[ Masterweb Reports: Uchendu Precious Onuoha, Masterweb Special Correspondent reports ] - The Nigerians in diaspora organization Europe (NIDOE) annual general meeting recently held on November 12 – 15 in Stockholm Sweden has opened a flood gate of business, investment interest and business opportunities between Nigeria and Sweden. The three day event which featured a Nigeria – Sweden Business Summit which attracted corporate participants and government agencies was hosted by NIDO Swedish chapter in collaboration with Swedish chamber trade, Nigerian embassy, Swedish West Africa Chamber of Commerce – SWACC and NIDOE. Declaring the summit open, the president of NIDOE, DR. George Manuwuike stated that NIDO acts as interface between Nigerian professionals in diaspora, the federal government and would -be investors from Europe to Nigeria. Stating that the new government in Nigeria is interested in bringing investors to Nigeria. And he urged the participants to use the summit as a stepping stone for a larger cooperation between Sweden and Nigeria as both countries stand to gain a lot from each other.
In the opening speech by the host Ambassador, Her Excellency, Mrs. Jane A. Ndem (Charge d’ Affairs, Nigerian Embassy Sweden) she highlighted on the transformations that have taken place in Nigeria especially on the peaceful election and democratic transition and how that offers enabling ground for investors. According to the Ambassador, a successful transition in the African contest indicates that the country has matured democratically. The President has been the chief marketing officer since May 29, assuring foreign investors about the business opportunities in Nigeria. She identified corruption as the biggest demon hindering business investments. The President has declared war against corruption. And once corruption is addressed, that will open the free flow of business. She stated that the current challenges that arise from power, mining and agriculture are challenges but at the same time opportunities. Nigeria has the enabling ground for investment and is a window to Africa. The Nigerian government has established the foreign investment council to boost investment in Nigeria. And Nigeria has the largest market in Africa She therefore urged Swedish investors to take the current challenges as opportunities to create wealth.
Among the areas of interest for investment by the Swedish corporate participants includes, green technology, waste management, water purification and solar energy.
Our Foreign Correspondent who was in Stockholm to attend the event had interview with the NIDOE chairman Dr. George Manuwuike. Below are the excerpts.
Que.To what extent has NIDOE gone to achieve its founding objectives?
Ans. We are working towards that objective. The plans are realizable. That includes the transfer of technology to Nigeria scientifically, financially, human capital development also giving the government a quality formation. We might not have gotten there but we are sure of getting there.
Que. What are the immediate challenges facing NIDOE?
Ans. The immediate challenges we have are challenges that bother on membership. Bringing together professional Nigerians who could have formed the critical mark of moving the organization agenda forward. But we are mobilizing our members and creating the enabling environment to bring on board those Nigerians that we believe have the wherewithal to help us in achieving these objectives. It is a working progress. The challenges are there also back home, we have not been able to have correct interface between NIDOE and the federal government to be able to work together towards achieving this objective. But with the present administration, we hope to achieve this because the government has given us the indication that they are interested in working closely with the Diaspora.
So we believe some of these challenges we have been having over the years would be resolved through government collaboration. Also, we are confident we would be able to cross some of these hurdles that have bedeveled the organization in the past through collaboration with the National assembly. For example, the Senate has created a committee on Diaspora. And so this committee will be saddled with the responsibility of working closely with us. And we shall help them formulate policies that will be in the best interest of NIDO. Also we are aware that the house of Representatives has a committee on Diaspora affairs. And the chairperson of that committee Honorable Rita Orji is desirous of working with us to ensure that the objectives and visions of NIDO are realized within the very possible time.
Que. What is the relationship between NIDOE and the Embassies?
Ans. The relationship has been cordial to a large extent. The Embassies have been doing their best to support the NIDOE cause. We desire more. The transformation has been progressive. The awareness has been created and NIDOE has their structural set ups in various Embassies. It is now left with the various chapters to plug into these structures to make sure they realize the purpose for which they were set up.
Worthy of note is the high level and manner of proper coordination the plenary session was conducted. The session was a hob-nob of Nigerian professionals who came as delegates from various chapters and countries of Europe. Interesting and commendable is the mature manner and discipline exhibited by the delegates on issues. Despite their different views on issues, they expressed their views on matters objectively and in orderly manners, a rare feat unusually not common among meetings of most Nigerian organizations. Even the National assembly should take a cue from NIDOE.
*Photo Caption – NIDO logo
[ Masterweb Reports: Interview by R Tadros, Belques Addisu and Zainab Amin ] - At a speedily arranged informal meeting in Addis Ababa we met Dr KusumGopal an anthropologist and an UN Expert who agreed to discuss with us at short notice the background of the horrific wars that are happening in west Asia, ISIS and the Refugees fleeing to Europe. We doubted peace is possible in the Middle-East. Dr Gopal strongly disagreed stating that the wisdom of the ages would prevail no matter how terrifying the present, the sorrows of people, ultimately humanitarian justice would triumph. The views expressed by Dr Gopal are entirely her own. Some excerpts:
Question: Dr Gopal, you contend humanitarianism will triumph. We ask when and how? As citizens of the countries of the MENA region working in the media and civil society, we are deeply disturbed by these events. There is widespread anger and very little understanding. Can you explain what needs to be done, in steps?
Answer: Yes knowledge needs to be shared and disseminated. Sadly, academics have been remiss, indeed to have relinquished their responsibilities in translating and making available the remarkable scholarship that has and is being produced over the last decade in particular with the opening of the Ottoman archives. Inevitably they are hampered— addendum-- governments and policy makers must be prepared to listen to them, to learn, to re-evaluate the outdated preconceived erroneous, belief systems also, the need to engage in these joint conversations--it is of moral and ethical urgency.
Each of us today is a witness to the enormities of human suffering, desolation, indeed, the worst forms of human depravities, borne out of a deep rage that has descended into madness. People in these regions understand much more than we realise, it is the governments and policy makers who need to acknowledge why as a matter of urgency! Indisputably, what is happening today is an outcome of the administrative and legal measures imposed by colonial regimes such as the Black Letter Laws, uninformed partitioning of territories, of separating peoples with shared emotions, histories, cultures, demeanours and natural resources—the root cause of all conflicts in the Indian Subcontinent, in the vast landscapes of Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, eastern Europe as indeed, the MENA region. All this is made more hazardous by the abuse of weaponry of the worst kinds: nerve gas, Agent Orange, nuclear arsenal, other kinds of chemical warfare, cluster bombs, mines and so forth-- impossible to measure appalling aftermaths in human experience. No matter what we cannot switch on the air conditioner and wish it away: it affects all of us in the worst possible way as we live with suspicion, fear, with uncertainty with growth of intolerance and militarism. Nothing can be resolved unless root and branch understandings of human situations are brought to light through serious local and regional evaluations that inform international interventions.
There can no longer be recourse to solutions that offer immediate gratification – not only will it prolong the genocides but strengthen ISIL. Long term solutions to the current crisis lie in acknowledging the pre-colonial Ottoman governance of these regions. We need to initiate a series of dialogues with ISIL and include its supporters – no matter how distasteful the prospect. They must stop butchering and killing people, indeed, using rape as a weapon of warfare -m- of women, girls and men, whilst plundering and destroying ancient sites. Agreements needs to be reached and safety of the inhabitants ensured as well as safety for the citizens of the world be they Shi’ii , Sunni or other forms of Islam, of Christianity, of Judaism and other ancient religious traditions such as Hinduism and so forth.
Question: You say we must negotiate with ISIS. How do we go about that?
Answer: Socrates argued that the invisible world is the most intelligible and that the visible world is the least knowable, and the most obscure." That is to say what we see happening has many layers – and we need to look beyond the five senses, beyond the material understandings. We live in interconnected worlds—all of us. And, that is why we must begin communicating as the bombing however advanced and powerful will not weaken ISIL or Daesh as they call themselves they will gain a greater following- the ideal of a Caliphate is extremely appealing– and secret cells will mushroom further -- that will have immeasurable repercussions. How much can police or intelligence do? In these days of Face book and What’s App etc—they recruit with impunity snaring young minds by the incorrect interpretations of Islamiyuun although nothing they say or do bears any resemblance to Islam which advocates compassion first and foremost—the sentiments expressed in the Azaan and in teachings of the Holy Qu’ran is testimony to be kind, to go in peace and to do good, regardless.
ISIS or ISIL comprise of human beings and it is doubtful it commands a unity as a national army does—it is an umbrella network there are many trigger happy soldiers of faith--– led by Saddam Hussein’s army who punish with brutality. We can discuss this later. For a solution the Powers- That- Be- NATO and its allies must be prepared to heed Expert scholarship and there are many based in the USA, UK and other European countries. Many policy structures and government Departments for example Whitehall, the Pentagon, the Kremlin have fixed frameworks operating on inherited governance of yore—with received wisdom that defines the logic of prejudices and entrenched interests: to implement outside these parameters is not acceptable. This is where the real challenge lies—for NATO and its allies, before we can establish some platform for a dialogue – rather than just the military solutions.
To start, Euro-America and Russia need to formally recognise that relentless bombing of these regions by the most advanced weaponry will not eradicate the strength of ISIL or Daesh as they call themselves. Lessons from the past -- Did the 11 million tonnes of agent Orange stop the Vietnamese from winning the war? Did bombing of Afghanistan end the power of Taliban? Al Qaeda still remains powerful in the shadows as also many other groups such as the Haqqanis. The persistent bombing only fuels deeper anger and hate for western nations.
Governments need to not just commission Experts and most certainly Religious leaders but also incorporate them in these dialogues, allow them to lead the way. For example, .Ulema to initiate dialogues, leaders that Mr. Abu Bakr Baghdadi will be prepared to grant a hearing. It can be done through for example; Skype or projections --I am not advocating Gandhian principles but rather Ottoman wisdom which people belongiong to this region can accept and emotionally relate with. Also, simultaneously, the specific histories and cultures of the regions must be understood as also Islamic fiqh, as practiced from the point of view of the inhabitants of the Levant region- Syria Iraq, Lebanon Kuwait, include Palestine and Israel.
Question: What do you mean by Ottoman wisdom? How can it help where everything else has failed?
Answer: There is a saying in Latin, Corruptio Optima Pessima, the corruption of the best is the worst- to my mind that is what has happened in this sacred terrain the birthplace of three great religious traditions and one of the cradles of human civilization where powerful syncretic traditions had coexisted. The Ottoman Empire which governed for over six centuries allowed for the integration of large Jewish, Christian and other communities, who, despite some legal handicaps, found that the dispensation generally allowed them to live and worship in faithful adherence to their laws and traditions: Muslims, Christians, and Jews were organized into millats, which were responsible for both religious and secular duties in their communities.
Unbeknownst to most people is that until Islam had a well-defined Church and State (politics and religion) divide, much more so than Christianity. As theologians enlighten us, under the Ottomans, while the Sultan or the Caliph were seen to be imbued with divine writ for legitimacy, they did not legislate or control over religion and its practice, they did not give sermons on it either. Religion had no formal control over them and none of their subjects expected them to pontificate on spiritual matters. Islamic traditions during the medieval times, indeed until the Ottoman Empire was desecrated, maintained a palpable distinction between the civic/administration and religious matters—contributing to the success and enrichment of the Empire. They thus wielded considerable support and respect. knitting together not just Sunni and Shi’ii but also minorities, Kurds, Druze, Coptics and so forth, employing special efforts to accommodate various, diverse cultures. In 1856, for instance the Hatt-ý Hümayun promised equality for all Ottoman citizens and as was its practice, irrespective of their ethnicity and confession, widening the scope of the 1839 Hatt-ý Þerif of Gülhane.It established freedom of belief and equality of all citizens before the law. "Firman of the Reforms" gave immense privileges to the Armenians, which formed a "governance in governance" to eliminate the aristocratic dominance of the Armenian nobles by development of the political strata in the society. Certainly, the military regulations meant conscription; they were also guaranteed protection providing the impetus for vernacular languages and traditions to develop unhindered within the Ottoman fold. As another scholar has argued, its social organization and mechanisms of rule at key moments of its history, emergence, imperial institutionalization, re-modelling, transition to nation-state, revealing how the empire managed these moments, adapted, and averted crises and what changes made it transform dramatically. The flexible techniques by which the Ottomans maintained their legitimacy specifically the manner in which dissent was handled and/or internalized in the nature of state society respect of minorities; the co-operation of their diverse elites both at the centre and in the provinces—lessons we can incorporate.
Indeed, influential religious heads even believed that the Turkish conquest had preserved the Greek Church from the threat of annihilation by the growing power of the Latin west. For instance, the Grand Duke LoukasNotarasis had stated on the eve of the conquest: ‘It would be better to see the turban of the Turks reigning over the city than the Latin mitre.” Certainly it was widely held the Greek Orthodox Church had been allowed to flourish by the Ottomans-- it might have been undermined by the Christian European influences at that time. What is particularly significant is that the Ottomans recognised the leading Rabbis of the Old Yishuv as the official leaders of the devout Orthodox Jews from east Europe and also the Levant region; they had organised themselves as VaadHa’ir which later became EdahHaChreidis. These local Rabbis of Palestine were deemed officially to be similar or extensions of their own Orthodox HakamBashis – Chief Turkish Rabbis loyal to the Sultan. Such unparalled examples point to the inclusiveness and tolerance of all peoples setting precedents for reconsidering what aspects of the administrative set up of the Ottomans can be resuscitated and wherever relevant syncretic dispositions must be discussed as part of the necessary interventions. Lawyers who are experts in Islamic fiqh, Ottoman governance can be consulted to participate and to advise along with Experts and Religious leaders.
Question: Tony Blair apologised for the war and acknowledged it as the cause of ISIL, Too little too late— Hans Blix had warned there was no smoking gun no WMDs yet documents state that the war had been a deliberate plan by Blair and Bush regardless a year before. Any comments?
Answer: Yes, the call for regime change is not new it is over a century old -- British and French colonial encroachments. What is happening now is a continuation of what was set in motion 100 years ago, To my mind, the roots of the crises lie in the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the pivotal roles of TE Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Winston Churchill as principal agents of the Crown. For over a thousand years the Head of Hashemite family had governed the region commanding deep respect from Muslims all over the world. As custodian of the Hejaz , Sharif Husayn position as Caliph was sacrosanct. At that time Turks and Arabs co-existed along with so many other peoples and religious traditions. This was also the time when early stirrings against the Ottomans had begun, regions wanted to be free. And, the British exploited anti-Ottoman sentiments very successfully persuading the Sharif to rally Arabs against the Turks with the mendacious promise of a united Arab kingdom. Indeed, the Sharif’s implicit trust betrayed: – He had told his son, Prince Faisal,” A British promise like gold, no matter how much you rub it, it never loses its shine:" No one was to be more deceived. Further, unknown to him was the Sykes Picot Agreement signed secretly between the English and the French- dividing lands with no codicil for Arab unity or an Arab Kingdom. And, this set in motion events that led to the defeat of the Ottomans and the end of the Caliphate – The Sharif was not allowed to return as Caliph--the British had already concluded a secret treaty in 1924 with the Ibn Rashid Family from Nadj in Saudi Arabia who became thenceforth the custodians of Mecca and Medina. Indeed, in Indian Subcontinent the Khilafat agitation happened precisely because of the removal of the Calphate. These are sore wounds that have to be addressed.
Wars cannot be entered into lightly nowadays as weapons at our disposal cause irreversible destruction- unlike in the not so distant past. Utilitarian philosophy rests on purely disinterested altruism—it governed British colonialism an continue sto inform governance. Yet as Nietzsche has pointed out--there can be no such thing as disinterested altruism—it only can be an oblique expression of the universal drive to conquer, an alternative manifestation of the will to power. Ultimately he argued Utilitarian theorists want English morality to prevail: inasmuch as mankind, or "the general utility," or "the happiness of the greatest number," But has the war served anyone best? We need much more reflection- Kierkergaard rather than James Mill, The long term consequences are yet to be gauged --- for now we must rush to contain the damage and begin communications with ISIL and repair the inhospitable post war environments.
Question: Could you elaborate on the Sykes Picot Agreement?
Answer: As ongoing scholarship has emphasised the Sykes-Picot Agreement partitioned the Empire calamitously. Naturally, the British defeated Ottoman Turkish forces in 1917 and occupied Ottoman Syria and a military edict was issued dividing Ottoman territories into "occupied enemy territory administrations" (OETAs). The Empire was divided into three OETAs. Occupied Enemy Territory Administration South extended from the Egyptian border of Sinai into Palestine and Lebanon as far north as Acre and Nablus and as far east as the River Jordan. The British Mandate for Palestine, was a legal commission for the administration of the territory that had formerly constituted the Ottoman Empire SHYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjaks_of_the_Ottoman_Empire"anjaks of Nablus, Acre, the southern portion of the Beirut HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut_Vilayet"Wilayat, and the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem. Indeed, although Gen. Maude had stated that they would uphold “the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations"—such an agreement had never been on the Anglo-French agenda. No longer were these regions allowed to continue the Ottoman polity: freedoms of worship and conviviality with minorities of all descriptions living together.
Under the Mandates a series of Laws were passed removing all older traditions of Common Law and understandings. Indeed, to take one example, the immediate developments after the Mandate, in Iraq in addition to the nationalist resistance was the violent infighting by the “the Anayzah, the Shammar, and the Jubur tribes of the western desert caused by sudden drawing of lines across peoples. And, the chief cause for the scarcity of resources and new laws. Villagers demanded that the tribes be restrained, and tribes demanded that their titles to tribal territories be extended and confirmed. Merchants demanded more effective legal procedures, courts, and laws to protect their activities and interests. Municipal authorities appealed for defined powers and grants-in-aid in addition to the establishment of public health and education facilities. Landlords pressed for grants of land, for the building of canals and roads, and for the provision of tested seeds and livestock. The holy cities of An Najaf and Karbala and their satellite tribes were in a state of near anarchy. British governance had yet to be established Kurdistan. Meanwhile, from the Hakkari Mountains beyond Iraq's northern frontier and from the plains of Urmia in Iran, thousands of Assyrians began to pour into Iraqi territory seeking refuge from Turkish reprisal. Further, the growth of Iraqi nationalism posed a serious threat to the British.
Obviously the egalitarian traditions and generous hospitality of these cultures has been sorely tested—such unprecedented political developments and random Partitions forced the new governments to secure their borders- the only form of governance that was possible was dictatorship thereby creating a culture of terror to prevent opposition---brutalising their armies and secret service, Traditional forms of governance no longer applied with the imposition of the Black Letter Law, Thus Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad dictatorships came into being, - a foregone conclusion- these happened as a consequence of colonial encroachments and exploitation of natural resources, What Mr. Blair and Bush have done inevitably was to lead to an upsurge in anger and a desire to reclaim a lost past-- It explains Abu Bakr’s statement: video titled End of the Sykes Picot: this is not the first border we will break, we will break all other borders harkens to the times of yore when the Caliphate was in existence, This needs to be acknowledged and remedial measures in Dialogues must include these sentiments, We must stop ISIL by communicating with them .Europe and the USA have a responsibility and they must be prepared to reflect on supranational domains of policy framing by incorporating research knowledge,
Question: What about the Refugee crisis in Europe?
Answer: I cannot regard the refugee problem as a crisis but as an opportunity for Europe to address "its heart of darkness" its own moral and social concerns that would strengthen, not weaken their own cultures. Where will these people go? And, Europe has the wherewithal to help them. But prejudices and racism are weapons these people will be forced to encounter, Scholarship has revealed a great deal of common grounds between Europe, the MENA region and beyond. For example, Maltese is said to have some Siculo Arabic origins –a comparative analysis based on the treatise by IbnMakki al-Siqilli: TatqifallisanwaTalqih al-Janan, a linguist has noted reveals common foundations. .Undoubtedly we need to build bridges and understand each other and coexist,Have you read James Baldwin? The very great American writer—please do read his political writings.
Question: Will the horrific mass killing and suicide attacks in Paris help dialogues?
Answer: Yes. We cannot afford to retaliate without a long term strategy: there is no time like the present. It is deeply shocking the Paris killings but precisely illustrates the need for more effective intelligence and education, The Paris killings are not new-- this has been happenning in Bangkok, Kuwait, Yemen and Bangladesh with the bombing inside mosques now Europeans are being targeted.In all cases, civilian populations are being attacked. European nations involved in Syria and Iraq are particularly vulnerable such as France,the UK and Russia. Borders have been sealed, military interventions in place--but can belief systems and deep rancour be wiped out? Such interventions provide temporary succour which curb but do not quench the fires -- the cause of such terrible occurences, all if which have been planned. We must initiate dialogues, regardless, governments must begin consultations with experts such as Islamic scholars, religious leaders and ethnographers.
Question: Any final thoughts?
Answer: Yes discussion and dialogues must be taken in the Public arena in the MENA region and voting should be arranged in the Arab world on what people want and forms of governance. Literature, films and also poetry needs to be also translated and made available as also writings and anthologies – Arab Nationalism remains a fraught subject, often rearing its head without resolution. I have this poem with me a translation of the Iraqi poet, Sati' al-Husri’s elegy "How Strange":
We rebelled against the English; we rebelled against the French ...
We rebelled against those who colonized our land and tried to enslave us ...
We repeated the red revolutions many times, and we continued with our white revolutions over a number of years ...
And for this we endured so much suffering, sustained so many losses, and sacrificed so many lives ...
When we finally gained our liberty, we began to sanctify the borders that they had instituted after they had divided our land ...
And we forgot that these borders were but the boundaries of the "solitary confinement" and the "house arrest" which they had imposed on us!
We need to include all these sentiments in the dialogiues and also safeguard the personhood of all inhabitants of this region regardless of their religion.
*Photo Caption - An Iraqi ISIL fighter
[ Masterweb Reports ] - “We should not be too comfortable of the king's court”, Ikpeazu tells Ngwa National Association (NNAUSA). “For to us a child is born, to us a child is given and the government will be on his shoulders”… For the Ngwa National Association United States of America (NNAUSA) and to all Ngwa nation all over the globe, the emergence of Okezie Ikpeazu as Abia state governor of Ngwa extraction, the first in the history of mankind was to the Ngwa nation a fulfilment of that holy book verse above. The NNAUSA 24th Annual National Convention in Connecticut USA was another day and another event for the Ngwa people all over the world, as the occasion attracted the presence of their own son Ikpeazu, the governor of Abia state. The event which lasted for three days, September 4th -7th was held at the executive Hilton Stamford Hotel. Call him the preaching governor, a man after God’s own heart, or God’s own governor, Okezie Ikpeazu will fit in. Our foreign correspondent that was there to cover the event was opportune to have an interview with the amiable governor endowed with a high level of intellectual capability, mentally alert, and with a sharp grasp of issues. Above all, clothed with humility and fear of God. Below are excerpts from the interview.
How and what has it been like for the past three months you became the governor of Abia state?
It’s been quiet eventful for the past three months. The first issue has been to set up our new vision which is to reactivate and reinvigorate our economy. Also how to bare and sustain our developmental strides without really relying on what comes from the center all the time. And for us to do that, we need a massive social mobilization. And in all these fronts, if I must score ourselves, we have not done badly. In a scale of ten, I can score us seven without being conservative. And then, in our vision, we have tried to look at those things we can do naturally. Those things we have complete advantage over others. Of course, everybody understands our strong trade and commerce, our oil and gas endowment is there, and then agriculture. And so we decided to redefine these factors and elements that will support these areas of growth.
In other to prepare, we needed to do something about our roads, security, and Abia work force. And we have been able to put something in stock on these fronts. We are on 31 roads. We started with 7 on the first day in office. These 31 roads are on-going. It’s not easy to keep 31 contractors simultaneously. We have been able to do that, not because we saw money, but because we have been able to create an image of confidence. Because coming with governance requires you should be able to have a measure of truth, especially if you are sufficiently transparent and if you are a man of your words, and you want people to take your words to the bank.
We have been able to reactivate contracts that were abandoned and redesign roads. In Aba particularly, our emphasis is based on the fact that Aba is the engine room of Abia state. And there is this general belief that if you get Aba right, you have gotten Abia right. That is not to say that we undermine the other parts of Abia state. A good number of our roads are in Aba, while a good number are in other senatorial districts in Abia. The high point here is that, the kinds of roads are quite different from what it used to be before. Today, we are insisting on a minimum standard which must include a drainage plan. And in terms of road construction, there is a departure from what it used to be. You must give us an iron mesh work with concrete, with asphalt, and a drainage plan. That is the minimum standard of road construction we require.
In terms of mobilizing the people, we have paid salary regularly. We are able to return all facets of Abia work force that has been on strike back to work. The health workers have been on strike for seven months and the judiciary on strike for three months. We have returned them back to work. We are happy with them, we salute them, and we see them as partners in this Abia new project. As a matter of fact, it’s our desire that salaries should not be taken for granted. Because every Abia worker should not be thinking about salary alone. We are to come to a point of thinking of incentive to retraining and furthering education of the work force. We are building for the first time our private public partnership. Our work force should be able to outline process of investment in Abia so that business will thrive to enhance economic growth and outline procedures conducive for business men to invest. Also they will look into tax reform to make sure that we harmonize tax paid, how, and to whom. We are battling ghost workers in Abia work force, and to the glory of God we have been able to save one hundred and sixty million naira ( N160.0m). We are happy that today some people are beginning to key in our project.
In terms of education, we have decided to redo our education system. All the government technical colleges will come back to full stream under the program we call, education for employment E4E. We want to produce middle cadre manpower to support our industrial development. Our primary schools will also be technically oriented in their curriculum design. We look at collaboration in our tertiary institutions for partners who will partner with us to have a technology based state.
You were referred as a street sweeper, sweeping the streets of Aba, what will become the status of the refuse in Aba now you are a governor?
Thank you very much. During my assignment as duty general manager in charge of waste management, we were able to set up a domestic waste dump sites. Our challenge is tertiary dump sites. We have fairly good collection system, but it has not been as effective as it is supposed to be, because there is a relationship between garbage collection and good road network. If you must collect garbage mechanically or with vehicles, they must ply on roads. That is why we are embarking on taring the roads, using various segments of Aba city as pilot schemes for driving domestic waste management initiative. Also out of what we expect to take home from this trip, is to see if we can get a good waste technology partners for tertiary dump sites. Because, not until we take into demand for a domestic tertiary site, it will be difficult for us to get rid of the waste in Aba. We have done 60% of what we need to do. Consistently, we have procured 3 garbage trucks every month. We hope that in the next 100 days, we’ll be able to step up to 80 -90% from what we have now, because by that time, 14 out of the 31 roads must have been delivered. And then people will see an entirely new waste management initiative. Also if we are able to attract people with requisite waste management technology, we can be reassured that very soon Aba will become a new city.
Abia state is tagged as God’s own state, and you are the governor of God’s own state, in your outings so far, you have been noticed preaching, would it be right to tag you as God’s own governor?
It would be a privilege, an honor, in fact a virtue, it’s not a title I can own, and it’s a title I will work towards to. I wish I could be God’s own governor. And I pray he will be gracious and merciful to give me the grace to be that one day.
What is your message to the Ngwa National Association USA (NNAUSA) and to all Ngwa and Abians in diaspora?
My message is captioned in Nehemiah 2:17. We have a place; it doesn’t matter where we find ourselves. Like Queen Esther, we should not be too comfortable or confused by the trappings, pleasures and comfort of the king’s court. Despite the fact we are within the king’s court, we are not of the king’s court. The truth is that we have a place back home. I have seen some beautiful things out there, but each time it inspires me to go home and create a Little America somewhere. There is a job to be done. And I want us to go home and do our job. Imagine America of 150 years ago, it could have been like Umuoba. But Americans built America. Therefore I expect that you join us and build our place. If you don’t blow your trumpet nobody will blow it. Everybody will be busy blowing their own. Right now we should talk about our place gloriously. I had the privilege of speaking to one of the greatest inventors of our time, an Ngwa man who discovered Kazar gogle, Prof Achilihu. I was so happy to declare to everybody there that I have a bit of his DNA in my system, because he is my distant cousin as an Ngwa man. And if he can discover a gogle that can separate ordinary cell from the cancer cells by mere looking at it, then there is nothing we cannot achieve. We need the support of each other. Tell people that there is something beautiful about our place. Otherwise, we join others in the chorus and reference of seeing only in the negatives.
*Photo Caption - Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at NNAUSA 24th Annual National Convention in Connecticut USA.
[ Masterweb Reports: An Interview By Alphonsus Eze ] - Nze Emeka Umeagbalasi was former Chairman, Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and one time Vice- Chairman of the Southeast Zonal Management Committee of the organization. He is presently the Board Chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety).
Umeagbalasi, who has won several awards including from the Nigerian Red Cross and Children’s Rights Advocacy Group in the Southeast, is an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Exchange Program (IVLP) of the United States Department of State on NGO Management in USA (class of June 2013) In this interview with ALPHONSUS EZE , Umegbalasi faulted the lopsided appointments of President Mohammed Buhari, delay in appointment of members of Federal Executive Council (FEC), lack of due process in his anti-graft war among other issues. Excerpts:
How will you assess the appointments made by Buhari so far? Are they in line with the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 constitution?
The Buhari administration has made a total of 29 major appointments since 30th May, 2015 and as at 4th September, 2015, not even one of them is from the Southeast zone; thereby grossly violating Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (regional or geopolitical spread). The relevant Section provides as follows: “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity,
and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies”. Also, Section 171 (5) of the Constitution further provides as follows: “in exercising his powers of appointment under this section (Section 169 creating the Civil Service of the Federation), the President shall have regard to the Federal Character and the need to promote national unity.”
Below is the graphic and geopolitical breakdown of the 29 top presidential appointments made by the Buhari administration between 30th May and 28th August 2015:
Aide de Camp to President: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal, (Kano State, North-West). Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President: Femi Adesina, (Osun State, South-West).
Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President: Garba Shehu, (Kano State, North-West). State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters): Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, (Jigawa State, North-West). National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno (Borno State, North-East). Chief of Air Staff: Sadique Abubakar, (Bauchi State, North-East), Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC): Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu (Niger State, North-Central).
Others are: Chief of Defence Intelligence: Monday Riku Morgan (Benue State, North-Central). Director General, State Security Services, (SSS): Lawal Daura, (Katsina State, North-West). Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): Amina Zakari, (Jigawa State, North-West). Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA: Habibu Abdulahi (Kano State, North-West). Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Office: Paul Boroh, (Bayelsa State, South-South). Acting Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency, (NIMASA): Baba Haruna Jauro (Yobe State, North-East),Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission: Umaru Dambatta (Kano State, North-West).
Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS): Babatunde Fowler, (Lagos State, South-West).16. Director General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Gusau, (Zamfara State, North-West).
Secretary to the Government of the Federation: Engr. Babachir David Lawal (Adamawa State, Northeast). Chief of Staff to the President: Alhaji Abba Kyari (Borno State, Northeast), Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Service: Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd.) (Nassarawa State, North-Central). Controller General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Mr. Kure Martin Abeshi (Nassarawa State, North-Central). SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate): Senator Ita S.J. Enang (Akwa Ibom State, South-south). Group Managing Director of NNPC: Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta State, South-south). Accountant General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris (Kano State, North-West).
Chief of Defense Staff: Aboyomi Olonishakin (Ekiti State, Southwest). Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buratai (Borno State, Northeast), Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Cross River State, South-south). Head of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR): Mordacai Ledan (Kaduna State, Northwest). SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Reps): Hon. Suleiman A. Kawu (Kano State, Northwest). Director General of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON): Ahmed Lawan Kuru (Northwest).
Of the 29 presidential appointments analyzed above, the North took 22 slots and the South seven, and as it concerns the geopolitical allocation/spread, mandatorily provided in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, Northwest zone alone took twelve slots, followed by the Northeast with six, North-Central four, South-south four, Southwest three and the Southeast was left with zero slot. In the present composition of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Buhari administration, judicially, presidentially and legislatively speaking, the North controls 80%, if not more.
For instance, the following key public offices of the Federation are presently in the hands of the North: President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Comptroller General of Customs, Director-General of State Security Services (SSS), National Security Advisor, Director General of NIMASA, Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Accountant-General of the Federation, Commandant General of the Nigerian Security & Civil Defence Corps, Chief Security Officer to the President, ADC to the President,
Principal Secretary to the President, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Chairman of the EFCC, Head of Service of the Federation, Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Director General of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Chairman of National Agency for Drugs & Control (NAFDAC).
It is therefore immoral, despicable, condemnable, shameful and unconstitutional for the Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina to defend and justify the grossly lopsided and constitutionally impeachable appointments made so far by his boss. The 1999 Constitution does not give the President power to take recourse to sectional or constitutional appointments spread according to his whims and caprices or at his own convenient time. Rather, the Constitution commanded and still commands President Muhammadu Buhari, as he presently is, to adhere strictly to the federal character at all times including in his presidential policies, actions and conducts.
Besides, waiting to “balance the constitutional imbalances” during his long awaited ministerial appointments is totally deceitful and a smokescreen approach. This is because the President has totally achieved his “nothernization and sectional governance policy aims and objectives”, powered by politics of exclusion and segregation. As matter of fact, the President has cornered for his region all powerful, sensitive and juicy appointments. What are left in the form of “ministers” are “fish eaters” and not “fishermen”.
The issue of ministerial appointments has their own separate Constitutional requirements and must not be used to further confuse and mislead Nigerians. In the plain language and command of Section 147 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, “any appointment of minister under subsection 2 of this Section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of Section 14 (3) of this Constitution. Section 147 (4) further commands: “provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State”.
What of his anti-graft crusade, has Buhari been following due process?
We have come to a firm conclusion that the anti corruption policy direction of the Buhari administration is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti graft control mechanisms as clearly stated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2005 (entered into force), which Nigeria ratified on 14th December 2004.
Buhari’s anti graft policy direction is in all intents and purposes, haunted by “three terminal sicknesses of: moral burden or incompetence, selective application and misguided approach.” For the records, official or government corruption occurs when a public office holder or other government employees act reprehensively in an official capacity for personal or material gain. It is also official misuse of powers or public resources for personal gain or with criminal intent.
Though countries or States-Parties to the UNCAC Convention were allowed to use the concept of “mala prohibita corruption” (defining and criminalizing corruption according to States), but the United Nations gave 60% attention to preventive measures as the most effective modern control mechanisms. Investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and sentencing got 20% and international cooperation, technical cooperation and information exchange among Member-States got the remaining 20%. Preventive Measures include institutional reforms and institutional capacity building, overhauling of anti graft agencies and laws in accordance with international best practices, stiffening sentencing processes and categories other than death penalty; and institutionalization of probity and accountability in public governance and offices as well as effective collaborations with formidable, unbiased and non conformist civil society organizations and the media.
Most importantly, those driving the modern anti graft engines must be transparent and accountable at all times. It is a globally established fact that the modern corruption has a commander-in-chief, which is moral corruption. There are modern dimensions of corruption, which include morality corruption, legislated corruption, electoral corruption and political corruption (grand political corruption and petty political corruption).
Modern agents of corruption include fraud (criminal fraud), money laundering (including terrorist financing), bribery, criminal extortion, forgery, embezzlement, kickbacks, confidence trickery, tax evasion, tax avoidance, criminal taxation (multiple taxation and tax diversion), contract inflation and abandonment, over invoicing and false pretence. Other triggers of corruption include criminal gratification, criminal patronage, cronyism, favouritism and nepotism.
Apart from the fact that there are 22 or more anti graft agencies and criminal enactments in Nigeria, which include the EFCC Act (2004), the ICPC Act (2000), the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004, the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offenses Act (1995), the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Other Financial Malpractices in Banks Act (1994), the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act of 1991; and Miscellaneous Offenses Act, the Corrupt Proceeds and Properties’ Forfeiture Act of 1999, and the Criminal and the Penal Codes of 2004; corruption and abuse of office are also constitutionally prohibited in Nigeria in Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. Section 15 (5) of the Constitution provides as follows: “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office”.
Therefore, our submission to it is that the Buhari administration’s anti graft or corruption policy direction is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti corruption control mechanisms as hereby stated above. It is an indisputable fact that every central government in Nigeria since 1966 has laid claim to fight against corruption. As recently as late 1990s and first decade of 2000s, over $1.97Billion was recovered by the military and civilian governments of Retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan; mainly from “Abacha loots”. Their whereabouts till date are left in the hands of God knows who.
Yet, the two administrations above are still adjudged by many as “corruption friendly”. Despite pockets of defects in the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC era, it remains the best civil, institutional and procedural anti graft campaign in the history of Nigeria. The efficiency, competence and international recognition of the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC led to attraction to the Commission of millions of dollars yearly from international grant and development institutions. At a point, the EFCC possessed the capacity to operate and survive without the federal government subventions.
The EFCC suffered presidential and executive highhandedness during the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration; leading to the appointment of corruption friendly Attorney General of the Federation and another corruption friendly person as the Chairman of the EFCC. The reprehensive act was perpetrated using a questionable former governor of one of the states in the old Middle-Belt Region.
Conversely, the Buhari military’s war against indiscipline and corruption of 1984-1985 remains the most brutal, uncivil, crude and globally condemned. The president’s current approach to corruption is totally in conflict with the principles of due process and an attempt to replicate or repeat his crude approach of his military khaki days. The major reason why anti corruption policies and actions have eluded Nigeria is because of unclean hands or lack of moral uprightness of those leading the anti graft campaigns in the country. Corruption in Nigeria has now transformed into meta-impunity and immunity. In the world over, an estimated sum of $1trillion is still lost to the globe’s captains of corruption every year.
In Nigeria, Corruption through international money laundering is steadily becoming out-fashioned and corruption through criminal properties and investments is overtaking it. The number of hotels, filling stations, campus hostels, corporate properties and liquid investments springing up in choice cities of the country, is alarming and shocking.
Corruption by money laundering is now majorly carried out through purchase of shares in national and international business companies including telecommunications and oil and gas. Ten years ago, the country’s captains of corruption particularly serving and former top public office holders hardly allowed open inclusion and mentioning of their names as owners of properties publicly suspected to have been gotten or procured illicitly, but today, their names are mentioned or associated with those properties with reckless abandon.
These explain why we held that the Buhari administration lacks moral standing or uprightness to effectively fight or control corruption. By the express provision of Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari is guilty of abuse of office including his presidential sole administrator-ship of Nigeria for three months running and a legion of constitutional infractions and procedural blunders.
The grand import of this is that “corruption fought selectively and parochially” amounts to corruption fighting corruption. And it cannot stand the test of time. If the Buhari administration is serious in fighting and controlling corruption, which we seriously doubt, then it has to be total or holistic. To be able to fight and control corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Yemi Osibanjo must lead the way by first making their assets declarations public, uncorrupted and un-doctored; in addition to provision of concrete answers to those questions above. This is what we meant and still mean by those leading fight against corruption in Nigeria must fight same with clean hands.
How do you see the delay in the appointment of ministers?
This is another fundamental breach of the 1999 Constitution, particularly Section 147 of the Constitution. It also took him almost 90 days to appoint the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which is another violation of Section 171 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. He has also abused his presidential office by his sole administratorship disposition in utter violation of Section 15 (5) of the Constitution. President Buhari’s presidential office is a creation of Section 130 of the Constitution. In all, his conducts above highlighted are unknown to the 1999 Constitution and the Civil Service Rules of the Federation.
Do you believe that Buhari is taking concrete steps to improve our economy?
What is needed at this point in time is not economic achievements but forensic analysis of his economic policy direction, if any. In matters of the said policy direction in economy such as employment, no policy direction of international standard exists so far under Buhari administration. The employment growth is even going from zero to super-zero.
The latest development following the presidential suspension of the Controller General of the Immigration Service over alleged ISIS insurgency conspiracy is a clear case in point. As reported in the media, a presidential directive from the Buhari administration has been given for the ongoing recruitment training involving newly recruited Immigration cadets to be discontinued. Just last March 2014, fifteen young graduates attending the Immigration Service recruitment screening exercise died summarily and unceremoniously. Now, if those in training are sent packing, is the employment growth not dying under Buhari Presidency?
Till date, Nigeria has no modern trade and investment or industrial (development) vision. Skill acquisition policy especially for macro and micro credit facilities is nonexistent. The worst of all is that the public funds needed to turn things around are legislatively siphoned and criminally diverted by political office holders. We ask again: I ask what is the Buhari administration policy directions towards these?
In USA, for instance, importation policy is sustained despite its ability to produce and export most of what it imports in commercial quantities. USA also has crude oil discovered decades ago, yet it still imports it. It also imports textiles and electronics from Asia following high costs associated with their production in USA. This is for the enhancement of the social lives of its down-top citizens. In trade and investment, balance of trade and payment or trade surplus remain the global best practices. And these are not achieved by outright banning of importation hiding under any cover.
To fight money laundering or to get naira to appreciate against dominant foreign currencies, strategic economic policy turnaround is required. President Buhari’s current monetary policy is akin to Uganda under Idi Amin Dada, who pointed a gun on the head of his Central Bank Governor and commanded him to make his national currency thicker than that of British Pound Sterling. During the oil boom of late 70s in Nigeria, naira was strong following oil-economy growth courtesy of sharp rise in the international price of crude oil.
Today, naira has depreciated steadily losing over N40.00 to US Dollar less than three months in 2015. To make Nigeria strong and its naira internationally competitive, there is need for “economic development” or industrialization of the country’s 33 solid mineral deposits and agriculture, as well as steady advancement in science and technology including information technology. These must be propelled by purposeful and visionary political leadership, which Buhari is not providing.
What do say about security under Buhari administration?
We are yet to see President Buhari’s policy direction on security. Till date, Nigeria still operates a national policy on security adopted in 1979 under Obasanjo’s military regime. Besides, modern security is no longer rested on gun culture or AK-47 driven alone. The United Nations had in 1994 formulated the concept of Human Security, which include food security, environmental security, economic security, health security, personal security, community security and political security.
These seven dimensions of Human Security are fundamental guides for any country formulating its policy on security. For now, Nigerians are still far from being secured or feeling of being secured from want and fear. In Africa, it is only South Africa that has fully embraced the concept of Human Security. Even the insurgents he promised to wipe out so soon have been proving difficult. So far, his performance in fighting Boko Haram insurgents has not yielded any dividend.
*Photo Caption - Nze Emeka Umeagbalasi
[ Masterweb Reports: Dr. Peregrino Brimah reports ] - Towards the end of 2013 I was sensitized to the vitriolic broadcasting being done by Radio Biafra, then only online. I was first drawn by a video I saw in which Nnamdi Kanu and Arinze O. on visit to Anambra were recorded harassing northerners by Ezu River.
In January of 2014, I decided to call in to the station. Before I spoke as can be heard in the audio provided here [https://youtu.be/EbNCBllNiWM], Nnamdi Kanu declared that then president Goodluck Jonathan was an Igbo man. He claimed the entire South south as Igbo.
I introduced myself as “Smart Alex.” Interesting he did not notice this was a peeve.
At the time Nigeria was being freely decimated by Boko Haram and then president Goodluck Jonathan with his army chief General Azubuike Ihejirika were using the terror to plunder billions of dollars and dancing on our graves.
I challenged Nnamdi over what I called his hypocrisy and dishonesty. “Why do you support Jonathan and Ihejirika when they fail to deliver or move towards delivering “Biafra” your advertised objective?”
I saw Nnamdi and his Radio Biafra as merely a sponsored tool of Goodluck Jonathan or a group of wicked foreign sponsored cretins bent on supporting and sponsoring anything or person (including Boko Haram) that will kill and destroy Nigerians and Nigeria.
We recollect that in 2011, Norway terrorist and mass murderer Anders Brevik’s manifesto had stated support of a Biafra mission as part of the agenda of his extremist cult. See:
Behring Anders Breivik comments at Document.no
“Critical to multiculturalism (Anti-kulturmarxistisk) Anti-racist Pro Progress Party (maybe right) Pro Israel (+ support for Armenia, Christian Copts / Maronite / Assyriere, cultural conservative Indians, support for the establishment of a Christian state Biafra, Southern Nigeria and support to the establishment of a Christian state in Sudan, support for Russian / Thailand / Philippines / China + Fighting Jihad)”
Nnamdi who broadcast freely out of the United Kingdom, openly spewing statements of direct incitement and terror was not acting alone.
In our conversation, Nnamdi claimed that Jonathan setting up a “Sovereign National Conference” was his ticket to Nnamdi’s using Radio Biafra to openly campaign for Goodluck Jonathan to Easterners.
He failed to build a cogent case. I pointed out that Abacha and Obasanjo had in the past done the very same.
Nnamdi Kanu from my personal interaction is very dangerous young man. He built his media empire by taking advantage of the shared frustration of Nigerians, using this anger we all have (had) with our legislative and executive criminal governments to gather together and tribalize youth and manipulate them towards a way out thorough inciting terror and attempted violent secession. A boy who has openly broadcast for the murder of an Igbo chief, he is a national security threat that must be taken seriously.
The grievances of the South East must however also be taken seriously and explored for prevalence, with options of address including the possibility of referendum. We must explore if they do want something, what they want and how many people want it. We must not push perhaps legitimate concerns under the carpet.
Dr. Peregrino Brimah ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) reports.
*Photo Caption - Mr. Nnamdi Kanu
[ Masterweb Reports ] - “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”… (Mathew 15:24). Jesus words here depict a setting of priority and an awareness of Israel’s place in God’s plan of salvation. Every ministry and mission must have priorities. And Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu’s mission in Spain is not an exception. She knows where her duties lay and has a clear cut agenda. Before she came, Spain was like a dead zone and not much was heard of it. But today, the blind see, the lame walk and the dead in Spain will rise before her mission ends. And these have proved that it’s not only our own T.B Joshua that has the monopoly for miracles, even diplomats do. The African most outstanding Ambassador in Europe implements citizenship diplomacy as her utmost priority. Bianca Ojukwu has taken her crusade of citizenship diplomacy to the door steps of Nigerians in Spain. She says to them, “come let us reason together”. Of recent, she has been having town hall meetings with the Nigerian communities at various cities in Spain. The most recent are the meetings in Malaga and Sevilla where various issues affecting the Nigerian community in Spain were addressed during the interactive sessions.
“We are here to serve you and not to do you a favor”
She said that many Nigerians wallow in ignorance, as they are not well informed, and do not know what their rights, duties and obligations are. Consequent to that, they seek to obtain solutions to their problems through short cuts and wrong channels. The Ambassador gave answers to some questions on salient issues bordering Nigerians such as;
Que. Why are Nigerians asked to bring police report which after a short while the validity expires?
Ans. Police report matter remains a perennial issue. Embassy has always lodged the complaints to the Spanish government concerning obtaining police report from Nigeria instead of Spain where they live and many have not gone home for many years. The matter has been taken to foreign affairs several times. It is a constitutional and statutory issue between Nigeria and Spain and involves some rigorous process to resolve. The mission flow with the tide sometimes and cannot twist the hand of the government on certain issues. However, in view of the problems the police report imposes to Nigerians, the mission has taken a step forward to request for a certificate of good conduct as an alternative and is waiting for the approval. Also the Embassy has obtained a concession on extension of the 3 months validity date of the police report. Now, the validity date should begin by the date the Embassy stamps the document. Therefore, we appeal to Nigerians to take advantage of this concession.
Que. Why do Nigerians pay so much to obtain police report?
Ans. Police report exercise in Spain stops you from traveling to Nigeria to collect the document. In doing that, the Embassy applies for policemen from forensic department to come to Spain. Bearing in mind that most of our citizens cannot come to the Embassy in Madrid because of not having the legitimate documents to travel. To be able to do that, police sometimes stay up to 3 months in the process travelling from one region to another. The processing department has to be paid. From the police, certificate travels to interiors affairs ministry, to consulate Embassy Spain in Lagos, from there back to Spain. In addition to all other administrative costs, it is a cumbersome process. The Embassy has even asked association leaders to take up the responsibility if they can. Even at that, the cost has been reduced. And if anyone is asked to pay other than the amount approved by the Embassy by any of the associations, you should report to the Embassy.
Que. Why does Spanish police cease Nigerian passports and easily deport Nigerians. Is it a crime to have Nigerian passport?
Ans. Police has the right to detain a person’s passport while the person is been investigated. Embassy doesn’t interfere with the cause of investigations. But if that goes beyond the stipulated bounds, and is brought to the attention of the mission, we intervene. Police are trained to break the law while keeping the law. In cases of deportation, the Embassy ensures that no Nigerian citizen is unlawfully deported. There was a case where a citizen was deported, after it was brought to the attention of the Embassy, we went into action and found out that the police did not act very well, and demanded that the citizen be deported back to Spain and he was brought back. In a foreign land, it is important that citizens should be in solidarity and be there brother’s keeper. The Embassy has always encouraged our citizens out there to let us know their plights and give information about others in need of assistance. And the Embassy has made it clear that they will not take it lightly if the rights of our citizens are infringed upon.
But you notice that Nigerians are the weakest in terms of solidarity. An average Nigerian does not want a fellow Nigerian to know how he thrives. Nigerians are not together. The extent of how your problem gets solved is a function of how conscious you are. For your problem to become solved, you have to care for yourself first.
Que. Why do Nigerians find it more difficult to renew their documents?
Ans. The Embassy are doing their very best to make sure that things to a large extent are better for Nigerian citizens. To the average European, there is rampant falsification of documents by Nigerians. Documents are sent to the Embassy for verifications and authentication. And you find out that documents people are paid to forge and falsify are issued by the Embassy free of charge. We are our own worst enemies. The less falsified documents are the better for Nigerians.
Que. What is the Embassy doing to integrate Nigerians into the system?
Ans. This is a societal problem. People decided on their own to migrate to Spain for some reasons. Integration depends more on the individual. The Embassy acts as interface. Embassy showcases Nigerian culture through workshops and seminars on right of citizens. The integration an economic immigrant requires is to take what the host offers. The day to day activities lies within the individual. Citizens should engage in meaningful activities to develop themselves as to fit in the system. Take advantage of NGO’s that offer training services. Every parent should impart on children born here an identity they should own. That could be inculcated through language. Teach the children your home language and let them know that they have a place they could call their own. Time catches up fast. Give the children what your parents gave to you. And Think more of creating your own society wherever you are.
Delivering a speech which was like a gospel during the event, the Ambassador used the occasion to inform the Nigerian community of the plan to issue ID card to Nigerians in Spain for proper identification in view of the future plan for Nigerians in diaspora to vote. She said, revolution is taking place in Nigeria, and Nigerians in diaspora must be part of it by exercising their voting rights wherever they are. The purpose for issuance of ID card is to identify those who are Nigerians. She noted that many Nigerians have refused to register with their local associations. But with the issuance of the ID card which is free of charge, every Nigerian will be identified.
The Ambassador emphasized on the need for Nigerians to be their brother’s keeper and for solidarity and unity among Nigerians. She lamented that Nigerians are the weakest in terms of solidarity as they are not together as one.
“Our diversity as Nigerians should be our strength rather than weakness”
She made it clear that Mission condemns criminal acts such as 419, drugs, and prostitution. And emphasized on the need to re-orientate our youths to shun crime. She stated that as a matter of commitment, the mission is doing its best to ensure every Nigerian is protected and not molested.
Bianca drew attention to the changing trends in the world such as, the recent Xenophobia crisis, where Africans are being attacked by fellow Africans. Also stressed on the increasing wave of illegal migration. Referring to the recent tragedy on the sea between Libya and Italy, where thousands of Africans perished in the quest to cross to Europe. She minced no words to say that many were lured into this suicidal mission by people abroad who present false impressions about realities on ground.
“Give correct information of what Europe is like”
The Ambassador urged those in diaspora to join efforts with government to curb the tragic incidents of our people perishing in the bid to migrate to abroad. She also drew attention to the political situation in Nigeria. And informed that a new president elect Buhari, would be sworn in on May 29. She commended the sportsmanship of President Jonathan to concede defeat to the President elect. And enjoined Nigerians to support the incoming government of Buhari.
*Photo Caption - Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu chairing Malaga town hall meeting.
[ Masterweb Reports: Dr. James C. Agazie reports ] - My former student and I had a heated discussion over "Why are we Igbos falling behind in Nigeria?" Dr. O and I are Igbos of Anambra origin and have had the knack of bantering over the progress of our people. This time, Dr. O disputed every argument I presented since he believes Igbos in Nigeria and abroad are faring rather poorly in every aspect of human endeavor.
ME: "What of Igbo progress in education?
DR. O: "No, Igbos are making no strides. In fact, they are regressing educationally".
ME: "Don't Igbos have money?"
DR. O: "Not at all. Their money is useless without doing anything for their community. They build castles in Northern Nigeria and then are chased away while their home states remain largely undeveloped."
"What else?" I asked in desperation.
Dr. O: "Nothing else, Doc, You see, Igbos may end up being the underclass in Nigeria as they are hated by all the other tribes ".
He went on to discuss the exploding numbers of non-Igbo (Yoruba and Hausa) physicians, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, bankers, politicians, billionaires, and manufacturers scattered in Nigeria all over the world. Throwing my hands up in desperation, I asked my assailant: "Do you know that without Ndiigbo pioneers, Nigeria would not be where we now are educationally?" I repeated the question much to Dr. O's amusement. He thought I should know better than that. I am tempted to concluded that Ndigbo are falling behind because they are not interested in helping others and all this is happening while Igbos are neglecting some important personality issues that might be stunting their progress. That happens when Igbos are so busy chasing after "toro na afu" (pennies), just as the old proverb used to say "penny wise pound foolish".
Many Igbo professors I have known to be working at various American institutions of higher education have recently been dismissed before attaining tenured positions of full professorships. But there are scores of Yoruba Deans, Vice presidents, Vice Chancellors, and Provosts. I called two Yoruba men I know, a Vice President on the east coast and Associate Vice Chancellor at a large community college system on the west coast to ask "What are you doing right that the Igbos are doing wrong?" More Yoruba professors and professionals in the USA appear to be quieter, less troublesome, and get along better with spouses, colleagues, and the Americans in general. Some Igbo professionals appear to be louder, more quarrelsome and argumentative, more ostentatious, self- aggrandizing, and showy when displaying material stuffs like vehicles and houses. One Igbo Department Chairman had the habit of arguing with his university President at staff meetings until he was replaced with another mathematician. One Igbo physician had the engine of his Rolls-Royce running on display outside his office while attending to his patients. This doctor was more interested in acquiring best automobiles than in providing best patient care. He had to quit his practice in America and move to Nigeria when old patients moved away and new ones weren't forthcoming.
On US college campuses, Nigerian professors tend to look down on students, comparing them to Nigerian students they had taught much to the annoyance of faculty and staff. Though Nigerian professors are considered to be very intelligent, the Igbos tend to be held to lower esteem than the non-Igbos due to personality issues, including infighting. I saw this happen to three Igbo young men who obtained their PhD's from the same university in the same discipline and taught at the same university. They were from Enugu, Imo, and Anambra States and got on well in graduate for four years, often entertaining white faculty at their Nigerian parties to which they invited their white professors and other Nigerians. Trouble started after the Imo man graduated first and was hired as Department Chairman of a State school, and he hired the other two as Assistant Professors. The first two years of working together were fine until hell broke loose in the third year. The chairman turned autocratic, becoming openly confrontational, and being accused of bearing tales to the Dean to engineer dissent among the Department employees and have his friends fired. "Watch out," he told the Americans, "these Africans may take over the Department." He was right because the Nigerians were plotting to hire other Nigerian professors to form the majority and gain promotions and tenures through each other's recommendations A bitter war ensued, culminating in the Chairman's inability to function and eventual resignation. When I tried to mediate since I knew all three of these Igbo men, the Anambra man warned me to keep out. What happened was the Enugu professor relocated to Florida after former Chairman from Imo escaped to a quieter Texas city, leaving the lone Anambra professor to figure out the cause of bickering. I told him he was the fool and chief instigator of palaver.
Incidentally, I am tempted to initiate a blithering indictment of NdiIgbo and their leadership at home and abroad as cause of why Igbos are falling behind . Igbos do not get along in any organization. Bitter infightings are the order of the day. Petty jealousies, love of money and obsession with chieftaincy titles add up to render Ndigbo further disunited. We condemn the Igbo governors for failure to take care of the rest of us at the difficult times in our history as the Yorubas and Hausas have done for their people. We denounce Igbo parents and elders for over-emphasizing the pursuit of money over and above respect, education, and igwebuike (community unity) as instruments for Igbo nation-building. We accuse Igbo religious leadership of its unfaithfulness in abandoning their calling and prostituting (being akwunakwuna) after prosperity. We condemn Ndigbo in general for their excessive pursuit of "ebe onye si bia" (where one comes from). Ndiigbo have excessive clannishness (Abiasm, Enuguism, Imoisn, Anambraism, Ebonyism). We fault Igbo people in general for their abandonment of technical education that generates employment, and we condemn Igbos for their fixating on excessive use of defeat in Biafran War as unwarranted excuse for developing the inability to form relationships across tribal boundaries and for being lazy and remaining in deep stupor, trance, coma, daze, state of unconsciousness.
Having said this, why are Ndiigbo falling behind In Nigeria and in the United States? Are the Igbos discouraged in their circumstances? Are they brow-beaten as a result of losing the Biafran War? What is the cause of their feelings of being trapped, downtrodden, subjugated, broken, oppressed, demoralized, or exploited? Can we trace the demoralization of Ndiigbo to post traumatic syndrome (PTS) suffered from defeat, or atrocities of Biafran War? It is safe to believe the Igbos didn't suffer a defeat in war; they simply gained the opportunity to regroup, rethink, re-strategize, and return stronger and more resilient. Igbos have always bounced back. There is nothing shameful about falling down from time to time; but it is discreditable to remain on the ground after a fall. Isn't what seems to keep us Igbos down for 44 years since the Biafran War ended is that we are not united? Are we Igbos less likely to lift both ourselves and each other up after a fall? Are we carrying unnecessary baggages consisting of guilt, "mmegbu" (oppression); "anya ufu" (jealousy), "anya ukwu" (greed), and "obi –ojoo" (bitterness)?Let's look at some of our glaring problems.
In education, fewer Igbo children and adults are going to schools than they once did, than the Yorubas. More Igbos are interested in making money and dreaming of becoming billionaire Dangote or politician President Goodluck than they are in acquiring education for the love of it. More Yorubas are acquiring higher education to the PhD level than the Igbos. There are fewer Igbos in SEM (science, engineering, and mathematics) and technology (plumbing, air conditioning, airplane mechanic, etc) than there are in the other Nigerian tribes. In employment, more Igbos are unemployed and unemployable than the other tribes because Igbo employers are quite unwilling to employ other Igbos, and when they do employ, their Igbo employees would be robbing the business owner or doing their own businesses within the master's business.
Do the Igbos get along? No. Igbo States are more likely to be hot-beds (or boiling pots)of dissent, with strings of Ngiges, Ubas, and Rochas, Chimes vying for power in the midst of "esem okwu" (troubles). If you are Igbo Nigerian running for dear life from boko-controlled North, you are more likely to be denied employment in Igboland and asked to go to your state of origin than if you ran to Yorubaland. You are more likely to be robbed, kidnapped, or even killed if you venture into Igbo majority places than if you seek refuge in Igbo minority areas. If you were one of the 72 destitute Igbos in Lagos that Governor babbatunde Fashola deported to Onitsha bridge, other Igbos would most likely ignore you and not come to your aid, or you might end up being a bloated corpse floating in Ezu River. Self hatred, hatred of others and wickedness seem to be the hallmarks of the tribe Hausas refer to as Anyamiris. Igbos are drinking large quantities of Star lager, Heinekens, Extra Stout, palm wine, and burukutu to self-medicate. Igbo men are developing large onyeagba pot bellies that make men appear to be pregnant. More breweries are being built in Igboland and Ndigbo are likely to deaden their frustration through becoming alcoholics rather than they are to nourish their bodies with proper diets and exercise.
No one can compellingly argue against the fact that Ndigbo of Nigeria are a force to be reckoned with. Though Ndiigbo did amazing exploits before Nigeria became the Nigeria it is today, long before the granting of self-governing in 1960, today's Igbos are now as dormant as inactive volcanoes under the seas. Though Ndigbo did achieve tremendous, "forward ever" strides during the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's, the happenings among today's Igbos reflect "backward ever" syndrome. Think of the schools and cathedrals the Igbo did construct throughout Nigeria. Do you remember how Igbos provided the early manpower Nigeria needed as she marched towards sovereignty; the teachers, merchants, administrators, health workers, and miners? And if you add the fact that the Igbos have always loved education and are skilled in the accumulation of wealth, you'll begin to appreciate these people's indomitable spirit and adventurism. Indefatigability seems to be a better choice of words. To be indefatigable is to be incapable of being tired out; to be tireless, unflagging, unrelenting, unfaltering, remorseless, tenacious, resolute, inexorable Isn't it true that, all things being equal, some animals are more equal than their neighbors? It seems the Igbos are steadily becoming less equal in a country of 170 million souls.
Money alone cannot give Ndiigbo needed predominance. The question is : how much of Nigeria's money is controlled by Ndigbo? Let's say Igbos control over N930 trillion. A trillion (or a million million) is 1 followed by 12 zeros. A trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 to be exact. It's fair to wager that Nigeria would not be Nigeria without "ego Ndigbo" (Igbo wealth). My former student Dr. O wasn't impressed when I attempted to amaze him with a breathtaking estimate of Igbo wealth from the internet; it fell off his brain like water rolls off the back of a thickly feathered duck. Igbo investments are" hugomongous": not less than N600 trillion in Abuja; N10 trillion in Kano and Kaduna each; N5 trillion in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States each; N15 trillion in Plateau State; and there is no Nigerian state where Igbo investments do not exceed 5trillion.
Read: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/07/the-igbos-have-more-at-stake-in-nigeria It is said that no Nigerian State or town can survive without Igbo economic contribution. What does it mean in terms of nsopulu (respect) and ako na uche (commonsense)?
Granted Igbos have so much Naira it comes out of their ears and mouths. The question is: what have they done with all that money? Economic power without political power to accompany it is as good as soup without salt. In conclusion, in order to overcome feelings of marginalization or of falling behind the Ndigbo must prioritize goals in the order of significance. Time is running out. School should take greater priority in Ndiigbo scheme of things than emphasis primarily on trading and acquiring naked cash. Child development should include training in self-respect, respect of others, working in unity, humility, honesty, and unselfishness. Education should focus on scientific and technical education aimed at full employment of the youth. Strengthening Igbo families would have the advantages of preventing crimes and violence as well as creating a secure environment.
Dr. James C. Agazie ( Email: email@example.com ), retired college Professor with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics reports.
*Photo Caption - Map of Igboland
[ Masterweb Reports: Interview by Philip Probity, Raima Khan & Babaji Halilu ] - Preamble: In our discussion with Dr Kusum Gopal, who has served as an UN Expert and is also a Technical Expert on governance and conflict had stressed on the extreme urgency-- for the Government of Nigeria at all levels to act with immediacy to implement inclusive measures towards providing citizenship, guaranteeing social security and civic facilities in all regions to redress the extreme poverty, built in-injustices and the recurring violence of vigilantism. She observed also that the military action by troops and air strikes without these curative measures have fuelled further carnage, alienating citizens and spreading into neighbouring regions involving armies and civilian populations for example, Niger and Chad. ISIL, Racism were also addressed: see below for some excerpts from our interview in Kathmandu.
Q: The massacres by the Boko Haram have increased tenfold, and now they are pledging obedience to the ISIL! What is the way forward?
Unless we understand the ‘why’ question, that is undertake a holistic analysis, evaluating lessons learned, persistent failures will continue to result. We are confronted by profound ethical dilemmas intensified in recent months by the appalling bestiality of ISIS, Prophets of Un-Truth, whom even influential leaders within Al Qaeda’s splintered factions have scathingly denounced, cautioning their brethren to distance themselves from its Pulpit. We cannot engage international blue prints or Road Maps, it has to be region specific.
Yes, their leader Mr Abubakr Sekhou has avowed allegiance to the leader of ISIS dazzled by the prospect of the Caliphate. But the Boko Haram and groups or individuals claiming to be operating under its banner, it must be emphasised are manifestations of wider culture, home-grown vigilantism specific to Nigeria. We know why the Boko Haram has been able to strike successfully—it is not so much fragility of the Nigerian state as it is in its hesitation to introduce reforms -- The true test of "good" governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The key question is: are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security? Nigeria has the wealth and resources to help all Nigerians and thus vanquish the Boko Haram and other vigilante groups.
In sharp contrast, the western initiatives for regime change, extraneous help in the removal of powerful dictatorships, for example of Mr Saddam Hussein and Col Gaddafi has dismantled the administrative and military apparatuses which had sealed the borders, kept the populations united and controlled these regions for over half a century, naturally with calamitous consequences. Thus, ISIL has emerged in the wake of the occupation and regime change; it simply could not have happened or grown as it has otherwise. Alarming as it is to witness such bonds of allegiance proclaimed across vast swathes of territory by armies and militias that have no regard for the sanctity of human life, or humanity, its ties with the Boko Haram cannot but be tenuous.
Q; Could you explain how ISIS has come to be?
ISIL or ISIS as it is now called– ‘Islamic’State of the Levant came into existence in early 2003 -04, as Jamaat al Tawhid wa al-Jihad or IS after which Zarqawi the erstwhile leader pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda --its name changed to Tanzim-e-Qiadat al-Jihad fi Bilal al-Rafidayn. It was formed from the Iraqi Sunni groups Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Army fighting the Occupation under the leadership of Abu Masab al Zarqawi .Comprised in part of Saddam’s former soldiers with disparate groups of volunteers and mercenaries-- committed ‘soldiers of faith, well-armed with captured high- tech military equipment left behind by the US army for the Iraqi army. The military equipment captured by the ISIL fighters is reported to include AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles, MI6 rifles, M4 carbines, M203 grenade launchers, M60 and 240 machine guns, RPGs, surface to air stinger missiles, MI98 Howitzer artillery guns, Ack Ack guns, SP guns, scud missiles, T-55 and T-72 tanks, AMZ Dziks, MT-LB, Humvies, Helicopters, MII3 APCs, recovery vehicles. Indeed, substantial currency conservatively estimated to be in possession of over $2 billion was seized from Mosul, and their coffers are growing. Since 2010 Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has been in-charge and declared himself the Caliph Ibrahim in an attempt to hark back to the times of the Caliphate.With oil fields under their control, the Peshmerga and other armies are being overcome. Many groups of committed fighters comprise ISIL such as Jaish al-Fateheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansarul Tauhid wal Sunnah and Jaish al Taifa al-Mansoora regard themselves as mujahedeen reminiscent of the Afghan mujahedeen fighting to liberate their peoples and land of’ all infidels’ as they put it – however, they are in truth, alienating the vast majority of their own people.
And, now with all these armies on the rampage we witness genocides in that ancient cultural terrain, the cradle of human civilisation despairing each day at the bestiality towards fellow human beings as we also witness the destruction of sacred archaeological sites. To cite a few: bombing of the holiest Shia shrine the tomb of Imam Hassan al-Askari in Samarra in 2006 and since then, destroying the holy shrine of Prophet Yunus, the Nabi Shees shrine in Mosul with dynamite, Nimrud . Such developments and the Occupation forced Shi’ia armies to be formed along with Sunni armies, and revered leaders such as Moqtada Al- Sadr have given a call to arms in self-defence. Further, on the ISIS list are Najaf and Karbala. It is extremely disturbing and, they must be stopped, sectarian conflicts have engulfed this region in flames.
It must be emphasised that these are new happenings. It is significant that the Levant experienced the benevolence of the Ottomans who governed successfully for over six hundred years, allowing freedoms of worship and conviviality: minorities of all descriptions lived together. Ottoman Sultans were Sunnis and built Shi’ia mosques, by and large permitting freedom of religious practice, allowed funds for churches and synagogues. Unbeknownst to most people is that until Islam had a well-defined Church and State (politics and religion) divide, much more so than Christianity. As theologians enlighten us, under the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Safavids as also other contemporary rulers– while the Badshah or the Caliph were seen to be imbued with divine writ for legitimacy, they did not legislate or control over religion and its practice, they did not give sermons on it either. Religion had no formal control over them and none of their subjects expected them to pontificate on spiritual matters. Islamic traditions during the medieval times, indeed until the Ottoman empire was desecrated, it maintained a palpable distinction between the civic/administration and religious matters—contributing to the success and enrichment of the Empire. The Caliphate commanded considerable support and respect, it also knitted together not just Sunni and Shi’ia but also minorities, Kurds, Druze, Coptics and so forth, employing special efforts to accommodate various, diverse cultures. In the Indian Subcontinent –an important pre-Partition agitation was the Khilafat movement supporting the Caliph in the 1920s; it was a people’s movement – all faiths. Islamic scholars and theologians also point out that the present fundamentalism is new and has garnered support because of the vacuum created by what they perceive to be the corruption and greed in their countries , which includes pre-revolutionary Iran. Arab cultures are extremely hospitable, egalitarian, democratic, indeed, tolerant since earliest times. While Jews were being persecuted in Europe for several hundred centuries in the Levant, they were treated as equals and occupied important posts: these cultures do not need to be taught democracy, it is embedded in their lifestyles. In sharp contrast, despite the immeasurably rich contributions, indeed assimilation by Jewish peoples to European civilisations and culture, they were deprecated and always made aware of their unequal status, their separateness. Not only the interpretations from religious texts including the New Testament condemned them, but nearly all European rulers passed Edicts and other laws to banish those of Jewish faith from their kingdoms or forced them to convert despite the immeasurably rich contributions they had made in various spheres of human endeavour. These discriminations has not ended as anti-Semitism is not subterranean in Europe despite the Holocaust! European nations indeed, the MENA region would benefit from learning from Ottoman wisdom: there is need to resuscitate these traditions of governance. It is only by embracing ancient wisdoms with inclusive forms of governance: these Prophets of un-truth can be vanquished.
To my mind, the Sykes-Picot lines destroyed the heimat in this terrain, trapping them into narrow ways of thinking by separating them from familiar taken-for granted habitats; it prevented natural, unconscious flowering of these cultures. Nation states were carved out without local involvement unlike as in Europe where various countries happened by naturally detaching themselves gradually over three hundred years. And, indeed, this is to my mind the roots of the angst, raison d’être of the present conflict. Brutal dictatorships which overthrew monarchies set up during the Mandates came into being such as that of Saddam Hussein who deemed the only way to govern was to annihilate all opposition. Further disquiet has been triggered by the punishing embargo which caused civilian populations to suffer, followed by the Gulf War and then, regime change: all this adding to the tensions simmering underneath for almost a century. These armies are being funded generously be they governments/ others: it is these funding interests who must reflect on the horrific slaughter of human lives and genocides to decide firmly on a peace plan. To solve these problems we need to weigh these tensions to establish forms of governance that would appeal to the people. Perhaps learned, religious representatives meet and decide with respected community representatives, and religious leaders, Sunni and Shi’ia leaders to come forth with a proposal to end this carnage.
Q: You say there needs to be greater reflection on the Sykes-Picot agreement. Can you elaborate on its connection with ISIL?
Although it happened almost a hundred years ago, these are moral fault lines, harbingers of human tragedies. The Sykes-Picot agreement sought to partition the Empire even before its demise, capriciously– the French and the British secretly drew lines: it was not done with the consultation of the peoples or their learned men. For example, the Mandates French in Lebanon and the British in Iraq carved out geographically were masks for colonialism—all the previous laws were declared null and void; the promulgated new utilitarian laws transplanted in this syncretised terrain became the source of divisiveness between Arabs, between Arabs and Turks, others. Indeed, separating peoples who were once united in conviviality and sociality; living in vilayats and sanjuqs had encouraged a freedom of expression and movement. For example, if one studies the Document, there appears to be no respect for the people nor any attempt to understand their heritage, habitats, their cultures. To illustrate: At a Downing Street meeting of 16 December 1915 Mark Sykes had declared "I should like to draw a line from the e in Acre to the last k in Kirkuk." Naturally only strong arm tactics and brutal regimes had to come into being –as traditional forms of governance were submerged. And, ill-advised events of the last century, indeed the present are a testimony to this ‘meddling’; it has now boiled over. The influence of ISIL cannot be underestimated - Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq have been overrun and the lines that divided these regions have been declared null and void. Unsurprisingly, In a video titled ‘End of the Sykes-Picot’ an ISIS spokesman noted: “This is not the first border we will break, we will break other borders"; Pointedly, their leader, Dr Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in July 2014, "this blessed advance will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes-Picot conspiracy. What is extremely worrying is their motto to remain and to expand-- Bāqiyah wa-rg –-they have disciplined armies, funds and administrative apparatus in place.
The ISIS proclamation of a new Caliphate under Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is a dangerous one, justifying their brutal actions as harkening back to what they interpret to be the time of the Prophet. It has attracted support, all age groups, both idealistic and disaffected- the deep-rooted desire for the Caliphate that all disparate groups and individuals, some as young as 15 years to travel, to serve to obey, an allegiance that cannot be broken, as sacrifice and faith motivate these people. And, the Prophets of Un-truth preaching an interpretation of Islam that has no resemblance to the Holy Qur’an. However, the majority of religious leaders, Muslims and non-Muslims are unequivocal in recognising that their promulgations and actions bear very little resemblance in spirit or in thought to what is in the Holy Qur’an, if anything it is a travesty, in contempt of the basic tenets of Islamic teachings.
Q: Could you explain further?
I am not an expert of Islam or an authority on fiqh, jurisprudence, but it is generally known that taking a life is not sanctioned, indeed, innocent lives cannot be simply taken be they Muslim or non-Muslim, And, as a scholar has noted, Anas bin Malik, Allah's Apostle stated:"O Abu Hamza! What makes the life and property of a person sacred?" He replied, "Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have." ISIS cannot be understood in the context of Islam but rather as an appalling aberration, in part a consequence of the pernicious colonial legacies, replaced by violent regimes in these regions-- its peoples have been forced to persevere with since the last century. Driven by deep rage, the immeasurable cruelty and bestial behaviour in violation of the codes of war is being reported each day-be it the beheading of Kurds, Syrians by ISIS or the revenge torture of ISIS by these armies- they are using chemical weapons. The worst affected are the civilian populations-- women and children, and certainly, minorities in these regions: to the ISIS and, to the Boko Haram they remain expendable. We now have to contend with fragmented armies indeed, militias fighting each other amidst populations of displaced civilians – a significant proportion who cannot abide by the ISIS: among them are not just religious minorities, such as the Yazidis and Shi’ias but also Sunnis. For example, in Samarra, Sunni Ulemas and Sunni groups who refused to pledge allegiance to the Caliph were murdered brutally in July 2014 and, all opposing them continue to suffer the same fate.
Q: Western military Intervention has led to mixed reactions. Is it the only solution?
It cannot be a solution. Top army generals and commanders have stated unequivocally that continued military assaults cannot guarantee success. And, more recently, Mr Prescott, the former British Deputy PM has accused Mr Blair for the radicalisation of British Muslims by waging what he described as “bloody crusades”. He is not completely wrong as there is so much anger within Europe’s minorities who grow up feeling discriminated and bullied: racism at home needs to be addressed more effectively, more inclusively.
There also exists at another level, a phenomenal mendacity, indeed, irresponsibility: an enduring unwillingness to reflect on the past hundred years of meddling. One such consequence was the destruction of the Ottoman polity- there is a German word, totschweigen, wilful denial, by an ignoring silence. We must resuscitate traditions that remain submerged specific to this region they have symbolic power and emotional appeal whereby diverse communities lived together in relative harmony: no local community exercised sovereignty over any other. Euro-American governments are able to acknowledge why but policies need to be put into place: only then we can defeat these groups be they armies or militias with ease! There needs to be more research on the politics of oil and its impact on developments since the 1920’s, as also translations need of important texts need to be re-evaluated by scholars; begin inter-faith discussions.
Q: Finally, shall we discuss race and racism?
In India there is so much discrimination also and attacks on Africans, white Europeans are not attacked! What can be done?
Racism needs to be acknowledged as a pandemic—these erroneous beliefs which wound the human spirit and humanity. In the Indian Subcontinent, we need to educate people about race. Indeed, even in Africa there is racial discrimination and there appears to be a gauge about various shades of blackness! Indeed, in India there is a very powerful misconception in India about race – indeed, these erroneous theories about Aryan invasion and about south Indians being Dravidians. The term Dravidian was conjured by Henry Caldwell a rather incompetent administrator and crept into official and thenceforth academic discourse—without being questioned! Race and colour theories emerged with European colonisers specifically German Max Mueller and British governance informed by HH Risley. A scale was drawn and anthropometric measurements undertaken to grade populations—those that were lighter skinned were deemed to be of a different race to those darker—Indeed as Frawley has demonstrated, "For example, Arya was a term of respect and not about ethnicity: it was invented as a race. There was no Aryan invasion of India and there is no divide between the north and the south—people interacted, migrations and intermarriages was extensive. We still rely on colonial translations . Translators require not just grammatical understandings but deep knowledge of the culture and metaphors- so much of colonial and post colonial published texts fall short of these requirements. Whether they are inadequate translations of Sanskrit, Arabic or indeed, Persian texts, they remain suspect. Fresh scholarship is required to reclaim history and current comprehensions re-examined.
Unconsciously people at large remain deeply ignorant and are informed by colonial ways of thinking; they measure themselves and others that way-- it is deep rooted ignorance and only education from the earliest levels can eliminate such prejudices fostered by racial profiling. The rather revolting advertisements on TV must end and actors endorsing such products need to be chastised!
We must reiterate that race constructions or tribe constructions did not originate from the existence of 'races' or tribes. It was created through European colonialism which institutionalised processes of social division into arbitrary categories fixing racial profiles independent of people’s somatic, cultural, religious belief systems. Applying the Stammbäume (charting family trees) model (not as used by Darwin) to grade levels, how superior to inferior races were governed by selection, regardless of historical evidence, reciprocal influences between scientific thought and species discusses how orders and levels came to represent an ascending staircase of social-cultural evolution, all non Europeans natives occupying the lowest rungs graded by skin colour. Certainly this ludicrous evolutionary scheme has been discarded since ---the entire race grading of people is indeed, unscientific and fallacious. We have to reject outright colonial anthropometry ---the cephalic index, the bigonial diameter, the bizygomatic diameter as indeed, all the rest. At any rate, there has always been so much interbreeding between human populations that it would be meaningless to talk of fixed boundaries between races in most parts of the world. Also, the distribution of hereditary physical traits does not follow clear boundaries. In other words, there is often greater variation within a region or groups than there is systematic variation between two geographically apart regions. Institutionalising such thinking has led to the hardening of inward-looking attitudes which formed the basis of classifications leading to continuous wrangling, and prejudice.
Whatever our colour, religion, language, status, indeed gender, the Indian Constitution states we are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. Indeed, we know these rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. And, in India given the ancient wisdom which fostered our diversity—we have eight hundred and sixty or so languages (including dialects), accompanied by different cuisines and attire, it should be possible to correct colonial ways of thinking. Indeed there is no such thing as race just to celebrate the human race by being humanitarian in our actions.
Thank you very much Dr Gopal.
Above interview of Dr. Kusum Gopal by Philip Probity, Raima Khan & Babaji Halilu.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Uchendu Precious Onuoha, Masterweb Special Correspondent reports ] - The story of Helen Mukoro, the Nigerian born Spanish lawyer, politician and writer fits in as the stone the master builders rejected which became the chief corner stone of the building. The same place she was rejected and thrown out due to the color of her skin has equally turned out to be a place she has gained acceptance and is in the path of making history to become the first Afro-Spanish mayor in the kingdom of Spain. And the first Afro-Spanish to form and float an approved and registered political party, Union De Todos, in Spain. A country where Africans don’t have a voice.
But for Helen Mukoro, she has chosen to tread a path where even the Angels are afraid to walk. According to Shakespeare; “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves, that we are underlings”. Helen Mukoro has caught the fire of the wheel set in motion by Obama for other Africans who aspire to follow in his footsteps to stay the course, light a star, and change the world wherever you are. She is daring, learned, intelligent, dynamic, versatile full of gait and energy, and has a sharp grasp of issues. Helen is on news in the Spanish media, and the Spanish press is going after her to have a clue of the black woman who has become the rave of the moment in Spain. Below is an interview she granted to our foreign correspondent in Spain.
Could You Please Tell Us About Yourself?
Helen Mukoro is my name. A Spanish Legal Consultant, Writer, Forensic Expert and Politician. I was born in Delta state, Nigeria to Mr. Anthony Mukoro (the late Director General of the Defunct Bendel state Government Treasury’s Cash Office, and Mrs. Mary Mukoro and Apkomudjere (a retired Civil Servant Governor’s Office, Delta State, Nigeria). A niece to Dr. A.G Onokhoraye (ex -Vice Chancellor of University of Benin. A step daughter to Hon. Justice Emmanuel Akpomudjere (the late Chief Judge of Delta State, Nigeria). I attended College of Agriculture, Anwai, Delta State, Nigeria, where I obtained a Diploma Certificate in Agriculture. And Left the shores of Nigeria to Spain in 1992.
Studied Law at the Spanish National University Alicante, and holds a Master degree in Criminology. Masters degree in Social Education, a Post Graduate Certificate in Tax and Labor Management, a Post Graduate Certificate in Forensic Psychology, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Immigration and Domestic Violence. Worked as a legal Consultant (immigration department) at the Red Cross Society, Spain. Owner of a legal firm. President at the African Europe Chamber of Commerce. And founder of the party, Union De Todos, Spain.
Why Did You Decide To Go Into Politics?
I went into politics because; we have to become more involved in decisions that affect us as citizens. And we have an obligation to ensure the legacy we leave to future generations: Politicians, we all are. I saw the need to go into politics as a means to making our own explanation of political leadership that suits the interest of the people and is ready to listen and care for the needs of its constituents.
You Are The Founder And Leader Of The Party, UNION DE TODOS, When Did This Party Come Into Existence?
Yes, I am the founder and leader of the Party, UNION DE TODOS, which means in English, We All Together, or Together We can. This is a new Political party in Spain that was born in 2014.
As An Afro Spanish, How Were You Able To Gain Acceptance Into The Spanish Society?
When you talk about being accepted, it is said that “when you are in Rome, live like the Romans” Being accepted in Spain is for you to know how to live in Spain. You don’t go and stand on the road naked, and you expect people to accept you, or you go and do drugs, and you want people to accept you. Another factor is Education, 90% of African community in Spain don’t have basic Education. All these have to do with knowing how to live. I know where to go, when to go, and whom to go with and stay out of crime. By that way I was able to integrate and gain acceptance.
You Are Running For The Mayor Of Denia- Alicante, What Motivated You To Go For That?
Denia- Alicante is a very beautiful place with about 45,000 inhabitants. What motivated me to run for the seat of Mayor of Denia is the situation Spain is now. It is even enough to make a dead man to wake up and say, I am back to my feet again. The Politicians that ruled between the past 8-10 years did more harm than good. There was corruption, and a lot of things went wrong. People could not afford to pay for their basic needs, not that the country is poor, but because money is being taken away. Spain is no longer that super country that used to be everybody’s dream. I felt that, Spain has to come back to be what it used to be, Spain has to stand on its feet, Spain is not a lazy country, Spain is not a doomed country.
How Is Your Popularity And Candidacy Among African Immigrants And Spanish People?
I start with the Spanish, because in my city Denia, we have just a few Africans. The Spanish knows about us. The Media has given us a very good coverage. The power of the Media, that’s where the campaign is. Because it’s an advanced country, they like information, they love to buy newspapers before they buy bread because they want to know what is happening. We have been on the news, everywhere I go on the street, I hear Mayor, Mayor, and the tide is high.
What Support And Assistance Do You Need To Actualize Your Dream?
What we need at this moment is that, the Nigeria and African Governments should come forth and support us morally and financially, because if it happens we win, not just me, it’s a victory for Africa. I am the first to found a political party here, and heading for the Mayor of my city, tomorrow it will no longer be news. As the first, let it not be the last, let it be the beginning and not the ending. That is the reason I need to break the ice, and now the ice has been broken, and they need this push. My aim is that, in a few months and years from now, you begin to see a lot of candidates from Nigeria and Africa all over the place. Therefore, I call upon all Africans in Spain to go for the same party and start using the name of the party to aspire for any level wherever they live, if they decide and like what we do. Because the victory will be a history that will never be erased. They can say that Nigeria is the first country to produce a black leader in Spain. That will be a pride to Nigeria and Africa. If we get there, Nigeria and Africans in Spain will begin to be respected in a different dimension.
Nigerians And Africans Don’t Have a Voice In Spain, How Will Your Party Help Africans To Gain Recognition?
I have begin to notice that the group of Africans, and Nigerians coming into Spain lately are different from the first group of people that came to Europe earlier, the Nigerians that migrated first to Italy and Europe spoiled their names everywhere. There is a different group of people coming in now, those that have the value for Education, a lot of them starting churches etc. When the people see these things, gradually, it makes their mentality and concept to change as they begin to see that they are organized towards positive things. If we win, I will convey to the National Government that the Universities here should be bi-lingual, because the language is a barrier that prevents African immigrants to acquire University Education as it is in United States of America and Great Britain. Also, I will ask that Africans should be given bursary and in addition, finance their housing facilities as rents are high and it is difficult for African students to meet up with the high cost of accommodation during the cause of their studies, because I believe that the best way to integrate into a society and gain acceptance is through Education.
You Are Multi-talented, Lawyer, Politician, Writer, And I can Say, You Are, a Child Of The Universe, Please Tell Us About Your Forays Into Writing?
I crawled into writing because of what happened to me, which made me feel, it is good to write to keep records, create awareness, and write for people to know their rights. I have launched into world history with these books: ‘The Case That Bruised My Heart, Eight Thousand Miles, A City Of Two Umbrellas, Another Will Open, Make Wealth Everywhere, The Reward Of A Good Man, What Good Is Happiness, High Level Of Effectiveness, Leadership, A Thorn Rose, and ‘In A Closed Business Growth.
*Photo Caption - Helen Mukoro
[ Masterweb Reports ] - In March 2014, Prophet T.B. Joshua granted a rare interview to Nigeria’s New Telegraph newspaper in which he made several revealing statements concerning the February 2015 elections. With the date of elections steadily drawing closer and tensions arising around the nation, the clerics words appear even more pertinent now than they did nine months ago.
Here is the transcript of the interview:
General Overseer of The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet T B Joshua, warns politicians not to derail the nation’s democracy. He spoke with TAI ANYANWU.
There are so many troubles in Nigeria today - problems of insecurity, threats to national unity, political manoeuvrings by rival political parties. What are your comments concerning these troubled times in the country?
It is a normal thing for a country that has a bright future, God’s promise. A bright future always attracts persecution, condemnation and enemies who realise that the future is bright - you see a lot of pressure and threats. The country is on the path to greatness; it will compete with any Western nation in the future and the Western nations know that Nigeria is going to be a giant. That is why there support in these trying times is needed. There is no country that has not passed through this.
All the countries that have become great today all passed through turbulence that nearly consumed them. How we manage the situation matters. If we don’t manage it well, we will not witness the greatness. It is not that the greatness would not come but that would not be for our generation. The greatness will still come but for the coming generation.
With the turbulence being experienced in some states of the federation and the election around the corner next year, how do you think this will play out?
Elections will not happen in some states because of the frequent attacks. This could affect between three to four states. The states would be a no-go area due to violence and elections would not take place in those states unless we move closer to God. We must intensify our prayers. This is what God has showed me and you can imagine what would happen if elections don’t hold in those states. It would have a great implication for our democracy.
How should we manage it?
We should not allow the politicians to politicise all the areas of our lives. For example if you want to enjoy anything, you have to be part of their party. For example, unless you are part of their party, you cannot benefit from things that should be available to you as a citizen. Look at electricity, health etc - they have politicised everything. Religion has been politicised. Even Christianity has been politicised. They go to church; the pulpit is where they campaign now.
Now they go to churches and mosques to bomb them. These are people in church who had gone to pray for themselves. Must everybody become a politician? How we handle the situation at hand now matters. If the situation is not well managed, we will find ourselves postponing the great Nigeria. In other words, we would not witness it but it would be witnessed by our children.
Don’t let us politicise every area of our lives. Let us carefully play our politics with keen decency because 2015 matters in the history of Nigeria. It is either we cross the bridge successfully or it collapses. A good Nigerian that wants this greatness should be able to pay whatever proper price that is needed to be paid to make this dream of a great Nigeria possible. If your being in politics will make this greatness come, then join. From now to 2015 is a very important period in the history of Nigeria and if we don’t manage the situation well, our democracy would be rubbished.
What do you mean by 'our democracy would be rubbished'?
A situation where there would be lawlessness in the sense that the law would not be capable of guiding us because of the pros (for) and cons (against) as contained in the law. That would now take so much time which would lead Nigeria to a discussion table. Where would you and I be at that time?
What can you say about APC and PDP?
In body we can call it APC and PDP but in spirit, they are one and the same thing. I am yet to see the difference. I am looking forward to seeing the difference.
With the situation in the country today and the agitation on 2015, what advice do you have for politicians not to create more tension in the polity and what is the way out?
The advice - many of us need to leave politics while many others need to join in order to inject fresh blood. The people that need to leave politics are not the common people. This is in order to avert the disaster that could rubbish our democracy.
*Photo Caption - T. B. Joshua