Thursday, August 26, 2010

Will President Barack Obama Ever Be Popular Again?

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Americans and indeed the whole world watched with keen interest as Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton tried frantically to emerge as the Democratic Party’s flag bearer in the 2008 presidential election. The popularity of the two candidates was put to the test; it was a time for Americans to choose between two choices that were both challenging and record-creating.

First, one of the choices would lead to the emergence of the first African-American president (Black president), and the second choice would lead to the emergence of their first female president. Either of the two candidates was almost sure of getting into the White House because the Republican Party was fast losing its popularity as a result of the circumstances of the time. Obama eventually got the better vote because he was no doubt the more popular of the two candidates. He became a history-maker, as he became the first Black to rule the country after over 200 years of independence.

Everywhere one went then, one was greeted with Obamamania – Obama ‘T’ shirts, fez caps, belts, trousers, key holders, notebooks, balloons, wrist watches, eye glasses, car stickers, etc. But the enthusiasm that greeted his election and eventual swearing-in as America’s 44th president began to die down sooner than later. He began to lose his rating and popularity clearly because of some controversial and hasty decisions that he made. When these mistakes were repeated from time to time and in different areas, Americans and indeed the world began to have a rethink; and started to nurse the fear that all that glitters may after all not be gold.

What has reduced his popularity?
Some of the decisions President Barak Obama made that have seen his popularity nose dive include:
1. Discrimination against Nigeria: On assumption of office, the president made his first official familiarization visit to the continent of Africa, his root. He accorded respect and recognition to countries like Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, etc by paying them a visit: but he shunned Africa’s most populous and most influential nation, Nigeria, and treated her like a leper. Nigeria may be having her own challenges and going through her wilderness experience; one thing remains very clear, she is clearly the most influential voice in the continent – ask the UN Security Council, ECOMOG, Common Wealth of Nations, AU, FIFA, CAF, etc and they would tell you the undiluted truth. She remains Africa’s biggest philanthropist, defender of the smaller countries, and the Sub region’s leader.
2. HealthCare Reform Bill: The healthcare reform bill became the first litmus test that his government was subjected to. His reform bill was greeted with criticism and suspicion by both the Republicans and some Democrats. The bill eventually got passed into law; but so many people had lost their faith in him as they could not be convinced the bill meant well for the poor masses.
3. Bail-out loans for Chrysler: The effect of the world economic recession was so biting that Chrysler Motors had to request for some bail-out loans from the government to enable them save thousands of jobs for their employees. This was handled with levity; and today, we all know the outcome of government’s refusal to come to the aid of the auto company.
4. War in Afghanistan and Iraq: This was one of the reasons Americans refused to vote for the Republicans: a lot of soldiers were losing their precious lives in these countries. So, they hoped the new president would stop this trend by withdrawing their children, brothers, husbands and fathers from these wars that had consumed much of their resources. However, today, the country has lost over 4,000 military personnel in these countries, and they continue to lose their able-bodied soldiers daily. This continual loss of their dear ones has made the people to lose their hope in the government.
5. Resignation of key ministers: Since this administration came into power, some ministers and some other persons appointed into key positions have voluntarily resigned from office. Why? I leave that to you to guess. Recently the defense minister, Robert Gates announced he’s going to resign from the government in 2011. This decision was said to have shocked the president beyond words.
6. Listing Nigeria as a terrorist country: A young Nigerian who never grew up in Nigeria and never understood the cultural values of his people, made an attempt to bomb an American airline on 25th December 2009; a move which was vehemently condemned by all Nigerians. Surprisingly, President Barak Obama immediately placed Nigeria on the terror watch list. This was at a time Nigeria needed understanding from the International Community because her president was on a sick bed in Saudi Arabia. That decision further reduced the respect that Nigerians, nay, Africans had for the American president.
7. The Middle East: Recent research and public opinion pools showed that about 70% of the Arab world feels that President Obama has lost his popularity in the Middle East. His wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; his role in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and his attitude towards Iran were said to be partly responsible for this dwindling popularity.
8. Loss of Millions of jobs: Since this present government assumed power, millions of jobs have been lost following the world economic recession. The people feel enough is not being done to secure their jobs and guarantee their means of livelihood. So many people have committed suicide as a result of this. Some have even killed their wives and children as well as themselves.

How Can This Popularity Be Regained?
1. Improved relationship: Obama should not treat everybody with suspicion. He should learn to draw those influential countries closer to himself rather than treat them with disdain or contempt. He should expunge Nigeria’s name from the terror watch list and get more support from Africa.
2. Stop the wars: America has spent billions of dollars prosecuting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; and is also thinking of conducting a military exercise with South Korea, when a lot of her citizens are jobless and hungry. The country is also running into debts. They should listen to popular opinion/demand and withdraw from these wars. They should forget about preserving their pride; rather the welfare of the people should be their priority. The government should create more jobs and employments with the money being squandered on war. Let the slaughtering of the soldiers stop so that some of the children of these soldiers would get to know their fathers.
3. Revisit the economic stimulus package: They should try as much as possible to save those companies that have provided employment for thousands of Americans from liquidating as a result of the world economic meltdown.
4. Reduce Interference: America should allow regions to manage their affairs; and only send their war machines there when they are truly needed and invited to help. Going there on their own without an invitation would make those people misinterpret their genuine intensions, and further reduce their popularity.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iran Launches Nuclear Reactor Plant In Bushehr

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Iran finally started to load uranium fuel to the site of its nuclear reactor plant sited in Bushehr on Saturday, 21st August, 2010. The plant is said to be a peaceful project expected to help the country generate 1,000MW of electricity in the next one year, and 20,000MW by 2025. The country also claims it is a major boost in their quest for industrialization.

The Bushehr Nuclear plant was started by the Germans years ago, but following outright condemnation from several countries, including the United States, it was abandoned. It was then taken over by Russia in 1995; and it’s being completed this year after some setbacks including the German withdrawal and the Iraqi-Iranian war prevented the initial completion time of 1999 from being realistic.

Iran has declared that the programme is a peaceful one, and that the plant would be loaded with Uranium fuel. It is also expected to start generating its first electricity in the next one or two months. The fuel for the plant’s operation is being lifted to the area under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, as the country struggles to convince the international community that its Nuclear facility is for a civilian purpose, it went ahead to successfully test-fire new surface-to-surface missiles; making one to question how peaceful this programme really is.

The United States has always condemned Iran’s desire to develop a nuclear plant. Nevertheless, there have been some concerns that the same US is negotiating with Vietnam to enable the latter build a nuclear facility. The American Secretary of states, Hilary Clinton was said to have gone to Vietnam recently for that purpose.

Now the question is who is really deceiving who? How could the US be condemning one country for trying to build a nuclear site and at the same time they are aiding another one to do same? Why would the G8 and the EU think of applying sanctions against Iran, but Russia which helped to complete the project is a member of the G6 and the EU? Is there really a concern for the safety of the world’s populace or there is a concern for how much money could be made from these controversial programmes?

How do we prevent more frictions?
It is clear that the G6 does not speak with one voice; if America condemns a programme or policy, the same programme would be supported either by Russia or by France, and vice versa. To prevent these security threats from coming up from time to time, the following should be done:
1. Speaking with one voice: The constitution or whatever rules that govern the G8, EU, The UN Security Council, etc should be reviewed so as to make all members speak with one voice on every matter brought before them. It is paramount that when a case is presented before the G8, if it is not conclusively or unanimously resolved, no member should go behind to support such programme. For instance, if Russia hopes to carry out a project for a country, it should be free to negotiate with the country; thereafter, it should present it before the Group of 8 and make sure every member accepts it before going ahead to execute it. It should also be made clear that once a member of the Group of 8 has negotiated with that country, and the project fails to be approved, no other member of the body should be allowed to renegotiate with the country or execute the same project. In the event that the problem is later resolved, the country which initially negotiated the project should be the one to execute it. This would help to prevent in-house betrayals.
2. Sanction: Should any member of the G8 go ahead to execute a project that was not resolved amicably, the others should impose sanctions against her. This would also reduce the impunity with which members are executing projects against the decision of the body.
3. Strict Monitoring: Countries with uranium and other resources which are capable of causing security threats should be strictly monitored to ensure that these products are not sold to the wrong people. The moment it is established that there is any form of negotiation to acquire these resources without the approval of the Security arm of the UN or the Group of 8, such countries should be cautioned immediately or sanctions should be applied when necessary. They should not wait until after the programmes are ready for use before contemplating sanctions.
4. Co-operation: All countries should co-operate with the UN Security Council, The G8, EU, AU, etc to make any sanction imposed on a country to be effective. When there are countries doing business with a sanctioned country, the purpose of the sanction would not be achieved.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Iran Launches Four New Submarines

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Iranian navy has taken delivery of four new home-built submarines which are said to be in the home-produced Ghadir class. The vessels are to be positioned in the Persian Gulf, to help give some territorial protection to the country.

Iran already has some vessels patrolling its territorial waters – notably three Russian-built Kilo class diesel submarines which it acquired in the1990s, an Iranian built light submarine weighing about 500 tonnes (launched in 2006) and a Nahang.

The navy first launched seven sub of this category in 2007, and started building “Qaem” in 2008, which according to the country’s army chief, Ataollah Salehi, would be capable of operating in the high sea. The new vessel is said to be capable of firing torpedo and missiles.

The vessel has been described as stealth submarine and hardly detectable by sonar; it would be used for coastal operations especially in the shallow waters within the Gulf of Aden.

The country is already offering to give assistance to Lebanon and Syria. With tensions already high in the Middle East, offering to give assistance to Lebanon and Syria that are known to be aggressive toward Israel would make one ask if Iran does not have Israel in mind before going ahead to increase her naval presence in the Gulf.

Caution should be applied in handling the Iranian issue as it may worsen the already volatile situation in the Middle East. The country has of recent been talking tough on her desire to build a nuclear station; though the world has tried to dissuade her from going ahead with the plan, she is yet to soft pedal.

So launching four submarines at this critical time means the country is up to something. The world should therefore be careful the way it handles the case, especially now that America is thinking of carrying out some military exercise with South Korea. North Korea is already frowning at the plan: they have never hidden their hostility towards America.

It would be recalled that North Korea started in a similar manner by fortifying their military, building and refurbishing missiles which they hoped would reach America from Pyongyang. They went ahead eventually to declare they had finally developed nuclear weapon. Today, everyone living around North Korea – Japan, South Korea, China, etc now lives in palpable fears.

I still believe that sanctions would not achieve the desired result; the only way to take care of some of these aggressions is go to the dialogue table. The people should be made to see reasons why they should respect the United Nations’ Non-Nuclear proliferation treaty.

Besides, smaller countries should be reassured of their safety and security. America should reduce their Bossy attitude because it is making smaller countries to feel vulnerable; hence they are doing everything possible to create defense for themselves in case of external aggresion. When America learns to meddle less in other countries’ affairs, they would feel more relaxed and stop thinking of defending themselves at all cost.

The Arab league should prevail on Iran to shelve its plan to build a nuclear plant. They should realize that Israel would not be the only country to suffer the long term effect; other fellow Arab nations may be at the receiving end when the time comes. After all, Iraq and Iran fought for several years irrespective of the fact they’re both Islamic nations. Iraq also invaded Kuwait, a fellow Islamic country prior to the full-blown Gulf war. So there is no guarantee that Israel would be the only target of the nuclear attack in future; if Israel fails to provoke them, another fellow Islamic country may provoke them into using it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Governor Adams Oshiomole; A Purposeful Leader

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Adams Oshiomole of the Action Congress (AC) and governor of Edo State in Nigeria has proven by his leadership style that there is still hope for our country. The former president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) became governor of Edo State when the average masses had given up hope of experiencing good and purposeful governance.

The South-South State was passing through a state of infrastructural, educational and political decay when the visionary governor regained his mandate that was hitherto stolen by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Since he took over the mantle of leadership, the rate of rural and urban development has sky-rocketed.

He has opened all blocked drainages, electrified rural communities, dualized the urban roads in Benin City, and rehabilitated several primary and post primary schools in the state. Power supply is now fairly stable in the state; the small and medium scale industries are now enjoying a boom. Erosion menace in the state has now been put under control (though there are still places that require government urgent attention).

The citizens of the state have now been spurred into paying their taxes regularly by the level of infrastructural rehabilitation in the state. Adams Oshiomole announced recently that the state’s internally generated revenue has increased to N1b from N300m monthly since he assumed office.

One impressive side of his leadership is that he is accountable to the electorate. He informs the person of how much that comes into the state and how it is spent. He has carried everybody along; making sure he sites project in both the state capital and other local government areas.

Recently, a member of the House of Representatives, and a staunch member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon defected from the PDP to the Action Congress (AC) and told the public the reason he defected was because of the developmental strides the state now enjoyed under Chief Adams Oshiomole. He said he needed to join hands with the action governor to move the state forwards.

This is the same state that Chief Lucky Nosa Igbinedion governed for eight uninterrupted years and he looted the treasury of the state; Infrastructural became decayed, Civil Servants were sacked in their thousands, state roads became impassable and the state was in perpetual darkness.

Today, the average masses in Edo State are singing praises of the incumbent governor; business is booming, the taps are running, port holes have disappeared from the roads, the state is illuminated constantly and nobody is harassed by touts anymore. Adams Oshiomole is truly a visionary and purposeful leader who has the interest of the citizenry at heart.