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While President Buhari Is Away

It would have been Nigeria’s greatest national surprise in recent times if the ill-health and consequent overseas medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari was not politicised. From the initial, genuine empathy and expression of get-well messages, the gears shifted first into low-level partisan mockery by some who sought to validate their pre-2015 presidential election claim that Buhari, then a candidate, did not appear strong, or healthy, enough to shoulder the tasking responsibilities of running a country now more complex and with far more complicated issues than were present when Buhari was military Head of State from December 1983 to August 1985.

More than 90 days into President Buhari’s latest medical leave, the politicisation of his continuing absence is in full bloom. This is notwithstanding the non-breach of any legal or constitutional provision governing a President’s absence from duty. To dramatise the politicisation, some self-styled Concerned Nigerians under a banner, #OurMumuDonDo, have launched a #ReturnorResign campaign, in protest against the President’s continued stay in London for medical attention. Not surprisingly, a counter protest has been launched, but a violent clash between the opposing campaigners was averted, although the police had teargassed the #ReturnorResign protesters, to forestall, they said, the hijack of the protest by hoodlums.

I endorse wholeheartedly the position of the Senate while reacting to the #ReturnorResign campaign. The Senate said that the President should be left alone, as he was not in breach of any law or the Constitution. The President had done the right thing by transmitting a letter to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, intimating them of his medical leave during which time the Vice President would assume the role of Acting President. It is the third such official absence from duty with notice since the President came into office on May 29, 2015, although in terms of duration, the latest medical vacation, which commenced on May 7, is the longest.

The 1999 Constitution as amended does not stipulate the length of time that the President, or a Governor, may be away on leave, medical or otherwise, provided there is compliance with the requirement of notifying the Assembly of the leave together with handing over to the Vice President, or Deputy Governor, as the case may be. I am sure many among us will recall the aberration in the earlier part of the current democratic dispensation when one or two Governors, on account of differences with their Deputies, refused or neglected to hand over to the Deputy Governors while they (Governors) were away on leave. One instance that caused a lot of uproar was that of a Governor who bypassed the Deputy Governor and instead purported to have handed over to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, even when the Deputy Governor was in situ.

The other point to note is that the notice of vacation/leave/absence, once transmitted, continues to have effect until the President or Governor, upon his return from the leave, transmits another letter to the lawmakers, notifying them of his resumption of duty. We saw that play out on March 10, this year, when President Buhari returned from his second medical leave. At the time, the runway of Abuja Airport was closed to traffic, and the President landed in Kaduna from where he took a helicopter shuttle to the Presidential Villa in Abuja. He arrived on a Friday and was received by the then Acting President as well as other dignitaries. But it was not until the next working day that the President wrote to the National Assembly, informing them of his return and resumption of duty. The process was seamless, and there was no vacuum either in leadership or in governance. Which is what the situation is this time around.

So, what is the grouse of the campaigners against the President’s continuing absence? Those who have tried to draw an analogy between the indisposition of Buhari and that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua have clearly misfired. The basis of the assertion lies in properly contextualizing and understanding what became known as the Doctrine of Necessity propounded by the Senate in 2010, to fill a potentially anarchic power vacuum in the Presidency. Gravelly ill, President Yar’Adua had been in and out of the country for medical attention, and even when he was in the country, he had become largely incapacitated.

Then, Yar’Adua was ferried abroad, and both he and his handlers, who infamously were referred to as the cabal, wilfully neglected to hand over to the Vice President, to perform the role of Acting President. Yar’Adua’s handlers had played on the fact that if he did not hand over to the Vice President, then he (Yar’Adua) was deemed to be in charge and no one else could trigger a power transfer. But it was all a ruse, as insider leaks revealed Yar’Adua’s dire medical condition. And the country was in stasis. To arrest the drift, the National Assembly on its own invoked the Doctrine of Necessity that, given the circumstances of Yar’Adua’s absence from duty, and the non-transfer of powers to the Vice President to function as Acting President, the National Assembly would recognise the Vice President as Acting President. It was a masterstroke of the Sixth National Assembly.

But the situation of President Buhari is not the same. There is an Acting President. Visitation teams that have gone to see President Buhari in London, and those teams include the Acting President who made an overnight journey, have reported that the ailing President is recuperating. In other words, he is not incapacitated. In that case, his removal from office, through the constitutional mechanism of a medical board convened on a resolution of the Federal Executive Council, is unwarranted.

To me, a key point that is being overlooked in the current agitation against President Buhari’s continuing medical vacation is whether there is an Acting President who is effectively in charge. Answering that question, and indeed ensuring that the Acting President is truly and effectively in charge, would do more to deepen our constitutional democracy than the legally and constitutionally baseless campaign for Buhari to either return or resign from office. Is the Acting President in control? Are the institutions of government and governance up and running?

It should be borne in mind that one of the most important pieces of legislation to be passed each year by the National Assembly—that is, the Appropriation Act—was signed into law by the Acting President. He was also in charge when the vacancy in the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria was formally filled. The Acting President convenes and presides over meetings of the Federal Executive Council; he has made key appointments in the bureaucracy, including most recently those of Permanent Secretaries, and a number of vacancies in Federal agencies have been filled. The Service Chiefs have taken instructions from the Acting President, in particular, restrategizing the war on terror in the North East. The Acting President has also attended summits outside the country in fulfilment of the country’s international obligations. Under his guidance, the economy is being managed steadily out of turbulence. So, what is it that he should have done as Acting President that he has left undone?

One other point to make about the #ReturnorResign campaign is that it glosses over the moral and therefore restraining influence that President Buhari represents. Considering the widespread misbehaviour in the public space in recent years, the anti-corruption disposition of President Buhari has brought about palpable restraint in the wanton pillaging of public resources. Aside from the institutional mechanism to tackle graft, plus the use of enforcement agencies, the fact of Buhari’s presence (he remains de jure President) serves as a stern reminder that the season of business as usual is over.

We saw how, even after leaving office, President Nelson Mandela remained a huge moral force in South Africa. On his deathbed, when it was medically impossible to bring the grand oldman back to breathing life, South Africans held endless vigils, wishing him well—because they desired the symbol of moral authority to stay alive. Let us look inwards and see how we can tap into President Buhari’s moral authority, while ensuring that our constitutional democracy is at work, addressing exigencies of the moment as well as the larger issues troubling the Nigerian Project.

 

*Prof. Azaiki is a former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government

Cinquains for Professor Steve Azaiki

Cinquains for Professor Steve Azaiki

Professor
Intellectual, Compassionate
Inspiring, Creating, Producing
Like the busy bee
Azaiki

Chairman
Dedicated, Motivational
Guiding, Furnishing, Enabling
Like a caring shepherd
President

Instructor
Gracious, Considerate
Coaching, Training, Edifying
Like a solid rock
Mentor

Gertrude Shotte
10/12/2014

Developing the Niger Delta Region

By Dele Agekameh

Nigerians have always had cause to condemn the activities of their elected representatives, particularly those at the National Assembly, NASS. The reason for this is that many Nigerians believe the representatives are usually selfish and have been doing everything possible to protect their minority interests rather than the interest of the larger society. That is why for quite sometime the battle has been on for the NASS members to disclose their total take-home pay which the public suspect is mouth-watering, an emolument that does not correspond with the actual performance of the legislators. As a matter of fact, there are many more areas of friction between the NASS and the people.

B-DERE, NIGER DELTA, NIGERIA- JULY, 2016: In B-Dere an oil spill from Shell in 2007, polluted all the water, depriving the fishermen of fishes and intoxicating the soil. Nothing is growing anymore is crying Nambi Azikiwe. (Picture by Veronique de Viguerie/ Reporatge by getty Images).

But by and large, a recent development in the Lower House, clearly indicates that the legislators may have, at last, decided to identify with the people in the people’s quest to have a better deal with the government. The day was May 9, 2017. That day, Leo Ogor, the Minority Leader of the House, presented an amendment bill to adjust the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, (Fiscal Incentives, Guarantees and Assurances) Act. A provision called section 7b, which is an addition to the Principal Law was added to the amended bill. It states that: “Notwithstanding section 7 or any other section of this Act, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited shall pay 3% of its total annual budget to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Fund as required by section 14, subsection 1 and 2b of the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000.”

Fishermen sort out their fishing net at the bank of a polluted river in Bidere community in Ogoniland in Nigeria’s delta region August 20, 2011. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA – Tags: ENERGY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) – RTR2Q6OD

While making the presentation, the House Minority Leader said:“The amendment to this Act is aimed at redressing the great injustice that the NLNG has meted out to the people of the Niger Delta region for almost 27 years now.” Promptly, in what is generally seen as a departure from the ugly past in which very important bills like this are left to gather dust on the shelves, the House, without further equivocation, passed the bill.

With that passage of the amendment bill, the battle has now been shifted to the hallowed chambers of the senate for the mandatory concurrence in order to breathe life into the bill. With that, the rigmarole that had attended the passage of the bill all along would have been brought to a safe conclusion.

‘The Federal Government should urgently put in place a mechanism through which all the money accurable to the NDDC is paid promptly and as due to the coffers of the commission to enable the department carry out its mandate without any hindrance’

But the management of the NLNG is not accepting this without a fight. In fact, the corporation has been crying blue murder. The NLNG is saying that it is one of the biggest promoters of corporate social responsibility, CSR, in the country, especially in the Niger Delta region where it operates. The management also laments that the amendment is a threat to the continued existence of the company because the NLNG had succeeded so far, due to the provisions of the NLNG Act.

This, according to it, gave investors the confidence to invest in the country. But with the amendment, that confidence could be eroded and such a development could jeopardise ongoing investments for the continued survival of the company. Generally, the management is of the opinion that the amendment will discourage the inflow of investments into the country.

From the lamentations of the NLNG, it appears the company does not want to operate within the existing laws of the country whether with any amendment or not. What the House of Representatives simply did was to pass an amendment to the existing bill requiring the NLNG to pay three percent of its humongous yearly profits to the NDDC as part of its social duties to a region ravaged by neglect in spite of its abundant wealth – oil and gas.

Other companies in the region have acquiesced to this, although some do in name only but not always in deed, leaving the NDDC to be chasing defaulters all over the place. But one thing is that the defaulting companies, at least, recognise the supremacy of the law of the land. The same thing should apply to the NLNG which has already enjoyed some tax holidays in this regard.

It is good news that the House of representatives has now finally decided to put national interest above the cynicism that has characterised our political elite who collude with the oil and gas companies to oppress their own people. If the idea of the tax holiday granted to the NLNG was to enable the company to firmly get its act together and thus create a solid foundation for business take-off, it has surely had more than a generation to do so. This is the more reason the company should realise that it is time to gloriously bow to the impulse of the people and put aside just three percent to develop the area where it has had it marvellously good through the years.

The argument or the claim that the NLNG does not pollute the region, but merely processes, does not hold water. The management of the NLNG should not pretend as if they are operating from the moon or that they are less concerned about the growing agitation for a better deal as being canvassed expeditiously by the people of the Niger Delta region who have been badly treated since oil and gas were discovered in their bowels in 1956. Since then the people have borne the brunt of the massive exploration and exploitation that has taken place in the region without commensurate compensation or anything substantial to show except poverty, misery and disease.

The NLNG makes about N500 billion a year. And it is not even being asked to pay tithe or even half a tithe, but a measly fraction. Yet it yells in pain. The NLNG is owned by four shareholders, and Nigeria, represented by the NNPC, owns 49 per cent. The balance belongs to Shell Gas BV, Total LNG Nigeria Ltd, and ENI International Ltd. These firms control 25.6  percent, 15 percent and 10.4 percent respectively.

Since the establishment of the NDDC in 1999, its activities have been seen from different perspectives by both critics and admirers of the agency. On account of its intervention in the infrastructural uplift of the member states, the commission has, to a large extent, lived up to its mandate. But some people have argued that its achievement profile hardly matches the funds at its disposal.

The heightened expectations are not unconnected with the bloated impression by some people that the agency has an unlimited mandate. They easily forget that the peculiarities of the topography of the Niger Delta pose a lot of challenges to its development in terms of money and time. Perhaps, that is why it is easy for people who do not understand the terrain to hastily jump to wrong conclusions and/or assumptions.

As it stands today, the NDDC is being owed a staggering amount of N1.8 trillion in unpaid statutory allocations in the past 15 years by Federal Government who set up the commission to develop the Niger Delta. In addition to this, the Ecological Fund, another Federal Government outfit, also owes the Commission more than N45 billion. This is not inclusive of tax evasions by some multi-national companies who have been mandated by the law, to pay certain amounts of money to the coffers of the NDDC yearly. Going by all of this, therefore, with what magic wand is the NDDC expected to carry out its mandate and the quick transformation of the Niger Delta region?

The Federal Government should urgently put in place a mechanism through which all the money accurable to the NDDC is paid promptly and as due to the coffers of the commission to enable the department  carry out its mandate without any hindrance. Those who relent in the remittance of their statutory dues to the commission should be heavily sanctioned to serve as deterrence to others.

The task of developing the Niger Delta can no longer be undertaken with kid gloves. The government and other stakeholders must stop their hide and seek games and give the region the necessary attention it deserves.

For comments SMS (only) to: 08058354382

 

CIES elects Nigeria in to the the Executive Committee of UREAG

Under represented Racial, Ethnic, And Ability Groups UREAG Permanent Standing Committee of Comparative And International Education Society elect Nigeria in to the the Executive Committee of UREAG.

Prof. Steve Azaiki who is the President of the International Society of Comparative Education Nigeria was first elected to Executive UREAG at the Comparative And International Education Conference CIES in Vancouver, Canada last year and reelected this year at the Atlanta Conference on Wednesday March 8. Azaiki is the first Nigerian to be so elected to the August body.

Prof. Azaiki’s election will open opportunities for Nigerian and African Academics who are looking for research grants and travel grants to world and international conferences.

The mandate of UREAG among other things is to continue efforts to remove barriers to participation and increase participation of underrepresented racial, ethnic, ability groups including other minority groups in CIES policies, programs and activities.

Speaking at the Conference Prof. Victor Kobayashi who was president of the World body said Prof. Steve Azaiki will bring the desired participation of Africa and that his election will bring opportunities to the African continent.

President Obama’s Farewell Address: Full Video and Text

President Obama delivered his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday. The following is the complete transcript, as provided by the Federal News Service.

OBAMA: Hello Chicago!

(APPLAUSE)

It’s good to be home!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, everybody!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s good to be home.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

We’re on live TV here, I’ve got to move.

(APPLAUSE)

You can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions.

(LAUGHTER)

Everybody have a seat.

My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.

Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and in schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts — those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

So I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.

It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.

(CROWD CHANTING “FOUR MORE YEARS”)

I can’t do that.

Now this is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.

After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

What a radical idea, the great gift that our Founders gave to us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, and toil, and imagination — and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.

It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan — and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

(APPLAUSE)

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It has been contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

(APPLAUSE)

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-11 — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — if I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change. The answer to people’s hopes and, because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

In 10 days the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy. No, no, no, no, no. The peaceful transfer of power from one freely-elected President to the next. I committed to President-Elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.

Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face. We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on earth.

Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.

And that’s what I want to focus on tonight, the state of our democracy. Understand democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued, they quarreled, and eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. And the beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality, demographic change, and the specter of terrorism. These forces haven’t just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids and create good jobs and protect our homeland.

In other words, it will determine our future. To begin with, our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

And the good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values and retirement accounts are all rising again. Poverty is falling again.

(APPLAUSE)

The wealthy are paying a fair share of taxes. Even as the stock market shatters records, the unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.

(APPLAUSE)

Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And I’ve said, and I mean it, anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it.

(APPLAUSE)

Because that, after all, is why we serve. Not to score points or take credit. But to make people’s lives better.

(APPLAUSE)

But, for all the real progress that we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class, and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic idea. While the top 1 percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind.

The laid off factory worker, the waitress or health care worker who’s just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills. Convinced that the game is fixed against them. That their government only serves the interest of the powerful. That’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

Now there’re no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle class jobs obsolete.

And so we’re going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need.

(APPLAUSE)

To give workers the power…

(APPLAUSE)

… to unionize for better wages.

(CHEERS)

To update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now.

(APPLAUSE)

And make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and the individuals who reap the most from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible.

Bottom of Form

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

There’s a second threat to our democracy. And this one is as old as our nation itself.

After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent…

(APPLAUSE)

… and often divisive force in our society.

Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.

(APPLAUSE)

You can see it not just in statistics. You see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.

(APPLAUSE)

If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

(APPLAUSE)

If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.

(APPLAUSE)

And we have shown that our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.

So if we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system.

(APPLAUSE)

That is what our Constitution and highest ideals require.

But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. It won’t change overnight. Social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change. But if our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face. Not only the refugee or the immigrant or the rural poor or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic, and cultural, and technological change.

We have to pay attention and listen.

(APPLAUSE)

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ’60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment that our founders promised.

(APPLAUSE)

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened.

(APPLAUSE)

So regardless of the station we occupy; we all have to try harder; we all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

And that’s not easy to do. For too many of us it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. In the rise of naked partisanship and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste, all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.

And increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.

(APPLAUSE)

And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Look, politics is a battle of ideas. That’s how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, then we’re going to keep talking past each other.

(CROWD CHEERS)

And we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible. And isn’t that part of what so often makes politics dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on pre-school for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?

How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, it’s selective sorting of the facts. It’s self-defeating because, as my mom used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you.

Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that (at) the promise to save this planet.

(APPLAUSE)

But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects. More environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. Now we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It is that spirit — it is that spirit born of the enlightenment that made us an economic powerhouse. The spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral, the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket, it’s that spirit. A faith in reason and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, that allowed us to build a post-World War II order with other democracies.

An order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press.

(APPLAUSE)

That order is now being challenged. First by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam. More recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who seek free markets in open democracies and civil society itself as a threat to their power.

The peril each poses to our democracy is more far reaching than a car bomb or a missile. They represent the fear of change. The fear of people who look or speak or pray differently. A contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable. An intolerance of dissent and free thought. A belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform. Because of our intelligence officers and law enforcement and diplomats who support our troops…

(APPLAUSE)

… no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And although…

(APPLAUSE)

… Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists, including Bin Laden.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed. And no one who threatens America will ever be safe.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And all who serve or have served — it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your commander-in-chief.

(CHEERS)

And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

But, protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when it gives into fear. So just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.

(APPLAUSE)

And that’s why for the past eight years I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans…

(CHEERS)

… who are just as patriotic as we are.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why…

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why we cannot withdraw…

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.

(APPLAUSE)

No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.

(APPLAUSE)

Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

Which brings me to my final point — our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.

(APPLAUSE)

All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.

(APPLAUSE)

When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote.

(APPLAUSE)

When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

(APPLAUSE)

But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning — with our participation, and with the choices that we make and the alliances that we forge.

Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law, that’s up to us. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken… to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

And so we have to preserve this truth with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

(APPLAUSE)

America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service. So course with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are seen, not just as misguided, but as malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others.

(APPLAUSE)

When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt. And when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

(CROWD CHEERS)

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen.

(APPLAUSE)

Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.

(APPLAUSE)

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.

(CROWD CHEERS)

If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

(CROWD CHEERS)

Show up, dive in, stay at it. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir in goodness, that can be a risk. And there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this one and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.

(APPLAUSE)

Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. I’ve seen Wounded Warriors who at points were given up for dead walk again.

I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees or work for peace and, above all, to look out for each other. So that faith that I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change, that faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly imagined.

And I hope your faith has too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home, you were there with us in 2004 and 2008, 2012.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off.

(CHEERS)

Let me tell you, you’re not the only ones.

(LAUGHTER)

Michelle…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

… for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humor.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.

(CHEERS)

And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Malia and Sasha…

(CHEERS)

… under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women.

(CHEERS)

You are smart and you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

And…

(APPLAUSE)

… you wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I have done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.

(APPLAUSE)

To Joe Biden…

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

… the scrappy kid from Scranton…

(CHEERS)

… who became Delaware’s favorite son. You were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best.

(CHEERS)

(APPLAUSE)

Not just because you have been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother. And we love you and Jill like family. And your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives.

(APPLAUSE)

To my remarkable staff, for eight years, and for some of you a whole lot more, I have drawn from your energy. And every day I try to reflect back what you displayed. Heart and character. And idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, start incredible new journeys of your own.

Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. You guarded against cynicism. And the only thing that makes me prouder than all the good that we’ve done is the thought of all the amazing things that you are going to achieve from here.

(APPLAUSE)

And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because you did change the world.

(APPLAUSE)

You did.

And that’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe that you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.

Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace, you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands.

(APPLAUSE)

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we did.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

END

 

WCCES MEMBERSHIP MESSAGE

The World Congress of Comparative Education Society (WCCES) conference taking place in Beijing China, has admitted Nigeria into the world body. The special membership committee recommended Nigeria to the World body and the Executive committee unanimously approved Nigeria’s membership, as the third African country to join the organisation after South Africa and Egypt.

Prof. Victor Kobayashi Emeritus Professor, university of Hawaii and President of CIES 2006 with Prof Steve Azaiki at the 2016 CIES Conference in Vancuover Canada
Prof. Victor Kobayashi Emeritus Professor, university of Hawaii and President of CIES 2006 with Prof Steve Azaiki at the 2016 CIES Conference in Vancuover Canada

Prof. Victor Kobayashi (president CIES 2016), Prof Steve Azaiki and Prof David Turner at Vancouver for CIES conference
Prof. Victor Kobayashi (president CIES 2016), Prof Steve Azaiki and Prof David Turner at Vancouver for CIES conference

L-R: Dr, Carlos Alberto Torres (former WCCES president 2014 , Professor Otsuka Yutaka, past president of the Japanese Society of Comparative Education; Torres, Professor Shoko Yamada, Nagoya University; and Arnove. (WCCES Membsrship committee)
L-R: Dr, Carlos Alberto Torres (former WCCES president 2014 , Professor Otsuka Yutaka, past president of the Japanese Society of Comparative Education; Torres, Professor Shoko Yamada, Nagoya University; and Arnove. (WCCES Membsrship committee)

Congratulating the president of the International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology Nigeria (ISCEST), Prof. Steve Azaiki and members, WCCES said it is a big achievement for Sub- Saharan Africa and Comparative Education in Africa because of Nigeria’s population and potentials.

Prof Steve Azaiki and Prof Zehlia Babaci-Wilhite at the CIES conference vancuover in March 2016
Prof Steve Azaiki and Prof Zehlia Babaci-Wilhite at the CIES conference vancuover in March 2016

Prof Adebiyi Daramola; VC FUTA, Amb. Valerii Aleksandruk; Ukranian Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof Steve Azaiki; Iscest Chairman and Prof. Humphrey Ogoni VC Niger Delta University
Prof Adebiyi Daramola; VC FUTA, Amb. Valerii Aleksandruk; Ukranian Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof Steve Azaiki; Iscest Chairman and Prof. Humphrey Ogoni VC Niger Delta University

Former Consular General of Ukrainan Embassy; Mykola Samosvatov and Ukranian Ambassador Valerii Aleksandruk at ICSEST 2015 Conference in Yenagoa
Former Consular General of Ukrainan Embassy; Mykola Samosvatov and Ukranian Ambassador Valerii Aleksandruk at ICSEST 2015 Conference in Yenagoa

Responding, Prof Azaiki said Nigeria can take its rightful place in the world body and contribute meaningfully to globalised world Education. 
Congratulations to our members and the Nigerian Nation he said !

SHETTIMA ALI MONGUNO (1926 – 8 July, 2016)

Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno died on Friday in Maiduguri at the very ripe age of 90.

I know you want to know who he was.
Well he was a politician of 1st and 2nd Republic about whom I think many politicians today should learn. He was a man of , not just high but very high integrity.

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In 1974, as Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Energy, Shettima wanted to build his personal house in Maiduguri. He applied to the bank for a loan of N40,000. The bank wanted a guarrantor. He approached his boss, General Yakubu Gowon, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, for a letter to this effect. Gowon refused, saying that it would amount to abuse of office for him to allow him take a loan to build the house.
End of story.

Shettima mulled his options.
Julius Berger was already well established then. He approached them to build the house for him.  They agreed. On one condition:
JB would build the house and then rent it out for the number of years it would take to recover the N40,000.
Shettima agreed. That was how he built his house in Maiduguri.

Wait a minute.

He was Minister of Petroleum Resources then.  He was President of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC.
Yet he didn’t have the resources to build a house!

He could only do it via a BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) arrangement with JB.
Why can we have such men in power today again?

MONGUNO

Alhaji Monguno was truly a great and patriotic Nigerian. I personally have met him and I do testify to his integrity and greatness. His death remind me of another leaving legend and a truly great Nigerian , Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari, Turakin Sokoto. Acknowledge friends who has expressed condolences to the families. Steve

Issues In Handling Niger Delta Avengers

Issues In Handling Niger Delta Avengers – By Steve Azaiki

There is a sense of déjà vu in the rise of the Niger Delta Avengers, whose activities of sabotaging oil and gas infrastructure have brought about dramatic impact on Nigeria’s economy, which is already faced with recession. A little over a decade ago, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and other groups ruled the creeks in what can be described as the first major wave of militancy anchored on agitation for resource control by radical elements in the Niger Delta. However, MEND and others were only a recent historical experience. We have to reach far into the 1950s to search out the basis and recommendations of the Willinks’ Commission, come to the 1960s when Isaac Adaka Boro led the 12-Day Revolution, and in the 1990s when the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) rose through non-violent agitation—all this excursion is to enable us get a proper perspective on the here-we-go-again feeling which the Niger Delta Avengers bestir in those know, or should know, where the shoe pinches.

Niger Delta Avengers

I was Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government, under Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, at the height of MEND activities in the Niger Delta. I had first-hand experience coping with daily reports of kidnapping, disruption of oil production, exodus of companies and their staff, and the drastic slow-down in the pace of infrastructural development. The first-hand experience also included being involved in negotiations to free hostages ransomed by MEND and others. Out of office, I continued my contributions to public discourses on how best to resolve the Niger Delta crisis at the time. My contributions were majorly through newspaper articles and high-level private meetings. As National Coordinator of the National Think Tank, I also directed focus groups to marshal out workable solutions to the crisis. Some of my published contributions form part of my book, Thoughts On Nigeria. And while the Amnesty Programme for the militants can rightfully be claimed by many as its progenitor, of whom I am one, ultimate credit goes to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua for his buy-in and eventual transformation of the idea into State policy.

So, how does the nation respond to the Niger Delta Avengers?

From far and near, there has been no shortage of calls for dialogue between the Federal Government and the Avengers. This is a welcome disposition that subordinates the option of all-out military response to the Avengers. And there are good grounds for keeping the guns silent in the meantime, even beyond the two-week ceasefire the government has imposed on the military, in order for dialogue to be explored. While military reaction clearly reasserts the authority of the State to deal with any untoward challenge or insurrection, that approach is not necessarily a solution. It can be an aggravator.

Thus, full-scale military response to the Avengers (as in the reported earlier directive to “crush the saboteurs”) will have its own immediate collateral consequences, the first of which will be internally displaced persons in the theatre of conflict. At a time the country is grappling with the appalling welfare of millions of IDPs produced as a result of Boko Haram terrorism, the country can ill-afford to open up another production line of IDPs, as the humanitarian crisis is bound to escalate in the Niger Delta in the event of full-scale military assault on the Avengers. We had seen it in the past when the military took on MEND and other rag-tag groups before the Amnesty Programme. Already, there are reports of villages sacked, and hundreds displaced, as the military seek out the Avengers. The numbers of IDPs is bound to escalate once the military raise the tempo and intensity of their intervention.

A humanitarian crisis in the Niger Delta at this time will cost both the military and the Federal Government enormous goodwill—in the region and beyond. Care must, therefore, be taken not to accelerate a groundswell of popular support for the Avengers. This is because scenes of humanitarian crisis, including collateral deaths, are bound to lead to the question: “Is it because of the oil under our soil that all this is happening to us?” (Read: The Evil Of Oil, a book by Steve Azaiki). Once goodwill is lost in the area, there is no foretelling what the grave consequences might be.

Furthermore, the Federal Government must consider the restoration cost in the aftermath of decisive military action. The military will not merely explode their arsenal in the creeks. They will raid and bomb human settlements in order to smoke out their targets. Those places will suffer devastation and destruction. Who will rebuild them? Who will bear the cost? I think there are pertinent lessons to learn from the difficulties in raising, and managing funds, to repair the North East region, hit hard by Boko Haram.

Another dimension to restoration cost relates to future environmental remediation. Admittedly, by blowing up well-heads, pipelines, and other oil facilities, the Avengers are further polluting the Niger Delta. But the rate and scale of pollution is bound to increase where there is coercive State action to contain and overwhelm the Avengers. The scenario is something like this: as the Avengers are being pounded, arrested and/or detained, elements of the group will engage in further acts of sabotage, if only to, at first, mock the firepower of the military, or just to bluff that they have not been silenced. In that case, the Niger Delta should brace up for more destruction of its flora and fauna. But whether this is a palatable option is answerable by recalling that on June 2, 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, flagged-off the clean-up of Ogoniland.  It is a project that will cost about US$ 1 billion, and last between 25 and 30 years. Already, voices in the oil-producing states are calling for the extension of similar clean-up programmes to other impacted sites in the Niger Delta. Just think about how the restoration cost of the Niger Delta will be aggravated by an all-out war on the Avengers.

In the light of the foregoing, the case for dialogue between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta Avengers, as has been widely advocated, is cogent. However, what has not been so widely canvassed are the context and content of the proposed dialogue. As it were, dialogue presupposes negotiation. Getting fit and proper persons to represent either side in the dialogue is one of the initial hurdles. While there might be little challenge on the side of government to nominate its negotiators, what is certain is that the kingpins of the current campaign of sabotage are most unlikely to present themselves at the negotiating table. They can only test the waters using proxies, until such a time when greater and mutual trust is established, then they might present themselves, if at all that is considered necessary.

Perhaps more intruiging is the context of the proposed dialogue. A lot has happened between the first major wave of militancy a little over a decade ago, and the new wave of militancy spearheaded by the Avengers. There is now no “Governor-General of the Ijaw Nation” following the demise of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha last year. Part of his added value while he was around, especially during the first wave of militancy, was his capacity to rally the boys and men, and ultimately contribute to the development of the Amnesty Programme. Alamieyeseigha was a respected voice in the region. Even with the disagreement he had with President Olusegun Obasanjo, over his (Alams’s) frontline campaign for resource control, which was partly the reason for his orchestrated impeachment and removal from office as Bayelsa Governor, Alamieyeseigha and President Obasanjo were in constant dialogue over the MEND crisis, and on some occasions received presidential mandate to undertake sometimes dangerous journey by sea, to secure the release of oil workers taken hostage by militants in offshore locations.

Also, at the time of the first wave of militancy, most leading political figures in the region were virtually on the same page. Today, partisan politics has deeply fractured the Niger Delta, breeding suspicion, allegations of treachery, and witch-hunt. As it were, all but one state (Edo) in the South-South zone is controlled by the People’s Democratic Party. I believe President Buhari should personally take the lead in forging a bipartisan consensus in finding solutions to the rise of the Avengers, which means that the President has to rapidly build upon the initial step taken by the Vice President who met recently with Governors from the oil-producing states. It would, therefore, be a significant achievement if the mutually antagonistic political forces in the Niger Delta today were to find a common platform to resolve the current wave of militancy through dialogue. Such feat can come about by addressing the factors that have stoked the fierce political competition in the region.

Another important context is the Amnesty Programme that has been running since it was proclaimed by the late President Yar’Adua in 2009. While the Disengagement and Disarmament phases of the three-phase programme have been widely acknowledged as successful, the Reintegration phase has proved to be quite challenging. Ex-militants, some of whom went for training abroad, have had difficulty securing gainful employment. So, will further extension of the lifespan of the Amnesty Programme be a bargaining chip for the Federal Government in the proposed dialogue with the Avengers? Yet, one cannot gloss over the sometimes trenchant position of those who contend that the Amnesty Programme is an appeasement mechanism that will have no end in sight, as new groups might emerge, rattle the federation, and then get to be appeased through a variant of the Amnesty Programme.

Let us also throw into the mix some other issues of which Niger Deltans are keenly aware, but which the Avengers are now articulating in other ways. For instance, Nigerians know that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has suffered a long stay in the National Assembly, because of some contentious provisions, including benefits to host communities in the oil-bearing states. And yet, some of the loudest voices opposed to the proposed benefits are far removed from the oil-producing communities which daily endure the hazards associated with crude oil exploitation. Nigerians have been witnesses to how the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been grossly underfunded, never receiving its full yearly allocation, and therefore hampered in fully achieving its mandate, even if the Commission’s internal squabbles were discounted.

Above all else, there was the 2014 National Conference, which made  about 600 recommendations covering a wide variety of national matters. We cannot forget easily that advocates for the various regions/zones came to the Conference, talked, debated, disagreed, and when sometimes it appeared the roof would collapse, the delegates reached a consensus. Those 600 recommendations are the collective resolve of Nigerians, notwithstanding the opinion of some who sneered at the idea of the Conference in the first place.

Just how valuable the Report of the 2014 National Conference is, can be gauged partly from recent comments of distinguished statesmen, senior citizens and pressure groups calling for a restructuring of the Federation. These are among the demands of the Avengers and Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), which is also creating tension in the polity on the South-East flank. So, what will be the content of the proposed dialogue between the Federal Government and the Avengers, if fundamental issues are swept under the carpet? To buy time? Or, to create room for another group to re-emerge in the future and demand resolution of the fundamental issues? On the other hand, if the Federal Government were to proceed with the implementation of the far-reaching recommendations of the National Conference, that would weaken the position of the agitators.

In itemizing and discussing the several issues raised above, my intention has been to indicate that the dialogue option with the Avengers, which is desirable, will not be a stroll in the park. There will be temptations to break off the talks, but the alternative might be worse. Nominated negotiators should have in their minds issues raised in this piece, and prepare their agenda for resolving the knotty points once they arise, as they are bound to. A haughty disposition will be most unhelpful. It’s a long road ahead.

  • Prof Azaiki, former Secretary to Bayelsa State Government, and National Coordinator of the National Think Tank, contributed this piece from Kiev, Ukraine.

Obasanjo: A Great Diplomat

So far, my expectations have been misplaced. In the last few weeks,
I have deliberately engaged in a great deal of content analysis of major Nigerian newspapers. Each time I pick the papers these days. I seek out the reactions of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unrepentant critics to the recent debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club of creditors.

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The debt write-off was a huge economic and diplomatic breakthrough for the country and I had expected even the most ardent critic of the Obasanjo’s administration to at least, for once, heap praises on the president for the great feat. But rather than speak out to congratulate the administration for the accomplishment with the same fervour with which they had disparaged the President’s “excessive foreign trips” in the past, some of the critics have opted to keep mute while others have dismissed the gesture as mere political gimmick.

But the mere fact that critics of the President’s diplomatic shuttles have been silenced by the development is itself an indication that every Nigerian appreciates the enormous significance of the $18 billion debt noose that was taken off the country’s neck. Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the $1 billion (132.8 billion) the country channels into debt servicing annually can now be diverted to critical social infrastructure such as roads, water supply, education and health. If the government sticks to its promises, there will be tremendous transformation of the Nigerian economy. Expectedly, more resources will be available to government to fund agriculture, social infrastructure and the foreign exchange market.

The trickle-down effect on the economy will be phenomenal. The expected improvement in infrastructure will surely boost foreign investments, create employment and strengthen the naira. Every Nigerian, sooner or later will be better off and the country itself will be on the path to real development. However, one important fact is that the debt write-off is a great diplomatic mileage which journey began over six years ago. Immediately the Nigerian people gave him their mandate in 1999, the President began the great race to position Nigeria as the number one black nation on earth. Insisting that the country had no reason not to be the leader of Africa, Obasanjo hopped on the plane travelling all over the world with a view to convincing the world that there was a new dawn in Nigeria and that the country should therefore be stripped of its pariah status.

Obasanjo shuttled frequently and extensively to all parts of the world up to the point that Nigerians became deeply irritated that their President was ruling them from the air. Then, there was a deluge of criticism with some Nigerians describing Obasanjo as “a flying President” who is more at home abroad than in Nigeria. Some Nigerians even got to the ridiculous extent of derisively compiling Obasanjo’s numerous trips into a book. But despite the unceasing scathing criticisms, the President kept his focus, intensifying the drive to position his country as the real giant of Africa and a prominent player in world politics.

The result of the President’s effort to make his country a strong voice in world affairs is now there for all to see. No matter what anybody thinks, President Obasanjo has taken Nigeria to another level. The country now has a tremendously good image and is gradually inching its way towards becoming the greatest black nation in the world. Today, because of the admirable leap in its stature occasioned by President Obasanjo’s deft diplomatic shuttles, Nigeria is highly favoured to clinch a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Recently when African leaders converged on Sirte, Libya, it was clear that Nigeria’s international profile has been gradually dwarfing that of all other African countries hitherto believed to be ahead of it in terms of political stability and economic advancement.

In the context with South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Libya who are also in contention for the UN seat, Nigeria’s prospect appears brighter. And that was because President Obasanjo made it appear so. He has met with several African leaders and has been shouting himself hoarse that Nigeria’s democratic credentials have shone brightly.

The President, in his characteristic witty way of doing things, said in Tokyo in April 2005, that the world is made up of the white, yellow, brown and the black people and that Nigeria constitutes 20 percent of the blacks in Africa and should therefore be the automatic choice for the United Nations Security Council seat. Obasanjo has no doubt championed the cause of Africa and fight for Africa’s place in the sun. Nigeria has had 45 years of diplomatic and peacekeeping experience and has the highest troop’s deployment in UN operations at the moment.

Again, since he came to power six years ago, Obasanjo has intervened successfully in political crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda and Sudan. In some instances, the President had summoned warring factions to Abuja for the resolution of the crises in their various countries. In the case of Sao Tome and Principe, Obasanjo ensured that the democratic head of the country, which was toppled by the army, was reinstated. Nigeria even risked the goodwill of some Western countries when it gave political asylum to former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, for the sake of peace and stability in the West African sub-region.

In recent times, the innovative New Partnership for Africa Development, NEPAD, championed by President Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has blazed the trail for the mobilisation of western capital for Africa’s development. The country is able to do this because of its relatively comfortable foreign reserves, which is currently the highest in Africa. Besides, the Nigerian leader has ensured that the country continues to share the expertise of her people with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands by sending technical aids to them under the Technical Aid Corps at great cost to the country.

The fact is that President Obasanjo has carved a new niche for Nigeria. The country is now admired and respected by the rest of Africa and indeed the world. Most countries in Africa now look forward to Nigeria for the resolution of their internal conflicts. Even countries in Europe and America are beginning to realise that Nigeria can no longer be ignored in the comity of nations.

To summarise all these is to say that the dividends of the President’s democratic shuttles are now tumbling in. Foreign investments are pouring in and will continue to pour in. The country’s rating in the international community has improved tremendously. Now that more than half of the country’s debt has been written off, Nigeria may as well be on the path of economic recovery. If the country eventually gets the permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, then that would be a deserved icing on the cake. And it may just be around the corner.

Dr. Azaiki is Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government. This piece was published in The Guardian, July 20, 2005.

Alamieyeseigha Goes Home 9th April 2016

GOOD BYE MY BROTHER

To save your world you asked this man to die: would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907- 73)

Today 10/10/15 our Iroko fell. A fearless man. The Adukali 1 of Epie and Atissa people. Mark Twain had Alamieyeseigha in mind when he said “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Alamieyeseigha was a man of many parts. From 2005 Alamieyeseigha’s health has been a subject of discussion for us his friends and family. But Alamieyeseigha being a strong man had fought his Health issues gallantly. Yesterday his health suddenly became difficult to manage and today he was rushed to the hospital and he died.

I have lost a brother and a loving friend. Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was many things to many people. What ever we think we know of him, what ever we want to say of him, let us remember that he is dead and dead person do not speak. Lynn Caine was speaking to us when she said “Since every death diminishes us a little , we grieve – not so much for the death as for ourselves. Alamieyeseigha and his family has suffered enough. Let the dead be.

To me Alamieyeseigha was the senior brother I never had. He was good to me and my family. He showed me love and respect. I will always remember the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero , ” The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

I am crying writing about him in the past tense, it confirms to me that truly Alamieyeseigha is gone. Alamieyeseigha died carrying the burden of his deprived and depressed people. Martin Luther king, Jr. Said “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live”.

We know and you know that Alamieyeseigha died for something greater than himself. Like Isaac Boro and like Ken Saro – Wiwa our people will always remember them. Albert Pike told us that “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

What ever any one will say about him let that person not deny him this; Alamieyeseigha loved his people, Alamieyeseigha was passionate about the Izon Nation, the Niger Delta, and Alamieyeseigha was a Nigerian patriot.

John Wise ( 1717) was right; “Death Observes no Ceremony.” To para phrase Quintus Ennius, “Let no one weep for him, or celebrate his funeral with mourning; for he still live, as he pass to and fro through the mouths of men.

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