Boris Johnson Leaves Behind A Complicated And Divisive Legacy 

As Boris Johnson departs Downing Street, many want to remember him as the Prime Minister who delivered on Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine. But, while he had some success on these “big ticket” items, his enduring legacy is more complicated and tainted by scandal.

Many were surprised when, at the 12th and final Conservative leadership hustings on Wednesday evening, it was late-backer Michael Gove who introduced Rishi Sunak. 

That surprise was then compounded when the former cabinet minister chose to heap praise on outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite having been fired as levelling up secretary by him a few months earlier.

“Let us never forget and let us make sure the country never forgets. He was the man who delivered Brexit. He was the man who delivered the fastest vaccine rollout in the world. He was a man who stood resolute with Volodymyr Zelensky and the brave people of Ukraine when others wobbled and shirked the struggle. So, on behalf of all of us, Boris, thank you for your service,” he told the captivated crowd at Wembley Arena.

Tory Remorse?

Speaking outside the final hustings this week, some Conservative members suggested that, based on these successes, many will view Johnson’s departure with regret in future.

“We’ll have seller’s remorse in the future won’t we… there’s lots of members who still love him. You heard the clap when [Gove] mentioned his name. People still love him. Ukraine, the vaccine, Brexit – the big ticket items he got right,” one attendee told PoliticsHome. 

For others, the lasting impression of Johnson’s political career to date is of a great campaigner and, ultimately, election winner. As one Conservative member put it, the party has “never seen such a uniting figure” as the current Prime Minister, the man who managed to “bring down the Red Wall”.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, said that Johnson will likely be remembered more as “a super salesman rather than a skilled CEO”, an attribute most apparent in his involvement with the Vote Leave campaign and the majority win at the 2019 general election. But he believes the credit Johnson gets for both can be overstated.

“No one would be foolish enough to say that the Tories didn’t benefit from Boris Johnson’s charisma, and his ability to appeal to parts of the electorate that other Conservatives found difficult to reach,” he said. 

“But if you look at his popularity more generally, he actually, during the 2019 contest wasn’t as popular overall as Theresa May had been in 2017. That’s an important thing to bear in mind, that the point about Boris Johnson was that he appealed to the right people at the right time. And, the fact that he turned a lot of people off in the end.”

The X Factor

According to Tony Travers, professor in the department of government at the London School of Economics, it was Johnson’s celebrity factor that made him such a unique politician, and catapulted him from Mayor of London into Downing Street.

“Somebody once observed he’s the only British politician recognisable from behind, in addition to being universally referred to by his first name. Very, very, few politicians are lucky enough to have that happened to them,” he said.

“Wherever he went people were trying to get selfies with him. He has that degree of style, a star quality, which meant people I felt emotionally about him.

“One of the reasons that partygate and the fall from grace proved so damaging is that the very emotional ties, the positive emotional reaction to him that many people have felt was suddenly replaced by a negative emotional reaction.”

Though many Conservative members still revere the Prime Minister, Bale believes that his record on delivering Brexit is likely to be “divisive and even poisonous”. He also questions the extent to which Brexit was actually “done” under his premiership.

“Johnson was very good at selling the idea that Brexit was an event. But of course, in reality, Brexit is a process. So, it was never going to be done and dusted in a way that he suggested. No politician can actually deliver it and then move on.”

Wither Levelling Up?

Another area of unfinished business for Johnson is his vision for levelling up, a flagship policy at the 2019 general election. Tim Durrant, associate director at the Institute for Government, said that the phrase had become “embedded” in the political zeitgeist. But, he argues that, much like Brexit, the mission is far from complete.

“It’s not new that this is a problem, that there are regional disparities across the country… But making such a focus is down for him. Whether or not something has actually happened as a result of that focus is still unclear.”

“I don’t think the concept has necessarily been fully proven, but the fact that this entered the political conversation, I think that’s his legacy.”

When it comes to his response to the coronavirus pandemic, the jury is largely still out. While the vaccine rollout was largely lauded a success, over 200,000 deaths in the UK have been linked to Covid, and there are enduring criticisms of the government’s decision making when it came to lockdowns and restrictions. 

The ongoing public inquiry into the response to the crisis is due to begin preliminary hearings this autumn to unpack these criticisms, and Johnson’s responsibility for any successes or failings.

On his final “big ticket” achievement, the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the appraisal is much more positive. President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised Johnson’s “personal leadership and charisma” and thanked him for “helping more” than any other nation.

“He’s very much leaving as a cheerleader for Ukraine. That also, perhaps, allows him to cheer the benefits or opportunities or the strength of the UK outside the EU. Because we are, in a way he portrays at least, leading and doing things better than, or more than, other European countries,” Durrant said.

While Johnson would likely prefer to be remembered as the Prime Minister of Brexit, Covid and Ukraine, in reality many see his legacy as a lot less positive. 

Unfinished Business

Throughout his time in Downing Street, he has battled a myriad of scandals from Dominic Cummings’ trip to Barnard Castle, his defence of Owen Paterson, his handling of “partygate” and his response to allegations against Chris Pincher.

“There was this sense of one scandal being cleared and then another would break about some kind of misbehaviour or mistake by a minister or member of the government. And it never really stopped,” Durrant said.

This is a legacy, Bale suggests, that will likely haunt the next Prime Minister, and many more to come. He said the public perception of standards in public life has been “very badly compromised” under Johnson, and it was up to his successor to “pull us out of that nosedive”.

“He’s behaved in a way that, I think, on occasion has made people fear for the safeguards that we thought our Constitution had… He’s behaved in ways that no previous Prime Minister would have countenanced,” he said.

“The public cynicism about politics has grown so much that they won’t expect any better from whoever takes over. Or, that whoever takes over will actually restore some of the faith that we all need to have in a functioning liberal democracy. I’m not sure which way it will go to be honest.”

At Johnson’s final PMQs, Johnson referenced all the big successes of his premiership, from Brexit and the 2019 election, to Ukraine and the pandemic response. He also steered clear of overtly referencing the many scandals that had prompted his premature departure.

But, in his final remarks, he also hinted at the unfinished nature of his big ideas and the vision that he had for the country. Some read his final words as a suggestion that this vision, and perhaps his political career, were far from complete. 

He told MPs: “I’ve helped to get this country through a pandemic and help save another country from barbarism and, frankly, that’s enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished, for now.”

Eleanor Langford is a columnist with where she first published this article on Saturday 3 September 2022.

An Advocacy Birthed After a Year of Incubation

The deterioration of Nigeria has been on for quite a while. The current generation of Nigerians has not known a nation that truly held promise for them. Yet, in view of the global village which the world has become, this generation of Nigerians understand what it means for one’s country to hold promise for one. They feel deprived, rubbed and battered. Some feel defeated. A few are resilient. Yet others
are battle-ready to win back their country.

Launch Rebuild Nigeria Initiative

The battleground for the battle-ready young Nigerians are the streets of the country, from North to South, East to West and they manifest in banditry, kidnapping, petty to serious robbery and anything in between. It used to be that the ghost of Biafra roamed only the streets of Igboland. But with the passing years, the spirits of Oduduwa is being invoked actively while up North the chant for Arewa as a republic in whom its descendants have more faith, is getting louder. The guns have failed to silent the chants.

The fathers of this generation and their fathers look on helplessly realising that they have failed their children and grandchildren. Yet some have refused to be spectators of this carnage. They are conscious of the fact that throughout history, meaningful change was brought about by men and women who refused to be spectators of human suffering and injustice but stood up and acted. By acting, they changed their society and the world. Over the past year, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of Nigerians has been reflecting on these ironies of a nation and have decided to lean on the strength of others around the world who have changed their worlds by shire courage.

They have reasoned that this failing state called Nigeria, can’t be allowed to fail.
In the summation of these Nigerians, the missing link in the potential great nation that their fatherland ought to be and the weak entity that it is currently, is genuine dialogue! Nigeria must genuinely dialogue to reconcile not only its diverse people, but also its contradictions. Rebuild Nigeria Initiative was birthed to activate genuine dialogue, which is precursor to reconciliation and a halt to the speedy slide into disintegration of the largest black nation on the face of the earth. We have abiding faith in a new Nigeria, united, equitable, just and inclusive – A Nation at Peace.
Over the past year, Rebuild Nigeria Initiative has consulted widely, at home and in Diaspora, with Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. Our ambition as a group of concerned Nigerians around the world to build a global coalition of strategic stakeholders and partners, is one that strikes a cord with all who
have heard us out.

The launch of Rebuild Nigeria Initiative is the start shot of an advocacy work whose pertinence has been tested and demonstrated over an incubation phase of a year. We invite the world to meet us, to work with us, because when (not if!) Nigeria succeeds, Africa succeeds and the world is better for it!

Moderators Rebuild Launch

Will Soludo Put Kanu Out of Business?

An Associate from our times in London, especially during the scramble for fresh capital to consolidate the banking sector, mentioned to me a couple of years ago about the ANAMBRA 2070 FUTURES COMMITTEE. He had all along taken me for a fellow Anambrabrian and wanted me to serve with him in the Committee. The fact that I am Deltan whose wife is Anambrarian with two young adult sons who are full-fledge Umudiana Anambra, were fine arguments but they didn’t move a needle. My guy went ahead to chair one of the business sub-committees but I couldn’t serve in Anambra 2070 Committee. Sad!🥲😞

Anambra 2070 Committee was a group of Ndi Anambra, led by Chukwuma SOLUDO, with the blessing of the State Government, working together on a 50 year strategic plan for the State. The Soludo Manifesto for Governor of Anambra derived to a large extent from the work of the Anambra 2070 Strategic Plan. He did not wake up from a hangover out of a drinking binge and decided he wants to be Governor of a State with arguably the largest concentration of billionaires in Nigeria. The SME Bank, Anambra Mega Enterprise, the South-East Integrated Development, Infrastructure Fund, et cetera from the future plan, got integrated into the Soludo Manifesto. A coincidence? No, not at all! It’s called strategic planning. The point to be made here is that the man has a plan. He wants to be Governor based on a decent, public goods perspective, not on self-interest. For those that still believe in proactive, purposeful, intellectual politics, this is reassuring. It rekindles hope in politics of substance and purpose.

Yes, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Political Party whose flag Soludo bears for Governor, is a huge force in Anambra. If one asserts that its candidate has a good chance of winning the governorship, one won’t be wrong. But what if it was a bad candidate, like …. I am not saying? What if it was a big name candidate, a certified crook, one that has never flown commercial (but flies only Chartered) for nearly two decades or travelled the Lagos – Onitsha road? What if it was a candidate with no clear plans yet has an APGA ticket? Honestly I don’t have the answer. He may or may not have won. What I do know is that the days of a clueless society that thinks and votes without considering track records, integrity, competence and capacity are numbered. I like to think that Anambra proved it with Soludo, who obviously has a plan.

But even with his plans, can Soludo stay on track? As is the case with most politicians in Nigeria, he may get distracted by politics and the crooks who dominate Nigerian politics and therefore unable to deliver. If Soludo could implement only 20% of his manifesto in the area of industrialisation and consequent job creation for the youths, he’d be making a difference not only for Anambra but for the entire South-East region. Simply by getting young people to believe that all hope isn’t lost for them for a better life and future within Nigeria, the Governorship of Soludo will make Nnamdi Kalu’s job of controlling the minds of young people using their hopelessness as springboard, difficult if not impossible! This may mark the beginning of the end for the separatist Biafran agitations. Potentially, a successful Soludo Governorship might potend an end to Nnamdi Kanu’s agitation for the sovereign nation to be named Biafra.

Congratulations nwannaa Chukwuma Soludo! But Fingers Crossed🤞🏾

Impacting remotely through mentoring is the real deal

In one of the conversations leading to my admission as Fellow Institute of Management Consultants a few years back, I underlined a core leadership principle. This is a belief that a mentor must be more concerned about mentees he has no personal relationship with, never met and probably will never meet than those he knows in person and interacts with. This singular thought was my guiding light when I was invited to become Mentor of BEAM International, a youth based group of young, upwardly mobile professionals.

Shortly before then I had listened to Robin Cox talk about Mentoring is Courage in Action. I am aware that wasn’t the case but Cox’s audience seemed like young people in a transition economy environment. When young people are craving new information, new experiences, mentors must be there to help them process the changes that are occurring on a daily basis. When it is developmentally appropriate to test boundaries, take risks, and challenge authority especially in an environment that makes resistance and protests inevitable, mentors must be there to provide structured choice, healthy risks, and guidance in making what late US Civil Rights Activist, John Lewis called the good trouble and effecting change in one’s life and community.

These mentoring moments no doubt should happen, where possible, in person. But if we realise the impossibility of in-person mentoring for the teeming youth population in Africa needing Mentorship, we must then see our actions, especially our public utterances as a Mentorship vehicle, night after night, week after week, year after year as Robin Cox recommends. These were some of the thoughts going through my mind when I was invited in December 2020 to deliver a maiden lecture to the BEAM International platform on “Youths in International Relations” For me the lecture was a mere ensemble of insights gleaned from daily interactions and observations on our world today and the inevitable inter-relatedness of our world of tomorrow and some tips on how young people must audaciously seize the moment to shape their world.

I am unsure how to describe the feeling of waking up yesterday morning to news of multiple awards as a consequence of what to my mind were obvious statements, effortlessly put together as audio-lecture. I was to learn letter reading the Award Citation that yes the Beamers found the lecture compelling but it was more than that. This kind and bold gesture means so much to me. I have since dedicated the Awards promptly to my young adult sons, Tonna (Teejay) & Chidi through whose orbit I discovered that a learning Dad ultimately grows into mentor to millions. The job has only just begun and I recognise it as a lifelong job. No leave. No transfer!

Collins NWEKE, BEAM Man of the Year 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine: When Nigerian Elites Become the Poisonous Plant in the Garden of Governance

Meet Ebele Obiano, a 58-year-old Nigerian woman. If you have ever wondered why nothing works in Nigeria, she is proof.

Ebele is the wife of the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano. By her own account she was recently in the United States, where her daughter became a medical doctor a few years ago. As everyone knows, the US has developed some vaccines that its states are now distributing in carefully-defined phases.

The vaccine is free, but production has only just begun and distribution to the population of over 300 million is a challenge. Each state is trying to make the most of what is available. Here is the distribution plan of the state of Texas.

The early eligibles have included medical workers of defined categories, residents and staff of nursing homes and similar facilities, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients, specified doctors and nurses, and some very sick patients. As of the time of this story, the vaccine has not been made available to persons 60 or younger, let alone to medical tourists.

Somehow, as the pandemic ravaged Texas last week, Ebele smuggled herself overseas and into the distribution plan.

Worse still, she wanted to show off, to which end she took along a public relations expert who filmed her taking what she called the “Madonna” vaccine so she could brag to the people of Anambra.

“I just had my COVID-19 vaccine now,” she announces on the video in her arrogant, self-entitled way. And then she preaches, almost as if she were in her living room in Awka rather than in Houston: “This is necessary; when there is a war you will not because of the bullet catching you and stop (sic) and refuse not to go to war. You have to go. You have to fight. You have to survive. This is a war, we have to take the vaccine because we want to survive. God bless the whole world.”

She describes how difficult it was for her to steal her vaccine spot from an elegible American, affirming that her husband, Governor “Willie Was Working” Obiano, was due in the US to snatch another spot belonging to a sick child or an 88-year-old American. Her daughter, whose name she broadcasts as Dr Ogechi Obiano, is coordinating the misappropriation effort.

So arrogant is Ebele that she completely misunderstands the questions of her media expert who asks when the people of Anambra will receive the vaccine. She announces she will receive her second shot on February 13 declaring, “Nothing like vaccines in Nigeria, talk less of Anambra State…”

This illustrates why governance does not work in Nigeria: Powerful and politically exposed persons ruthlessly appropriating public resources.

When we achieve power, we send our children abroad, and let local education rot. Our wives to shop and party abroad and ignore the local economy. We may be married to multiple women yet spend inordinate amounts of money to import beautiful foreign women to entertain us in the best hotels.

And when we cannot get something to come to us when we want it, we are powerful enough to go out and steal it. Whoever else dies does not matter.

Ebele is evidence of how the Nigerian First Lady of any category is the most poisonous plant in the garden of governance. “We are here for me to take the vaccine,” she announces as if she were speaking in Awkuzu or Umudioka.

And she did take that medicine from its rightful owner in time and place who might now die without it. She invokes the name of God, but nowhere in the Bible does Jesus Christ advocate robbery or injustice. In no religion—except in the worship of pride and hypocrisy—is denying the helpless, a virtue.

There must be a deeper lesson in crossing oceans to literally inject into your own bloodstream the life-saving medication of the most vulnerable.

This is why Nigeria is in shambles.

Speaking of a nation which does not work, Nigeria last week approved N10 billion to “support COVID-19 vaccine production in the country,” Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire said on Monday.

“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country.”

The term “release” is a significant one. It tells you that the money is real, and available, not simply proposed or budgeted.

But what does this mean?

Last March, a team of Nigerian researchers of various institutions successfully performed the genome sequencing of the coronavirus strain that the index case brought to Nigeria.

In June, some Nigerian university experts, under the Covid-19 Research Group, announced the discovery of a vaccine candidate to combat the novel coronavirus.

At a news conference, group leader Oladipo Kolawole, a specialist in Medical Virology, Immunology and Bioinformatics at Adeleke University, in Osun State, described how the vaccine was being developed.

Three months later, another vaccine candidate was announced at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Nigeria, a WHO and Africa CDC Reference Laboratory for genomic research.

Team leader Professor Christian Happi, a molecular biologist and genomicist, said that working with partners at Cambridge University, the ACEGID Covid-19 vaccine had undergone the required preclinical trial on mice before human testing. “We were able to identify a neutralising antibody that could knock down up to 90% of the viruses,” he declared.

These efforts were all uniformly hampered by scarcity of funds while rich and powerful Nigerians either chuckled over the rampaging pandemic on television or repaired to Dubai to hide. In November, I lamented how Nigeria, lacking ambition and imagination, was waiting for other nations to develop the vaccines, instead of leading the chase.

And now, well after the fact, Nigeria is suddenly “releasing” funds to “support COVID-19 vaccine production.” What is that?

President Muhammadu Buhari also approved the release of N6.45 billion ($16.94 million) to set up oxygen production plants in 38 sites to help treat COVID-19 patients as local cases soared, and another N255 million ($670,000) for the repair of oxygen plants in five hospitals.

Why or how were those oxygen plants left to decay in the first place? Will any of those 43 plants really be built or repaired?

Still on our fecklessness, I have written several times about the Nigeria rail sector. Last week, the African Union called the costing of projects in Nigeria —a national headed by its anti-corruption champion— fraudulent.

Using similar projects under the AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), it pointed out that Nigeria’s newly-contracted 283.75 Kano-Maradi standard-gauge rail line will cost approximately $6.91 million (N2.6 billion) per km, exceeding comparative estimates by over 100 per cent.

100 per cent: which means that the $1.959 billion project should cost less than $1bn.

That also tells the world what we have always suspected: that were high-profile Nigeria infrastructure projects competitively and honestly prosecuted, we would be completing—not merely contracting—them.

We would also not be borrowing from every Chinese child, or raiding the Central Bank.

[This article was first published in the 24 January 2021 edition of Punch Newspaper of Nigeria by Sonala Olumhense under the title “Mixed metaphors: Anambra’s Ebele Obiano” in which it welcomed rebuttals from interested government officials.]

Copyright PUNCH.

Biden Signals Resetting US-Africa Relations

President Joe Biden delivered a message to African leaders meeting virtually this weekend at the African Union Summit 2021, hosted from Addis Ababa.

President Joe Biden

“The United States stands ready now to be your partner in solidarity, support and mutual respect,” Biden said in a video address, his first speech to an international forum as U.S. president.

In his remarks, Biden outlined what he called a shared vision of a better future with growing trade and investment that advances peace and security.

“A future committed to investing in our democratic institutions and promoting the human rights of all people, women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and people of every ethnic background, religion and heritage,” Biden said.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomed the message and said the African Union looks forward to “resetting the strategic AU-USA partnership.”

A new tone

“President Biden wanted to signal the desire of the United States to rebuild a strong partnership with the continent, its people, the diaspora, as well as other AU stakeholders,” a senior administration official told VOA on background, adding that the administration is committed to “reinvigorating relationships throughout Africa from a position of mutual respect and partnership.”

On his first day in office, Biden repealed the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from Muslim-majority and African countries, including Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

Biden’s moves represent a significant departure from the previous administration, which largely framed its Africa policy within the context of U.S. competition with China or as a theater for fighting violent extremism.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump was criticized for allegedly using a derogatory term in describing African nations.

“Just the very fact that Biden did it [addressed the African Union] changes the tone immeasurably from the previous administration,” said Michael Shurkin, a senior political scientist focusing on Africa at the RAND Corporation.

Shurkin said Biden, in his address, did not mention China or violent extremism.

“By focusing on Africa for Africa’s sake, Africans for Africans’ sake, that’s actually a far more effective way to compete with the Chinese,” he added.

China is the continent’s largest trading partner, and Beijing has massive influence through its financing of infrastructure projects and coronavirus vaccine diplomacy.

As Biden deals with the pandemic and domestic economic recovery, few details have emerged about his Africa policy. However, three weeks into the new administration there is a renewed focus on humanitarian issues.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and expressed concern about the ongoing armed conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and forces supporting the government. The State Department is also considering actions against President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a staunch U.S. military ally who recently won his sixth term through a bloody election.

“We’re going to see a revival of a focus on democracy and governance, which was sorely lacking under the Trump administration,” said Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Some African governments are not going to be thrilled about that.”

A return to multilateralism

Biden’s remarks to the African Union also signaled a return to multilateral engagement, a message he emphasized in his speech at the State Department on Thursday, his first foreign policy speech since taking office.

“America is back, diplomacy is back,” Biden said. He pledged to reinvest in alliances, framing his approach as a reset after four years of Trump’s mostly bilateral strategy and America First agenda.

“Whereas former Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson snubbed the AU chair, Moussa Faki, in 2017, Biden’s video and an earlier call from Secretary Blinken indicate that the new U.S. administration intends to take this important regional body seriously,” Devermont said.

In his address to the summit, Biden said he wants to work with regional institutions to defeat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, fight climate change and engage in diplomacy with the African Union to address conflicts across the continent.

The administration joined COVAX, the global mechanism to ensure lower-income countries have access to the coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 21, the same day it rejoined the World Health Organization. In December the U.S. Congress approved $4 billion funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the co-leaders of COVAX.

Beyond regional engagement, Devermont said that Biden’s decisions to rejoin the Paris climate accord and support COVAX will also positively impact African countries.

However, with the return to multilateralism, the future of potential bilateral deals, such as the free trade agreement negotiated by the Trump administration between the U.S. and Kenya is now uncertain, particularly if the Biden administration decides to focus instead on cooperation with the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Another uncertainty is the U.S. role in mediating disagreements among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Despite Trump’s personal interest in pushing a U.S.-brokered agreement based on Cairo’s request, months of negotiation have failed to produce results. In October, Addis Ababa issued a blunt statement denouncing “belligerent threats” over its massive hydropower dam on the Blue Nile river, following Trump’s statement that Egypt “will end up blowing up the dam.”

By Patsy Widakuswara, VOANEWS. Carol Castiel and Salem Solomon contributed to this story.

Port of Antwerp Explores Investment Opportunity in Nigeria’s Maritime Transport Policy

Executive officers of the Port of Antwerp International have expressed interest in  Nigeria’s new National Maritime Transport Policy, under development, for possible windows of investment opportunity for Belgian entities.

The executives, Mr Kristof Waterschoot, Managing Director of APEC-Antwerp/Flanders Port Training Centre and Port of Antwerp International and Mr Mario Lievens, Director at Port of Antwerp International, disclosed their interest at a meeting with the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh.  A statement by Mr Philip Kyanet, Head, Corporate Communications, NIMASA, issued to newsmen, on Sunday, in Lagos, said that Jamoh was hosted by Waterschoot and Lievens at the Nigerian Belgian Chamber of Commerce, Onikan, Lagos, to discuss various projects of interest.

Kyanet noted that the visitors  were particularly interested in the areas of training, technical support, and cooperation, in addition to strengthening the relationship between NIMASA and the Port of Antwerp, as well as interest in Inland ports.

According to him, the Belgian investors pointed out that Nigeria’s proposed National Maritime Transport Policy was being watched as it unfolded, to see how Belgium can come  in with investments.

”We believe in Nigeria and we observe that the business climate in Nigeria can be difficult, but there is hardly any country without its peculiar difficulties,” they said.

Kyaney quoted Jamoh as noting that the wreck removal and recycling offered huge investment opportunities, stressing that the Federal Government was already planning a coordinated wreck removal policy to drive investment in the area.

”One area I will like the Belgian private sector to come in is wreck removal and wreck recycling. There is a huge investment opportunity there, and there is also a big room for collaboration. This is more so as the Federal Government is planning a coordinated policy on wreck removal,” Jamoh said.

While praising the long-standing diplomatic and economic relationship between Nigeria and Belgium, the NIMASA boss highlighted the Federal Government’s abiding interest in diversifying the economy, saying that the development of maritime infrastructure was part of the government’s diversification effort.

”The National Maritime Transport Policy, which is being developed, is part of a wider agenda purposed to build alternatives to oil. The maritime sector is consciously being opened up for investment, by local and foreign investors to build a sustainable blue economy.

Jamoh also sought Belgian partnership in the sea-time training of Nigerian seafarers and in the area of port safety and security.

Kyanet recalled that at a recent stakeholder validation meeting on the draft policy, Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, stated that when approved, the policy would lead to improved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow, in addition to enhancing the ability of the Nigerian maritime sector to compete globally.

The Port of Antwerp International is a subsidiary of Port of Antwerp, Europe’s second largest port, after the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

It was established to expand the activities of the Port of Antwerp, beyond Europe, through consultancy, management solutions, investment projects and training. 



 “As global humans our hearts bleed for Nigeria; as Belgian-Nigerians we are disgusted but as law abiding world citizens, we are confident that this cannot go unaccounted for. Belgium cannot afford to look the other way. This is why we are reaching out to you” – Coalition of Belgian-Nigerians & Global Friends of Nigeria


Her Excellency Madam Sophie Wilmès

Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs & Foreign Trade

Federal Government of the Kingdom of Belgium

Karmelietenstraat 15

1000 Brussels


We write to you as Belgian-Nigerians, supported by our friends and allies in the global community to formally draw your attention to the escalating gross human rights abuses and mass killings of innocent, young civil protesters in Nigeria. As stakeholders in both the Nigerian  and the Belgian projects, we want to seek actions from you, in the first instance, to stop the senseless killings and the fast collapsing humanity in Nigeria that comes with it.

The issues

Nigerian youths organised themselves into a civil group to call for an end to police brutality by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) under the campaign tag #EndSARS. The peaceful protest was nationwide. Details and further reference are contained here.  In the early evening of Tuesday 20 October 2020, the  world watched with unbearable horror as the Nigerian armed forces opened live fire against these young Nigerian protesters who had over the previous two weeks been peacefully protesting. Although there are reports of isolated incidents of police manhandling of these young peaceful civil protesters around the country, the use of brute force and mass killing by the armed forces took place in the Lekki Tollgate area of Lagos. Among others, a BBC report puts the number of young people massacred in this callous operation at 20 with hundreds critically injured.  As global humans our hearts bleed for Nigeria; as Belgian-Nigerians we are disgusted but as law abiding world citizens, we are confident that this cannot go unaccounted for. Belgium cannot afford to look the other way. This is why we are reaching out to you.

Our demands

In line with the Belgian and European values of  human dignity, civil liberty, international solidarity and accountability of government towards its citizens, we implore you to immediately intervene in getting the government of Nigeria to put an end to the ongoing killing of citizens by its security agents.

Furthermore, we would like you to urgently and formally have this matter raised in the Federal Parliament of Belgium and the European Parliament for a resolution on and formal representation to the Nigerian Government as follows:

  1. Condemnation of the killing of unarmed civil protesters by Nigerian armed forces under any circumstances 
  2. Independent investigation of the killings and where international law permits, perpetrators including their chains of command, to be brought before international court of human rights
  3. Public acknowledgment and naming of all victims of SARS including those who have been killed; abducted and/or whose whereabouts are yet unknown, of which some testimonies are to be found here  
  4. Immediate stop to all collaborations with the Government of Nigeria particularly on matters related to strengthening of the police force until there is independent verification of the commitment of Go ernment to police reform by a credible international human rights body with a presence in Nigeria, for instance Amnesty International.

As Belgian-Nigerians and citizen of the global community of nations, we reaffirm our commitment to a sound and fair Belgium – Nigeria bilateral relations in which protection and defence of the fundamental rights of citizen is taken seriously. 

We thank you in advance for a swift action as we await your feedback.


Collins NWEKE

For & on behalf of Coalition of Belgian-Nigerians and friends of Nigeria

Brussels, 21 October 2020

Of Buharists and Trumpists: an ideological paradox.

President Muhammadu Buhari Of Nigeria and President Donald Trump of the USA

Buhari’s claim in December 2015 that “technically we have won the war” against Boko Haram has repeatedly come back to haunt him. The meeting with Trump, and the United States’ decision to sell Super Tucano fighter jets to Nigeria, allows Buhari to show voters at home that he has repaired a broken relationship’ – Max Siollun in Foreign Policy edition of 11 May 2018

In this piece, Joe Illoh attempts to unravel why Nigerians would like President Trump but hate President Buhari. His central question is whether a parallel could be drawn between the core political ideologies of both presidents.

Recently the campaign mission embarked on by some of those Nigerians who claim to be staunch supporters of Donald Trump, have caused some raised eyebrows. And the reason is not far-fetched. While they feel very comfortable and proud of Donald Trump’s extremist and divisive policies in the US, they are strong critics of Buhari’s extremism and divisive policies in Nigeria, thereby failing to draw a parallel between the two presidents.

First and foremost, let it be known that I am an avid believer in the right of a person or persons to support or vote for whoever or whatever ideology that suits or represents their beliefs and innate character. In fact, not only do I accept this democratic precept but also I live within it and work with it. That said, I know that there is more to saying you support someone than meets the eye. Based on what is known of them, taking Dr. Stella Immanuel, as a case study, they are described as consistent followers who are struggling to spot their way in any terrain that they can benefit from. And show inconsistencies (to the contrary) where their target socio-political and economic interests are at stake. They are patriotic to a large extent but fail to realize that sometimes when an act of patriotism leads to a reactionary act, it becomes a burden and worrisome because it can involuntarily contravene and erode certain democratic principles and dispensations. And this is the crux of the matter in review.

I admit that I and, most probably, some of those that are not admirers of neither president Trump nor president Buhari, may not be so different from them when defending our political views. But then, while I consider myself as one who pays loyalty to broad-minded ideas in a global highway in order to show an allegiance to socio-political and economic experience to a large extent and character traits to a lesser extent, they seem to hold on to a double edge political view, sometimes in a broad minded manner and then in an awkward narrow minded manner, depending on the direction of the personal interests being pursued. Their views on the world’s social, economic and political trajectories, is another case-study. They embrace global commerce with Nigeria and the entire Africa as players. And they want to live in a global village in which everyone is free to travel to any part of the world without any restrictions based on race, religion or financial disposition. Paradoxically, they applaud and accept as an act of patriotism, all the trade protectionism, import tariffs war, travel and immigration restrictions targeting mainly people from poor nations, overt encouragement to the KKK and NRA and denigrations of civil rights movements such as Black-Lives-Matter, and many other adverse policies that have been made and implemented by Donald Trump. Unfortunately these attacks have not only erode the spirit behind globalization but also threatens the world’s economic and political order.

To me, this is quite striking taking into account that a good proportion of these Nigerians for Trump migrated to the USA in search of greener pastures, as they were not born with a spoonful in the mouth in Nigeria and definitely, not products of the US Ivy League institutions.  They took advantage or are still taking advantage of the US social, economic, cultural and political privileges (US social security-welfare system) mostly fought for and implemented by the defenders of social justice in the US and Europe, especially the social democrats. But they took arms against the US Democratic Party with vague extreme right arguments.

Actually, I am somewhat taken aback by the ill-formulated reasons for their pro-Trump stance. They talk of social democrats, who are depicted as socialists for constantly advocating for the dispensation of social welfare and many other extreme right tirades. But at the same time, they decry the inactive Buhari’s administration for none provision of social welfare for the grand majority of Nigerians who can barely afford one square meal per day. I felt sorry for some of them when I realized their short-sighted views of political issues in Nigeria, the US and the world at large. I mean, if one is a bigot, a separatist or a secessionist, one should endeavor to be consistent and apply it in all political decisions and utterances. This is not the case with these folks, who are motivated by expected benefits that make them to dangle between Confucianism and fascism. Suffice it to say that any discerning mind out there would see the crystal correlation between Buhari’s extremism and divisive policies in Nigeria and Donald Trump’s in the US. Please be assured that I am not a Buharist. Yes, I was an admirer of Buhari as a military personel but not Buhari as a politician. And I am definitely, as you can imagine, not a Trumpist for a number of reasons.

To put it bluntly, based on Donald Trump’s utterances, which are more often than not, extremist and divisive, there is no doubt he is a color blind racist who is basically interested in those that vote for him and president Buhari is basically interested in protecting his Islamic faith (no worries), Igbo-phobic, very divisive in his political appointment policies and mainly governs for those states that vote for him. Therefore, the question is; why should Trump be seen as a hero whereas Buhari is considered to be the contrary?

I am also concerned about their lack of clear knowledge of political theories. They are, unfortunately, among the minority groups who have been checkmated by institutional racial policies yet they fail to see the dichotomy between descriptive political representation and symbolic political representation. They repeatedly show their lack of profound knowledge of the American history and the purview of the social divisions in that country. Let me reiterate, they have a right to their ideological inclinations. But the logic is that those in the minority group, socio-politically speaking, would take side with David rather than with Goliath. It is said that those who do not know where they are coming from, will not know where they are going to. And I say to you folks, if you turn your back to the realities of yesterday, you will surely have little argument to face tomorrow’s realities. Let’s not jump to the satirical conclusion that “everyone is a communist until he becomes rich, everyone is a feminist until he gets married and everyone is an atheist until the plane begins to crash”. It is better to learn before one becomes a victim, and this can be a reality if we pay less attention and adoration to deep pockets. We should begin to tear down the walls of segregations, ignorance and narrow mindedness that fuel nationalism.

I am anxious to know if this so-called “love Trump, hate Buhari group” (if ever any such groups exist outside the social media forums) talk about politics because they like it and understand its tenet or they talk about it because it enables them to stay alive in the social media and hoping to hook on some people who will bring them on board to strengthen their cravings for recognition in the society. Likewise, I do not know what they must have been through in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. But I do know that their misinterpreted Confucian idea is not what Nigerians need. Our home based folks who support Donald Trump, do so on the assumption that he is a Christian. I do not blame them because most of them are quite rooted in calling the name of God in vain, worship the God that grants prosperity and wards off evils that can stop them from acquiring their prosperity. So it makes no difference to them if Donald Trump is a racist or a narcissist as long as he calls the name of God in vain and proclaims he is God’s advocate on earth. They do not care to know whether he is doing so in order to guarantee himself the votes of the 70% white American voters.

I admit that one cannot be too particular about what I call “socioeconomic and cultural color blind racism” in the US and elsewhere. And this is because there is the prevalence of social stratifications in every nation in this world. And social stratifications begets economic, social, cultural and political discrimination or practice racism. Even in the homo-sapiens age, the strong men and women were treated as superior being and the weak ones dehumanized as inferior beings. The Roman Empire dominated and treated the rest of the Europeans and the Middle East as slaves. So racism and xenophobia have been part of the human evolution.

With this, I want to say that Trump did not create racism, obviously, and will not end it, even when willing, because this is a vice that has plagued the US for over 400 years now. But which is being fought against assiduously through political struggles and advocacy by the social democrats, the United Nations and other broad minded groups worldwide in order to abridge its impact. It is, therefore, wrong and unacceptable for someone or group of people like Trump and his associates, to drive this lengthy struggle back to the beginning through high voltage institutional utterances and divergent political policies. Any mind free from diversity bias, would easily identify where his institutional policies and utterances will ultimately lead to, if not hijacked now through the public out-burst. So if you believe in social peace and justice, you are color blind (what you see is human being and not the color of the skin), you believe in convergence against alienation and even if you believe in distributive justice, Donald Trump should not be your choice of a president for any country.

History of the world has shown us that from the Roman empire and beyond, the Christian crusade, the Moorish invasion of Spain, the Spanish Inquisition against the Jews and Arabs, the absolute kings,  the colonization of America and annihilation of the native Indians, the imperial Muslim trans-Saharan slave trade, the imperial Christian trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonization of Sub-Saharan Africa down to today’s contemporary history, one form or the other of the three major types of racism; institutional racism, cultural racism and scientific racism, has been practiced and adopted to dehumanize one segment of the human race based on the color of their skin, gender, religion, ethnicity, geographic location, social status or physical features.

Scientific racism is honored by deluded leaders and pseudoscientists who associate intelligence, personality and behavior with race. The big acclaimed word for the Europeans was “superior race”, which they said they had over any other race in religion, education, culture, economy and in anything else. This was the major socio-cultural and political reason that empowered the transatlantic slave traders that dehumanized black Africans in the 16th century and in which philosophers like John Locke or fascists like Hitler and Mussolini based their arguments for the dehumanization of the black race.

Cultural racism, which has supplanted scientific or biological racism, may manifest in a three dimensional way; racism based on the assumption that one part of a given society is socio-linguistically or culturally superior to the other society within the same country or far away country. Socio-academic racism is based on the feeling of superiority over a certain segment within a country or over one race due to the high illiteracy rate among the members of the target race or segment. And the socioeconomic racism is based on the low purchasing power of the members of a given society who are singled out for high crime rate. The fact is that almost nobody considers himself or herself a racist; it is very offensive people like Trump would say. So we live in societies infested with racism but very few racists……..paradox. Racism is now being sugar-coated, president Trump and his folks would no longer say “superior race or culture but “European or western culture, which means the superior culture but milder and nicer to sound color blind”.

Institutional racism: most often institutional racism are those covert practices embedded in normal practices in a society. Some of these institutional racism are served on long history of racially distributed resources and ideas that come with qualitative policies that sustain discrimination in justice, quality education, healthcare, employment, equal opportunity (eg. the redline rules in the USA that set up ghettos). Some of these bad incentives are democratically dispensed through political ideology that honors scientific and cultural racism.

Contextualizing: the facts herein are encapsulated in the following ideas.
“All political systems are bad but some are better than the others, the renowned professor Giovanni Sartori said”. Without mincing words, both president Buhari and president Trump lack the four political leadership 101 qualities (abilities to direct, coach, support and delegate) that are essential to lead a nation. They may have excelled as cattle rancher or hotelier but not as nation building or sustainability leaders. So putting this on scale shows that in politics stupidity is not a handicap.

As George Soros noted, “we live in an imperfect democracy, our aim is to continue to reduce its imperfection”. Unfortunately, the two presidents living across the Atlantic Ocean are rooted in the imperfection of democracy.
In his defense of a pluralistic society, a former Spanish Prime Minister noted that “politics is the art of sharing the public space that we all live in”. Neither of the two presidents lives within the perimeter of the above message. One uses Christianity to stay alive in politics while the other is serving to protect the interests of his ethnic group in a multi-ethnic nation. While president Trump constantly looks for trouble, finds it everywhere but diagnoses it incorrectly and applies the wrong remedy, president Buhari is most often in silence mode, which justifies the saying that an empty stomach or an empty brain cannot be a good political adviser.

So considering the fact that some political systems are less fallible, that democracy’s imperfection can be curtailed and that diversity should be encouraged in any democratic society, the love Trump and hate Buhari Nigerians should know that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander or what is bad for the gander is bad for the goose”.

If they conscientiously analyze the alienating power of amoral presidents in history and its negative impact on the lives of the grand majority at the base of the pyramid today, they will come to realize that “no drugs, not even cocaine, causes the fundamental ills of our society”. They would have to tell the conservative politicians that if they are looking for the source of the society’s troubles, they should not test those at the base of the pyramid for drugs. They should test bad presidents and politicians for greed, stupidity, ignorance and the love of power.

Being a people oriented leader and believe in dispensation of social peace, is a clear demonstration of respect for mankind. As Mahatma Gandi said, “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs but not every man’s greed”.
Thomas Fuller said, “let him who expects one class of the society to prosper into the highest degree, while the other class is in distress, try whether one side of his face can smile while the other is pinched”.

Joe Illoh is a Nigerian-Spanish Diaspora and socio-political commentator with a Left progressive leaning. He is also of the global academics. Joe writes from Madrid, Spain.