Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Why the Trump riots have more to do with the rioters

            The 2016 American election has been interesting to say the least. I've been following this election cycle as an outsider looking in since the beginning and I can say I've seen a lot. I've seen my views changed, I've become more politically aware, not just in American politics but in world politics. As a Nigerian I'm not used to American politics, I normally just talk about Nigeria and Nigerian politics.
          In 2014 I decided to expand my scope and put some interest in worldwide politics. One of the things that might confuse my fellow outsiders and indeed some Americans who don't understand some of the politics going on in this election is the "Trump riots" issue. If you watch the news after every rally of Donald Trump, you'd assume that Trump's hash rhetoric is the reason for those riots. To be completely honest, I did think so too until I did some honest digging into the issue.
        If you ask most of Trump's political opponents who is to blame for the riots in his rally's they would heap majority of the blame on Trump. "At some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign," said San Jose's Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat. Hillary Clinton also condemned the violence against Trump supporters. She also said the billionaire sets a “bad example” for nonviolent, civil discourse and a “low bar” for behavior at his rallies.
     For a while I actually bought that idea of Trump being the reason for all these riots. I mean you won't blame me, that's what you'd hear from most of the main stream media and his political opponents and also because I don't agree with some of the things Trump says. My opinion about these issues began to change when I saw people disrupt other rallies organised by people. I watched as Milo Yiannopoulos's speech at DePaul university was cancelled because of protesters, I also saw a lot of Ben Shapiro's talks (a guy who is anti-Trump) get disrupted continuously by protesters whom largely identify themselves as progressives. The talk that actually changed my mind and made me understand that the protests have more to do with the protesters than with the people speaking was the  Umass speech  of  Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers (a very diverse pannel). The whole speech was disrupted by hecklers, self-identified feminist, etc. You could see that these people were not interested in the speech, they were only there to heckle and disrupt the occasion. One of the most striking things to me was during the Q and A segment, when people who had different views from the majority of people in the audience asked a question respectably like the former president of the Umass democrats and the Muslim who asked the last question they actually were treated well not only by the guest speakers but also by the audience.
    The truth is that although Trumps say some crazy outlandish things, he is not to blame for the craziness during his talks. The blame should go to those violent protesters and people/organisations that back them and give them a platform to incite more violence. I don't agree with Trump in a lot of the things he says but at the end of the day, both the man and his supporters don't deserve these smearing and insults he's receiving.
      This is simply the manifestation of the trigger-warning, micro-aggression culture in the west and the last thing I want to say is I hope it never becomes a thing in Africa were assault on free-speech is still a problem (these westerners don't know how good they have it).

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Why I am a Libertarian conservative

        This is more of a personal article to explain my political views. It explains why I have such political ideologies and my journey so far to this views. These are my personal views on policies, they neither absolutely right or absolutely wrong, they simply are how I think. According to Wikipedia, a  political Ideology, is a certain set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, and/or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. PS I would be delving a little bit into identity politics which I hate, so be careful while reading this not get things twisted and not fall into any over generalization.
        I grew up in a very christian family, my parents were(and still are) staunch Roman Catholics. I was influenced by their faith and their value system, till today I'm still a catholic (not as staunch) and most of the catholic values I was brought up with are still guiding principles in my life. One of the famous quotes attributed to Winston Churchill is "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart.  If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain". Well I guess Churchill did not know any Nigerian, most Nigerians like myself have very conservative social views in-fact during some discussions with some of my peers I begin to feel like I'm the Liberal. When comparing most Christians in Nigeria with most Muslims it would seem that Christians generally are  more liberal than Muslims. This has nothing to do with the religion but much more to do with location.
      I don't personally think religion should be mixed with politics or governance, I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This "great wall of separation" is to protect to two entities so that the state cannot interfere with religious matters (as far as there is no violations of peoples fundamental rights) and for people not to make state decision solely  because of religious beliefs. This does not mean people should drop their religious values when talking policies but should have a circular rationale for what they are talking about. As late Judge Anthony Scalia of the US Supreme Court puts it "If there is a circular rationale to it, then the motivations of the person doesn't matter".  So when it comes to issues like marriage, abortion, religious liberty, etc I'm a firm conservative.
     I was quite young to fully explain the military dictatorship era in Nigeria, but I can still see the effects of the military dictatorships in Nigeria. There is a lot of power held by the president with little or no oversight. The federal government controls almost every single aspect of the country, the state legislators are basically just "seat fillers", The Judicial branch is inefficient, corrupt and most scary of all, under the thumb of the executive branch of the federal government. I've seen firsthand when the executive branch misuses power, I believe that the power given to the federal government especially it's executive branch is too much. A lot of people recognize this and assume it would always be used as a force for good, I just see it as a great force which can be used for either good or bad.
    As a libertarian I believe the federal government should have just enough influence to carry out it's duties. These I believe are to protect the borders of the state, to setup regulations to guide different institutions in the state, they also get to enforce these laws when necessary under the watchful eye of the Judicial branch. But the most important role of the federal government in my views is to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of the state. Some of the development of public infrastructure should be done by both the state and federal government with the tax-payers money under the watchful eyes of the citizens of the state. But the bulk of public infrastructure should be done by the private sector.
     Most Nigerians are not libertarians or rather most prominent Nigerian politicians are not libertarians. That is probably why I can't point to any single Nigerian politician and say "that's the Nigerian who influenced me to become libertarian". Thank God for the internet, I got my views shaped not just by my parents or my immediate surroundings. My libertarian views came from listening conservatives the likes of Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Ben Shapiro, etc. There are also some liberals who influenced my views but the liberal who influenced me most should be Dave Rubin.
     These in a nutshell are my political views, they can change at any time as I grow. I'm not writing this to change your political views or demean other  political views. This piece is simply to open up my political views for criticism, to startup a dialog between different political views and to encourage young millennials like myself to become more interested in politics because like it or not politics has an influence in our lives.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The US Smear campaign on Rio

      Have you watched any US media house take on the Olympics? The only thing you would hear is about the horrible things happening in Rio. How Rio de janeiro is unprepared for the Olympics. How the Olympics will be a total disaster. Let's not get started with their emphasis in the Russia doping scandal in Rio, as if this is the first time there has been a doping problem in the Olympics or as if Russia is the only country hit with the doping. Another favorite of theirs is to talk about how very few people are watching the Olympics live from the stands.
    The only time you hear something good about the Olympics is if they talk about one of their amazing athletes (yeah I have to give that to them those guys are good). When people like Simone Biles or Michael Phelps do something extraordinary in the Olympics (Yes the only person who impressed me more than these two in this Olympics is Usain Bolt) you get wall to wall coverage of the story.
        I was shocked and disappointed when the Italian gymnast, Carlotta Ferlito's told a journalist that she 'joked' with her teammate that maybe next time they'll paint themselves black to win. There was rightly a massive push back from people (especially the American media) for such an unsportsmanlike and even racist comment from the lady. But when the Swedish female soccer team knocked out the U.S. soccer team on penalties the U.S.goalie, Hope Solo called her opponents a bunch of cowards. This unsportsmanlike statement went unnoticed and died off with no traction. There was also the incident where American swimmers Lilly King and Michael Phelps targeted Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova who had a history with doping but was cleared for the Olympics, the main thing the media house talked about was that she still wanted to stay in the US
      The Rio Olympics have been marred with some robbery incidents of robbery but the one that got so much traction by the U.S. Media was the alleged robbery of the US swimming team at gunpoint. This story got so much traction you would wonder why the story of Samson Siasia when he was robbed in Atlanta did not get that kind of traction. The story has now been busted when the Brazilian police refuted it and called it a false claim. At first the US Olympic Committee backed their athletes claims and the U.S. media defended those claims. After video evidence showed that the swimmers accounts were not adding up the U.S. organizing Committee took a step back and their media tried to spin the story.
     Two of the swimmers flew home from Brazil on Thursday after some locals jeered them, calling them liars. The US Olympic Committee issued an apology after their departure on behalf of the Olympians as he hoped to end that chapter.
      "We apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence," USOC chief Scott Blackmun said in a statement.   
      The truth is that United States have been basically talking about the dooms in the Olympics instead of congratulating a small city that took up the heavy task of hosting the Olympics. Yes there have been a few hiccups in the Olympics but in general it has been a successful Olympics so far. So I want to ask the U.S. media to focus on the successes of the Olympics not this.

The rise of Tyranny

               In 2015 Nigerians made a decision to vote in a former military dictator into power, a decision that was not made lightly as the election was very competitive and went straight to the wire. The 2015 Nigerian presidential election was a tough decision because of the main candidates were in my own opinion not good enough (Lol America is going through the same stuff). The election was simply making the best of a bad situation. Did Nigeria make the right decision? That's the million dollar question none of us have the answer to.
    

     After the election Rtd. General Muhammadu Buhari was elected as the President of the federal republic of Nigeria. To be completely honest I did not vote in the election, but if I had to I would have voted for Buhari. My main reason for wishing Gen. Buhari would win was to give the Nigerian masses the belief that they could vote out a government they did not like since either candidate would have been in my own opinion a bad decision.

     The problem with president Buhari's tenure is that it has been filled with a lot of controversy, starting from his controversial statement that he would show preferential treatment to those who voted him in. A statement he has never explained further or worked back on (what are all these big media houses that have access to him doing). To the killing of unarmed Shia Muslims in 2015 by the military, a problem which was not investigated by the administration. There have also been other killing like the killing of unarmed IPOB members on several occasions and when he was asked by an Al Jazeera reporter, he refused to watch the video of the crime and offered some kind of justification for what happened. Amnesty international also published a report on the excessive use of force by the military on unarmed IPOB members during the May 30th protests. As usual the administration has neither refuted these claims with evidence or investigated these claims. 
       The current thing making rounds is the cubing of people's fundamental right to express themselves the way they like. After the arrest of the man who posted RIP Buhari on social media after which he had to claim RIP meant Remain In Power (smartest dude I've ever seen) there was a little cringe by the public but he was eventually let go. There was also the arrest of political blogger Abu Sadiq by the EFCC after his post EFCC boss, Magu, commences total war with core EFCC staff, coincidence? I don't think so. The case of the man who named his dog Buhari is still on going, he has already said that he named his dog Buhari because his admiration for the president (LOL guys can lie eh). The reintroduction of the "War Against Indiscipline" movement will surely increase human rights violations in the country if it is run as it was in 1984, people deserve their right in court before being punished and this program might circumvent that.
        With these new developments Nigerians must understand yes, we can choose our leader but we need to make the right decision. We need to study not just the candidates but the election ensure that our vote is a step forward for Nigeria. We should not let the rich oligarchs narrow our choices down for us, look beyond the front runners to make a decision and understand that no matter how much you're paid during campaign for your vote, it's not worth it. Leveraging our future for a small amount of cash has been the norm and yeilded nothing so we better sit up and fight with our votes.

     

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

TRIBALISM IN NIGERIA: THE WAY FORWARD

      It is auspicious that any discourse about Nigeria (especially about the topic in question) should begin with an in-depth analysis into the historical background of the country.
      Nigeria as many other third world African countries is a product of colonial imperialism. Since the abolishment of slavery threw many western capitalist economies out of business a new “legal” strategy had to be adopted by these capitalists for their continuous market expansion and search for new markets- hence the birth of colonialism.
     The 1886 scramble and partitioning of Africa (led by the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismack), as Chinua Achebe puts it “Nigeria was parceled out to Britain like a piece of cake given to a boy in a birthday party”. As already known, this portioning took place without the presence and consent of any African.
    Nigeria, as you know was given the name by the girlfriend or fiancĂ© (whichever one you choose) of the then representative of the queen, Sir Frederick Lugard. Then came the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates of Nigeria (coined from Niger-Area).
     The then Nigeria included all present day Nigeria and some parts of Cameroon (although we’ve lost some because of the Bakasi peninsula wahala).
    The seed of discord and disunity was sown by the Imperial masters from 1886 (joining people of different backgrounds, languages and culture together) and further reinforced in the 1914 drawing and partitioning of the Nigerian Map.
      The British carved out a large chunk of geographical area (two-thirds) from the Nigerian map and labelled it Northern Nigeria, leaving an almost insignificant chunk as the south (which was further divided into East, West and South again).
      This single act gave almost all political autonomy to the North; (they had earlier made the principle of majority rule as two-third majority in the legislative house).
    As a result of this, the North, now happy with this pledged (subconsciously) utmost loyalty to the imperial master (hence their refusal to back the independence motion moved by Sir Anthony Enahoro in 1953; hence for their refusal, the northern leaders were all knighted – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Tafawa Balewa, etc except Nnamdi Azikiwe who became a 'sir' as a result of his post as Governor General).
    This did not stop here, as trouble-planters as I call the British, they brought Education to the South and to some extent ignored the North. This accounts for why majority of educated Nigerians both then and now are Southerners and these Southerners as a result of their educational advantage, dominated the country in the areas of business, politics and the military.
     The education combined with the industrious nature of Southerners (particularly the Ibo) made them leaders in whatever sphere of life they found themselves. This brought jealousy which very fast grew into hatred. The 1966 interview of the premier of the Northern region is a case pointer (please try to get it); also the 1964 rally of Northern leaders encouraging northerners to join the army before the Igbos dominated it again is another pointer.
       The popular saying “unity in diversity” has a big question attached to it. Is there really anything like Unity in diversity? In Nigeria today where appointments, admissions, legislations and government policies are very obviously tribalistic, can the saying “unity in diversity” apply?
“You don’t expect me to favour the parts that didn’t vote for me over the parts that voted for me” were the words of even the Nigerian president.
    A friend of mine was walking back home from a birthday party at night (at about past 11 ‘o’ clock pm), on getting to the gate of the street, he saw three boys entering the gate. As they entered, the security men at the gate asked them who they were and they identified themselves and after that greeted the men in Hausa language and went their way. As my friend entered the security men asked him for his name and he replied
 “uchenna” (not his real name)
“This Yamiri boy where are you coming from?” was the next question
“I go party” said Uchenna
He continued “na there Usman, Musa and Yaya (not their real names) dey come from”
“Shut up” yelled a security man
“Wannan wawa yamiri yawo” said another security man (wannan wawa yamiri yawo means “this stupid Igbo boy”) and my friend was given a good beating of his life.
        An Edo man lost a job opportunity simply because “Ko se omo Yoruba” (he is not a Yoruba man).
I ask again does “unity in diversity” really apply in this country???

My suggestion should be for this country to adopt a confederation because, let’s face it, a federation is not working and until a confederation or worse still secession occurs in this country, this country will continue to have the problem of tribalism and will know no peace – Unless God personally intervenes. 


by OLUOMA CHIDI DONN-XAVIER

Friday, 12 August 2016

Trump might be the devil but Clinton is no Saint (Bad meets Bad)

      The American 2016 presidential election has been by far the most "unusual" presidential election in recent American history. The primaries are over, the conventions have ended, and November 8 is ever closer. The candidates in the two main political parties have narrowed from seventeen in the Republican side to just one (Donald Trump) and from four in the Democrats side to just one (Hillary Clinton). The big question now becomes who would win the election come November 8.
    The reason why this election is so unusual is that never in recent history, have both candidates had such high unfavorable ratings. Now most of you are asking if they were not liked how then did they win their respective primaries. This is because according to Gallup  42% of Americans identify as independents, while 26% identify as Republicans and 29% identify as Democrats. This simply means that a majority of Americans do not participate in the primaries and therefore a small percentage of Americans are needed to clinch the nomination ticket in the primaries. This still does not explain why both candidates are being viewed highly unfavorably as there have been high number of independents in past presidential elections. To understand the reason why both candidates are viewed so unfavorably let’s look at the individual candidates:

Trump: He is an American business man, television personality, author and now the 2016 Republican nominee for president of the United states. He became famous in politics when he started questioning the legitimacy of President Obama (the first African American president of the United States), claiming he was not a natural born citizen of the country and therefore had no right to be president. The controversy surrounding Trump started when he announced his candidacy for president, he made some racist comments about Mexican immigrants saying "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with [them]. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.", he also promised to build a wall in their southern borders to prevent these illegal immigrants. The media and indeed a lot of Americans pushed back on the statement calling him a racist and some businesses organisations including NASCAR, NBC Macy's cut ties with the billionaire.
      His controversies got worse during the republican debate where he defended his hash rhetoric on women saying he only refereed to Rosie O'Donnell. He also attacked Megan Kelly the moderator  who asked him the question calling her a bimbo, a lightweight,he also in an interview with Don Lemon said she had blood running out of her "wherever" during the debate  which most people said he was talking about her period. He had a brash and somewhat rude way of expressing himself in the debates calling his fellow contestants names like "Little Marco", "Lying Ted", "Low energy Jeb", etc. He has also made rude remarks about the last three republican presidential nominees claiming Gorge W Bush was to be blamed for 9/11 and that Sen. McCain was not a war hero because he was captured and Governor Romney was not a good businessman. His has been known to re-tweet and even tweet false, racially insensitive and even antisemitic statements like that of ratio of blacks killing whites or the antisemitic star of David picture with a lot of cash behind it to name a few. This created a sharp divide between those that liked him and those who did not. 
          He sparked further outrage when he proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States and censorship of the internet after the San Bernardino attacks in 2015. He  also made a lot of  unsubstantiated claims like the one of thousands of Muslims where celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey and he has promised to bring back interrogation techniques far worse than waterboarding (which is illegal). His business skills have been called into question as he has filed for bankruptcy four times but he claims that they were smart business moves. He also masqueraded as his publicist for self-aggrandizing purposes  when he was still in the business world. 
          When the primaries were winding down and he knew he was favorite to become the nominee he turned his focus on Hillary Clinton or as he rudely refers to her "Crocked Hillary" saying the only thing she has going for her is the "woman card." He accused the farther of his main opposition in the primaries Sen. Ted Cruz of being part of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. His latest controversies are going after the the Kahn family, a gold star family in the United States and insinuating Hillary Clinton could be stopped by assassination by pro 2nd amendment Americans. He also went back on campaign promises he made like he would e self-funding his campaignhe won't be beholding to wall street money



Hillary: She is the former Sectary of State, former senator of New York and former first-lady of the United States of America. She is currently the nominee for president of the Democrat party in the United States. She had previously run and failed to become the nominee in 2008.  She got national recognition in politics as the first lady to then President Bill Clinton.
    The Clinton's presidential tenure was marred with a lot of controversies which involved Hillary Clinton directly. The  travel-gate scandal happened when seven employees of the White House Travel Office were fired. The White House said that they were fired because of financial discrepancies in the Travel Office operation during previous administrations had been revealed by an FBI investigation. Critics contended the firings were done to allow friends of the Clinton's to take over the travel business and that the involvement of the FBI was unwarranted. Travel Office Director Billy Dale was charged with embezzlement but found not guilty in 1995. In 1998, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr exonerated Bill Clinton of any involvement in the matter. In a separate investigation by independent counsel Robert Ray, he said that the testimony Hillary Clinton gave about her role in the firing of seven members of the White House travel staff in 1993 was factualy false
      The next big controversy was file-gate whereby there was an improper access in 1993 and 1994 to Federal Bureau of Investigation security-clearance documents. The director of the  White House's office of Personnel Security, Craig Livingstone improperly requested, and received from the FBI, background reports concerning several hundred individuals without asking permission. This caused a serious reaction from their critics as many of the files covered White House employees from previous Republican administrations, including top presidential advisers. This led to the resignation of Livingstone. In 2000 Independent Counsel Robert Ray issued his final report on File-gate, stating that there was no credible evidence of any criminal activity by any individual in the matter and no credible evidence that senior White House figures or the First Lady had requested the files or had acted improperly or testified improperly regarding Livingstone's hiring. This was also with the fact that Hillary Clinton's finger prints where among those found on the documents.
       Secretary Clinton has also been involved in some campaign finance scandals. In 2007 she had to return 850,000 dollars from fundraiser Norman Hsu, who has been indited for running a ponzi scheme. During the White House years they had a lot of election finance law controversy which led to the conviction of  Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie for breaking election finance laws. Secretary Clinton was also involved in another huge campaign finance fraud involving ex-convict Peter F. Paul in which the Clinton fundraising team had to pay a fine of $35,000. The latest campaign scandals that hit her was the DNC wikileaks e-mail scandal which showed top DNC officials "rigging" the primaries in favor of Secretary Clinton and the alleged "quid pro quo" relationship between Clinton foundation staffers and Secretary Clinton's state department. 
      Secretary Clinton has been caught telling lies a countless times sometimes under oath, the most famous and most controversial would be the e-mail lies scandal as confirmed by FBI director, James Comey. But there are also smaller lies like Chelsea Clinton was jogging around the world trade center on 9/11, or claiming she landed under sniper fire in Bosnia or or claiming she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, etc. 
       
     There is enough evidence here to understand why Secretary Clinton and Mr Trump are not popular in the states but the truth is come November 8, one of them would become President-elect of the United State of America.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Niger Delta Avengers and the Long-term implications of Short-term Solutions


The Niger Delta region is a region whose squalor is a fallout from its splendour and whose poverty is a product of its wealth
In the last couple of months, there has been a resumption of hostilities by certain militants under the aegis of ‘Niger Delta Avengers’, these men of the creeks are no mere rabble rousers as their activities are having significant economic effects across the length and breadth of the nation. The attacks by the Niger Delta Avengers have been equally audacious. Promising to bring down the Nigerian Economy to ground zero, their threats cannot be merely overlooked as they have significantly reduced Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. The recent spate of attacks on oil installations is expansionary as it is astonishing, as we have seen pipelines being blown up in the South Western region, an activity hitherto restricted to the South South. The Niger Delta Avengers have worsened the challenges currently facing the Nigerian economy which is actually in recession as figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed a contraction of Nigeria’s GDP by 0.36% for the first quarter of 2016. Power supply has declined drastically while the ‘removal of fuel subsidy’ has seen the price of petrol rice to N145 per litre even as states are unable to keep up with the payment of salaries in an environment where the prices of goods and services continue to rise. The current economic woes of the nation are caused by the global fall in the price of crude oil, and the Niger Delta Avengers have added insult to injury by reducing Nigeria’s crude oil exports, this is double tragedy. These Niger Delta Avengers are literally holding the Nigerian Nation by the jugular as oil is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.
Understanding the significance of the liquid black gold in ensuring the implementation of the ‘Change Agenda’, President Muhammadu Buhari has jettisoned his characteristic ‘high handedness’ and shown a willingness to dialogue with the boys and work out a deal that would ensure the cessation of hostilities and bring an end to the economic sabotage meted out by the Niger Delta Avengers. Gauging the President’s disposition to dialogue, other groups have crawled out of the woodwork to seek an inclusion in whatever deal the Presidency wishes to strike with the Niger Delta Avengers, this has presented more challenges and retarded efforts towards bringing about a solution.
However, though the Niger Delta Avengers is a ‘new group’, the current challenge posed by their activities have occurred severally in the past and because all past administrations have simply papered over the cracks caused by the exploration of oil in the Niger Delta region, the Nigerian nation is doomed to witness this de ja vu once in a while in the course of our national journey and accept militancy as a recurring decimal in our corporate existence.
Oil was discovered in January 1956 at Oloibiri in Bayelsa State by Shell, oil production started at Oloibiri in early 1958 with 3000 barrels per day. After the construction of oil pipelines from Oloibiri to Port Harcourt the first shipment of Nigerian crude oil exports of 8500 tons arrived at Rotterdam on March 8, 1958. This marked the entry of Nigeria into the ‘coveted’ oil club and the potential transformation of our agrarian economy into a petro-dollar driven economy. Simply put, Nigeria contracted the ‘Oil Curse’.
After the discovery of oil, the waters of the region, the Niger Delta region, were polluted, the farmlands were destroyed, the air fouled and the people impoverished. At the Newswatch Colloquium on Niger Delta held in 2007, Ray Ekpu rightly described the Niger Delta region as a region ‘whose squalor is a fallout from its splendor and whose poverty is a product of its wealth’. No noticeable improvement took place in the region and the region commenced a regime of agitation led by Isaac Adaka Boro in the 60s (1966), followed by the playwright Ken Saro Wiwa in the 90s and the likes of Asari Dokubo, Government Tompolo, and Tom Ateke in the 2000s before late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Amnesty program. Since the establishment of the Presidential Amnesty Program, coupled with the Niger Delta Development Commission and the presence of a Ministry of Niger Delta affairs, the nation witnessed a reprieve until the recent onslaught by the Niger Delta Avengers.
Aside the fact that the exploration of oil degraded the lives and environment of the Niger Delta people, they do not feel a sense of ownership of the oil in their backyards despite being the goose that laid the golden eggs from which the rest of the nation is fed. It is worthy of note that prior to the commencement of military regimes, oil producing states held a derivation of 50%, this drastically reduced to 20% (minus offshore proceeds) in 1975-79, then to 0% in 1979 -1981, 1.5% in 1982-1992, 3% in 1992-1999 and the 13% (minimum) under the 1999 Constitution.
To douse the growing discontent from the region, successive administrations had sought to implement policies that would appease the people. These policies ranged from the setting up of dedicated organisations to revisions of the derivation formula. The first of these organisations was the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) which was established in 1961, the NDDB did not make any meaningful achievements and as pointed out by the UNDP, ‘bothered itself with some scanty surveys and researches’. The Niger Delta River Basin Development Authority (NDBDA) replaced the NDDB in 1972 but was equally unsuccessful in tackling the challenges facing the Niger Delta region. The Federal Government under General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) raised the derivation from1.5% to 3% and set up the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992, the agency failed in its historic mission due to poor management, corruption, inadequate funding, lack of manpower, and meddlesomeness by government and its officials. In 2000, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo submitted to the National Assembly a Bill for an Act to provide for the repeal of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission Decree 23 of 1992. Among other things, the President’s goal was to establish a new commission with a reorganized management and administrative structure for more effective use of the special funds it will receive from the federation account to tackle ecological and other related problems arising from the exploration of oil minerals in the Niger Delta areas. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act was subsequently passed into law in 2000 that established the Commission. The NDDC is still with us and plagued with allegations of massive corruption and incomplete projects.
At the heart of the Niger Delta Oil crisis is the question of resource control with voices in the region calling for total ownership of the region’s resource or at least a restoration to the status quo ante (50% derivation). This sentiment can be seen in the Kaiama Declaration and the Ogoni Bill of Rights. With Nigeria’s return to democracy, South Southern governors continued the resource control struggle and were involved in legal skirmishes with the Federal Government. At the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) convened by then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, the governors of the region campaigned for more concessions to their states. The recommendations of the commission reflected their position, according to the commission: i) “an expert commission should be appointed by the Federal Government to study all the ramifications of the industry including revenue allocation with a view to reporting within a period of not more than six months, how the mineral resources concerned can best be controlled and managed to the benefit of the people of both the states where the resources are located and of the country as a whole”. ii) “A clear affirmation of the inherent right of the people of the oil producing areas of the country not to remain mere spectators but to be actively involved in the management and control of the resources in their place by having assured places in the Federal Government mechanisms for the management of the oil and gas exploration and marketing. iii) an increase in the level of derivation from the present 13% to 17%, in the interim pending the report of the expert commission. Delegates from the South-South and other oil producing states insisted on 50% as the irreducible minimum. Having regard to national unity, peace and stability, they agreed to accept, in the interim, 25% derivation with a gradual increase to attain the 50% over a period of five years. However, even these modest recommendations were not acted upon by the Federal Government and this led to a resumption of armed militancy in the region.
To address the Niger Delta oil crisis, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua set up the Niger Delta Technical Committee (NDTC) in September 2008 to: a) collate, review and distill the various reports, suggestions and recommendations on the Niger Delta from the Willinks Commission Report (1958) to the present and give a summary of recommendations necessary for government action; b) appraise the summary recommendations and present a detailed short, medium and long term suggestions to the challenges in the Niger Delta; and c) make and present to government any other recommendations that will help the Federal Government achieve sustainable development, peace, human development and environmental security in the Niger Delta region. The NDTC turned in its report to the Federal Government in December 2008, the report contained reasonable recommendations that could provide a solution to the crisis in the region. The report noted that: “the very first action by the government towards implementing these recommendations is even more important than any other subsequent intervention…Consequently, the recommendations are set out as two inter-related parts; the first part being those actions that set the right tone for the implementation of all subsisting and further actions. The tone setting agenda appears …in the form of a Compact with the Niger Delta… The short-term Compact will deliver on a visible, measurable outputs which produce material gains within an 18 months period…guided by a principle in which the Federal Government…. report publicly on progress in implementation every three months”. Among other things the Compact aims to deliver the following within an 18-month period: a) Immediately increase allocation accruing from oil and gas revenues to the Niger Delta to 25% (i.e. additional 12%)…b) Within 6 months, complete initial steps that will support a disarming process for youth involved in militancy. This process would have to begin with some confidence building measures on all sides. These measures include cease fire on both sides, pull back of forces, open trail of Henry Okah [currently doing time in South Africa in relation to the 2010 Independence day bombings]. Also credible conditions for amnesty, setting up a Decommissioning, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) Commission and a negotiated undertaking by militant groups to stop all kidnappings, hostage taking and attacks on oil installations; c) Establish by the middle of 2009, a direct Youth Employment Scheme (YES) in conjunction with states and local governments that will employ at least 2,000 youths in community works in each local government of the 9 states of the Niger Delta; and d) Complete the East-West road dualization from Calabar to Lagos by June 2010… It would be remembered that the Yar’Adua administration went ahead to establish a Ministry of Niger Delta and a Panel on Amnesty but did not implement the full report of the NDTC.
As Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became President after the death of his principal Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the region was happy that with one of them becoming President, the end of their plight was in sight but as events turned out, not much was done. Then came 2015 with the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls. The president’s political incorrectness and his unfiltered statements coupled with his body language and no attempt to continue the culture of appeasement that bought previous administrations time to serve out their tenures with guaranteed returns from oil sales led to a return to the creeks by some militants and the resumption of economic sabotage, this time more daring.
As has been shown, previous administrations only sought ‘temporary ceasefires’ in their engagements with the Niger Delta region, this can be seen from their refusal to implement different report recommendations and resort to quick fixes. As the current administration prepares to engage the region once more, it must beware of these time buying short-term solutions employed by previous administrations and their effects on the nation, the administration must genuinely implement policies that would make the people of the region willing partners in the exploration of oil and the development of the nation. If this administration is truly committed to the development and prosperity of the nation, it must seek out a lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis and not one that would die with the expiration of the current administration.
Written By Innocent Okoro

Monday, 8 August 2016

Black Lives Matter

      The recent killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and now Korryn Gaines has sparked another round of protests from the black lives matter movement.  In recent years there has been a lot of tension between the police and the black community in the US in what they see as unlawful racially motivated killing of the black people. I want to go on record here to say that I believe that there has been an uptake in police brutality and unnecessary use of force  in the states. The question now becomes, is this uptake affecting just one race? Are the cops out to kill the blacks? Is there a problem systemic racism in America? And most important question of all, Is the Black Lives Matter movement the solution to the problem?
      According to popular reports and the website blacklivesmatter.com, the movement was started by Alicia Gara, Opal Tometi and Patisse cullors. They started this movement in protest of the death of a Black teenager named Trayvon Martin by mixed race Hispanic, Gorge Zimmerman. The two had an altercation on February 26 2012, Zimmerman called the police, but before they got the he had shot Trayvon. The police took him into custody, treated him for his injuries and released him because they felt he acted on self defense. This sparked a huge debate and protest calling for the arrest and full investigation of Zimmerman. Six weeks after the shooting amid widespread and intense pressure by a lot of prominent people, the media, etc Zimmerman was charged with murder by a special prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Perry. Zimmerman's trial began on June 10, 2013, in Sanford. On July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted him.
      The BLM became more popular after the killing of 18 year old, Micheal Brown by white officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson Missouri. According to reports, eye witness testimonies, Micheal Brown had robbed a convenient store stealing a pack of cigars. Brown's partner, Dorian Johnson in his eyewitness account said that Brown had his hands up during the encounter. Three days after the killing of Michael Brown, Johnson told MSNBC that Brown said, "I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!" Majority of the witnesses to the shooting (most of whom were black) and the police officer in question gave a different account of the case. They said Brown slammed the door of officer's car, tried to reach for the gun of the officer through the window of the car, the officer fired the gun, Brown tried to runaway, Wilson chased him, Brown then charged the officer upon which Wilson shot him several times. The department of justice headed by Eric Holder (a black man) investigated the case and found no evidence to disprove what officer Wilson had said and did not file charges against him.
        There have been other cases like Eric Garner where he died while refusing arrest and was put on choke hold by the officer. Or the shooting of Walter Scot by Micheal Slager from behind (he has been charged with murder). And the death of Fredie Gray in a police van where he was shackled by 6 officer (some of whom were black). Or the killing of Tamir Rice a 12 year who was shot and killed by Timothy Loehmann who mistook his toy gun for a real gun while responding to a 911 call. There are some other shootings and use of excessive  that have also occurred during that same period which can be researched online.
           Now am not going to say mistakes weren't made in some of these shootings and I wouldn't say with all certainty that none of these cases had an element of racism.  I  could actually go ahead and say that I feel like the Micheal Slager's killing might have been racially based. I cannot in all honesty say that I'm correct because I can't divine his motives.
        Let's take a little break from these things and talk about racism in general. I used to be one of the very first people to call out someone when the person says or does something racist or sexist or antisemitic (racism onJews). But after watching an episode of Head to Head by Mehdi Hassan on Al Jazzera where he discussed with Jewish author  Norman Finkelstein. In this episode he was asked how would he make sure that his criticism of Israel doesn't cross into antisemitism in which he answered "how do you divine a person's motives". This statement made me rethink before calling someone racist or sexist because yes someone can say or do something inappropriate that might look racially motivated but the person is not racist. These days I normally criticize the action by the persons without trying to manufacture an unsubstantiated motive unless there is a clear evidence pointing to that direction.
        Back to our point, in the case of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman who was part of the neighborhood watch, confronted a guy working around at night. Things got escalated and Trayvon Martin started beating him, for fear of his life he shot Trayvon to death. The simple  truth is that the  issue escalated way too fast and cost a guy his life but Zimmerman did act in self defense (don't take my word for it take the words of the jury and police officer that arrived at the scene). The case of Micheal Brown was the case of a guy who was high (yes traces of drugs were found in his autopsy), made some very bad choices, threatened a police officers life and got killed. Most of these killings can be attributed to excessive force by the police, mistakes by both the police and the deceased, but very little can be attributed to racism.
      Whenever someone who claims that there is systemic institutional racism is asked to show the evidence to prove systemic racism or show us a law that proves institutional racism they can't. But this has not stopped the celebrities, public officials and indeed the President of the United States to make such claims. Take the case of Micheal Brown people like Cher immediately after the event tweeted "Something must be done to protect innocent black men" or Moby who tweeted that "Darren Wilson chased Micheal Brown and murdered him" or Serena Williams who tweeted "Wow just wow shameful what would it take ???"  or Katy Perry who said "Praying for an equal America" or Macklemore who said "No justice" or the Saint Luis Rams (American football team) five of whom worked into the football field the Sunday after the incident with their hands up. I could go on for this case and the rest of the cases but I think you understand where am getting to.
      None of these people have issued a retraction on their statements, they are telling people who trust them a lie and they innocently believe them. Like I've said many times in this article I believe some of this killing were avoidable, some wrong and even some might have been racially motivated. But telling people lies that the police is out to get them creates this blacks vs police confrontation and makes people do what they did in Dallas where five officers where killed and some people celebrated it on twitter. So before we make any statement let's allow the investigation to be done, not let our bias feed into our statements and let the rule of law take it's natural course. Yes there is a growing problem of police brutality in America but it's not racially based, In 2014 a young white 17 year old was stopped by another police officer when he refused to come down from the car he was tased for so long he went into cardiac arrest. In the same year Dylan Taylor an unarmed a white male was shot by a police officer for refusing to comply to police instructions and the officer mistakenly mistook the pulling up of his trousers as his reaching for a gun. The issue of police brutality though not very common needs to be tackled in other to reduce the killings of innocent people by police officers
         



Saturday, 6 August 2016

How the Niger-Delta militants are ruining the Niger-Delta

      Last month my office wanted to go on a field trip to areas that have serious environmental problems. My bosses initially choose some towns Ebonyi and Bayelsa state in Nigeria. After making some inquiries in Ebonyi, meeting some chiefs and local organizers the Ebonyi trip was finalized. When they started inquiring about Bayelsa then they got a totally different response, the chiefs told them to call the "town youths" and talk with them. On calling the group leader he said that our office would have to pay them five hundred thousand Naira as "matching ground fee" before we could come, he also advised us to come with our own security after paying the money so that other groups won't kidnap and assault us. Immediately after the call the office agreed to cancel the trip to Bayelsa and look for another state to visit.
     After about one week, we established contact with a town in Rivers state called Andoni and our second trip was resurrected. The first trip to Ebonyi went absolutely hitch free and was a total success. On the contrary our itinerary for our second trip was somewhat complicated, we had to lodge in Imo state because of unrest in parts of Rivers state and then commute from there to Andoni the next day. This arrangement was stressful and time consuming but was necessary for our safety. We actually had to do two days work in one day so we could make up for the time lost. When we were going from Imo to Andoni we realized that we forgot to rent a generator to aid us in the lecture/seminar we wanted to have with people of Andoni (yes it was my fault that we didn't bring the generator). Immediately we realized this omission, my boss called his contact there and begged him to rent a generator for us and we would reimburse him. To our surprise he said don't worry just come Andoni has round the clock power supply. 
       I personally could not believe it, how can this small town nobody knows about have uninterrupted power supply while big cities like don't even dream of such things. On arriving at Andoni there was light and the light never blinked till we finished. I was pleasantly surprised and wondered why most companies especially the ones that need electricity to run their businesses aren't here. Why are there mostly small-scale traders and farmers in this town when many companies in Lagos  are crying of very poor electricity in Nigeria. Just ask any software company or any university student what's thier main problem they would simply say Nepa (the common name associated with Nigeria's electricity company). Why weren't they investing in Andoni to cut cost.
       It was after our lectures, questionnaire administration and collection of soil samples that I understood what was their reason. My boss after the presentation hurried us into the bus and asked the driver to rush off. When we left the city our boss now explained that some of the youths in the community had started circling and our guide told him it was no longer safe. This problem explained why the Niger-Delta region is having problems attracting private companies who have no business with oil to come to the area (They would spend all their profit and much more in ransom fees). This has stunted the growth of the Niger-Delta region as it should be the most developed part of Nigeria.
        One of the problems in the Niger-Delta is the oil spillage there. This has killed their crops destroyed their rivers and is a serious health issue for the inhabitants of that area. Yes some of this spillage is the fault of the oil companies But in recent years, the biggest culprits have been the hooligans in that area. They steal and spill oil in that area taking no health or environmental precautions. They just do it for their personal gains. They also use part of the money to fund their "protest" against the Nigerian government for their culpability in their predicament. Don't get me wrong the Nigerian government has dropped the ball in a lot of issues including the Niger-Delta issue. But let's be honest these hooligans have no moral justifications in criticizing the federal government as they too are culpable for the same crimes they accuse the government of doing.
          
        

Three wars we have misconceptions about 3. The middle east internal crisis is because of the age old sunni-shia war

          If someone asks "What's driving all the chaos in the middle east right now" Most people will attribute it to the age old Sunni-Shia conflict in the middle east. The divide of the Muslim empire into Sunni and Shia came about after the death of Mohammed or as most Muslims believe the ascension of Mohammed into heaven on a winged horse. When Mohammed was alive he had amassed a huge empire so after his death in 632 CE although there wasn't a religious vacuum left behind because Mohammed was the final Prophet and the revelations of the Koran would continue to guide the ummah (the Muslim community) throughout history. But the community did need a political leader (a caliph) to govern the empire and the first caliph was Abu Bakar, Mohammed father-in-law (Aisha's father). A group of people thought Ali, Mohammed's brother-in-law was the rightful successor and this was the main reason for the divide between the Sunni's and the Shia's.
        The Sunni's and the Shia's after a while began to live in relative peace and co-existed beside each other for years. The conflict between the Sunnis and the Shias started in the late 1970s with rise of petrol powered Saudi Arabia in the Sunni Side and Revolutionary powered Iran on the Shia side coupled with some the cold war that affected and destabilized the middle east. Things escalated when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and it became popular when Bashar Al-assad went to war with his own people in 2011.
        With this it's clear to say that this conflict issue has more to do with politics than religion. Remember the Syrian conflict started off when young people began protesting because of abuses by security forces, it was part of the Arab spring. Let's be honest the Russians aren't bombing Syria because they care about who succeeded the prophet in 632. And Shia Iran is not backing Alawite Asad because of their religious beliefs but because they have close political ties with him and are probably their only ally in the region. Iran has also spent the last two decades backing Sunni Hamas and Shia Hezbollah. What of Libya where the conflict is between two Sunni factions or Yemen where the conflict is between Sunnis government backed by the Saudis  and Zaydi Houthi rebels and the Sunnis and Houthis aren't that dissimilar. According to the US diplomatic cable released by Wiki leaks, it pointed out that members of the two sects often pray in the same mosque and share similar customs.
     
          Yes ISIS wants to kill every Shia it can lay it's hands on but most Muslims just want to get along with each other. To focus this on the age old Sunni-Shia conflict ignores the fact that there are political alliances that contradict that narrative and life long friendships between the two faction even marriages between the two factions. The problem in the middle east has more to do with power grabs, identity politics, tribal splits, economic grievances, foreign intervention and yes exploitation of natural resources and has very little to do with theological differences.

      The reason for this misconception is because of lazy simplistic journalism by the main stream media and this allows a host of geo-political powers to avoid responsibility for their actions. We are not witnessing a Sunni-Shia religious war, but if we keep treating it like that it might well turn out that way (and that my friends is going to be almost impossible to resolve).        

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Three wars we have misconceptions about 2. The American Civil war was because of slavery

       
        If you ask most people today what caused the American civil war, the answer you'll get from most people is "slavery". With all due respect to those that have that view, I have to disagree with them. The war  between the Confederate army and the Union army was not fought mainly over slavery and without slavery there would have still been a war between the Northern states (Union army) and the Southern states (Confederate army).

           The Civil war is one of the most important historical events in American history. While the American Revolution gave the Americans independence form British. The civil war of 1861-1865 ensured that the United States of America will be an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government. In my opinion the wars was inevitable because of the political and cultural differences between the North and South. In the words of the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who "the war between the North and South was one of the most unpreventable wars in history".
        There were a lot of political reasons that made Confederate States secede from the Union. These reasons include unfair tariffs on southern states, the control over western territories like Kansas, slavery, etc. The South after a while felt that the North was taking advantage of them for their natural resources like cotton, timber, etc (sounds familiar Niger-Delta Avengers) and that the Northern central government was over-reaching into their internal issues in their policy enforcement.
         The emancipation proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect on January 1st 1863. This order freed all the slaves in territories currently rebelling against the United States, that is in areas the U.S had no authority to free slaves. This in the modern day would be if the United States announcing that the new leader of North Korea is Lady Gaga (although let's face it, she'd make a better ruler than Kim Jong-Un ) but they don't have the authority to do that. He specifically exempted states that had been recaptured like South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana from the proclamation. He also exempted  border states like Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri from the proclamation. He essentially said that those blacks behind the confederate line if they could manage to escape from the Confederate states would be free. This prompted a massive exodus of blacks towards the Northern side and the South in turn, had to take up all kinds of precautions to prevent this from happening and the result of this was the North gets measurably stronger while the South gets weaker.

 
    Lincoln may also have issued the proclamation in order to shift the focus of the war from union to slavery, to prevent the British from recognizing the Confederacy. Arguably the Confederacy's best chance to win the civil war was to get some kind of foreign recognition and patron. This made Britain the likeliest choice as it was very dependent on Confederate textile. Britain had already abolished slavery and it is the historic source of abolitionist sentiment (not bad Lincoln,not bad). This meant that Britain had to look elsewhere like India, Egypt, etc while the South was left alone.
      Although the war is talked about and remembered a lot in the United States, what people pay a lot of attention to is the war itself that is the battles in different places like Gettisburg and the body count in the world. Most times it's the media that talk about the civil war and they do take creative licence in reacting it.