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Monday, 28 November 2016

THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT CRIES FOR JUSTICE IN NIGERIA

Often, many people have wondered what is the cause of the trouble with Nigeria. And many have come up with several reasons why we are where we are. Why we seem to move one step forward and two steps backwards. Why a country with so much wealth and talent will house one of the greatest numbers of poor people in Nigeria. Why a country born with so much hope in 1960 is unable to achieve adulthood in 2016. Last week on this page I had indicated that about 50% of Nigerians are classified as miserable by the World and 68% are regarded as operating below the poverty line. The distinguished Chinua  Achebe wrote a book with the title: "The trouble with Nigeria " where he also identified many of the issues but concluded that the central problem with Nigeria is poor leadership.

Professor Chinua Achebe was right that Nigeria's critical challenge is leadership. So also are the other Nigerians who have proffered other reasons why things are not working the way they should in Nigeria. Some have blamed our problems on the petroleum curse, others on tribalism, yet some others on corruption.But when we carefully interrogate these issues, something fundamental seems to be at play here. First, most Nigerians who are old enough agree that Nigeria between 1960-1965 was the kind of Country they like to live in. The Leaders were responsible and till date, they are regarded as the best we ever had. In all parameters of measuring growth and development, Nigeria was ahead of the curve. Nigerians lived and did business in every part of the Country and felt at home. The Country was respected all over the World, regarded as the rising star of Africa. Our Agriculture was world class prompting Malaysia to come and borrow our Palm oil tree which has helped that Country catapult into the World leading producer and exporter of Palm oil and its derivates over many years now, while Nigeria is currently unable to satisfy domestic need.  Our educational system attracted students from other parts of Africa. Our few Universities were some of the best in the World. Our rudimentary health system functioned well and Nigeria enjoyed peace in almost every part of the Country.

Then we began to shed innocent blood and the centre began to give way. The Jan 15th coupists  set the ball rolling and then the July 29th counter- coupists took it to a higher level, then the progrom directed against the Igbo, during which the stomachs of innocent pregnant women were ripped open. Then for nearly 3 years, over two million Igbo were killed and some murdered as the Nigerian state used every means including Strafing of Innocent women and children in market squares with Airforce jets and starvation to force Biafra back to Nigeria.

Since the Nigeria-Biafra War ended,the blood of innocent Nigerians have been shed  ceaselessly by state and non state actors. The blood of the innocent in Odi Bayela State and Zaki Ibiam in Benue State shed by agents of the Federal government stand out as sour thumps. Then the carnage Firstly on Christians and subsequently on all( Christians,Muslims & Animists) by the Boko Haram terrorists in the North of Nigeria deepened the ocean of the blood of innocent Nigerians before the militant Fulani herdsmen caused it to overflow mostly in the middle belt and South East Nigeria.

But when it comes to unconscionable state murder of innocent Nigerians, the report I read last week and the Videos I watched, released by the Amnesty International( AI) about the cold-blooded murder of unarmed young Igbo youths under the auspices of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra( IPOB)who were either peacefully protesting or praying for the release of their imprisoned leader by the military in Onitsha and Aba reaches a heart-wrenching low point in this satanic inspired shedding of innocent blood in Nigeria.

According to AI in a report it released last Wednesday, after analyzing 87 Videos, 122 photographs and 146 eyewitness testimonies, relating to demonstrations and other gatherings between August 2015 and August 2016 confirmed that the military fired live ammunition with little or no warning to disperse the crowd of IPOB members. AI claimed in the report that it also found evidence of mass extra-judicial executions by security forces. It concluded that not less than 150 pro- Biafra activists were killed by security agencies especially the military between August 2015 and August 2016.

Why the military will prefer to use the ammunition bought with the tax paid by citizens to murder unarmed citizens just because they were expressing their views in a democratic Nation, instead of using the same ammunition to fight the illegally armed and violent Boko Haram insurgents, the illegally armed Fulani Herdsmen,  armed robbers and kidnappers who have made living in Nigeria today, such a perilous experience baffles me. And since the federal government seems not to be taking any action on this and such earlier extrajudicial killings of the unarmed and innocent in Nigeria, it may be assumed that the government does not have a full understanding of the impact and consequences of this rampant and unjustified murder of the innocent.

 If investments and Foreign exchange are not flowing into the Country as we would wish, if we are slipping from recession to depression, if our Nation is not respected as we expect, may be I should remind the government that the World is watching and reading reports like this recent AI report. But this is small matter when we consider the spiritual implications of continuously shedding the blood of innocent citizens. I wish that the people who govern this nation understand that the blood of the innocent cry everyday for Justice like the blood of Abel. If they did, they would halt this dastardly exercise immediately, bring the perpetrators to Justice speedily and get the likes of General Gowon to intensify his " Nigeria Prays" Program pleading for God's forgiveness and mercy. I wish they did! But until they do, what we sow, that we shall continue to reap!


       Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 


Monday, 21 November 2016

THE DILEMMA OF THE TRILEMMA: GROWING BASKET OF THE MISERABLE

Last week the National Bureau of Statistics( NBS) released the bad news that headline inflation has hit 18.3% and has thus doubled in under one year, since we closed 2015 at about 9.5%. In some climes a 100% growth in inflation could cause riots. At the same time, the Naira exchange rate has depreciated by nearly 60% in the official market while it has more than doubled in the parallel market. Interest rates which came down, close to single digit at the end of 2015 has remained high and growing. Since July the Monetary Policy rate ( MPR )has been at 14%, though actual bank interest rate is about 25%.
Similarly, unemployment has continued to rise from quarter to quarter. Gross unemployment which came low to about 6.4% in Q1 of 2015 has exceeded 15% by Q3 this year. When added to Underemployment it reaches 31%. In the youth population this comes to over 42%.

This Trilemma of rising inflation, rising exchange rate and rising interest rate has created a dilemma for the government. Superimposed in this Trilemma are economic contraction called Recession and the growing unemployment. The Fiscal authorities, represented by the Minister of Finance want an interest rate cut so as to make money available to the Business class to help expand the economy and work ourselves out of recession. The Monetary authorities represented by the CBN Governor, whose primary mandate is to keep inflation down, so as to strengthen the purchasing parity of the Naira is alarmed by the galloping inflation and insists on using the classical instrument for curtailing inflation- Interest rate hike.

The dilemma is that this classical instrument may complicate matters for the economy. Rise in interest rates will reduce the ability of Small & Medium Scale Enterprises( SMEs) to borrow or service existing debt obligation. Now when they can not borrow, they are bound to cut down on their operations. This becomes imperative in view of the fact that due to the halving of the value of the Naira, most of them need doubling of the quantum of Naira that they need to import raw materials and other production inputs including machinery and spares. And because they can not print Naira by themselves( as it is illegal), they have to go and borrow. And when they borrow, that is if they can find banks willing and able to lend, considering that the Banks themselves also have their operating capital halved by the same devaluation of the Naira, the borrowed money can not buy much in the domestic market, because inflation is galloping everyday .

Thus, they soon default in repayment, complicating the problem of the banks as they have to make provisions monthly for non- performing loans and every provision made reduces loanable funds of the banks, making it more difficult to lend to other potential borrowers except they are willing to pay higher interest rates to enable the banks recover the loss from those who could not pay. And when they borrow at these high interest rate, because they are desperate to borrow, they raise the prices of their goods and services so they can recover the high interest rate. In the process they cause further increase in the inflation rate. Soon nobody can pay the very high prices, because nobody has had pay increases and purchasing power is low, the guy either sells at a loss and tries to pay back what ever he can recover and thereafter shuts down, or he tries very hard to reduce his costs so that he can squeeze out a margin to pay back to the bank. Either way, he sends workers home, increasing unemployment. Similarly the Banks also 'shed weight' because those who borrowed are not paying and their balance sheet is shrinking and capable borrowers are diminishing. Under this scenario, who wants to be the CBN Governor?

In July this year the Misery index of Nigeria climbed to 47.7%, making us the 5th most Miserable Country in the World. As at October, with an 18.3% inflation rate Nigeria's Misery index climbed further to 49.3%, making us the 4th most miserable country in the World. That is to say that about half of Nigerians( 85 Million) are considered miserable. What a growing basket of the Miserable! Who wants to be Minister of Finance or indeed who wants to be President of  a Country of largely Miserable People. Let us Pray.


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 


Thursday, 17 November 2016

THE PHENOMENAL TRIUMPH OF TRUMP: LESSONS FOR THE WORLD


Last Tuesday, Donald Trump defied most political pundits, most pollsters and stunned the World with a largely unpredicted landslide victory over Hilary Clinton and the Democratic Party . Many reasons are being adduced for this phenomenon, none of which can successfully explain why a man who came from outside, never gone through an election before, never held a public or political office of any kind and who broke all the rules of political competition and engagement, became the President of the World's largest democracy and economy at the first shot. I believe that the best we can make from this historic outcome at this time is to make some common-sense deductions and learn a few lessons.

 1. BYE TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS 
Mr Trump seemed to have rewritten the rules for political competition. Standard wisdom all these years suggested that there were several things one must not say, several positions one must not take openly if one wanted to win elections. Mr Trump said all things, printable and unprintable, was prepared to fight his opponents and party leaders alike, abused any one who stood on his way, refused to respect data that did not favor him, offered no apologies, demystified the impact of the media and still rode to astounding victory.
  The lesson is that one needs to dig deep to understand the anger and frustrations of the majority and then champion their views, even if they run counter to what the society regards as normal. Often, politicians are afraid to offend the so called political heavy weights or powers that be and are afraid to identify with issues that are regarded as offensive or divisive. For example, in Nigeria, many Politicians from the South East have either been dismissive of or afraid to even identify with the cry for Justice and self- determination of the Igbo Youth. Same with our Northern Politicians who are mortally afraid to condemn or even speak about the menace of the militant Fulani-Herdsmen though their people are victims as well. Trump was not afraid to confront anybody and fought and clawed his way from the primaries to the General elections. Time for the World to set itself free and think and speak the unthinkable. Linear logic now stands on its head and so bye bye to political correctness .
 2. UNRAVELLING OF GLOBALIZATION AND RETURN TO NATIONAL PROTECTIONISM
Since after the Second World War and the birth of the United Nations( UN ), the World has moved progressively towards globalization and by the Close of the 20th Century, the World had become a global village. With it came the breaking down of barriers- both for human movement, interaction and for trade. Regional groupings like the European Union( EU), the North African Free trade Agreement ( NAFTA), South Asian Association for Regional Coperation( SAARC), Euro-Asian Economic community ( EAEC), ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreement( AFTA) African Union( AU), Arab League( AL), Pacific Island Forum( PIF) and sub-regional Trade groupings like the Economic commission of West African States( ECOWAS), East African Community( EAC)South African Development community ( SADC), Common Market for Eastern and South Africa( COMESA),etc, became the 'federating' units of a global economy.
  But there has recently been a move to return to National sovereignty, National borders and National protectionism. The movement started in Europe and after years of pushing, the British( one of the supposed leaders of a global World), surprised the World by opting out of the EU, and effectively pushing for the demise of the European Union. In tow, several right wing extremist parties in France, Germany and else where are pushing for the Brexit option.
  Donald Trump rode to victory on a popular plan to cancel NAFTA, reintroduce and raise tariffs, and to limit trade, especially trade with China. The Threat to build walls on the Mexican Border and walls on the Atlantic Shores indicate a Nation( another supposed leader of a global world) repudiating globalization  and reintroducing National protectionism. The implications of this emerging trend must be fully considered by the World. One thing is certain, that there will be a decline in global trade and with it further destabilization of a struggling global economy. America, and UK will be the first victims of this looming economic crisis that may be worse than what the World saw in 2008/2009
 3. EMERGING VACANCY FOR NEW WORLD LEADER
Leadership will always involve Sacrifice, self denial and altruism. When a leader becomes unwilling to make sacrifices and becomes self-fixated and self-indulging, then such a leader is on his way to losing the right to lead. America has become the World leader, not only by the strength of its Military, nor by the size of its economy, but more so by its willingness to make sacrifices for the World. When a President who plans to stop supporting the defence of NATO Countries, who plans to deport immigrants, stop new immigrants, reduce aid and who wants to reassert white-supremacy, rides to victory overwhelmingly  as Donald Trump seems to have done, then it is clear that the days of American moral leadership are counted. The World may soon be searching for a new leader, except if our fears and deductions fail to concretize. 
4 THE BUSINESS MEN ARE COMING
Very many successful business men all over the World but especially in Africa have wished they had the opportunity to offer political leadership. Many have retreated from pursuing this type of ambition because they have felt that the political space was constricted by professional politicians who always frowned at outsiders venturing to occupy high political offices. Often you hear such things as" Do you think Politics is the same thing as Business?" or as they told the late Chief M.K.O Abiola" the Presidency is not for sale!"
 With the  phenomenal success of Billionaire Donald Trump at the first shot for the biggest political office in the World, I foresee many business moguls launching into political contests soon. Would that be a good thing? Well the World is watching to see how things work out with Mr Trump. He may well surprise with his unpredictability!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 7 November 2016

TODAY,WE ARE ALL AMERICANS


Chido Onumah recently published a new book titled: " We are all Biafrans". In the book, he seemed to be talking of the Biafran spirit- the Igbo spirit of enterprise, creativity, hardwork and excellence that yearns for Justice, Equity and fair play for all. In essence he believes that many People in Nigeria and may be elsewhere share similar sentiments, which is why many objective commentators classify the current Biafran agitation as a cry for Justice for Ndigbo.It is therefore reasonable to suggest that a way to deal with this agitation is to give Justice to Ndigbo, just as other people all over the World who feel discriminated against, marginalized or oppressed deserve to get justice. That therefore gives the Biafran agitation a global attraction.
  Today, November 8, 2016, Americans go to the pools to elect the 35th President of the United States of America. And today we are all Americans, even if we will not all vote. This is because the American election has a global attraction. Most people outside the USA  have taken unusual interest in the elections and the preceding campaigns for one main reason. Most non-American citizens are disturbed about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the next US President. Except for his rabid supporters, many people are frightened that Donald Trump will cause a lot of trouble for the World should he become President of the most powerful country in the World. His rhetoric while resonating with his right wing supporters is repulsive even to the main stream Republicans- the party he has hijacked to bring America down to the level that most of the developing World can identify with. Donald with his fiery, essentially off the Cuff vitriolic has not only demystified America but has brought the worst side of America to public glare.
   America has been seen as the most matured Democracy in the World, where the institutions are strong and a-political. America has represented to the World the dream land built by immigrants where people achieve their dreams, irrespective of where you are coming from or where you started from. The plurality and diversity of the American society in unparalleled . It has always represented a refuge for the oppressed and maligned. Every Nation in the World has their indigenous communities in America. America has remained a bastion for freedom fighters and all people who need space to contribute to the emancipation of their societies. America has received Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Iraqi, Myanmarn, Egyptian and dissidents from all over the World who have emigrated to America to escape repression from tyrants at home. America has been the World defender of civil liberties and a promoter of global trade, prosperity and peace. Many developing Nations depend on American aid- human, material and financial, that they will go down economically should America recoil into its shelf as Trump seems to be preaching. 
  But the World stands alarmed that one man, called Donald Trump wants to unravel all that. He has promised to build walls, rather than bridges between America and its Neighbours. He has threatened to send home all so called illegal immigrants including Children born in the USA. He has spoken against immigrants especially Latinos and Arabs,African Americans , Muslims and against Nigerians. He has a plan to weaken NATO and to repeal NAFTA and indeed all global trade agreements. Mr Trumpet( according to my wife) has low morals, despises women, mocks the disabled, is biggoted, distrusts the objective media,is clannish and seems to have a megalomaniac view of himself and his business achievements. He seems not to have control over what comes out of his mouth and has to be compelled to read written scripts otherwise he would veer off to inanities and self praise. How can such an unstable man( loose canon according to Hilary)provide leadership for the world's most admired and most powerful democracy?
 It is true that Americans want change. Just as Nigerians wanted or is it want change. But we have seen how easy it is to get change. All the cheap talk of 'making America great again' will soon collapse into denials, prevarications and somersaults as we have seen in Nigeria. Therefore those who have the right to vote today, must do their best to manage their emotion. America has had a great economic rebound after the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. Most  objective analysts will recognize the great Job done by Obama in the last eight years to sustain American growth even in the face of sustained global economic challenges . Job growth in America has been phenomenal,and Obama has managed the deficit, cutting back on defence spending and giving their supporters and partners all over the World the opportunity to take greater responsibility for fighting  their own battles. America under Obama has used soft power to win the admiration of most global leaders. 
   Looking at the tone of the campaign in America, I am reminded of what happened in Nigeria's 2015 elections. I thought we got very low but I have been surprised pleasantly though, that American politicians and some of their supporters motivated by Trump have gone lower than we did. I have heard Donald repeatedly speak about rigging the elections even before the votes are cast. Rigging? I thought that word was invented  by African Politicians, perfected by Nigerian politicians until Goodluck Jonathan,  but which has now resurfaced. I have heard Trump say repeatedly that he will only accept the result if he wins. What a debasing statement and invitation to anarchy as we saw in Nigeria after the 2011 elections and which was threatened in 2015.  Now FBI jumps into the fray to influence the direction of the election! Is there any semblance with EFCC & DSS? With that America fully levels with the rest of us. If these can happen in America, our dream democratic country, then may be we have not done badly after all. Indeed we may all just be Americans! 
   Nevertheless it is my hope and prayer that voting Americans will make the right decisions today to vote for political and economic stability and calm the nerves of the rest of the World who stand wondering what has happened to the leader of the World. Hilary Clinton may not be the best possible for America. But truly she is heads and shoulders above Donald Trump, with so much experience and will certainly do better for American economy and global peace and harmony. Today, we stand with Hilary. But may the Perfect will of God be done. Amen
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Friday, 4 November 2016

NIGERIA & CORRUPTION: OPENING THE PANDORA BOX

To be sincere, I am truly excited with the way the war against corruption is gathering steam. My prayer is that PMB would not allow the momentum to decline. Up till two weeks ago, the focus seemed to have been on the past government. Then enter the Judiciary and the pandora box seemed to have been opened. Justice ADEMOLA blamed his problems on the Attorney General of the federation, Mr Malami. He had ordered the arrest of Malami for professional misconduct when he was in Kano. Though he eventually discharged Malami because of the intervention of the NBA, he was sure, the senior advocate of Nigeria, now AGF had been looking for an opportunity to take his pound of flesh. 

Justice John Inyang Okoro said Minister Amaechi is behind his own problems. Amaechi asked him to influence the governorship election Supreme Court appeal judgements on Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia States. Amaechi insisted he was conveying the wishes of PMB and his party APC. Before that, the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom- Mr Umana had visited with a pastor to persuade Justice Inyang Okoro to decide the case in his favour. Umana promised to 'settle' all the Justices in the Supreme Court. The 'holy Pastor' who took Umana to Justice Okoro rebuked Umana for talking of 'settling' the Justices. What a righteous pastor, who thinks that going to persuade a Judge to pervert Justice is not corruption as long as money was not exchanged! God help us with this type of ' Man of God '

Then enter Justice Ngwuta and he drags Amaechi again into the fray. Amaechi tried to coerce him to decide the EKITI governorship appeal in favour of APC . Minister Ogbonnaya Onu is also mentioned in the matter. Both Justices apparently refused to do the bidding of Amaechi and Onu and perhaps that's why they got the DSS to invade their homes and arrest them at such unholy hours. As expected both Ministers have denied the accusations. But will that be the end of the stories? I hope and pray not. The Ministers need to clear their names! I support the threat by Amaechi to sue the Judges. I urge him to do so immediately before something else happens.

Last week, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo made a very remarkable statement" All the institutions of government are corrupt, I mean the executive,Legislature and the judiciary are corrupt. What we need is reorientation. That was why the present Federal government is intervening. If we refuse to, every facet of the Country will fail" Damning and redemptive at the same time. This statement is the type that shows that the VP is indeed a man of God. He takes out the sophistry and hypocrisy that seemed to say" All else is corrupt but we are not. It is the PDP that is corrupt but the APC is clean. It is the legislature that is corrupt but the executive are all saints"

His statement essentially tallies  with that of Prime minister David Cameron who said that Nigeria is "Fantastically corrupt". Our redemption will begin when we all humble ourselves and accept that we are all corrupt. Maintaining a 'holier than thou' attitude will only complicate our problems, because God can not be deceived. Yes I accept that a small percentage of Nigerians are not corrupt but I am approximating to the nearest whole number! 

Now that we have this understanding, the question is, how soon are we going to turn the search light on the executive? Some onslaught has been made on the Legislature, though it has been very narrow and shallow. Hon Jibrin should be made to prove his accusations. Now the searchlight is on the judiciary,again, apparently skewed to those judges and Justices that gave unacceptable judgements against government or the party in power. It seems natural to always begin with the enemy! So my question is, how soon are we going to turn the light on the executive? If this war must succeed, then we must not allow anybody to be seen as a 'sacred cow' or untouchable.

The President has actually been dragged into the Arena by Justice Okoro Inyang's deposition.  So should we not investigate to remove any aspersions on our President? Our President's name must be protected. I believe that this should be an issue which Prof Itsay Sagay's  committee should look into and recommend investigation to clear the President's name. I believe this will be a better thing to do in support of this critical war than berating the Justices for speaking their minds or defending themselves. If any one is accused of corruption, it is the work of the anti-corruption committee to recommend investigation to prove or disprove such allegations, more so when important members of the executive are mentioned. If the allegations are untrue or frivolous, then the accuser should face consequences of false accusation. 

I believe that Prof Sagay's committee should not act as if they are biased or out to protect the executive while prosecuting the other arms of government. That in itself will undermine the war. If you ask me, I should ask the committee to encourage any one who has any evidence of any corrupt action against anybody to come forward with their accusations and then provide evidence to the Court. They should not wait till they themselves get into trouble before they begin to sing as the Judges and Hon Jibrin are doing now. That is why I congratulate Jimoh Ibrahim who has boldly declared that INEC demanded a Bribe of One million dollars from him before they could recognize his candidacy for the Ondo state gubernatorial elections coming on soon. That is the way to go. Now the EFCC should not wait one more minute,  to enter into the matter and bring INEC and Jimoh to Court to prove or dis prove their stands. If the DSS, is less busy, they can also do a mid night invasion on the INEC people, though the surprise element may have varnished as things may have been moved around after the invasion of the Judges' premises. The war seems to  require this kind of impunity and it looks like many Nigerians love the drama and justify it including lawyers! But let us please keep the police out of this corruption matter. They have too much on their plates already. Let us be consistent. We can not use the EFCC or the DSS on the legislature and judiciary and then use the police on the executive. What is good for the gander should also be good for the goose  or is it the other way round?

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR