Thursday, February 25, 2010

Connection Between African Leadership And Poverty

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Poverty is a world wide problem which affects a substantial population of the world but which is more prevalent in Africa. A huge chunk of the world’s wealth is in the hands of a selected few. Of all the factors that have contributed to poverty, leadership seems to be the worst and we are going to look at how that directly or indirectly affects the African continent.

The world has produced notable leaders who helped to shape the course of history and affect the lives of the governed positively. These leaders had the interest of the people at heart before they went into office and as such they put the masses first before self, making sure that the people enjoyed the dividends of governance. Such notable world leaders include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Gandhi, to mention a few. Of all the leaders Africa had ever had, Nelson Mandela is the only one who is qualified to be counted among the world greats.

Most of the African leaders are not qualified to be called leaders because they don’t have the interest of the masses at heart: they came into politics for personal gains. They see politics as a place of investment where you put in everything you have saved to get into office and then steal everything the country has in order to reimburse yourself for what you lost during campaigns, and also save as much as you can for the future of your family, not minding what happens to the rest populace.

The problem of treasury looting, oppression, tyranny, insensitivity and intolerance for political opponents has remained the same amongst African leaders from the East to West, North and South. The kind of selfish leadership style they adopt has left virtually all African countries impoverished. Check the records of Late President Omar Bongo of Gabon, Late Idiami Dada of Uganda, Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria, Late Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Late Gnasimgbe Eyadema of Togo, Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, Late Samuel Doe of Liberia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, etc and what do they have in common? I am sure you know it.

Leaders who have no deliberate plan to move their countries forward cannot make any positive impact on the lives of the governed. In the western world attempts are made to educate the people so they could be well developed and become useful to the country but here it seems that the less the people are educated the better for their leaders who want them to remain ignorant and never be aware of their rights so they would not stand up to defend their rights when trampled upon. When leaders make up their minds either by omission or by commission that their people should never be developed what do you expect? Poverty, systemic failures, illiteracy, hunger, diseases, backwardness, infrastructural decay and stagnancy would continue to be the lot of the people except leadership styles change positively.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Return of President Umaru Musa Yar'adua

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President Umaru Musa Yar’adua left Nigeria on the 23rd of November 2009 for medical attention in Saudi Arabia and returned back to the country exactly 93 days later. But his period of absence from the presidential seat brought series of debates that almost tore the country apart.

Today the president is back in the country, what next? Has he been truly certified medically fit to continue in office as enshrined in section 144 of the 1999 constitution or is this a political game by the North to make sure power did not shift from their zone to the South-South? The president had maintained 92 days of silence and evasiveness but while the presidential delegation were on their way to Saudi Arabia as the last resort to ascertain whether or not he was truly fit to continue in office he suddenly sneaked into the country from his medical sojourn without the prior knowledge of his cabinet; not even his vice. Do you think things should be done this way min this 21st century? Is this how things are done in America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, etc where the leaders are accountable to their citizenry? If not so, why is it always the opposite when it comes to Africa?

The Saudi authorities did everything to prevent the National Assembly members, the governors, and everyone that mattered from seeing our president as though the president were in captivity. If the president is strong enough to return to Nigeria today it means he was strong enough to at least say ‘hello’ to his ministers and lawmakers who had visited him few days earlier. One thing is not clear to me; why this ‘sneaking out and sneaking in’ of the president? The president belongs to all Nigerians and of course they have the right to know what is happening to him because the day he was elected into office he ceased to be the property of the North and became Nigerian property. This act of re-colonization of our country by a developing country like Saudi Arabia shows how helpless Nigeria has truly become. I do not in any way blame the Saudi authorities for treating us with levity; I blame our people who have refused to develop, otherwise why should we be going to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment?

Now that Mr. President has come back to his country what lessons did he learn from this situation? Is he thinking of reshaping the health sector of his country to look better than that of Saudi Arabia, or is he thinking of how to go back and enjoy the standard health facilities in Saudi next time he needs medical care? His actions and attitude toward our health sector would determine whether president has truly learnt any lessons from his health challenges. Mr. President should also remember that health care is part of his seven point agenda.

Lessons From The Coup in Niger republic

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Niger republic is one of the landlocked countries in West Africa. It is located on the Northern border of Nigeria, and it’s a member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Niger has enjoyed democracy for sometime now until the incumbent president Mamadou Tandja was forcefully removed from office through a military coup d’etat. Tandja has ruled the country for two consecutive tenures and instead of stepping down at the end of his second tenure he decided to alter the country’s constitution to pave way for his third tenure bid. This drew condemnation from everyone, including the ECOWAS and the African Union, but typical of most African leaders Mamadou Tandja cared less about the consequences of his action and refused to shift grounds. ECOWAS reacted swiftly by suspending Niger from her fold.

Tandja rode on, crushing all oppositions and protesters who dared raise their voices against his illegal constitutional alteration. He held tenaciously unto the reins of power. He had managed the economy of the landlocked country without accountability. Niger happens to be one of the few countries in the world that are endowed with Uranium, a mineral useful for nuclear fuel/nuclear weapons. The mining of this natural endowment has not reflected positively on the lives of the citizenry.

However, the military junta struck, ceased power and took Mamadou Tandja hostage. Surprisingly, the people we thought should condemn the coup d’etat rose up in its support. Why did they do so? They felt it was better for the military to come and salvage the situation than for President Tandja to set a bad precedent for their nascent democracy.

Few days before the coup the ECOWAS newly elected chairman, the acting president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had declared that ECOWAS would have zero tolerance for coup in the Sub-region. Now that the ‘Khaki boys’ have taken over power in Niger will ECOWAS live to its threat or will it be forced to eat its words? How do they intend to rescue the democratic structures in that country? It looks like they may be compelled to tolerate the military junta and negotiate with them to conduct a credible election as soon as possible.

This situation would have been averted were it not for the greedinesss of the president. African leaders should learn to be up and doing so that the political instability and incessant coups in the continent would be a thing of the past, especially now that military regime is no longer a fashion in other parts of the world.

Is Africa Truly Jinxed? (Part 3)

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Africa may be jinxed if that is what we believe her problem is; but even if that is the true situation, we can still do some things to break this jinx as I am sure that the progressing countries of the world would have also remained in self pity if they had not done anything to help themselves

What should we do?
What are the things Africa can do to break this age-long jinx that has hung around her neck?
1. Good education: If we give our citizenry good and qualitative education, in no distant time they will catch up with the developed and the developing countries. Qualitative education is the bedrock for economic growth.
2. Honest leadership: our leaders should be ready to provide honest leadership to their people. Once the people learn to trust their leaders they will be willing to co-operate with and help implement whatever good policies they formulate.
3. Economic blueprint: African leaders should have an economic blueprint that should be pursued over a specific period of time to bring in the desired economic growth of the continent.
4. Exchange of ideas: We should be willing to exchange ideas with countries which have made it economically. We can bring in scientists from developed countries and pay them well to help teach ours the rudiments to scientific advancement. Multinational companies can even be lured with our oil moneys to come and help us set up factories and industries where we can produce quality products.
5. Tourism: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Egypt seem to be leading in this area that others have neglected. If countries like Malta and Switzerland that don’t have much natural resources can survive on tourism then we can as well.
6. Encouragement: Our scientists should be encouraged to invent. African leaders should be ready to help people get patent right for whatever they invent and also be willing to help them mass-produce those things. They can even give scholarship to such people to further their education and trainings overseas so that they can improve their skills, and when they are fully trained we should be willing to set policies that would make their products to be patronized by our people.
7. Make stealing unattractive: Our parliamentarians should enact laws that carry stiff penalties that would discourage stealing of public funds; and these laws should be well implemented. When this is done any one going into political office would go for the purpose of serving the people and not for stealing.
8. Discourage borrowing: No country would develop with a heavy debt burden hanging on her neck. I really wonder why a country like Nigeria with oil and lots of solid mineral deposits should be taking foreign loans. If borrowing is discouraged African countries would look inwards and develop their economies from what they have.
9. Infrastructural development: If we develop our basic infrastructures such as roads, school, markets, electricity, pie-borne water, etc it would go a long way to encourage our small and medium scale businesses to grow and also reduce brain drain.
10. Good condition of service: one way we can discourage brain drain is for us to pay our employees well and when this is done they will find it encouraging to stay and work in this part of the world. This would invariably help our economies to develop further.

Is Africa Truly Jinxed? (Part 2)

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Africa may be said to be truly jinxed because it happens to be the only continent that is not thinking of how to advance and improve the welfare of its citizenry. It is the continent with the highest number of undeveloped economies; the lowest percentage of literacy rate, the lowest standard of living and the lowest Gross Domestic Product.

We have lost virtually over 70% of our best professionals to developed countries and developing countries because they value professionals more than we do. A doctor, nurse or teacher in Africa earns about 1/8th of what his counterpart in the United States of America or United Kingdom earns. Apart from poor earnings our education has little or no value in the outside world and so we are poorly placed when it comes to competing in the international labour market. What is the effect? Africans migrate to countries with better educational standards, get educated there, after which they remain there to earn better salaries and enjoy better living standard. This is the only continent that values degrees and certificates obtained from other countries high above theirs and as a result we look for universities with big names that would create more electric effect when mention- Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Toronto, Manchester, Warsaw, Tokyo, etc; we even go to anywhere in as much as it is outside Africa to get educated and wouldn’t care whether such institutions are really recognized or not because we are sure that once we present the degrees in Africa we get fact jobs and enviable positions.

We are the only continent with high deposit of hydrocarbons or petroleum and yet live a beggarly life. While United Arab Emirates is building sky scrapers, best hotels in the world, international shopping centres and developing at the speed of light we are using our oil moneys to oppress our citizens, depositing stolen and looted funds in foreign bank accounts and using the rest to sponsor militants and thugs. How can we develop under these conditions?

Today our leaders fly to Saudi Arabia, Israel, USA, India, UK, France, etc for medical check-up and treatments but our hospitals are all in shambles and reserved for the poor masses who have no choice but go there are die or survive by the mercy of God. Our trained nurses and doctors have all taken their flight to developed countries where our rich men go to meet them for treatment when sick. While not develop our system and retain our best hands so we could reduce the money spent on getting medical treatment overseas?

If we say we are jinxed then who has jinxed us? And why are the other continents not jinxed? We should think about this and find a way forward from our current fallen state.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Federick Chiluba: Corruption Personified

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Frederick Chiluba was born on the 30th of April 1943 in Zambia and later rose to become the democratically elected president of the country in 1991 under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, in a multiparty presidential election after being a trade union leader.
He succeeded President Kenneth Kaunda and got re-elected in 1996 after a successful first tenure in office, but failed a third tenure bid in 2001. His party rather preferred Levy Mwanawasa who contested on their platform and won the election.

The coming of Mwanawasa into power brought to fore the shoddy deals of President Frederick Chiluba while in office. He was investigated for corruption, arrested in 2003 and charged along with his former intelligence chief, Xavier Chungu, on 168 counts of theft totalling over $40m. His serving ministers and senior officials were also charged. His wife Regina was arrested for receiving stolen goods and for aiding her husband.

On the 4th of May 2007 Chiluba was found guilty of stealing $46m in a civil case by a United Kingdom court presided over by Peter Smith. The stolen money were said to have been transferred to a London bank by the Zambian intelligence service. Later on Mwanawasa recovered nearly $60m purportedly stolen by the man who was supposed to be a good ambassador of his country, who swore on oath to uphold the constitution of his country and do all he could to improve the lot of the Zambia people.

Chiluba was acquitted from the charges on 17th August 2009 after the death of Mwanawasa in 2008. The current President Rupiah Banda did not only ensure that Fred Chiluba was acquitted, he also refused to allow the state to appeal against the verdict of the court. It only reminded one of the usual practice in Africa where leaders cover the sins of one another to keep their subjects perpetually in darkness.

What legacy did Frederick Chiluba leave? He’s said to have initiated a great economic reform for his country and also played the role of a mediator in bringing to an end the protracted war in the Democratic republic of Congo, but all those achievements have been overtaken by the corruption charges pressed against him.

His friend Rupiah Banda was said to have been endorsed for presidency by Chiluba so as to help cover up his corrupt profile and guarantee his personal freedom. It’s truly a case of a corruption-prone leader coming to the timely aid of a corrupt friend to shield him from law and justice.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dr Goodluck Jonathan Declared Nigerian Acting President

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Nigerian Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was yesterday declared by the House of Senate as acting president after 78 days of absence of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua from office. The upper finally did what the Nigerian masses had expected from them after the head of state’s whereabouts and state of health had remained shrouded in secrecy.
The declaration of the House of Senate was in line with 145 of the 1999 constitution which mandates the president to transmit a letter to the National House of Assembly that he is incapacitated or is unable to continue in office. They had argued that the president had by the BBC press interview of January 13th 2010 declared that he was incapacitated and so waiting for a personal letter was no longer necessary. They reasoned that their action was to save the country from further state of chaos and anarchy. This declaration would however require the confirmation of the Federal Executive Council which is expected to meet over the matter to examine section 144 of the constitution and determine whether the president is truly fit to continue in office.
The House of Representatives has already rejected a motion seeking the president to transmit a letter to them empowering the VP to assume the position of acting president. The 36 states’ governors have also put their weight behind the Senate: they have been making frantic effort to see that this political impasse was resolved without creating bitterness and enmity.
However, a lot of Nigerians have been reacting to this development and have been commending the Senate for finally acting to save the country from further embarrassment in the eyes of the international community. Notable among those who have reacted is Secretary to the government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed, who said that the Federal Executive Council was in support of the Senate. Also the President of the South-South People’s Assembly Senator Matthew Mbu Jr commended the senators for taking a step in the right direction.
In his broadcast to the nation Dr. Goodluck Jonathan said his role as the acting president was a call to duty. He regretted the Jos religious crisis, promised to maintain the amnesty deal with the Niger Delta, commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for a successful elction in Anambra state, and also promised to improve the power supply in the country.
It would be recalled the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka last week led a peaceful rally demanding that Goodluck Jonathan be declared the acting president in respect of the constitutional provisions.
The Federal Executive Council should be aware that Nigerians are waiting for them to toe the path of honour and do what is expected of them without any political gimmicks as anything short of supporting the present position of the Senate may not be tolerated by the masses.

Nigerian Politics And Lies (Part 3)

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Security of lives and property of Nigerians has not been guaranteed because the Yar’adua government has always watched helplessly while these rights are snatched from the citizenry in broad day light. The menace of armed robbery is on the increase: only recently the Inspector General of Police had told the public during the test driving of some bullion vans assembled in Nigeria that he needed a bullion van that’s bullet proofed, fire proofed and bomb proofed, noting that armed bandits were becoming more sophisticated.
The spate of religious crises (especially in the North) has also not abated in this administration. We were barely recovering from the Militancy in the Niger Delta region when the Boko haran killings started, and only recently the Jos crisis which claimed over 200 lives. The funniest thing is that each time these problems (especially the religious crises) occur the government promises to prosecute the culprits but at the end nothing happens because some of them are politically motivated. The average Nigerian sleeps with one eye opened.
Our federal and state roads have remained death traps with the South-East and the South-South geopolitical zones worst hit. Road projects have been awarded several times and promises made that the roads would be ready for people to travel home during the Christmas periods but at the end they turn out to be dreams from delirious minds that the people have falsely believed. The road linking the two busiest cities in Nigeria – Lagos and Onitsha is at best pothole laden and several souls are lost on this road annually. The only portion that is okay is from Benin City to Asaba. How can the economy thrive when there is no means of transporting finished goods to the final consumers?
Finally, the rule of law has not fared better. This received its test when the president fell sick and refused to declare his Vice Dr. Goodluck Jonathan acting president as spelt out in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The same president who has always professed to be an advocate of the rule of law has vehemently refused to obey section 145 of our constitution and has also refused to hearken to all the people calling on him to toe the path of honour and do what is expected of him as enshrined in our laws (thank God all that have now been resolved). All we have been receiving from our politicians is one form of lie or the other regarding the state of health of the president, his whereabouts and his fitness to continue in office. When will these politicians ever think of national interest first before self? And for how long do they think they can successfully lie to the masses in order to steal what belongs to them?

Nigerian Politics And Lies (Part 2)

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Elections in Nigeria have been characterized by rigging, ballot box snatching, thuggery, political assassinations, imposition of unpopular candidates and declaration of false results. The same system ushered in this government. Sensing that the vast majority of Nigerians never believed in them from the outset the Yar’adua administration promised to carry out political reformation as soon as possible but after several months nothing tangible has happened in this direction. With the 2011 polls by the corner, the Justice Uwais’ electoral reforms panel report is yet to see the light of day in the national Assembly.
Agriculture still remains a shadow of itself with Nigeria depending on massive food importation to feed her citizenry. It would be recalled that this administration in the wake of the world economic meltdown had wanted to import rice to the tune of #80b; but this received serious condemnation from the masses who felt the money should instead be channeled into agricultural development. Nigeria ranked number one in palm oil, groundnut and kola nut production decades ago and was even among the 3 highest producers of cocoa but today Indonesia and Malaysia are making more money from palm produce than we make from crude oil; our groundnut pyramids have disappeared. And the government keeps maintaining its resolve to keep feeding Nigerians with lies.
Economic development continues to elude us as long as the government has refused to take the bull by the horns and formulate policies that would attract tangible investments. Our government properties have all been auctioned to people who have connived with government agents to sell them at cheap rates, share the kick fronts and the kickbacks, leaving the sectors undeveloped. We started to construct the steel plant about the same time with South Korea but today while the Koreans export cars, ships, electronics and steel we are still struggling with how to get our steel industry on its feet. How can it work when politicians deliberately make bogus budgets and implement only a miniature part of it and keep the remainder in their pockets? The question is, our annual national budget which now runs into trillions of naira what are they used for? Are they for improving the welfare of the citizenry or for foreign trips, or for making the politicians fatter?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nigerian Politics and Lies (Part 1)

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Politics is a way of formulating policies and making decisions that would affect the country and its citizenry positively. It is the essence of forming government and electing people to represent their constituencies so nobody would be left behind in the scheme of things. The Nigerian politics seems to be different from all other countries’ in that it is characterized by lying, looting, thuggery, election rigging, extermination of political opponents, and deceit.
The Nigerian presidential system of government is fashioned after America’s, but unfortunately we don’t seem to copy the moral aspect of the American presidential system, its respect for the rule of law and the equality of everyone before the constitution. We have only created a system whereby we lie to the electorate. The Yar;adua government came into office about 3 years ago with the 7 point agenda which then seemed to be the solution to our multifaceted political and social problems. It promised to give a facelift to education, economic reforms, rule of law, power, security of lives and property; agriculture, and roads rehabilitation, but as I write this article I can’t remember which of the points has been pursued to a logical end.

To start with, the government threatened to declare a state of emergency in the power sector within few weeks of assumption of power but two years and nine months later, not only has it failed to declare the emergency it has also failed to generate a meagerly 6,000 megawatts of electricity. The inability to generate the needed electricity to boost the economy had always been blamed on the restiveness in the Niger Delta region vis-à-vis the pipeline vandalism but since the declaration of amnesty nothing has changed. The 6,000 megawatts target set for Dec.2009 eventually ended up being a pipedream and power supply still remains erratic and epileptic. In fact power generation has now fallen below 3,000 megawatts for a country with about 150 million people.

Secondly, our educational sector has continued to suffer neglect. This administration witnessed the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarking on strike that took one complete semester. Today Nigerians are going back to Ghana to further their education. It has even deteriorated to the point that some Nigerians now send their children to Ghana for secondary education. What a calamity! Nigeria with over 91 universities cannot boast of one of these universities ranked among the first 200 in the world. Where are we heading?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

President Omar Al-Bashir and The International Criminal Court

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The name President Omar Al-Bashir rings bell in the minds of so many people especially those from Africa who have heard of the lingering crises in the Darfur region of Sudan. That there has been a long standing war in that region is no longer news but what is important now is that the world seems to be helpless about the whole situation (like it did during the ethnic crisis in Rwanda).
If I may ask, what is the actual function of the United Nations Organization and its various arms? Why do they seem to be making a hell of noise and doing only little whenever there are problems? If they know that national autonomy or sovereignty of countries is stronger than the U.N why don’t they disband and let everybody take care of his own problems? It is totally useless for the U.N to pass a resolution or place a sanction on a country and some of its member would go through the back door to help that country out.

President Omar Ahmad Al-Bashir is the president of Sudan and the head of the National Congress Party. His time in office as the president of Sudan has seen the country pass through what today is regarded as one of the longest running and deadliest war of the 21st century. He granted limited autonomy to the Southern Sudan in 2004 as a way of trying to stop the raging war in the region but ever since the crisis has worsened between the Janjaweed Militia and other rebel groups notably the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equity Movement (JEM) resulting in a death toll of between 200,000 and 400,000, with about 2.5 million people displaced.

President Omar Al-Bashir was later fingered by the International Criminal Court as the brain behind the wanton killings in the region in 2008 and the prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued a warrant of arrest against the president on the 4th of March 2009 on account of Genocide and crimes against humanity thereby making him the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC. However, instead of receiving condemnation for his activities in Darfur President Omar Al-Bashir is being supported by The African Union led by Muammar al-Gaddafi, and the Arab league.

I am not in any way surprised that he is backed by these leaders who think that the action of the ICC was unreasonable and amounted to terrorism against the Sudanese people. Since majority of the African leaders are dictators who do not care about what happens to their citizenry, the natural thing for them to do is quickly rally round him as a way of ensuring same support for themselves should there be any threat to their position in the future. Now the question is who is terrorizing the people, is it the ICC that wants justice done or Omar Al-Bashir who is directly linked to the crisis? The president had since received invitations to visit Egypt, Uganda, Nigeria, Turkey and Denmark thereby making the warrant issued by the ICC null and void.

I wish to reiterate here that if the International Criminal Court cannot prosecute anybody/country there is no need for it to keep existing and lot of money is allocated to fund it. The best thing therefore would be for it to quietly pack up and leave countries to solve their problems their own way.