Lupita Nyang’o and Steve McQueen acknowledged the irony of their glorious joy came from the pains of victims of the past and present slaves. Not lost on Lupita, is another form of grace and beauty that has not been elevated for a while until Sudanese, Somali and Hausa graceful beauty models validated dark skin and Afro natural hair. Like the white and black dolls study, Alek Wek inspired Lupita as she did to youths struggling with identity. She saved them from bleached skin.
Africans like to give awards on slavery to rebels that resisted, fought and conquered invaders. Americans and Europeans like to give awards about slavery to victims that peacefully absorbed pains without revolting. The disparity has a basis in natural human behavior on who is a threat. But power play can only be shared by demanding rights, not just by request. Otherwise, some African children may be forced to accept submissiveness while others revolt violently.
Shaka Zulu that resisted and defeated the mighty British invaders in South Africa is in point here. La Amistad Revolt and Malcolm X were hailed by Africans but Martin Luther King and Mandela were preferred by Europeans/Americans. So teaching slavery in school with movies to make the point must be balanced. Not only from the views of victims but also from those that protested and revolted to conquer racism.
New generation and children of slaves wonder how such injustice could have taken place and wonder about a community that perpetrated such acts for so long. Unfortunately, some of the children react differently, some defiantly against authorities getting into deeper trouble with the law enforcement disproportionally. Others are warned to endure what they consider unfair and seek reasonable means to obey and then complain later.
But when Africans act as slaves in Roots or 12 Years A Slave, it has a deeper meaning because the imagery actually rears its ugly head within and across racial or ethnic lines. Some people refuse to watch such movies since it elicits anger that must be channeled to end vestiges and enslavement of others. There are various opinions and preference for peaceful means to attain freedom - until those who oppose peaceful resolution provoke uncontrollable revolts.
Pain of slavery is not a choice but a cross. There are heroes that prefer to die fighting for the next generation than to live in comfort without dignity. Some children of Israel blamed Moses for taking them out of Egypt to come and starve to death in the desert. At least they had food and water in the land of the Pharaoh, if you believe the Bible.
The story of the Romans, the Irish potato farmers in Europe that was even practiced in America, the starving wages of the Italians, Polish and Jews were lessons that ended. Just as the Africans that enslaved one another. As demand for cheap labor increased, slave traders went beyond their trading posts across the seas to exotic places.
Africans explorers inadvertently revealed their wealth across Asia and America, depressing the world gold markets well before Columbus. Wow! Marauders remembered. They later followed prince, princess and explorers back to Africa in search of their source of gold and diamond. It is history that Moroccan chivalries stung by mosquitoes perished while trying to locate gold inside African rain forest. Nkrumah rightly honored the mosquitoes for saving our treasures.
African American male youths are hit harder by the vestiges of slavery. The poverty statistics are not encouraging either. Based on this, the President of United States took it upon himself to focus on the disadvantages these young men face in their communities because of wider effect it has on their future families, such as single women that cannot find desirable men, children without fathers, loss of voting rights and good jobs when marked with criminal records.
It did not make it easier for the President when disguised political speech and freedom allow opponents to justify racial slur. Racial epithets are used as code words for slavery. A pedophile that called the President of United States “subhuman mongrel” and a Jew “subhuman punk” gained attention of the press and got elevated beyond his crude despicable reflection in the mirror. What message are they sending to the new generation?
In Africa where color of the skin should not be an issue, leaders have colo-mentality. It is up to youths to grab the bull by the horn and elevate themselves for the demand of the future since they have no excuse that they operate in a social and economic community controlled by those that want them to fail as their leaders’ cronies. So, young men and women must demand and revolt for freedom against mismanagement that enslaves them at home.
Slavery has economic incentive of free, cheap labor and social cost. The past and present slaves vary from the most despicable slave labor of children to the abuse of women. In each of the circumstance there is unequal and domineering negotiation that is taken advantage of. The rise of the Union eliminated most of these exploitations and the rise of Women Liberation gave women a choice of happily married housewife or happy working mother.
There are polarizations of these causes beyond Awards for the painful suffering of present and past slaves. Whether the disenfranchised are part of what Steve McQueen called 21 million modern slaves is beyond the scope of a short article. It suffices to claim that past and present slaves mean arduous services for free, long hours or for little money so that they cannot fully partake in the enjoyment of life and liberty.
Politics is likened to a basket of investment portfolio. As Investors focus on financial returns on their investments, so do political god-fathers expect some sorts of dividends for investing in a candidate. Culture, on the other hand is a creative character that forms the gestures and values embedded in our respective traditions. Over time, our cultural life has been refined and redefined by life experiences, education, technology, exposure and the urge for instant gratification.
Various schools of thoughts indicated that cultural transformation among people in most societies has been more aggressive, and more apparent than the dynamic events in the political arena. It is to be noted that, the philosophy and agendas of politicians, and their financiers have not changed, but politicians have evolved to be more powerful, greedier, more desperate, extremely illusive and insensitive to the plight of the people they govern.
In the ancient days, trade by barter was the first ever means of socio/economic interaction through which goods and services were exchanged. Not too long ago, the Nigeria socio/economic terrain began to change for more modern ideas. Foreign ideas crawled its way into our day to day lives; creating array of opportunities in all sectors, for all and sundry. On one part, there comes the emergence of a unique political class (military rulers and civilian politicians); as the reforms gingerly ushered in robust economy growth. The era of Kingsway, Bata and Leventis in retail sector in Nigeria cannot be forgotten.
Agricultural sector was accorded its share of prominence and attention by all the regional governments. Respectability, responsibility, accountability and discipline were integral part of our customer relation services at both private and public enterprises. There was confidence and trust in the profession of Police. Our electricity generating and distributing institution’s popularity was at all-time high. Travel visas were not needed to go to London, and the very few Nigerians in American universities enjoyed federal government scholarships. There exists the spirit of communal cohabitation, where neighbors were greeted as family members. Kids in the neighborhood come together at Christmas and Easter periods, throwing knock-outs till late in the night.
Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, I saw Nigerians opened their doors to strangers as brothers and sisters, and neighbors accorded warm greetings with open harms. Love and affection were deep in our culture, while stress and financial desperation were the list of our concerns. It was easy for individuals to approach private car owners and solicit for free rides on the federal highways without fear or distrust. Student’s curriculum included social interaction without prejudice. Vacation periods were like Christmas in schools. Student cried and hugged each other for the period they will be away from each other. For those that experienced broaden life, students of all grades accepted free travel rides right from their school gates to their respective destinations, and they were guaranteed safe trips. Most neighborhoods were safe for children and hardworking parents, as everybody watched out for the community’s interest. People with nefarious activities were treated with disdain, and often cascaded into the dungeon of disgrace.
The strained political structure of this country began its downward spiral in the first republic, when the politicians began a pile of toxic waste in form of thuggery and hooliganism in the ship wrecks, tattered over the countries delicate fragile fraternal geopolitical structure. The new breed of rogue politicians exploited the goodness and kindness of Nigerians, and ran the country like ‘moolue bus’. They consolidated their grip on the power and resources of the country, and introduced a scare tactics to force a compromise on our integrity. They ensured divisions in our calm communities, crushed our humanity and forced the progressives to take refuge outside the country. They succeeded in weakening our rich cultures, and introduced assassins and bribery as alternatives. The good citizens were clogged with stiffen conditions, left with the option to either join them or continue to wallop in poverty.
The disconnect between the political class and the populace began to show its real ugly face after the 1983 elections, where elections were openly rigged and people of no substance closed in as political appointees. The god-fathers turned their residencies to mecca, where indecency became the norm. Actions classified as abomination in our old culture were now glamourized and embraced by the handicapped progressives. Survival of the fittest became the order of the day; putting a different face to our respected culture. The hard working mentality began to give in, and everybody yearned for attention seeking politicians, in the sake of having a piece of the national cake. The institution of love and passion that have worked so well among friends and families for years are now gone.
The 33 years of military rule, excluding the short lived 2nd republic had emboldened the politicians and their god-fathers, and weakened the progressives and the populace. The second spell of democracy in Nigeria had the progressives and masses unprepared for the brutal force of the day-light-robbery and social rape the politicians are now bludgeoning on Nigerians. The people keep their faith in religion; fasting and praying, and hoping a messiah will be born.
Time has come for people to wake up and be realistic of today’s challenges. Nigeria politicians are some sets of opportunistic people, who lack grace, elegance and class. They are little people with no conscience and leadership qualities. Whether Nigerians like it or not; a day of reckoning is not far away. The oil money currently feeling the little gaps is under treat from innovations and ideas. Many European countries are working really hard on finding biofuel products in order to reduce their oil consumption. Brazil and a host of other countries have successfully build cars that can survive on sugar cane and corn products. Tesla – an electric car company in America is revolutionizing the car industry – expect Honda, Toyota and a host of other car manufacturers to follow suit.
The question calls for the reason why Nigerians continue for follow the visionless and clueless political class. It is easy for a politician to secure a front row seat in Nigerian churches, and receive special recognition than for a God-fearing visionary to find a place in the House of Representatives.
Political class and their agendas will never change. The challenge is whether the progressives have the will and courage to come out of their caves and balance the equation. Nigerians are resiliently smart, and very resourceful. They have excelled under various contingency conditions, inside and outside the country.
The people have a role to play, come together and revolutionize the landscape, focusing on constructive changes and staying away from disruptive agendas. We have the ability to drive aggressive reforms without being violent. We can be political activists and not political militants. We can agree and disagree for a just course. We have the option to speak in one progressive voice, dismantle the tall walls we have around us that have impeded progress for long, and tune down our selfish rhetoric. There are values in our traditions, and we can revert back to the rich culture we had in the 1970s. Getting to this dream land should not require the expertise of a rocket scientist; we just need to appoint and anoint visionary people, full of energy and willing to serve the country and not special interests.
‘E go better’ is not a progressive slogan. Like-minded people have had to come together in good faith to move mountains. Nigerians spent their precious time procrastinating on impossibilities, and ignore the idea of finding solutions. I have heard people chanting the missing pieces; lack of leaders, curse on Nigeria, lack of institutions, demons and so on, but no one has for once identified the Power of the People. The people should be giving and taking away mandates.
A couple of years ago, people of Lancashire, and a small city in the North West of England approached politicians and private investors for assistance on fiber broadband services. After so many failed efforts, a group of people decided to DIY (Do It Yourself), knowing that sitting around moaning and gnashing their teeth are not viable options. Every member of the community chipped in financially and through manual efforts. Today, their achievement is a model for other neighboring communities around Lancashire. Also, the people of Wallingford, a town in New Heaven County, Connecticut, with a population of fewer than 50,000 decided to put their fate in their hands when they chose to provide their citizens services like electricity and water, winning a popular fight against a political lobby group who have supported the interest of the big corporation. Now there are more than 20 cities in the state of Connecticut that have followed suit.
As long as oil money is out there, the politicians will continue to strength their base. The time has come for the emancipation of grass root politics. There is no way around it. It takes one community to set the pace, and changes will begin in earnest. The model is simple, but the commitment must be steadfast. We have to bring back the culture of love, trust and selfless agendas. We should be active in local politics through our respective demographics; landlord associations, religious associations, workers associations, community associations, student associations, online informative groups, professional associations and so on. These efforts become our major cushion to begin to influence the local politics – familiarizing ourselves with the office of the local government, establishing channels of communication with traditional rulers (where applicable), engage state representatives and local politicians, and ensure they have the awareness of association’s existence.
Great things happen, and are sustained not by accident but through a thoughtful and well planned strategy. Some leaders are made and some are born. We owe ourselves, our children and children unborn the fight for a life of equal opportunity for all. Enough of all the insinuations and doubts, and let the change begin. It takes a man and a woman to have a baby, but it takes a whole community to raise the baby.
Femi Fabiyi (USA)
Akintokunbo A Adejumo (Nigeria)
As an independent writer, one which spans almost a decade, my writings have always tilted towards political issues, especially as it affects the mass of the poor both locally and on the global stage. I was however, surprised when I was challenged by a superior to visit Oraifite community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra state, to witness and write on an epochal event, one that will forever remain evergreen not only for me personally but also many Oraifite people who came for the progarmme.
I agreed to be part of the event for two reasons. The first being that it marked the National Immunization Day which flagged off in Oraifite and second for the symbolism of the day which heralded the hand of philanthropy through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation whose effort towards the fight and eradication of polio nationally and globally has remained uniquely monumental.
Oraifite, erroneously tagged a sleepy town by some commentators, was thrown into frenzy on the 1st of March, 2014, as the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) in partnership with Rotary International flagged off the National Immunization Day. It was a decisive moment for the people of the town and Anambra state as a whole for the simple fact that the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation through its founder Sir Emeka Offor (SEO) had in the last couple of years committed itself to ensuring polio is continuously fought to a standstill through massive immunization of children. The cause has so far yielded much achievement through series of financial commitments by Sir Emeka Offor over the years.
For those who may not know, the effects of polio are still evident in many communities and exist majorly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and surprisingly in Nigeria. This is so in both Pakistan and Afghanistan if one consider years of war, lack of access to vaccines, terrorism among other challenges both countries face. In Nigeria though, the fight against polio has reached an appreciable level yet we have still not reached the level of eradication. According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Nigeria is believed to have one of the most entrenched reservoirs of wild poliovirus in the world. It is the only country with on-going transmission of all three serotypes: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. Sadly, states in the north of the country are the main source of polio infections elsewhere in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries. In 2009, however, operational improvements in these northern states led to a 90 per cent decline in cases of wild poliovirus type 1 and a 50 per cent decline in overall cases compared with 2008.
Happily, several efforts by the government in the last couple of years have witnessed a level of reduction in polio cases across the country. Quite recently, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu noted the Federal Government’s commitment in partnering with leading stakeholders to help eradicate polio by the end of 2014. This was made known after Nigeria’s impressive performance on polio eradication in 2012 and 2013 provided a clear indicator that the country would end polio transmission at the end of 2014. Despite the aggressive drive by the current government to see that polio is eradicated from our society, not much has been achieved in ensuring the process of re-immunization takes priority. It is pertinent to state that the movement of people from one place to the other facilitates the spread of polio and therefore, there is a need to re-channel the polio fight to this migration phenomenon.
The solution to this glitch is however near. Few individuals have taken up the challenge to do all it takes to keep the fight going. The likes of Bill and Melinda Gates through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave The Rotary Foundation a US$100 million challenge grant for polio eradication, and in 2009, increased it to US355 million. Rotary agreed to raise US$200 million in matching funds by 30 June 2012, but Rotarians in fact raised US$228.7 million toward the challenge. It was as a result of the kind gesture and in order to render this crippling disease extinct that another individual took up the challenge by donating US$250,000 to Rotary International to assist in its Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Sir Emeka Offor, founder of The Chrome Group, one of Nigeria’s leading indigenous multinational businesses believes it is difficult to be a productive member of society when one is sick and so has committed huge resources through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation to make the society a better place to live. Apart from his earlier donation of US$250,000, Sir Emeka Offor just over a year ago announced he was making a new US$1 million contribution to the International PolioPlus Committee.Sir Emeka Offor had explained that his contributions to a number of causes are motivated by his humble origins and as a successful businessman; he enjoys giving in order to help others avoid the circumstances he faced.
I spoke to a number of people, among which was Mrs Ijeoma Earl Okoro (Rotary District Governor Nominee 2015/2016) on why the partnership between Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and Rotary International is germane. She was of the view that SEO as a person is passionate about service and through the SEO Foundation has touched many lives and so by partnering Rotary, he has been able to increase the reach by providing a better and larger platform to actually do what he is already doing and do it best in a bigger, better and bolder way. Mrs Ijeoma Earl Okoro noted that the major challenge confronting polio eradication was advocacy, reaching people and convincing them that the vaccine is not poisonous.
“As a result of terrorism,” Mrs Ijeoma Earl Okoro said, “polio vaccinators are unable to reach the hinterland where the children are. And the way it is, until the last child is vaccinated, polio will not be free, so if there is war anywhere and polio health workers are not able to reach the last child, polio remains endemic, so our problem is in advocacy, reaching people, convincing them that polio does not kill which is what the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is doing and aggressively partnering Rotary on to achieve great results.”
In his own remark, Dr. Edwin Ndukwe, Media Head and Business Development, The Chrome Group noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February 2012 removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, making it a momentous medical achievement. This status, he said, was possible due to massive financial support, advocacy, relentless research and strong political will.
“Nigeria could join the league of polio free nations when we address low routine immunization rates and surveillance gaps in polio free areas, maintain funding and political commitment to implement the eradication strategies.”
“As a proud Nigerian and the First Polio Ambassador of Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor desires that every child should be immunized to protect against polio virus infection. He is committed to making Nigeria a polio free nation,” Dr. Edwin Ndukwe observed.
There is no denying the fact polio is still a problem for Nigeria. After nearly finishing the job of elimination in 2010, the country slipped, and in the last two years, the virus has made an unnerving comeback. The Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi who was visibly present at the polio programme didn’t mince words when he categorically noted that a lot was still needed to be done to prevent polio despite Anambra state being declared polio free. He observed that the major issue in the state was how to ensure a re-immunisation program that will capture those who travel in and out of the state daily so as not to allow the spread of the disease. Governor Peter Obi also praised SEO for his involvement in the polio exercise and urged others to emulate such rare gesture.
“The government and people of Anambra state remain very grateful to SEO for his involvement in this exercise. That an Anambra person in a state that is polio free can devote his time and money to become the polio ambassador is something that we are very appreciative of. That he is doing this in Anambra goes a long way and shows his commitment to the care of the poor,” the governor said.
Apart from the high number of widows who came to grace the occasion, the movers and shakers of Nigeria’s political space, friends of SEO, Oraifite community, captains of industry, business colleagues, Rotary members, Anambra state and many others were also on ground to participate in the polio programme. The roll call saw in attendance the Commissioner for Health, Anambra State, Dr. Lawrence Ikeakor, traditional rulers of Oriafite and those from neighbouring villages and Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Edem Duke. Others include former Defence Minister, Prince Kayode Adetokunbo, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, and Senator Chris Anyanwu.
The number of prominent individuals who graced the immunisation programme was not as paramount as the several hundreds of mothers who stormed the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation Complex with their little children to receive the free polio vaccines. There is no gainsaying that Sir Emeka Offor has taken the fight against polio to a whole new level and as the first Polio Ambassador of Nigeria and coupled with being Africa’s single largest donor to Rotary, it is clear that the polio scourge has found answers through such rare yet massive commitments.
When asked by reporters on why he took such rare interest in the fight against polio, SEO explained how dangerous polio was to the growth and development of all children and his willingness in making sure he brought joy, happiness and relief to them through massive vaccination.
“I have witnessed from my relationship with the northern part of the country where I was born and where this virus and sickness fully exist that children are not able to get vaccinated which make them disabled. When such children grow and walk on the street of most parts of the country, they become beggars as a result of polio. That is why I want to make sure this disease is eradicated so that our children will be polio free in this country and the world,” Sir Emeka Offor passionately observed.
As Sir Emeka Offor and other distinguished guests on the roll call took turn to administer the children with the vaccines, I quickly took time to ask two mothers waiting to also get vaccines for their babies how they feel about the polio programme initiated by Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and Rotary International. Both were happy for the timely intervention and assistance given by the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation. While the first mother who called herself Nnenna showed much gratitude for the kind gesture displayed by Sir Emeka Offor through his Foundation, the other mother, Ijeoma Madu called on other well-meaning Nigerians to emulate what Sir Emeka Offor has been doing for their community, especially on polio eradication in Oraifite and Anambra state.
More often than not, the fight against polio and its total eradication in Nigeria and globally can indeed get to the desired goal through the combined efforts of all stakeholders. Apart from the increased political will which has since witnessed much devotion in the last couple of years, other efforts must be put in place to see that Nigeria is declared polio-free. Aside increased commitment of health workers, inter-sectorial collaboration and integration of health services; improved funding of health care is germane if polio is to become a thing of the past in our society.
The National Immunisation Day and polio exercise flagged off in Oraifite through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation in partnership with Rotary International is one of the myriads of philanthropic commitments of Sir Emeka Offor geared towards global efforts in polio eradication. There is no doubt therefore, that Sir Emeka Offor has distinguished himself by his unparalleled positive programmes which have impacted more lives in the last couple of years. He represents a generation that has created a niche for itself and one that think out of the box, especially in the course of human progress and selfless service to mankind. It is not every day one gets to find entrepreneurs, especially in Nigeria who dedicate their life and time to the poor and needy. Sir Emeka Offor comes not only as a backbone but stands as life support for many of these people who though have a heart but are heartbroken by the vicissitudes of life. With such huge financial commitments dedicated to the social welfare of the poor, Sir Emeka Offor for many has changed the face of philanthropy. It is not enough to have and keep having without giving freely to those who urgently need a life. If children are given the right environment to grow and develop, they will automatically make the society a better place for us and their over children.
If it is Sir Emeka Offor’s dream to see that we all can bring about the final, permanent, and irreversible eradication of polio in his life time, that for me is rare courage. Such dream is one we all must nurture to fruition and from what I had seen at Oraifite, there is no doubt that we are this close to ending polio. Such dream will certainly come true!
“…World War IV began in Venezuela on February 27th 1989, with the first rebellion by an entire nation against a neoliberal package. As a result, we have discovered that a global extension of neoliberalism into the economic, social, political and cultural fields is impossible.” – Luis Britto García
Certain events in history remain epochal for many countries of the world and one of such was the Caracazo which sadly erupted on February 27, 1989 in Venezuela. It was an event that shook not only Venezuela and the Latin American continent, but of course the rest of the world. The event is significant for two reasons. First, it came to be a revolutionary turning point in Venezuelan history which did not only expose the destructive tendencies of neoliberalism whose consequence fostered the rise of the current Bolivarian regime, but also sparked up an emerging populist-leftist movements across Latin America. Second, the Caracazo inadvertently but steadily weakened the American hegemony that had taken centre stage over the region for decades, leading to the emergence of populist leaders and the sudden political awakening of the rural-urban poor. The Caracazo however goes beyond this reality.
The word Caracazo comes from the name of Caracas, the capital city where a brutal repression against demonstrators who had created a strong wave of protests and looting on February 27, 1989, took place, challenging the imposition of International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms which accompanied series of socio-economic consequences. The demonstration which began in Guarenas (a town in Miranda State near to the capital) and spread to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas led to riots and burning after it appeared the IMF induced reform had led to increase in bus fares and shortage of basic needs.
What made the Caracazo so remarkable is the fact that it captured the mood of a people desperately in need of institutional reform, especially at a time of socio-political and economic decline in Venezuela. This mood became tensed when Carlos Andres Perez, who had once ruled Venezuela amidst a massive oil boom in the 70s with commensurate people-centred program, became president once more in early February of 1989. His campaign was marked with vituperations against the IMF which he had demonized as a “bomb that only kills people.” With this, one would have thought Mr Perez’s administration would follow on the promise to institute reforms and help stem the worsening socio-economic crisis that had characterised Venezuelan life since the early 80s; things however took a dramatic turn. According to George Ciccariello-Maher, Mr Perez who had attacked international lending institutions and preached debtor-nation solidarity suddenly turned a notorious example of a “bait-and-switch” by instituting a program of free-market reforms following the recommendations of the IMF. Simply called the Economic Package, its aims were to privatize state companies, eliminate subsidies and the State’s protection over private companies, and promote decentralization among other IMF induced reforms.
Among the first measures taken was an increase in fuel prices which as a consequence, led to increase in bus fare. The situation became even more dramatic when many workers woke up to discover bus fares had skyrocketed to as high as 100 per cent. University students who had enjoyed transport subsidies also woke up to the rude shock of an increase. The high prices of cheap food, other basic items and daily needs became unbearable to the mass of the poor who relied on these basics for their survival. The news of the increase quickly spread, leading to demonstrations in the capital, Caracas and other cities in Venezuela. The demonstrations eventually turned into mass riots and led to massive looting and burning of shops, supermarkets, bodegas and stores for the most critical needs – food and clothes. The looting became more massive and organized towards the night hours such that Caracas alone descended into a state of anarchy.
Faced with a dire situation, Mr Perez quickly suspended constitutional guarantees, established a state of emergency and imposed a curfew with those violating it harshly punished. This event alone marked the beginning of a massive and brutal state repression against the population which Fernando Coronil and Julie Skurski had observed was “by far the most massive and severely repressed riot in the history of Latin America.” For three days, between the 27th of February when the riot started and 29th of the same month when it had withered, several costly damages had been done in both human and material terms. The massive over-reaction of the armed forces and brutal repression left about 300 dead even though it was believed twice that number had cruelly been killed.
The aftermath of the Caracazo led to series of chains of events in Venezuela. Mr. Perez was eventually impeached on corruption charges and placed under house arrest while two coups, one in February led by Hugo Chavez and the other in November by disgruntled military officers, though failed, almost plunged the country into further chaos. Despite the fact that all those who had participated in one way or the other in the repression and death of hundreds of poor people are still to be apprehended or prosecuted 25 years after, most especially Mr Perez who though late and key executive and military officers, the Caracazo reminds us of familiar situations where power belongs to the people and anything contrary to reality necessitates revolution and political change. The will to empower the poor had unfortunately never been the pre-occupation of the Venezuelan political elite who had ruled the country since the Punto Fijo Pact of 1958 and so the Caracazo had to forcefully erupt, even when no known group or leadership had emerged to lead the epochal event.
The Caracazo not only led to the collapse of the Punto Fijo and all its contradictions within the Venezuela political system, it played a crucial role in advancing the idea that Venezuelans needed to be removed from being hewers of wood and drawers of water in a country with vast reserves of oil wealth. There is no doubt that the Caracazo led to the emergence of the Bolivarian movement in 1998 whose impact had witnessed quite an impressive number of transformational structures in Venezuela. The massive oil spending on social welfare programs called Missions have not only removed more than half of poor Venezuelans from acute poverty but also given them a voice and role to play in a country historically driven and dominated by a greedy middle-class and big business. More than ever before, the average Venezuelan now sees the need to live in a society where wealth should necessarily be shared among the people and not for a privileged few.
As the Caracazo is remembered today and 25 years after, Venezuelans must understand that they have a duty to play in ensuring that that sad period in their history never occur again. The current Bolivarian revolution which unarguably the poorest section of the country helped to initiate must not be lost in their senses and day to day life. It must be guarded jealously and seen as the hope of the last man. Venezuelans must ensure they do not go back to the days of elite driven politics which had drawn them backwards for decades. They must struggle to keep the enduring legacies of the budding Bolivarian revolution alive. The memory of the Caracazo truly lives on!
These days, it pays to be an analyst; it pays even more when you are seen as an authority on a newsy country like Nigeria which is more projected by the international media for its negatives than its positives. That is the story of Antony Goldman, a Briton who has built his brand, career and businesses around jabbing hot knives into the heart of the entity called Nigeria; aided, of course, by local traitors in high places.
The Washington Post calls Goldman an “independent risk-analysis consultant based in London.” On BBC, he is described as “Africa Analyst, Clearwater Research Services.” Financial Times regards him as “analyst at ProMedia Consulting.” On the site of The Economics, he is “consultant.” To Bloomberg, he is “London based adviser specializing in West Africa oil states.” On some other websites, he is “Nigeria Expert and Head, PM Consulting”; “West Africa Analyst, PM Consulting”; “Africa Analyst, Clearwater Research Inc”; “African Oil Analyst, Clearwater Research Inc”; “Analyst of Oil and Gas Development”; “Partner, Hemp Global Solutions Ltd.”
So many titles assigned to a single man. And as many sites he is regarded as something, are as many outlets he is feeding damning information about the Nigerian government and people. He sees no cause for cheer in the Nigeria project; and why should he? After all, he is only friend to Nigerians who are enemies of Nigeria, the accidental public servants of this world. He gets his briefs from these individuals, feeds the western media or syndicate them himself, and such publications are tweeted back home by his devious suppliers to agitate the Nigerian people and instigate them against the government.
The striking feature of Mr. Goldman’s brand of reportage/discourse is his penchant for feeding fat on Nigeria’s challenges, with unbridled enthusiasm for updating the international media with negative developments in Nigeria in the guise of commentaries. Where Nigeria is concerned, his commentaries are doom and gloom. One seldom sees any optimism in his submissions about the Nigerian people and government. Underlining his damaging agenda is the fact that his companies consult with not a few disgruntled Nigerian politicians, who are his reliable resources for damning scoops and data, which form the bulk of information he trumpets abroad.
Dating back to June 11, 1999, while interviewed by the BBC on his view about Nigeria’s new democracy, he grandiloquently declared that Rtd General Obasanjo would not make much difference in the fight against the monster of corruption in Nigeria compared to previous military regimes. He strongly, and falsely, affirmed to the BBC that the army remains the one, enduring political institution in Nigeria that can stage a comeback anytime soon. It is over 14 years now; Goldman’s assertion is yet to come to reality.
In his commentary in the May 2011 edition of The Economics, he arrogantly describes Nigerian politics as “…one big bun-fight over oil money.”
Even his summation that “Nigeria, for all its difficulties, offers quite a bit” has gone down as one of the most famous quotes on the country and its people. Imagine the absurdity of such statement; saying a nation of over 160 million people offers “quite a bit” of hope? A nation rich in human and mineral resources offers quite a bit of hope? A nation widely tipped to overtake South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa offers quite a bit of hope? A nation now esteemed as the new investment destination in Africa offers quite a bit of hope? That is the wisdom of Goldman’s postulation.
Recently, while lending his voice to a Reuters’ piece on Nigeria’s era of baby boom, Antony Goldman authoritatively predicts big doom and catastrophe for Nigeria in the coming 20 years.
The only positive commentary of Goldman about Nigeria seen online is on account of a special project packaged by a leading Nigerian bank seeking to win the accounts of foreign investors who are coming to Nigeria. In that piece, which was obviously sponsored by the bank, he paints a rosy picture of Nigeria, saying that the country continues to confound its critics (obviously referring to his surprised self and his treacherous Nigerian allies) with an economy that posts handsome growth and a football team that can deliver satisfying results.
Antony Goldman was part of the contributors to the book, Transatlantic Tensions: The United States, Europe, and Problem Countries, edited by Richard Haass; published in 1999. In the book, Goldman titled his piece on my country, Nigeria: Many Problem, Few Solutions.
The blurb of the book reads, “The book examines the ‘problem’ countries of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria. In each case, leading American and European experts offer separate chapters explaining sources of US and European differences, consequences for policies designed to influence problem states, and prospects for bridging translantic policy rifts.”
Expectedly, Goldman’s contribution is laced with his trademark negativity and pessimism about the Nigerian nation.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Antony Goldman is a sworn imperialist whose only joy is to rubbish the progress of Nigeria and portray it as a no-do-gooder among the comity of nations. His submissions are only softened when he is contracted by a Nigerian concern to package a PR job, since he is regarded as an authority on Nigeria.
Now, I urge you not to take my words alone on this fellow. Please go online and search ‘Antony Goldman.’ You will be amazed at how much hatred he spills from his posh London office about Nigeria, rolling out damning analyses about the country as he is being fed by his Nigerian cronies who have held public offices at some point and/or are hungrily yearning for power now. These betrayers who would stop at nothing to vilify the sitting government or its officials, as well as paint a horrible picture about the Nigerian situation so that it looks as if it is the battleground of Armageddon itself, are his reliable sources.
I am not saying that Nigeria is free of challenges. But there are so many positives about this country and its people that the world outside needs to know. Every day, positive things happen in Nigeria and to Nigerians. Thousands of Nigerians are in the news for cheery reasons, whilst not discountenancing the bad ones. Nigeria is a nation of good people and great possibilities. People like Antony Goldman and his aggrieved public servants/politicians cannot make us believe otherwise. They should not just focus on our sore points; they should also let the world know about our strengths and positives. Nigerians are peace-loving people. We affirm our individual and collective goodness as well as the greatness of our nation.
Goldman must stop his imperialist obsession for broadcasting everything negative about Nigeria as well as his patronage of disgruntled politicians and angry accidental public servants who supply him the negatives and tweet the outputs of his damnation to us.
Issachar Odion is a post-graduate student in one of the federal universities in Nigeria.
“It is unacceptable that polio continues to infect our children and cause such suffering in Nigeria.” Sir Emeka Offor
There is no denying the fact that the polio scourge has become a challenge to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Its effect continues to hunt us because of several reasons that have to do with culture, religion among others. In Nigeria for example, and according to polio Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Nigeria is believed to have one of the most entrenched reservoirs of wild poliovirus in the world. It is the only country with on-going transmission of all three serotypes: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. States in the north of the country are the main source of polio infections elsewhere in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries. In 2009, operational improvements in these northern states led to a 90% decline in cases of wild poliovirus type 1 and a 50% decline in overall cases compared with 2008.
Several efforts in the last couple of years have witnessed a level of reduction in polio cases across the country. Quite recently, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, noted that the Federal Government would partner with leading stakeholders in order to eradicate polio by the end of 2014. This was made known after Nigeria’s impressive performance on polio eradication in 2012 and 2013 provided a clear indicator that the country would end polio transmission at the end of this year. Despite the aggressive drive by the current government to see that polio is eradicated from our society, some individuals have taken up the challenge even more aggressively to fill the vacuum left. One of such individual is Sir Emeka Offor, the founder of The Chrome Group, one of Nigeria’s leading indigenous multinational businesses with subsidiaries operating in oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas servicing, engineering, insurance, logistics and power industries.
Through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), efforts are underway in partnership with Rotary Club to kick-off the National Immunization Day in Oraifite, Anambra State on March 1st 2014. The exercise, which is one of the myriads of philanthropic commitments of SEOF, is geared towards global efforts in polio eradication. The founder of SEOF, Sir Emeka Offor has over the years demonstrated compassion to all children, widows and to the welfare of the weak and poor in our society.
In July 2013, to boost the global efforts in polio eradication, he donated a total of $1M of his personal money to Rotary International. Such singular contribution earned him the title of First Polio Ambassador of Nigeria. His philanthropic gestures are not limited to cash donations. Sir Emeka Offor strongly speaks out in favor of polio eradication in Nigeria and the world. He believes that every child should have a “right to health”, esteeming the mantra of noble global humanitarian body like World Health Organization (WHO).
Where we are
Since the global polio eradication initiative began in 1988, WHO has recorded a 99% reduction in number of cases from about 353,000 down to 221 in 2012. The fight for total eradication of polio, particularly in the known 3 endemic regions (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan) is in full swing; because no child is safe until polio has been completely eradicated. To add to the benevolent donation of $1M by Sir Emeka Offor, Rotary Club has in the month of February released about $36M towards the fight against Polio.
Where we are going
In February 2012, WHO removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, making it a momentous medical achievement. This status was possible due to massive financial support, advocacy, relentless research and strong political will. Nigeria can therefore, join the league of polio free nations when we address low routine immunization rates and surveillance gaps in polio free areas, maintain funding and political commitment to implement the eradication strategies.
As a proud Nigerian and the First Polio Ambassador of Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor desires that every child should be immunized to protect against polio virus infection. He is committed to making Nigeria a polio free nation. On Saturday, March 1st 2014, he will be rolling up his sleeves to administer polio vaccine to a number of children gathering at SEOF Complex in Oraifite, Anambra State at 10:30am.
Sir Emeka Offor calls on all Nigerians, entrepreneurs, oil and gas icons, politicians and civil society leaders to join him in stepping up the fight against polio. He calls on all parents regardless of their religious orientation to embrace global efforts on polio eradication, abandon all unscientific and superstitious dogmas and ensure that every child is vaccinated.
In the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, “As an international community, we have few opportunities to do something that is unquestionably good for every country and every child, in perpetuity.”
Our children have every right to live a normal life and develop in ways that will give them satisfaction to achieve their life long ambitions and ideals. We must all come together to see that polio is not only fought and eradicated but also become a thing of the past in our respective societies and our dear country, Nigeria. We our children this favour and through the SEO Foundation, we can begin to beat our chest to say we have gotten there.
Dr. Edwin Ndukwe
“The only limits are, as always, those of vision”---- James Broughton
Those who often set out to fight poverty at various levels of government in Nigeria do so for various reasons. Some for personal aggrandisement and some for showmanship. Others does so more of compulsion than conviction. Regrettably, these efforts are usually devoid of meaningful and sustainable planning and are therefore ineffective.
However, the efforts by Governor Ibikunle Amosun to reduce poverty in Ogun State,seem a departure from that pedestrian norm. It is a calculated and sincere move whose effect is already becoming apparent for even the cynic to see.
Borrowing a leave from Johnnie Walker, who said the whole world step aside for the man that knows where he is going, the governor set a five-cardinal programme to guide his administrations quest to rebuild the state.
He particularly set out to slacken the vice-like grip of poverty, which the World Bank sees as major scourge of developing economies. The governor trained his eyes on achieving this through the construction of world-class ‘Ogun Standard’ roads and an audacious return to mechanised agriculture. Senator Amosun hold that road infrastructure remains a key indicator of economic development,a key signpost to development and an invitation to investors.
His government therefore set sail an ambitious urban renewal program never seen in the history of Ogun State. 14 roads,scattered across the three senatorial districts in the state,are presently under construction. They are the 7-km Sagamu-Benin Express Junction/Oba Erinwole Junction road, the 4.8 km Ilo-Awela road in Ota, 8.7 km OGTV-Brewery junction road, 6 km Moshood Abiola Way, 34 km Ayetoro- Lafenwa road, 9 km Ojere-Adatan road, 5.6 km Somorin – Ajebo road, 2.2 km Madojutimi – Asero Stadium, 850 metre Moriamo--Olorombo road, all in the state capital.
Others are the 107 km Ilara-Ijoun-Eegua-Oja Odan-Ilase road, 25 km Ilishan-Ago Iwoye road, 29 km Mowe-Ofada-Ibafo road, 9km Ejinrin-Oluwalogbon junction in Ijebu Ode, 12 km Magboro-Underpass road, Isheri road and the 36 km Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Akute-Ojodu Road.
Most of these roads,except the Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Ojodu road, are at different stages of completion ranging from 20 to 70 percent and are billed to be completed by December 2014. The reconstruction of the derelict Sango-Ijoko-Agbado-Ojodu Road was flagged off in October, 2013.It was aimed at bringing succour to residents of the border towns with Lagos.
Interestingly,with the road construction effort, the problem of unemployment is being creatively addressed. The construction firms are mandated to source some of their skilled and unskilled workers like carpenters, iron benders and bricklayers from among indigenes of the state. Today, over 800 indegenes of the state are on the employment of the construction firms. The construction effort also brought about the sprouting of several food-sheds located around the various construction sites.
Another consequence of the road revolution is the boom in sales of moulded bricks, sand and gravel supply and cement business as property owners, after collecting their entitlements from government, often find it wise to mend their breached properties. The government’s decision to mend fences wrecked due to the construction work is also having ripple effect on the local economy of the state. Bricklayers, sand and cement sellers are daily smiling to the bank as clientele flow in daily.
Boom in car-washing business in all the cities where the construction effort is on provides a comical edge to Governor Amosuns poverty reduction effort. In Ogun State, car owners now need to wash their cars more than thrice weekly after they have gone through those roads still under construction.
The conviction that business and investment can only blossom in an atmosphere of security prompted the Governor to invest heavy in security. The government purchased 14 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC’s), bought 400 patrol vans fitted with communication gadgets, 500 bullet proof vests, 500 bullet proof helmets, 1000 AK-47 rifles as well as 2 million rounds of ammunitions for the use of policemen operating in the state. The result was magical as crime statistics suddenly crashed in the state with Ogun state becoming one of the most secured states in the federation.
Curiously,the urban renewal effort of the government, coupled with the investment in security is already yielding interesting results. Companies are scrambling to invest in the state. Statistics gleaned from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry indicate the initiatives are bearing good fruits. 125 companies have so far indicated interest in relocating their manufacturing outfits to the state. 35 are already on the ground at varying level of operations, while 27 have fully commenced operations. Suddenly the state has become the preferred investors’ destination and an emerging industrial hub in the country.
A proof of the clement industrial environment was the relocation of the customers service section of one of the frontline telecommunication giants to the state capital. The telecom firm thereafter engaged over 1200 graduates, the bulk of whom are indigenes. Like the telecom firm, many of the firms moving to the state are employing indigenes of the state.
It was in recognition of these efforts that ‘BusinessDay’ newspaper, a highly influential and authoritative business news tabloid, adjudged the State as “the fastest growing economy and the destination of choice for industrialists and entrepreneurs in Nigeria”.
Strikingly, the governor’s strategic intervention in poverty reduction is not only in felt in the area of urban renewal. The government also stimulated employment through agriculture. It advanced loan to 1000 farmers under its Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme and also purchased agricultural equipments’ worth over N800 million to aid the return of mechanised farming to the state.
In one iconic gesture, the government launched 86 pieces of land clearing equipment. The farm machinery include four CAT bulldozers,30 MF 275 xtra tractors,33 baldan disc plough,15 baldan disc harrows, two baldan rotary slashers and two baldan four row-planters. The equipment are being hired to farmers at 10 percent discount.
The government also gave soft loan to over 24,850 women under its micro-credit initiative in a determined move to assist small businesses and boost self-reliance among its women-folk. The loan facility advanced to the women ranges from N20, 000 to N200, 000 depending on their mode of business.
Apart from employing 12,000 workers into the state employment, thegovernor also supported his wife,Mrs Olufunso Amosun,to train and equip 2000 graduates in entreneurship skills.
Infanticide maybe in the past, political expediency achieves the same goal when the weakest members of our communities are not provided for, to grow and nourish future generations. Our children are left to die in the deserts and seas, like in junk yards. It takes village to raise children cherished everywhere, regardless of political parties. Otherwise capitalist or socialist countries would not provide centralized aid to nurture young brains, create jobs, education or healthcare.
If Africa was crawling on its own since Independence, it could have learned how to walk by now without dangling foreign aid to discourage indigenous survival skills and take it away to punish Umoja in Tanzania or Zimbabwe. African political parties are unique in formations or ideologies. It suffices to note that it was bastardized for years after the fight for independence to political economy; lately hijacked by ethnocentric leaders modeling us after Rome was not built in a day.
Countries that failed to survive on its own remain stuck in reverse. Debate in capitalist countries is when to reduced subsidies on agriculture, health and education; if ever. Chicken in every pot promise in America did not come as cheap as it is today. Yet, African capitalists are miseducated. Some understanding of the morphological aspect may lead to reasons cunning politicians find it more convenient to invade established parties, kill or take them over to gain power to Treasury.
Greed is real, love or hate it. Ideologies matter less; economic survival not foreign fair trade has overshadowed our inspirations for survival of the fittest. We had some established parties after Independence, most transformed from revolutionary parties to reactionary parties, guerrilla parties, heavy-weight parties, you-chop-I-chop parties and neo-colonialism parties.
When was the last time we elected a party based on its goals? Call it what you want: African political dexterity, treachery or chicanery. The results have not been favorable to our masses. In their pursuit of political into economic power for a few individuals, Africans have been left behind. We could not have predicted that Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of Mau Mau Party could become leader of a capitalist Country like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana or South Africa in our lifetime.
The scenario is a little different in Nigeria and Ghana. One person that did not stand out in Nigeria was Herbert Macaulay. His boys, Awolowo and Azikiwe overshadowed his pioneering effort as one of the foremost leader of youth political movement that turned into parties of Independence. Nkrumah stood out because riot of 1948 changed Ghana. But today we can’t distinguish which parties actually exploit Nkrumah’s ideas or principles after 1965 election.
Joshua Nkomo was the well-known leader in Zimbabwe that most of us thought was going to be Prime Minister. We were wrong because there was another leader that was the “bush guerrilla” fighter little known to the outside world by the name of Robert Mugabe. The rest is history. We have seen this lesson not only in East Africa, but in South and West Africa. Many people today only remember the subdued Nelson Mandela while acknowledging Walter Mbeki, Thabo Sisulu.
Sir Ahmadu Bello did something different in Northern Nigeria. He was stunned by the result of an election as his Party was beaten by Peoples Redemption Party underestimated community worker like Barrack Obama of today or “bush guerrilla” fighter of Robert Mugabe. In 1951 a diminutive leader by the name of Amino Kano coalition surprised Sir Bello. It was only until he could form NPC. Members of NEPU crossed carpet into NPC to form the Northern Government.
Aminu Kano, is not probable in Africa! Like our Aminu of those days, Obama not only surprised the Democratic machine, he wrestled the Republican Party to the ground twice, and he will never be forgiven. Please note, new African politics are goalless. Looking for parallel outside, it was amazing how David Cameron became Prime Minister in Britain with the help of Liberal Party. A masterful stroke we predicted that Liberal Party would be worse for it, as in Nigeria.
NPP was formed by Waziri Ibrahim in 1978 but was taken over after disagreement by old NCNC chiefs Adeniran Ogunsanya, Akinfosile, Solomon Lar and Paul Unongo: invited retired wary Zik to lead them. History is repeating itself: APC and PDP have been taken over, for better or worse.
We have to ask ourselves if either communist or capitalist principle has delivered to our people and if we do not know where we are going, at least we know where we were coming from. There must be some good in African Continent that produced the ancient Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mali and Songhai form of governments. We must be careful not to get tied up with the glory of the past but to see what was working for us then and what is working against our interest now.
Africa still look at Nigerian politics wondering if they are going to get their act together, emerge from political tumults and move Africa along to self economic determination. We must wonder what our children would read in history about Nigeria today if it would be similar to what we read about our African great grandfathers selling gold for mirrors. We’re too consumed by now.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) were transformed into new organs already by those that invade as parasites, other parties started with high principles. It is still difficult to predict how these parties would turn out. Those in control of PDP today are not the founders and the controllers of APC rose from the ashes of devoured founders of AD. Nigerians are known to invade parties and turn them into their own wishes: short term goals.
Who is going to invade Labor Party and neutralize it for the masses to deliver us from vultures? Africans have a great deal to learn from one another. While we see ourselves differently, others can hardly tell a difference, even when they want to exploit our economic weakness. We are so similar and predictable. Not one country has a commodity taken from raw material to finished product developed together or individually that we can sell or fairly trade in world market.
Talking about goals: not even sugarcane that can grow anywhere at any time throughout Africa! We envy Brazil as the major producer of sugar. In 1929 Aba women rioted over unfair trade and taxation. When Nkrumah tried to form cocoa cartel producing countries, he failed by sabotage. The same cartel was formed years later by Arab oil producing countries. Since Nkrumah days, how many economic thinkers has Africa produced that got close to being a national President.
As we watch PDP and APC in Nigeria, all we see are a bunch of opportunists that have risen from the ashes of their victims. They have abandoned or killed the parties that brought them from the shadows of ignoble to the richest men by virtue of being in politics. Ask them where they got their money from, they all claim businesses that have never benefited anyone in their Country but their cronies.