wonder, how many other aquariums across the US will not have Black History Month Events in 2014. What motivations does the Oklahoma Aquarium need to celebrate African American heritage? Ironically, could it be that my associates were right? Do aquariums not cater to a diverse base? Should obtaining aquarium membership be only for White families? Hmmm. *Sylvie Bello is Founder and CEO of the Cameroon American Council, the leading national African Immigrant Advocacy Organizations in the USA. She was recently recognized by the Cameroon Association of Tulsa for her outstanding community work. When Sylvie is not advocating on African immigrant priorities in immigration, health, education,and food policies, she is a volunteer at the Walters Arts Museum, the Shakespeare’s Theatre Company and the Ford’s Theatre. Sylvie’s eclectic post-college life includes being an Interior Decorator, Accounting/Finance Manager, , Presidential Campaign staffer, TV Reporter, Non-Profit Executive and Leadership roles on the boards of her sorority Omega Phi Chi Multicultural Sorority and the board of her boarding schools alumni (Saker Baptist College and CPC Bali).Sylvie splits her time betweenTulsa, New York City,and Washington,DC. Sylvie Bello can be reached via email: email@example.com ,Twitter: @CamAmerCouncil ]]>
Nigeria :Is APC the New PDP?
December 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah*
While the merger process of Nigeria’s main opposition parties – which led to the formation of the APC – lasted, I had reason to engage some of my comrades, colleagues and friends on whether the APC was necessarily a progressive move in the quest to reclaim Nigeria.
Even with all the misgivings and the seemingly lack of direction of the proposed party, some of us held out hope, partly because of the pedigree of certain individuals in the party and the fact that it afforded a broad-based platform and an opportunity for many Nigerians who were looking for a formidable pan-Nigerian opposition party.
At the risk of being dismissed as opportunists, some of us took the stand that the APC should be given the benefit of the doubt; that within the context of bourgeois democracy, the APC looked like a minimum agenda for change and therefore should be supported by all, including left and radical elements; that as a minimal strategy, genuine democrats and progressives could actually work in the APC to break the stranglehold of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on power and begin the urgent task of national reconstruction.
I am not sure I hold the same view today. This piece is not a repudiation of my former position but a review that has become necessary in light of the current reality. The general direction of the APC has not been that of a party that understands the mood of the people and the anger in the country against a profligate ruling class that has used party politics as a channel to loot the national treasury and impoverish Nigerians. That anger manifests each time APC leaders cozy up to the same people Nigerians hold responsible for the current crisis.
It started with visits to former military president, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) and former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, but it didn’t stop there. Of course, we know IBB and what he stands for. I have been asking myself, since the pilgrimage began, the purpose and the end result. Regrettably, the leadership of the APC has failed to explain the rationale for this unholy alliance and the benefit, if any, to its bewildered rank and file.
For me, the last straw was the image that made headlines during the week; the image of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, a man so violently consumed by self-interest, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the APC. Obasanjo needed that photo opportunity to save face after a scathing public rebuke by his daughter, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo. But for the APC it was a new low for a party still struggling to make an impression on Nigerians. I believe every party worth its salt must have basic beliefs and values that it must uphold at all times.
It was bad enough that Nigerians expecting a change in the political landscape witnessed APC leaders pandering to Chief Obasanjo; the reasons adduced for the visit left a bad taste in people’s mouth. “You have come out of tribulation and held the highest position in this country. We are here because of your courage. Nobody can claim that he has information more than you,” Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the APC said of Chief Obasanjo. “You have surmounted a number of crises. Nigeria is divided (now), more than before. To realise a stable Nigeria we want to encourage you to continue to speak the truth. We’re resolved and determined to rescue Nigeria. We want you as navigator.”
Asiwaju Tinubu noted that the visit was not necessarily to get Chief Obasanjo to join the APC but “just to draw from the experience of an elder statesman.” What is Obasanjo’s experience? What readily come to mind are coups, a legacy of corruption, abuse of human rights, criminal impunity, undermining the rule of law and, of course, a dysfunctional family.
The inimitable Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, captured the popular sentiment in his terse statement on the APC visit to Chief Obasanjo when he noted, in reference to Chief Obasanjo’s new role as the “navigator” of the APC rescue ship. “If General Sani Abacha were alive today, would he also have been on the ship’s complement? As Captain perhaps?” Soyinka asked, while warning that the country might be headed for a shipwreck. He advised “families to begin the stockpiling of life-belts for the guaranteed crash.”
I think this is a warning we have to take seriously. Exactly two years ago, Asiwaju Tinubu had this to say about Obasanjo and his experience: “What integrity has Obasanjo in terms of his legacies for Nigeria to speak on elections? Apart from his aborted third term ambition, he brought about and left a legacy of electoral corruption in the country. What is Obasanjo talking about? He should go away and retire in shame politically. He should leave the political landscape of this country alone. He brought a whole salad of corruption, manipulation and failures.”
What a difference two years make! Nothing captures Chief Obasanjo’s legacy better than the preceding paragraph. What will Obasanjo bring to the APC? A mass following needed to defeat the PDP in 2015? While Obasanjo was lambasting President Jonathan in an 18-page open letter and explaining how he (Jonathan) was destroying the PDP, he was busy scheming – at least we learned that much from Iyabo Obasanjo’s letter – how his daughter will run for office on the platform of the APC.
I know in war, as in politics, there are no eternal allies or perpetual enemies, but eternal and perpetual interests, to paraphrase Henry John Temple, (Lord Palmerston), mid-19th century British prime minister. However, I couldn’t help but squirm when I saw the picture of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), a three-time presidential candidate, beside Chief Obasanjo in the APC train; the same Obasanjo he had alleged violated the sanctity of the electoral process twice and denied him the presidency.
The APC is better served spending time strengthening the party in terms of an ideology and building a mass base rather than consorting with the likes of Chief Obasanjo and Gen. Babangida (retd.) Without this mass base, the party will implode in no time. But it appears that is asking too much of a party focused on short-term political gains.
It is a lot easier to open the floodgate of defection for those who are disaffected within the PDP; and the defectors are coming like flies attracted to feaces. At the current rate, the “original” APC will soon be a minority in the new formation. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with people defecting from one party to another. But that is if you are talking of parties with “character” so that, in the case of the APC, the “newcomers” will have to play second fiddle and fall in line with party principles and positions.
I don’t want to sound sanctimonious or puritanical. A political party, we know, contains “the good, the bad and the ugly”. But when you have a party that claims to be progressive recruiting people who are not in the least interested in a genuine discussion about the interest of Nigerians and at the same time acting as if its survival depends on that recruitment then there is reason to be wary.
I know a few leaders of the APC who are not particularly thrilled by the visits to “yesterday’s men” and what appears to be an alliance of desperation between the APC and the “new PDP”. But clearly, they simply can’t resist the only thing that seems to bind them together – the removal from power of President Jonathan.
Is APC a “progressive” party as the name implies, even in the limited sense of the word or just an association of those opposed to, not necessarily the PDP, but President Jonathan? The APC and the “new PDP” may well win in 2015. And after that what next? What will be the dominant tendency in the party? I am offended to think that I’ll sit down, if that opportunity will ever come, with Obasanjo, IBB, Kawu Baraje, Bukola Saraki, Ali Modu Sheriff, Ahmed Sani Yerima, etc., to discuss the welfare of Nigerians. If the prospect of that doesn’t scare APC faithful, then nothing else can!
Is the APC agenda about removing President Jonathan or rescuing Nigeria? If it is the former, then a revolutionary third force or in the minimum a coalition of small but progressive and mass-oriented parties is the only alternative!
The body language of APC leadership is that this is our party, our business, and we can damn well do anything we want with it. If that is the case, then voters have little or no choice as we head into the election of 2015.
**Chido Onumah Coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in Abuja .He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,Twitter: @conumah .