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On his first day in office, Biden repealed the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from Muslim-majority and African countries, including Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.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

source: https://businessandmaritimewestafrica.com/port-of-antwerp-explores-investment-opportunity-in-nigerias-maritime-transport-policy/

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.