PETITION AGAINST NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT FOR MASSACRE OF YOUTHS ON CIVIL PROTEST

 “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

#EndSARS

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

Belgium


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.

[signed]

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.

Public Broadcasting in a New Media Ecosystem

In this op-Ed Nigeria’s Uche Nworah examines how State-Owned Broadcasting Stations could stand the fierce competitive media environment in a fast changing world.

Uche Nworah, managing director / CEO Anambra Broadcasting Service Nigeria

We live in exciting and interesting times. Major disruptions continue to occur across different sectors, driven by technology, innovation and globalisation both pre, during and most likely post- Covid-19 pandemic.

Tom Godwin, Executive Vice President and Head of Innovation at U.S.A – based Zenith Media while discussing the changing global business environment pointed out the mind-blowing disruption that is taking place in some sectors. He mentioned for example, Uber, the largest taxi company in the world which owns no vehicles. Amazon, the largest bookstore in the world which owns no bookshops. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer in the world which owns no inventory, and Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, which owns no real estate. He concludes that ‘something interesting is happening’.

Here in Nigeria, looking at the media sector, our own Linda Ikeji, before she started Linda Ikeji TV was easily Nigeria’s highest earning media personality, but without any physical structure and facilities. She commands audiences and revenue that long established media organisations can only wish and dream about. There are many other examples.

The disruption in the media sector has been unprecedented especially in the digital era. We no longer talk about broadcasting but digital broadcasting. The language spoken today is no longer that of programmes and programming but of content, content provision and distribution. The present broadcast media eco-system in Nigeria poses huge threats but at the same time presents big opportunities for practitioners.

In the digital broadcast industry, It will appear that state-owned media organisations are the most affected in several ways; (1) Global and national economic challenges have led to massive reduction in government subvention (2) Reduced subvention has triggered a wide expectation for more internally generated revenue that is not readily realisable
(3) Advertising revenue continues to decline as advertisers appear to favour media stations on cable networks (DSTV, GOTV, StarTimes etc) which guarantee wider reach and audiences. (4) With the existing licensing, operational and regulatory framework by National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), terrestrial television with its localised/limited reach appears ‘dead’, and will always struggle against digital broadcast media on digital platforms and cable. Terrestrial TV has no future and is almost ‘dead’. It’s now a ‘poor man’s TV’, poor men being those who don’t have DSTV, Startimes or GOTV decoders or those that their subscriptions have expired. Not many people like the idea of switching from terrestrial TV antennas to DSTV and other cable decoders. It’s untidy. One decoder box for all (whether state owned or independent TV) appears just the right solution.(5) State media with reduced subvention and reduced advertising revenue are not able to fund the production of quality content which attracts and helps retain viewership, neither are they able to attract and retain creative staff (6) In the new media eco-system of ‘Content is King’ as mantra, state – owned media are increasingly being driven into extinction. If state owned broadcast media do not wake up to the realities of the times, they may soon find themselves in the media graveyard, just like their newspaper counterparts. In the 70s and 80s, every state in Nigeria had a thriving state owned newspaper, today, perhaps only a handful including Anambra’s National Light, off-shoot of Daily Star from the old Anambra state still manages to publish (7) Many state owned media still suffer the choking effects of state control including editorial interference and control
(8) Just like the laws setting them up which may have become obsolete, state- owned broadcast stations suffer from near -colonial, and military era hangover extending to their bureaucratic organograms incorporating obsolete job roles. These now require updating. A lean and flat organogram is recommended
(9) The civil and public service mindset have made many state -owned state media to become talent graveyards. They lack the dynamism, creativity and flexibility required to compete in today’s digital media world (10) Other issues have been identified as hindering the survival of state-owned TV stations including the analogue nature of their broadcast equipment, over bloated workforce etc.

What can state-owned broadcast media do differently? How can they compete in the new media eco-system? To survive will require new ways of thinking, and new ways of doing things on their parts. Some of these challenges have to be addressed by the stations themselves. Others fall under operating factors in the external environment beyond their control.

For example, in Nigeria, only Lagos Television (LTV), and Ogun State Television (OGTV) are the two state-owned television stations on the DSTV cable platform. This situation is most unfair as it bestows on the two stations superior advantages of wider audience and increased advertising revenue. Other state -owned stations make do with the 3KW transmitter and regional licence that NBC permits. This surely cannot be said to be a level playing field as the disadvantaged state stations that are denied access on the DSTV platform still carry the same operating costs by way of paying staff salaries and allowances, equipment maintenance, content production, diesel and other costs. For example, at Anambra Broadcasting Service, despite investments by Governor Willie Obiano in new digital equipment, construction of new digital studios, renewed focus on quality content production and other improvements, it has not been possible to secure approval to host the ABS TV on the DSTV platform. This is despite repeated visits, applications and meetings with the DSTV management including submission on hard drive of content types produced by ABS as demanded by DSTV. The story has been and is still that there are no new available channels on the DSTV platforms, but we see new channels being added every day with some platforms having up to 3.

The argument in some quarters that state-owned broadcast stations are heavy on propaganda and do not produce quality content is pre-judgemental and biased. In a free market place where the playing field is level, let the audience and advertisers determine that. With the ongoing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Information to launch an audience measurement system, it will be easy to make objective judgements. Let the market determine which station survives and which goes under. After all, we can not give all thumbs -up to all the channels on DSTV as having super contents.

Also, arguing that state-owned broadcasting stations are not yet ready for digital migration to the DSTV and other such platforms shortchanges and punishes those who are. All should not be painted with the same brush.

To survive, state -owned broadcasting stations may need to introduce other services and earn side income. Industry watchers have suggested selling or syndication of their content. Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) has launched the Miss Anambra beauty pageant, publishes magazines, launched ABS Film Academy, promoted music and cultural events etc to earn additional revenue.

The regulator, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the National Assembly, the Federal Ministry of Information, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Radio and Television Workers Union (RATTAWU) and other stakeholders should intervene by making it a matter of policy for DSTV and other cable platforms in Nigeria such as GOTV, StarTimes etc to allocate channels to state – owned TV stations on their respective platforms. This is an existential matter for state-owned broadcast media, and is the only way to ensure that no one is left behind in the emerging media eco-system. This will also help open up the space for fair competition, promote creativity, and guarantee increased employment, stop loss of jobs and enhance wider participation of youths in the creative economy at the state levels. If this is not done, our teeming youths who want to play in the media and creative economy will continue to migrate to Lagos. Can Lagos provide jobs for everybody?

To reach a wider audience, we at Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) have had to resort to online streaming via our Facebook, Youtube and Instagram channels, including our website (absradiotv.com) some of our TV and radio content to satisfy the yearnings for home content by Ndi Anambra in the diaspora and other target groups. Other state TV stations could also adopt this model although it has huge cost and other implications. Also, the audience do complain of data streaming costs.

Opening up the cable TV space for state-owned TV stations to play in should form one of the key proposals in the ongoing consultations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which is seeking to review the 6th edition of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code.

Nworah is Managing Director / CEO of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) Nigeria. This piece was originally published under the title State-Owned Broadcasting Stations and Media Ecosystem

NIDO, NIDCOM & the Nigerian Diaspora: partners or foes?

Virtual Town Hall Meeting With Hon (Barr.) Rita Orji, Chair House Committee on Diaspora 8th National Assembly

Nigerians in Diaspora in the Americas converged in a virtual town hall meeting on Saturday 9 May 2020 with Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NIDCOM) Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa. Ahead of the meeting, I sent the Honourable Chair some questions. On Saturday 30 May 2020 Nigerians in Diaspora in Europe are taking their turn for a follow up Virtual Town Hall Meeting with the Chairman House Committee on Diaspora of the 8th National Assembly, Hon. (Barr.) Rita Orji. Same questions, grosso modo, that I posed at the 9 May meeting are hereby tabled with Honourable Orji:

  1. To what extent is NIDCOM legitimate, considering that more than a year after its establishment, its Board has not been constituted? What exactly is the problem?
  2. How effective do you believe a lone Board member in the person of the Chairman, can be? Under what checks & balances can a lone Board member operate NIDCOM without effending the provisions of its Establishment Act? 
  3. It’s alleged that some activities of those in Govt., have derailed strategic approach to Diaspora engagement e.g. by overtly/covertly encouraging set up of new Diaspora organisations, thereby defeating Gov. Diaspora Policy. To what extent are you involved in such divisive politics and how do you justify such behaviour?
  4. Nigerian Diaspora is alleged not to be unified, in-fighting… What do you say to those who accuse you and your cohorts of engineering or supporting Diaspora disunity because it favours your political agenda? Is a strong Diaspora a threat to you & colleagues?
  5. Don’t you see any incompatibility, if not conflict of interest, in the two positions that run concurrently: Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Mr President on Diaspora and at the same time Chairman of NIDCOM? Do we have any evidence that the position of SSA Diaspora has been relinquished? 
  6. Won’t it be more value-adding for Nigeria, transparent, Good Governance as President Mohammadu Buhari advocates, if the role of SSA Diaspora & Chair NIDCOM are independent from each other and occupied by two different persons, not just one individual?
  7. Nearly 20yrs after @NigeriaGov under President Olusegun Obasanjo established NIDO to unify Diaspora input in national development, there are calls for reform of the org. Some clandestine reform efforts have failed. Are aware of such failed attempts? What reforms do you want to see?

Collins Nweke
Belgium 🇧🇪

NIDCOM ILLEGITIMATELY OPERATING AGAINST ITS ACT?

Nigerians in Diaspora in the Americas will converge in a virtual town hall meeting on Saturday 9 May 2020 with Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NIDCOM) Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa. Ahead of the meeting, here are my questions for the Honourable Chairman:

  1. To what extent is NIDCOM legitimate, considering that more than a year after its establishment, its Board has not been constituted? What exactly is the problem?
  2. How effective have you being Madam Chairman, as a lone Board member? Under what checks & balances do you operate NIDCOM without effending the provisions of its Establishment Act?
  3. It’s alleged that some activities of those in Govt. including you, have derailed strategic approach to Diaspora engagement e.g. by overtly/covertly encouraging set up of new Diaspora organisations, thereby defeating Gov. Diaspora Policy. Pls explain.
  4. Nigerian Diaspora is alleged not to be unified, in-fighting… What do you say to those who accuse you and your cohorts of engineering or supporting Diaspora disunity because it favours your agenda? Is a strong Diaspora a threat to you & colleagues?
  5. Don’t you see any incompatibility, if not conflict of interest, in the two positions you occupy concurrently: Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Mr President on Diaspora and at the same time Chairman of NIDCOM?
  6. Won’t it be more value-adding for Nigeria, transparent, Good Governance as President Mohammadu Buhari advocates, if the role of SSA Diaspora & Chair NIDCOM are independent from each other and occupied by two different persons, not just yourself?
  7. Nearly 20yrs after @NigeriaGov under President Olusegun Obasanjo established NIDO to unify Diaspora input in national development, there are calls for reform of the org. Some clandestine reform efforts have failed. What reforms do you want to see?

Collins Nweke
Belgium 🇧🇪

Communication and Governance of Coronavirus Crisis Management: initial thoughts

In observing the management of the Coronavirus and the crises around it, I have underlined two skills and leadership take-home specifically in regards to the strategies deployed in Belgium (Europe) and New York State (United States of America). In a separate note I shall zero in on the Communication Strategy of an African country and possibly draw comparison with another African State.

Belgium achieved an early bipartisan agreement for the communications on the Coronavirus to be left with the medical experts and the scientists, not the politicians. The daily briefing has since been in the hands of top experts who are highly professional, objective and completely devoid of politics in their excellent delivery.

When (note that I didn’t say if)😎😜 I become the President of Nigeria and have to deal with any national crisis of comparable nature, I’d remember to adopt same strategy That is what I have learnt from the crisis management so far😎

New York Governor on the other hand has gained my respect with his proactive communication strategy. In his daily briefing, he flanks himself by scientists and health experts, to make the technical inputs but it is instructive for any discerning mind, how well he’s worked with Data Scientists and Communication Experts to develop highly effective proactive communications which he personally delivers as Chief Executive (call it taking charge or responsibility) pretty skilfully.

The powerful effect or impact is that because he has used data to tell his stories, he’s able to preempt the public, tell them when cases will rise but also talk to the preparations in place to mitigate the situation. He has also efficiently used same data management skills to illustrate where help is expected from Trump’s Federal Government; acknowledge the help when they arrive; and sound the alarm bell when they ain’t forthcoming. Of course his strategy has equally put the impossible Donald under soft but enormous pressure to act well towards New York State. The Governor has gained unprecedented political credibility as a consequence of these deliberate, not incidental, actions.

Lessons that I learnt? When I become Governor of Delta State of Nigeria, I’d put together a multidisciplinary team of advisors, give them a generous resource base and charge them to work in synergy for all Deltans. I’d do the strategic communications as Chief Executive but the credit will unambiguously go to them.

So help me, us God!😎😎🤣🤣🤣🤣

Collins Nweke

Coronavirus: panic reactions to partial lockdown

Reactions especially from Governments but also from citizens ought to be based on science

In Belgium, we have gone into partial lockdown as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic. Professionally, I’m not expected at work before 3 April. I can therefore talk of a partial self isolation since I’d be working from home as much as possible. All appointments are cancelled except a crucial political engagement that requires me to show up for Council Business routinely on Thursdays. 

This morning I called up my local mini-supermarket to know if they are open and for how long. As it turned out the opening hours are unchanged. So I thought to dash out and pick up (not stock up on!) a few groceries. Shocking that though everything I needed was available except milk, the proprietor of my local mini-supermarket told me that the stock up on or hoarding of milk and water was absolutely unnecessary. Normal supply will be maintained and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. He teased me further: Collins I know you politicians sometimes take some funny and stupid  decisions but I’m sure you guys are not that mad to allow food scarcity! 

Politicians may indeed take mad decisions sometimes but as social animals, we have more to worry about. I’m curious to know in the coming weeks how Belgians will remain sane without visiting cafes and restaurants. Food and drinks in restaurants and cafes are means to an end. The end is community, social contact and socialising. I’m curious to know in the coming weeks how much Italians will get used to not shaking hands, hugging and pecking. What will the Brits do without the museum and concerts…

These are issues that are more concerning for people as social animals than Coronavirus infection especially for those with no preexisting medical conditions. The virus won’t kill them any more than common cold would hardly leave any lasting impact on their health. I’ve had a few interviews on Coronavirus since the outbreak 😷 In one of the conversations, I warned about spreading of fear and the tendency of politicians to ignore science and expert medical advise.

Based on responses from different capitals of the world, we can’t help but conclude that panic was at the heart of all the reactions. Reactions should have been based on science, not fear, not politics! 

I hope that post-Coronavirus, global solidarity and cooperation will be (re)kindled. Under a body like the World Health Organisaion, one will expect that a global convention on uniform response to global pandemic is worked out, negotiated and underwritten by every nations of the world. Its focus should be to entrust management of such pandemics when they occur to a global team of rapid response experts drawn from National Centres for Disease Control. The expert team works out a global plan which must be uniformly executed.  This looks to me a viable way to counter the current situation where countries take different measures that are either scientifically baseless or that run at cross-purposes. 

As simple and basic as this sounds, it is curious why after previous pandemics, the most recent of which was the Ebola virus, the global community did not act? I recall a TEDtalk given some five years ago by Bill Gates in which he expressed exactly the same sentiment about a need to work out a global response strategy for global pandemic. No action was taken. Why?

I want to think that lessons were not learnt from the Ebola crisis first and foremost because African leaders are either too stupid to proffer sustainable solutions. Or they are too corrupt to commit resources to issues with no direct exclusive benefits to them. Or both! Going a bit further, Ebola happened mainly in Africa and was largely contained there after claiming tens of thousands of lives. Western nations, who have the skills, technology and resources, felt that the problem was far from their beds and saw no urgency in acting around global pandemic management. On the risk of sounding naïf, I want to believe that Coronavirus, having unleashed serious havoc out in the West and still terrorising us today, we’d now see how much a global action plan is not only an urgency of our time but an imperative that can’t be ignored or postponed.

Anioma People’s Declaration 2020

Declaration of statehood by the Anioma people of Nigeria

Proposed Anioma State of Nigeria
Map of Anioma

(1) We, the Anioma people declare that if granted our state in 2020, we shall generate enough electricity to power the whole of Nigeria by 2030. We shall build hydro-electric power plants at Uguozala, Ebu, Illah, Asaba, Onitsha, Nzam and Atani on the banks of the River Niger that will generate at least 50,000MW of electricity

(2) As our state will straddle the River Niger with territory in both the current Delta and Anambra states, we pledge to build six river crossings over the next 20 years. Each crossing will be at least four lanes wide

(3) We will construct Nigeria’s first underwater tunnel, building a 1km tunnel between Asaba and Onitsha

(4) We will construct at least two railway river crossings, with one linking Illah and Nzam and another linking Asaba and Onitsha

(5) We shall develop the world’s largest rubber plantation at Idumeje Ugboko with accompanying processing plants. Our goal is to attract the likes of Pirelli, Michelin, Firestone, Dunlop, etc. We will also aim to build the world’s largest condom and surgical glove factory at Umunede and the world’s largest rubber boot factory at Okpanam

(6) We shall construct Africa’s first underwater restaurant at Illah. This restaurant shall be made of glass and shall be situated under the River Niger

(7) As we shall be part of the southeast geo-political zone, we shall construct dual carriageways linking Onitsha with Enugu, Owerri, Abakaliki, Awka and Umuahia

(8) Asaba and Onitsha shall have high speed train lines linking them with Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Our capital Asaba shall be linked to every state capital in Nigeria by rail

(9) Anioma State will be the first state in Nigeria to refuse to accept any federal allocation. We refuse to join in this parasitic charade as it is contrary to our cultural values and an affront to our industrious nature

(10) We shall dredge the River Niger up to Onitsha and Asaba, enabling large Panamax ships to sail upstream. Our aim is the create Africa’s largest inland cargo port at Onitsha

A Richer Literary World with ‘Sons of the Soil’

I am honoured to offer some commentaries as a Reader at the book launch of Ben Ajuzie in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, 20 September 2019. I make bold to conclude that the work of fiction is an enrichment of the Belgo-Afro literary landscape.

Author Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, Sons of the Soil

The world of literature will be richer on Friday 20 September 2019 with the official launch in Brussels, Belgium of the work of fiction “Sons of the Soil”. Authored by Bernard (Ben) Ajuzie, himself a study in diversity, Sons of the Soil holds a mirror to humanity. Through this mirror we are able to view ourselves from diverse prisms. 

In reading even just a part of Sons of the Soila kaleidoscope of self-evaluating questions can’t help but whirl up your head: am I the concerned father that also happens to be King of Sumanguru Kingdom, one of the principle characters of the over 300-page fiction? Do I best fit in the shoes of Gawiwy, Dr Banjo or Gabito, the master schemers? How much does Chubido, the loyal friend mirror my personality? Could it well be that my exterior defeats my inner calm, a different set of ambitions and a near zero sense of worldliness, making me the Prince Jeje of our time; heir apparent to the Sumanguru throne with no ambitions for the crown? How much does Chief Tirie represent my ambitious uncle, who would stop at nothing to get that which he sets his eyes on, undermining all and crushing everything that stands on his way? 

In more ways than one, there are Sons of the Soil in us all, be it in our daily lives as ordinary mortals or as parts of a cabal that constitute present day politics and politicking or community set-ups. Considering that Sons of the Soil speaks candidly to us all, it is a reference work to own. 

As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks! Readers are bound to make their individual assessment of the literary style deployed by Ben in this latest work, either in isolation or in comparison with his first book “Southern Realities Northern Dreams”. I for one see in Ben with his latest literary outing, a writer that is dramatically coming of age. I will not belabor you with neither volumes nor details but allow me the latitude to consider this oxymoron I extracted from page 301, and it reads “Chief Tirie laid face down and the earth appeared to shield it from the shame it refused to embrace when he was dealing other people…”  Before that, on page 300 to be precise, he had painted a literally picture of a Chief whose past would not let loose. Hear this “The Chief’s latest fear was not his failure to achieve, but the idea that the gods are on the hunt following his vows before the oracles”. Even poets and fans of poetry would have a field day with Sons of the Soil published by the National Library of Nigeria. An overzealous man had done everything and stopped at nothing to achieve his innocuous ambitions, knew that he had stepped on too many toes and made uncountable enemies. Will he be glorified, any legacy to celebrate? Perhaps not hence before drawing his last breath, he had this poetic rendition to spare:

“All who wish me gored

Are free to come forward

And party my end”

If I could indulge you a little more, allow me dwell for a brief moment on where the author, Ben Ajuzie derived the impetus to deliver such masterpiece of literature. As averred earlier on, Ben is a study in diversity. A Nigerian of Igbo extraction, his early influences are to be found in Limbe, West of the Cameroons, Accra and Anloga in Ghana where he enjoyed his secondary education before a homeward journey back to his home state of Abia in Nigeria. At the State University there in a semi-rural, semi-urban town of Uturu, he bagged a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Technology. Thereafter, like his character Jeje, a sojourn away from Africa, brought him to Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit, Brussels for dual Masters, one in Human Ecology and the other a master’s in educational research & Psychology.  Ben’s rich and diverse background is a baggage that informs but also enriches his literary outing. 

Worthy of final mention is the crossover elements in Sons of the Soil. The setting of the fiction may understandably be Africa, but the fact of the writer maturing in Europe is evident in his coinages, metaphors and the oxymorons that dot the novel here and there. It is only fair to assert that this work is an interesting, if not a curious addition to the Belgo-Afro literature, which at present is in its infancy. My assessment is that Sons of the Soil leaves the first-generation African Diaspora and their European friends and family with nostalgia while their children, the second-generation Diaspora, will find in the book, tales of the influences that shaped their dads and mums, uncles and aunties. 

Commentary by Collins Nweke

Ostend, Belgium

Curious African Development Agenda from Japan

TICAD7 2019 Yokohama, Japan

Since 1993 Japan has conferenced six times with African leaders with a seventh session billed to commence today, 27 August 2019 in Yokohama. Initially attracting only a handful of African Heads of State, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAN) now has virtually all African Presidents and Prime Ministers jostling for visibility. It is now being recognized as one of the most important and visible vehicles for strengthening Japan’s relationship with Africa. A multilateral and international forum focusing on African development, the theme for TICAD7 “Africa and Yokohama: Sharing Passion for the Future” raises questions as to whose future is being positively served here. 

Japan says it pursues two major approaches to guide its relations with African countries, namely quality growth:  inclusiveness, sustainability as well as resilience and human security: capacity building focusing on each individual in Africa. With the inception of TICAD, Japan took the lead in fostering international discussion on Africa’s development. TICAD’s innovative approaches include advocating African ownershipand international partnership; promoting the participation of international organizations, donor countries, private sector and civil society; and creating follow-up and review mechanisms to ensure the progress of programmes and projects.

After 23 years of its existence, the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD6) was held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on 27 – 28 August 2016, making it the first TICAD held on African continent. The theme of TICAD VI was Advancing Africa’s sustainable Development agenda: TICAD Partnership for Shared Prosperity’It adopted three pillars for Japan’s cooperation policy with Africa. Firstly, promotion of economic structural changes through economic diversification and industrialization. Secondly, promoting a resilient health system for high quality of life, and thirdly, promoting social stabilization for shared prosperity. 

I have quite a lot on my mind but my priority thought centers around the fact that Japan’s curious departure from the traditional overseas development assistance #ODA strategy is a commentary on the changing landscape of international development. It does not seem to me that Japan’s major interest is about developing Africa. It is more like, and rightfully so, building Japan’s economy taking advantage of the abundant resources that Africa has, which includes 89% of world’s total reserves of platinum, 60% of diamonds, 53% of cobalt, 37% of zirconium.Japan is known to actively deploy its diplomacy towards Africa in order to maintain the momentum. The Japan–African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Summit Roundtable for instance, was held in New York on the margins of the 2013 UN General Assembly, chaired by Prime Minister Abe. In the roundtable, participants exchanged views on agricultural development and food security. In addition, from November 24 to December 5, 2013, Japan dispatched a Public and Private Sector Joint Mission for Promoting Trade and Investment for Africa to the Republic of the Congo, the Gabonese Republic, and Ivory Coast. Thus, Japan hopes to further develop its relations with Africa through such follow-up measures to TICAD. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe visited three African countries in 2014, fulfilling his promise at TICAD5 to visit Africa in the near future.


Africa has become a bride everyone wants to court. But the big question is: does #Africa realize how beautiful a bride it is and why everyone wants her? Has Africa got a strategy to harness its potentials and yield dividend for its overwhelmingly growing youthful but restive population? With the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement #AfCFTA now a reality, one would hope that sooner rather than later, Africa will begin to grow for itself, leaders who would help drive the developed but never implemented continent-wide agenda for development through which they relate with the likes of TICAD & FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation). An Africa-wide Agenda with country strategies should be anchored on the notion that different African countries have different competitive advantages over one another. Until Africa emerges with leaders who understand that fair trading conditions with Western nations will yield more dividends than aid, the continent will continue to be poor and under-developed.