Monday, December 31, 2012

Jonathan approves constitution of the Board of Directors of nine FG agencies

Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria on Monday approved the constitution of the Board of Directors of nine agencies of the Federal Government.

The agencies are Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Federal Capital Development Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, National Examinations Council and National Export Promotion Council. Others are Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, Port Harcourt, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Voice of Nigeria and Agricultural Research Development Council of Nigeria.
The dates for the inauguration boards according to a statement signed issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, would be announced in due course.
Notable names are the National Organizing Secretary of the People's Democratic Party, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha; National Auditor of PDP, Chief Olabode Mustapha; Chairman of Silverbird Communications, Mr. Ben Murray Bruce; Editor of Sunday Sun Newspapers, Ms. Funke Egbemode and Colonel Edward Mark, younger brother of the Senate President, Mr. David Mark.
Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria has as Chairman, Chief Bisi Ogunjobi. Other members are Dr. Godwin Duru, Representative of the Federal Ministry ofWorks, Two Representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, The Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and three executive Directors of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed is the Chairman of Federal Capital Development Authority. Others members include Ogun state Former Deputy Governor, Alhaja Salimot Badru, Ayekeme Whisky Kashim Bukar Shettima, Col. Edward Mark, Aliyu Musa Dagoggo, Dr. Uche Uzochukwu, Mrs. Mather Onwuzurumba. At the head of the Board of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, is Mr. Ben Murray Bruce. He was one time Director General of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA). He is the owner of SilverBird Television, a private television Station in the country. Other members of the board include, Mrs. Bola Doherty, Farouk Dalhatu, Mrs. J. N. Chinedu, Hajia Hauwa Kida, Chief Elvis Agukwe, Abubakar Sarkin Fawa Damboh, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Information, Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Director General of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.
On the list of the the board of National Examinations Council which has Dr. Paddy K. Njoku as Chairman are Senator Umar Ibrahim Tsuari, Hajiya Aishatu J. Dukku, Hon. Terlumun Akputu, Chief Yemi Oluyemi, Chief Mrs. Cheryl Amonu, Hon. Paschal Ugbome, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Education, two Representatives of All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, three Representatives of Universities in Nigeria, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, the Registrar of the National Examination Council, Representative of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, Representative of the National Parents Teachers Association and Representative of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Nigerian Export Promotions Council has as chairman Mrs. Grace Clark. Other members are Alhaji Mohammed Soli Jibia, Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Tourism. Culture and National Orientation, Representative of the Nigerian Customs Service, Representative of the Nigerian Chambers of Commerce, Industries. Mines and Agriculture, Representative of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Representative of the Association of Nigerian Exporters, Representative of Farmers Association and the Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council.
Onne oil and Gas Free Zone, Port Harcourt has as chairman, Barr. Chris Asoluka. Other members are Gen. Geoffrey Ejiga (Rtd), Kelly Azike, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice, The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Plc, The comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Representative of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Representative of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Representative of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Representative of the Rivers State Government, The Managing Director of the llnna Oil and Gas Free Zone, Port Harcourt.
Standard Organisation of Nigeria has as Chairman Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha. While Mrs. Roseline Ekum, Suleiman Kogun, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Representative of the Ministry of Defence, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Health, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Representative of the Federal Ministry of Works are members.
Voice of Nigeria, Andy Aghaji Chairman. members are Mr. George Korgba, Hassan Ahmed, Prof. Fred Onyeoziri, Hon. Oruruo Steve, Hon. Bature Umar Sambo, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Information, Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria.
Agricultural Research Development Council of Nigeria has as chairman Chief Olabode Mustapha. Members are Gen. . P. C. Taja (Rtd), Engr. Bawa Magaji, Eng. . Yerima Kitaf, Emeka Nwakpa, The Vice-Chancellor of one of the Universities (]f Agriculture, The Chairman, Committee of Deans of the Faculties of Agriculture of the Universities in Nigeria, Chairman committee of Deans of the Faculties of veterinary Medicine of the Universities in Nigeria, The Chairmen of the Governing Boards of Research Institutes established Under Section 14 of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria Act, The Chairman of the Committee of Directors of Research Institutes established Under Section 14 nf the Agricultural Research C(]uncil of Nigeria Act, The Director of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rl.lral llevelopment, The Director ef Fisheries, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, The Director ef Forestry and lives-Stock, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Ilevelnprnant, representatives of the Federal Ministry []f Science and Technology, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, The Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

‘Our Generation Laid Foundation For Democracy; Let Present Generation Take Us To Club Of 20 Largest Economies...’


• Without Employment Opportunities, Youth Revolution Imminent
• What Do You Expect When You Extol A Thief In Your Community?
• Blame The Commanders, Not Awolowo For Civil War Killings, Starvation
 • I Didn’t Know Yar’Adua Would Die...

A sprawling view of Abeokuta lay prostrate from his hilltop mansion, a metaphor for the clout of its owner, a man whose sheer strength of character held an impossible Nigeria in the palm of his hand for eight long years. It is not for nothing that he is called Baba, yet another aphorism for some sort of a hard-to-get-to-know paterfamilias, whose offspring would usually approach with great trepidation, not knowing exactly what to expect.

Long after he had left office, as President of the Federal Republic, General Olusegun Obasanjo’s home is still like a pilgrimage ground, with hordes of visitors, trooping in and out, to hold court for one reason, or the other — Baba’s opinion, influence and wise counsel, still count. The man is, indeed, an enigma. Playful, as a kitten, wise, as an oracle, hard, as a tornado-nail, and wily, as a fox, you have to watch your step — every step of the way — with the general.

When our team of reporter and camera crew stepped into his living room to keep the interview appointment, his face was buried deep in a game of ‘ayo’; he was busy enjoying with a friend, a local, surrounded by visitors, and more visitors, some waiting in an ante-chamber. Without raising his face from the game, and waving his left arm, almost hostilely, his well-known gravel-voice barked out, with all the force of a subaltern marshalling a phalanx of his men into action, as we moved our gear into place: “Where d’you want to set up?”

Yet, the next moment, as he broached questions, he stuck out his hand at some point, to “take five” with the reporter, when he seemed ‘into the session’. He had been asked about the future of the youth of this country, his pet subject. He had also been referred to the rumour from some quarters, that he is a hater of the Igbo.

Well, if, actually, he hates the Igbo, how come his government appointed the most number of Igbo to so-called powerful positions, perhaps more than any other government, since independence? How come his Chief-of-Staff — a young man he has described as “my beloved son, in whom I’m well pleased” — was Igbo?

His face lit up, as he took those questions on the youth, particularly on his closest aide whilst in office, Dr. Andy Uba: “Andy was the first man that saw me in the morning, when I woke up and the last man that saw me at night, before I went to bed…”

Of course, intermittently, flashes of his legendary disdain for the Press came forth through the phrase, “You press people”. No matter. As he took his seat before the camera, on a sculpted perch before his beloved ‘ayo’ board, we were as determined, as General Obasanjo remained his combative, old self. Out-to-see!
—Basil Chiji Okafor

YOUR Excellency, recently, the media quoted you to have warned the government against an imminent youth revolution. You were also quoted to have described some of those young people as ‘Area Boys, Yahoo-Yahoo Boys, and ‘Blackberry Boys.’ How do you project the future of this country vis-à-vis this teeming young population that you so described?

Let me first of all put that statement in the context, which I made it. I was in Senegal at the invitation of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the issue for discussion was Youth and Employment.

The Chief of Staff of the President of Senegal, who represented the president, gave stunning statistics. One of the statistics he gave was that 65 per cent of our populations in Africa, on the average, are under 25 years of age and well over 60 per cent of them that are old enough to have jobs, have no jobs. Now, my reaction to that is that we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

If you are a young man, or young woman, between say, 18 to 30 years, you think that the entire world is in front of you, that you can achieve anything you want to achieve. And, what do you do? You struggle; you are young. Your parents sent you to primary school; by the time you leave primary school and go to secondary school, you start having the feeling that things are looking bright.

Then, you go to university and you come out and you look and it becomes a vapour — that hope, that expectation just flies away in front of you; no hope for a job. Then, of course, you become an educated, jobless person. I believe there is no greater frustration than that. And when that frustration turns to desperation, there is danger. So, that’s why I said we are all sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

It is not only in Nigeria, it is all Africa. You can even take it as a global thing because Spain has about 50 per cent (youth unemployment rate) and they’re a little bit better.
And as I said in that conference, I don’t know whether to say we’re in good company, or in bad company, if Spain is like that. But Spain is a different issue because it is a member of the European Union. Spain has an organisation that can write a cheque for her and bail her out and do things that would help her situation. We don’t have anybody that can write a cheque for us.

I then went on to say that if this is a global problem and we are the worst hit, our youth are the greatest victims, we must be seen to be doing something about it. And what should we do? I believe we must find a global solution. I prescribed that now that the international community, the UN, is working on a replacement for the MDGs, the Millennium Development Goals — because the MDGs would come to an end in 2015 and they’re wondering what to replace it with — and I said, whatever it is they come up with that would replace the MDGs must come up with one important element of it as youth employment. That must be the global approach.

And I said, there must also be the regional solution. The AU, African Union, has something that we — myself, President Thabo Mbeki and President (Abdelaziz) Bouteflika (of Algeria), when we were in government — initiated and worked on, which is called NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development).

I said the time has come when NEPAD must be reviewed, with the issue of youth employment made a major focus of the organisation. I also said that even ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), a sub-regional organisation, should do the same thing.

And at the national level, all our nations should have, in their economic development, this aspect of youth development, so that when you make your budget, whether it is medium-term budget, or annual budget, the content of your budget should be, when you spend this money, you earmark so much, either for agriculture, or for road, or for whatever, the question must be, what is its employment — particularly youth employment — content? You would build a road, yes, but what is its employment content?

I also went ahead to suggest that our states should do the same thing; the local governments should do the same thing. Even communities should be able to ask: what are we doing to ensure that our youth are gainfully employed?  The private sector, too, must be challenged. They should not just come up and say, yeah, we’re doing well. And this so-called growth — oh, we grow by seven per cent GDP — we have growth, yet we have more poor people, more jobless people. How can you talk of growth without job for people, with people getting poorer and poorer? Then, there must be something wrong with that type of indicator for measuring our economic development.

‘Killers Of Youth Corps Members Must Be Dealt With’

THE purpose of the National Youth Service Corps, as a means of engaging our youth, presently, appears completely defeated; and it turns out that young people, after graduating from higher institutions, simply drift around for one precious and critical year of their lives, out of school. Should the NYSC scheme remain, or be scrapped, as many have voiced out?

The NYSC was not designed as a youth employment project. It was designed as a means of inculcating nationalism and patriotism into our youth, to render one year of service and thereby get to know their country. That was what the NYSC was designed for. If you remember, when it was started, people objected to it and went on strike because at that point in time, things were still reasonably alright, from the youth employment point of view. In 1973, people went on strike and they didn’t like it. But today, some people go into the NYSC even two or three times. There is nothing else they can do even though they don’t get full salaries; they just get a token, but it is still better for them than just sitting down and doing nothing.

Yes, it was meant to give them that sense of being Nigerian. That was the idea. Initially, that objective was achieved. I remember, for instance, one of our traditional rulers whose daughter was getting married. He invited me and I sat with him and he complained: “You see, this NYSC thing that you people have created, my daughter is getting married to somebody across the Niger; what if there’s an emergency, how do I run across the Niger?” I said, “Don’t worry; you don’t have to run across the Niger. Nowadays, you don’t have to run at all. There is telephone; there is Internet; there is email and so on.”

To the extent that it was meant to bring about youth understanding of their country, youth love of their country, youth service for their country, nationalism, patriotism; I believe, at least initially, it achieved that. It also brought about this unity; people knowing themselves; inter-marriage and things like that.

Now, a number of things have crept in. They do community service, but that community service has not been organised the way it used to be and the way it was meant to be organised. In the last election, for instance, 13 Youth Corps members were killed. That doesn’t help the Youth Service scheme. We must all decry that; we must all condemn it. Now, those who killed them, what happened? What have we heard about them?
If I have a child that I have seen through school and into Youth Service and I say, Youth Corps is meant for you to serve and he or she agrees with me and the next thing you know, my child’s body is brought home to me in a bag, how am I supposed to feel about the Service as a means of ministering to the youth and to my children?

So, what is your position; do you want the Service scrapped?

I don’t think it should be scrapped; I think it should be reviewed. Where there are lapses, such shortcomings should be corrected. We should revisit the initial aims and objectives. Are those aims and objectives still relevant today? If they’re relevant, what has gone wrong in the operationalisation and what should we be doing?

It is something that is good for the country; I believe it is good for the country.

‘My Generation Laid Foundation Of Today’s Democratic Dispensation’

LOOKING at the situation on ground, it would seem that your generation accomplished quite a lot. But as the days went by, the situation kept getting worse, and the scale of achievement appearing to diminish by the day. What spurred your generation to its comparatively greater successes, as it were?

Now that you bring it to generation, I will speak generally about generation, but I do not believe that there is any generation that does not have heroic qualities in them. There is no generation that you would just write off. Of course, the situation in every generation varies. For instance, I have said that whatever we may say about the generation before our own generation, it is the generation that gave us independence. Whatever you may say about them, they gave us independence and that you cannot deny. Well, they did not fight for it; it was given to them on a platter of gold. But whatever you may say, they gave us independence.

(Cuts in) Just like we cannot deny that General Obasanjo dismantled the power cartel that hitherto controlled Nigerian politics so viciously…?

(Smiles, ignores the interjection and continues) You also cannot deny — and I have said this — that my own generation fought for the unity of this country. Obasanjo just happened to be one of the feasible instruments, but my generation must claim credit for that. My generation can also be credited with laying the foundation of today’s democratic dispensation in Nigeria.

Now, about the opportunities the generation before us and our own generation have had, members of the present-day generation have asked me and I have said they equally have the opportunity to build on the foundation that my own generation and the others, have laid: how do you enhance democracy; how do you strengthen and deepen democracy? That is the responsibility of the present generation and they can do it, and they must do it. How do they really make us have an economy? How do they make Nigeria one of the largest economies by the year 2020? That is their challenge and they must do it. Then, you ask what the ingredients are that make for greater success in one generation? Well, not every member of a particular generation would be outstanding. You have some that would be drivers, while others would be passengers. You may even have some that constitute a setback. But they are all members of the same generation.
Having said that, there are certain qualities in individuals that, if developed, and if the environment and the community help, that individual would become a very important contributor in that generation.

What am I saying? First of all, there must be education. For instance, you are talking to me and we are communicating in the same language because you have education. If we were to go back to our respective mother-tongues, I won’t be able to understand what you’re saying. All I understand in Igbo is, “ogom”. And this is because when we were in Kaduna, whenever I went to my friend, Chukwuma Nzeogwu’s house, Mama (his mother), who never spoke a word of English, would hug me and say, “ogom”. I wouldn’t know what to answer and Chukwuma would just laugh at us and say, “Look at these two people.” (I also understand, “dianyi” and I also understand, “ka chi fonu”)

Now seriously speaking, education is foremost. Then, there are those other qualities such as integrity, honesty, courage, truthfulness, so that when you say something, people can rely on it. If it however turns out that the information you had when you said a particular thing wasn’t adequate, you go back and correct it and say, ‘look, in the light of new information I have, let me correct what I said earlier.’ These qualities must be developed. Then, values! But what values do we stand for now? When I was growing up, when you saw a man in a new car, you prayed for him because the belief was that he had worked hard, and he had earned the car that he had acquired. You prayed for him and wished you would become like him some day.

But when I was in the Yola prison, each time we heard a siren blow past from behind our walls, all the prisoners would start cursing the man in the car, with the siren. So, one day, I called them and said, “look, what is all this?” They replied and said all those people were thieves. How did we degenerate to the point where we now believe that every car owner is a thief?

So, I told them that I bought my first car, brand-new, in 1961. I wasn’t a thief. I bought it with my money. In 1960, I went to the Congo (war, with the UN contingent) and I was getting UN allowance, Nigerian allowance and my salary was kept, intact. And I came back and bought a car. Was I a thief? They said, “Oh no, no, no; your time was different.” I think we should backtrack and find out what we have done wrong. How did we lose those values that we cherished so much, those values of integrity and hard work? Now, when you continue to extol a thief in your community, what do you expect? Whilst I was growing up, the children of those who were known to be of bad character in the village were ostracised, not just the man, but the entire family. But now, a thief, because he has money, would be the first you would want to give your daughter to. What sort of thing is that?

‘Secret Of My Staying Power Is Knowing Nigeria A Little Bit...’
YOU are a very strong personality and you simply held Nigeria in the palm of your hand…
(Cuts in, smiling) I don’t know about that…

How did you do it?

(Still smiling and general laughter) I didn’t hold… You see, that again… that’s not correct; I didn’t hold Nigeria in the palm of my hand…

(Cuts in) No leader has ever held Nigeria like that… a civilian government; what’s the secret?

(Continues smiling) Look, let me tell you; whatever you’re going to do, you must know it; you must understand it. I think without being immodest, I know Nigeria a little bit and that is very important. This country is a complex one and you must know that. I was in Warri the other day and I was saying to them that when I was going to contest election in 1999, people, including a Bishop of the Anglican Church, were saying to me — and listen to this — that a Yoruba man had never held the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the Centre — and these were well-meaning people. Now, I know that there is nothing in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, except the Prisons and Immigration. That is reality and the reality, for me, is that there is really nothing important in that ministry. But the perception is different and I must cater to that perception.
So, when we won the election, I said well, if there were some people who felt that there was a particular ministry that the Yoruba were excluded from, then let a Yoruba man go there. I decided that Chief S.M Afolabi (may his soul rest in peace) should go there. Of course, I knew S.M Afolabi; he was my senior in secondary school. So, I said, “Now you have a Yoruba man in the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” and they said: “Yes, yes, yes!” But what does it really come to?

In the same vein, we had an Igbo lady as Minister of Finance. We had an Igbo man (nice man) as Governor of the Central Bank. Yet, some people said the Igbo were still not pleased. Why? They said since the end of the Civil War, an Igbo man had never been Minister of Defence. I then explained that the Minister of Defence is only an administrative head of the ministry. Those people that really matter are the Service Chiefs, who command their Services. They said nooo. So, I said, “Alright, don’t worry. If that is the perception, we can deal with it.” So, I brought Tom Ironsi, the son of my own oga (JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi) — I went to the Congo in 1960, under the command of General Ironsi. I satisfied the reality, and I also satisfied the perception. It may not mean anything to other people, but you must know how you carry out the checks and balances. Then also, if things happen, who are the people you can reach? Who are the people you can call? Who are the people that can advice you, genuinely? You must have all of that. For a country like this, you must have that. It is this feeling of knowing what rope, what chain, to pull, that makes a difference.

‘Sani Proclaimed Sharia To Make Himself Untouchable’

THERE’S something intriguing about you, and thus, this question. There was the situation in Odi and you cracked down on that community. There was the killing of soldiers in Zaki-Biam and you dealt summarily with the situation. Yet, there was this Sharia declaration in the North, in Zamfara State, precisely, where people suddenly said they were a Sharia State…

(Cuts in) What’s the difference?

You should equally have cracked down on them because this was clearly a rebellion, a total violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why didn’t you crack down on them?
(Pauses) You see, again, you must be very, very, sensitive. As the Commander-in-Chief, as the man who had responsibility for security in this country, what were my instruments for maintaining law and order and ensuring security? The Police; the Military. Now, if my police can be sent anywhere and be treated with impunity and my soldiers can be sent anywhere and be treated with impunity, what right, as Commander-in-Chief, do I have to go out there and say, hey, you go there? That is very important.

Odi. We sent policemen; they were killed. We sent soldiers; they were killed. And I said to the governor, “Look, this cannot be allowed to go on. Please, just get me those that killed those policemen and soldiers. I am not going to kill them, but I will make examples of them, because my own policemen and soldiers must trust me, must have confidence in me. When I send them out, I must back them up. ”The governor said, “I don’t know who killed them.” And I said, “Eh-eh. Ok, if you don’t know who killed them, I will do my duty.” And so, I did my duty. It’s the same thing with Zaki-Biam. That one was even worse. They killed the soldiers and decapitated them. And I said to the governor, “Please, what are you doing about this?” And he said, “It is beyond me; please, come and help me.” And I said, “Ok. Since you’ve called me to help you, I will help you.” And I did.

You see; Sharia is slightly different. The young man (Sani Ahmad), who went into Sharia, I know the circumstances that took him into Sharia. He was a governor and one of my own senior staff, who comes from that state (Zamfara), was really making life unbearable for him, according to him (Sani). And I tried to reconcile them, not once, not twice. So, one day, the governor came to me and said, “This man is collecting invoices and receipts and is snooping about on me. I will make myself untouchable.” I said, “Eh-eh, make yourself untouchable?” I didn’t know what he meant by that. So, what he did to make himself untouchable was to proclaim Sharia. And that was why I said at that time, that it was political Sharia.

So, it was more or less the particular governor’s personal survival kit?

Yes. And he was clever enough to go to all the clerics and got them. And I just looked at him and I said, ‘Look, this young man thinks I’m a fool. He wants to lure me into a killing ground. I won’t fall for that.’ And as I said, publicly, “if it is genuine Sharia, well, it will survive, but if it is not genuine, it will fizzle out.” And it fizzled out, without my raising a finger…

(Cuts in) Well, don’t you think that if you had interfered at that point in time, the Boko Haram insurgency, that is ravaging practically the entire North, would have been nipped in the bud?

No, the Sharia that came out at that time was a different issue, altogether… even the man, I told you his story. He came to my residence once — I had a young cousin living with me at the time — and they hugged themselves and I said, “Ah! Oga Governor, Sharia!” He just waved my reaction aside and hissed: “Didn’t you say it would fizzle out?” He wasn’t really into it, as I saw and read it and as it finally proved to be.
But even this Boko Haram (members) that said to me that, when I was in government, I was doing my own thing and they were doing their own thing, I asked them what was their own thing and they said, Sharia. I didn’t worry them and they didn’t worry me and that was true. Look, I’ve had the experience of Sharia before, as military head-of-state. The Constitution was deadlocked. The Constituent Assembly was trying to ratify it, but it was deadlocked on Sharia. In fact, it nearly divided my own team — the Supreme Military Council — until one day, I wrote a speech and called all my members of the SMC and passed the speech to them. I asked if they endorsed it and they said, yes. And I said, “Oya,” and all of us, we went there. And that was what killed it because my own Supreme Military Council was being divided along lines of pro-Sharia and anti-Sharia and that was not good for me. So, we nipped it in the bud.

This second time, if I had rolled out tanks at Zamfara, I would have set the country on fire and I told him (Sani) so. I said to him, “Governor, you know what you’re doing” and he said, “But you’re there to handle it and you’ve handled it; so, what are you complaining about?” That was that. THERE were stories of you gunning for a third term whilst in office. May we ask if you honestly support the idea of a strong leader, and for a third term, or longer period in office, for the sake of continuity that some people are talking about, in order to stabilise the country? Even if you give Nigeria a fourth term, a person, an individual, is an individual. At some point in time, he would surely go away. What Nigeria needs is…(Cuts in) Surely, an individual can make a difference…

Yes, an individual can make a difference. But if you have, in eight years, laid the foundation — which I did — and somebody comes to undo what you have left behind, such reversal could only be for a short while.
What happened? For instance, take the area of power, the area of transportation. We laid out all that had to be done so that you just keep going. Somebody came and he just halted it and we lost. Not only did we lose about three or four years, but we also lost money because those things would now have to cost two times what they would have cost. You cannot build the fortunes of a country only on one individual, all the time. A leader comes and a leader matters. If that leader does not perform, it is either the people would do their thing, democratically and vote him out, or God does His own thing in a more dramatic way than democracy.
And that’s it. I personally believe that there is always the hand of God in the fortune, or misfortune of a nation, just as it is in the fortune, or misfortune, of an individual, or any human institution.

Let’s look at one recent misfortune that befell this country — the demise of former President Yar’Adua. People say you knew he was dying, and you merely handed over to him because it was your strategy for returning power to the South. Frankly, did you know he was dying?

I have said this before. When I was looking for a successor, for me, at that time, I believed that we hadn’t reached a stage where, after the completion of a full term, of a president, if he is from the South, he should be succeeded by another southerner, or if he is from the North, he should be succeeded by another northerner — I hope we get to that stage, some day. I believe, at this stage, we are still in transition. You may say it’s a long transition, but we’re still in transition. We have to create confidence and trust, first.
I believed that a northerner should be the one to succeed me. If it’s within my party, another thing that is important is that the primaries would be determined by which way the governors go. So, I took the governors and the leadership of the party along and we settled for that young man (Yar’Adua).
I knew that, that young man had been ill. He had kidney problem and was on dialysis. He told me himself that he had seized to be on dialysis; he told me that even before he was picked for the presidency. Then, I asked for his medical report, which he gave me. I gave the report to a medical specialist who gave his verdict and said that if someone had been on dialysis and suddenly stopped, it would mean that you’ve had a kidney transplant, which succeeded. And if you’ve had a kidney transplant that succeeded, you’re as good as having not had any problems at all. So, on the basis of that, what do you say is my crime? But the point is this — and I said that later — if you are given a job to do and you accept to do it and through no fault of yours, something crops up that makes you incapable of doing that job to the satisfaction of those who gave you the job and to your own satisfaction, the most honourable thing to do is to say, sorry. We all have one ailment, or the other. I have mine, too, but I manage it. So, if, for instance, you give me anything to eat that is likely to jeopardise my health, I would reject it. So, what is your problem? For anybody to say I knew he would die — who knows who will die? Do you know when you will die? People may say what they like but that doesn’t really bother me. What I do is to satisfy my God and my conscience.

‘1966 Coup Adversely Affected The Fortunes Of Nigeria’

NOW, another case for curiosity, General! During your young officer days, the one close friend you were known to have had was another strong character, in the person of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. What chemistry bonded you together? I think we had the same aura. Chukwuma was a Nigerian, through and through and that’s what I said when I wrote the book on him. Some people started commenting and I even said he was naïve in the action he took. But one thing you could not accuse Chukwuma of was that he was not a Nigerian. No. He was a committed nationalist; he was a committed patriot.

Was that January 1966 coup a mistake?

I believe so; I believe so. But you see, I knew Chukwuma very well. I have said this before: if I had been in — and Chukwuma knew me, that I was strong enough to try and stop that coup — it probably would have been a different story. I came in the night before the coup and Chukwuma had said to me that this was the greatest problem that faced him, whether to tell me about the action or not to tell me. And if he had told me about the coup, I probably would have said, ‘nonsense, you can’t do that.’ Now, if he had succeeded in convincing me and I said, ‘good idea, let’s carry on,’ it was already too late in the day because there would have been no role for me to play because they had worked out everything. So, they decided that they must keep the whole exercise away from me. Even when it happened, some of us said, “Look, what is this?” It set democracy back.

Do you believe that coup adversely affected the fortunes of this country?

Yes, it did. Let me take the military, for instance. We were very closely knit. I didn’t even know whether Chukwuma was Igbo, or not. We were in the Congo together, just like two brothers. But that coup did for us what was not necessary, at the time. The military was already getting weakened, with its gradual politicisation, but the coup actually introduced a very wide gap. I think that it was after Murtala (Muhammed) and I came back that we actually started trying to bridge that gap. And even then, that gap wasn’t fully closed until I came back as an elected president and began to give some concessions to our brothers who fought on the other side. Knowing Chukwuma very well, I knew he was a man of good intentions and all that, but I think the coup was a mistake, a genuine mistake. It wasn’t a mistake borne out of his personal aggrandisement, but one probably borne out of his understanding of nationalism and patriotism.

Was the rebellion that led to Biafra right?

Look, like I have said, there were actions and there were reactions. And in human interactions, reactions are normally stronger than actions. In the law of physics, action and reaction are equal and opposite but in human interactions, action and reaction are opposite, but they are not normally equal. It is either the reaction — if you have the opportunity — is stronger than the action, or action is stronger than reaction, if you are weak and feeble. There were actions and reactions, but at the end of the day, we have to backtrack. We have said that the coup was a mistake of some naïve, may be, nationalistic officers. So, the other reaction must be taken from that context. As a result of that, there were reactions. Then, there were reactions, to reactions and more reactions to other reactions. I cannot really justify anything. All I would say is that we came out of it. The way we came out of it, we thank God for it. Nigeria could have been divided by that and I remember that in 1999, when I was going round and people were advising me, suggesting to me what to say, or not to say, I went to Kano, to one distinguished Kano man and he said that his position was that he didn’t want to have to carry a visa, to go to Lagos, or to Enugu, or to Port Harcourt. And I also said to him, yes, I am considering contesting because I, too, do not want to have to carry a visa to come to Kano, or to go to Kaduna, or Calabar, or Port Harcourt. I don’t think it is a question of what is right, or who is right; I think that what we should say is that, that period was an unfortunate period for Nigeria. We thank God we put it behind us.

‘The Youth Must Be Part Of Today, Not Just Tomorrow’

YOU were chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP before you suddenly resigned; was it that the party was doing certain underhand things that you didn’t like, or what?, I told people that I want to face four things. One, I’m building a presidential library. In fact, I want to pay more attention to it. This opportunity that has opened for Africa, with the situations in 2008, in America and Eurozone crises, has opened a window of opportunity for investment in Africa. I want to go around, getting investments for Africa, generally and for Nigeria, in particular. Then, there are those young men and women in Africa, who believe that they need to be mentored and I make myself available to them. That was one of the things I went to do in Senegal, recently. This group of Africans — they call themselves ‘Africa 2.0’, — I talk to them and mentor them. And then, the international arena is making more demand on my time. So far, you have been the only Nigerian leader to ever talk of a presidential library; what are we to expect of this current, pet project of yours? It should be a repository of all that happened in my life and what impact Nigeria has made on it and vice-versa. It would be a museum and an archive and a place of education, for those who want to be educated; a place of research, for those who want to research and a place of tourism, for those who just want to look and enjoy themselves.

What advice have you for the youth of this country, particularly, the restive ones?

The advice would not be for the restive youth alone. What I want to say to the youth is that I don’t accept this idea of tomorrow for the youth. No. You must be part of today. If you are not part of today, your tomorrow might be spoilt, marred, or totally destroyed for you by those who are in-charge of today. So, the youth must fix themselves into today, so that tomorrow would be available to them. As for those of us who believe that we have the God-given right to do things, as we like, let us remember that we would give account here. But the account-giving is not only here; we would give account yonder. You truly appear to love young people from all over and mentoring them. In this particular regard, we refer to your chief-of-staff, Dr. Andy Uba, who is not even Yoruba, but was your closest aide whilst you were in office. What can you say about your relationship with him? Andy was the first person that saw me in the morning and the last person that saw me at night.

Awolowo Didn’t Kill Igbo With Starvation, Blame The Commanders..
WHAT would you say about the controversy stirred up by Chinua Achebe’s book, in which he pointedly accused Chief Obafemi Awolowo of masterminding the starvation that killed off millions of Igbo during the war?

I don’t comment on that type of thing… I don’t comment on that type of thing. Look, I was a participant. Awolowo was given a task to manage the finances of the country, to fight a war. He was not given control of killing anybody. If you would accuse anybody, it should be those of us who were commanders in the field.
And if you cannot accuse us of that (and you cannot), how could you accuse anybody else? Because, as I was fighting in the field, I was feeding and as young men were coming out of the Igbo enclave, I was sending them for training. And when they finished their training, I gave them guns, to face where they were coming from. That was how I fought the war. When I was going to take Owerri, for instance, I didn’t bombard the town. I could jolly well have bombarded Owerri…

(Cuts in) Can you describe that action, sir?

(Waves it off) I won’t... (Laughter) I have said it several times and publicly, too, that a civil war is one experience that is harrowing — when you are fighting, to unite. If you are fighting to destroy, that’s a different thing altogether. How do I fight people that I want, and see as brothers? The day the war ended in the field, I got David Ogunewe. We were going round. Poor man! He didn’t have shoes and I said, take my shoes, because we were together in 5th Battalion. Even Emeka (Odumegwu-Ojukwu) himself — Emeka used to call me ‘Omoba’. We were all colleagues — Ogbugo Kalu, Mike Ivenso and others, including Patrick Amadi, with whom I joined the army the same day. So, how do I see them as enemy? I believe, on both sides, mistakes were made. We put those mistakes behind us, to move on. Another controversy concerning you directly was that Chief Awolowo won the 1979 presidential election, but you favoured the North and handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari…

Did Awolowo win; did Awolowo win?

That was what the Unity Party of Nigeria, in particular, claimed…UPN said so, but did Awolowo win? If Awolowo didn’t win, why should I hand over to him? If Awolowo didn’t win, on what ground would I hand over to him, because I’m a Yoruba and Awolowo was Yoruba? If I did that, God will not forgive me.

I was there to be an impartial adjudicator. And Chief Michael Ani, who was the (electoral) umpire, didn’t tell me that Awolowo won. If he had told me that, Awolowo would have won (be declared). You see, that is another thing we must kill in this country. I must look at you for what you are worth, not because you are ‘dianyi’, or ‘mgbati-mgbati’, or ‘malam’. No. What is the quality of this man? How do you do justice, show fairness? How do you now build a nation? We have to build a nation, whether we like it or not. Some people still believe they can secede. I think it is fantasy. Well, good luck to them.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

NLC Condemns CNN's Call For Military Take Over, Vows To Go On Strike

With the walls unquestionably tumbling down, the talk of a fledgling democracy had been viewed a long time ago and nothing seems to be going in the favor of a sound democratic fabric. This is republished here, culled from the Vanguard Newspapers.


NLC condemns CNN's call for military take over, vows to go on strike

Monday, 11th February, 2002
By Lemmy Ughegbe

ABUJA, FCT—THE Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to embark on a
general strike should there be an unconstitutional take over of government by
the military even as it decried the Cable News Network’s (CNN) suggestion
that Nigeria would benefit more from military dictatorship.

The NLC President, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole made this position known at a press
conference held in Abuja.

Comrade Oshiomhole said the days of military rule had visited enormous problems
on the nation and as such it was not an attractive option of governance.

He therefore condemned CNN for suggesting that Nigeria would be better off in
the dark days of military misrule, describing it as "criminal." According to
him, "we all know that military rule created enormous problems and we are still
trying to clear the mess, so we cannot fall for the bogey that dictatorship is
glamorous. "We cannot forget that military rule is about the dark ages of
detentions without trial just for disagreeing with official view, it is about a
defeated judiciary and a castrated polity.

"Military rule is about forcing some of our brightest minds into political
exile, the fleeing of the country and destruction of social forces.

"Nigerians cannot forget that military rule aborted the democratic process
thirty six years ago, created the civil war in which over a million of us
perished and squandered our resources under the prodigal claim of Gowon that
"money is not our problem."

Comrade Oshiomhole noted that even though Nigerians were yet to reap the
dividends of democracy it was wrong to call for an abortion of the democratic
structure through a military take over. He pointed out that the military was
responsible for the spate of violence being witnessed all over the country
through the various militia as these militia were created under military rule.

"...The various militia in the country like the OPC, APC and Egbesu were created
under the military and the violence we experience today flow mainly from such
groups and the poverty over half of the population face are caused by the

He also observed that an incontestable fact is that crises such as the Tiv-Jukun
clashes religious riots in Kano and Kafanchan, the Zango Kataf mayhem, the
Aguleri and Umuleri wars and the Ogoni protests were all under the military,
asserting that "military rule is not synonymous with political stability or

Africa: ‘C’ For Colonialism – OpEd

By Akro Dasgupta/Eurasia Review

Last week, Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan made known his willingness to meet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The two Sudans, recently separated under the conditions set in the 2005 Naivasha Agreement, have continued to have problems with each other even after their formal separation. Sudan had been witness to a brutal civil war ever since the British left the country in 1956. Under colonialism, African Sudan was ruled very differently from Arab Sudan. In the light of this still ongoing tussle between the two neighbors, it makes sense to recapitulate, in modicum, what colonialism meant for Africa and what it did to the continent.

The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 called on European powers to divide Africa amongst themselves. It formalized the process so that the states of Europe would not get in the way of each other’s plundering of the continent. It was recognized that the continent had a lot to offer to the economies of ever-expanding Europe. Of course, there was the whole White Man’s Burden – the civilizing mission that White Europe had the moral responsibility to unleash in Black Africa – which could be achieved with the bible together with the bullet.
The tribal dynamics of Africa made it difficult to chip at Africa and create nation-states or domains out of her. The continent was home to people who had deep-rooted ties of kinship and were united by clan and tribe associations. Africa was also home to a lot of nomadic and semi-nomadic people – when the Massai tribesmen had to graze their livestock, they couldn’t care for the absurd boundaries drawn up by people so unconnected to their way of life. These things did not make any sense to them. The loot of Africa, however, went on and many a nation in the civilized world further enriched themselves, thus.

This exploitation of the continent was accompanied by some of the worst atrocities let loose on men by fellow men. Domination wouldn’t come without the exercise of brute force. The natives had to be shown their place and be made to surrender to the impulses of the colonists. A series of horrific episodes in Africa’s history followed: the pillage of Congo Free State by Leopold II of Belgium who ran it as his private offshore estate in the 1890s and 1900s; the Herero and Namaqua Massacres in German South-West Africa in the 1900s; the brutal suppression of the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya by the British in the 1950s, the list is endless. The relationship between Leopold II and the Congolese, in particular, was one of one-way economic exploitation and personal victimization so much so that it prompted an American journalist in the last decade of the 20th century to write a book on the subject which he titled ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’. Interestingly, Leopold’s statue was removed from Kinshasa upon Congo’s independence from Belgium over five decades ago but in 2005 his statue was restored – only to mysteriously disappear the very next day.

In the years following decolonization, Africans were blamed for their inability to organize themselves into cohesive national units. The inculpations would gain in intensity at times of crises such as the one in Biafra in the late 1960s. As British MP Kwasi Kwarteng tells us in his book Ghosts of Empire, it wouldn’t be right to blame only Nigeria for what happened in Biafra then, and continues to happen even today. The Brandt Report of 1980 which was chaired by Willy Brandt, who had resigned as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany a few years before, was perhaps the first time that the Global North-South Divide was looked at in a somewhat holistic manner. No longer was the discourse composed of the developed and the developing countries leveling charges at each other for unchecked corruption or past injustices.

Today, the neo-colonization of the continent by the West, China or India is something that has benefited very few Africans. It has created a very rich class of Lilliputian proportions who stare down (ironically) at an overwhelmingly poor Brobdingnagian class. Suffice to say that the lifestyles of the citizens of the Global North and the need to cater to the demands of the burgeoning middle classes of India and, particularly China, has led to a mad scramble among these countries – a second Scramble for Africa – to create their own spheres of influence in the continent (much like the way China was carved up among the European powers and the Japanese at the turn of the last century). China now has an African weekly edition of China Daily, an English language daily published in the country. So, in effect, Africa has been stripped only to be re-stripped, again. Colonization has come full circle.

Arko Dasgupta is a postgraduate student in Conflict Analysis and Peacebuilding in the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and the associate editor at Jamia Journal-Jamia Millia Islamia’s independent student newspaper. His articles have appeared in openDemocracy, Foreign Policy Journal, International Policy Digest, The Express Tribune Blog, among others.

Launchers turned in to LAPD were from military

— Experts say two rocket launchers turned in during a one-day gun buyback program in Los Angeles appear to be antitank weapons from the military.
The LA Times reports ( one of the rocket launchers is likely a version of the AT4, a single-shot, disposable antitank weapon manufactured in Sweden Police said the people who turned them in claimed they had family members who were once in the military. Just the barrels of the weapons were turned in, without the projectiles.
Det. Gus Villanueva tells the Times police would check the origins of the weapons with the U.S. military to see if they were ever stolen. He says officers could not provide details on the models.

Wednesday's buyback program brought in 2,037 firearms, including 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns and 75 assault weapons. ....The Associated Press

Read more here:

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Nigeria’s capital market in 2012: Still below average

WorldStage Newsonline (EXCLUSIVE)-- As 2012 draws to an end, experts believed that the Nigerian Capital market did not do enough to meet investors’ expectation. NKECHI NAECHE reports.
The Nigerian capital market is something of an enigma. The year 2012, to many investors has not yielded good result due to the problems of insecurity, lack of infrastructure, the clash between tha National Assemble and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), among others.
The President of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie said, the capital market in the last one year did not perform better when compared with what happened under the leadership of the former DG of SEC , adding that Director General of SEC, Arunma Oteh knew next to nothing about the market and until she is removed, the market confidence will continue to be eroded.
He added that the call by the National Assembly that the SEC DG should be sacked is one of the ways to boost the market.
He also identified lack of infrastructure such as quality roads, power, and insecurity as some of the challenges that affect the performance of the capital market.
He however called on the Federal Government to take the issue of infrastructure more serious especially the ongoing reforms in the power sector, adding that for effectiveness of the capital market more needed to be done in the area of power.
He noted that most capital markets all over the world were in a state of recovering but that of Nigeria cannot be said to be so due to these challenges.
Mr Nona Awo an outspoken shareholder was of the opinion that the nation's capital market performed below average in 2012, adding that most of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and SEC reforms did not help matters, instead eroded the confidence of an average investors at home and abroad.
He called on investors not to lose hope on the market, adding that next year will be better than this year.
In his view, Mr. Tunde Oyediran, a market analyst with Deloy Consulting was of the opinion that the consistent raising of Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) by CBN culminated into uncertainty and lack of confidence in the market.
On stocks performance, he noted that the market is yet to come out of recession, adding that by next year the market will do better especially in the area of dividend payment to shareholders. He however disagreed with Mr Okezie that the DG should be sack, according him the DG should be allowed to continue what she is doing, adding her removal will only bring about apathy in the market.
Also the Chief Executive Office of Lambert Trust & Investment Company Limited, David Imafidon Adonri was of the view that although minor improvement was recorded, investors were expecting more from the market.
He explained that the year started out on bearish note with NSE All-Share Index (ASI) depreciating by 32.63 points or 0.15 per cent and market capitalisation dropping to N6.533 trillion, but at the close of trading last week NSE All-Share Index appreciated by 1.69 per cent to close at 27,866.51, while Market Capitalization of the listed equities appreciated by 1.73 per cent to close at N8.907 trillion.
He noted that it’s a slight improvement for the market when looking at the challenges confronting the market in 2012, adding that 2013 will be better if these challenges are fixed by the government. However, the Director General of SEC, Arunma Oteh was of the view that the capital market was not just fantastic by global standard, but that it experienced a growth of 30 per cent of the All Share Index.
According to her, it is not just one sector that is driving it, “ We also hope that the oil and gas sector, particularly the downstream sector, which has not done very well, will start to do well. We feel that what the government has done to tackle some of the issues in that sector is very important. We really hope that the Petroleum Industry Bill is promulgated.
“We feel that it is very important for the take-off of the upstream sector, particularly the indigenous sector, to complement some of what we have seen with respect to the rule around the local content. We feel that a number of indigenous companies would want to participate actively in that sector and the PIB, moving forward, will help that.”
According to her, their achievements had ranged from supporting products and business development, as well as the bond market, thus ensuring that the issues that were important to investors were considered.
She noted that additional projects, including the dematerialisation of share certificates, were being executed, stressing that they would all further strengthen the capital market.
“Compliance and rules are very critical for us and we are hoping that at the end of this year we will be able issue consolidated rules. The industries committee has already completed its work. It is now left to the SEC to review the work it has done and hopefully before the end of this year we would be able to issue the consolidated rules,” she said.
To boost investor confidence, she added, the SEC was working on an investor complaint management framework. She said once the investor confidence sub-committee, along with the capital market solicitors’ trade group, conclude a final review of the framework, SEC would issue a complaint management guideline.
Although, she agreed that some sector such as the insurance sector had not done so well despite National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and the SEC efforts, but believed that 2013 would be better for the sector.

Nigeria In The Hands Of CPC Will Become Somalia - PDP

Somalilandsun - The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has reacted tersely to the criticism of president Goodluck Jonathan's administration by the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, as well as sounded a note of caution to Nigerians not to be taken in by what it claims are "the rhetoric of CPC", a party it alleged would lead Nigeria on "an express road to Somalia" if given the chance.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said this while reacting to the CPC's criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan's Christmas day speech which the CPC described "as a ritual bereft of imagination or sincerity."
The PDP said: "President Jonathan has invested heavily in critical infrastructures such as power, road and rail transport, security, agriculture,education among others. While the maturity span of some of these infrastructure is long term and are expected to yield benefits in coming years, there is abundant evidence that steady gains are already crystalizing in sectors such as power, education and rail transport.
"The CPC will definitely be blind to this steady progress because constructive engagement is not the ultimate motivation of its criticism," the statement added.
On the allegation that the PDP governments mismanaged resources of the country, the PDP said:
"Even in 2011 when the CPC took desperation to a criminal level, orchestrating an orgy of election violence that claimed many lives, Nigerians stood firm for the PDP in an election adjudged locally and internationally as the most credible in the nation's recent record. But has the PDP squandered its mandate," the statement asked.
"This can only be true in the diseased imagination of the CPC. The PDP has remained the only truly national party on whose shoulders revolve the unity of the nation. Need we say that a Nigeria in the hands of a political party like the CPC is on an express road to Somalia.
Besides, the statement continued, "the PDP met Nigeria a pariah state, retrieved and returned it to the centre stage of global reckoning. It is also on record that at a time the economy of the western nations was hobbled by the global melt down with banks collapsing, no bank in Nigeria suffered similar fate.
"Similarly, as part of the party's strategy against corruption, the PDP liberalized the economy and threw the door open to generate new jobs. The party also established anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC and ICPC as well as enacted the Freedom of Information law to enhance transparency in governance. The party's dispassion in winning the battle on corruption has seen even senior members of the party convicted for corruption.
"We must add, that our battle on corruption is total and that President Jonathan has won the most critical aspect of it which is against electoral corruption. Nigerians now go to the polls and are sure their votes will count"". There is no shorter road to good governance than when mandate and withdrawal of it depend entirely on the people," the statement concluded.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Chinese Research Ship Returns From Nigeria

QINGDAO -- The scientific research vessel Ocean One returned to a harbor in East China on Dec 28 after successfully completing a landmark marine exploration and research mission in Nigeria.
The arrival of the ship in Qingdao of Shandong province marked the completion of the country's 26th marine expedition.
The expedition included a nine-day joint cruise conducted in Nigerian waters with Chinese and Nigerian scientists, marking the first time for a Chinese research team to lead an operation in an African country's exclusive economic zone.
"It is a groundbreaking voyage in terms of boosting marine cooperation between the two countries," said Li Bo, an official with the China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association, organizer of the expedition.
The mission will help both sides better understand the underwater landscape and fishery conditions in the area, Captain Cao Yezheng said previously.
The expedition started in April. After setting sail from Sanya in south China's Hainan province, the ship sailed 38,000 nautical miles through the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea.
The 245-day voyage allowed researchers to study biological diversity in hydrothermal areas in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, which will provide valuable information for future biological and geological studies, chief expedition scientist Tao Chunhui said.
The Ocean One is China's only open-ocean vessel designated and equipped for deep sea research.

Fresh Fighting Erupts In CAR

BANGUI: Renewed fighting between government forces and rebels seeking to overthrow the president broke out Friday in Central African Republic’s third largest city, a military official said, hours after the U.S. ambassador and his team were evacuated from the capital.
Government soldiers appeared to be in control of Bambari following the clashes, according to military officials. The town is located about 385 kilometers from the capital and had been under rebel control for five days.

The new violence came the same day as the Central African Republic's neighbors took steps to tackle the crisis in the chronically unstable nation, where rebels have advanced towards the capital Bangui, stoking local and international alarm.

Foreign ministers in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) were due to discuss the crisis at a meeting in the Gabonese capital Libreville, which is seen as a potential venue for peace talks.

ECCAS Deputy Secretary General Guy-Pierre Garcia said late Friday that rebels and the Central African government had agreed to unconditional talks.

"The goal is to get to negotiations [between the government and the rebels] by January 10," a source in the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) told AFP.

Earlier Friday, Bangui residents fled in overloaded cars and boats and others stockpiled food and water as rebel forces paused at the city gates for cease-fire talks.
Scores of wooden boats piled high with baggage and people crossed the Oubangui River toward Democratic Republic of Congo on the other side, while the main road south away from rebel lines was choked with vehicles.

The United States evacuated about 40 people, including the U.S. ambassador, on an U.S. air force plane bound for Kenya, said U.S. officials who insisted on anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the operation. The United States has special forces troops in the country who are assisting in the hunt for Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel leader of another rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. The U.S. special forces remain in the country, the U.S. military’s Africa Command said from its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
The International Committee for the Red Cross said Friday that it too had evacuated some workers, though it stressed it would continue to provide aid to the growing number of displaced people.

The evacuation of the U.S. diplomats came in the wake of criticism of how the U.S. handled diplomatic security before and during the attack on its consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. The ambassador and three other Americans were killed in that attack.
French diplomats are staying despite a violent demonstration outside its embassy earlier this week.

Wednesday, demonstrators angry at France's failure to intervene tore down the flag at the French embassy in Bangui and broke windows at the building. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke via phone with President Francois Bozize, asking him to take responsibility for the safety of French nationals and diplomatic missions in Central African Republic.

Bozize Thursday urgently called on former colonial ruler France and other foreign powers to help his government in fending off rebels who are quickly seizing territory and approaching the country’s capital.

But French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday that France had no intention of getting involved in the crisis, and would only intervene to protect its own nationals there.
French President Francois Hollande also said earlier that France wants to protect its interests in Central African Republic and not Bozize’s government.

A diplomatic team from FOMAC has begun talks with authorities in Bangui and sent a delegation to the rebel-held strategic town of Ndele in the north to meet members of the rebel coalition Seleka, which launched its offensive on December 10.
Seleka – A coalition of three rebel movements – or the "alliance" in the Sango language – has taken a string of towns, including four regional capitals, among them the garrison town and key diamond mining hub of Birao.

The coalition wants the government to fulfill the terms of peace pacts signed in 2007 and 2001, providing for disarmament and social reintegration, including pay. Bozize took power in a 2003 coup and has twice been elected into office. In 2006, France, which supported Bozize in his rise to power, had lent logistical help and air support to fight off rebels.
While Seleka says it has no plans to move on the capital, a statement last week announcing it had suspended its advance was followed within a day by news of further rebel victories.
France has around 250 soldiers based at Bangui airport providing technical support to the FOMAC peacekeeping mission, which consists of up to 500 troops from Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Cameroon.

As the ill-equipped Central African army proved little opposition to the insurgents, Bozize also asked for help from neighboring Chad which sent in some troops.


Journalist Convicted - It's Time to Decriminalize Press Offences

Reporters Without Borders sent an open letter today to President Macky Sall of Senegal in response to the suspension a week ago by the Dakar Criminal Court of the magazine Exclusif and the sentencing of its managing editor, El Malick Seck, to six months' imprisonment.

The press freedom organization notes the discrepancy between the president's comments in favour of decriminalizing press offences and the prison sentences that continue to be handed down on journalists. It urges him to use his influence to persuade members of the National Assembly to approve the new press code submitted to them several months ago.

Here is the text of the letter:

Macky Sall
Paris, 28 December 2012
Subject: Conviction of the journalist El Malick Seck and the decriminalization of press offences.

Dear President

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that campaigns for freedom of information, wishes to make you aware of its surprise and puzzlement at the discrepancy between your comments in favour of decriminalizing press offences in Senegal and the prison sentences that continue to be handed down on journalists in the country.

At the closing ceremony of the meeting of the African Media Leaders Forum in Dakar last month, you said you were "for decriminalization of press offences", declaring: "When press offences are decriminalized, it means that there are solutions other than criminal litigation ... The level of democracy in Senegal can allow us to decriminalize press offences and allow the journalist to conduct his investigations."

However, on 18 December the Dakar Criminal Court suspended publication of the magazine Exclusif and sentenced its managing editor El Malick Seck to six months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay 100 million CFA francs in damages.

The offences were alleged to have taken place in June this year in the fifth issue of Exclusif which contained an article by El Malick Seck headlined "Sidy Lamine Niasse: blackmailer". The journalist wrote that Sidy Lamine Niasse, the head of the Walfadjri media group, had kept the outgoing government at arm's length and the then-president Abdoulaye Wade had "fired a financial shot across its bows". Exclusif alleged that 460 million CFA francs (more than 700,000 euros) - not 400 million - had been paid into the group's bank accounts from the public coffers.

Without commenting on the substance of a dispute between colleagues, Reporters Without Borders finds it regrettable that Senegal continues to impose custodial sentences on those found guilty of press offences.

As you know, our organization has for several years been encouraging the authorities in Dakar to decriminalize press offences. In May this year, shortly after your accession to the highest state office, we wrote to you to draw your attention to the new press code that had been before the National Assembly for several months and which would improve the health of the sector and afford greater protection to journalists.

We urged you to use your influence to persuade the members of Senegal's parliament to approve the code. We also asked you to support the decriminalization of press offences as advocated in the bill, so that journalists who committed offences in the course of their work would receive fairer and more appropriate penalties than prison sentences.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes your recent statements in support of decriminalization of press offences, but would encourage you to turn this commitment into action. Only the National Assembly's approval of the bill as expeditiously as possible will ensure that your comments do not remain empty words.

It is time for your country to carry through this reform, which was carried out several years ago by other African countries such as Togo and Côte d'Ivoire.

Thank you for you attention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Christophe Deloire

C African Republic asks for US, France intervention

The president of the Central African Republic appealed for French and U.S. help after rebels seized large swaths of the mineral-rich country.

“We ask our French cousins and the United States of America, the great powers, to help us to push back the rebels... to allow for dialogue in Libreville to resolve the current crisis,” President Francois Bozize told thousands of supporters at a rally in Bangui, Agence France-Presse reported. “It is a plot against the Central African Republic, a plot against its people.” Former colonial power France however vowed it would not intervene in the country, which has a chequered history of coups and brutal rule.

The rebel coalition known as Seleka has seized four regional capitals, including a diamond mining hub, since its fighters took up arms on December 10. While it says it has no plans to move on the capital, a statement last week announcing it had suspended its advance was followed within a day by news of further rebel victories.

The rebels began their push in early December, accusing Bozize and his government of having failed to respect the terms of peace deals signed between 2007-2011.


Growing concerns over increased Islamic influence in Europe

GERMANY, December 28, 2012 – In an article published December 27th, Soeren Kern, a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute, wrote a dire message stating thatas a rapidly growing Muslim population makes its presence felt in towns and cities across the continent, Islam is transforming the European way of life in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.”

No ocuntry was more affected by Islam-related controversies in 2012 than Germany. According to Kern, the Muslim population in the early 1980s stood at approximately 50,000. Today that number has grown to more than four and half million.

Much of the anxiety lies in an increasing divide between Germany’s political elites, who are determined to build a multicultural society regardless of cost, and ordinary German citizens who are witnessing a progression in the erosion of their freedoms. Several recent studies have arrived at corroborating conclusions.

The problem has reached such dynamic proportions that Germans openly discuss the situation with outsiders, tourists and anyone else who will listen.

In a spate of political correctness where mainstream media is giving credence to the demands of multiculturalism by the power elite, anti-jihadists are being classified as “Islamophobes.” It is similar to the manner in which dissenters are called “racists” in the United States for voicing an opinion against another ethnic group.

Among the areas of greatest concern is the refusal of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society, which inherently brings the institution of Sharia law. Such parallel legal systems will create societal havoc by establishing separate laws for diverging communities within one nation.

One estimate claims that more than 400 Roman Catholic churches and over 100 Protestant churches have been closed since 2000, with 700 additional Roman Catholic churches scheduled to shut down over the next several years.

As the number of Christians declines, the number of Muslims is increasing. There currently are more than 200 mosques in Germany, 128 more under construction and 2,600 Muslim prayer halls throughout the country.

In recent months, several reports have surfaced that hard-line Islamic groups, called Salafists, are working feverishly to establish a Sunni Islamic Caliphate throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Salafists are a radical Islamic sect based in Saudi Arabia.

Among the goals of the Caliphate is to establish a world governed by Sharia law, Islamic law, which would apply exclusively to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

As part of the program, a campaign called “Project Read” was organized in April of 2012 where Salafists set out to distribute 25-million free copies of the Koran, with a German translation. As Kern points out, it was an attempt to place a Koran in every household in the country.

In his chronological account of every notable Islamic “event” that occurred in Germany in 2012, Kern writes that German Intelligence Chief, Gerhard Schindler, issued a warning in August that Europe is at high risk of terrorists attacks, especially those of the homegrown variety. Many individuals born and/or raised in Europe have traveled to hotbeds of terrorism for training.

As recently as December 10th, authorities in Germany announced that a man linked to al-Qaeda left a bag containing a bomb on a railway station platform in Bonn. Fortunately, the bomb did not detonate even though it had been activated.

As reported in this column in November, Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, agreed to a “treaty” granting Muslim communities broad new rights and privileges with very little in return. Among the terms of the agreement, Hamburg will now begin teaching Islam in public schools with leaders from the local Muslim community developing the curriculum.

By November 30th, the city of Bremen followed suit by creating a similar pact.

Also in November, a 28-page research study, Fear of the East in the West, produced by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, showed that a high percentage of Germans do not trust Islam and fear Muslim Immigration.

The percentages are telling: 64% of Germans believe Islam is prone to violence; 60% say Islam has a tendency toward revenge and retaliation; 56% state that Muslims are obsessed with proselytizing others; and 56% also say Islam strives for political influence.

Experts have been sounding alarms for decades. The situation is growing worse by the day in Germany. A Salafist Caliphate could be on the horizon if we continue to ignore and to appease.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.