Category Archives: Politics and International Affairs

Nigeria’s Senators And Legislators Receive UK MP’s Annual Salary As Wardrobe Allowance

Nigeria is an emerging economy, considered as the fastest growing economy on the continent. Yet according to numbers from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), over 61% of Nigeria’s population lives under $1 per day. In the last four years, the country has gone through a steady battering, with raging terrorism in the North east, and a failing infrastructure that means the cost of business and livelihood are at an all time high. In the last couple of years, corruption has also been significantly high and amnesty granted to politicians who were known to have looted from the treasury.

The Nigerian National Assembly. Source:www.sunnewsonline.com
The Nigerian National Assembly. Source:www.sunnewsonline.com

Fast forward to March 2015, Nigerians voted for what has come to be known as change. President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office on May 29th, 2015 and he promised in his inauguration speech, to prioritise the tackling of terrorism and the improvement of infrastructure. He has spent his first two weeks in office travelling to some parts of West Africa and to Germany; to discuss the strategy for fighting Boko Haram and to engage with world leaders at the G7, respectively.

Nigerians have very high hopes, particularly given the poverty that is rife in the country. Imagine the shocker today when the realisation hit, that this may be business as usual. The realisation that politics is indeed a quick avenue to rob the country and enrich oneself. The Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives in Nigeria are very well paid. Indeed they are so well paid that the 8th National Assembly which has recently been sworn in will allegedly receive the sum of NGN9billion which is about 28 million pounds for wardrobe allowance. No statement denouncing this has been issued by the National Assembly. Nigeria is spending this much to clothe the members of the National Assembly, yet we receive international aid. This is incredibly shameful.

Agbada which the NASS requires £60,000 per annum for. Source:www.thisisafrika.com
Agbada which the NASS requires £60,000 per annum for. Source:www.thisisafrika.com

In other words, the Senators will receive about 21.5 million naira each, while the legislators at the House of Representatives will receive 17.5 million naira each, all for clothes. The question is; how is it that a country which still receives aid from the countries in the G7 is giving about 60-70,000 pounds each to its senators and lawmakers to buy clothes? This is the annual salary of members of Parliament in a country that gives Nigeria aid. Nigerians are waiting and hoping that President Buhari intervenes in this and puts a stop to this wastefulness, vulgarity and mismanagement.

Furthermore, considering that Nigeria’s 2015 budget was approved by Goodluck Jonathan the former President, one understands that this wardrobe allowance was not fundamentally instituted by the Buhari government. However, he is the President and has the authority to dispose of certain wasteful parts of it or to review it, thus we shall hold him responsible.

Finally, recall that Nigeria is heavily reliant of oil and gas for 99% of its revenue. The 2015 budget was laid out using the revenue number of $70 per barrel. Since the price of oil has not risen above $64 per barrel since its crash to about $40-$45 per barrel last year, this government must begin to cut back, it should be running an austerity government. The economy must be run efficiently with as many cuts as possible where feasible. This ridiculous wardrobe allowance is one of such costs which should be implemented. Nigerians are watching President Buhari closely to see what kind of policies, economy and country he will run.

Is There Such A Thing As Trans-Racial: The Rachel Dolezal Saga

In the last four days, the story of the American woman Rachel Dolezal has been discussed extensively in the media internationally. Rachel was until yesterday the President of the Spokane chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She is also a Professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. In addition, she was the chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission in Spokane, a position which she no longer holds as the Police department has issued a statement suspending all cases being reviewed under her committee. Slowly her life has literally fallen apart and all these positions have gone.

Rachel Dolezal. Source:www.breitbart.com
Rachel Dolezal. Source:www.breitbart.com

Rachel Dolezal, who was previously married to a black man with whom she had a son, was born to white parents and is biologically white. However, she has claimed to be black for at least 10 years, claiming a mixed race heritage through an African American father. Rachel is a very well educated woman who attended Howard University; a historically black college, on scholarship. Her parents leaked the story of her faked identity. They tell of a submitted portraiture as part of the application to Howard University. The submission mirrored an African American identity and earned her a full scholarship.

Rachel-Dolezal-2

Her parents are as concerned and baffled as the rest of the world as to why Rachel chose to denounce her heritage and con her friends and community into believing she was a black woman. She changed her appearance with tan and braids and kinky curls, in order to look mixed race. There has been a cry of outrage from African American women in the United States accusing Rachel of white privilege. She sued Howard for discrimination, saying she was deprived of certain opportunities there because she was a white woman in a historically black University. In the same vein, she reported several racial threats to the police in Spokane, alleging abuse because she was a black woman. The discourse points to a deceptive platform being used to achieve all she has. Her ‘blackness’ seems like a cloak which she puts on and takes off as she wishes.

She is also being accused of stealing opportunities which she did not deserve from the minority on false pretences. Rachel Dolezal is a very accomplished woman and her biography is impressive, even for a white woman in middle class America. It is even more so impressive for a black woman at her age. The furore surrounding the ‘outing’ of Rachel is one which revolves around integrity and identity. There is an overwhelming acknowledgement that she could not have achieved what she did, had she not claimed to be a black woman.

ABC_rachel_dolezal_parents_jt_150613_16x9_992

The question of identity crises is one which is all too familiar to mixed race children and adults. But even more so to women of black heritage in a country such as the United States of America where they constitute a minority. Black women in the US have come through a difficult history of prejudice, deprivation and a struggle for acceptance in a society with stereotypes such as the angry black woman, and mockery or unpopularity of the black woman’s features of thick curly hair, large hips and full lips. These features have only recently become popular. Thus, black women are outraged that this woman has masqueraded as a black woman, yet has not lived the agony, the rejection and the discrimination faced by black women in America, even at the hands of the men within the African American community.

Kylie Jenner who got lip enhancement
Kylie Jenner who got lip enhancement

However, others have suggested that perhaps this is a conversation which the world needs to begin to have. This could be a discovery of an identity crises stemming from what could be a new state of being “trans-racial”. Some members of the transgender community have been outraged by the comparison that somehow being transgender a la the Caitylin Jenner experience, is in some ways one and the same as the having a transracial experience; if indeed there is any such thing. The argument is that gender and race are different, that being a transgender has to do with gender dysphoria, which is an actual condition, whereas there is no such thing as racial dysphoria.

Caitylin Jenner
Caitylin Jenner

One could argue that this is the first emergence of any such public occurrence of one declaring to be the opposite of their phenotypes, and believing very strongly in it. There are already outcries of mental health problems. We do not know this, and this brings to mind the arrest and incarceration in an insane asylum of American Joseph Lobdell (born Lucy Ann Lobdell) who was born a woman in the early 19th century, but believed himself to be a man and lived as such. Perhaps there is such a thing as identity confusion and a certain strong affinity to a particular group of people. If a man can declare “I am a woman” and vice versa, and have the support of the world, why can’t a white woman declare “I am black” and vice versa?

Michael Jackson before and after the change. Source:www.genius.com
Michael Jackson before and after the change. Source:www.genius.com

In any case, Rachel’s lies have ruined the more constructive and enriching discussion which may have come out of this saga. Her parents believe her struggles with identity emanate from their adoption of four black children when she was a teenager. Both of them, whom she cut off from her life and the life of their grandson, for fear of her cover being blown in her community, have said honesty and therapy are the best way forward for Rachel. She may not need therapy, she may just be light years ahead of the world. The debates around identity do not end at gender, they also include psyche, heritage and culture. .

There are people who have come from one culture, but feel a certain affinity or are deeply interested in the cultures of other social groups. This may be considered significantly different from some black women’s love of long luxurious hair extensions which have the same texture as the hair of white, Asian or hispanic people. It may also be different from the butt implants and enhanced pouts preferred by some white women. How then does this compare to Caitylin Jenner’s honest declarations on Diane Sawyer’s show, and Michael Jackson’s bizarre transformation? It may have been easier to expand on the discussion and make the linkages even in the acknowledgement of the differences, had Dolezal presented herself without the associated deception.

Hair extensions. Source:www.puiur.net
Hair extensions. Source:www.puiur.net

Dolezal’s misrepresentation of herself has now put her preference to be called black on the back burner. It has also belittled what seems to be her otherwise significant contributions in the civil rights movement. She has worked in social justice and advocacy for at least 10 years and the NAACP lauded her consistent commitment to the advancement of coloured people in America.

Ke$ha and her cornrows. Source:www.dailymail.co.uk
Ke$ha and her cornrows. Source:www.dailymail.co.uk

There is no question about the serious personal identity issues which she has and it will be interesting to see her and the experts make some sense of this when the furore dies down. The world is a big place and a shrinking community all at once. Self expression in the free world is absolutely important. One can be whomever or whatever they wish to be, with honesty. In reading the summations in the media and speaking to people, one can infer that Rachel Dolzal would have been welcome to be true to an identity she felt comfortable with. If Dolezal had been honest, perhaps she would have been embraced, as long as she was honest, and the transition was done with an acknowledgement that someone who was indeed the opposite of what their visible social construct  was, in that situation cannot necessarily understand the experience of people who have lived it all their lives.

Nigerian President’s Inaugural Speech

The newly sworn in Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has made his inaugural speech. He has said that three key areas for his government are power, employment and terrorism.

He called on the judiciary to act with dispatch in matters of abuse of office and corruption, and called for a reform which will purge it of its immediate past. He also talked about a clear definition of the three tiers of government and declared that the Federal Government will not close its eyes to the problems of governance particularly gross corruption in the states and local government. He has declared he will ensure that there is adequate control under his watch. He demanded for accountability at all levels.

He called on labour unions, organised private sector, press and civil society organisations, to raise productivity in order to share in increased wealth and economic growth. He called on the media to exercise their role with dignity particularly on social media.

President Buhari-official portrait
President Buhari-official portrait

He talked about four immediate priorities for the Buhari government; Boko Haram, Niger Delta situation, power shortages, and unemployment in young people. The president spoke about longer term priorities to include Education, Medical care, physical infrastructure; all of which need overhauling and updating. For Boko Haram to be adequately tackled, President Buhari announced that the Command centre will be relocated to Maidugri until Boko Haram is subdued. He spoke about rescuing the Chibok girls and all who have been kidnapped; alive if possible.

According to him, Boko haram is a typical example of a small fire causing large fires. Negligence, complacency, and collusion have all made Boko Haram strong. He said that Boko Haram was a mindless and godless group, who were as far away from Islam as possible. As the group is subdued, the government will commission a committee to study the group; its emergence and sponsors, in order to stop further emergence. He says that the military’s rules of engagement will be overhauled to avoid human rights violations, and legal system will also be overhauled to tackle human rise abuses of the armed forces. Furthermore, he was clear about working with sub-Saharan neighbours and the entire international community to deal with Boko Haram and the emerging refugee problems as well as financial crimes.

His priorities include a disciplined and well compensated security forces, and although the amnesty programme in Niger Delta which is due to end in December, his government plans to invest heavily in infrastructure. He says he is willing to listen to grievances and extends his hands of fellowship.

The president declared the Power situation a national shame; the fact that Nigeria generates only 4,000 megawatts and distributes even less. He says 20 billion dollars had been expended on power since 1999 and has only brought frustration and misery and resignation among Nigerians. The government will discover the safest and quickest way to bring power to Nigerians. Youth unemployment will be tackled through investment in agriculture, and micro-credits will be given to small and medium businesses. In addition, he wants to accelerate the revival of roads and railways.

Buhari stated that the international community has extended a hand of goodwill to Nigeria, and the country is basking in goodwill. We can achieve our mission as a great nation. To finish, he quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Cesear saying Nigeria had an opportunity, urging the nation to “cease it”.

For me, the most profound statement the President made was his phrase ” I belong to everybody. I belong to nobody”. Perhaps this is the tone which we can expect from the government, where he pledges allegiance to nobody but to the entire nation and to the oath he swore.

The Tories Won So What

I have been following the UK General Elections 2015 and a lot of people seem pretty disappointed that the conservative party, also known as the Tories, won the 2015 general elections. David Cameron will remain at 10 Downing Street. This is said to have been one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history. There were a lot of debates around the economy, immigration, the NHS and education.

Many people voted on their convictions along those lines. I did not vote, but I know many who did. A lot of people whom I know voted Labour but then again that’s the popular party followed by the diverse London crowd. The Labour party did not get enough votes to form a majority, and many analysts have blamed this on the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron. Source: www.versanews.co.uk
Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron. Source: http://www.versanews.co.uk

Apparently, a lot of Labour voters deflected to Conservative party for fear that if they voted Labour and that party was in a place to form a coalition government, it would invite the SNP to join it. Why are people afraid of the SNP? The SNP has consistently said that Scotland is its priority and thus people are worried that it would be pushing an agenda to divide the union.

Consequently, the Tories will be running shop for the next 5 years. What will the public expect? Records suggest that food banks have grown since the Tories came into government 5 years ago. This is a good stop gap measure, just as aid is a stop gap measure for developing countries. But may not necessarily be a good thing in a G7 country as it could mean that the poorer are indeed getting poorer.

SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 11:  Salisbury foodbank volunteer sorts a donation of food at the foodbank centre  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 11: Salisbury foodbank volunteer sorts a donation of food at the foodbank centre (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In the last 5 years, the NHS has begun to struggle even more, failing to meet its target response time for A&E patients; there have been news stories of emergency tents being set up outside hospitals, nurses being urged to come back to work on social media as there aren’t enough hands, and some portions of the NHS heading towards privatization.

In addition, the bedroom tax is biting poor people, while mansion taxes have been clearly avoided by this government. Tax evasion of the rich has increased, and people with disabilities are having their benefits increasingly cut as part of the austerity measures. However, the Tories inherited a deficit and a country whose books were unbalanced, overspent, and struggling from the credit crunch.

credit_crunch

Since 2010, the deficit is being reduced gradually, and records show a growing economy and reduction in unemployment. Whatever the case, the public in Britain will have a chance to go to the polls again in 5 years and vote. I personally have tried to understand the protests and public outcry at the majority win of the Tories. In any case, coming from a very young democracy, to me if elections are free and fair, and the people have voted, there really is no need for protests regarding the win unless people have smelt foul play.

I think the UK is very fortunate to be in a place where its elections are free and fair and the people are given a voice. Some people think that the election system is very unfair, that the number of votes do not translate into the number of seats. Will David Cameron be interested in a reform that will match votes to seats? Will there be a referendum soon to suggest a reform?

Photo from the 7 party debate of major party leaders. From left to right; Green Party, UKIP, LibDem, Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru. Source:www.bbc.co.uk
Photo from the 7 party debate of major party leaders. From left to right; Green Party, UKIP, LibDem, Conservatives, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru. Source:www.bbc.co.uk

The anger I have heard from people is that he has no clue about the middle class or the working people, and his policies benefit him and his cronies; the rich. Hopefully, David Cameron will do what is just and look after the poor. At least people can heave a sign of relief that UKIP did not get a chance at 10 Downing Street with its far right plans of huge increase in defence spending, harsh restrictions on immigrants and anti-European co-operation.

A business owner expresses annoyance at Tories win. Source:www.facebook.com
A business owner expresses annoyance at Tories win. Source:www.facebook.com

Ed Milliband, Nick Glegg and Nigel Farage all of Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP have all resigned following the failure of their parties to make significant gains per their expectations at the genral elections. Their post results announcement speeches all spoke of regret and exhaustion, and then they resigned. I think perhaps Nigeria can borrow a leaf from these attitudes.

Although we know a lot of politicians to be two faced and dishonest at best, there are boundaries and levels to dishonesty, ambition and shamelessness. Politics cannot be a matter of life and death. If one runs and fails, there is no use making a spectacle such as the one we witnessed at Jega’s results announcement from one time Minister Godswill Orubebe. I look forward to the next couple of years of Nigeria’s APC government and the UK conservative government. Hopefully the change being demanded by the people will begin to come to fruition.

AIT To Return To Covering Buhari

The President elect Buhari has just issued a statement through his spokesperson basically allowing AIT and other media houses to cover his activities. In a statement, the APC said that all accredited media houses including the AIT were free to cover the President elect’s activities. The party confirmed that the incoming administration would not discriminate against any party. Please find the statement below.

”There is a Code of Ethics guiding the practice of journalism in Nigeria, and this demands every journalist to ensure a strict adherence to the highest levels of ethics and professionalism in carrying out their duties. ”There must be repercussions, within the realms of the law, for media organizations which have wantonly breached the Code of Ethics of the journalism profession and turned themselves to partisans instead of professionals. But such repercussions will not include barring any accredited media organization from covering the activities of the President-elect,”

Alhaji Lai Mohammed

National Publicity Secretary

All Progressives Congress (APC) Abuja,

April 28th 2015

Buhari’s AIT Ban: Is the Dictator Back?

The President elect of Nigeria in a move that critics say has just given Nigerians a glimpse of his old dictator self, banned the media house African Independent Television (AIT) from covering his activities. AIT reporters were escorted off the premises of Defence House where Buhari presently lives pending the transition. He was due to meet with the Cuban and Swiss Ambassadors when the incident took place. This move by the retired General and president elect Muhammad Buhari (GMB) has stunned even his most ardent supporters. His spokesperson said this was as a result of some security and family matters.

“You can quote me that I said that we have asked them to step aside and that we are resolving the the issues of ethics and standards with them.” GMB confirmed

GEJ and GMB: Outgoing president and president elect, respectively. Source:www.nairaland.com
GEJ and GMB: Outgoing president and president elect, respectively. Source:www.nairaland.com

Ethics and standards, security and family matters, these seem like censorship. Freedom of press is an incredibly essential ingredient for Nigeria’s democracy, indeed any democracy. Censorship and any kind of heavy handedness are equally bad for our democracy. For all the criticism leveraged against it, GEJ’s government was the most criticised and it took it on the chin, sometimes responding on social media platforms through the presidential spokespersons. Are we then off to a bad start with GMB?

World Press Freedom Day arrives in a week. Nigeria cannot go back to the time when its press was unable to investigate stories and criticise the polity. At last year’s world press day May 3, 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, released a statement.

“Journalism provides a platform for informed discussion across a wide range of development issues – from environmental challenges and scientific progress to gender equality, youth engagement and peacebuilding. Only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist.”What exactly does Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

Source:www.wire2014.eu
Source:www.wire2014.eu

In 1991, when Nigeria and many other African countries were going through some of its worst times with dictatorships and human rights abuses, the UN declaration of Windhoek was adopted and included the following regarding the press:

Recalling General Assembly resolution 59(I) of 14 December 1946 stating that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, and General Assembly resolution 45/76 A of 11 December 1990 on information in the service of humanity,

Recalling resolution 25C/104 of the General Conference of UNESCO of 1989 in which the main focus is the promotion of “the free flow of ideas by word and image at international as well as national levels”,

Declare that:

1. Consistent with article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.

2. By an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental, political or economic control or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

3. By a pluralistic press, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community.

4. The welcome changes that an increasing number of African States are now undergoing towards multi-party democracies provide the climate in which an independent and pluralistic press can emerge.
The world-wide trend towards democracy and freedom of information and expression is a fundamental contribution to the fulfilment of human aspirations.

5. In Africa today, despite the positive developments in some countries, in many countries journalists, editors and publishers are victims of repression-they are murdered, arrested, detained and censored, and are restricted by economic and political pressures such as restrictions on newsprint, licensing systems which restrict the opportunity to publish, visa restrictions which prevent the free movement of journalists, restrictions on the exchange of news and information, and limitations on the circulation of newspapers within countries and across national borders. In some countries, one-party States control the totality of information.

6. Today, at least 17 journalists, editors or publishers are in African prisons, and 48 African journalists were killed in the exercise of their profession between 1969 and 1990.

7. The General Assembly of the United Nations should include in the agenda of its next session an item on the declaration of censorship as a grave violation of human rights falling within the purview of the Commission on Human Rights.

8. African States should be encouraged to provide constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of association.

9. To encourage and consolidate the positive changes taking place in Africa, and to counter the negative ones, the international community-specifically, international organizations (governmental as well as non-governmental), development agencies and professional associations-should as a matter of priority direct funding support towards the development and establishment of non-governmental newspapers, magazines and periodicals that reflect the society as a whole and the different points of view within the communities they serve.

There have been reports from AIT which many argue are one-sided and target the opposition. If this is the case, isn’t that what the courts of law are made for? Is GMB out of touch with the times? Does a president in a 21st century democracy arbitrarily send off the press or play pick and choose? Or does the president sue for defamation or you prosecute for whatever grievance it may have? How about some finesse then; write AIT a letter and have the security agencies investigate whatever this is?

This move is certainly ill-advised and the world will be watching keenly to see if this is extended to corruption and all who plundered the nation’s treasury. The world will be watching to see if the soon to be president of Africa’s largest economy and the world’s most populous black nation will have respect for the rule of law in the first democracy won by the opposition.

Lagos to Abuja Trekker Suleiman Hashimu Finally Meets Buhari

The man who trekked from trekked from Lagos to Abuja in honour of Buhari’s victory at the 2015 presidential election, Suleiman Hashimu, finally met with Buhari on April 24th. He e night there.I spent 18 days from Lagos to Abuja.

He said he made this promise and decided to keep it. He trekked from 6am to 6pm daily and spent the night in the nearest village he could find. Apparently, people were very kind and welcoming. He said from Kwara state, he had company for almost every five kilometres that he trekked.

Suleiman Hashimu meets President elect Buhari. Source:nigeriamonitor.com
Suleiman Hashimu meets President elect Buhari. Source:nigeriamonitor.com

Let us see how this unfolds, hopefully the Lucozade and other energy drinks endorsements work out. This is quite heartwarming. He will make a great poster for energy and fitness.