Wednesday, November 16, 2016

US ELECTIONS: HILLARY’S LOSS IS PUTIN’S GAIN!

While most of us are still in shock over the result of the just concluded US Presidential Election, it is important to analyze a very important factor which also led to the emergence of Donald Trump as President- Elect; and that was Russia’s involvement and interference into the electoral process.
At the 3rd Presidential Debate, Hillary Clinton made a very poignant remark about Russia’s meddling in the elections. She said, “We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.” She was right! The ‘Russian factor’ i.e., Russia’s shameless and undiplomatic interference in order to influence the outcome of the elections, was so brazen and mind-boggling that it had sent shock waves reverberating around the world! It was no secret that Russia favored Trump to win the US Presidency; and at the end, the Kremlin achieved its goal. In the months leading up to the elections, observers noticed the blossoming ‘bromance’ between President Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump; with both men taking turns to heap praises on one another at various occasions. According to Trump, Putin was a more effective leader than President Barack Obama; and Putin reciprocated in kind by referring to Trump as ‘brilliant’ and ‘talented’. At the same time, the Kremlin made no secret of the fact that in its opinion, an emergence of a President Hillary Clinton, would not be in its best interests as regards US-Russian relations, and Russia’s growing ambitions in the global community.
To achieve Russia’s aim of an eventual Trump Presidency, during the election season, Russian hackers- with the blessing and backing of the highest echelon of Russian government i.e., President Vladimir Putin himself- gained access into the databases of the US Democratic Party, acquiring sensitive information which was then used to scuttle the ambitions of the Democratic Party Nominee (and Putin antagonist), Hillary Clinton. The trail from the hack of the Democratic Party’s e-mails which led to the resignation of former Democratic Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and also showed how the upper echelon of the party favored Hillary’s emergence over Bernie Sanders as the party’s Presidential Nominee, all pointed towards Russia. Granted, there were other factors which led to Trump gaining the advantage at the polls- or should I say, the Electoral College- but there is no denying that Russia’s involvement in the whole process, put enough of a dent in the Democratic Party’s ship, which also contributed to the eventual flood which occurred November 9th.
But then, why is Putin so anti-Clinton?
A brief look at Russia’s incursions into various political arenas all around the world would help in understanding why it was very important to the Kremlin that the US elect as its leader, someone who would cozy-up to Putin, rather than try to use strong tactics against the Russian state; and Trump showed himself as a malleable puppet- directly and indirectly. He stated his intention to develop friendly relations with Putin; and not to get involved in scuttles against Russia’s strategic interests. Hillary Clinton on the other hand, doesn’t see Russia (and Putin) through rose-colored spectacles.
The US and Russia have not seen eye-to-eye on various issues of global importance lately. In Crimea, in Syria, and now with the Baltic States, there has been lots of friction between the global powers. In Putin’s calculation, it would be better to throw the weight of the cyber-attacks and propaganda dissemination to favor the man who would pose no real threat to Russia’s quest for global dominance. So, Hillary had to be taken down via cyber warfare.
During the campaign season, Trump had threatened that if he became President, NATO members would essentially have to pay their own way if they hoped to get US military cover in the case of an assault on their territories. For states like Poland and Lithuania, on whose borders Russia had deployed missiles, this was a scary situation to imagine; but for Putin, it was music to his ears! NATO’s deployment of anti-missile defense systems in Romania, and its further plans for another deployment of such system in Poland- take note that this was a strictly ‘defensive’ measure against Russia’s continued assaults in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine- was seen as a direct attack on Russia. Trump, by his careless utterance, was basically disregarding the NATO charter which clearly states that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all! The Republican candidate ‘flipped the middle finger’, to the principle of collective security on which NATO is anchored! The world held its breath; and Putin smiled…he had found his man!
Hillary Clinton has been a thorn in Putin’s side for many years now. As the former first lady made her exit as Secretary of State, one of the notes she left behind for President Obama, was to ‘Snub Putin’. She advised her Chief that the only thing the Russian President responded to, was force; and he (Obama) couldn’t afford to be naïve as regards Putin’s intentions. While former President George Bush spoke in glowing terms about Putin at some point; stating that he had “looked into the eyes of the Russian President and seen his soul”, Hillary stated firmly that Putin was a former KGB agent, and as such, had no soul! She supported ordinary Russians who took to the streets of Moscow in 2011 chanting that the parliamentary elections to the Duma had been rigged in favor of Putin’s party. Also, as Russia continues to support Bashir Assad in Syria, Hillary had been one of the major proponents of the ‘Assad Must Go’ movement; and she also supported sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea. During the 3 debates, Clinton had clearly showed that she would be very firm against Russia’s global quest for domination. Unlike Trump, she would not pander to Putin nor give him any lee-way for further expansionist actions. The Russian President was enraged! Hillary Clinton had a ‘target on her back’ from the day she announced her intentions to run for the office of President of the United States; and the Kremlin was resolved to take her down! The US Elections 2016 was Putin’s time for payback!
Putin hates Hillary’s guts. He hates the fact that she understands how the game of foreign policy ought to be played as regards to Russia. Hillary Clinton understands that with Russia, only ‘force’ works. You can never afford to bargain with the Kremlin from a weak position because Putin preys on weakness! We await to see how Trump will deal with Putin, when he assumes the US Presidency; but if he intends to follow through on his campaign rhetoric, the US can be sure to see a further diminishing of its influence in the global community, as Russia increases its own. Alliances would also shift, as former allies might begin to align themselves with the new ‘boss’ in town i.e., Russia. I do not think that this would be good for the world. I had hoped that Clinton would become President…but her loss has become Putin’s gain!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TRUMP’S VCTORY WAS NOT JUST ABOUT THE USA

I woke up on the morning of November 9th to the greatest shock of my life in recent times- Trump was leading Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential race. I kept watching; hoping that something would change; it didn’t. Donald J. Trump went on to become the 45th President of the United States! What went wrong? From day 1, no one expected Trump to win. He was just too incendiary, too inflammatory. He seemed to exemplify the worst of the American society with his attacks on women, Latinos, African-Americans, and Muslims etc. We hoped and prayed that something would stop his momentum…nothing did.
As I watched the analysis on CNN, there was a lot of talk among Democrats about how the last minute e-mail scandal resurgence by FBI Director, James Comey, had done Hillary in and led to Trump’s election day victory; but the more I reflected on the stunning outcome, the more I was convinced that there was more to it. Yes, there were certain things that helped propel Trump forward- Clinton’s e-mail scandals, Russian interference via cyber hacks (that’s talk for another day) etc. But at the end of the day, the outcome of the election revealed a far wider problem brewing within the United States, and around the world.
There has been a growing wave of populism around the world lately; and it was the same populism which led to Brexit, that gave Trump the US presidency. We all looked at Donald Trump as crazy when he talked about ejecting Muslims, building a wall, and when he hurled various other insults; but what we didn’t see was that he was tapping into the emotions of millions of people in the USA…a sentiment shared by a growing majority in the world’s population. It was just more politically acceptable for more people to appear to support Clinton- and that’s why the polls got it all wrong- but beneath the surface, most of them were for Trump.
When Brexit happened, it was a shock to the world; but in reality, it reflected a growing global sentiment. People are afraid…of those who are different to them…it is no different in the United States. America is a nation of immigrants; but those immigrants who founded the USA were ‘flat-out white’; blacks initially arrived the US in ships as slaves. As the nation grew and prospered, others from various nations arrived the shores of the USA- more Africans, Asians, Latinos, Europeans, Middle-East folks etc. America became a salad bowl with various ingredients. But at its heart, it is still ‘white’; and lately, it wants to maintain that core.
The world has seen a growing wave of populist nationalism lately. People want their nations back. They do not want outsiders. It was for this reason that a far-right party in Germany won more seats in parliamentary elections as well. With the rise of ISIS, the decline of economic growth, people need a scapegoat…and the scapegoat usually does not look like them. The scapegoat has a different skin color, and practices a different religion…the scape goat has a different way of life. This is what Donald Trump understood. While Hillary Clinton tried to appeal to the better side of humanity (as it should be), Trump capitalized on the growing ‘evil’- for lack of a different word- within the human society. This is why while Hillary had a ‘rainbow coalition’, Donald Trump had a mostly white support base- a group of people who are fed up with sharing the nation’s wealth and resources with those whom they termed outsiders.
When Trump talked about building walls, it was not just a metaphorical statement. In reality, it reflects what the world is looking like today. Walls are being built up everywhere. People are increasingly trying to keep out outsiders. Europe is shutting its doors to migrants; even Mid-Eastern states are keeping out those fleeing wars in Syria. Donald Trump rode in on the coattails of human behavior as it stands right now in most of the world.
It is quite tragic that this is what the world has become; and truth be told, it’s very difficult to see a reversal of this trend down the road. Will Trump make good on his promises and threats? Only time will tell. It is a harrowing thought. I am quite disappointed that Clinton did not win; but I am more scared for the world. Where do we go from here?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

DEAR TURKEY, PUT SOME ‘RESPEK’ ON NIGERIA’S NAME!

I am still at a loss for words over the utter disrespect recently shown to Nigeria, by Turkey. Over 50 Nigerian students were arrested in Turkey on the eve of our nation’s independence anniversary, on the orders of the Turkish Government. They were detained in some crampy, dirty room under the flimsy excuse of being ‘students of a terrorist organization.’ Then some of them were made to sign documents giving consent to their deportation back to Nigeria…some were eventually deported back home! How preposterous!
For those who might not understand the genesis of this brouhaha, I will attempt a brief explanation. A coup took place in Turkey on July 15th 2016. It didn’t last long though; as the coup plotters were overpowered by the citizenry. By July 16th, it was over. But then, it left in its wake, 200 dead, and thousands injured. Immediately, the Turkish President, Recep Tayip Erdogan, embarked on a crackdown of those suspected of instigating the coup; and in the same vein, he pointed fingers directly at an exiled moderate cleric, Fatullah Gulen, as being the mastermind of the coup. Erdogan demanded his (Gulen’s) extradition from the US- which has so far not been granted- and began shutting down all institutions and organizations connected with the Gulen movement.
As part of his revenge mission against Gulen, Erdogan did not just seek to shut down institutions associated with the Gulen movement within Turkey; but even outside Turkish shores. The Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Hakan Cakil, a while ago, requested that the Nigerian Federal Government shutdown 17 universities for alleged links to Gulen’s Hizmet movement. For all intents and purposes, Nigeria did not grant that request- and rightly so! I mean, the request went against all norms of diplomatic association and conduct! Foreign powers do not get to call the shots in another SOVEREIGN nation- not in peacetime! More so, there was no single established evidence of terrorist activities to incriminate any of the proprietors of the 17 schools!
Thus, with the request denied and Turkey probably feeling slighted, it resorted to embarrassing our students in its country…students who had committed no crime against the Turkish state! How disrespectful!
Will Turkey do this to American students? Will Turkey even do this to South African students? I doubt this. So, why do this to a supposed friend- Nigeria?
Turkey and Nigeria have had bilateral relations since 1962, when Turkey opened its first embassy in Lagos. Both nations have MOU’s in areas of politics, trade, education, and security. In terms of financial aid, Turkey doesn’t give dollars to Nigeria. So, is it the training of Nigerian policemen, or the pledge made months ago to aid in the fight against Boko Haram, that would cause the Turkish Government to flex its muscles in the affairs of a sovereign country like Nigeria in the most disrespectful way? Turkey’s actions would be expected from some failed rogue state with an erratic dictator at its helm *side eyes at that madman in North Korea*; not a card-carrying member of the NATO alliance with one foot in the Mid-East and the other in Europe! As a citizen of Nigeria, I am appalled!
I read that a diplomatic row may be brewing between Nigeria and Turkey- as it should at this point. I mean if this stunt had been pulled with students of other nations (say Russia for example), the Turkish Ambassador in that country would have been expelled! But our Nigerian Government is still towing the path of civility; even though none of that civility was accorded to us by Turkey. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs dragged its feet before summoning the Turkish Ambassador to give an explanation…and there has been no news since as to if the Ambassador obeyed the summon! *shaking my head*
Nigeria is not a failed state. Nigeria is a democratic sovereign republic that should be accorded all the respect of all other sovereign republics in the comity of nations. And if we don’t show to other countries that we are not push-overs, who knows who would decide to pull this sort of stunt on us tomorrow? Maybe Niger Republic! I know that seems far-fetched; but it’s a small world…others are watching…and learning.
We don’t have to go to war with Turkey over the issue, but I dare say we must take resolute action quickly to show that we would not be treated with such disdain. Besides, what do we have to lose? Our policemen can get trained elsewhere- not as if their overseas training has yielded genuine positive results so far...they're still sleeping on duty and collecting bribes *Oga/Madam, anything for the boys?*! Besides, It’s not as if Turkey is giving us anything for free. Turkish Airlines flies 3 routes into Nigeria weekly- Lagos, Kano, Abuja- so they’re also gaining from us. And like I said before, the agreements between both countries are ‘bilateral’- they gain and we gain…we probably even gain less.
In conclusion, enough is enough already! This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and in the voice of Birdman, Turkey must learn to “put some RESPEK on our name!”


BUHARI’S INHERENT GOODNESS: OSINBAJO AND I KNOW THIS; BUT IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?

In my heart of hearts, I am a good person. I was born ‘good’ and I intend to die ‘good’. Now, I may not look like it, and I do admit that I have become jaded by the facts of human nature and may have added some tinge of ‘bad’ discoloration to my ‘good persona’ as I have aged; but in my heart of hearts, I do know without an iota of doubt, that I am good. How do I know? Simply because I know me! Or will you say you know me more than I know myself? Ehen, so since I am telling you that I am good, just take it like that…no questions asked!
You see, good people like me are also born with an inherent gift…the gift of knowing others who are just like us. Let me demonstrate this now: I know my mother was good (because of her life’s work and how she associated with people), I know my father is not so good (but that’s not the subject of this discussion, so let’s move along), I know for a fact, that my primary school math teacher at Chrisland Nursery and Primary School, Opebi, was definitely not good (simply because he flogged students so much. I mean, who does that? When our parents paid so much in fees even at that time? Haba!) And then, apart from my mum (who is now deceased…God rest her beautiful soul), you know another good person (who is still living) who I know? - President Muhammadu Buhari. And how do I know this? Well, one, for obvious reasons- our President just has a good look…I don’t mean his facial features (even though let’s face it, the President has aged, but dude still looks good), but I mean his aura. There’s just something about Buhari that is inherently good. Now, whether you like him or not, you cannot deny the fact that he has superb moral characteristics; and in my ‘superb opinion’, this makes him good. But apart from his good aura, another reason I know he is good is because his Deputy- another ‘good’ man- Yomi Osinbajo, always tells us that he (Buhari) is good! And for me, a Pastor’s word is as good as gold- okay that’s not true, I’m clearly exaggerating. I do not have a soft spot for Nigerian Pastors, but let’s move along.
Since assuming office, there are certain things which have been reiterated by VP Osinbajo; namely, the evils perpetuated by the GEJ administration, the innate belief that Nigeria will rise again, and the inherent goodness of Muhammadu Buhari.
At a recent meeting with a delegation of Pastors from Taraba, Osinbajo again lauded the virtues of his boss. He said, “This morning, I had a meeting with the President and he repeated to me twice, he said, ‘at my age, there is only one thing I am looking for, I want to see a great Nigeria.’ He has no other objective, and I feel very inspired by that.”
Three days before that, at the interdenominational church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 56th independence anniversary, Osinbajo said, “God saw the nation when he decided to put the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari, a leadership that would take the nation across the red sea.”
And then, in June, when he received Dr. Kumuyi, the VP said, “we are very happy that we have a President who is honest, a President who is straight forward, a President who is operating from the genuineness of his heart, this is the kind of leader that we need now.”
What did I tell you? The President is good! And why? Because I know he is, and because the VP- who is also good- tells us too, all the time!
But now, to the crux of the matter- has Nigeria fared better by virtue of the (established) fact that her leader is good? Rotimi Amaechi- who I can’t really tell if he’s good or bad- might answer “yes”; but I doubt that majority of Nigerians would share his sentiment.
When a bag of Rice is sold for upwards of 20,000naira, would you still think your President is good? When petrol hovers between 141-145naira/litre, would you still think your President is good? When one dollar equals over 400naira, would you still think your President is good? When Tomato jumps from 50naira to 100naira because of Tomato Ebola; and traders refuse to revert back to 50naira after the disease is eradicated, would you still think your President is good? When CBN decides to tax you 65naira ATM charges even when you don’t have up to 200,000naira in your account, would you still think your President is good? Well, if you’re like any of the Nigerians I meet everyday, I’m sure you don’t think so! But if you’re like me, you probably still think he is…if you’re like me, your belief in the President’s inherent goodness is not doused by the present misfortunes of our country…but then if you’re like me, you also know that even if the President is good, just being good is not good enough!
It’s not good enough that Buhari is good, if Nigeria is seriously ill. It’s not good enough that Buhari is good, if prices of commodities keep rising while minimum wage remains 18,000naira. And worse still, it’s not good enough that Buhari is good, when his Ministers are largely ‘clueless’ as to how to bring us out of this present predicament!
My brothers would tell you that I am a good person with good intentions- they have no choice; I’m a domestic terrorist. I’ll give them hell if they say otherwise…lol. But they’ll also tell you- if they are being totally honest- that my good intentions do not always translate into good actions…but I won’t go into more details, because this is not about me!
Like Olamide would say, “who good epp?” You see, if good intentions do not translate into good actions which would reflect in all aspects of societal life- especially in the daily lives of average Nigerians- then it is of no use! And so, in my ‘superb opinion’ *wink wink*, I would say in conclusion, “It doesn’t matter what I and VP Osinbajo know about Buhari’s inherent goodness…if it does nothing to better the nation’s economy, then it is simply not good enough!”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

US PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: TRUMP SETS THE GOLD STANDARD FOR MANTERRUPTIONS

Where were you on the morning of September 27th- 3am to be precise? If you’re like me, you were up, tuned in to CNN, watching the historical first Presidential Debate between US Democratic Nominee, Hillary Clinton, and her Republican challenger, Donald J. Trump. It was historical by virtue of the fact that it was the first time in American Presidential history that one of the debaters was a woman…and that was enough to keep me up at that hour!
The debate started out on a cordial basis. The rivals shook hands, smiled for the cameras and the crowd, and then took their respective places behind the podiums. But then, it didn’t take long before I -and majority of the viewing audience- began to cringe. Trump, in his characteristic manner, had gotten into full ‘bully mode’. Despite being allotted an equal 2 minutes as his female rival to answer each question, he repeatedly did something that is quite rampant amongst male folk in society as they interact with members of the opposite gender- Manterrupt!
Now, for those who don’t know what manterrupting means, it is the unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man. It is rampant everywhere in society- in homes, offices, schools, even religious institutions. There is scarcely a woman on earth, who has not experienced manterruption at certain points in her life. The most prominent example of manterrupting- prior to the Clinton/Trump debate- was at the 2009 MTV VMA’s, when Kanye West lunged onto the stage, grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift, and launched into a rant about how Beyoncé should have won the award for Best Female Video. But back to the debate.
Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton for a record 25 times in one five minute period. By the time the debate was over, Clinton had been interrupted by the Republican Nominee for a total of 51 times! Incredible! Trump cut into Hillary’s speech on multiple occasions and kept going even when the moderator, Lester Holt, continually reminded him, “Mr. Trump, you’ll get your own 2 minutes.” To Hillary’s credit, she kept her cool. In fact, I kept wondering, “how is she managing to stay so calm in the face of this ridiculous verbal assault?”
As I said before, the issue of manterruptions is one that affects all societal life. I grew up in a house filled with members of the male gender. As an only girl growing up in the same space as three boisterous brothers and numerous uncles- who were a constant presence in the Obichie household- it was a daily struggle to hold my own and assert my individual importance. To achieve this, during arguments, I would usually plant my foot firmly on the ground, look them in the eye, articulate my thoughts as intelligently as I possibly could, and refuse to back down- especially when I knew I had a valid point! In consequence, I tend to be more assertive than most women, now that I’m much older. So for me, watching Donald trying to verbally silence Hillary, felt like a personal assault!
Now, being in the political space is much different from other arenas of human interaction. In my mind’s eye, a woman like Clinton, in a private setting, would not have given Trump even one chance to manterrupt her. She probably would have shut him down the first time he tried it. But in a public setting, with the eyes of the world on her, she let him carry on! Now this doesn't point to a weakness in her character; rather, it casts a beam of light on societal expectations of women, and how we usually tow the path of what is expected of us- by virtue of our gender- so we don't incur the wrath of the larger society! But don't get it twisted; Hillary was by no means passive. You see, women in public spaces have now devised a 'politically correct' method of asserting their individual authority, when dealing with male bullies. I have termed it 'subtle aggressiveness'; and women use it daily, employing their own unique strategies! Hillary's method of subtle-aggressiveness was a combination of self-control, intelligence, sarcasm, cunning; and then, experience, and preparedness. The Democratic Nominee, fully aware of her opponent’s weaknesses- chief amongst which is his big mouth- allowed him to dig himself into his own grave. Making use of a somewhat unique conventional-guerrilla tactic, she would allow him interrupt her with (mostly) outrightly ridiculous statements, then throw in her fatal sucker punch; most notable of which was the now famous line: “I think Mr. Trump is criticizing me for preparing for this debate…and yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President!” And the crowd went wild! I loved it!
Hillary got Trump’s manterruption tactics to backfire so much against him that even twitter users took her side. One user (@cassandrahaven) tweeted, “Part of me wants to start a timer to see how long Trump can go without interrupting Hillary.” Another user (@roger91367) tweeted, “Trump is just a CHILDISH interrupting BULLY. Hillary is clearly the only ADULT in the room.” And he- roger91367- was right!
Greater than the outcome of the debate- Hillary won- I was more happy that the world got to watch in real time, the stupidity of manterruptions. A man may think that by constantly assaulting a woman verbally and trying to hush her down, he is asserting his strength; but in reality, he is displaying his colossal stupidity.
In conclusion, Dear men, you can pass your message across without being disrespectful to women-folk…it is possible. And to ‘the Donald’, I will say this: you messed up- big time. But there are two more debates ahead. You can redeem yourself- if you want to. I’ll give you a piece of advice for free: the next time Hillary is speaking and you feel your heart racing and your tongue about to push open the lids of your mouth, just practice this simple exercise- try keeping your mouth shut and count to 50. And then just breathe…deeply…in and out. I assure you, before you’re done, her two minutes would be up, and you can then have your say!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

THE CALL FOR TRUE FEDERALISM: WHY THE NORTH MUST NOT BE FEARFUL

There has been a lot of talk lately about the restructuring of the country, and the devolution of powers. And with increased agitation from various groups, the call for a remodeling of the process of governance has only gotten louder.
One of the most vocal proponents of the restructuring talk has been the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. Though a Northerner, Atiku seems to understand that allowing Nigeria proceed as is, would only lead to doom ahead.
Now, though many people understand the urgency of the matter, it seems like there is no willpower to proceed in that direction; and this is largely due to the fears of one part of the country- the North!
In terms of restructuring, a major issue of contention which has led to great trepidation from the North, is ‘oil’ from the South-South. Crude oil is (still) the main-stay of the nation’s economy, and the major commodity whose sale pays the bills of all states of the federation. The North has no crude oil in its territory…but for all intents and purposes, it is in charge of almost all apparatus of Government within Nigeria…so as long as it continues to wield the stick of control at the center, it may not have the oil, but it certainly has a say over the proceeds of the oil. So to retain control, it remains vehemently opposed to any idea of restructuring! This cannot be allowed to continue!
Nigeria is called a federation; but realistically speaking, this is a wrong description. A true federation does not have weakened parts. In a true federation, there would be greater autonomy for State Governments, so they decide on important issues of policy, resources, taxation, etc. In a true federation, states do not find themselves at the mercy of the center, waiting helplessly for ‘allocations’ each month. In a true federation, states are in charge of their own economic system and survival, and they pay tax to the center.
The fear of the opponents of true federalism is that it would lead to a weakened center; but by no means is this true. The Federal Government will always have the final say on key issues concerning the collective whole.
It seems like the North is getting quite jittery lately. Twice now, the President has ordered NNPC to search for oil in the North. Someone said the day oil is discovered in the North, is the day the country will be restructured! But if we look at things intelligently and non-sentimentally, is there really a worthy reason for this fear? The answer is NO.
Each state has something of importance it brings to the table; and in my own opinion, true federalism and a restructuring of the system of governance, would cause all ‘parts’ to return to their individual drawing boards, and truly evaluate their prospects for economic survival.
For instance, Kano State does not have oil- at least not yet- but it does have a large population, which translates to a viable profitable market for entrepreneurs, which in turn translates into greater sources of taxation for the State Government.
Ekiti State does not have oil, but it has a large community of intellectuals- home and abroad- which translates into educational manpower. If the state can channel its focus into developing the educational sector to world class standards, it can thrive on educational tourism, and witness an influx of learners, which translates into ‘payers’.
Ebonyi State has a lot of red sand, no oil, but Rice…which tends to be quite soggy…but if resources are channeled into scientific research to discover ways of achieving a higher quality of this Rice, it can become an export commodity within and outside Nigeria.
The bottom line is that each state has something to offer…whether its oil, manpower, agricultural produce, other mineral resources, or even a large population…there is enough to increase the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the component parts of the nation, in order to reduce their reliance on the center.
Finally my brethren *channeling my inner Paul the Apostle* there is no denying that restructuring and true federalism is needed in Nigeria. The inevitable can only be delayed, but not for too long. Like a seasoned scholar- Chief Akintola- recently said, “The North has only gotten away with delaying the process, because of the disunity of the South (paraphrase, mine)”. But if things continue as they are, there will come a day when the OPC man will come together with the Niger-Delta militant and Biafran agitator…and when that day comes, the center would no longer hold. But it does not have to get to that point…we can do the needful, and do it quick…there really is no need for the fear!

ISIS: WHAT NEXT AFTER RAQQA AND MOSUL?

ISIS has recently suffered heavy defeats on the battlefield. When the group first gained prominence in 2014, it prided itself as being a caliphate with “headquarters” in Raqqa, Syria, and also firmly implanted in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. Through an extremely brutal rule, the sect commanded great fear amongst the local populace- as they still do- and also made the international community very wary.
With control over large territories and access to funds via taxes imposed on Government officials, ransom monies from kidnappings and funds from oil sales etc., ISIS quickly became the richest terrorist organization anywhere in the world. A haven for young, confused souls, fighters flocked to Iraq and Syria in droves from all around the world.
ISIS has thrived largely on spreading fear and propaganda; but in the last couple of months, the momentum seems to be shifting- at least on the battlefield.
Earlier this year, the Syrian Army, backed by superior Russian intelligence, took back control of the historic city of Palmyra. The retake of Palmyra was seen as a symbolic, political and strategic victory for the Assad regime.
Symbolic because Palmyra houses some very revered historical artifacts, even though most of them were destroyed when ISIS overran the town. On the political front, the retake of Palmyra gave Bashir al-Assad some measure of a firmer hold on power and greater negotiating leverage at international peace talks. And on the strategic front, Palmyra sits in-between the Syrian-Iraqi border; and its recapture drove ISIS further into the desert.
The 2nd major front of attack against ISIS on the battlefield is the Iraqi Army advance towards Mosul. Backed by US advance and assist provisions, the Iraqi troops have cleared ISIS out from the towns South of Mosul, as they prepare to take the city. An onslaught is expected to be staged sometime soon, and it would surely deal a huge blow to the terror group.
In addition to increased airstrikes from coalition forces and also the Russian-Iranian alliance, ISIS has also faced increased onslaught from the fierce Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, on the Turkish-Syrian border.
With each military advance, the sect loses power and sees its battlefield positions weakened.
But then, what does this mean in the wider narrative? Does a defeat on the battlefield translate into a global halt of ISIS’s movement? I don’t think so.
Terror attacks around Europe and even in the USA remind us of the lone-Wolf…the unknown gunman who is fuelled by a wicked ideology, to inflict maximum pain on an unsuspecting population…the ones who usually operate below the radar, planning away from the spotlight, and stepping in at an opportune moment to kill innocent lives. These are the offshoots of ISIS that the world must now worry about.
It would take more than a military operation- though highly essential- to subdue an ideology. It would take more than weeks, months and even a few years, to reduce to the barest minimum- if that’s even possible- the seeds of terrorism, which this deadly group has planted all over the world.
After battlefield successes, world powers would now have to depend on major intelligence to nip terrorist threats in the bud, before they occur. But security officials cannot do it alone. Citizens themselves would have to be on alert, and do their part in offering up information about suspicious behavior/activity. The Muslim community would also need to step to the fore, and do its part in quelling the harsh rhetoric from senior Imams which steer up animosity and violence and instill hatred for other cultures/groups/religions in the minds of young Muslims.
The decimation of ISIS on the battlefield is by no means the end, but it does take away the narrative of a so-called ‘caliphate’, which the group thrives on. It also helps in a large way, to dismantle the operational hierarchy and network of the terror organization. But after all that is done, the work shifts to all of us, members of the larger global society. It would not be an easy task, but it can be done.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

HILLARY CLINTON, ELIZABETH WARREN, AND “THE GHOST OF WALL STREET!”

It’s been a good run lately for Hillary Clinton. Her daughter, Chelsea, just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy; and she has become for all intents and purposes, the Presumptive Democratic Nominee for President, having secured enough delegates before the convention. But like it has been with her entire political life, Hillary’s run for the Presidency has not been easy, and she still has a long road ahead.
During the run to amass delegates, Hillary’s opponent in the Democratic field has been the formidable Bernie Sanders: the white-haired, finger-wagging, arms-flaying Senator from Vermont. Too far on the left, Sanders has criticized Hillary constantly, especially on issues relating to her Wall-Street leanings; and his supporters have had a field day many-a-times, “feeling the Bern” at Hillary’s expense.
Sanders has repeatedly questioned how Hillary can expect to be un-biased as President, and stand against Wall-Street interests when she has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from industry giants like Goldman Sachs. He has challenged Hillary- quite sarcastically - to release the transcripts of her speech. Of course, the former Secretary of State has always hit back; even though not always so effectively.
One of Bernie’s fellow extreme leftists has been Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Like Bernie, she initially wasn’t a fan of Clinton. But lately, she has come out swinging in support of the former First Lady, and has not been shy to throw jabs at Hillary’s opponent for the November Elections- the loud mouthed Donald Trump, who refers to Warren as ‘Pocahontas’!
Senator Warren has recently been included in campaign stops with Clinton. Her name has also been floated as a possible choice for Vice President. This is mostly because of her extensive support base. If Hillary is hoping to attract Bernie’s supporters to her side before November, she’s going to need a person like Senator Warren on her ticket. But there’s a problem- it may not be accepted by Hillary's friends in New York i.e., the folks on Wall-Street.
Wall Street insiders have disclosed that they would take back their support for Clinton, if she picks Warren- a woman so staunchly against the activities of big banks- as her running mate! Warren continuously pounded Wall-Street for contributing to the financial collapse, when she was elected to the Senate in 2012; and Wall-Street never forgets.
Losing the support of Wall-Street would cut deeply into Hillary’s financial support base. Apart from losing campaign dollars, should Hillary eventually become President, she would need someone with strong negotiating skills- on Capitol Hill, as well as on Wall-Street. That was something Joe Biden provided- and still does- for Barack Obama; but it may not be something a ‘Vice President Warren’ can provide for a ‘President Hillary Clinton’. Warren just doesn’t have that expertise.
Other names being vetted as potential Vice Presidential Candidates include Senators Cory Booker and Tim Kaine.
Elizabeth Warren has proven that she is a fighter, who is not afraid to stare the Bull in its eyes. She has referred to Donald Trump as a “thin-skinned nasty bully who serves no one but himself,” and declared that she would do what it takes to get Clinton to the White House, and keep Trump away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But will her staunch (and much needed) support be able to land her a spot on the ticket, or will the ‘Ghost of Wall-Street’ prove too formidable for this feisty silver-haired leftist? Only time will tell!