A warning sign advising users to be aware of their surroundings while playing a video game. Stefan Heunis/AFP via Getty Images

Electronic banking fraud in Nigeria: how it’s done, and what can be done to stop it

A warning sign advising users to be aware of their surroundings while playing a video game. Stefan Heunis/AFP via Getty Images

By Oludayo Tade, University of Ibadan

Six years ago, a cashless policy became fully operational in Nigeria. The aim was to encourage electronic transactions with a view to reducing the amount of physical cash in the economy. The logic was that this would minimise the risk of cash-related crimes.

But a major downside of the policy has been pervasive electronic banking fraud (e-fraud). Although the cashless banking system was designed to foster transparency, curb corruption and drive financial inclusion, it’s threatened by the growing perpetration of fraud.

About N15.5 billion was lost to bank fraud in 2018. About 60% of the fraud was perpetrated online owing to available internet-based and tech-rated banking services.

Our research investigated dimensions of electronic fraud in Nigeria. We found three: internal fraud carried out by banking staff; external fraud carried out by ordinary Nigerians; and collaboration between fraudsters and banking staff.

We found that inefficient supervision, non-performance of oversight by regional heads of banks, and poor follow-up on customers’ addresses (Know Your Customer) accounted for the fraud that took place.

Our study provides the banking industry, banking public and investors with critical pointers on how to reduce fraud.

Different types

Our study involved collecting data as well as conducting interviews with 30 people. These included victims of bank fraud, bank customers who did not subscribe to the cashless policy and fraud detectives at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

These were the common patterns we uncovered.

Insider fraud: By insider, we mean those working with banks or those in a relationship with account holders. Here, the fraud was exclusively executed by members of staff in the banking system who exploited the strategic position they held in the system and their grasp of how it works. Banking institutions and customers were their victims.

An example we came across during our research was the case of a N90 million (US$452,261) fraud perpetrated by an account officer of a major eatery in Lagos State. The job of this account officer was to collect the eatery’s takings and deposit them at the bank. A fraud detective told us that:

As the account officer he would collect money on a daily basis and was expected to credit the company’s account. However, he would collect money on Monday and lodge it and collect on Tuesday and not lodge it. He was missing one day out. He did this continuously until he was able to rake in N90 million. At this time, when the eatery management raised the alarm on their account, he ran away and could not be found. We however used his sister to arrest him. We were only able to recover N8 million naira from him. He had used part of the money to organise his wedding, had a baby and almost completed a four-bedroom bungalow at another area in Lagos.

Bank fraud is often successful because many Nigerians don’t subscribe to transaction alerts. The eatery management trusted their account officer but did not know that he was dishonest.

Outsider fraud: These perpetrators were external to the banking system. They thrived on their internet skills and sometimes on their understanding of the victims’ routine and identity.

An example we came across was the fraudulent use of bank verification numbers (BVN). These were made compulsory by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2014. All bank account holders had to undertake biometric registration. The intention was to ensure security and check fraud.

But fraudsters have found a way to cheat the system by sending bank customers false emails asking for their bank verification details. As one victim explained to us:

I needed to make some transactions and I headed for my bank. I had called my account officer ahead of time. On getting to the bank, I connected my computer and got a mail from a supposed same bank. I was asked to click on a link and supply my BVN details for update of my account or face service suspension on the account. I just clicked the link and supplied my details and behold, N1 million debit alert came on my phone within five minutes! I was shocked and devastated but before we could do anything they had withdrawn everything.

Collaborative fraud: This involved collaboration between bank staff and fraudsters outside the banking system. Banks and individual account holders were the victims. For example, bank staff could provide account details of customers to the collaborating fraudster.

Governance gaps

Despite this weak governance architecture, which is still not fraud proof, bank executives reported having in place mechanisms which had limited the incidence of fraud. One was sending out information to customers who subscribed to electronic alerts. Through this, banks contact and send anti-fraud messages to their customers.

Owing to reputational risk, banks try to refrain from public prosecution of erring staff. We found that banks adopted shaming as a mechanism for instilling discipline within their organisations while attempting to ease out “bad eggs” through flagging of their images on computers and across the banking industry.

There is a need to check fraud through customer awareness and financial literacy education.

While fraudsters continue to design new ways of working on customers’ vulnerabilities, Nigerian banks need to use the Cybercrime Act to prosecute offenders as a way to boost confidence in the banking sector and deter fraud in the future.

Oludayo Tade, Researcher in criminology, victimology, electronic frauds and cybercrime, University of Ibadan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A Chinese language teacher speaks with students at the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

We wanted to know if Chinese migrants in Africa self-segregate. What we found

A Chinese language teacher speaks with students at the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

By YAN Hairong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Over the past 20 years there’s been remarkable growth in China-Africa links because of increased trade and investment. As a result there’s also been a great deal of movement of people between China and African countries. It’s estimated that there are now about 500,000 Africans in China, while the the number of Chinese in the 54 African countries ranges between one and two million.

Though Chinese people can now be found in most African countries, there’s a claim that some commentators and media outlets make: that they hold themselves apart from their host societies.

For instance, a US commentator writes that:

(They) have no experience in the world outside of China; no curiosity about these strange African lands and their people and a morbid indifference to Africa’s long-term future. (Most) are poorly educated and ill-equipped to live in different cultures.

To some, the claim of Chinese self-isolation might resonate due to the physical evidence of Chinatowns, such as those in the US, Canada and South Africa. However, the reverse is true.

Chinatowns in these countries are not products of Chinese voluntary self-isolation, but of forced exclusion policies of white settler societies and governments. For instance, the Chinese Exclusion Act in the US and the Chinese Exclusion Act in South Africa.

These exclusionary measures were driven by the fear of Chinese as the “Yellow Peril”: a racial construct used extensively in Western countries against Asians who were viewed as a threat to Western civilisation, with images of expansion, takeover and appropriation. Today depictions of African weakness, Western trusteeship and Chinese ruthlessness are continuations of these stereotypes. I believe that these myths persist because of bias in the media and because Chinese relations and people are sometimes used as political pawns.

My colleagues and I set out to examine the claims of Chinese self-segregation in various African countries. Based on surveys, interviews, and academic literature we examined the varied lives of Chinese people over the past 10 years. Our primary research site was Zambia, although we conducted research in many African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Sudan.

Our research examined where Chinese migrants lived, their knowledge of local languages and socialisation patterns. We found that – like all migrants – factors affecting Chinese integration include local political environment, recentness of migration, language barriers, and corporate policies to mitigate crime and conflict. In addition Chinese are also affected by host bias – such as anti-Chinese campaigns.

These have all made Chinese integration varied processes and supports previous research my colleagues and I have done.

The accusations of Chinese self-isolation in Africa does not mesh with the reality: the lives of Chinese people in Africa are varied and cannot be reduced to a single category. The accusations are also damaging as they are racist, undermine African-Chinese relations, misrepresent the global Chinese presence, and fosters suspicion of Chinese migrants as perpetual “others”.

Contract employees

One group of Chinese migrants are contract employees. They usually work with large Chinese companies as expatriate engineers, managers, and skilled workers. From our research we found that contract employees usually stay for one or two contracts (with one contract lasting between one and three years), but a small number may work as long as a decade.

Of all contract employees, contract employees working on infrastructure projects often had the most interaction with locals. This is because they lived and sometimes ate with their local colleagues.

For instance, we interviewed teams of Chinese and local drillers from a Chinese water well firm in Sudan. One Sudanese interviewee said:

Chinese live like locals. If the locals have brick houses, they’ll stay in them, but if not, they’ll stay in grass huts or tents.

In China it’s not uncommon for construction and mining workers to live collectively in compounds. They now do the same in Africa. This helps to save the company time and money, but it’s also a precaution to reduce their exposure to crime.

Company policies can also affect how much workers interact socially. For instance, our field research in Zambia found that the Chinese mine construction firm TLZD had policies whereby Chinese employees were not allowed out at night for their safety, but also because – due to language barriers – misunderstandings can lead to fights. Most Chinese in Africa, like first-generation migrants everywhere, are hampered by a language barrier.

Some company policies encourage integration because they make learning a language a requirement for the job. For instance, one Kenyan journalist based in Beijing observed that some large firms only hire Chinese “with a solid understanding of local African languages.”

Wall Street Journal correspondent Te-Ping Chen also observed that “Chinese immigrants that have come to Africa tend to live side by side with Africans (and) tend to speak local dialects.” By contrast, we found that white people have lived in South Africa for more than three centuries and Indian people for 150 years. But unless brought up on a farm, few white people speak an African language, while most young Indians speak only English or are bilingual in English and Afrikaans.

Migrant entrepreneurs

For the Chinese people that aren’t contract workers, they typically work in small and medium businesses as either owners, employees, or family dependants. Some will bring their nuclear family to Africa while others straddle two continents.

They tend to live in small groups all over cities, depending on their economic status. For instance in Luanda, Angola, less affluent Chinese groups have sprung up in informal settlements.

Scholars find that how much they mix and integrate depends on the nature of their business. For instance, Chinese retailers have much more engagement, with a variety of people such as local employees, customers, or partners.

As expected, the longer they stay the more localised they become – for instance their children go to local schools allowing them to integrate more. As many Chinese are traders, they are also active in learning local African languages.

Our research shows that even though there’s plenty of evidence that Chinese don’t self-segregate, it’s a myth that has been hard to confront because some people have examples of Chinese non-interaction and may be politically invested in generalising that tale.

YAN Hairong, Associate Professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lagos state officials disinfecting roads in the state. Shutterstock

Coronavirus: what Nigeria can do post lockdown

Lagos state officials disinfecting roads in the state.
Shutterstock

Doyin Ogunyemi, University of Lagos

The World Health Organisation has warned that COVID-19 infection rates are likely to remain for a long time. There is therefore a need for countries to plan one step ahead of the epidemic curve.

Nigeria is no exception. In Africa, it is among the countries with the highest number of cases. While the numbers remain low compared with many other countries in the world, it continues to rise gradually. Worryingly, the mortality rate stands at 3.1%. This is higher than some of its neighbours. For example, Ghana, which has a similar age demography and socioeconomic characteristics, is reporting a mortality rate of 0.5%.

For Nigeria, the decision to ease the lockdown on 4 May was a compromise between the heavy economic costs – including the hardship on citizens who depend on daily earnings – and the choice to contain a public health emergency.

The decision on ‘if’ or ‘when’ to ease the lockdown in any country due to the COVID-19 pandemic will always be a difficult one.

Now that Nigeria is gradually easing restrictions, the main question is what realistic public health measures can be taken to ensure infection, and fatality rates, remain at the low end of the spectrum?

To answer this question, the need for reliable data cannot be over-emphasised.

Planning without data

Accurate data should be the basis for any decision making. But this is proving difficult in Nigeria. This is for a number of reasons.

The first thing that needs to change is Nigeria’s disjointed coordination of data for evidence-based decision making. For example, the time lapse between sample collection and test results received for suspected cases sometimes exceeds the approximately two week recovery period for mild cases of the disease, instead of the 48 hours benchmark.

Although shortages of materials, especially reagents, was the reason given, such delays make it difficult to monitor the spread and intensity of the disease in Nigeria. And suspected cases not under strict isolation are able to continue to spread the virus while awaiting their results.

Secondly, Nigeria has very low testing numbers. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 60,825 tests had been conducted as at the end of May 2020, in a population of over 200 million people. In comparison, Ghana, whose population is about 30 million, has conducted over 200,000 tests.

This suggests there could be a gross underestimation of the number of positive cases at any given point in time when the high proportion of asymptomatic and mild cases is put into the equation.

There is also the possibility of double testing and counting – where people visit more than one test centre due to delays in receiving test results. In the United Kingdom, public health officials admitted to double counting the nasal and saliva samples of the same patient.

Ambitious testing targets set by countries including Nigeria may account for this too. This can pose the challenge of over-estimation of positive cases.

An underestimation or overestimation of positive cases allows for a false infection fatality rate which is calculated as the number of deaths (numerator) divided by the number of people infected (denominator) x 100. The fatality rate being presented depends largely on number of tests done and counting of positive tests.

Nigeria is at a stage of ongoing community transmission. This means that densely populated local government areas and states are at higher risks of transmission.

What to do next

There are some immediate steps that the country should take on top of reminding citizens about physical distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene.

Firstly, efforts to reduce the spread need to be decentralised. This includes increased testing and setting up more isolation centres within the local government areas.

Also, risk communication, continuous surveillance, monitoring and evaluation must be scaled up. Cascading these interventions to the community level will increase effectiveness and efficiency.

Other recommendations given the country’s peculiarities include:

  • Making mobile sample collection vehicles and points available. These vehicles are three-wheeler kiosks that can navigate through the community without difficulty. This method fast-tracks sample collection for COVID-19 tests within wards and local government areas.
  • Increasing capacity of testing sites in the various states so that there is at least one laboratory in each of the 36 states of the federation. Currently, there are 28 functional laboratories for COVID-19 testing in the country and only three states have more than one.
  • Giving clients the results of their tests within 48 hours at the maximum. This will be attainable with an uninterrupted supply chain of medical supplies such as reagents, consumables and the provision of technical support and continuous training for adequate manpower.
  • Isolating confirmed positives, triaging to mild, moderate and severe cases – a process of sorting people based on their need for immediate medical treatment. This will ensure that the treatment centres are not overwhelmed.
  • Ensuring continuous training of health personnel to operate isolation centres, training of private health care facilities on high index of suspicion of cases, and well disseminated protocol on referral of suspects.
  • Coordinating sample and test result triangulation in all testing centres to avoid double counting.
  • Tailoring lockdown approaches to suit affected local government areas and communities.

    Flexibility in the adaptation of general best practices and funding of research for home grown solutions.

An opportunity to raise the bar

COVID-19 presents Nigeria with an opportunity to properly invest in strengthening its primary health care system. The health centres need to be properly equipped while health workers should be armed with adequate personal protective equipment. This will enable them to discharge their duties without the fear of being at risk of contracting the virus.

Within the context of a strengthened primary health care system, a rapid process of sample collection, result verification and contact tracing can be developed for the management of COVID-19 in post-lockdown Nigeria.

Overall, Nigeria should embark on a health sector reform and concentrate on the core values of equity, efficiency, quality, financing and sustainability in the provision of health care.

Doyin Ogunyemi, Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer, College of Medicine, University of Lagos

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Women and children wait to be treated at a health clinic in northern Burkina Faso. Giles Clarke/UNOCHA via Getty Images

A new global health pattern: longer life for the poor, with more ailments

Women and children wait to be treated at a health clinic in northern Burkina Faso. Giles Clarke/UNOCHA via Getty Images

By Justine Ina Davies, University of Birmingham and Maria Odland, University of Birmingham

With ageing come many benefits, including freedom, wisdom, perspective, and – in many cultures – respect. Unfortunately, the downside is that ageing also brings medical ailments. Many people in wealthy countries have multiple co-existing, chronic conditions. This is known as multimorbidity. In 2016, chronic conditions accounted for over two-thirds of deaths worldwide. Many of these people had more than one condition.

The number of medical conditions that people accrue increases with age. The concept of multimorbidity is well known to healthcare providers in high-income countries where there are large numbers of older people. In poorer parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, populations are younger. The focus of healthcare has been on diseases affecting these younger populations such as infectious diseases and maternal and child ill-health.

But the world is changing. The number of older people in lower income countries is growing. These countries’ health systems are not designed to care for people with chronic conditions. They are more focused on single, acute diseases. This may need to change towards more individual-based health care for chronic conditions. This is why it’s important to establish if multimorbidity is also an issue in lower income countries.

Our work shows that the impact of multimorbidity on individuals living in lower income countries is substantial. This should inform the planning of health system development which will need different medical skills, facilities, policies and resources to care for individuals with multiple chronic conditions in addition to acute single conditions.

Multimorbidity in low-income countries

Previous investments into health challenges in lower income countries are paying off. Fewer women are dying in childbirth, more children are reaching adulthood, and people are living long lives with HIV.

These healthcare successes have conspired positively with increasing country wealth and change in lifestyle and diets to result in life expectancy increasing worldwide, especially in the lower income countries. In fact, by 2050 most of the elderly population will be living in developing countries. But an ageing population means that chronic diseases and multimorbidity will increase.

Multimorbidity in lower income countries has so far been given little attention by researchers. Most research and development funding still goes to infectious diseases and those that predominantly affect mothers and young children.

We recently did a study in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. We found that 20% of people over 40 years of age had multimorbidity – one or more infectious, non-infectious, or mental health conditions.

We also found that the chance of having multiple conditions increased with age, being female, or being unmarried. This is in line with other studies which have shown that increasing age is a risk factor for multimorbidity. People over 60 or 65 years are particularly vulnerable. In addition, research suggests that the combination of mental health conditions and physical conditions is more common among women then men. But more research is needed to map the extent of multimorbidity in different population groups. The evidence is especially low in low-income countries.

In our study, multimorbidity was more common among people with higher socioeconomic status (education and wealth). This differs from what is usually seen in high-income countries, where it is more common among poorer or less educated people. It may be that in lower income countries people who are wealthier can afford the unhealthy lifestyles that lead to multimorbidity.

More troubling, we found that multimorbidity is associated with increased disability, low quality of life, and poor physical performance in Burkina Faso. These are all outcomes that are very important to older people, as they capture health in a broader sense than just assessing medical conditions. We also found that the combination of non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions is particularly negative.

If we found these results in such a poor country, it is highly likely that multimorbidity is a major problem for older people in all parts of the world.

The double burden of disease and the health system

Large improvements have been made in tackling infectious diseases and those that affect younger people. But lower income countries are still struggling with these conditions, in addition to an increasing burden of chronic diseases and multimorbidity. This double burden of disease is overwhelming the health services. This is especially pertinent, given that health services in many developing countries are organised only to handle single conditions, and not to care for patients with multiple chronic conditions.

There’s a lack of health service factors – for example, follow-up systems and availability of doctors or nurses – needed to take care of patients with multimorbidity. There are also patient-side barriers to care – for example, the understanding of chronic conditions and their treatment. These factors culminate in other unpublished findings from our study that fewer than 10% of the people with the chronic conditions of hypertension or diabetes had their conditions adequately managed.

The prevalence of multimorbidity, the fact that conditions are not being adequately treated, and the association with outcomes that matter to patients (quality of life, physical function, and disability) mean that without rapid development of adequate health services to prevent and manage it, multimorbidity will be especially devastating in these settings.

The way forward

Our research from Burkina Faso adds to a growing body of evidence that highlights multimorbidity as a global health issue of major significance. Investments are needed by researchers, development agencies and national governments to prioritise understanding of this emerging global epidemic. The aim is to prevent the increasing burden that multimorbidity could put on health systems, individuals, families and societies worldwide in the years to come.

Justine Ina Davies, Professor of Global Health, Institute for Applied Research, University of Birmingham and Maria Odland, Research Fellow Global Health, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘I buried my cousin on Facebook Live’

The chairs were placed at least 1m (3ft) apart – family sat on one side, church officials on the other. Everyone wore a mask.

Everyone knew of the strict instructions that the Kenyan government had laid down for funerals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Only 15 people could gather for the burial of my cousin, Chris, and everything had to be done by 09:00 local time.

By 07:00 the rest of us had gathered, in front of our phones and computers, watching the burial unfold as a friend live-streamed it on Facebook.

There were hundreds of us to pay our last respects to Chris. He was a people’s person – the life and soul of family parties.

His deep laugh reached you even before he set foot in the house – in fact, you could hear it 200m away at the gate.

Chris
Image captionRelatives and friends say Chris deserved a better funeral

And Chris used to show up for people, be it at funerals or weddings. He was a great mobiliser, rallying people for all occasions.

So, on this day, we showed up for him too. But not being there meant it was not the same.

‘We couldn’t play his favourite songs’

Chris was my immediate cousin, but we were raised in the same house and he was more than a brother to me.

He died in Kisumu in western Kenya on Easter Sunday, after being unwell for a few weeks with liver cirrhosis.

The government gave us the guidelines for his burial. He had to be buried within three days.

But with many of his family and friends under lockdown in the capital, Nairobi, not everyone could attend the burial.

The sermon was short. The speeches were restricted. And there was very little singing.

Chris loved music – he played the drum kit in the Salvation Army church band. So it was painful that nobody could be there to play his favourite songs.

I watched as live comments from his friends and colleagues rolled in on Facebook.

In digital solace, people left messages of condolence and talked of how great a man Chris was.

And I thought, maybe I should take screenshots and print this out because this was essentially our condolences book.

Everything felt so different. We could not hug, touch or see each other’s tears. We could not throw fistfuls of dirt on the coffin as it was lowered into the grave.

The Facebook Live failed so I could not watch Chris’ final journey to the very end”

Mercy Juma
BBC reporter

When a loved one dies we seek to grieve, we look for comfort and closure. But how do you do that when you are confined?

I was upset. I never imagined I would have to bury a loved one through social media. I never thought I would crave human contact that much. It was like a movie, except that I was part of the cast.

And sadly, the Facebook Live failed, due to a poor network connection. So I could not even watch Chris’ final journey to the very end. I did not see his coffin being covered.

In many African societies death and life are intricately tied. Many traditions see death as a rite of passage – a transition to another form.

Hence the importance of ancestors – they are the people who have died but continue to “live” in the community.

This, in turn, means that when people die they must receive a perfect burial – complete with rituals that have been observed for generations.

For the communities in western Kenya where I come from, like the Luo and Luhya, a person’s death and their burial are incredibly important events.

Elaborate funeral with 10 different rites

A dead person is treated with utmost respect and there are death and burial rites to be followed, to ensure a faultless send-off.

First of all burials are not hurried, especially for the elderly. A person’s death is a call for celebration, even amidst the mourning and grieving.

Coronavirus: Key facts

  • Spreadswhen an infected person coughs droplets into the air
  • Virus-packeddroplets can be breathed in
  • Dropletscan also land on a surface
  • Touchingsurface and then eyes, nose or mouth creates risk
  • Washing of hands is therefore recommended after touching surfaces

Source: BBC

It takes at least a week for an adult to be buried. There is loud mourning and weeping, for days on end. People huddle together and help the bereaved to mourn.

Bonfires are lit in the homestead and people gather around them, embracing, crying, reliving the life of the departed.

There is the ritualistic slaughter of animals, and the preparation and serving of food and drinks to console mourners. It is a show of unity amongst neighbours and family.

The dead are brought home a day or two before the burial. They lie in the compound, to show that they are accepted and loved, even in death.

Coffin
Image captionOnly 10 people were allowed at the funeral

The Luo, a Nilotic people from western Kenya, have among the most elaborate burial customs in Kenya.

There are at least 10 rites involved from the announcement of death, to the removal of the shadow or spirit of the dead from the homestead, to the shaving of family members’ hair, and finally the remembrance ceremonies for the dead.

All these occasions require people to congregate and interact in huge numbers.

But during this pandemic, most of these rituals are simply off-limits, whether a person died of Covid-19 or not.

‘I have only partially grieved’

During the two days between Chris’ death and his burial, people at home were forbidden from singing loudly at night, lest they attract the neighbours who may want to come and grieve with the family.

There were no bonfires to sit around. And during the burial, even at the grave site, there was no hugging, or touching, no handshakes or kisses.

Government representatives were there to ensure all rules of social distancing were followed.

Coffin being lowered into the ground
Image captionMourners usually throw sand into the grave

Forty days after one is buried, a memorial service is supposed to be held – the final celebration of their life. We, again, will not be able to do this for Chris.

I have this feeling that I have only partially grieved for Chris. This is not how he deserves to be mourned.

Maybe when all this is over – when we can hug again, and cry in each other’s arms – we will mourn him like we should.

Many refugees living in Nairobi struggle to survive because of COVID-19

A woman walks past a police armed vehicle in Eastleigh – Nairobi’s “little Mogadishu”
Photo by Billy Mutai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Naohiko Omata, University of Oxford

The economic impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the world. This also applies to refugees.

For about eight years a team of researchers in the Refugee Economies Programme at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre has been carrying out studies in East Africa. We work closely with refugees as our research assistants.

Since the global pandemic began, we have been speaking with these research assistants to understand better the impact that COVID-19 is having on refugees living in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The assistants – primarily from Congolese and Somali refugee communities – are people who are well-networked with fellow refugees. They include community leaders, staff members of aid organisations, pastors and representatives of community-based organisations.

All of the assistants reported primarily on the acute economic challenges that the crisis has caused for Nairobi’s refugees.

Nairobi hosts about 81,000 refugees. Despite Kenya’s encampment policy which prohibits refugees from
leaving camps, Nairobi has been a home for refugees for many years. By moving to the city, refugees largely give up their access to humanitarian assistance. However, they choose to live in Nairobi to gain better access to economic opportunities and social services, such as education and health.

In order to work in the formal sector, refugees must obtain a work permit. But these are rarely issued. This means refugees are largely excluded from formal labour markets and are heavily reliant on informal urban economies.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, Kenya has implemented a dusk to dawn curfew and lockdowns which restrict people’s movements in and out of certain counties, and parts of Nairobi. These severely constrain mobility. As a result many urban refugees are unable to pursue their livelihoods in the same ways as before.

They have few savings and depend on the day-to-day cash they generate from street vending. They now face a struggle to buy food every day. And they have the added challenge of being excluded from other channels of support.

Refugee livelihoods

Hawking, though prohibited by the Nairobi City Council, is the most common way they earn a living. A considerable number of Congolese refugees sell bitenge (African textiles) or mobile phone credit on the busy streets of Nairobi. They often venture out of the capital to other cities to explore less competitive markets.

Somali refugees typically sell clothing, tea and snacks in Eastleigh – Nairobi’s so-called “little Mogadishu” – because of the large number of Somalis who live and do business here.

Alongside informal businesses, mutual assistance between refugees is crucial for survival. When they run out of cash or food, they visit friends, neighbours, churches or mosques to get help. Some fortunate refugees also benefit from remittances sent by friends or relatives living abroad. As these examples show, for self-settled refugees in Nairobi, both mobility and various networks are key for their day-to-day survival.

Over the last several weeks, I have been communicating with our research assistants through phone, Skype, emails or WhatsApp to gather information.

From these reports we have learnt that hawkers in particular are suffering from movement restrictions and far fewer customers. Many hawkers used to take advantage of the evening hours – between 5pm and 8pm – when city council patrols would disappear. But the curfew starts at 7pm and most people on the streets now vanish at around 5pm to 6pm.

In addition, remittance pipelines appear to be dwindling. According to our research in 2017, 43% of Somali refugees received remittances. The annual median amount of remittances sent was Ksh252,000 (about US$2,500). But one Somali research assistant reported that Hawala – a money transfer system – has become “empty”. Although some remittance recipients are still getting regular support from abroad, many others have lost financial support as the pandemic-induced economic crisis also hits their remitters abroad.

Finally, our research assistants note that collective economic activities have also been disturbed by the COVID-19 lockdown. For instance, Somali refugee business people often organise ayuto – credit groups that would regularly put money together for mutual financial assistance. Now, due to business closures and restricted movements, many of these communal finance mechanisms aren’t working.

Our refugee research assistants also reported that although the Kenyan government has started to assist some vulnerable Kenyan families with food and a small cash stipend via Mpesa – the mobile money network in Kenya – refugees are excluded from government support by their legal status. One assistant reported that a group of refugees who enquired were explicitly told by government officials: “UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is responsible for refugees, so go to UNHCR.”

Coping

To cope, refugees rely on solidarity. Among Somali refugees, those who are less affected are trying to help vulnerable community members. In the Congolese community, pastors collect food and cash donations and redistribute them to the most vulnerable refugees with the help of community-based organisations. Pastors are also providing counselling.

But all the research assistants we spoke to are concerned about how long they can sustain these informal support mechanisms. Ad hoc refugee-led initiatives are almost entirely reliant on benevolent donations from refugees themselves.

After the health risks of COVID-19 are finally mitigated, the question of how to best assist refugees’ economic recovery should be a primary concern for refugee-assisting agencies. Needs-based aid, such as giving food and non-food items, is definitely necessary and important. But reconstruction of livelihood strategies after COVID-19 needs a long-term vision and different approaches.

Naohiko Omata, Senior Research Officer, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘We can’t turn them away’: the family kitchen fighting lockdown hunger in Zimbabwe

Samantha Murozoki (R) hands a free meal to a young neighbour at her home in Chitungwiza on May 5, 2020, where she feeds people struggling during the coronavirus lockdown in Zimbabwe. -With the help of volunteers Murozoki serves over a 100 hot meals per day Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

It is 7am and hundreds of children have come out on this chilly morning to queue for a plate of porridge.

With makeshift masks covering their faces, the children wait for SamanthaMurozoki to start dishing up the warm food into whatever plastic tub, plate, tin cup – or even ripped-off corner of a cardboard box – is presented to her.

The winding queue is a sign of the desperation that has gripped the populous township of Chitungwiza, on the outskirts of Harare, since Zimbabwe enforced national lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which has seen 46 cases and four deaths.

The queues have become a common sight in Seke Unit A, where Murozoki prepares porridge in the mornings for children and supper later in the day for hungry families.

With a makeshift stove, a couple of large pots and a few cooking utensils, the mother of two has been winning the respect of thousands who pass by her kitchen daily and is gathering volunteers who help her keep track of the children. A team of women serve and wash up the utensils.

None of the children have been turned away.

A queue forms outside Samantha Murozoki’s home in Chitungwizaon May 5, 2020, where, with the help of volunteers, Samantha Murozoki serves over a 100 hot meals per day from her home to families whose household income has been cut off by closure of all informal markets during the lockdown Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

The feeding programme that began about a week into the national lockdown has become essential for the Chitungwiza community.

“I started with a 2kg packet of rice and 500g of beans. The number of people needing food has doubled since then. It’s not something that I had planned for,” Murozoki told the Guardian.

When food supplies were getting low soon after she started, she sold some of her personal possessions to get more.

“When my money ran out I started bartering food supplies with my jeans and sneakers,” she said.

Samantha Murozoki started the food programme after learning that neighbours were going hungry under lockdown. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

Murozoki said her feeding programme was driven by compassion after a neighbour told how her family had gone to bed hungry as work and informal trade has dried up under the lockdown.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

An immigration lawyer, Murozoki has won the support of Zimbabweans on social media.

“After I posted pictures of what I was doing on WhatsApp my friends and family chipped in to help out. A colleague also decided to put my story on Twitter and Facebook, that is how the Zimbabwean community started helping out. They have been donating groceries and some are even wiring money from overseas,” she said.

She said beneficiaries of the programme are required to register before receiving food aid.

“We just get people coming in to register their families, so we do not segregate. The lockdown is affecting everyone. We cannot turn people away because everyone wants food,” Murozoki said.

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has partially opened up the economy to the manufacturing and mining sectors. But millions of informal workers remain on lockdown and food stocks continue to run low.

This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering

Anastencia Hove, volunteer

With a baby strapped on her back, Anastencia Hove, 35, came to Murozoki’s kitchen for breakfast and has stayed to volunteer as a cook.

“I was moved by her love. It is rare to find people who think about others. So I said as a token of my appreciation for her support, I should volunteer. This lockdown has not spared us at all, so people are suffering. The number of people I see here shows that many are hungry,” Hove said.

Gracious Mango, 39, clutches a plastic food container as she waits for her name to be called out. She explains how life has worsened during the lockdown.

“There is no food at home. It is becoming difficult every day,” Mango told the Guardian. “My husband and I have not managed to make any meaningful money because the economy had literally shut down.”

Mango’s friend, Michelle Makuvise, 30, a street vendor, said Murozoki needed everyone’s support. “I think this is good work which should not go unnoticed. The community is literally feeding on her generosity so support is needed.”

Murozoki shields her eyes from the sun as she inspects the queue outside her home. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

Zimbabwe experienced yet another poor harvest this year, leaving almost half the population in need of urgent food aid, with the most vulnerable people in rural areas already on the verge of starvation, according to humanitarian organisations.

In urban areas, 2.2 million people are in urgent need of food aid as many struggle to put enough on the table.

Government lockdown relief of US$4 per family is yet to be distributed at a time vulnerable families are failing to earn a living amid skyrocketing inflation.

As more urban Zimbabweans go hungry every day, Murozoki sees herself feeding more people, especially during lockdown.

“Even if the lockdown is lifted, I might continue for a month or so until everyone gets back on their feet. As long as Zimbabweans help me, I will be able to continue with my work,” she said.

A guide to covid-19 cams, and what not to fall for

Glenn Harvey

Never have we been so attractive as targets for fraudsters and scammers as we are right now.

That’s because the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic has created more opportunities for robocallers, hackers and other thieves.

For one thing, millions of people are filing new claims for unemployment benefits and awaiting stimulus checks. So when a phone call or an email from someone purporting to be a bank or a government official comes in, it is tougher for us to ignore.

Plus with so many people being required to work from home, our personal tech devices have become an attractive target for those looking to infiltrate businesses.

While there is little data about the extent of such shadowy activities, security experts said they had seen an increase in scams invading our inboxes, phones and websites. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning, advising people to not respond to digital communications from those claiming to have information about checks from the government, among other schemes.

“It’s a Pandora’s box of opportunities that they can leverage,” said Sam Espinosa, an executive at Next Caller, which develops technology to detect fraudulent calls. “The first time you’re dealing with unemployment may not be the time you’re thinking, ‘This is a fraudster.’”

In a survey by Next Caller last week, 37 percent of the respondents said they believed they had been targeted by fraud and scams related to the coronavirus, up from 32 percent last month. In addition, 44 percent said they felt more vulnerable to fraud now that their businesses were allowing them to work from home.

I talked to security experts about some of the most prominent scams and ways we can protect ourselves. Here’s a guide of what not to fall for.

Even the simplest things, like buying a bottle of hand sanitizer, feel hard right now. Many of us have anxiously turned to the web to search for solutions. Fraudsters are trying to capitalize on our behavior by creating fake websites.

Some of the fraudulent sites look like clones of legitimate government sites containing information about Covid-19 but also show malicious ads asking for your personal information. Other fake websites are stores that pretend to sell face masks and cleaning supplies but exist only to collect your credit card information. Then the scammers can use the information you unwittingly provided to gain access to your finances.

“The number of sites and stores that popped up all over the place has increased,” said Ron Culler, a senior director of technology and solutions for the security firm ADT Cybersecurity. Shortly after the government began issuing stimulus checks, he said, scammers registered 15,000 fake websites posing as the I.R.S. to steal people’s personal and financial information.

Here are a few measures to protect yourself from fraudulent websites:

  • Check the website’s URL. A phony site may look identical to a government or banking website, but the domain name in the address bar is a giveaway of a fake. Click on your address bar and look for domains ending in “com.co,” “.ma” or “.co” instead of more legitimate domains like “.com” or “.org.”
  • Install an ad blocker. To prevent your browser from loading a shady ad seeking your personal information, you can download an ad-blocking extension for your browser. For computer browsers, I recommend uBlock Origin, and on iPhones I recommend 1Blocker X.

Robocallers have a reputation for sounding dumb, but in reality, they work hard for your money and are resourceful.

They do their homework on you and adapt to your responses. Most of the time, they “spoof” phone numbers, manipulating phone networks to ring your phone from numbers they aren’t actually calling from — including digits that belong to your bank or a government agency.

In extreme cases, two scammers work together — one is on the phone with your bank while the other is on the phone with you — asking you for personal information so they can immediately trick the bank’s customer support agent into granting access to your account.

“What they’re looking for is any crack in the system,” Mr. Espinosa said. High-risk calls to financial institutions are 50 percent higher than before the pandemic, according to his company, which tracks the number of potentially fraudulent calls being made to businesses. One bank is getting 6,000 more high-risk calls per hour, he said.

So here’s what to do:

  • Hang up the phone and call back. Robocallers have been a nuisance for years, but now more than ever, we should be wary of any call from a business or an organization. If, for example, your bank calls with a fraud alert, hang up and call the customer service number on the back of your credit card and ask your bank whether it truly tried to call you.
  • Remove businesses from your address book. A saved entry in your address book could give you false confidence that a call is legitimate. Let’s say you have Citibank’s support number saved in your address book and labeled it “Citibank.” If a fraudster spoofed Citibank’s support number and called you, your smartphone would show that a call is coming in from Citibank. It’s best to delete these phone book entries so scammers don’t catch us off guard.

Phishing, in which a scammer impersonates someone to ask for your personal information, is one of the oldest internet scams. But it still happens because it works.

Fraudsters have adapted to the ever-changing news cycle in the pandemic. In emails and texts, they have worn several disguises, pretending to be the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Internal Revenue Service and more, according to ADT.

Their emails and texts purport to have information about the virus or how people can get financial assistance. But their messages frequently contain links to websites asking for personal information, or they download files containing malware.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Check the sender. Similar to fake websites, fraudulent email addresses will look like legitimate ones but often be off by a character or two. Similarly, scam texts tend to come from phone numbers with more than 10 digits.
  • Check — but don’t click on — hyperlinks. In most email programs, you can use your mouse cursor to hover over a link and see a preview of the page it will open. If the link looks suspicious, mark the email as spam and delete it.In a text, generally avoid clicking on links from unknown senders — and don’t respond.

What’s unique about the pandemic is that millions of office workers are working from home. That means the attacks on our companies are increasingly being directed at us at home. Hackers trying to steal information from a business might look to attack our personal email accounts or home networks, Mr. Culler said.

The onus is on us to follow some best practices to protect our employers’ data security in addition to our own, he said.

Those steps include:

  • Check your network security. Like computer operating systems, Wi-Fi routers need security updates. Check the instruction manual for your router to log in to the settings and confirm if it’s running the latest version of its firmware, or software system. If your router is more than seven years old, it probably no longer gets security updates, so your best bet is to buy a new router. I recommend modern Wi-Fi systems, such as Amazon’s Eero or Google Wifi, which automatically download security updates.Obvious but also important: Make sure your router has a strong password.
  • Keep work and business tech separate. To work from home, employees may be tempted to start using their own tools, like their computers, personal email addresses and messaging apps. However, your equipment and apps were probably not set up to protect your company’s network security.It’s best to do work on company-provided equipment, internet accounts and software. If you lack a tech tool you need for work, make a request to your I.T. department.

All of the precautions above may sound complicated, but if in doubt, turn back to something you learned in childhood and add a twist: Never talk to strangers, especially when they ask for your personal information.

Lessons in explaining viruses to the public: rely on the science

A woman walks past a graffiti by Anthony Kihoro in Kenya sensitising people about the coronavirus.
Dennis Sigwe/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sonak D Pastakia, Purdue University

At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of informing people to help them make their own decisions is growing. Many regions are lifting social distancing recommendations, but epidemiologists warn of a surge in cases if restrictions are lifted too soon.

One challenge in keeping people informed, though, is that there is still so much uncertainty around the novel coronavirus. Scientists are still working to unlock its many mysteries.

And when there are gaps in information, there are often competing forces seeking to fill them. Some may be based on scientific inquiry; others may be unsubstantiated opinions. They may all be trying to allay the fears of an anxious public.

This conflict of explanations played out during the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo, and the global HIV epidemic.

The Ebola response was hindered by rumours and misinformation. Some people said Ebola was made up and didn’t exist or that it was a cover for illicit trading of organs. Many of these rumours had a negative effect on prevention and treatment efforts. Communities were reluctant to believe that Ebola was a real threat and avoided visiting clinics for care. Misinformation hindered the ability of healthcare providers to reach the populations in need and potentially contributed to the rapid rise in the number of cases. Patients who could have benefited from care continued to infect other members of the community, or passed away.

One well chronicled and researched example of the consequences of not following scientific evidence relates to HIV in South Africa. An estimated 330,000 lives were lost due to government’s failure to adopt evidence-based treatment guidelines. South Africa eventually retreated from this position and achieved dramatic improvements in HIV reduction.

COVID-19 differs significantly from HIV and Ebola, but the potential consequences of having a misinformed public are similar. And much can be learned from earlier epidemics to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated.

I’ve been working with people living with HIV and other chronic conditions in Kenya over the past 12 years. I have seen how the application of evidence-based strategies can save lives.

Experiences from the field

One specific challenge with our healthcare system strengthening efforts in Kenya is that many patients preferred to receive care from herbalists and found it convenient to consult them. As a result, patients would take unproven herbal remedies to treat conditions such as HIV and diabetes and often suffer from serious side effects with uncertain clinical benefit.

Our programme has been able to incorporate evidence-based treatment options into their care by creating stronger bonds with the community. We did this by shifting care from distant facilities to meeting points that are much more accessible for patients. This approach has led to marked improvements in outcomes. Patients with hypertension have greatly reduced their blood pressure compared to what they typically experience from facility based care.

We also included patients from the communities we serve in the healthcare team. This helped us overcome many of the challenges with trust and lack of convenience that patients often mention when deciding to forgo care from the healthcare system. The inclusion of these peer providers who have successfully managed their conditions has helped serve as a bridge between the community and healthcare system to improve our relationship and ability to communicate with each other.

Our community-centred approaches have helped make evidence-based information more accessible for the population we serve and subsequently helped to improve health outcomes with limited additional costs. This integrated approach has enabled our programme to build trust with the communities we serve and directly address the challenges with misinformation as members of the community feel much greater comfort with seeking advice from providers who are based within the community.

Patients have also shown a much higher likelihood of adhering to the recommended treatments when services are delivered in this fashion. Seventy percent of patients were likely to continue seeing formally trained providers as opposed to only 31% when care is delivered from facilities.

How the public can help

As scientific inquiry reveals more about the novel coronavirus, the public must insist that leaders follow the evidence. In countries where officials are democratically elected, the ballot box is one way to remind them of the potential consequences of making decisions that harm the public.

Social media is another tool the public can use. But because it has often been cited as a source of misinformation, there’s a need for greater efforts to check facts and improve the accuracy of information shared on these platforms.


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The limitations in connectivity in remote areas are a challenge. A combination of print, radio, text message, phone, and online messaging should be introduced from trusted sources to ensure citizens have access to the latest evidence-based information.

Increasing awareness in these ways would help to relieve the burden on health workers. They spend precious time correcting the public’s misconceptions and they sometimes face abusive behaviour from a panicking public.

As we all grapple with ways to assist in the response to coronavirus, one simple thing all of us can do is rely on verifiable facts to guide our actions.

Our examples from Kenya show that when healthcare providers integrate into communities, people will be more likely to seek out their advice and trust their opinions. The public has a responsibility to follow the guidance of trained healthcare experts. But healthcare providers must develop strategies to more effectively conduct outreach activities to educate the community. Instead of waiting in clinics for patients to come to them, providers must leave the confines of the clinic to meet community members where they are (while still adhering to social distancing recommendations).

Sonak D Pastakia, Professor, Purdue University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus poses ethical concerns: a view on the choices being made in Kenya

Artisans work at their shops at Gikomba Market, Nairobi, in January 2019.
Simon Maina/AFP via GettyImages

By David Nderitu, Egerton University

Many countries in the world are taking measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, including maintaining social distance and observing personal hygiene.

Many people are now working remotely to avoid interaction with colleagues. Educational and religious institutions have been closed down in order to avoid large gatherings of people.

In Kenya, individuals who return from abroad have been required to self-quarantine for at least 14 days before they can go on with their normal life. This has now become mandatory and people are being taken to facilities identified by the government at their own expense.

The Kenyan government has also enforced a dusk-to-dawn curfew. In addition, residents of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi have been advised not to leave their counties.

When read together, these measures raise certain existential and ethical concerns. Restricting movement and forcing people to stay home might minimise the risk of spreading the virus. But these measures pose serious economic challenges for those in the informal sector. Their livelihoods depend on daily incomes. The inability to look for work will worsen poverty and suffering.

The reality of extreme poverty versus disease control in Kenya and elsewhere presents a real dilemma. Uncontrolled movement of people increases the risk of spreading the virus. But if people cannot move freely to make a living there is a heightened risk of hunger and starvation. Either way, there seems to be an unpleasant choice to be made by both the government and the people.

As the government of Kenya strives to resolve this dilemma there must be a balanced consideration of decisions. This must prioritise measures that will maximise benefit and minimise harm for the majority of citizens. The voice of the poor majority in Kenya has to carry more weight in the negotiation.

Meeting basic needs

Governments and other policy makers have an obligation to ensure that the spread of the virus is minimised. However, in resource limited settings like Kenya, the balance preventing more COVID-19 infections, and the underlying reality of poverty, lack of employment, and poor health care systems presents a big challenge.

Developed countries can afford to cushion public services and individuals from the effects of the coronavirus. And similar efforts are being made in other countries in Europe, Asia and Australia. In Africa, where many economies are struggling, stimulus packages may be a tall order. Much of the continent still depends on development aid and loans, especially in crisis situations.

For example, Kenya recently received a $50 million loan from the World Bank to support the country’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary beneficiaries will be infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel, medical and testing facilities, and national health agencies.

It may take several weeks for people at the grassroots to benefit from the funding. Yet their needs are too immediate to be subjected to any delays. It is true that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a stimulus plan to buoy Kenya’s sagging economy, but some have argued that the tax driven effort will benefit the rich more than the poor.

According to the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network’s 2018 report, almost 80% of Kenyans are either income poor or near the poverty line. As at December 2019, Kenya had an unemployment rate of 9.31%. Data from the Institute of Economic Affairs indicates that the informal sector – which employs over 80% of Kenya’s working population – is usually associated with low and irregular pay. Thus, the majority of those employed in the sector are poor.

So, when the government of Kenya encouraged people to stay and work at home, many people in informal employment did it reluctantly. The main worry in many homesteads is that if their breadwinners do not work for even a single day, it will lead to starvation. Indeed, thousands of residents of the Kibra slum in Nairobi caused a stampede while scrambling for food aid despite the risk of mass congregation.

This reflects the fears of millions of people across Africa where lockdowns and curfews have been imposed. Some Kenyans have indicated that they would rather die of a pandemic than of hunger.

Best interests

The government can either allow people to continue with their normal life and risk the spread of the virus, or force people to stay at home where those in informal jobs would miss the opportunity to provide the basic needs of their families. Of course if it had the capacity – or is it the good will? – to implement stimulus measures like the US, Europe and elsewhere, there would be no dilemma to speak of.

Kenya ignored calls to restrict international flights into the country when the new coronavirus was declared a pandemic. The government went ahead and allowed a flight from China to land at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with 239 passengers on board. Such acts of negligence were committed despite the moral responsibility of the government to protect citizens from harm.

The government must now ensure that it fulfils this primary obligation by cushioning Kenyans from the effects of extreme poverty. From a utilitarian perspective, the government is charged with the moral responsibility to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Continued enforcement of the curfew and restriction of cross-country movement only adds to the suffering of the poor in Kenya. Without sufficient mitigating measurements it would only be a matter of weeks before families began to lack for the basics. The slightest disruption to the normal chain of events in Africa, even for a brief period, can spell disaster.

David Nderitu, Assistant Lecturer of Philosophy, Egerton University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What African countries are doing to help people to eat amid the lockdowns

Stuck at home because of the lockdown, 25-year-old Ugandan Richard Kabanda is worried about feeding his family.

The motorbike taxi driver, who used to earn about $2 (£1.60) a day, has had no work since the government banned public transport last month as part of measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We are going to die because there is nothing we can do,” he told the BBC from his house, which is in a slum, close to the swamps by Lake Victoria.

“We are going to die inside our homes because we will run out of food yet we’ve been told not to leave our homes.”

How to balance lives with livelihoods

Once his savings had run out, he had hoped to benefit from a food distribution programme that the government promised to 1.5 million of those most in need.

His experience was typical of the more than four out of five African workers who survive day-to-day in the informal sector and have no access to state assistance.

African governments, including Uganda’s, are now facing a policy conundrum.

A trader sleeps next to items to be sold at a market following a directive from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that all vendors should sleep in markets for 14 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at Nakasero market in Kampala, Uganda, on April 7, 2020.
Image captionStall holders in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, were asked to sleep with their produce during the lockdown to prevent them moving around

Many acted swiftly with lockdowns or restrictions on movement as the spectre of coronavirus approached the continent. But the authorities are also aware of the toll these measures are taking on their citizens.

They are now grappling with how to move into the next phase of how to contain the virus and restart the economy.

“Getting the balance right between people’s lives and livelihoods is the big trick for poorer countries,” said Ronak Gopaldas, director of the South Africa-based risk management company, Signal Risk.

“If people don’t work, they don’t eat. Ongoing lockdowns are unsustainable in their current forms.”

Woman selling chicken
Image captionPeople in the informal sector make up more the 80% of the workforce across the continent

Few African countries have social safety nets to catch people if they lose their jobs.

The precarious existence for those workers in the informal sector, and the large numbers of relatives who rely on them, means that the halting of economic activity could spell disaster.

So what are African governments doing to cushion their citizens from the impact of unemployment?

Looking at sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, the World Bank has predicted that the region could fall into a recession in 2020 for the first time in 25 years as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nigeria, South Africa and Angola are likely to be hit hardest, but all countries will see a slow down.

Impact of coronavirus on GDP

Source: Standard Chartered Bank

Governments and central banks have come up with a series of macro-economic measures, including tax relief and interest rate reductions, to try to avoid the worst effects.

While those may mean that some keep jobs that would otherwise have been lost, it is the help that governments can give directly to the people that may be more significant in the short-term.

Is South Africa’s big plan working?

South Africa, with the continent’s most industrialised economy, has announced the biggest action plan so far.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined a comprehensive $26bn (£21bn) economic package, amounting to 10% of the country’s GDP, to help boost the economy.

Economic mitigation

Some of the measures governments have introduced

  • Nigeria$1.4bn fiscal stimulus, extend cash transfers for poorest
  • Kenyatax relief and reductions, new cash-transfer scheme
  • UgandaBoosted lending capacity of development bank, food handouts
  • South Africa$26bn economic package, new cash-transfer scheme

Source: IMF

He said that this would be “equal to the scale of the disruption [coronavirus] is causing”.

Jane Barrett, who works in South Africa for Wiego, an organisation that supports women in informal employment, says that things are currently “pretty dire on the ground”.

People are relying on food parcels that are being distributed by charities and civil society organisations but “we are hearing heart-breaking stories all the time of people not being reached in rural areas and whole informal settlements where food distribution has hardly touched”, she adds.

A township resident carries a food package handed out by a non governmental organisation during a 21-day nationwide lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease
Image captionIn South Africa, charities have been distributing food to those most in need

About $2.6bn of the money the government is spending will be given in the form of cash transfers to those most in need.

People who are already receiving child benefit, currently $23 per child per month, will get an extra $16 per child next month and potentially more money after that.

This should help 18 million South Africans – just under a third of the population.

State pensions will also be boosted and those who are not receiving either of these benefits, or unemployment insurance, could qualify for a new payment of $18 a month for the next six months.

This is not an insignificant amount, Ms Barrett says, “but I’m not sure that it’s going to be sufficient to alleviate the terrible hunger that we are seeing”.


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Some of the money to pay for the whole economic package will not come from loans or new taxation but will be the result of a reorganisation of spending priorities and drawing on a surplus in the unemployment fund.

But South Africa will still need to borrow more to pay for these commitments.

Other countries on the continent may find this harder as they could be reluctant to incur more debt repayment costs, says Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa at Standard Chartered Bank.

While donors have announced a freeze on repayments for now, this will not last forever.

“Given the greater formalisation of South Africa’s economy it is able to come up with its package,” she adds.

“But this is the difficulty for many countries – it is incredibly hard for governments across the region to reach out to those who operate in the informal sector. This is a key hurdle.”

Kenya’s ‘pro-poor’ approach

Kenya’s government has used an existing cash transfer programme, Inua Jamii, to boost payments to more than one million vulnerable people, who are either elderly, disabled or orphaned.

A man pulls a handcart with jerrycans along the street before a curfew, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues
Image captionSome people are able to carry on working despite measures to prevent the spread of the virus

But there will still be many others among Kenya’s 51 million people who will need help.

In announcing a new scheme, known as the Covid-19 Support Stipend, President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was adopting a “pro-poor approach… knowing that they are disproportionately affected” by the pandemic.

It has earmarked $93m for the fund that will target squatters, street hawkers, food vendors, motorbike taxi drivers and other labourers who have lost their jobs with weekly payments.

But how many, and exactly who, will qualify is not yet clear as the authorities need to establish the infrastructure to identify those most in need.

And $93m does not sound much compared to the $2.6bn in South Africa.

What drives abuse of women in childbirth? here’s what care givers told us

A healthcare worker examining a pregnant woman.
GettyImages

By Patience Afulani, University of California, San Francisco

Disrespect and abuse during childbirth are a violation of women’s human rights. Women deserve care that maintains their dignity, ensures their privacy and confidentiality and is free from mistreatment and discrimination.

Most research has, quite rightly, focused on the perspectives of women. However, it’s also essential to get a better understanding of what drives providers toward this behaviour. To better understand the dynamics, we conducted research with providers in 18 facilities in rural Kenya.

Most providers we spoke to reported that women were mostly treated with respect. But some acknowledged instances of verbal and physical abuse and lack of privacy and confidentiality. We identified several drivers of this behaviour.

The drivers

Verbal and physical abuse appeared to be an expression of both helplessness and an exercise of power.

The most common reason given for abuse was that they “had to do it” to save the baby when the woman was uncooperative or difficult. Examples of what made women “difficult” included not following instructions, refusing exams or aspects of care, screaming too much, wanting to deliver on the floor or being disrespectful to providers.

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Providers said they sometimes felt overwhelmed when they felt the baby might die because of a woman’s lack of cooperation. They then reacted by being verbally or physically abusive.

Another major contributor cited by the providers was stressful work conditions and burnout. Issues raised included high workloads due to staff shortage, a lack of essential supplies and medicines, women presenting for labour without the recommended items and language barriers.

As one provider put it:

You can find yourself on night duty at the same time you are covering daytime, and so you can’t get good services that you want to give a client because you are exhausted.

Another factor was the culture within a facility, and if providers were held accountable. For example, providers thought disrespect and abuse were more likely at night when providers were often alone and would not be held accountable. Unfortunately, when providers were punished for abuse they would often just transfer to another facility.

Providers also cited poor infrastructure and lack of supplies and medications. It was sometimes difficult to maintain women’s privacy and confidentiality because of small labour wards and a lack of privacy screens. Women had to bring their own supplies like sanitary pads and detergents, and those who didn’t bring their own sheets were sometimes left uncovered.


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Community expectations of “free maternity care” under Kenya’s maternal health policy sometimes created tensions between providers and women and their families because they did not think they should have to bring their own supplies.

Few providers admitted that abuse was their own responsibility. However, a few acknowledged that disrespect and abuse were sometimes due to provider attitudes and temperament. Provider attitudes were attributed to stress, lack of motivation, ignorance, lack of training or just being human.

They also acknowledged that treatment differed based on a range of factors such as personal connections, wealth, social status, education, empowerment, age and ethnic affiliation. As one provider put it:

Some is just physical appearance, you just get in and everybody is in love with her and the other one comes in and everyone is like oooh nobody bothers to attend to her, but mostly it is race and financial status.

What next?

These findings suggest that disrespect and abuse are driven by difficult situations – real or perceived – in the health system as well as the socio-cultural environment.

Interventions need to tackle multiple intersecting factors. This should include empowering providers with the skills to manage difficult situations. Training should also aim to help providers to develop positive coping mechanisms and to identify and curb the effects of their biases.

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It will take time, motivation, practice and reinforcement to develop providers’ interpersonal skills and change their attitudes. Training to prevent disrespect should be part of both pre-service and in-service training. Providers should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to pursue alternative ways to deal with difficult situations, as well as unreasonable expectations of women in labour.

For example, providers who were more aware of women’s rights had changed their behaviour. Some said they had stopped pinching women since going to training and, as one person put it,

left the barbaric old way of nursing.

Beyond training, action is needed to address factors that contribute to stressful work conditions, such as staff shortages, lack of supplies and medicines, and poor facility infrastructure. Accountability mechanism are also needed. Improving the work environment and changing the culture of facilities and health systems are essential to ensuring every woman receives dignified and respectful care during childbirth.

Patience Afulani, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New book shows how corruption took root in democratic South Africa

By Mcebisi Ndletyana, University of Johannesburg

In evidence before a commission of inquiry investigating corruption, South Africans have been treated to shocking revelations about brazen looting of state coffers. Ín his new book, Anatomy of the ANC in Power: Insights from Port Elizabeth, 1990—2019, Mcebisi Ndletyana shows how the governing African National Congress (ANC) failed to enforce a strict moral code to guide its conduct in government when it took power in 1994, which laid the ground for malfeasance. Below is an edited extract from the book.

“Amandla, ANC, ANC!” (Power, ANC, ANC!), the chants reverberated throughout the municipal chamber. It was just after 3pm on 6 November 1995. The commotion was unusual for the customarily restrained municipal council proceedings.

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It marked a similarly rare occasion.

For the first time in its 134-year history, the port city of Port Elizabeth, on eastern shore of South Africa, had elected a black man, Nceba Faku, as its 53rd mayor. Faku’s election, on an ANC ticket, followed a string of white males who had occupied the mayoralty since the establishment of the municipality in 1861. Unlike his predecessors, Faku had served two stints in prison and was once denounced as a terrorist for his role in the struggle against apartheid.

His election was truly a signal that the democratic change that started in the country in 1994 , had not only permeated throughout the structures of governance, but was also irreversible.

In reality though, local government remained largely untransformed throughout the 1990s. New legislation was still relatively absent. This lacuna allowed for the continued application of old apartheid practices. One of these was allowing councillors to adjudicate over the allocation of tenders. Previous councillors had abused this to advance their own their business interests.

The new democratic city council proceeded in a similar fashion, and council regulations allowed councillors to enter into business contracts with the municipality. Before doing so, however, they had to secure consent from the council and exempt themselves from any decision-making process related to their interests.

But, councillors did not always seek consent to bid for municipal work.


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Licence to loot

Using the opportunity offered by their presence in council for business interests, or to generate alternative sources of income, was enticing for the new councillors. They only received allowances. For those to whom the allowance was the only source of income, being a councillor was an attractive opportunity to augment one’s income.

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It was common for councillors, says Errol Heynes – who was deputy mayor at the time – to be approached by business people with bribes to vote for their being awarded a tender. According to Mthetheleli Ngcete, who was one of the councillors, some councillors approached them with stacks of money showing that they had been bribed.

Involvement in business also pitted councillors against each other. Some clashed over the same business deal. A prominent example happened in the late 1990s, over the plot of land where the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World complex stands today.

It involved two companies, Emfuleni Resorts and Siyalanda Property Development. Siyalanda Property Development was publicly associated with councillor Sicelo Kani, while unconfirmed names of some councillors were connected to Emfuleni Resorts. Both companies made a bid for the same plots. The council could not decide, for a considerable period of time, which of the two companies should be sold the plots.

The council seemed to prefer selling to Emfuleni, whereas the executive committee appeared to favour Siyalanda. Emfuleni eventually built the casino, following a court decision in February 2000. Instead of insisting on buying the land, Emfuleni had switched to the easier option of leasing, to which the municipality agreed.

Before the lengthy wrangle was resolved, however, it had wrought serious damage on the ANC. In the midst of the impasse the executive committee was reshuffled. Five of its members – Mandla Madwara, Rory Riordan, Mcebisi Msizi, Khaya Mkefa and Errol Heynes – were removed. The dismissal was unceremonious.

 

They were not directly informed of their removal, but read about it in the newspapers. Madwara, Msizi and Heynes were, at the time, away in China on council business. Mike Xego, a prominent local ANC leader, narrates the story rather theatrically:

Bagxothwa bese China. Kogqitywa bafowunelwa kwathiwa “buyani sanuba sayenza na lonto ben” iyele apho. Anisena magunya”. [They were fired whilst in China and phoned to come back immediately since they had no standing anymore].

The ANC justified the reshuffle on the grounds of supposed poor performance by the five councillors. Heynes was personally blamed for the ANC’s poor showing amongst coloured voters in the 1999 national elections that had taken place earlier that year. The term ‘coloured’ is an apartheid-era label used to refers to people of mixed European (‘white’) and African (‘black’) or Asian ancestry.

Madwara and his colleagues accepted the decision, but rejected the supposed reasons for their removal. The claim that Madwara and his colleagues were fired on account of poor performance was spurious. It assumed that their performance would have been evaluated. None of them were. Ngcete, who succeeded Madwara as chairperson of the municipalily’s executive committee, also does not recall ever being subjected to a performance evaluation when he was a councillor.

No accountability

Close scrutiny of the municipal performance disputes the assertion of poor performance. The mayor, Faku, with whom they occasionally disagreed, was complimentary about their performance. In his mayoral speech, made on 23 September 2000 – a year after the reshuffle – Faku singled out Madwara and Riordan as deserving of special praise for gaining the Port Elizabeth Municipality “the reputation as one of the most competent municipalities in the country”.

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Ismael Momoniat, deputy director-general at the country’s National Treasury, recalls Riordan as a particularly competent city treasurer (as they were called then). As a result, according to Heynes, the municipality enjoyed a triple-A rating, which meant that its finances were sound, had reserves and could easily borrow.

Incompetence had nothing to do with the reshuffle. The real reasons, according to Mabhuti Dano, were their involvement in business and lack of accountability. They had used their positions in the executive committee, Dano explains, to advance their business interests.

Even if Madwara and his colleagues had business interests, they were not the only ones in positions of influence with such. The mayor, Faku, was a director at the construction company, Murray and Roberts, but survived the chop. Just as the 1990s came to a close, it became apparent that disputes were not settled objectively, but were swayed by personalities and factional support one enjoyed within the organisation.

COVER PHOTO: The ANC, which has governed South Africa since 1994, has failed to deal decisively against corruption in its midst.
EFE-EPA/Yeshiel Panchia

Mcebisi Ndletyana’s book, Anatomy of the ANC in Power: Insights from Port Elizabeth, 1990 – 2019., is published by HSRC Press.

Mcebisi Ndletyana, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Johannesburg

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fame abroad changes African footballers’ way of life back home

Football continues to present a great chance for social mobility in Africa.
Natee K Jindakum/Shutterstock

By Ernest Yeboah Acheampong, University of Education

African footballers have long been attracted to careers abroad. This is easy to understand considering that many come from backgrounds of poverty and high unemployment rates in countries with repressive governments that mismanage resources. Rural life also poses challenges to aspiring sports people, such as a lack of playing grounds and other facilities.

These factors tend to hinder football development on the continent.

The European football market offers footballers better conditions and socioeconomic benefits. Foreign leagues provide considerably better earnings than what players earn in their domestic leagues.

The evolution of the European football market picked up in the 1980s, providing a chance for many African players to achieve professional status. Football became a global business product, attracting huge broadcasting rights and corporate sponsorship.

The experience of playing and living abroad in this environment can lead to changes in players’ behaviour. Not only do they have far greater wealth than their peers, they may break old social ties and consider themselves “special”.

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I set out to explore these changes to understand why achieving professional status abroad should suddenly affect players’ behaviour in their home communities.

I interviewed professional footballers from Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Cameroon and Egypt, aged between 18 and 52, who had played in the leagues of countries like England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. They were asked to describe their football career path from their country of origin to moving abroad and beginning their professional activity. The study captured both current players and those who had left Africa in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

The study found that upward social mobility often led to extreme behavioural and attitude switches. Some of the notable traits from the players studied were arrogance and conspicuous consumption. Some even spoke ill of fellow professionals in lower or developing leagues.

This is important because their home communities expect them to maintain a relationship with the people who supported them during their formative periods. It leads to social disconnection when some are perceived as “ungrateful” and reluctant to give back to society.


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All interviewees admitted that fame and wealth, if not properly managed, could have a negative effect on society. On the other hand, they could use their higher social status to change lives in their home countries.

In contrast to professional footballers who migrate, other kinds of migrant workers often maintain strong connections with people at home. Sometimes they send resources to support projects for the public benefit, such as building schools.

African beginnings

Many African players began their professional journey by playing in street football and inter-street competitions within their communities or nearby communities. Social practice of the sport supported individual players’ social integration and made them visible to football enthusiasts. All the players I interviewed said they had received a lot of support from their communities.

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When they left their communities to play abroad, they gained social status and national recognition. Most moved to cities and adopted new attitudes. A player recalled that the “job of football has a way of changing you if you’re not careful without you knowing, unconsciously, you’ll turn out to be a different human being”.

An example is Abedi Pele, a former captain of Ghana and one of the most globally recognised footballers to emerge from Africa. Speaking at a G8 Summit he said:

“We were enjoying football and having fun but to see that such a thing can turn to the most lucrative business in the world is what amazes me, something I started like a joke became the most unique, powerful, influential business in the world that when you speak people listen, when you talk, you inspire millions of people… And you have to also learn to maintain the fame and not to abuse it”.

Former skipper of the Ghanaian national footbal team and attacking midfielder Abedi Pele is regarded as one of the greatest African footballers of all time.
Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Apart from fame, my study found that there are other variables that can drive changes in players’ behaviour. Some do not recognise the changes personally. They include belief in one’s own abilities and the likelihood of one’s behaviour leading to a specific outcome. Other variables include self-control and learning from observation. The influence of these variables on behaviour is not unexpected when a person comes from a background of moderate education.

Players in the study said they had to guard against behaviour such as ignoring their former team colleagues, senior players, coaches, friends and the community that supported their professional activities abroad. They said the community saw such behaviour as undesirable since it did not represent their cultural norms and social values. These values include reciprocal behaviour and an attitude of humility, obedience, gratitude and submissiveness.

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Abedi Pele noted that

“When you are rich, famous and influential, if you don’t take your time you will think that the world belongs to you or you control it”

A few players in the study identified fame and wealth as an opportunity to support a worthy cause in African communities. One was Stephen Appiah, a school dropout who grew up in Chorkor, a poor fishing community in Accra, Ghana. He built a health-care centre and library and created an annual sports day event for Chorkor. He no longer lives there but his social projects represent his presence there after his success.

Communities expect successful players to be guided by social norms that shaped their early lives – not just by wealth and fame achieved later. But sudden situational changes tend to influence people’s social networks. Many footballers no longer mix with their former friends.

The study suggests that if professional African players maintain their bond with their home communities, they can create opportunities to support local development. They can also serve as role models for young talent keen to have a career abroad.


Ernest Yeboah Acheampong, Lecturer, Health,Physical Education,Recreation and Sport (HPERS), University of Education

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shackling of Ghana’s mentally ill – in pictures

Stigma, misinformation and a dearth of psychiatric resources mean many Ghanaians resort to chaining up their loved ones or patients, sometimes for years on end

Shackling of Ghana’s mentally ill

Story by Tracy McVeigh and Robin Hammond

All photographs by Robin Hammond

Five ways to stay healthy when breastfeeding

Getting enough rest, eating well and being aware of your mental health are all important when feeding your baby.

It’s important to watch your posture when breastfeeding. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eat well

A good diet is particularly important when breastfeeding. “You’re fuelling yourself to fuel a baby,” says Jane Moffett, a breastfeeding counsellor with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). “Eat a varied, balanced diet,” she says . “If you’re vegan, think about calcium-fortified foods.” Wholegrains, protein and vegetables help to regulate blood sugar and may reduce your cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods. But, with breastfeeding burning about 300 calories a day, this is not the time to cut calories. “As you’ll be feeding through the night as well as the day, it may be an idea to take a tuck box to bed,” says Moffett.

Take care of your emotional and mental health

Breastfeeding, like all elements of early parenting, may be different from what you expected. You may feel tired, frustrated, confused or helpless. According to research by the NCT in 2017, half of mothers experienced mental health problems at some time during pregnancy or within the first year of their child’s birth. If you feel in need of support, ask your GP, midwife or health visitor about breastfeeding clinics, drop in sessions and support groups. Help may be available locally but, if not, there are several national helplines in the UK. Check the NHS website for details.

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Get enough rest

The pressure to relax can feel, ironically, rather stressful when your schedule is being dictated by a small baby. So, instead of telling yourself to sleep whenever the baby does, simply try to do things that make you happy. “Get rest,” advises Tamsin English, a baby feeding supporter based in east London. “It doesn’t have to be sleep – it could just be lying on the sofa, watching TV, or listening to music. Anything that helps you feel less frazzled.”


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Be breast aware

While breastfeeding, take the time to look at your breasts in the mirror, and check them regularly for signs of tenderness. “If you start to feel fluey, have a red area on one of your breasts, or if your breasts feel painful, tell your doctor, midwife or health visitor,” says Moffett. These can be the early signs of mastitis, a painful condition caused by a buildup of milk in the breast. If you suspect mastitis may be coming on, the NHS recommends massaging the affected area in a warm shower, continuing to breastfeed, trying different positions to stimulate the blocked area and maybe starting your baby feeding on the affected breast to try to drain any blockages.

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Look after your back

Breastfeeding can cause aches and pains, particularly if you don’t watch your posture. There are different breastfeeding positions that may suit parent and baby – from the rugby hold to the cradle hold, from lying flat to lying on your side, or even the jazzy sounding “koala” position. The Medela website has useful pictures and notes of several of these positions, or you can ask to be shown them at breastfeeding drop-ins, which are usually run by local health services.

‘I sold my hair for $2 to feed my children’

The day Prema Selvam sold her hair for 150 rupees ($2; £1.50) in order to feed her young children was the worst of her life.

The mother-of-three had already lost her husband after he had killed himself in a fit of desperation amid mounting debts and a failed dream.

Even then, she still had hope.

But after selling her hair, she was faced with the prospect of having nothing more of value, no way to pay the creditors demanding their money, and no food in the cupboard.

What happened next has inspired people across India.

Drowning in debt

Before his death, Prema and her husband had worked in a brick kiln in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, making just enough to scrape a living together for their young family. But they had hoped for more. Her husband took out a loan to start his own brick kiln, but the plans failed to take off. In a moment of desperation last year, he killed himself.

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The pressure fell solely on Prema to not only earn enough to feed, clothe and house herself and her three children, but also to pay back the money they owed for the failed business venture. And for a while she managed, taking her two youngest to work with her.

“When I go to work I get 200 rupees ($2.80) per day, which is enough to run our family,” Prema explains to the BBC.

But she became ill, which meant she couldn’t earn as much.

“I couldn’t carry a heavy load of bricks. I stayed home for most of the time due to a fever.”

Seeing her eldest son Kaliyappan (below, left) hungry pained Prema, who works at a brick kiln

She was sick for three months – by the end of which the bills had mounted, and the cupboards had run bare.

“My seven-year-old son Kaliyappan came back from school and asked for food,” she recalls. “Then he started crying due to hunger.”

Prema had no property, jewellery, valuables or kitchen utensils that could be exchanged for cash.

“I didn’t even have a 10 rupee note [$0.14; £0.11] with me. I just had a few plastic buckets.”

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Then she realised she did have something she could sell after all.

“I remembered a shop which used to buy hair,” Prema says, thinking immediately of her own hair. India is one of the world’s top exporters of human hair, which is sold around the globe to make extensions. Some Hindu devotees offer up their hair in temples when their prayers are answered.

“I went there and sold my entire head of hair for 150 rupees ($2; £1.50).”

A Hindu devotee, Rani, has her head shaved at a Temple in India. She was donating her hair in the hope that the gods would give her a grandchild

It might not sound like a lot – the money she got might only have been able to buy a lunch at a restaurant in a large city – but in her village, Prema was able to buy much more.

“I got three packs of cooked rice, each costing 20 rupees, for my three children,” she says.

But the respite was only temporary: Prema knew she was out of options, and her thoughts began to turn towards more drastic measures.

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Desperation

She went to a shop where she hoped to find something to end her life. But, seeing her state of distress and realising her plan, the shopkeeper refused to sell her anything. Prema went home and decided to find another way of taking her own life. She was saved by her sister, who lives in the neighbourhood and happened to come by in time to stop her.

And then, just a few days later, the help she so desperately needed appeared out of the blue.

Bala Murugan was able to raise more than $1,600 within a day

Bala Murugan heard about Prema’s situation from a friend who owned a local brick kiln. It immediately struck a nerve: her struggle reminded him of his family’s darkest hour. Bala knows well how poverty can drive people to despair – at the age of 10, his family ran out of food. His mother sold their old books and newspapers by weight to buy rice.

And then, in a state of utter despair, Bala’s mother decided to kill herself and her children. She changed her mind at the last moment: the family rushed their mother to a doctor, and she was saved.

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Bala now lives a life a world away from the situation he grew up in. After years of struggle, he has worked his way out of poverty and now owns a computer graphics centre.

Many schemes meant for the poor don’t reach people like Prema

And now, he had a chance to pay his own good fortune forward: Bala told Prema about his journey and encouraged her to find hope. Along with his friend, Prabhu, he gave her some money to buy food. Then Bala wrote about the family on social media.

“Within a day I got 120,000 rupees ($1,670). When I told Prema about it she was very happy and said that was enough to pay back most of her loan,” he tells the BBC.

But at Prema’s request, the fundraising was stopped.

“She said she would get back to her work and pay the rest,” Bala explains.

She now has to pay back about 700 rupees a month – about $10 – to different creditors, while district officials have stepped in and promised to help her to set up a dealership selling milk.

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Prema is slowly getting back on her feet, but, sadly, her financial situation is far from unique. In spite of India’s economic growth, millions like her struggle to put food on the table.

According to the World Bank, India is home to the second largest number of people living in extreme poverty – classified as those earning less than $1.90 per day.

Prema struggled to feed her children after her husband had killed himself – shaving her head was a way to make money

Prema has another obstacle in her way: she cannot read or write, like tens of millions of other Indians.

As a result, she is unaware of government schemes which provide help to people like her. Meanwhile, the country’s formal banking system has complex rules that make it difficult for poor communities to access credit at low interest rates. Instead, Prema and her husband had borrowed from local money lenders and neighbours at higher rates – sending her spiralling further into debt.

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But thanks to her community’s generosity, she is able to see a way out of the cycle of poverty which has kept her trapped. Bala Murugan, meanwhile, has assured the family of his continued support.

“Now I realise suicide was the wrong decision,” she says. “I am confident about paying back the rest of the loan.”

If you are depressed and need to ask for help, visit Befrienders International for more information about support services.

iStock by Getty Images

When heavy periods disrupt a girl child’s life

“Someone’s menstrual period should not be impairing them from leading a normal life, because we have really good treatments for pain and for heavy bleeding,” an expert says.

iStock by Getty Images

By Perri Klass

Adolescents with heavy menstrual periods may find it impossible to get through the school day without getting blood on their clothes, or wake at night to find blood on the sheets. Beyond the inconveniences, those with heavy or prolonged menstrual periods can lose a lot of blood, month by month.

In a review published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics at the end of December, Dr. Claudia Borzutzky, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Dr. Julie Jaffray, a pediatric hematologist at the same institution, reviewed the issue of heavy menstrual bleeding in adolescents. Both of them are faculty members at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

“We have a lot of patients who are missing school, who leave school to be home-schooled, who are leaving sports activities, because of their really crazy heavy periods,” Dr. Borzutzky said. “Someone’s menstrual period should not be impairing them from leading a normal life, because we have really good treatments for pain and for heavy bleeding.”

Rather than defining a heavy period in terms of milliliters of blood, the doctors said it is important to take it seriously if it impairs a teenager’s functioning.

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And although some teenagers may find this a difficult topic to address head-on with parents, parents will often be aware, Dr. Jaffray said, not only that their daughters may be missing school, but that they are having to wash bedsheets, or that they are going through sanitary products much faster than expected.

In the first year or two after menarche, the most common reason for heavy or prolonged periods is what is called anovulatory bleeding, reflecting a cycle in which no ovulation has actually occurred, but hormones cause continued bleeding. Over time, cycles should become more regularly ovulatory, and the bleeding should decrease, but in the meantime, the heavy periods can be treated, Dr. Borzutzy said.

Most people who have heavy periods will not actually have bleeding disorders, but about 20 percent of them will, and since some of these disorders are inherited, it is not uncommon to start by diagnosing the problem in the adolescent and move on to finding the same problem in a parent or other family member. “A mother may not recognize her daughter’s heavy menstrual bleeding because it’s just like hers,” Dr. Jaffray said. “Many times we diagnose a young girl and have to go back and encourage the mother or the father to be tested.”

These mothers may have given birth and had difficulties with blood loss, may even have had hysterectomies for their own heavy menstrual bleeding, all without finding out the underlying diagnosis, she said. The Foundation for Women and Girls with Blood Disorders works to raise awareness of these issues and increase the likelihood that medical providers make these diagnoses and treat them appropriately.

In a study published in November in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, researchers looked at 258 adolescents who came into the emergency room for heavy menstrual bleeding. Forty-four (17 percent) were admitted to the hospital, and almost a third of those had a bleeding disorder. The mean age of the girls who were hospitalized was 15, and most of them received blood transfusions or other blood products, like platelets or plasma.

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Dr. Monica Woll Rosen, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School who was the lead author on the study, said that in addition to the signs of heavy or prolonged menstruation, parents should watch for symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue and dizziness.

Even young women who don’t have bleeding disorders can lose enough blood through heavy menstrual periods to become significantly — and sometimes dangerously — anemic. “It’s very important especially in teenagers to have normal iron levels, to help them with growth and development, energy, intellectual function,” Dr. Jaffray said.

If a girl is passing large clots — anything from the size of a quarter on up — that’s concerning. Parents should pay attention if a daughter can’t make it through a class at school without going to the bathroom to change her pad or her tampon, if she’s taking changes of clothing to school because of accidents, if she’s regularly doubling up pads and tampons, or having periods that last longer than seven days.

The most common bleeding disorder among these young women is Von Willebrand disease, a genetic clotting defect, which can occur in more or less severe forms. These girls may also bruise easily and may have nosebleeds, or bleed from their gums when they brush their teeth. Von Willebrand disease may be inherited from either parent.

Various platelet disorders can also result in heavy menstruation, including immune thrombocytopenia, or ITP, a platelet deficiency that can occur after a viral infection. And there may be some subtle bleeding disorders that we cannot yet detect.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends thinking of the menstrual period as a vital sign. Dr. Borzutzky said: “Just as important as your blood pressure and your heart rate is your menstrual period and the pattern of it.”

But because doctors were not necessarily trained to think this way, they don’t always assess this particular vital sign, and some patients may find that doctors dismiss their concerns, telling them that early on, the menstrual cycle can be irregular in various ways. “Irregular periods, be they absent or frequent or heavy, are common, but that doesn’t mean normal,” Dr. Borzutzky said. “It warrants evaluation if it’s affecting the patient’s life.”

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Doctors may prescribe oral contraceptives to regularize periods without looking for bleeding disorders or other problems, Dr. Jaffray said. “I would love to say to the parents, to the patients, to really advocate for yourself if you really think you’re bleeding more than your peers.” A full evaluation is important, especially if there’s any family history to consider.

The primary treatments for heavy menstrual periods are hormones — that is to say, the medications we think of as contraceptives. “Birth control pills for hormonal benefits, a patch, a ring, a shot, an implant or an I.U.D. are all options we give these girls,” Dr. Rosen said. “Our cycles are regulated by hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, and to decrease the amount of menstrual bleeding someone has, you can use hormones, albeit synthetic hormones, to regulate the hormones your own body is making.”

Some parents have strong objections to their daughters taking hormones, Dr. Borzutzky said, for a broad range of reasons, many connected to historical experiences with hormone therapy. Some have had bad experiences themselves, others worry about possible future effects on their daughters’ fertility or other complications, and some may be concerned that giving young women contraceptive medications will increase the chances of early sexual activity, though there is no evidence that this is true.

“There are very few patients in whom we cannot find a safe hormonal medication,” Dr. Borzutzky said. “We have to take each method one by one and talk about the safety, the benefits, the risks of each one and really go through what science we have — it’s not perfect, but we have quite a bit of safety evidence.” In addition, girls with bleeding disorders may need hematologic medications, and anyone who is anemic will need iron.

So parents should discuss this with adolescents, Dr. Borzutzky said, “when they start their menstrual life,” and make sure that their periods are not causing them a lot of discomfort. Ask if there’s anything they’ve stopped doing because of their periods, she suggested. “We say this all the time, try to just normalize discussion, give context, use humor — say, I know it feels funny to talk about this sometimes,” but emphasize that it’s a completely normal part of life, and keep on checking in.

“Say that the pediatrician has asked me to check in two or three times a year about periods,” Dr. Rosen suggested. “Say, because this is your health, I need to ask you a few questions about what’s going on with your period.”

Not many knew Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria. Facebook

The growth of ‘money’ gospel in Africa and the fate of its blind followers

By Ilana van Wyk

The prosperity gospel is back in the news in South Africa, this time over the misdeeds of one of its prophets. The prosperity gospel is a religious movement that has exploded in popularity and prominence in South Africa over the last two decades but has stirred up controversy globally for more than 40 years.

Not many knew Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria. Facebook
Not many knew Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria. Facebook

The gospel first reached South Africa in the late 1970s through churches such as televangelist Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church. Due to apartheid restrictions on the movements of black people, the prosperity gospel’s reach was limited. But since the start of democracy in 1994, preachers from across the continent have streamed into the country’s townships, converting large numbers to this new gospel.

Today it’s the fastest growing religious movement in South Africa. While precise statistics are lacking, scholars agree that prosperity gospel followers rival, if not exceed, the numbers of so-called mainline churches.

Not many South Africans had paid much attention to Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until the end of last year. But when three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria, the “self-proclaimed prophet” received wide media coverage.

In February 2019, he was again in the news when the police’s special crime investigative unit arrested him and his wife on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and for exchange control irregularities amounting to over US$ 1 million. His R20-million private Gulfstream jet was also attached.

Bushiri’s followers also attracted media attention when they gathered in great numbers waving placards outside court to pray for his release. Many prostrated themselves on the tarmac, tears streaming down their faces as they spoke in tongues or as they cried for their “daddy”, “Papa” or “Major One”.

Paseka Motsoeneng, better known as Prophet Mboro, who is a preacher from a similar church, lent emotional and spiritual support to Bushiri’s “children”, traumatised by the loss of their “spiritual mother and father”.

These scenes led many South Africans to ask questions about Bushiri’s supporters. Were they part of a cult? Or were they merely instruments in the hands of a man who manipulated their vulnerability for his own financial ends?

Christian commentators called for urgent government intervention to protect poor people duped by the improbable promises made by what they termed as “scam” churches and “fake prophets”.

As an anthropologist, I have been studying prosperity gospel churches in South Africa for nearly a decade. I have attended hundreds of daily services, watched scores of televised ones, analysed websites and chat forums and interviewed hundreds of prosperity gospel believers. And unlike theologians who argue about the legitimacy of Biblical interpretations and questions of doctrine, I have been interested in the kinds of people who swear undying support for men like Bushiri.

Tenets of the prosperity gospel

The prosperity gospel explains poverty and illness in terms of sins against God, specifically the withholding of tithes. It also ascribes such “bad luck” to the work of demons engaged in a spiritual war against God’s kingdom. Converts typically renounce their past lives and their old churches.

They embrace spiritual “technologies” – these include offerings in church, paying tithes, praying strongly and exorcising demons – that promise to secure miraculous health and wealth directly from God. They also follow preacher-prophets who they believe have special powers to fight against the “spirit of poverty”.

Many believers are strengthened in this faith through the persistent testimonies of those who had been “blessed” with jobs, houses, cars and healing in church. These testimonies are delivered from church pulpits and in person, and are endlessly repeated in church publications and on radio, television and the internet.

What I found

My research showed that prosperity gospel churches attract people from all walks of life and a variety of educational backgrounds. While the majority of congregants, like the majority of South Africans, are typically poor and dependent on social grants, these churches also count significant numbers of professionals, business people and increasingly, politicians, in their ranks.

I also found that Prosperity gospel believers are not captive victims of so-called cult leaders. In fact, they move constantly between churches as they search for more efficacious “technologies” and “stronger prophets”. Chances are that as Bushiri faces more legal troubles, more of his followers will desert him for prophets like Mboro.

I often struggle to convince people that those who subscribe to this gospel are not simply credulous dupes. Detractors often refer to the figure of the improbably rich prophet, men like Bushiri, as proof that the prosperity gospel is illegitimate and that its believers are fools.

God and money

There’s a long Western Christian belief that money is a force that corrupts proper spiritual intentions and corrodes sacred social bonds. Stemming from the 16th century Reformation, this tradition has been very suspicious of any coupling of God and money, holding that the material world poses dangerous distractions from proper spiritual belief.

But there are other Christian traditions such as the prosperity gospel that are much more materialist in their concerns. In these traditions, money does very different kinds of work. It is the proper medium through which their God “blesses” people, through which people petition God and through which believers come into social being and connect to others through their generosity.

Some of these traditions have a long history in South Africa, going back to the 1800s. The mission record for instance shows that scores of early converts- and missionaries- demanded material proof of their new God’s power. Various Revivalists used Christianity to inform more aggressive forms of millenarianism such as the “gospel of self-help” during the 1940s and the tent campaigns of the 1960s. The prosperity gospel is a continuation of this materialist Christian tradition. For its followers, it is not a con, just a different approach to their God.

Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable.

Bribery patterns in Uganda’s health care system

In September 2017 Uganda’s former Minister of Health, Dr Sarah Opendi, disguised herself in a hijab and travelled by boda boda (motorbike taxi) to Naguru Hospital in Kampala. The minister then asked for routine laboratory tests. They should have been given to her free of charge but instead the health workers asked for a bribe.

Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable.
Experts fear that Uganda’s efforts to eliminate graft in its health care system are not sustainable. Photo: Suuba Trust/Flickr

A camera crew was on hand to film the confrontation that followed. The police were close behind to arrest the two health workers. The drama captured national and international headlines.

Our fieldwork, which looked for surprising “success stories” in bribery reduction efforts in Kampala, began a day before this “investigation” took place. The minister’s involvement in the plot was exceptional but we learned that publicised anti-corruption raids in Uganda’s health sector are not unusual. Rather, they are emblematic of a high-profile strategy devised by the government to crack down on bribery and other sources of corruption in the sector.

Our research was done under the umbrella of the “Islands of Integrity” project which uses global data to identify sectors within a country that have experienced a significant – if surprising – reduction in bribery relative to other sectors.

We found that in Uganda, contrary to expectations given the sector’s history of corruption, bribery for health services reduced dramatically between 2011 and 2015.

This achievement has been widely applauded. But our research also showed that were serious downsides to the “naming and shaming” approach taken by the administration. This includes a disgruntled workforce and question marks over the long term sustainability of the approach.

Corruption in Uganda

Almost half of all people who made contact with the health sector in Uganda in 2010 paid a bribe. But by 2015 this rate was just 25% . This is an almost unprecedented reduction, especially in such a short time frame. And runs counter to the trend in other sectors where bribery remained at high levels.

Our research shows that the main factor was the introduction of the Health Monitoring Unit which was launched in 2009.

The unit is a highly visible institution with wide ranging powers to monitor and evaluate the performance of health facilities, investigate and arrest corrupt health workers and audit Uganda’s health procurement and supply system. It also works with the courts to prosecute health-care related crimes.

Its most high-profile work involves carrying out unannounced investigations in health facilities, which are either randomly selected or in response to specific complaints. These complaints often include bribery claims.

While the unit prides itself on getting the job done observers have criticised its investigations for being “militaristic”, based on a strategy of catching health workers “red handed” and then “naming and shaming” them in public.

It is true that unit arrests are often covered by the media. Its exploits usually receive front page coverage. Nevertheless, the fear of exposure has been a useful deterrent for potential bribe seekers.

Sustainability questions

We found that bribery patterns were indeed disrupted because health workers were afraid of being monitored, arrested and punished. All the health care workers we interviewed in Uganda’s Central, Eastern and Western provinces knew about the unit and its raids. All of them were of the opinion that the raids were the reason bribery in the health sector had decreased.

However, the case isn’t an uncomplicated success story.

The first big question is over sustainability. A disruptive strategy like this is expensive, time consuming, resource intensive and requires constant rebooting to keep people on their toes. As far as we can tell, there are no real plans for ongoing disruption or next steps.

The approach also doesn’t take into account the real-life “benefits” of bribery such as supplementing the meagre wages in the health sector. Because of this, we found some evidence in our interviews with front line health staff that bribery patterns are reemerging, a trend observed in research done by others looking at the role of social norms and “camouflaging” behaviour in bribery.

Rather than halting completely, it looks like the patterns may be changing. Bribery strategies are changing and could return in full force when the pressure comes off.

Ultimately, and of the utmost importance, is the fact that the approach doesn’t tackle corruption higher up the chain, which is where the problem begins.

Unintended consequences

Our research also uncovered evidence of some unintended consequences of the unit’s name and shame approach. As early as 2010, the unit’s work was said to be “humiliating” health workers and negatively affecting staff morale.

In December 2017, members of the Uganda Medical Association went on an unprecedented nationwide strike which lasted over a month and brought the already weak health system to its knees. The health workers cited the unit as one of the key causes of the strike.

In keeping with the sentiments of the strikers – and research done by others – our findings suggest that the unit’s ultimate impact on service delivery could be negative, with staff morale falling to an all-time low. Fearful, demoralised staff are not likely to provide the best care possible in the circumstances.

While Uganda’s health sector is a positive outlier on bribery, the evidence suggests the cost of controlling the vice might be too high. And the consequences of the present approach is likely to be become apparent in years to come.


Additional research was carried out by Pius Gumisiriza. Pius is a lecturer at the Uganda Management Institute.

SOURCE: The Conversation

Uganda’s brutal clampdown on MPs is caused by global indifference

MPs including the Afropop musician Bobi Wine are allegedly being tortured by the Museveni regime. The Magnitsky Act can curb this shocking abuse.

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In a country with such a complex and often conflict-prone history, acts of political violence and intimidation are common enough to be unremarkable. But this past week in Uganda has been exceptional, as outrage spills out into the streets over the government’s brutal arrests of four members of parliament and dozens of their supporters. Among those arrested was the rising political star Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a widely loved 36-year-old former Afropop musician popularly known as Bobi Wine. The state’s treatment of Wine, including credible allegations of torture, has prompted days of massive protests in the capital, Kampala, which have been violently suppressed by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) with tear gas and live ammunition.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986, has breezily dismissed the treatment of Wine, calling the whole affair “fake news”. How the international community responds to Uganda in this moment is crucial – and the ruling party is betting on short attention spans and crisis fatigue to move on to other concerns. But the next generation of Ugandans deserves a more serious international response, as Wine’s plight is quickly becoming a symbol of the deplorable state of human rights in the country.

Although Wine was originally arrested over “obstructing a motorcade”, after stones were thrown at the president’s car, more charges were slapped together, including illegal possession of a firearm (although no such firearm was ever found). Despite being a matter for the civil courts, he was put into military detention until, on Thursday, the state dropped the gun charges – only to have him re-arrested and charged with treason along with the other three MPs. Wine is in jail because of who he is, not anything he may have done.

Over the course of his detention, Wine has allegedly been subjected to horrific abuse. According to accounts by his family, his face, torso, legs and genitals have been subjected to repeated heavy punches and kicks by UPDF soldiers. He has informed his wife that he has been given so many injections of unknown drugs by unknown people that he lost count, and consciousness, awakening only when he was wheeled into his arraignment hearing on 16 August – disoriented and unable to stand or speak.

Even Wine’s military doctors are said to have told him that it is likely he has suffered significant kidney damage, while the judge at that hearing ordered that he be granted his constitutionally guaranteed right to medical care. Many of his injuries may have a lifelong impact. But despite this evidence of abuse, the government continues to insist that he is in rude health, not a scratch or bruise on him.

Wine is in many ways an unlikely figure to become a symbol of opposition. He is new to politics, only winning his seat as an independent last year, and is not tied to one of the major opposition parties. There are many other longtime challengers in the opposition who have suffered similarly for years. Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, has been attacked, threatened, physically abused and sent before military courts many times – in fact, he was arrested again hours after Wine was charged with treason.

His also may not be the worst case. Francis Zaake, the Mityana MP, was arrested on the same day, and UPDF agents allegedly tied a rope around his neck and beat him unconscious. He’s been unable to leave his hospital bedbecause of dislocated discs in his back and a severely injured neck. In September last year, the MP Betty Nambooze had her spine snapped in an attack by state agents – and that happened inside parliament. The stories go on and on.

Nevertheless, Wine’s case has captivated national attention in a unique way. As the “ghetto president”, Wine has unprecedented appeal among young people, allowing many disenchanted Ugandans to identify with him and participate in the political sphere. If he is dragged off, beaten, and tortured by UPDF thugs, his supporters feel it – and they will not back down.

It is the responsibility of the international community to take action to halt the human rights abuses in Uganda. Uganda is in clear violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights, the UN convention against torture, the African Charter of Human Rights of the African Union, and a number of other international treaties. It is an important moment to demand the immediate release of these political prisoners, the dropping of all false charges, and the reinstatement of their basic political rights to free association and freedom of expression. Our law firm, acting on behalf of Wine, is calling for the application of the Global Magnitsky Act against state officials responsible for these human rights violations.

The Magnitsky Act, passed by the US Congress in 2016, in the wake of the murder of the Russian whistleblower-lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, allows for visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption. These types of individualised sanctions are a very effective deterrent against future attacks on human rights, while limiting the collateral damage to innocent citizens.

In recent years Uganda has avoided consequences for its repressive conduct – partly because the country is seen as a reliable security partner (contributing thousands of troops to Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere), and partly because of its stability as an investment destination. But the viability of these relationships is in jeopardy when rule of law is so brazenly discarded. The cause is just – we just need to summon the political will to bring positive change to Uganda.


  • Robert Amsterdam is the founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, which represents Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (aka Bobi Wine). For information about the case, go to CrowdJustice

Cover photo: ‘But the next generation of Ugandans deserves a more serious international response.’ Ugandans living in Kenya protest at Bobi Wine’s detention Photo: Daniel Irungu/EPA

Cambodia’s prime minister rigged an election: here is how he did it

 


Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won a recent landslide victory in the Southeast Asian country.

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Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Cambodia’s People Party (CPP), the party of Prime Minister Hun Sen (photo), 32 years in government, has won all the seats.

After outlawing the main opposition party that challenged the ruling CPP, Hun Sen secured more than 80 per cent of the popular vote and well over 100 of the 125 contested seats in the National Assembly. Despite calls to boycott the election, voter turnout was around 82 per cent, or about 6.88 million people.

The response from the international community has been split.

Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States have expressed “profound disappointment” with the lack of opposition participation. Regional countries and populist European leaders, on the other hand, have endorsed the result.

The re-election of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his CPP contributes to the growing global democratic crisis. The government has taken advantage of the retreat of leading democracies to use blatant repression to suppress opponents, stifle media freedom and compromise rules-based institutions.

With the advent of digital technology and increased social media use in Cambodia, the government has also turned to “sharp power” to manipulate information, target crucial democratic institutions to exert control and change public opinion.

What went wrong this election?

Pulled out all the stops

In the last competitive elections in 2013, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) gained significant ground with 44 per cent of the popular vote, shaving the CPP’s vote share to 48 per cent. In this election, Hun Sen and the CPP were determined to pull out all the stops to prevent a replay of 2013’s humiliating results.

In 2016, a prominent political commentator and activist Kem Ley was assassinated.

Kem Ley is seen in this 2016 photo.

The following year, the main opposition party, the CNRP, was dissolved and banned from contesting the election. The CNRP’s leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested on trumped-up charges of “treason.” This move followed weeks of tensions involving the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute from the country and the shuttering of 32 radio stations critical of the government, including the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

A key assault on independent media included the imposition of back taxes on the leading newspaper, the Cambodia Daily, resulting in its bankruptcy. Meantime, the Phnom Penh Post was sold to a Malaysian businessman from a public relations company that worked for the Cambodian government.

Journalists were also constrained by a list of arbitrary, controversial rulesregarding how they cover elections. They were prohibited from having their “own ideas to make conclusions,” asking detailed questions about the election result or from “interfering” at the voting booths by talking to voters. Cambodian journalists also routinely deal with phone-tapping and death threats, and are forced to self-censor.

Other drastic measures to tilt the level playing field included opposition harassment, voter intimidation and vote-buying. While small parties were allowed to contest, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) reported the anti-regime parties faced harassment from government officials, creating “a noxious pre-election environment characterized by impunity, threats and intimidation.”

What’s more, high-ranking members of the armed and police forces campaigned for the CPP prior to the election, while others threatened to take away public services to residents in certain provinces unless they voted. The government also threatened people who wanted to boycott elections. Additionally, vote-buying was reported in which envelopes filled with 20,000 riel (approximately US$5) were handed out to voters at campaign rallies.

Fake news and online censorship

Aside from stifling the mainstream media, the government also cracked down on digital media to prevent the opposition from making any headway. To prevent digital technology from becoming a liberalizing or mobilizing tool, the government ramped up its surveillance of online activities.

In 2015, the controversial Law on Telecommunications was passed to authorize the government’s eavesdropping on all telecommunications. Every phone conversation, text message, email or post on Facebook, if deemed to have violated “national security” clauses, could result in a 15-year prison sentence.

Weary of the spread of online “fake news” — also known as negative media coverage — staff from three government ministries were tasked to control news content, writing, audio, pictures, videos and any other media with “the intention to cause instability” prior to the July 29 election.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen waves to supporters just before the July 29 election. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Internet service providers were also required to have software and equipment to filter or block websites, accounts or social media pages that “broadcast in violation of the law.”

The government is now drafting “fake news” legislation similar to Malaysia’s “Anti-Fake News Act” to punish those found guilty of creating or distributing supposedly false information with up to two years imprisonment and fines of up to US$1,000.

Many of Cambodia’s government-approved media outlets, with their links to China, are looking more like China’s authoritarian model, which should be cause for concern for proponents of democracy.

While internet penetration has increased in Cambodia, internet freedom has declined. Cambodia was ranked as having the worst environment for clean elections and for freedom of political parties from 2000 to 2015 in Southeast Asia. Once a thriving and open media hub, Cambodia now sits at 142 in the World Press Freedom Index.

Divided international community

The international community’s response to Cambodia’s sham election is divided. The U.S. and the EU, who provided aid to Cambodia after its first UN-administered election in 1993, cut electoral assistance and suspended funding prior to the vote. On the other hand, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China have remained loyal donors.

While Russia provided election monitors, China and Japan supplied election ballot boxes and booths. China also promised US$100 million in military aid to boost ties with Cambodia prior to the election.

Despite calls from local election watchdogs not to send observers, Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) reported there were more than 50,000 observers, including some from China, Myanmar and Singapore, who participated in election monitoring. And a group of European populist and nationalist politicians from the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy Party, the Austrian Freedom Party and other right-wing party leaders also descended on Cambodia to observe and endorse the national election.

The CPP’s victory does not bode well for Cambodian democracy. Given the failure of international sanctions to have any effect, it is likely Cambodia will slide further into electoral authoritarianism in the coming years.


Disclosure statement

Netina Tan receives funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and International Development of Research Centre (IDRC).

Cassandra Preece receives funding from McMaster University.


 

OAU’s Department of Adult Education organizes skills fair for university community


By Olamide Samson Olalekan


The Department of Adult Education and Life Long Learning, in the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, organizes first of its kind Skills Fair in the history of Obafemi Awolowo University.

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The skills fair, which serves as a continuous assessment for the students offering DCE 403 with course title, “Organizations and Administration of Adult Education”, was held on the 3rd of August, 2018 at the Faculty of Education basement.

It encompasses various vocational trainings which includes tie and dye, soap making, bead making, bow tie, lapel, make up and gele, barbing, wig making etc

The skills fair was not only attended by students from the faculty of education, but also had in attendance lecturers in the faculty, students from other faculties and even persons from outside the University.

The newly elected Dean of Faculty of Education, Prof. M. A. Adeleke, also witnessed the Skills fair. He commended the efforts of the lecturers in charge of the course, Dr. Mrs. Babalola and Mr Paul Akpomuje, for being the brains behind the innovation.

He also congratulated the students offering the course for participating in the fair and advised them not to see it as a mere continuous assessment, but to see it also as a skill acquisition program.

In order to get more details about the real driving force behind this first of its kind Skill Fair in the University community, bloomgist’s Olamide Samson Olalekan had an interview with one of the Lecturers in charge of the course, Mr. Paul Akpomuje.

During the interview, Mr. Paul Akpomuje shed more lights on the reason(s) for the skill fair. He said: “We in the Department of Adult Education and Life-long Learning believe that education should be practical; we believe that when people come to the Faculty of Education, they should not just be trained to become classroom teachers only.”

“They may choose to be classroom teachers and do other things or do other things but classroom, so when we train people and do all these things; we believe we should bring education to reality.

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“Most importantly, there are three domains of learning; we have the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor. In our universities in Nigeria, I stand corrected, I’m sorry to say, I think we have missed it in the sense that, I don’t know of other universities but to the best of my knowledge, emphasis is only on the cognitive, that is why you see people cramming, going to write exams, cram to write tests and all.

“We believe that the other domains, affective and psychomotor, are tested. So what we are doing now is called “Skills Fair”, the skills fair is to test both the affective and the psychomotor domain of learning so that we will be able to test people’s character, behavior, attitude, emotional intelligence not only intellectual intelligence quotient.

“We don’t believe only in IQ in Adult Education, we believe in IQ- Intelligence Quotient, EQ- Emotional Quotient and SQ- Spiritual Quotient, so we believe in all the quotients of a person, meaning that we believe in the roundedness of a person i.e. a person must be rounded.

“Learning should be a rounding process; it should be able to go round a person’s whole skills. So what we are doing here is a test of the psychomotor and affective skills. While we are testing the affective skill, the behavior, mannerism and emotions, of students; we are also testing their ability to put their hands to work, that is, the psychomotor skill.

“For instance, one of the students in one of the groups, the tie & dye and soap making group, is visually challenged, taking this course (DCE 403) , and was the person who taught soap making.

“Ordinarily, she may write exams and not do well because you are testing the cognitive domain but here she is using other skills very effectively which is the psychomotor skill and different groups.

“Some people were taught how to make wigs, barb, do make up, finger foods etc., these are the things that may not be taught in the classroom. So, the essence is to practice training or teaching and also to test all other domains of learning”, he added.

 

Spread of Ebola in Congo has been halted – what did we do right?

With the recent outbreak declared over in little more than two months, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s health minister explains how a major crisis was avoided.

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Nurses working with the World Health Organization prepare to start vaccinating in Mbandaka. Photo: Junior D Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

The ninth and latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now over. I did not think I would be able to utter these words so soon after it all started on 8 May. This outbreak, the most challenging the country has ever faced, had all the makings of a major crisis.

Ebola surfaced simultaneously in two remote rural zones, with health workers among the confirmed cases. The virus quickly spread to Mbandaka, a city of more than 1.2 million inhabitants on the Congo, a heavily used transportation corridor. It could have spread to other major cities including Kinshasa, our capital, where more than 12 million Congolese live, and neighbouring countries, but it did not.

So what went right? The global community’s ability to contain the spread of the Ebola virus has greatly improved since the 2014 west Africa Ebola epidemic. With our partners, we applied many of the lessons learned from our experiences in both west Africa and DRC.

Local ownership remains the cornerstone of a successful response. The Ministry of Health stepped up to lead the efforts on the ground. By the time international support arrived in DRC, the major elements of a full-blown response were already in place and functioning.

Swift mobilisation of finances is anotherkey factor. The government’s $56.8m (£43.3m) three-month action plan was fully financed within 48 hours of it being released, starting with the DRC government putting forward $4m. International partners including donor governments and the World Bank also stepped up – the latter triggered its newly operational pandemic emergency financing facility for the first time and swiftly repurposed funds through its existing health programme in DRC to support the effort. This is in stark contrast with west Africa, where it took months to raise the necessary funds, while the death toll kept rising and finally reached 11,000.

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Health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga addresses residents of Mbandaka during the launch of the Ebola vaccination campaign in May. Photograph: Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

The use of the Ebola vaccine, which proved highly effective in a clinical trial in Guinea in 2015, was one of the most innovative components of this response. The new vaccine has not just proved safe and effective against Ebola; it also changed community perceptions of the disease, which is now seen as treatable. Throughout the outbreak, more than 3,300 people were vaccinated. I was vaccinated myself to show the vaccine’s safety and break the stigma around it.

I learned that working with the community, especially on public health information campaigns, will get you a long way. Church and traditional leaders are your best allies to carry public health messages that require communities to change age-old habits and challenge their traditions. In Mbandaka, our strongest health advocates became the 4,000 motorcycle taxi drivers, whose daily work put them at risk of transporting infectious people. They started promoting vaccination and hygiene messages on local radio.

The pan-African nature of this response was quite exceptional. Epidemics do not stop at national borders. The importance of regional cooperation for outbreak prevention and management cannot be overstated. Health responders from Guinea participated in the vaccination efforts, epidemiologists from the newly created Africa Centres for Disease Control and the African Field Epidemiology Network worked with our experts on surveillance. This regional collaboration sends a strong signal that Africa is willing to take the driver’s seat in solving its problems.

While Ebola remains a formidable challenge for DRC and the rest of the world, we raised the bar on our own ability as a country to detect and respond effectively to outbreaks despite highly challenging circumstances. We must continue to improve our capacity to contain diseases and prepare for Ebola outbreak number 10, which we know will happen.

This ninth Ebola outbreak in DRC was unlike any other, but the lessons learned here can be applied anywhere in the world. With increased levels of global trade and travel, there is a higher risk of outbreaks increasing in frequency and spread. In this respect, all countries are equally vulnerable, and it is in our common interest to achieve global health security. The first step is to learn from each other and take responsibility by improving our capacity to detect and respond to any outbreak that starts within our national borders.


 Oly Ilunga Kalenga is minister of health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Rwanda and Arsenal FC: when the poor sponsor the rich

Rwanda keeps surprising. Recently the Rwandan Development Board signed a sleeve sponsoring deal with London Premier League club, Arsenal. Over a three-year period, the 200 sq centimetre ad “Visit Rwanda” will cost the country USD$39 million.

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Arsenal FC’s new sponsor is Rwanda. Photo: Twitter/@Arsenal

President Paul Kagame is known to be a committed Arsenal fan. Recently, he even tweeted that the club needed a new coach after Arsenal’s once invincible league and cup winning manager Arsene Wenger’s poor record over the past number of seasons. One may suppose that it is a coincidence that the deal was struck just after Wenger’s retirement at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Rwanda is the 19th poorest country in the world with a per capita income of around USD$700. Arsenal is one of the richest football clubs in the world. It’s not surprising therefore that the nearly USD$40 million has upset quite a few people.

Dutch lawmakers, including some from the governing coalition, immediately reacted angrily to the news that such a poor country receiving a great deal of aid from The Netherlands would sponsor one of the world’s richest soccer clubs. Similar reactions could be heard in the UK, Rwanda’s second largest bilateral donor. An MP described the deal as “an own goal for foreign aid”.

In addition, those concerned with democracy and human rights think the deal is sending the wrong message about a country that has a strong authoritarian streak running through it.

The question is: Is Kagame entering into a deal with his favourite club to promote tourism or has he done it to enhance his image and shield him from criticism? He appears to have made the decision off his own bat: the contract appears not to have been discussed in the cabinet and the money does not figure in the budget approved by parliament.

Rwanda’s rationale

For the Rwandan government, the deal is part of a broader strategy to develop tourism, which in 2017 accounted for about 12.7% of GDP and USD$400 million of revenue. The country sees upmarket leisure and convention tourism as an important growth sector. It has a lot going for it: lush green landscapes, the mountain gorillas of the Virunga volcanos, the Akagera wildlife park, the tropical Nyungwe forest, idyllic Lake Kivu, and even genocide memorials – all compressed into a space of just 26,000 sq kms.

This strategy is integrated and makes sense on paper. The state has invested heavily in its national airline RwandAir and built the Kigali Convention Centre and high-end hotels. And the development of the new Bugesera International Airport, designed to become a major regional hub, is underway.

But there are doubts about the profitability of these ventures. For instance, RwandAir has yet to break even 14 years after it was launched. The government keeps it afloat with an annual grant of USD$50 million just for operations.

Investments in a constantly expanding fleet to cater for an ever growing network of continental and intercontinental destinations require considerable borrowing at a high cost. The fiscal risk involved in the government’s strategy is high, and economists wonder how sustainable these outlays will be in the medium term.

Calculations like these are for the Rwandan government to consider. But has Arsenal considered the signal it’s giving in light of Kagame’s human rights and democracy records?

Risks for Arsenal

Canadian investigative journalist Judi Rever recently recorded in a book, “In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front”, that the Rwandan regime has massacred tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, particularly in the 1990s.

And last year Human Rights Watch issued worrying reports about human rights abuses. These included the rounding up and arbitrary detention of poor people in “transit centres” across the country, widespread repression in land cases, extrajudicial killings and unlawful detention and torture in military facilities.

In October 2017 the United Nations subcommittee on Prevention of Torture suspended its visit to Rwanda because of “a series of obstructions imposed by the authorities”. It was only the third time in 10 years the subcommittee has done this.

On top of this there has been widespread analysis and commentary on the state of democracy in Rwanda. The country is a de facto one-party state with no meaningful political opposition, no press freedom and no independent civil society.

Kagame’s grip on power is absolute and in August last year he was reelected with over 98% of the vote. A referendum on a constitutional amendment in 2015 gave him the right to stay office until 2034.

Realising that battles are fought in the media as much, if not more than on the ground, Kagame’s party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has developed a formidable information and communication strategystretching back to the civil war it launched in October 1990.

Kagame once said:

We used communication and information warfare better than anyone. We have found a new way of doing things.

This has involved paying those who can help promote the right image, including public relations firms.

Political ethics and sport

True, political ethics and sports don’t match well. Until recently FC Barcelona agreed to a Qatar sponsorship that saw the country featured on the team’s jerseys. Qatar has a very chequered political record. Due to host the 2022 World Cup, it’s known for its notorious human rights abuse, especially when it comes to the rights of migrant workers and women.

Another example is Atlético Madrid which was controversially sponsored by Azerbaijan, where the Euro 2020 football tournament will take place. This east European country has been flagged by Amnesty Internationalfor its “crackdown on the right to freedom of expression, particularly following revelations of large-scale political corruption”.

Not that it should make any difference, but these two countries are very rich, while Rwanda is very poor.

And I nearly forgot: Many Arsenal fans were opposed to the deal, not because of Rwanda’s human rights and democracy records, but because they didn’t like the design of the sleeve print.


Disclosure statement

Filip Reyntjens does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

The Tunisian who bakes bread for France’s president

A French-Tunisian baker, who has won the right to supply the French presidential palace with baguettes for a year, says kneading is the secret behind his prize-winning loaves.

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A jury of around 15 people taste dozens of baguettes before choosing a winner. Photo: AFP


“A lot of people go too quickly with the kneading,” Mahmoud M’seddi told the BBC.

He is the latest winner of the annual best baguette in Paris competition.

Mr M’seddi makes his first visit to the Elysée Palace on Friday and will now start hand-delivering his baguettes.

He is the fourth North African in the last six years to win the award.

But Mr M’seddi said this was either coincidence, or maybe because a lot of the traditional bakeries in the Paris region are owned by North Africans.

He says he gets up early to ensure his loaves are properly fermented, which he believes is a vital part of the process of making baguettes. “A lot of people don’t leave the time for the dough to ferment,” he said.

“You have to give it the time, so the fermentation happens naturally. I either get up really early, or sometimes I leave it overnight.”

The 27-year-old will also receive a cash prize of nearly £5,000 from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo during a bread festival in May.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a rare novelist to become a public intellectual

A special feature for one of the most prominent women in Africa and one of the most celebrated novelist in the world. 

NOT LONG AGO, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stood in front of a small class of literature students at Cardozo high school in Washington, D.C. Over the last few years, Adichie’s books have appeared on thousands of required-reading lists — more or less every American student between 14 and 22 has been assigned her work.

While introducing her, Dr. Frazier O’Leary, the class’s soft-spoken teacher, mentioned that Adichie had visited at the school a few years before, and that between that visit and this one, Adichie had had a daughter, now 23 months old. Then he ceded the floor to Adichie. She stood before the 20-odd students, her fingertips on the podium, and swept her almond eyes around the room.

“So, what should we talk about?” she asked. In front of an audience, Adichie speaks with great precision, measuring every word, her Nigerian-British accent sounding to American ears both opulent and daunting.

No one raised their hand.

Adichie was wearing a T-shirt that read, in glittering letters, “We Should All Be Feminists,” and she carried a Christian Dior bag that bore the same message, both inspired by her 2012 TEDx Talk, which has been viewed over four million times. The students had been assigned to read Adichie’s essay based on the talk, and thus it was dispiriting when the first question came from a young man, originally from Ghana, who very politely asked how Adichie was balancing her work with the responsibilities of motherhood.

She looked down and smiled. She took her time, and then, with her chin still lowered, she raised her eyes to look kindly at the student.

“I’m going to answer your question,” she said, “but you have to promise me that the next time you meet a new father, you ask him how he’s balancing his work and the responsibilities of fatherhood.”

The young man shrugged. Adichie, who is 40, smiled warmly at him, but thereafter, the class, already intimidated and shy, grew only more so.

“Why don’t I read a bit?” she said finally, and she did.

AFTERWARD, ADICHIE and I sat at a restaurant in Columbia Heights. “He was quite sanguine, wasn’t he?” she said about the young man she’d carefully corrected. “Maybe he’s young enough that he hasn’t been indoctrinated into the cult of how and when to take offense. He can still look at the merits of an argument. Either that, or he was looking pleasantly at me and thinking, ‘Bitch, go away.’ ”

Adichie looks with a gimlet eye at American liberal doctrine, preferring open and frank debate to the narrow constraints of approved messaging. Though she is considered a global icon of feminism, she has, on occasion, displeased progressive sects when she’s expressed her beliefs about gender with candor and without using the latest terminology.

“It’s a cannibalistic ethos,” she says about the American left. “It swiftly, gleefully, brutally eats its own. There is such a quick assumption of ill will and an increasing sanctimony and humorlessness that can often seem inhumane. It’s almost as if the humanity of people gets lost and what matters is that you abide to every single rule in the handbook of American liberal orthodoxy.”

The day was not warm, but we ordered lemonade. Moments later, the waiter said they needed our table for a large party. We moved into a corner and the waiter forgot about us completely. Which seemed improbable, with Adichie’s glittering bag on the table serving as a kind of tabletop lighthouse.

“I’ll have you know,” she said, “that this bag was designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman creative director at Dior. A very interesting person. When she proposed the T-shirt, she sent me a handwritten note.”

I asked if Dior planned to make merchandise for every one of her books. Maybe a necklace that said “The Thing Around Your Neck”? A sconce that said “Half of a Yellow Sun”? Adichie laughed her distinctive laugh, which overtakes her whole torso but sounds like the giggle of a teenager. I should note here that I’ve known Adichie for about 10 years now, and she has always been startlingly easy to make laugh, and one of her very favorite subjects for ridicule is the exalted reputation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

She grew up in an upper-middle-class home, the fifth of six children. Her father was a professor at the University of Nigeria, her mother was the university’s registrar — the first woman to hold that post. Her parents expected Chimamanda to be a doctor, and for a year she studied medicine at university, but her heart wasn’t in it.

“When I said I wanted to write, they were very supportive, which was very unusual,” she said. “Nobody just leaves medical school, especially given it’s fiercely competitive to get in. But I had a sister who was a doctor, another who was a pharmacist, a brother who was an engineer. So my parents already had sensible children who would be able to make an actual living, and I think they felt comfortable sacrificing their one strange child.”

Adichie was just 26 when she published her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” in 2003. It won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her second, 2006’s “Half of a Yellow Sun,” was a shimmering work of historical fiction that reminded the world of the Biafran War and made it deeply personal; it won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (now called the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction) and garnered comparisons to one of her heroes, Chinua Achebe. The next year, she won a MacArthur grant and found time to finish a master’s degree in African studies at Yale. “The Thing Around Your Neck,” her first collection of stories, was published in 2009, followed by 2013’s “Americanah,” an intimate and accessible multigenerational story about family and immigration set in Nigeria and New Jersey. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award and has become an enduring best seller. While the majority of her previous work had been tightly controlled and gravely serious, “Americanah” was loose and irreverent.

“I decided with that book that I was going to have fun, and if nobody read it, that would be fine,” she said. “I was free of the burden of research necessary for the other books. I was no longer the dutiful daughter of literature.”

In “Americanah,” the protagonist, a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu, moves to New Jersey and is first confused and then amused by the cultural differences between African-Americans and Africans living in America. Ifemelu decides to explore the subject in a blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. Through the blog, Adichie was able to speak with disarming forthrightness about life as an African living in America: “I was tired of everyone saying that when you write about race in America, it has to be nuanced, it has to be subtle, it has to be this and that.”

The directness of the blog, I suggested, seemed to provide a bridge to her TEDx Talk, which became a book, which became a T-shirt and a bag.

“Yes and no,” she said. “But I’ll allow your thesis.” She laughed her laugh.

Now there is a follow-up called “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.” Asked by a friend, a new mother, for advice in making her daughter Chizalum a feminist, Adichie wrote another very (direct, lucid) work. Suggestion No. 1 reads, “Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.” No. 8: “Teach her to reject likability. Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.” And No. 15: “Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference.”

The reaction to these manifestoes among a reading public longing for probity and directness has been profound. In a San Francisco auditorium last year, I witnessed Adichie step onto the stage in front of almost 3,000 people — the average age of the audience was about 20. She wore ankara-patterned pants and a white blouse and stood on four-inch heels, and the audience response was euphoric.

“It’s not that I told people something they don’t know, it’s just that I did it in language that was more accessible.” She looked around the restaurant. “But I don’t think we’re ever going to get our lemonade.”

ADICHIE AND HER HUSBAND, a physician, spend half of each year in Maryland, and the other half in Lagos, where they have a home and where her extended family lives.

In Nigeria, Adichie is considered a national icon, not only because her books have garnered such acclaim, but because quickly after her success she founded the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, a program where aspiring Nigerian writers spend a few weeks every year workshopping with Adichie and a coterie of international writers she brings to Lagos. She invited me to teach there in 2009, and I got the chance to meet her family and friends, all of whom were supportive, kind, funny, devoted — it was all sickeningly perfect.

One night, it became the obsession of one of the guest lecturers, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, to bring Adichie to one of Lagos’s seamier nightspots. He asked her where that would be. She had no idea. “I’m a nice middle-class girl,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know about such places.” She was serious, though. She did not know.

So we called Adichie’s childhood friend Chuma. He suggested Obalende, a district of Lagos known for its nightclubs and strip clubs. Chuma picked us up and drove us to a neighborhood where fish and plantains were fried on the street, where the air was swampy with weed. He chose a club with a slanted roof of corrugated steel and Fela bursting from the sound system. We sat outside on a humid night, Adichie game but wide-eyed. We were visited by a street musician who would not leave. Adichie requested Fela’s “Unknown Soldier” and he played it, and we stayed late, and most of us got tipsy — even Adichie; she had one drink — and at the end of the night, I was the only one fit to drive, which I did, which everyone thought very funny, especially when we were pulled over by a traffic cop, who wanted a bribe. I did what I always do in that situation, which was to act like the world’s dumbest tourist, and it worked. He let us go, and Adichie, in the back seat, laughed all the way home.

A FEW MONTHS after her appearance at Cardozo high school, Adichie was on a rooftop in downtown D.C. It was breezy and the sky threatened rain. She had agreed to attend a book release party celebrating a collection of essays called “Having to Tell Your Mother Is the Hardest Part,” written by D.C. public school students, with guidance from tutors from 826DC, a nonprofit youth writing organization with which I’m affiliated.

A tent had been set up, and cocktails were served, and a young African-American man stepped to the podium. He was delicately built for 15, wearing a mustard-colored button-down, a tie and thick-framed glasses.

“When I was 2 years old, my mom and dad passed away,” the boy, whose name was Edwyn, read. “I was in and out of foster homes and was never in really good care. The way I used to grieve was by not eating or by fighting, and I always got in trouble. I would get angry whenever someone said, ‘Yo mama.’ I felt like I wanted to hurt someone. I have gotten past that, and now, I want to take my meds so I can grow emotionally and become a better me. I decided to try group vigils where I can talk about my loss, but it has never helped. I refused to share until, one time, I broke down and shared everything.”

The audience on the rooftop stood spellbound. I looked over to Adichie. Her eyes were wet. Edwyn continued. In a group home, he said, he almost stabbed another boy. He almost flunked out of school. Finally, he was adopted by a loving family who moved him to Washington. “I was starting to mature,” he read. “I started to change. Now I’m in the 10th grade, writing about how I used to grieve, but I am happy with the family I am with.”

His essay ended like that, and he sat down with the unaffected attitude of a student who had just read a paper about meiosis or the Louisiana Purchase. Afterward, we approached Edwyn, who was now surrounded by admirers. He shook Adichie’s hand like a cocktail party veteran, telling her he’d heard a lot about her and was happy she was there.

“I thought you were very brave,” Adichie said evenly.

Word of Adichie’s presence on the roof began making its way through the attendees. Another student, a gregarious young woman named Monae, approached. “I didn’t know you were here!” she said. “You were the one in Beyoncé’s song!” (A few years ago, Beyoncé sampled parts of Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” talk in her 2013 song “Flawless.”)

“You have to read what I wrote!” Monae said, and gave Adichie a copy of “Having to Tell Your Mother Is the Hardest Part,” opened to a spread bearing her smiling face and her essay, titled “Queen.”

We made our way to a quiet part of the rooftop and watched the adults swarm the student-writers, getting their books signed.

“That is lovely,” Adichie said. “Just lovely.”

After the party, we said goodbye on the corner of Pennsylvania and 17th. Adichie’s parents were in town, visiting from Nigeria, and she had to get back to Maryland.

“That boy,” she said, and sighed. She was still thinking about Edwyn. “There was something so clean and pure and true about his writing, don’t you think? Increasingly I find that that’s the kind of thing I want to read.”

This story was first Published on NYT and is one of the seven covers of T Magazine’s Greats issue, on newsstands Oct. 22.

The Conversationalist

By Olaleye Omoteniola Akinwalere


How’s your day going? Great I guess? That’s pretty much good to know.

So, today I’m going to talk about this issue that has been trending on twitter for a while now. It’s the issue of who can best keep a conversation going between a boy and a girl.

A lot of people have said that girls generally are poor at keeping conversation going. I beg differ though, probably because I’m a conversationalist. Lol. I like good conversations that can tickle my brain cells, you know; conversations that makes me reason and argue.

Yeah, I love wonderful arguments, constructive ones not bitter, destructive arguments. So, you ask me: Madam Teni, what’s the main gist? This introductory speech is getting long o. E ma binu, I’m coming to that.

Now, this is the full gist. This guy sent me a DM, I looked at it and discovered we once chatted sometimes in 2012.  Mehn, that was a long time ago. I love making new friends and I was like, what harm could it cause? Worst case scenario; he gets boring and I stop replying him. Big mistake!

This guy can hold a conversation. Got me oooohing and aaahing. I was like: whaaat? Why do you have to be so good? No foul language, no indecent words, no talk of boons, ass, my pretty face/shape or what nots? I was haaaappy! Omo, I was always checking my DM to see if message has dropped.

It’s been soooo long since I had this kind of chat. I’m very impressed. We talked about movies, books  (winks), yeah books, music and all. People you can have sweet, wonderful and intelligent conversations without being a hoe.

I’m still sitting here with this butterfly fluttering about in my tummy. Will keep you posted if it graduates to something MORE!


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“Kaduna declaration – a failed test on the Nigerian question”

What is the Nigerian Question?

To put it in the form of a null hypothesis, the Nigerian question would read something along the line that ‘There is no significant benefit for all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to continue to exist together as one country under the present arrangement’.

For the many analysts, the country is not working under the present structure, which is nothing in the frame of a true federalism. Ardent proponents of restructuring want to see the center devolved of its excessive power, with the various federating units of the country managing their resources and involved in some sort of healthy economic competition that will see all regions grow at their own pace.

However, the drafters of the ‘Kaduna Declaration’ have chosen to the above hypothesis but not by replacing it with an alternative. To them, there is absolutely no benefit, qualifying their stand with words that would not be suitable for any Research lecturer to assess without reprimanding the student’s remarkably dark choice of words.

The selective choice of historical interpretation in presenting evidence to their claims is not only unconscionable but can be interpreted as a poor understanding of history. If they were a group of Research students, then surely they have employed wrong and invalid instruments for their work.

It is only right that we ask that they retract this terribly done assignment and refocus on gathering more facts to answer the question as originally asked.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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OPINION: Parable of a Helpless King, By Ayodele Adio

​The big problem subsequently became: Which child gets the part of the land where the gold is? And as long as that could not be resolved, the land could also not be shared. If the land cannot be shared, the fact remains that the family strife would continue and deepen.

A rich farmer, also a King, married three wives who bore him a child each. When his children grew up, they worked on a farmland and each gave a fraction his income to their father for his upkeep (as he was getting old). They kept the remainder of their incomes to themselves, to pay for needs and merriment. The harder they worked, the more money they made.

Then, one day while working on the farm, one of the children found a huge cache of gold buried beneath the soil he was tilling, and called the attention of his other brothers to this, before the good news was broken to their father.

Their father decided to call his old friend, a gold merchant, and shortly thereafter they were in business. The father and his children concentrated their efforts on the new gold business and abandoned the farm.

Subsequently, the old man’s deal with his old friend brings in much income, the proceeds from which he grants his children sizeable allowances periodically.

Everyone was happy until the children married and bore their own children. The first married one wife and had two kids. The second had two wives and four kids, while the third married four wives and had ten kids.

The father then decided to redistribute the periodic allowances amongst his children. The bigger the family, the more the allowance each received. As such, the third son got the biggest allowance.

Quarrels started over the allowances and worsened as the first son felt he was being treated poorly. The second son argued that he found the gold and the third cried that he had a bigger family to feed.

The father then resolved to share the entire land equally among the three children, so they could till the ground and earn for their sustenance.

The big problem subsequently became: Which child gets the part of the land where the gold is? And as long as that could not be resolved, the land could also not be shared. If the land cannot be shared, the fact remains that the family strife would continue and deepen.

To resolve this conundrum, what should the father do?

Ayodele Adio is co-host of a Lagos radio programme.

OPINION: The tyranny of consensus – by Pius Adesanmi

​I congratulate the President, the President’s supporters, and the Presidency. They have achieved a feat that President Trump and his handlers can only dream of: a consensus of silence and avoidance.

President Trump and his handlers have been heehawing to their hearts’ content, they have not been able to foist a consensus of silence and avoidance of issues on the American populace. Nobody is silent on Russia; nobody is avoiding talking about Jared Kushner, General Flynn, etc.

The rightwing media and the conservative machinery have been on steroids. All in vain. The right to query, the right to ask questions, the right to expression are still on display in the American public sphere because they are indissociable from the right to be human. Once you relinquish these rights, you are a thing.

Resisting the sort of blackmail and intimidation that would make you slide into silence and consensus is therefore a critical foundation of your humanity.

The last time I heard about President Buhari, Sahara Reporters was whispering that Mrs. Aisha Buhari had gone to London. Only Sahara Reporters has dared to retain the right to whisper.

Aside this detail, nothing. Silence. People have been so intimidated, so blackmailed by the President’s supporters who claim that the exercise of one’s civic duty to query, to question, to demand answers about the President’s condition, is tantamount to treason. Everybody is thus silent.

Nobody wants to be labelled inhuman by these hordes so the nation has slumped into silence and avoidance. However, this is an argument that the intimidators must not be allowed to win, hence defying them or cracking coconuts on their heads must now be seen as part of your civic obligation to Nigeria. If you allow compatriots to intimidate you into silence about your own President, you are finished.

You cannot ask because they say you are inhuman.

You cannot ask because they say you lack empathy.

You cannot ask because they say you wish him dead.

The only allowable utterance: pray for the President.

I warn you that you must resist jejune blackmail and assert your right to query.

I warn you that you must swat petty intimidation and send your voice on patriotic errands of critique.

It is your right to know. It is your duty to ask and ask again.

What is the status of the President?

Who is paying?

If we are paying, how much have we paid thus far?

Is he in any condition to continue when he returns?

Why is resignation taboo?

You have to keep asking these questions and make the Presidency and the merchants of consensus uncomfortable. That is your higher duty to Nigeria. The emotion of the blackmailers and the personality cultists is of no moment. How they feel is their own funeral. We are talking Nigeria here.

The other day, Babatunde Rosanwo was on Oluwakayode Olumide Ogundamisi’s show with Lauretta Onochie and Aisha Yesufu.

My most important takeout from the show, apart from Rosanwo’s brilliant performance of his duty to country and fatherland, is the phone-in from one moron who accused Aisha Yesufu of daring to touch “a no-go area” – by calling for the President’s resignation in her now viral video.

A no-go area? There is something that some citizens have decided that their compatriots cannot say about the President’s obligations to them in a democracy?

Whenever I see Babatunde Rosanwo and Kayode Ogundamisi, I will crack a coconut on their heads for allowing that stupid statement to pass without commentary. I thought they were going to educate the fellow who phoned in.

“Mr President, resign” is not a no-go area in a democracy. Every citizen has the right to that utterance. Every citizen must also recognize your own right to say: “Mr President, do not resign.” Then we state our respective positions and see who has superior logic.

It is true that there are callow carping, diseducated misanthropes who, blinded by ethno-religious animus, are openly rooting for the President’s death. I have no opinion about such fringe lunatics because I opine only about human beings.

However, it is just as odious, just as atrocious to exploit the depravity of such characters as a basis for deligitimizing those who are exercising their right to query and inquire; those who demand accountability and information as a right.

You cannot use the position of marginal misanthropes as a basis to intimidate and blackmail those are raising legitimate questions about the President.

When you are constantly blackmailing and intimidating and silencing, when all you allow your fellow citizens to do is to pray for the President, failing to do which they are evil, inhuman, and lacking empathy, I’m afraid you are no different from the misanthropes. You are just being tyrannical in a different way.

Resist blackmail.

Resist intimidation.

Every day the President is away, exercise your right to ask questions. Keep pressing. Keep querying.

Opinion: Do you really know Buhari? 

by Peregrino Brimah

Here is a selection of statements that Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari made in public domain. They are quite unusual and paint a picture that may be seen as quite extreme but perhaps also present a Buhari who has never concealed who he is. You be the judge.

On Election Rigging: Kill Them

“Ku fita ku yi zabe. Ku Kasa, ku tsare, ku raka ku tsaya. Duk wanda bai yarda ba, ku halaka shi.”

In English: “Firstly, you must register, come out and vote. You guard, protect, escort to the collation centre and you wait until the result is counted. Anyone who stops you, kill/destroy them! (Crowd chants wildly.)” – Video, Pre-elections 2011

[Note: Buhari locked up ex-Governor Sule Lamido for identical words]

On Boko Haram: Don’t Kill Them

“The appropriate thing to do, according to the law, was for the police to carry out investigations and charge him (Mohammed Yusuf) to court for prosecution, but they killed him, his in-law was killed, they went and demolished their houses. Because of that, his supporters resorted to what they are doing today. You see in the case of the Niger Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua sent an aeroplane to bring them, he sat down with them and discussed with them, they were cajoled, and they were given money and granted amnesty.

“They were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones (Boko Haram) in the north were being killed and their houses were being demolished. They are different issues, what brought this? It is injustice”. –theNation June 2013.

On Yar’Adua When He Was Sick: Impeach Him!

“Former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), has declared that the only solution to present political uncertainty in the country is for the National Assembly to set machineries in motion for the impeachment of ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The 2003 and 2007 presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) made the declaration yesterday while addressing members of the National Unity Forum (NUF) which had visited him in Kaduna.”–Ismail Omipidan, Kaduna, Sun Newspapers (Wednesday, March 10, 2010)

On Democracy And Inclusivity: 5% Gets Less

“Er yes, erm I hope you have a copy of the election results. Literally, constituencies for example, that gave me 97 percent cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5 percent. I think these are political reality. While certainly there will be justice for everybody, everybody will get his constitutional rights, but where the party and constituencies that by their sheer work, they made sure that they got their people to vote and to ensure that their votes count, they must feel that the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair in delivering.”–In response to Dr. Pauline Baker at US Institute of Peace, July 2015

On FOREX For The Privileged: Those Who Can Afford It Can Afford It

“If the country cannot afford it, so be it. (Your children will continue their studies, no doubt?) Those who can afford it can still afford it. Nigeria can’t allocate FOREX for all those who decide to train their children outside the country. We just can’t afford it. (So it’s tough luck) Well. That’s the situation we are in.” – AlJazeera’s Martine Dennis, March 2016

On Women: Belong in Kitchen

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” –BBC, Oct. 2016

Buhari insists it is role of a woman to Phil Gayle of Deutsche Welle:

“I am sure you have a house. You know where your kitchen is. You know where your living room is. And I believe your wife looks after all that even if she’s working.”

Mr. Gayle: “that is your wife’s function?”

Buhari: “Yes, to look after me”.

On Massacre By Military: Would Have Been Worse If I Was Still Military Leader

“It is unfortunate and extremely serious. How can any group will create a state within a state. I don’t want to speak about it in detail now. I better leave it until I receive the inquiries. But there are a number of clips I saw where some excited teenagers were virtually hitting the chest of Generals; you know, putting road blocks, banning vehicles and pelting them with missiles (Questioner: Do you feel infuriated?) Very much so, but again I realize my position. I am now a sitting duck.” – In media chat after hundreds were killed and secretly buried in Zaria incident of Dec. 2015

When Fulanis Were Reportedly Killing Locals In Oyo in 2000: My People

“Your Excellency, our visit here is to discuss with you and your government our displeasure about the incident of clashes between two peoples… the Fulani cattle rearers and merchants are today being harassed, attacked and killed like in Saki.  In the month of May, 2000, 68 bodies of Fulani cattle rearers were recovered and buried under the supervision and protection from a team of Mobile Police from Oyo State Command. That some arrests were made by Oyo State Police Command in the massacre with their immediate release without court trial. This was said to have been ordered by Oyo State authorities and they were so released to their amazement. The release of the arrested suspects gave the clear impression that the authorities are backing and protecting them to continue the unjust and illegal killings of Fulani cattle rearers…” According to the general, they therefore wanted immediate stoppage of the killings, justice and compensation to the Fulanis. The police and SSS however revealed that the reverse was the case. – October 2000

What is interesting to note is that these above are not a tiny selection from many talks but actually about a quote per few times Buhari has spoken publicly. If such extreme speech is so common the few times he’s been heard in public, does it imply that he always speaks this way? Only his inner circle can confirm. But it is important we know that Buhari is who he says he is and most importantly, who he acts as and not who we conjure him to be in our minds and dreams.

@EveryNigerian: Do you really know Buhari?

OPINION: 50 years on | An ode to Biafra, the land of the rising sun and Nigeria’s inconvenient truth (Part 1) by Femi Fani-Kayode

​“O Igbo arise! O Igbo arise! O Igbo arise!

Let the chains of subjugation be broken, let the yoke of slavery be shattered and let the shackles of servitude fall.

For the voices of your ancestors and your dead are calling. The voices of your slaughtered children wail, scream and screech through the night and they shed whimpering and pitiful tears through the day.

They call for justice and vengeance that their souls may be appeased and that they may find peace and eternal rest.

For they were slaughtered in their millions by the barbarians and infidels and they were butchered like cattle in the sanctity and privacy of their churches and homes.

They cry for Biafra. They cry for the land of the rising sun.  They cry for the memory of the fallen and those that stood like men to defend their honour. They cry for the pitiful souls of the children yet unborn.

Heed their cry and honour their sacrifice. Forget not the land of the rising sun. Forget not Biafra.

Forget not the slaughtered millions and those that were cut short in the prime of their infancy”-  ‘The Land Of The Rising Sun’, Femi Fani-Kayode, May 30th 2017.

I have written this essay as a historian and not as a politician. Consequently, I am not guided or bound by political correctness but rather by truth.

I do not seek to create division but rather to establish the facts with a view to ensuring justice and healing the wounds.

I do not believe that we can ever have peace in our country without that justice. I write this essay for the helpless and innocent victims of ethnic cleansing, mass murder and genocide that were cut short during the civil war and I dedicate it to them.

I write it as a patriotic Nigerian who fervently and passionately believes in the equality of every Nigerian, regardless of ethnicity or faith, and in justice for all.

I write it as the voice of the voiceless, the servant of truth and for those that cannot speak for themselves because they are either dead and buried or because they do not have the skill, the reach or the wherewithal to do so.

I write it for the young and new generation of Nigerians and particularly the Igbo who have no knowledge or recollection of most of these ugly events and who were never taught history in our schools because the powers that be did not want them to know. I write it in the name of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is not an essay for the cowardly, the faint-hearted, the slow, the intellectually challenged or the dull but rather for those that courageously seek truth and that thirst for knowledge about our very ugly past.

It seeks to shine the light of truth into the darkness of deceit, lies, historical revisionism and the continuous and godless suppression of the ugly and utterly barbaric facts.

It is a long essay and consequently, I have broken it into two parts. I urge each and every Nigerian and Biafran that is interested in seeking truth, no matter how ugly and inconvenient that truth may be, to read both parts and meditate earnestly on its contents and assertions. Fasten your seat belts and come fly with me!

50 years ago today the Nigerian civil war began and the struggle for the sovereign state of Biafra commenced.

Since then it has been 50 years of blood, sweat and tears for the Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria.

The only redeeming factor is the fact the last few years has witnessed the rise of a new generation of relatively young, fresh, strong-willed and deeply courageous Igbo nationalist leaders who have made it their life’s work and calling to resurrect the noble vision and compelling dream of Biafra.

Names like the heroic Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and notable leaders of other Igbo nationalist groups come to mind.

Words cannot possibly express the indignities, anguish and turmoil that the Igbo have suffered in the hands of Nigeria over the last 50 years.

And no matter how one attempts to put it or narrate the story it is difficult, nay next to impossible, to fully comprehend their degradation and suffering.

Few events come close to it in world history. Some of those events are as follows. Firstly the slaughter of 10 million natives of the African Congo by King Leopold 11 of Belgium.

Secondly the mass murder of 6 million Jews by Hitler’s Nazis during the course of the Second World War.

Thirdly the massacre of 1 million Armenians by the Turks whilst under the leadership of Kamal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey.

Fourthly the almost total elimination of the Red Indian tribes and races in the plains and prairies of the American “wild west” by the white American settlers.

Fifthly the commission of genocide and ethnic cleansing of almost 1 million Tutsis by the indigenous Hutu population in Rwanda.

Sixthly the 30 million black Africans that were killed by white and Arab slave traders and slave owners over a period of three hundred years in North Africa, the Middle East and the West.

Seventhly the butchering of at least 2 million innocent Cambodians by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in the killing fields of Cambodia.

Eighthly the ethnic cleansing, mass murder and premeditated starvation of 1 million Irish farmers, peasants and serfs by successive English monarchs.

Ninthly the almost entire elimination of the indigenous black Aboriginal tribes in Australia by the British settlers.

Tenthly the systematic and cold-blooded elimination of 25 million ethnic Russians and dissident Soviets by Russia’s Josef Stalin.

And finally the mass murder of thousands of Bosnian civilians by the Serbs during the Yugoslavian civil war.

Yet, as unbelievable as it may sound, none of these monumental tragedies and acts of the most hideous, barbaric, cruel and sublime forms of wickedness come close to the suffering of the Igbo people of Nigeria.

This is because in all the other cases over the years there has been a conscious attempt by humanity to stop the madness, to bring the perpetrators of these horrific crimes to book, to serve them justice, to show varying degrees of contrition and remorse, to compensate the victims and to come to the firm and clear resolve that such a thing must NEVER be allowed to happen again.

In the case of Nigeria and Biafra, this has not been the case. Instead of contrition and remorse for the horrific events that they were subjected to both before and during the civil war, the Igbo have been visited with even more mass murder, humiliation, degradation, shame, marginalisation, deprivation and subjugation since 1970 when the civil war ended right up until today.

50 years after the first shot was fired in a brutal and gruelling civil war in which we slaughtered no less than 3 million innocent Igbo civilians in cold blood (1 million of them being little children) the Federal Republic of Nigeria has learnt no lessons and shown no remorse.

In fact, the contrary has been the case. Rather than stop, the slaughter of the Igbo has continued in the northern part of our country without any apology and has become something of an expected ritual and regular sport.

The Bible says “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”.  How true this is. What a country and what a people we are.

Yet the suffering and dehumanisation of the Igbo did not begin during the civil war and neither did it end with it 3 years later.

It started on the night of July 29th, 1966, almost one year before the war began, and it persists till today.

Permit me to share a narrative that was sent to me by an Igbo friend who I believe captured the history of the pre-civil war suffering very well in the following words.

He titled it “What A Country and the Origins Of The Offensive Word Nyamiri”. He wrote:

“Aguiyi-Ironsi and Francis Fajuyi had just been killed in Ibadan by a horde of bloodthirsty northern officers. The northern military had seized most barracks in the country and were performing the ethnic Igbo cleansing that had been planned all along.

From the eve of July 29, 1966over 270 Igbo senior military officers were killed in Abeokuta, Ibadan, Lagos, Zaria etc.. As this butchery of human beings was going on in what was tagged a retaliatory coup, the northern officers declared “araba” and ferried their families home to secede from the rest of Nigeria.

But this plan was discarded when the Britain sold the idea of oil to them and how they will profit from taking control of the oil.

As the killing of military officers of Igbo origin was getting to a climax, the northern civilians unleashed their clubs and machetes on innocent civilians all through the north. People were cut into pieces. In 60 days over 100,000 Igbo lives were mowed down by this sheer barbarism. In those days rail transportation was the major means of travelling to the east from the north. So when the train departed one will have to wait for its return before another set of Igbo could depart from the North.

The orgy of violence by the northern civilians was without limits. Students killed their Igbo teachers. Colleagues at work killed their fellow Igbo colleagues. House owners killed their Igbo tenants. It was in this frenzy and death orgy that the Igbo devised a plan of survival. The plan was to run to the emirate and seek refuge until the train that left for the east returned.

Many Igbo ran to the Emir’s palaces in the north seeking refuge not knowing that the emirate was planning the final Igbo solution. As they ran into the palace they were all welcomed. So this encouraged other Igbo whowere hiding to run to the palace as well. Then the final solution set in when the numbers of Igbo seeking refuge was increased. They will be allowed to die slowly: no food and no water must be offered to them. For days the Igbo seeking refuge from the northern pogrom weredenied food and water. They started crying, begging the palace to give them water in their local Igbo dialect “nye mu mmiri ” but the northern civilian heard “nya miri“. So that was the origin of the offensive name called the Igbo by the north. Whenever they call you “nyamiri” they are trying to remind you of your Igbo predecessors who they starved of food and water until they all died. May 30th is another day to remember all those defenceless Igbo civilians who died in that progromthat preceded the war.

May 30th is another day we remember those who sought refuge in the emirate but were allowed to die slowly in pain. May 30th is another day for retrospection and introspection on our commitment to building up our homeland to cater for all the Igbo aspirations the world over. Ozoemena. Maka odinma Ndi Igbo. ( meaning “another should not happen for the good of Igbo people”). Send to all ur friends“.

This is a compelling, troubling and moving narrative. It is also graphic evidence of man’s inhumanity to man and, as a historian, I can confirm to you that every word of it is true. Yet it does not stop there. (TO BE CONCLUDED).


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at info@bloomgist.com.

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Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 

Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 

“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

Only small number of Christians remain in Egypt | How long until all Christians are wiped out of the country? 
Monks look at the view following a terrorist attack against a group of Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday. Photo: NYT/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive.

Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.

The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence.

The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.


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In the past few months, the Islamic State has made its intentions toward Copts well known. “Our favorite prey” they called my co-religionists in a February video. Their barbaric attacks have left more than 100 Copts dead in the last few months alone. The Northern Sinai is now “Christianfrei,” or free of Christians.

Many serious questions will be asked in the next few days. How has the Islamic State been able to build such an extensive network inside mainland Egypt? Is the Islamic State moving its operations to Egypt as it faces pressure in Iraq and Syria? And why has Egypt repeatedly failed to prevent these attacks?

All of these questions are important and require thoughtful deliberation by the Egyptian regime and its allies around the world. But these are not the questions on the minds of my Coptic friends at home. They have far more intimate concerns: Am I putting my children’s lives at risk by remaining here? Should we leave? And what country will take us?

In February 2014, I met the head of the Jewish community in Egypt,Magda Haroun. Today, she told me, there are 15 Jews left in the country, out of a population that once stood at nearly 100,000. Ms. Haroun said she was afraid the Copts would soon follow.
At the time I thought the prospect was overblown. There are millions of Copts in Egypt.

Where would all of them possibly go? Surely some will remain, I reasoned. But I had left the country myself in 2009 — and so have hundreds of thousands of Copts. Even before the recent wave of attacks, Copts have been packing their bags and bidding 2,000 years of history farewell. As more find permanent homes in the West, more are able to bring relatives over. Ms. Haroun was right.

The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor — where one of the giants of the modern Coptic church, Father Matthew the Poor, was ordained in 1948 — is the only remaining monastery of 35 that once existed in the area. Copts had always been tied to Egypt, their very name derived from the Greek word for the country, Aigýptios. Despite waves of persecution at the hands of everyone from Roman and Byzantine emperors, Arab and Muslim governors and Egypt’s modern presidents, they have refused to leave. Their country once gave refuge to the young Jesus. Where will they now find sanctuary?

In 1954 an Egyptian movie called “Hassan, Marcus and Cohen” was produced. The comedy’s title represented characters from Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2008, a new movie, “Hassan and Marcus” hit theaters. It warned of the growing sectarian strife between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims. Fifty years from now, it seems likely that the sequel will just be “Hasan.”

OPINION: President Trump Fails NATO | It's quite embarrassing

OPINION: President Trump Fails NATO | It’s quite embarrassing

President Trump’s first NATO meeting was the moment to show that he would honor the example of his predecessors in leading a strong and unified alliance that has been and should remain the anchor of Western security. He failed.

OPINION: President Trump Fails NATO | It's quite embarrassing

Instead of explicitly endorsing the mutual defense pledge at the heart of the alliance, Mr. Trump lectured the members for falling short on pledges to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic products on the military, much as he had hectored them on this subject during his presidential campaign. There were signs, too, that Mr. Trump and the allies remain at odds over Russia, which is deeply unsettling given mounting questions about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump has a point when he says the allies should increase their military budgets, which they have started to do, partly in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. But his obsession with the matter has reinforced the impression that he sees NATO as essentially a transactional arrangement, not as an indisputably important alliance that has kept the peace for 70 years and whose value cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Against this history, Mr. Trump’s repeated scolds are not just condescending but embarrassing.

What possesses him to treat America’s allies so badly? The NATO nations are mostly democracies with vibrant free markets that have helped America keep enemies at bay, including in Afghanistan. The question is made all the more pressing in view of Mr. Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of countless autocrats, among them Vladimir Putin of Russia and King Salman of Saudi Arabia, where he just paid a deferential visit and assured Sunni Arab leaders that “we are not here to lecture” despite their abominable records on human rights.

This perplexing dichotomy has been vividly captured in video and photographs — Mr. Trump laughing comfortably with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to Washington during a recent Oval Office meeting, while refusing to shake the hand of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany when she came to town. There was more of the same in Brussels, with Mr. Trump shoving aside the prime minister of Montenegro, which recently defied Russia to join NATO, on his way to a front row spot for a photograph.

The allies had hoped to hear a robust endorsement of the NATO Treaty’s Article 5, which commits them to a “one-for-all, all-for-one” principle that has been the foundation of the alliance since it was established. What they got instead was a vague promise to “never forsake the friends who stood by our side” after the Sept. 11 attacks, and assurances from Sean Spicer, the press secretary, of a “100 percent commitment to Article 5.” This would have been more persuasive coming from Mr. Trump, since he and not Mr. Spicer had denigrated NATO as “obsolete” and suggested darkly that the United States might not defend allies under attack if they did not contribute more to the alliance.Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been no more credible than Mr. Spicer. “Of course we support Article 5,” he told reporters earlier this week, presumably assuming that the president would say much the same thing in Brussels. That Mr. Trump did not reinforces the common perception that Mr. Tillerson has no more influence over his thinking than do Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, on whom many had counted to put Mr. Trump’s foreign policy on a more responsible path.

That Mr. Trump and the allies were unable to agree on a common approach toward Russia was also worrisome. Moscow has become increasingly aggressive as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea, waged war in eastern Ukraine, meddled in the American and European elections and intervened militarily in Syria. The most that emerged from a meeting between Mr. Trump and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, was that the two shared the “same line” on Ukraine.

All told, Mr. Trump’s commitment to NATO and America’s tradition of leadership remain very much up in the air. Should the president abdicate both, no one would be happier than Vladimir Putin.

#Biafra50: What the Federal Government should do to appease the Igbos – Femi Fani-Kayode

I believe that it is not only the height of naivety but also deeply insulting to say that the way to stop the Biafran agitation is to offer the Igbo cake.

Femi Fani-Kayode

Quite apart from that I find it curious, incredulous and somewhat patronising that those behind the “Biafra at 50” event, which took place at the Yar’adua Centre in Abuja today, would think it  appropiate to invite the leaders and representatives of a government that has blood on its hands and that is committing genocide against the Igbo and IPOB members on a daily basis to their programme.

They talk peace and reconciliation but can there really be peace and reconciliation without restitution and justice?

You can say anything and rationalise it in any manner that you deem fit but the reality is that 1 million innocent Igbo children were purposely starved to death in the civil war and 2 million Igbos were killed. Worse still the problems and atrocities that the Igbo complained of in 1966 are still with us today. The very reasons that they were forced to fight that war are still with us today.

If you want peace and reconciliation, if you want to celebrate or remember Biafra at 50 and if you want to honor the memory of those that lost their lives during the struggle for Biafra the promise of a greater share in the national cake will not cut it.

Instead the first thing that you need to do is to get the Nigerian state and authorities to give an unconditional apology for the atrocities committed against the Igbo during before and after the civil war.

Secondly you must reach out to those that are agitating for Biafra today with love and genuine affection and endeavour to make it worth their while to stay in Nigeria by treating them with love, compassion, respect and sensitivity.

You do NOT kill them in the streets, lock up their leaders and attempt to kill their dream of emancipation from subjugation and servitude and at the same time claim that you want and believe in reconciliation. It is either one or the other.

You either love and honor them or you fight them and reject their attempt to express themselves freely or to exercise their right of self-determination.

This charade of kill them and pretend to love them all at the same time sickens me. It dishonours the memory of ALL those who fought for and believed in the ideal of Biafra.

It is like dancing on their graves and spitting on their blood.

How can you talk about Biafra and celebrate Biafra at 50 when the leaders of the new Biafra like Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB and others are not there?

How can you talk about Biafra when a contractor and compromiser from Igboland who has lost every sense of self-worth and dignity is invited to the gathering?

The Federal Government is killing his kinsmen with their security forces and refusing to protect them from the relentless carnage and barbaric slaughter of the Fulani militias and this despicable man who has fed fat on Nigeria will come to such a gathering and say that he will fight anyone that wants to leave Nigeria, including Oduduwa and Arewa. I really dont know whether to laugh or cry.

These are clearly the words of a desperate comedian who has lost all sense of self-respect and who is prepared to do anything in order to remain in perpetual servitude.

Such a man is shameful. He is dishonorable. He is cowardly. He is evil. Worse of all he is a grave danger to those that he claims to speak for and represent.

If anyone really wants peace in this country and true reconciliation the only way to achieve it is to set into motion a process of and a programme for restructuring and the devolution of power from the centre. They must also accord due respect to every ethnic nationality in this country including the Igbo.

Failing that it is only a matter of time before Nigeria breaks into two or more pieces and this will be done peacefully or not so peacefully depending on the attitude and disposition of those who believe that they own Nigeria and that the rest of us are slaves.

Encouraging was the fact that Chief John Nwodo, the respected and much-loved Chairman of Ohaeneze, was at the Abuja event. Of all those that attended, together with Pat Utomi and one or two others, is one of the few that I trust and admire. What a leader this man is. Nwodo is a man of immense wisdom and courage and well bred too.

He comes from a well-educated, noble and illustrious lineage of statesmen and political leaders of the rarest kind.

He will never bow down to ANYONE that attempts to undermine the interests of the Igbo and he will never sacrifice or betray any of the millions of young men and women from the south-east who are yearning for Biafra.

With him at the helm of affairs of Ohaeneze I have no doubt that the Igbo are in safe hands and that they will not be fooled by the wolves in sheeps clothing that organised and engendered this shameful event.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at info@bloomgist.com.

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Olusegun Adeniyi: Biafra and Lagos – 50 years after 

Come Saturday (27th May), it will be exactly 50 years that Lagos State was created (along with others) by the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon to give Nigeria a 12-states structure. Instructively, four days after that historic event, on 30th May 1967 to be specific, the late Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu announced the secession of Eastern Nigeria and the establishment of a State of Biafra. Taken together, a combination of the creation of states, the military incursion into our national political affairs that precipitated the dismantling of the regional structure and the subsequent declaration of Biafra would define the unfortunate trajectory of our country in ways that nobody could have foreseen at the time.


However, if ever any proof was ever needed that we don’t learn from our mistakes, it is in the fact that the possibility of a military coup would still be subject of a national conversation in May 2017 while many communities and groups are yet to be weaned of the ideas of secession, agitation for more states etc just as hate-mongering has become the defining issue of the day.

Yet, if we are honest, it is easy to understand the cold calculations that propel such harebrained ideas—including the notion that a president who is marooned abroad, battling health challenge, would seek and win re-election—in a nation where the political elite has perfected the art of exploiting group differences to advance personal agenda. The greater challenge is that because we have failed to harness our potentials, many now romanticise the past at a time other societies are busy plotting their future.

It is in that context that we should situate the renewed clamour for Biafra by those who, disappointed with what Nigeria has become, imagine what might have been had the civil war ended with a different outcome. While I am well aware of our squandered opportunities, it may also help to look at what Southern Sudan has become today despite the promise of yesterday and the enormous sacrifices in human lives of recent years. That may help in tempering our political arithmetic with a bit of realism.

For sure, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra offers a rare opportunity for sober reflection on a number of issues that may be useful in dealing with contemporary national challenges. But for me, reflections about the past are useful only to the extent in which they help in advancing the future. And today in Abuja, the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, with support from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), will be holding a one-day conference on the theme, “Memory and Nation Building – Biafra: 50 Years After”.

I am particularly interested in the outcome of the sessions, having had the benefit of sharing ideas with Ms Jackie Farris, Professor Ebere Onwudiwe and Mr Amara Nwankpa in recent weeks. One of the main objectives of the conference is to encourage all Nigerians to be aware and concerned about the humanitarian and social impacts of internal conflicts regardless of where they occur in our country. The conference is also bringing together some brilliant post-Biafra generation professionals who had no direct experience of the civil war so as to ascertain what Biafra means to them within the context of a united Nigeria.

With the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as keynote speaker, the conference will bring together key actors like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, former federal bureaucrat, Alhaji Ahmed Joda and a host of contemporary Nigerian voices to examine the much-touted post-war programme of “Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation” so as to glean lessons (not) learned and to explore potential social and structural interventions required to secure Nigeria’s future.

While such an enterprise is very productive, especially so we can understand the subliminal impulses that inform the actions and reactions of Igbos to contemporary Nigeria and the feeling of collective hurt that remains very strong among the people, it will be more helpful if we tackle challenge as a national one as the YarAdua Centre is trying to do. Two reports within the past ten days make such an exercise even more compelling.

First, in a report titled, Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, a Stanford University Professor, Tony Seba, has predicted that the transportation landscape will soon change dramatically as people switch from the much-cheaper fossil-based vehicles to electric cars, thus leading to a collapse of oil prices and with it the petroleum industry. Even if the forecast that all this would happen within the next eight years seems farfetched, the fact remains that the oil economy is in the past and that we must wake up to the reality of the moment.

At about the same period that we are being warned about the futility of building our hopes on hydrocarbon resources, Oxfam released a report which provides a picture of the current state of poverty and inequalities in our country. “Nigeria is not a poor country yet millions are living in hunger”, according to the Oxfam report, which advocates that to free millions of our citizens from deprivation and want, we must build “a new political and economic system that works for everyone, not just a fortunate few.”

Quite predictably, the response of the authorities was to dismiss Oxfam while politicians like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would continue to argue that the solution to our problem lies in restructuring our country by using the existing geo-political zones as federating units rather than the current 36 states. Atiku’s thesis, which has become rather simplistic, is that political decentralization will “help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability. Citizens are more likely to demand accountability when governments spend their tax money rather than rent collected from an impersonal source.”

While I am quite aware of the distortions in the current federal arrangement and the impediments they create for our growth and development, it is self-deceiving to believe that once we restructure, our problem will be solved. It will not, until the wealth of the nation and the opportunities that accrue from it are available and accessible to all citizens, irrespective of their states of origin or ethnic affiliations. That will happen when we create sustainable centres of productivity and economic activity.

It is particularly noteworthy that Atiku made his statement in Lagos, a state where you see a semblance of the kind of structure we must build if we are to change this society. Lagos is by no means perfect. In fact, Lagos is another face of Nigeria in terms of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and all other social ills you can point to. But notwithstanding, Lagos has a system that works. As the state therefore marks 50 years of creation, it has a lot to celebrate while kudos must be given to a succession of can-do leaders who have, at different times, proffered practical solutions to perplexing problems. For me, two stand out: Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

By the time Jakande became governor in 1979, there were far more pupils and students in Lagos than the then structure in state could accommodate at once so the school sessions were in daily shifts. But, based on his electoral promise on which he had done his homework, Jakande was able to change that narrative while embarking on several social programmes across the state. Without any doubt, Jakande, (the only governor of his era who did not travel outside the country throughout his stewardship which lasted four years and three months) left his mark in the state.

But perhaps the man who deserves the bigger accolades is Tinubu. By the time he became governor of Lagos in 1999, the state was no different from the others, relying only on revenues from Abuja to pay salaries and patch a few roads, as some of the governors are still doing today. The first thing Tinubu did that set him apart from the others was in the choice of commissioners. He went for respected professionals in their chosen fields, men and women with impeccable credentials but of little or no electoral value.

From Olayemi Cardoso who manned the Economic Planning and Budget ministry to Idowu Sobowale put in charge of Education to Kayode Anibaba who was given the Environment and Physical Planning portfolio to Leke Pitan, his health commissioner to Olawale Edun, in charge of Finance to Lanre Towry-Coker in Housing to Dele Alake in the Information and Strategy ministry to Yemi Osinbajo in the Justice sector to Teju Phillips, Muiz Banire, Kemi Nelson and others, Tinubu was clear about his goals and how he would achieve them. Even the few small-time politicians in his cabinet at the time like Musiliu Obanikoro and Raufu Aregbesola were young, popular and enterprising. His Chief of Staff of course was a certain Lai Mohammed who was later replaced by Babatunde Raji Fashola in a cabinet that included Ben Akabueze, Tunji Bello and others.

At the end of the day, what Tinubu has shown with Lagos—and is being sustained by his successors— is that while the structure of our country may not necessarily lend itself to inclusive growth and productivity, changing that structure alone will offer little or no comfort if the system is not imbued with visionary leaders at every level. Therefore, any discussion about Biafra that will dwell merely on the atonement Nigeria has to pay—and I believe that Igbo people have not had a fair deal in our country—without envisioning how we can build a more equitable society, will be no more than an organised waste of time.

As I argued in the past, we are yet to exorcise the ghost of Biafra from our national psyche because the scars seem very deep while the more the Nigerian Project fails to work, the more the nostalgia about a “Biafran Eldorado” that exists only within the realm of imagination for some young people. That then explains why the ready solution of restructuring being taunted by politicians like Atiku is a rather lazy one that does not address the fundamental problems of Nigeria. Fewer administrative cost centres do not necessarily yield a more nationalistic and workable polity. The challenge of managing a diverse federation like ours requires much more rigour.

I am for a national conversation not only to atone for the sins of Biafra but also to canvass a more equitable union. But I refuse to buy the argument that once you substitute the six geo-political zones for the states you have addressed our problem. Three days ago, an argument at a drinking joint in a Benue State community led to wanton killings and destruction of property, an indication of the dysfunctional society that we have become. “I wonder why an argument in a drinking bar could degenerate to a bloody clash resulting in this kind of destruction”, said Governor Samuel Ortom who led members of the State Executive and Security Council to the community. But the madness in Benue is not isolated and that explains why in contrasting the essence of regression into the past as embodied in the Biafra resurgence with the possibility of a progressive modernisation of Nigeria symbolised by Lagos, even with all its imperfections, I am looking at the kind of conversation we should be having about our future.

Meanwhile, as my own contributions to the conversation on Biafra to mark the 50th declaration anniversary, I have uploaded on my web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com five of my writings in recent years that deal with some of the issues. They include “Memories of Biafran Nightmare” which centres on my interaction with Rev Moses Iloh, head of the Biafran Red Cross during the civil war; “Still on the Biafran Nightmare”, based on my discussion with Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, former Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) President whose father was the Chief Justice of Eastern Nigeria during the war as well as “Chinua Achebe Still speaks” which dwells on the controversy over the appointment (and rejection) of Father Peter Okpaeleke as the Catholic Bishop of Ahiara Diocese of Mbaise, Imo State. There is also “Achebe and the Biafran Memoir”, a review of “There Was a Country” and my tribute to the late Comrade Uche Chukwumerije.
All said, as we reflect on 50 years after the declaration of Biafra and what might have been, I agree with the proponents of restructuring that there are sufficient grounds to question some of the assumptions on which the unity of Nigeria is predicated, especially in the light of our serial failings. But to beat war drums at the least provocation or to continue to marginalise (in critical appointments and projects) a significant section of our country are signposts that we have not come to terms with our past and that we have not learnt enough lessons from that tragic episode in our history to say NEVER AGAIN!

Nigeria's whistleblowing policy initiative: a mission of or more noise than substance

Nigeria’s whistleblowing policy initiative: a mission of or more noise than substance

President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a strong anti-corruption platform. On taking office, his administration launched a suite of corruption investigations which have seemingly overwhelmed the country’s main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

It has also overseen some important institutional and procedural reforms to reduce the ease with which money can be misappropriated from within the public sector. But such measures are the tip of an iceberg of much-needed reform to address the fundamental flaws that exist within a political, institutional and legal system that remains rooted in patronage.

Meanwhile, the latest whistleblowing policy initiative is attracting some notable headlines following some high-profile cash seizures, papering over in the process, the failure to tackle deeper issues within the country’s anti-corruption architecture through legislated change and institutional overhaul.

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), corruption is set to cost Nigeria around 37 percent of its GDP by 2030. The eye-watering sums that have circulated in connection with some of the country’s most recent corruption scandals – most notably in the downstream fuel sector – bear witness to the enormous burden that corruption places on the economy. With corruption now featuring higher on the political agenda, there is some hope that the government can bring about durable reform. But it will need to go beyond the easy-wins it has pursued so far and take on more challenging legislative reform to address key shortcomings in the investigations and judiciary structures that are currently at the forefront of the anti-corruption campaign.

Key successes of the current administration in tackling graft to date include the introduction of a Treasury Single Account (TSA) for public finances, which has strengthened the ring-fencing of over N7 trillion in public finances, according to the Accountant General of the Federation. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also implementing tighter Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, via the provision of Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) towards reducing money laundering activities in the country. Lastly as noted above, the Ministry of Finance initiated its whistle-blowing programme at the start of the year, which is aimed at encouraging citizens to report credible information concerning the theft of public funds. Although the line has faced numerous problems including claims it has ceased working, it has reportedly led to the recovery of around US$57 million in recent weeks – sums that have been celebrated in the media, albeit with a note of frustration at the continued scale of graft.

The whistleblowing programme enables individuals to report corruption or financial malpractice in public finances through an online platform set up by the Ministry of Finance, or by writing directly to the Ministry, which helps promote some level of confidentiality within the entire process. However, whistleblowers are still expected to provide their personal information if they are to be rewarded for their actions. According to the programme, whistleblowers will receive 2.5% to 5% of the value of funds retrieved by the government for any useful information they provide. The law may permit the disclosure of their identities in some special cases, but under the condition that they also receive protection from the government.

Last month, allegations arose linking the secretary to the federal government and the head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to US$43 million worth of funds recovered by the EFCC from an apartment in Lagos. This led to the suspension of both public officers who are currently being investigated by a special committee set up by the Presidency. But Nigeria has too often seen these types of headlines, which have not been followed up by rigorous, independent investigation and effective prosecution, allowing culprits to fall from the radar of public scrutiny and judicial sanction. This underlines the limitations in the current anti-corruption campaign without more far-reaching reform. Such reform needs to focus on the current lack of genuine institutional independence, coordination and capacity to overcome powerful vested interests in a political system in which patronage and influence often trump due process.

Increased partnerships will also help strengthen the campaign’s drive as proven by the EFCC and Federal Inland Revenue Service’s (FIRS) combined efforts to deal with tax fraud which can help contribute to increased fiscal transparency. Private sector operators can also partner with the public sector, as exemplified by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant’s (ACCA) partnership with the government to host a capacity-building programme centred around anti-corruption in June 2017. Meanwhile, the private sector also has an important role to play in shifting attitudes by instituting robust compliance and anti-bribery and -corruption standards to set a clear example.

Both private sector operators and the government have made positive strides to reduce the opportunities for corrupt activities to take place in recent years. But gains can be transient if not supported by deeper reform, and in this respect, the Buhari administration has some way to go towards cementing its legacy as an effective champion in tackling corruption within the system.


By Kadiri Otaru and Zephia Ovia

Kadiri is an Associate Consultant in the Intelligence and Analysis team at Africa Practice, providing business intelligence and political analysis for the financial, infrastructure and ICT industries. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Abuja and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management from Obafemi Awolowo University.

Zephia is an Analyst in the Intelligence and Analysis team at Africa Practice, providing political and commercial insights across the public and private sector. She holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE). She has also interned at the South African Parliament in Cape Town.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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OPINION: Ifeanyi Ubah and government cremation of Igbo interests – Jude Ndukwe

On Friday, May 5, 2017, the Department of State Services otherwise known as Nigeria’s secret police because of the nature of their mandate, arrested and detained the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Ltd, Dr Ifeanyi Ubah.

Ifeanyi Ubah

It is instructive to note for the benefit of this piece that Dr Ubah has since remained in the DSS custody since then without being charged to court despite the claim of the DSS in its earlier press release declaring that it would prosecute Ubah “forthwith”.

In that release, the DSS had lined up a plethora of allegations against the oil magnate as the reasons behind his travails. Such allegations hastily publicized almost immediately after Ubah was arrested is in tandem with the well-documented script of this current government to try all their victims in the public domain and excite a section of vulnerable Nigerians with it by embarking on media trials, drama and razzmatazz only for their cases to eventually fall flat on their faces where it matters most – at the courts!

It is no longer news that since the end of the 2015 general elections, the ruling party has not forgiven (as if there is anything at all to forgive) Ndigbo for their choice at the elections. The president had not hidden his sentiments about this when he made the infamous 97% vs 5% statement. Since then, strong and several attempts have been made to humiliate and subjugate the Igbo either as individuals or as a group just to emasculate them and reduce their humanity to calamity! Those who are most hit are the critics of government and or those considered to have supported the last administration at the last election especially if they are of Igbo extraction.

Several cases abound to prove that this is the case. Another one is the Ifeanyi Ubah issue.

How could the DSS be so much in a hurry to accuse Ifeanyi Ubah of all that they accuse him of when in actual fact the issues involved are transactional, contractual and a dispute between two parties to an agreement which also spelt out in very clear terms how to resolve any dispute that might arise from such an agreement? Surely, such resolution mechanisms catered for in the agreement does not include the use of state apparatus like the DSS or any other law enforcement agency to intimidate, harass or detain any of the parties in the case of a dispute.

It is reported that the agreement between Capital Oil and NNPC did in fact make room for the root of this dispute which states that should Capital Oil sell any of the NNPC products in its tank farm, it would pay an extra 1% of the value of the product sold. And to think that Ifeanyi Ubah was ready to go the extra mile of incurring additional losses to his operations just to help salvage a brewing petroleum crisis and its attendant numerous and severe negative effects on not only the country but also the ordinary Nigerian during the transition period speaks volume about his pristine qualities as a businessman.

This is in addition to the fact that Capital Oil and Gas claims NNPC is owing it N16bn.

First and foremost, is it not absurd that Nigerians are neither alarmed nor outraged that a government agency is reportedly owing a private enterprise as much as N16bn? How many businesses would survive with such amount owed it? Why is the NNPC so unashamed about its huge debt to Capital Oil? Why is nobody talking about this? Would any sane society tolerate this level of intolerable business lopsidedness? For how long is it morally right for NNPC to continue to owe Capital Oil without it taking necessary action to recover its money even if it means selling its debtor’s property in its possession especially when the sale was done in national interest and at a loss to Capital Oil as they would be paying the 1% extra value on the volume it sold.

Does this not nullify the allegation of the DSS that Ubah’s actions amounted to economic sabotage when indeed what was done was done in national interest especially now that the Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTDs) have also come out to say that Ubah never incited them to embark on any strike or take any action to curry favour from them?

All these go to show that there is more to it all than meets the eye. If Ubah were of the northern ethnic stock, this case would obviously have been treated differently. While a private sector player like Ubah with staff strength of over 2000 and about 25,000 others indirectly engaged by his company is being harassed by the DSS, Babachir Lawal, a political patron of this administration is enjoying the rare privilege of a presidential investigation after allegedly diverting huge sums meant for IDPs in the north. He is never arrested, detained or prosecuted. One Nigeria indeed!

Ibrahim Magu, despite the overwhelming and damning report against him by this same DSS and his rejection by the Nigerian Senate, is still parading himself as Acting Chairman of EFCC. He, of course, is from the north!

Fulani herdsmen terrorists are also roaming the streets freely with pride in their continued killing of thousands of Nigerians across the nation, displacing families and destroying livelihoods in unquantifiable terms far more than what Ubah is purportedly owing NNPC, yet, they are neither harassed, arrested, detained nor prosecuted. This same government makes all sorts of excuses for them including compensating them after their killings, yet, it is Ifeanyi Ubah who creates livelihoods for people that is suffering over a trade dispute simply because he is Igbo, a tribe that must be conquered by all means!

The other time, they shut down Ibeto cement factory for no just cause only for them to reopen it without any criminal liability on the part of the company. Of course, the ravenous monopolist from the north has to be helped to have his competitors from the south east killed. Now, they are going after the likes of Emeka Offor, Innoson etc as if it is only Igbo people that are doing business in Nigeria.

While other businessmen from other parts of the country enjoy undue advantage over their Igbo counterparts by being given generous waivers, tax rebates, government patronage etc, the Igbo businessmen suffer factory shut down, harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention and persecution, demolition, wares seizures, multiple taxation etc. Of course, he must be run out of business by all means!

Even in the railway project for which the government intends borrowing a humongous $5.8bn from the China Exim Bank, an amount to be repaid by all regions of the country, only south east was deliberately left out among those to benefit from the loan, still in continuation of the ethnic agenda against the people.

Most unfortunately, this whole Capital Oil saga is leaving the otherwise esteemed DSS demystified, reduced to Boys’ Brigade who beat their drum for every Shehu, Abdul and Musa that call them into a dispute even if it is between two cows. With the way the DSS are going, very soon, they will soon start being called by couples to arrest and detain their partners over marital disagreements. It would soon get to that since they now seem very comfortable acting as Debt Recovery Agency rather than as an Intelligence Agency.
Dr Ifeanyi Ubah should be released immediately and NNPC should come forward to reconcile accounts with Capital Oil and Gas. You cannot be indebted to a man to the tune of N16bn but keep harassing him over your N11bn. This is outside the N26bn which a Federal High court in Abuja, had ordered the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to pay Capital Oil and Gas as contained in a consent judgement delivered years ago but yet to be complied with.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that there is a deliberate attempt to cripple Ifeanyi Ubah, decimate his businesses and cremate the general interests of Ndigbo. This has got to stop or the nation continues on the irreversible regressive journey of self-implosion!


The author Jude Ndukwe tweets @Stjudendukwe


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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Emmanuel Macron

OPINION: Will Nigeria ever vote a 39 year old as their president?

By: Kofoworola Ayodeji


The media, and of course the social media in particular, has been agog with the news of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron emerging the French president.

Emmanuel Macron

Macron had defeated his key contender Marine Le Pen on Sunday night with a margin of 66.06% to 33.94%, making him the country’s youngest president.

Nigerian masses versus the elite

The victory of Macron has caused a heated debate within the Nigerian social media space. And that’s for two obvious reasons: One, the charismatic young man won on the platform of En Marche, a political movement which he formed less than a year ago. Two, he defeated 62-year-old François Fillon and 65-year-old Jean-Luc Mélenchon who ran on the tickets of two traditional main right-wing and left-wing parties ending their decades-long dominance. In other words, he defeated the “powerful and elite” in the country without a party. In my country, it’s like defeating the APCs and PDPs of this world. So I ask, is that possible in Nigeria?

Of course it is. After all, up until March 2015 nobody per se had ever thought Nigerians would rally round a new party, then the APC, to remove the PDP which had held on to power for 16 years. Not only that, who could have thought of a scenario in which a sitting president Goodluck Jonathan would be removed from office; as if that was not enough, he was unseated without a civil war breaking out. Common! That was unimaginable, yet it happened. So this gives a precedent to the fact that the Nigerian masses, who are angry and frustrated at the moment, can turn around to vote out the established and powerful parties in power, at any level at that.

But where is that 39-year-old Nigeria’s Macron?

I was engaged in a twitter chat with Chude Jideonwo, co-founder of Red Media Africa, which owns the continent’s largest portfolio of youth media brands, a few hours ago. Chude lamented how he had persuaded young people who are capable and well resourced to run for office. They just would not. According to him, “they are so frightened of throwing money down the drain they don’t even have the coverage to take risks. I don do PowerPoint tire ……”

For me, they should be scared actually. An average Nigerian youth of today is still in deep slumber. Although many people have attributed this to poverty and the poor education system, I can’t agree less. In its 2016 Graduate Report, Stutern— a Lagos-based organization which connects employers looking for the best undergraduate talents, in-betweeners and graduates in search of internship/full-time opportunities— says about 3 in 4 Nigerian graduates earn below #50, 000 as first salary. Wawu! How does one who earns so little ever think of running for office or joining others to campaign for whoever is willing and competent?

Think about this scenario. I earn #30,000 as entry salary after spending about four years of my life studying in the university and another one year for NYSC. I feed myself, buy clothes, transport to and from office, pay bills, visit friends and still strive to save. Come to think of it, inflation is at its peak. With this, I’m frustrated, the future looks bleak and I can’t even work on my dreams. Naturally, getting involved in politics is definitely the last thing on my mind. In short, I’m pissed off with everything and anything government. That is the story of an average Nigerian youth today.

This is not to say there are no thriving, willing and competent young Nigerians anyway. But then, they would definitely have to think of the harsh political terrain, ethnic politics, the electoral processes and citizens’ apathy. I want to believe that has kept a lot of capable young people away.

Nigeria can actually produce a young president, but how?

Young Nigerians will have to solve each of the problems listed above to make a difference. We must put pressure on our lawmakers to ensure the establishment of independent candidacy. This will allow credible people run without a political party, exactly what Macron did. Also, credible candidates can also take over existing dormant parties and turn them around. I believe playing ethnic politics brought us to where we are right now, so we must eradicate it if we will ever move forward. In addition, we must exalt competence, values such as integrity and excellence, good antecedents over ethnicity. Let the best candidate emerge irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.

Are we not tired of suffering in this country?

I don’t buy the idea of saying we need a “youth-party”. In reality, it’s the youth who are making all the difference in the world today. The world is now a global village because of young people, so why underplay their capabilities? Bill Gate co-founded Microsoft at 20. Anthony Joshua is 27. Mark Zuckerberg is 32. Chimamanda Adichie is 39. Aboyade Inioluwa is 26. Jack Dorsey is 40. Tara Durotoye is 40. Onigbinde Oluseun is 32. Young people should join political parties to understand the existing structure and flow of things.

Realistically, we have the number— at least we’re about 60% of the Nigerian population. With that, amidst other things, we can make a huge difference I believe.

Can Nigeria ever produce a young president? Yes. Will Nigerians ever vote a 39-year-old, 41-year-old or even 45-year-old as their president? Yes, we can.


Kofoworola Ayodeji is a Pan-African writer, transformational speaker and socio-political commentator based in Nigeria. He tweets@Generalkopho


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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OPINION: Dear President Buhari, for the love of yourself and the country, please resign

First and foremost, congratulations to you, the Chibok community, and to all well-meaning Nigerians on the successful release of additional 82 #ChibokGirls from the hands of their abductor – Boko Haram.

buhari5.png

At least, at this point, no one can genuinely fault your commitment to securing the release of the girls and reuniting them with their loved ones. It is a huge success for the country and for your administration

Meanwhile, early this year, precisely 19th January 2017, you traveled out of the country to the United Kingdom in what your handlers called a 10-day vacation to have some rest. However, you ended up staying in London for about two months, during which several political leaders visited you and gave us the assurance that you were “Hale and Hearty”, “Fit as Fiddle” and that you were only resting.

Unfortunately, it turns out that you were really sick as you hinted during a short address to the nation when you returned. You admitted that he had never been this “sick” in your entire life and further revealed that you had a “blood transfusion” in the course of your treatment in the United Kingdom. This shows the gravity of your illness.

However, since you returned to the country, it is no longer a matter of just speculation that you have not been completely capable of carrying out your constitutional duties as expected, but have also assigned the majority of your job to your vice- Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Sir, the last Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held on 3rd May 2017, makes it the third consecutive FEC meetings you have failed to attend and preside over. The reason for this cannot be farfetched- your ill health, even though your information minister has maintained a different reason, which is, you were resting.

While that was on, last night you travelled back to the United Kingdom in what your handlers termed, follow-up medical consultations with your doctors.

Mr President, just this year, you travelled in January, returned in March, rested all April, this is May and you are back in London. Sir, isn’t it obvious that you really need to focus on your health? It cannot be overemphasised that you need a comprehensive rest, a quality one for that matter, devoid of all forms of stress- especially political stress, which is in its totality mentally demanding and strenuous.

Mr President, it is very important that you know that the overall health of the leader of any nation is in one way or another important for the health and wellbeing of the nation.

As much as I would like you to complete your tenure in office and deliver on the Change Mantra for positive development that you promised Nigerians – there is no question about that, yet, I am worried that your persistent ill health is beginning to affect your performance and your overall capacity to govern the nation.

The time has come sir; you must resign. It’s time that you step aside to allow the country repair itself and allow it have an active and a vibrant leader.

The only reason and I do mean the only reason that you have survived this long without mounting pressure from all nooks and crannies of the country for your resignation is because a large number of the masses still loves you and believes you are incorruptible- an opinion in which your ill health condition is now making some to doubt. Or how does one explain that you cleared the suspended Secretary General of the Federation of wrongdoing involving the #IDPGate, and the same you suspended him months later for same allegations?

Truth be told Mr. President, I know, you as a citizen would not have condoned from any President a continuous inability to discharge his/her responsibility due to ill health, just as you displayed during the time of Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Mr President, your ill health is leaving an imbalance in the country and raising unnecessary issues which could have been averted if you were in good health.

Mr President, save yourself and the country the pain of going through this unwarranted confusion and heartache. Nigerians shouldn’t have to go through this. A man of integrity as you are fondly described would realise when to cut the confusion and misery and step aside to stave off further anguish. Please, Mr President; do the right thing- Please resign

A resignation from your will afford you an ample time to take proper and unconditioned care of yourself and pay all necessary attention to your health. In the same way, it will afford the country which is perceived that you love so much to have a healthy and a mentally stable leader- a condition which is key for one of the toughest jobs in our land.

In view of this, the call for your resignation cannot be taken out of context and as a matter of sincerity, it is long overdue.

Make no mistakes Mr President; I wish you good health and speedy recovery. But with the kind of rest you need to recuperate appropriately, it might be difficult for you to get such at the Presidency.

Mr President, save yourself the trouble, for the love of yourself and the country, please RESIGN.

Sir, it is time; please resign.

Yours sincerely,

Ogundana Michael Rotimi


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?

In recent weeks, Paraguay has been shaken by a fierce parliamentary debate about a bill – recently killed off in the House of Representatives – that would have allowed presidents to be re-elected.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Paraguayan farmers are demanding agrarian reforms that would restore lost jobs to the countryside. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

And although photographs of the Congress building in flames and the murder of a young protester by security forces drew international attention and clearly demonstrated the limits of Paraguay’s democratic system, political turbulence is just the most visible aspect of the deep economic and social problems facing this South American country.

Paraguay’s boom

The country’s situation could, in theory, be favourable. Paraguay is in the midst of a demographic boom that is transforming the shape of its population.

According to official projections, almost 60% of the country’s almost seven million people are between 15 and 64 years old. That means an extraordinary proportion of Paraguayans are of working age, and a relatively small segment, consisting of children and the elderly, is dependent.

Unfortunately, these statistical data do not imply an upsurge in productivity and economic growth; the country’s current economic structure does not have room for so many new workers. The Paraguayan government has yet to create a plan for integrating th, much less for putting in place differentiated pathways to employment for young people and vulnerable groups.

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Informal settlements have grown in Asunción as people migrate from rural areas to the city seeking employment. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Without such policies, Paraguay’s demographic bump, which is projected to continue through to 2025, will have the opposite effect to creating an economic boom. It will deepen inequality and poverty, boost the informal economy and actually spur emigration.

Strong growth, weak fundamentals

After recovering from a deep crisis in 2012, the Paraguayan economy has actually been growing at a steady clip, with GDP rising by 4.7% in 2014 and 5.2% in 2015.

But structural weaknesses are apparent. The mainstays of the Paraguayan economy are commodities and hydropower, which accounted for 25.6% and 24.9% of its GDP, respectively, in 2015. After that comes the underground economy, Paraguay’s third most important economic sector, according to one Treasury Ministry official in an interview conducted by the author in 2010. This mainly comprises smuggling activities on different scales.

Despite a reduction in poverty, which dropped from 32% in 2011 to 22% in 2015, Paraguay is still one of the poorest countries in Latin America. It ranks fourth in extreme poverty, after Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to a 2016 ECLAC report.

Inequality is also widespread. Though the country’s GINI coefficient, which indicates economic inequality, has dropped from 0.5124 to 0.4714, there’s still a significant gap between rich and poor Paraguayans. According to the General Statistics Surveys and Census Bureau (DGEEC), the poorest 40% of Paraguayans pocket only 12.5% of the nation’s revenues, while the richest 10% earn 37.1% of all income.

Finally, there’s underemployment, which hovers at 19% (only 5.34% of Paraguayans are fully unemployed). Among the 3.3 million people nationwide who have jobs, 664,000 either work less than 30 hours per week “but would like to work more, and are available to do so”, according to the above-mentioned DGEEC bureau. Or they work 30-plus hours but are paid less than minimum wage“.

Rural exodus

In rural parts of the country, these economic weaknesses are magnified. Unemployment for urban men can reach 55.12% in some areas, but it’s 64.19% in rural zones. Wages are also notoriously lower in rural areas – even bosses earn less.

The rural-urban economic gap is the result of large-scale agriculture steadily eating away at small-scale farming in Paraguay. And it is increasingly prioritising high-tech monoculture enterprises.

Today, 90% of the land belongs to just 5% of landowners.

Thanks to a surge in inflows of transgenic crops since 2012, agri-business revenues have multiplied in Paraguay.

In late March, about a thousand farmers converged on Asunción in an annual march, demanding across-the-board agrarian reform. The protesters called for debt forgiveness for small farmers and condemned the widespread concentration of rural resources.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Harvesting soybeans in Paraguay, where industrial farms are increasingly pushing out small landholders. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Studies have confirmed that between 1991 and 2008, when the last National Agricultural Census was conducted, the total amount of productive land in Paraguay fell by some 5.7%. The number of farms and homesteads covering less than 100 hectares has shrunk, while those between 100 and 500 hectares has risen by almost 35%, and massive plantations covering more than 500 hectares are up by almost 57%.

Farmers’ deepening marginalisation in the countryside has made city living more attractive.

Asunción, the capital, has grown steadily, from 388,958 people in 1972 to 515,587 in 2012. Some 37% of the nation’s population is now concentrated in the city and the surrounding Central Department area.

Although complete official accounting of informal settlements are not available, the National Housing Bureau, SENAVITAT, estimates that the region now has some around 1,000 slum areas.

Though wages are higher in the city, Paraguay’s labour market usually makes it hard for rural migrants to find jobs, so new arrivals often face underemployment, temporary joblessness or longer-term unemployment.

The democratisation debate

Underemployment and rural poverty are fuelling Paraguay’s current turbulent politics, highlighting a critical question that was first debated during South America’s democratic transitions in the 1980s: can political democracy truly exist in countries that haven’t also attained economic and social democracy?

Some thinkers claim that economics and politics are independent dimensions, and that the social rights can be enshrined after democracy is established.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Political upheaval has shaken Paraguay in recent months, as unemployment and poverty rise. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

More critical – or less optimistic – political scientists contend that, to the contrary, there can be no real democracy if it’s not accompanied by the steady spread of social and economic equality.

For Paraguay, the latter hypothesis has won out.

Paraguayan democracy is so lacking in social components that it has become a shrunken version of government. It consists almost exclusively to ensure that institutions function, elections are held regularly and transparently, ballot-box outcomes are accepted and, above all, that the population accepts the nation’s entrenched economic structure.

This is not really democracy.

What’s more, a steady stream of scandals has revealed widespread fraud and corruption, and there are deep-rooted processes of political and economic exclusion.

No matter who runs in the 2018 election, it will be merely a fiction of democracy – a mechanism that serves to continue the systematic uprooting of farm families for the benefit of agribusiness and bolstering an urban economy that pushes workers into underemployment or into the informal sector.

Until social justice, equality and rights are brought into politics, Paraguay’s turbulence can be expected to continue.

OPINION: Lessons from the detention and release of Nnamdi Kanu

There are important lessons to be learnt from the detention and recent release of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a breakaway faction of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra.

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MASSOB was formed in 1999 by Ralph Uwazurike, an Indian-trained lawyer ostensibly to realise Biafra. In 2005 he was detained for two years and when Peter Obi became Governor of Anambra State, he was so appalled by the group’s activities that he ordered a ‘shoot-at-sight’ of the members. The activities of the group continued in somewhat muted fashion throughout the administrations of both Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. Like any other separatist, secessionist or insurgency groups, it was factionalized and even fractionalized.

When Nnamdi Kanu, leader of IPOB and founder of the pirate Radio Biafra was detained and refused bail despite court orders, Kanu suddenly became the rallying point for the various factions and fractions of the agitators.  In detention, he developed a cult followership beyond the borders of the country such that political leaders and wanna-be political leaders, especially those from the Southeast,  were angling for photo-ops with him.

There are several lessons to be learnt from what I believe was the government’s mishandling of the situation

One, we must make a distinction between separatist agitations and secessionists.

Separatists believe that their own part of the country will be better off as an independent entity and will largely use non-violent means to pursue their beliefs. In Nigeria, separatist agitations come in various configurations – Boko Haram and its secessionist battle for a caliphate, various forms of neo-Biafra agitations, some form of clamour for the restructuring of the country, demand for ‘resource control’ and militancy in the Niger Delta.

While secessionists take to violent means to achieve their goal of independence, separatist demands, to the extent that they are non-violent, could come under political speech which is highly protected speech in many jurisdictions. True, such expressions could be irritating to the State, especially when some of their methods are provocative to certain political power wielders. But this is precisely where the test for a leader’s capacity for political engineering comes into play. It is also an acid test for the maturity of a country’s democracy.  In fact, the ability to deal with ideas that ‘shock’ and ‘awe’ is the basis of the marketplace of ideas theory, which argues that with minimal government intervention or lassie laissez-faire approach to the regulation of free speech and expressions, movements will succeed or fail on their own merits. This is because of the belief that left to their own rational devices, free individuals have the discerning capacity to sift through competing proposals in an open environment of deliberation and exchange and arrive at their own choices. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. aptly articulated this in his dissenting judgment in Abrahams vs. the United States (1919):

“When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test for truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market; and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.”

It is precisely for this reason that purveyors of hate speech such as KKK in the USA, the British National Party and several right-wing parties in Europe are not criminalised. It is argued that it is better to allow them to operate openly so that the ideas they espouse will be drawn into the political marketplace of ideas and outcompeted. In the United States, for instance, supporters of California divorcing the US to become an independent country began a campaign to put the issue on the ballot in 2018 shortly after Donald Trump won the last presidential election in the USA. In fact, separatist demands are so common in the USA (that most of us admire) that by 2012, as many as residents in 30 of USA’s 50 states had filed secession petitions with the, “We the People” programme on the White House website. None succeeded because each failed on the strength of its ability to compete with contrarian ideas. The same is also true of separatist demands among the Scots in the United Kingdom and Quebec in Canada.

I strongly believe that the Buhari government could have handled the Nnamdi Kanu case differently. For instance, if he was detained and refused bail for being a security risk, is he less of a security threat now? My feeling is that the speed with which he was able to meet the near impossible-to-meet bail conditions he was given by Justice Binta Nyako must be giving the country’s security agencies sleepless nights.  It is now up to the government to assess whether it is doing itself any favours by the continued detention of Sambo Dasuki, El Zakzaky and others.

Two, it is important to understand that every separatist or secessionist agitation feeds on local grievances.

Agitators can often position themselves as the articulators of such grievances and will find ‘otherwise’ reasonable people lining behind them. During the heydeys of the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC), people often wondered why the Yoruba, a largely urbane and educated people, followed the leadership of Gani Adam, a ‘mere carpenter’ when he formed the Odua Peoples’ Congress. People are asking the same question today about Nnamdi Kanu and the Igbos. It is, of course, difficult to know the level of support separatists have since many of the people such people claim to be agitating the independence for may not share in their vision as we saw in the Scottish referendum in 2014 and the referendum in Quebec in 1975. What is important is an understanding that every part of the country has its own tale of injustice and individuals who believe that separatism will be the antidote to such perceived injustice. This, therefore, calls, above all, for confidence building measures among the constituent parts of the country. Purely military and strongman tactics rarely work. Soft power will always trump military might in getting different constituents of the country to genuinely feel emotionally attached to the state.

Three, it should also be realised that in a polarised environment like ours,  where ethnicity is a potent instrument of mobilisation, certain governmental actions could be misconstrued as a slight or challenge to ethnic pride.

We saw this when the Yoruba political elite fought assiduously for the revalidation of Abiola’s mandate despite the fact that in his lifetime, Abiola was hardly the group’s darling, for among other things, not sharing in the group’s idolization of the late icon Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Essentially, therefore, some Igbos, including those who have very little regard for Mr Kanu’s agitations, saw the refusal to grant him bail as a challenge to their ethnic pride.

Four, despite the polarisations in this country, several Nigerians are also united by a sense of justice. 

For instance, when Buhari was being accused of lop-sidedness in political appointments in favour of the North in the early days of his government, some of his most virulent critics are from the North. During the time of the struggle for the revalidation of Abiola’s mandate, several Nigerians from across the country, joined NADECO, the leading group in the agitation. In the case of Nnamdi Kanu,  Ayo Fayose, Fani-Kayode and several non-Igbos showed him uncommon solidarity. The question is how can the government tap into Nigerians’ apparent love of justice and fairness and use it to unify the country?

Five, some people over-react once the word ‘Biafra’ is mentioned.

What is often forgotten is that the word ‘Biafra’ has several narratives, not just the simplistic narrative of people of former Eastern Nigeria, (dominated by the Igbos), who wanted to secede from Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. Also, it is not uncommon for people defeated in wars to continue to nurse memories of that war. For instance, in the USA, the display of flags used by and associated with the Confederate States of America (1861-1865), which lost the American Civil War, has continued to the present day. Such displays are often rationalised on different grounds – as part of Southern culture, States’ Right and historical commemoration among others. Biafra means different things to different Igbos. It is simply unrealistic to believe that a group should expunge from their collective memories a big part of their experience or their parents’ experience.

Six, in newly democratising societies, it is not uncommon that the structures of conflicts will be aggravated in the short to medium term.

There are bottled feelings across the country throughout the period of military dictatorship which are now finding avenues for expression. Biafra agitation is one of several expressions across the country of such bottled up feelings.  The good thing is that such expressions across the country also offer us an opportunity to creatively solve the underlying issues at the heart of such expressions so that the country will move to the next level and find its voice in the comity of nations.

Segun Adeniyi: President Buhari’s Health Challenge

I remember that Segun, as SA media to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, passed through a path which I also passed through recently and I learnt a lot from those who worked with him, and who are still working with me in the same office.

When President Yar’Adua had that medical challenge, I was the editor of Daily Sun newspaper at the time. I remember that nobody could reach Segun. He just went underground. His secretary then, who is my secretary now, pointed my attention to the sofa in my office. She said Segun would put off his phones and sleep on that sofa. So I learnt a lesson from that. I met the publisher of THISDAY newspaper a few days after President Buhari went on vacation which eventually became a medical vacation. He told me that ‘it will be a mistake to go underground, it will be a mistake to be unreachable, it will be a mistake to be incommunicado’. I said ‘but that was what Segun did’. He replied, ‘No, don’t do it’.


 When Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, explained why he has not followed my footsteps at the public presentation of my book, ‘Against The Run of Play’, last Friday in Lagos, I had a feeling that he might be speaking too soon. Going by feelers from Aso Rock, the real drama of the health challenge of President Buhari may have just started. And I feel very sorry for Mr Adesina because there is no manual for managing the media for a sick president; especially under the political climate in which we operate with all the mix of religion and ethnicity.

Tomorrow marks exactly seven years that President Yar’Adua died and, as it has been a tradition since May 2011, I usually coordinate a memorial advert for those of us who were his principal officers in remembrance of him. It is also a period when we reflect on what might have been. Against the background that President Buhari, for the third week in a row, skipped the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, the rumour mill is already on overdrive while parallels are already being drawn to the Yar’Adua saga.

On Monday, Chief Bisi Akande, former Osun State Governor and founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), issued a loaded statement. “The health of the leader is intricately intertwined with the health of the nation. It is more so in a delicately fragile Union of Nations called Nigeria” wrote Akande who claimed to have wept when he couldn’t see President Buhari at the wedding of his grandson in Kaduna last Saturday.

 Although Chief Akande attributed the health challenge to “corruption fighting back”, whatever that may mean, the point is that President Buhari’s capacity to govern has been severely diminished and the agitation for him to either take another medical vacation or resign would be more strident in the coming days and weeks, especially if he does not resume work. That then explains why the idea of a second term that some people within the administration are now canvassing, is not only silly, it is very provocative. But it is also understandable.

 In a piece I did when President Buhari went on his elastic vacation in February, I borrowed from the embedded lessons in the book, “When Illness Strikes The Leaders: Dilemma of The Captive King” to examine the implications of what is happening in Nigeria right now. According to Jerrold Post and Robert Robins, “the ailing or aging leader and his close advisers can become locked in a fatal embrace, each dependent upon the other for survival: a captive king and his captive court. In the absence of clear rules for determining when a leader is disabled and should be replaced and how a successor will be chosen, illness in high office can be highly destabilizing”.

 I consider it very sad that Nigeria would be going through another traumatic season like this on account of the health of the president. But we have to take Mrs Aisha Buhari’s word that her husband is not in any immediate danger. While we will come back to this issue another day, it is comforting that the handlers of President Buhari have managed the situation very well thus far. I hope it stays that way.

 Of Hackers and Pirates

My web portal, olusegunadeniyi.com is loaded today. From the transcript of what President Buhari’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina said at my book presentation to that of his immediate predecessor, Dr Reuben Abati, there are revealing insights for readers. I thank both of them for attending the book presentation. On the web portal, there is also the speech by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who, as chair of the occasion, arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled time of 10am to meet Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Mr Remi Makanjuola and several other members of their generation who were more disciplined and had to be kept waiting for almost an hour before we started the event. On the website also is the book review by Dr Okey Ikechukwu. It also contains the addresses of the bookshops/places where the books can be purchased.

 Meanwhile, I have been overwhelmed by the kind words and messages of solidarity, following the hacking and free distribution of my book, ‘Against The Run of Play’. While I thank all the people who have taken it upon themselves to fight the infringement on my intellectual property in the social media, and I have seen several efforts, I want to make two things clear. One, this battle is not about me. Two, given where I am coming from, I am not so much bothered by what happened. Perhaps, I should explain that.

 I wrote my first book, ‘Before The Verdict’, in 1991 as a fresh reporter with The Guardian on Sunday. I collected the CVs of the 23 presidential aspirants in both the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) which I then used to write their profiles. In my naivety, I imagined that members of the two political parties would find it useful before making their choices. I expended all my savings on it yet at the end, only one person paid for a copy: Mrs IretiKingibe. I am not sure any other person read the book.

 Following the disqualification of the 23 presidential aspirants, I updated the book with the reports of the primaries that led to their disqualification and titled it ‘Fortress on Quicksand’. I printed about a thousand copies which I hawked around. The only person I can remember who gave me any money after collecting two copies of the book is Dr Ibrahim Datti Ahmed, one of the disqualified SDP presidential aspirants at the time. A year later, I wrote “POLITRICKS: National Assembly under Military Dictatorship”.

 Despite the fact that the book captured the entire debate on the June 12, 1993 presidential election as well as all the drama preceding it, I got no feedbackthat any of the people who took the copies, free of charge, read it. Yet, that did not deter me from writing, in August 1997, “Abiola’s Travails” to mark his 60th birthday at a time the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election was in detention. For that effort, only the then Chairman of PUNCH newspaper, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola gave me any financial support. That in itself is very instructive since I was at the time a staff of Abiola’s Concord newspapers.

 In all those efforts, what motivated me was to tell the background stories of the political developments at the time even when it was not financially rewarding. But by the time I got married in December 1998, I had to come to terms with the fact that I no longer had any money to waste on books that I was not sure people were reading.

 However, early in 2005, then as the editor of Sunday THISDAY, I wrote a column about those goading President Olusegun Obasanjo to seek a third term in office. Many of them were involved in the late General Sani Abacha’s controversial transition programme that was designed to end with his adoption and I named names. The responses I got to the piece suggested that majority of Nigerians had forgotten. That was the inspiration for another book: The Last 100 Days of Abacha.

 Before I wrote a single line, I sent a mail to Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka that I was writing a book on Abacha and I would want him to present it for me. Days turned to weeks and I didn’t hear from him. Then, one day, I got a mail from him saying he would be in the country within two weeksand that he would like to see the manuscript. I had not even written a single line!

 I went to Vanguard, PUNCH and Daily Times where I spent days using their libraries after which I wrote the draft. On completion, I sent the draft to Reuben Abati to help me look at. He called to say that he enjoyed it and that he would write a comment which I could use any way I liked. Without solicitation, that was how Reuben wrote what I turned to the Foreword while Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd) wrote the Postscript. The book sold out within weeks despite the price tags of N8,000 for paperback and N15,000 for the hardback editions. It was the first financially rewarding book I wrote.

 The next book of course was “Power, Politics and Death”. Even though it was hacked from Day One, I still made some good money from it. In 2012 and 2013, I worked on The Verbatim Report (The Inside Story of the Fuel Subsidy Scam). It took me more than one year to complete but at the end, I put the book on my website for free download. It is one of the most extensive works on our oil and gas industry. It is about 800 pages. Interested readers can still download it free on my web portal just like the Abacha book.

 I have gone to this length to let readers know that my motivation for writing has always been to tell compelling stories that would be read while monetary consideration is secondary. However, as I stated in the statement I released on Sunday, I am more worried for people in creative arts and sciences, especially those in Nollywood, who are practically at the mercy of hackers and pirates. When creative people in both the arts and sciences cannot be guaranteed the legitimate benefits of their sweat and investments, they lose the incentive to take the risk to create and innovate. And when that happens, the whole society loses.

 I thank all the individuals and groups who have taken it upon themselves to fight not only for me but against intellectual theft.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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OPINION: Why were the Russian anti-missile systems silent during the US strikes in Syria?

Despite manifestations of mutual sympathy, the fallout between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump over the US missile attack in Syria (or any other issue that could have come up), was easily predictable even back in November 2016.

OPINION: Why were the Russian anti-missile systems silent during the US strikes in Syria?
Even though Trump and Putin are engaged in a theatrical standoff, both sides know exactly where the redlines are, writes Ragozin. Photo: AP

A well-choreographed confrontation serves both men better than friendship, because it helps them shift the attention of domestic audiences from their own misgivings and alleged corruption.

That confrontation works as an endless soap opera which rattles the viewers’ nerves by promising an ultimate showdown that never materialises because it would kill the show. Just look at the latest episode in the Russian version of the series.

Gopnik-style statements 

The video of the new Russian envoy to the UN scoffing at his British colleague during a discussion on Syria at the Security Council didn’t make too many headlines in the West, but it went viral in the Russian-language sector of the Internet. Vladimir Safronkov’s remarks were largely lost on the Western audience, because he uttered them in Russian, reading from a piece of paper.

“Look at me, don’t you turn your eyes away,” Safronkov said, using disrespectfully informal “ty” instead of more appropriate “vy” while addressing the British diplomat, Matthew Rycroft. Both forms are translated into English as “you”.

To a Russian speaker, Safronkov sounded unmistakably like a gopnik – a word reserved for semi-criminal lumpen-proletarian, a thug, you may say. In the past 30 years, gopnik jargon, dress style and musical tastes have permeated Russian society – from taxi drivers to top officials. When Putin said, he would “flush terrorists down the toilet” referring to Chechen militants, he sounded like a gopnik, too.

Like other scandalous gopnik-style statements the Russian foreign ministry has developed a taste for in recent years, the whole show at the UN targeted solely the domestic audience. The goal is to make the average Joe identify himself with one of their country’s top diplomats and take pride in him reprimanding foreign foes in the vernacular language he uses to converse with friends and colleagues.

Everything Putin’s government does on the foreign policy front is dictated by the need of a highly corrupt political regime to consolidate majority support and marginalise the opposition, which threatens to go after multibillion assets allegedly accumulated by top officials and their business associates.

Marginalising the opposition

Everything Putin’s government does on the foreign policy front – from intervening in Ukraine and Syria to endorsing Donald Trump in the US election – is dictated by the need of a highly corrupt political regime to consolidate majority support and marginalise the opposition. The latter threatens to go after multibillion-ruble assets allegedly accumulated by top officials and their business associates.

The regime is obsessed with maintaining at least a superficial level of legitimacy, so all of its efforts are aimed at keeping high approval ratings and ensuring convincing results during the elections. Once the perception of legitimacy is shaken, the spectre of Ukrainian-styled revolution becomes all too real.

Putin is facing re-election for his fourth term as president in March 2018. His only viable rival, Alexei Navalny, has challenged him by launching a presidential campaign in December and staging a successful nationwide protest on March 26.

The Kremlin can easily bar Navalny from elections, using his latest conviction as a pretext. Most observers believe that this is what is going to happen anyway. But that decision will greatly reduce the perceived legitimacy of the regime, especially since Navalny was prosecuted for fraud on extremely dubious charges in the past and has already successfully challenged his first conviction in the European Court of Human Rights.

By all means, the presidential administration, now led by former liberal politician Sergey Kiriyenko, is tasked with devising a successful propaganda narrative that will produce a convincing result in March next year.

The Crimea effect

A sharp shift towards ugly and superficial social conservatism and ultra-nationalism allowed Putin to secure a strong majority in the 2012 election and allowed his approval rating to soar as high as 89 percent after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. But what pollsters call “the Crimea effect” is starting to evaporate.

A recent poll conducted by the Levada Centre showed that 38 percent supportednationwide anti-corruption protests staged by Navalny in March.

The Kremlin is surely still toying with various possibilities, but its election strategy is starting to take shape.

Firstly, it is trying to snatch away Navalny’s successful anti-corruption agenda – two regional governors have been arrested in recent weeks on graft charges. It is not inconceivable that Putin might even sacrifice his long-time ally, prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who became the target of Navalny’s latest investigation. His film about Medvedev now has almost 19 million views on YouTube.

But it is also clear that the Kremlin believes that the Crimea consolidation effect will still work its magic, for at least a part of the population, in 2018. Last week, the Russian State Duma suddenly scheduled the presidential election for March 18, the day Russia officially incorporated Crimea in 2014.

The need for a hostile America

One absolutely essential element in the Crimean consolidation narrative is hostile America. The message Russian propaganda has successfully conveyed for the past three years is that it was the US that plotted and funded the Ukrainian Maidan revolution. Following logic, it was Russia’s noble duty to intervene and protect those in Ukraine who stood against the aggressive West and its local “nationalist puppets”, who – Russian TV alleged – strove to erase the identity of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

It is simply impossible to sell the already not-so-fresh product of patriotic consolidation in a situation where your arch-enemy is suddenly your friend. So a shift to confrontation mode has been inevitable. Similarly, for Trump, it was crucial to derail criticism on account of his staff’s alleged collusion with Russia. Many of his supporters were quick to say: See, he is not a Russian stooge.

But even though they are engaged in this theatrical standoff, both sides know exactly where the redlines are. This is why Russian anti-missile systems, provided to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, were conspicuously inactive during the US strikes on al-Shayrat airfield in Syria.

And this is why Trump is extremely unlikely to go after the foreign assets, which – as Russian opposition alleges – members of the Russian regime have amassed during the 17 years of Putin’s rule. If he does, the cozy symbiosis between the two frenemies will end and the showdown will be for real.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Al Jazeera

OPINION: Our moments of angst By Sufuyan Ojeifo

Our nation is now a big theatre where farcical actions and events take place at a pulsating pace. And keeping up with the tempo of the outlandish dramas that have grotesquely assailed our sensibilities has not been easy. The totality of the bizarre storyline centers on the recoveries by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of monies believed to be part of our looted commonwealth by some former and, possibly, serving government officials.  

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The EFCC has, in dramatic fashions, been recovering huge sums of monies from unusual places, far away from the strong rooms or vaults of banking institutions, purportedly on the prompting of some whistle blowers.  So dramatic have the locations – airport, market isolated air-conditioned bungalow – and the magnitudes of the discoveries been that they have elicited equally dramatic reactions from different quarters.

The latest discovery of $43.4 million, N23.3 million and 27,800 pounds in a flat at the Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, has unarguably been the biggest of such discoveries by the EFCC. How so much money could be kept outside the banking system and in a flat whose ownership has generated controversy speaks to the extreme degeneracy that has afflicted us as a nation.

One had thought that, by now, having had the grace to recover from the shock find and to realize that we were not dreaming after all, the federal government should have quickly cleared the mystery surrounding the ownership of the money through the instrumentality and superintendence of the superior intelligence of its security and investigative agencies.

Indeed, it was enough that the sheer magnitude of the discovery almost benumbed our sense of sanity and questioned our humanism; but to now attempt to throw mindless shenanigans into the mix in order to shield the real owner(s) of the monies in question is to portray Nigerians as fools. Even if we do not know how our commonwealth is being managed, at least, we should be fully briefed about this glaring and unconscionable diversion of huge public fund hidden in the Osborne Towers flat.

The undisguised attempts by the federal government and its agencies, particularly the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to befuddle the Nigerian people over the ownership of the money should be condemned and rejected by well-meaning Nigerians and the international community.  NIA has claimed ownership of the money.   But Nigerians have justifiably doubted the agency’s claim.

It is just not enough to put up such claim.  There must be incontrovertible evidence to prove it; otherwise, the NIA would be deemed to be playing a fast one, in the circumstance, for reasons best known to it.  Some people have even insinuated that the NIA might have resorted to this fatal gambit in order to shield the real owner(s) of the monies.

And Nigerians are reasonably anguished.  They are aware that, more than ever, they are being taken for granted by a government which is a custodian of their sacred mandate. Governance is no longer about the people, but about the few privileged elite who have taken advantage of public office to plunder our commonwealth.  The owner(s) of the monies is (are) believed to enjoy the sympathy and, possibly, the protection of government.

The NIA claim of ownership is finding it difficult to fly.  Or, is the NIA trying to appropriate the monies in the hope that nobody would be courageous enough to come forward to claim ownership? Or, is it acting to protect the real owner(s) for some pecuniary interests? Sincerely, I am not taken in by the NIA claim.  The agency has a well-fortified office in Abuja to warehouse its funds for covert operations.

It thus beggars belief that the agency would choose to use an unguarded flat as a safe house for such a humongous amount.  Nigerians have asked good questions since the bizarre discovery was made: who is or are the owner(s) of the flat?  That can be ascertained.  If the owner(s) of the flat leased it out, then to whom did the owner(s) lease it?  That also can be verified.  The relevant investigative agencies can follow the trail.  In between the leaser(s) and the lessee(s), the mystery over ownership can be unraveled.

Dramatically, the governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, has come out to say that the money belongs to Rivers state.  The plank on which he has grounded his claim is understandable.  Amid the controversy over the ownership of the flat where the monies were found, a series of speculative claims have been made, which linked some individuals with the flat.  Former governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi, who is the incumbent minister of transportation, was one of those who have suffered the misfortune of being mentioned.  He has denied ownership of the flat.

The latest media reports, as of press time, were tending in the direction of the existence of some documents -deed of assignment, et al – that point in the direction of NIA ownership.  Still speculative as the reports might be, I just hope it is not an attempt to perfect the agency’s gambit to appropriate the monies, the existence of which it did not deem fit, before the discovery, to brief either President Muhammadu Buhari or the National Security Adviser (NSA) about.  Why was it after the EFCC discovery that the NIA DG was moving round to brief those he should have briefed before the bust?

Indeed, the entire development has been deliberately made convoluted; and, an otherwise simple matter of pointing a finger of guilt to the culprit of the flat 7b Osborne Towers humongous cashgate, has been made much more complicated by the insincerity of government and some of its agencies. This is very depressing.  President Buhari should feel very embarrassed that this is happening under his watch.   Instead of seizing the big stage to flog the issue expeditiously, his government is dancing round the issue, perhaps, to protect some person(s).

If the government is thus indicted, then its chicanery will not only blow up in its face, it will also make nonsense of its much-trumpeted anti-corruption crusade.  Nigerians who voted for the administration on the platform of its potential capacity to fight corruption to the finish can as well begin to sing the administration’s Nunc Dimittis.  Sadly, Nigeria’s international image will suffer a further collateral damage on account of this shocking infamy.

However, I must commend the EFCC – whether it is seeking to impress the president or Nigerians – for the bust and its decision to go to a Federal High Court in Lagos to secure an order for temporary forfeiture of the monies to the federal government.  This is salutary in that the court had given enough time for the owner(s) of the money to file an affidavit or a counter affidavit as the case maybe to prove claim of ownership.

The federal government must suspend any other action(s) that may be prejudicial to the court action.  Whoever is claiming ownership of the monies should go to court to join issues with the EFCC on May 5; otherwise, the court should proceed to give an order for permanent forfeiture of the monies to the federal government.

And, once that is done, it should settle the matter conclusively.  Our angst as a nation would be assuaged if the monies are judiciously and transparently used for programmes, projects and polices that will promote the welfare of the citizenry; otherwise, it will turn out a much monumental tragedy if the monies are re-diverted into the pockets of some smarter public officials, who will, eventually, scornfully laugh at us.  That is the real concern.


Sufuyan Ojeifo is an Abuja-based journalist and publisher. You can contact him at viaojwonderngr@yahoo.com.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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OPINION: No Madam, please let’s not go there - Alex Otti

OPINION: No Madam, please let’s not go there – Alex Otti

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.” ― Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813)

OPINION: No Madam, please let’s not go there - Alex Otti
Alex Otti

The concept of democracy is hinged on two fundamental principles. These are first, separation of powers and second checks and balances. Separation of powers requires that each organ of government is independent of the rest, to avoid abuse of power. The doctrine of checks and balances, on the other hand, makes it possible for each arm of government to limit the powers of others to ensure against excessive power appropriation. A classic example is that while the executive branch of government can veto bills from the legislature, the legislature can also override the veto, subject to laid down rules. Over time, as democracy continued to take root, countries started granting some form of independence to other important agencies of government. These include the military, the press and the Central Bank also known as the reserve bank in some climes. Despite the independence of these agencies, there is still some influence exerted on them by the government. Narrowing down to the Central Bank, it is reasoned that the autonomy of the institution is critical to insulate the lender of last resort from interference from politicians whose interests are normally short-term in nature. While politicians may want to pursue populist agenda to win votes, an independent Central Bank should be more interested in pursuing policies that may not be popular but would lead to long- term stability of the economy. Thus, a political party may want to pursue a fiscal deficit policy to put more money in the system and make people happy, but a professionally-run Central Bank with eyes on the inflationary implications of fiscal deficit, would roll out a contractionary monetary policy to contain inflation and stabilize the economy.

The major mandates of the Central Bank include:

Managing the nation’s currency

Managing money supplies

Managing interest rates

Setting cash reserve requirements

Acting as lender of last resort.

Supervision of the banking system

Ensuring financial systems stability.

Recently, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was quoted to have asked a legislative team that paid her a visit, to consider cutting down the “monstrous” powers of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. According to the report, she had said that it was the erstwhile Governor of Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo that had gone to the National Assembly in 2007 to seek and obtain legislative approval that resulted in the overbearing powers of the Governor of Central Bank.

While one sympathizes with the Honourable Minister, it is instructive to avoid the kind of situation highlighted above by Professor Alex Tytler who paints a very worrisome picture. Though some commentators have described it as being “hyperbolic” the import of his assertion cannot be lost on any student of history. The fiscal deficit has been the bane of most governments and when it is not controlled, the tendency for the economy to be plunged into a crisis is almost axiomatic. Beyond the certainty of inflation, is the burden of debt service on the economy. A cursory look at our economy shows that beyond the 18% inflation rate in the last few quarters, a whopping 35% of our revenue budget goes into debt service. This is a huge number as it leaves the country with just 65% of the budget to work with. If you consider that a large part of the remaining 65% goes into salaries, then you will agree that what is left for infrastructure is infinitesimal and this is in spite of huge infrastructure deficit facing the nation. Now, if we go ahead with the proposed $30billion loan, (I hope we don’t, anyway), we don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that virtually all our revenue would go into debt servicing.

I am aware that sometime in September last year, the Honourable Minister had advised the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN to consider reducing interest rates by lowering the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from the present 14% to encourage investment and reflate the economy. Recall that in the MPC meeting of July 2016, the committee had raised MPR from 12% to 14%, a decision many analysts disagreed with, given that the economy had just been pronounced as being technically in recession. However, members of the MPC in a unanimous vote on Tuesday September 20 retained MPR at 14%. The minister was not alone in the disappointment of the MPC’s decision as yours truly, shares the minister’s view that in a period of recession, interest rates should be lowered to encourage consumption. The MPC had its own arguments which included that given the level of inflation at almost 18%, lower rates would lead to negative real interest rates and is capable of discouraging savings and investments, both local and foreign. MPC also contended that lowering interest rates would encourage speculators to borrow and launch further attacks on foreign exchange which was rising very rapidly against the Naira. I have checked the literature and I am unable to lay my hands on other areas of sharp divergence between the CBN and the ministry, even though I concede that there may be other issues that may not be in the public domain. It is, however, curious that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance is a member of the MPC. At least one should have expected one descent at that meeting in question, but the vote was unanimous. My understanding is that this is a useful platform to attain monetary and fiscal policy harmony.

It is important to note that this is not the first time an attempt is being made to whittle down the powers of the CBN Governor. Under Soludo, in 2007, against the understanding of the independence of the CBN, the Presidency, directly intervened by stopping the redenomination of the Naira, full current account liberalization and currency convertibility policies that the then Governor was set to implement. President Yaradua was said not to have been properly briefed and therefore not convinced. The CBN had briefed the Presidency just a day before the public announcement as it believed it did not require the President’s approval as per the CBN Act 2007. Of course, that was the end of those policies.

Under Sanusi, legislators championed the CBN amendment Act 2012 that sought to bring the annual budget of the CBN under the approval authority of the Senate. This generated a lot of opposition from the polity leading to strong representations at the public hearing. If I remember correctly, the amendment was stillborn. National Assembly proponents of the amendment were irked by a statement made by Sanusi to the effect that the National Assembly was responsible for 25% of the recurrent expenditure of the Federal government. Senators descended heavily on him summoning him to come and not only withdraw the statement but apologize. Sanusi stood his grounds and refused to apologize. The battle line was drawn and in what looked like a vendetta mission, the Senators went after the CBN act to cut Sanusi’s powers. He was also accused of bailing out 9 banks in 2009 with some N620b ($4.2b) without appropriation by the National Assembly. CBN explained that the funds didn’t need to be appropriated as they were loans to the banks in the discharge of its role as lender of last resort. The CBN was further accused of issuing some N5.6trillion ($36.6b) government backed zero coupon bonds to purchase toxic assets and recapitalize some ailing banks between 2010 and 2011. All these are now history, Sanusi has since moved on to become the Emir of Kano but the institution remains. This points to the truism in the local proverb of “soldier come, soldier go, but barrack remains”. It also speaks to the fact that rules should neither be made nor changed because of disagreements with incumbent occupants of an office as those occupants will leave sooner or later.

A cursory look at the CBN Act 2007 shows that the activities of the CBN are supposed to be regulated and directed by a board of directors like every other institution. The board is made up of the Governor who is also the Chairman, 4 Deputy Governors, Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Finance, 5 Directors appointed by the President, and the Accountant General of the Federation. In practice, external board members are in the majority making it difficult for the internal members to have their way without the consent of the external members, most of them appointed by the President. I believe that this is a great governance standard adopted by the act. Unfortunately, since the advent of the present administration, the board of CBN has not been constituted and therefore, the control envisaged by the Act has been put in abeyance.

While all the aforementioned roles are important, monetary policy seems to be one of the most important. Simply put, monetary policy refers to the process by which the central bank controls the supply of money in a bid to contain inflation rate or interest rate to ensure price stability and confidence in the local currency. On the other hand, fiscal policy deals with taxation, government spending, and government borrowing. Fiscal policy is usually under the control of the Ministry of Finance. Under normal circumstances, there is a need for complementarity between the two policies. In practice, however, both of them work at cross-purposes with each other, particularly, when the two institutions have different targets. Best practices require that the roles are entrusted in different hands without one reporting to the other. It must be noted though, that both the Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor report to the President and both serve at his pleasure, even though for a CBN governor to be relieved of his position before the expiration of his tenure, the President would need to secure the nod of the National Assembly with two-thirds majority vote. We are, however, aware that President Jonathan found a way around the National Assembly vote when he decided to remove Sanusi in 2014.

It is only in Zimbabwe out of all the countries I researched that the Central Bank is not independent. Given the experiences of that country, I am not sure there is anything to learn from it. Foreign investors and the international community look out for how independent the Central Bank is as a condition for making a decision to invest in that country or not. So, independence gives the investing community a lot of confidence. The truth is that foreign investors and international multilateral agencies feel that our CBN as currently constituted is not independent enough as they have been clamoring for a full- fledged deregulation of the Naira which the CBN has refused to implement. They don’t believe it is the CBN acting without some influence from the executive.

An independent Central Bank is usually very prompt in taking decisions which can save the economy huge losses rather than waiting for approvals from either a minister or parliament. Because an independent Central Bank is supposed to have a long-term view of the economy as against the short-term interest of the politician, there is bound to be disagreements and tension between the Minister and the Governor. That tension is productive as the economy stands to benefit from it.

I will, therefore, make some recommendations for the minister which I believe would help her get round the frustration. One, both the minister and the governor should be members of the economic team which I’m told is now in place. The direction the economy should go should be thoroughly discussed and agreed at that committee. This would ensure more congruence, once everyone is convinced on the right way to go.

Thankfully, the President has nominated 5 members of the CBN board a few days ago, awaiting Senate confirmation. Even though this is coming almost 2 years late, the minister will benefit from a functional board with appointees of the President in the majority. The minister’s position and opinion would hopefully be well represented at the CBN board.

Finally, the minister will do well to engage productively, with not only the CBN but other arms of government. Engagement is very useful given that it helps to sell superior positions and opinions and bring otherwise opposing sides to the desired side, subject to the superiority of argument and debate. Within the fiscal policy framework are major changes that will help stabilize the economy. The minister must insist on zero-rising ways and means, aggressively work to rebalance recurrent expenditure with capital expenditure, reign in the debt service baggage, and move towards increasing tax to GDP ratio from our current lowly 6% to at least the sub-Saharan African  average of about 13% , just to mention but a few. If we can wrap our heads around these issues, then monetary policy will just become a sweetener.

The walk to CBN independence is a very long one that started in 1958. The progress that has been made so far is very commendable. Any attempt to reverse it is like setting us on a reverse journey to the Stone Age. It is not a trip that anyone should contemplate.


Email: alexottiofr@gmail.com


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

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The Trend: whats is the real origin of LOL?

The Trend: whats is the real meaning of LOL and what makes it devilish?

I have seen many people using social media to spread all sorts of lies, but it’s left for us to look into what we believe in and how we use it, hence we analyze this issue of people recently tagging everything “Devilish”.

The Trend: whats is the real origin of LOL?
The fake “Google search result” they want us to believe in

My concern now is how they’ve been using some reputable media companies like ‘CNN’, ‘Google’ etc to make their deceiving ground of argument, but I think it’s time we all pay attention to information we share on social media.

There is nothing more “devilish” than sharing “fake information” without analyzing or checking the source and making sure it’s a fact. The most recent one is the information that “LOL”, which is one of the most widely, used slang on social media means “Lucifer Our Lord” and not “Laugh Out Loud”.

Recently, I’ve seen those ‘Copying and pasting’ this baseless information using verifiable sources like Google to try authenticate their refutable Stories.

As a Digital Media Strategist and someone very conversant with Google and cognizant of any of its policies, there have been no time such ‘search result’ have ever been made available on Google. Let me try to analyze that picture which I’d later post on this group

Graphical error: Firstly, the area the user put the “real meaning lol”, on real Google page, is the same colour and contrast level with the area of the search results, which all together is pure white. But the one the user showed us to believe is creamy and not same as the search result background.

Grammatical error: the user also made another mistake in his deceiving post. He wrote “real meaning lol” instead of “real meaning of lol“, and in real Google page as of the year he claimed that search was made (Nov 26, 2012), Google would have shown something like “do you mean “Real meaning of lol” or “result for “real meaning of lol” instead of “real meaning lol”. The user also forgot to correct those things.

LOL 1
What the real “Google search result” really looks like on mobile phone

Sentence arrangements: In the supposed search result, the user used “double quotation marks” instead of one, and also he started the sentence with “BEWARE: stop using…” which Google would never use because what Google show you as results are what they crawled from websites and they will never push you to feel that it’s their in-house policies or believes.

Another thing I noted was that on Mobile Google, when you make that type of search, you will only see 4 tabs, which are ‘All’, ‘Images’, ‘Videos’ and ‘News’, but in the image the user sent, they used more tabs which makes it complicated to believe and evidently shows that they doctored the result to deceive people.

Before passing information to people, try to find out the origin of it and if it’s something you can defend. Because the people “Quoted Google” does not mean it’s verifiable and not rebutable.

Moreover, what you believe in is what believes in you, don’t be like them, be yourself and do what you think/know is right and practical as a true Christian, because like I said, “There is nothing more evil than passing fake information to people”, it might kill or destroy thing that can never be repaired again. Thanks for reading

Christianity is not stupidity. Let’s not allow people deceive us by inflicting evil thoughts and believes into our heart and into our head.


Mike Ikenwa is a Digital Media strategist, creative graphic designer and a public affairs writer. He tweets @MikeGNR and you can email him on ikenwamike@yahoo.com


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at info@bloomgist.com.

We’re ready to trade your news for our money: submit news and photo reports from your area using our Report app. We are also available on WhatsApp +2349086050708

Churchill Okonkwo, a public affairs writer

OPINION: Hate + Fear + Fulani Herdsmen = Bloodbath – Churchill Okonkwo writes

One of the lasting outcomes of the polarizing 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria is the heightened level of ethnoreligious tension and division. This toxic brew of religious and ethnic friction is being compounded by a carefully orchestrated message of fear from some social commentators, religious and political leaders. Fear-stained hatred has been polished and presented to the impoverished peasant Nigerians scattered in our rural areas as well as the depressed citizens on the streets of cities struggling under the tough economy.

Churchill Okonkwo, a public affairs writer
Churchill Okonkwo is a public affairs writer

And talk about trouble coming in threes; add “killer” Fulani herdsmen to this boiling pot of animosity and you will get a perfect recipe for catastrophe – surging of fear and hatred. And when hate surges, life is no longer precious. As more and more country dwellers and city people of sever economic exclusion are injected with an overdose of fear and hatred on how other religions and ethnicities are coming for them, they succumb.

Do you know what happens when a society succumb to the “fear of the other”? It explodes.

From the massacre of dozens as they slept in Zaki-Biam; the killings in Kwande; the slaughter of hundreds in Southern Kaduna.; and the heinous crimes in Ile-Ife over simple dispute; hate crimes in Nigeria is increasingly becoming dreadful and a daily constant.

The atmosphere of hatred in Nigeria that is emboldening human beings to utterly annihilate one another in the name of ethnic and religious difference is troubling.  These crimes are not isolated incidents. The slaughter of hundreds in countless episodes of ethnic conflicts has qualified Nigeria as a country where life is no longer precious.

The progression of these senseless killings may be slow but the danger is that there are thousands of Nigerians led by the delusional brother Femi Fani-Kayode who have vowed a daily fight for the destruction of the Nigerian State. The improbable goal of these fanatics is to achieve ethnic and religious purity.

Unfortunately, these propagandists have only succeeded in making Nigerians terrified of themselves.  Now, the same “Nyamiri” that have lived in your community for years, speaking Hausa fluently is now an enemy whose head must be chopped off because he worships a “different” God. Suddenly the same “Aboki” man that you have been buying suya from for years is now a prime suspect, one that must be scorned, feared and hated. Now, we are in a terrible position where we no longer believe in reconciliation after disputes.

I will paraphrase former US President Barack Obama here: there is no benefit in pretending that ethno-religious hatred doesn’t exist in Nigeria. There is no benefit avoiding a discussion about it. The fact that this hatred keeps surfacing in our communities means we can solve them.

As a society, civilized or not, we are faced with two options; do something or let the promotion of hatred in some mainstream media like Vanguard Newspaper and fake news on social media go unchallenged.

Even if we no longer care about ourselves, we owe it to our progeny, to look deep for solutions to the problem. So, what steps should we be taking as Nigerians to significantly reduce, if not eliminate the surging of hate and subsequent senseless killings?

We should be promoting a change in perception, particularly for the young generation. We need the Nigerian youths to improve their appreciation of people who are different from them, come from different places, have different backgrounds and worship different gods. To achieve this, however, the government at all levels should consciously stop stroking suspicion. Sectionalism should not be perceived as a federal policy in any form of guise or disguise.

To this end, we should challenge President Buhari to demonstrate to all the Nigerians that the “killer” Fulani Herdsmen cannot be allowed to freely roam about as weapons of mass destruction. Just like Boko Haram was branded a terrorist group that does not represent the majority of Muslims in Nigeria, the “killer” herdsmen should be isolated from the everyday herdsmen and treated as terrorists.

President Buhari should, therefore, demonstrate the same resolve and success in fighting Boko Haram with these “killer” herdsmen. There is no doubt that he can succeed if he sees this as a matter of urgent national importance. At the same time, the bulk of the responsibility of reorienting the mindset of these herdsmen away from horrendous violent acts rests with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).

We understand the existence of the problem of cattle rustling, but that cannot be addressed by the wanton destruction of human lives. Similarly, ACF and MACBAN should re-structure the mindset of the extremists in their communities away from the provocative and ferocious acts of beheading and subsequent display of victim’s head. The resort to violence at the slightest disagreement must be condemned. ACF and MACBAN should reach out to members of their communities that are susceptible to hate crime and prejudice and inculcate lessons of tolerance.

We should challenge our religious leaders to start promoting inclusiveness and diversity rather than hatred and division. It represents our strength. We should challenge the political class to fight the spread of hatred by ensuring equity. It is one way of crippling the campaign of fear led by brother Fani-Kayode through Vanguard Newspapers. Most importantly, government officials at all levels, in collaboration with communities and the herdsmen should agree on concrete steps that will take the cattle off our streets and farmlands.

Let’s be clear: promotion of hatred and demonizing other ethnicities does not strengthen our ethnic nationalism. Rather, it weakens us and exposes us to hatred with some palpable effects; it tears communities apart; it results in prejudice against groups and individuals because of their ethnicity and religion; it removes the option of peaceful, non-violent negotiations towards equitable resolution of conflict; it prevents actions that promotes interfaith cooperation and mutual respect in our religiously diverse country.

The final outcome is that everybody is afraid of everybody and everybody less safe – including you.


You can email Churchill at churchill.okonkwo@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi.


Chido Onumah is the author of  We Are All Biafrans. You can contact him at conumah@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @conumah.


This article expresses the authors’ opinion only. The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of The Bloomgist. 

Your own opinion articles, feedback, suggestions, complaints or compliments are welcome at info@bloomgist.com.

We’re ready to trade your news for our money: submit news and photo reports from your area using our Report app. We are also available on WhatsApp +2349086050708

Why Africa seem to be less happy than every other continent of the world

As part of the celebration of the International Day of Happiness on March 20, the United Nations released the 2017 World Happiness Report and Africa is less happy than last year.

INDIA-AFRICA-CULTURE-MIGRATION-PHOTOGRAPHY-FILES

Africa is also the least happiest continent in the world with: lowest GDP per capita, health life expectancy, generosity, dystopia, social support, freedom to make life choices, perceptions of corruption and confidence interval.

These are the variables used to measure global happiness level since the survey was launched in 2012 using data from the *Gallup World Poll.

47 of the 166 countries in the *Gallup World Poll are African countries and 44 made it on the happiness ranking measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 indicating greatest happiness.

In all, 155 countries with available data were surveyed including 44 African countries.


Highlight of ranking

Algeria led as Africa’s happiest country but lagged at 53rd in the world where Norway is ranked the happiest followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden.

The story was different last year when Algeria led as Africa’s happiest and 38th in the world with Denmark being the happiest globally.

Mauritius is the second happiest country in Africa and 64th in the world, followed by troubled Libya (68), Morocco (84), drought-stricken Somalia (93), Nigeria (95), South Africa (101), Tunisia (102), Egypt (104) and Sierra Leone (106) respectively.

Africa dominated the bottom of the ranking with Benin (143) on top of the bottom ten followed by Madagascar (144), South Sudan (147), Liberia (148), Guinea (149), Togo (150), Rwanda (151), Tanzania (153), Burundi (154) and the least happiest country in the world — Central African Republic (155).

The Central African Republic returned to the surveyed group this year and took Burundi’s position at the bottom.


Reasons for poor performance

“Africa’s lower levels of happiness compared to other countries in the world might be attributed to the disappointment with different aspects of development under democracy,” the report said, adding that “although most citizens still believe that democracy is the best political system, they are critical of good governance in their countries.”

The report also attributed slow infrastructure and youth development to population pressure while acknowl