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Dr. Kent Brantly Speaking At A Press Conference After Being
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VIDEO: Bruce Ribner, Medical Director Of The Infectious Disease Unit Of Emory University, Atlanta, And Dr. Kent Brantly Speak At A Press Conference After Dr. Bantly Was Released From Hospital Following His Recovery From Ebola Disease
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By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
“Why do I ever think of things falling apart? Were they ever whole” – Arthur Miller, Late American playwright and essayist
I am forced by some very discomforting thoughts to remember today Bessie Head, the late South African writer and her 1989 collection of short stories entitled, Tales Of Tenderness And Power. I remember particularly one of the stories in that collection captioned, “Village People,” especially, its opening lines which reads: “Poverty has a home in Africa – like a quiet second skin. It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity.”
Now, this is one assertion that immediately compels one to start visualizing images of scenes and objects that readily constitute benumbing evidences of “dignified poverty” spread all over Africa, where people try to give some form of shine and panache to a very horrible situation they have somehow convinced themselves would always be with them. In those two brief lines, Ms. Head states a truth about Africa which we may find very demoralizing and objectionable, but which would remain extremely difficult to contradict.
But is poverty the only thing we appear to have accepted as inevitable component of life in this part of the world? What about crime? How come crime appears to have gradually become too natural with us in Nigeria here, that we even go ahead to put up notices to moderate its operation? We appear to relish more the very unpleasant job of merely alerting people to it than doing anything to stamp it out. Now, if I may ask: what usually occurs to your mind each time you enter a hotel room in Nigeria and on the wash-basin, dressing mirror, bed-sheet or towel you see the following inscription: “Hotel Property, Do Not Remove!”
If you ask me, this warning simply takes it for granted that guests would naturally wish to remove those items, and so to forestall that, care is taken to advise them not to remove those particular items as the hotel is still in need of them. In other words, the absence of such a warning on any other item should be construed as an automatic authorization any guest requires to move those things together with his personal effects, if he so wishes, at the expiration of his stay. That’s just the implication. Or have we not also thought about that? What are we then, by this practice, telling numerous foreign visitors that use those hotel rooms daily about ourselves?
By Ugoochukwu Ejinkeonye
It was a normal news report in a not too recent newspaper; the type we are used to seeing regularly, but would, most likely, merely glance through before turning our attention to more ‘important’ matters. But when I saw this particular report, confined to a small corner of the newspaper, something about it spoke a very clear message to my heart.
Under the heading, “Cow Thief Bags 12yrs Jail,” the report said that an Oshogbo Magistrate Court presided over by Mrs. Ayo Ajeigbe had sentenced a certain Mr. Audu Mustapha to 12 years imprisonment for stealing a cow belonging to one Julie Idi. The estimated cost of the cow was N60, 000. The police had accused Mustapha of selling the cow and using the proceeds to purchase a small truck with which he conveyed ‘liberated’ cows to either where he sold or hid them.
Now, if Mustapha who had earlier served a jail term in Ilorin for a similar offence, does not have a powerful, well-connected godfather, especially, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or other equally criminally powerful places, he should, as you read this article now, be in one of our dilapidated and uninhabitable prison houses enduring the just recompense of his grave sin against the State, and dreaming about his young (and probably beautiful) wife and their three tender children.
I must hasten to add that nothing can justify Mustapha’s ungodly action. Even people poorer than he is are resisting the temptation to steal; he knew the dire consequences of his chosen career and still tarried in it, because, it had juicy promises of quick, undeserved wealth. Now, the excruciating day of reckoning is here, and he has no choice but to quietly savour the bitter reward of his criminal endeavours. I will only sympathise with his family if they were unaware that in order to put food on their table, Mustapha was cruelly dispossessing other people of their fat cows. This can only teach one lesson: when crime is punished, deterrence is instituted.
Now, if that is always how all such cases end, society would really be a better place for all of us. While down here, we, in an impressive show of self-righteousness, may haul condemnations further down on Mustapha with every scorn and unmitigated rage befitting a common criminal, more discerning people would rather view him as an unfortunate victim of a disastrous accident on his way to the exalted circle of the nation’s elite class. I suspect that he did not bother to study the rules of the game very carefully and so may have easily run foul of a very important law of the game, namely: Thou shall not be too greedy.
Now, the truth we can no longer afford to deny today is that anybody, in fact, any animal can rule Nigeria. I mean that even a baboon can be Nigeria’s president or governor. It is that simple! All it will take, after all, is for the baboon to get a Maurice Iwu to rig him in and then learn the simple art of stuffing dirty bags with dirty naira notes and delivering them at the appropriate quarters and at the appropriate time, and Nigeria is his to pillage and desecrate as he likes any day!
And if he is lucky enough to be blessed with the kind of morally challenged characters presently encumbering our political space, and the tragically light-minded National Assembly headed today by David Mark and his cousin, Dimeji Bankole, he can as well wrap the entire country up, confidently put it away in one of the folds of his wife’s wrapper and retire to an oxygen bed for a long, refreshing sleep. And the heavens will not fall! Continue reading
Being a Communiqué issued at the end of the Chinua Achebe Colloquium in Providence, U.S.A. on December 11, 2009.
The Achebe Colloquium on Africa at Brown University, recognizing the crisis at the moment in Nigerian history, invited scholars and government officials from Nigeria, Europe and the United States to examine the problems and prospects of the upcoming Nigerian elections and to suggest solutions. The Colloquium was well attended by delegates from around the world. Highlights of the Colloquium included the insistence by the Convener, internationally acclaimed literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe, “that peaceful elections are not impossible in Nigeria”.
The Colloquium notes the fact that elections in Nigeria have become progressively worse in quality over the years, and that this fact has gravely affected the country’s international strategic significance. Among the resolutions advanced at the Colloquium are the following:
1. National Dialogue.
The Colloquium acknowledges the fact that it has taken over three decades to bring Nigeria to the current decadent state. The country is at a critical moment that requires urgent intervention through a National Dialogue to consider issues of constitutional review and electoral reforms. The present crisis is an opportunity for Nigerians to discuss and adopt a new approach to deal with recurrent socio-political problems. Nigeria’s experience in the last ten years shows that the country’s democratic institutions have dangerously retrogressed. Nigerians as well as members of the international community, including other African nations, are deeply concerned about Nigeria’s fading international significance, Nigeria’s crisis of identity, and her future as a corporate entity.
2. The Colloquium calls for free, fair and credible elections as a way of arresting and then reversing the downward spiral witnessed during the 2003 and 2007 election cycles. The Colloquium notes that the role played by the Nigerian judiciary during this period has been positive but uneven. The forthcoming Anambra elections will be a litmus test of the political will of the Federal Government and her agencies to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2011 and beyond.
3. The Colloquium calls on the National Assembly to ensure that the Executive arm of government adopts, as a matter of urgency, the report of the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Commission (ERC). The set of reforms should be enacted into law in time for the 2011 general elections. The Colloquium notes that the autonomy of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as recommended by the ERC is paramount for free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
4. The Colloquium recognizes the important role of a credible and accountable political opposition to the survival of democracy in Nigeria, and calls for the emergence of a vigorous opposition in an atmosphere devoid of political violence and intimidation. The Colloquium is concerned by the policy vacuum in the political parties and urges politicians and leaders of thought to begin the process of re-orienting party politics along policy lines.
5. The Colloquium calls on civil society to engage in robust issue-based voter education, longer monitoring of elections, promotion of democratic institutions and protection of the public mandate expressed by the ballot. The Colloquium recommends credible public opinion polling, conducted well in advance of elections, as one way of monitoring candidates’ performance as well as safeguarding the sacred mandate of the electorate. We urge local and international observers to begin monitoring elections in Nigeria right from the crucial party primaries rather than concentrate on Election Day activities. Our collective experience in Nigeria shows that election malpractices begin from voter registration, through the party primaries, climaxing on Election Day in the theft of ballot papers and other criminal activities.
6. The Colloquium notes that widespread disregard for accountability and transparency fertilizes corruption and fosters a culture of violence in electoral contests. The Colloquium recommends that the overall financial package for Nigerian office holders should reflect the services they provide as well as the leanness of the country’s resources. In keeping with the practice in many countries, Nigeria should consider tying legislators’ compensation to the days they sit.
7. The Colloquium recommends an immediate revision of Nigeria’s immunity laws, with the specific end of ensuring that elected officials who criminally abuse their office are not protected from investigation and prosecution. In addition, the Colloquium suggests that Nigeria should abandon the practice of entrusting governors and the president with huge monthly allocations of public funds under the heading of security votes. In line with the practice in many other countries, such budgets for matters bearing on security should be handled by a body made up of various security agencies, and this body should be required to give periodic accounts to an appropriate legislative committee at the state and federal levels.
8. The Colloquium encourages Nigerians in the Diaspora to increase their agitation for credible elections and responsive governance at home through the use of innovative electronic media that have played such an important role around the world in deepening democracy. Widespread poverty and uncertainty in Nigeria continue to promote a culture of corruption and impunity.
9. The Colloquium notes the Obama administration’s proactive engagement with Africa based on the doctrine of reciprocity and shared responsibilities. It reviewed the growing danger of Nigeria’s diplomatic and strategic irrelevance, and observed that this decline can be reversed through credible elections. The Colloquium urges the United States of America, in line with its strategic partnership with Nigeria, to further support the cause of democracy in Nigeria by rebuffing any future Nigerian government that emerges through a questionable electoral process.
10. The Colloquium calls on Nigerians at home and abroad to join hands during this time of crisis and uncertainty and take the necessary steps to build a country of which they can be proud.
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU, CHIEF GUEST OF HONOR AT THE PROFESSOR CHINUA ACHEBE INTERNATIONAL COLLOQUIUM ON FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA.
Providence, Rhode Island, 11th December 2009
TITLE: NDIGBO SHALL REGAIN POLITICAL RELEVANCE IN NIGERIA, IN MY LIFETIME
Our host; the very distinguished; our own beloved and revered Professor Chinua Achebe, I salute you.
Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen.
I wish to begin this address by greeting everyone who has made time to attend this very important Colloquium. May the Almighty God, the God of the universe, the Omnipotent and Omniscient God, the creator of all peoples of the earth, the creator of Nigerians, the creator of Ndigbo, bless you.
My primary duty today is to welcome you to this conference being hosted by one of the very best that the creator has given to the world from the Igbo stock, a citizen of the world but who is proud to be Igbo; our very own Chinua, Chinualumogu Achebe, we your people love you.
We salute you today as we did over fifty years ago when you told our story in “Things Fall Apart”. It became the mother of all firsts in African Literature. We salute you today because you continue to make us proud through your values and ideals; and your commitment and courage in standing up for what is right and just in society. We hold that these are true hallmarks of Ndigbo, Nigerians and indeed all sane human beings. We jubilated and today we thank you for spurning the “national honour” to be given to you by then President Obasanjo at the height of impunity and abuse of the Anambra State Government and people. By that action of yours whatever pride was being trampled upon by the powers that be at the time was retrieved by your courage. Ndi Anambra salute you. Thank you. Ndigbo and well-meaning Nigerians salute you for standing tall at the time. More importantly the Igbo soul yearns for more Chinua Achebes, clear thinkers, lucid writers, men of courage, crusaders against injustice, true sons and daughters of their fathers. Today I say to you, dear Chinua that you are a true son of Ogidi, Anambra, Ndigbo, Nigeria and the world. As you wrote more than fifty years ago, “the body of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu” on behalf of Ndigbo salutes you. Deme, Deme–Deme.
The founding fathers of Nigeria won for us after a bitter struggle with our colonial masters the right to be governed by leaders of OUR OWN CHOICE. Today we must apologize to our founding fathers for our inadequacies, for our lack of courage, indeed for our cowardice which made it possible for us to lose this right to be governed by leaders of our own choice via massive electoral malpractices. This situation just cannot continue. We as Nigerians must resolve today, not tomorrow, to conduct free, fair and credible elections. We cannot afford to fail in this all-important task. And we shall not fail. For it is true that no violence, indeed nothing can stop a people once they have decided to win back their rights. Therefore I say to this Colloquium today that our collective future in Nigeria as one nation under God, lies in our collective resolve to organize free, fair and credible elections.
Let this, our resolve, be impregnable. Let us face the matter of free and fair elections in Nigeria with the same fervor and courage as our founding fathers faced the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. It is that serious; for the future and well-being of our nation depends on this. As we seek to accomplish this mission, we must, as a people, be determined to deal ruthlessly with any who obstruct the genuine will of the people. Such people who benefit from electoral malpractices and the political instability which follow in their wake, must be decisively and summarily dealt with. In the words of Pandit Nehru, the late Prime Minister of India, “a moment comes but rarely in history when we step out of the old, into the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation long suppressed, finds expression.” The struggle for free and fair elections in Nigeria, which I prescribe at this colloquium today, cannot be avoided. It should be regarded as an irreversible mission of national retrieval and rejuvenation. It shall be the last struggle of true and genuine Nigerian patriots to save the fatherland and propel it to greater heights.
Let me warn that throughout history, struggles have never been for the faint-hearted. As we know, struggle by its very nature entails suffering and sacrifice. However, we also know that suffering breeds character, and character breeds faith, and in the end faith always prevails. Consequently, we shall embark on this mission to exorcise Nigerian politics of the demons of electoral malpractices, which have stood before Nigeria and greatness, knowing that our future as a nation depends on it. It will not be easy. But it has to be won in the Anambra State Governorship elections on February 6th, 2010, and in the nation-wide general elections in 2011. God being our strength, and with aggressive vigilance of citizens in “community policing” of their votes/mandate, we shall achieve the objective of free and fair elections in Nigeria.
I wish to continue this address by affirming my personal resolve and commitment that Ndigbo shall regain political relevance in Nigeria, in my lifetime. I am a Nigerian. But I am also an Igbo. It is my being Igbo that guarantees my Nigerian-ness as long as I live. Consequently, my Nigerian-ness shall not be at the expense of my Igbo-ness. The Nigerian nation must therefore work for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. This is the challenge, the key part of which is nation-wide free and fair elections.
Good Governance Will Ensure No One Searches For Dinner In A Dustbin
Back to Ndigbo. They are the most peripatetic ethnic group in Nigeria. In the words of another great writer, Professor Emmanuel Obiechina, who is well-known to our host, “Ndigbo forgot that they also had a farm of their own to tend and spent their youth and vigor working on other people’s farms whilst their own was overgrown with weeds.” Now, the weeds have taken over and Ndigbo must engage in two struggles simultaneously – to rid their own farms of weeds while insisting on free and fair elections throughout Nigeria. It is like jumping over two hurdles, vertically stacked.
Compounding the Igbo predicament are the after-effects of their post civil war political and economic emasculation by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Their shrill cries of marginalization were ignored by others and by the Nigerian Government, and they have come to terms with the reality of their present position in Nigeria. But we Ndigbo will never give up. It is not in our character to succumb to inequity. Being a very major ethnic group in Nigeria, we will not accept our present marginalized status as permanent and we shall continue to seek and struggle for justice, fairness and equity in the Nigerian politics.
My commitment, because I am seriously involved, is to work with all well-meaning Nigerians to bring about the Nigerian society as promised by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When this happens, and all glass ceilings and other unwholesome practices designed to keep Ndigbo, or any other ethnic groups in Nigeria marginalized are dismantled, I shall feel fulfilled. When this happens, Ndigbo shall regain their political and economic relevance in a fair, just and egalitarian Nigerian society. This remains my mission. It is my commitment to Ndigbo. It is my commitment to Nigeria, Africa and the world. And it shall happen in my lifetime. Not after. This is both my desire and a promise. I therefore urge this generation of Ndigbo, especially the youths, to gird their loins to safeguard their votes in the coming elections as to elect leaders of our choice. We shall either achieve this in the February 6th, 2010 Anambra State Governorship elections and 2011 General elections in Nigeria or forever hang our heads in shame as a failed generation. Let us not be intimidated by coercive forces of Government. The mandate belongs to us collectively, and not to government. As for me, I cannot be intimidated, and I know that together we shall triumph.
Let me hasten to add that some of the glass ceilings have begun to disappear with some recent appointments by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This gives me hope that previous water tight exclusion of Ndigbo from key national positions is being positively addressed. One hopes that these positive developments shall be sustained as we continue to sustain the Government that follows.
However, over and above these tokens of de-marginalization, is the central and fundamental issue of electoral reform and the eradication of electoral malpractices in the Nigerian system. This is at the root of continued marginalization of various groups in Nigeria. For example, it is no secret that Governorship aspirants of the few Igbo State in Nigeria (the Igbo geopolitical zone has fewer states than the other geopolitical zones ) strive to be endorsed from outside Igboland. When such a Governorship aspirant gets “elected”, “imposed” or “appointed” as Governor of an Igbo State, he remains loyal and accountable not to the electorate in Igboland, but to the godfathers outside Igboland that endorsed, “imposed” or “appointed” them.
This modern-day enslavement of Igbo politics must end. And I worry as I see the same scenario about to be re-enacted with the February 6th, 2010 Anambra State Governorship elections. And I say, God forbid. Chukwu ekwena. Already, there are invasions of Anambra State by political heavyweights from outside of the State seeking to foist their preferred “Governors” on Ndi Anambra. Before then , there was an attempt to politically castrate the political organization – the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which I lead and which currently enjoys the mandate of the people of Anambra State. That attempt failed. And the incumbent Governor remains the APGA candidate for the February 6th, 2010 Anambra State Governorship Elections. Let me assure all gathered here, and the entire people of Nigeria, that I shall be physically out there in the field to ensure that the mandate of Ndi Anambra is not stolen again. We shall meet the invaders in the field.
A curious observer may ask, “Why Anambra?” The answer is there – Anambra State was chosen in the best-forgotten days of “garrison politics” in Nigeria as the entry point for the emasculation and enslavement of Igbo politics. But like Horatio, APGA stands firm at the gate, refusing to yield. In case we have forgotten, Anambra State was the only state in Nigeria where an incumbent Governor was denied a chance to seek re-election by his political party, in 2003. In case we have also forgotten, Anambra State was where the political party which I lead, the APGA, won elections in 2003 but the elected Governor was not allowed to exercise the mandate freely given by the people because of scandalous electoral fraud that became a national shame. The courts declared APGA as the winner of the election – the legal process taking the better part of three years. Also, it is only in Anambra State where there have been five “Governors” – one elected Governor and others, in the same period. The other States in Nigeria have had one or at most two Governors. It is in Anambra State that no Governor has served two terms of office. And finally, lest we have forgotten, it was the crass impunity and political happenings in Anambra State that incensed our host, Professor Chinua Achebe, to reject publicly with an admonition, a national honour richly deserved by him, but coming from a Presidential hand that was heavily soiled in the Anambra political mess.
Consequently, my firm resolve this time, with the political party to which I belong (i.e. the APGA), is to undertake a state-wide, grassroots community-based campaign and mobilization of Ndi Anambra against electoral malpractices in the February 6th Governorship elections. We insist that the votes of the people must count. We insist that the votes shall be counted, recorded and announced at the various polling centers throughout Anambra State. The people must elect a Governor of their choice. Ndi Anambra shall not be dictated to from outside – not from Abia, nor from any other geopolitical zone. Ndi Anambra will not succumb to intimidation. The invading forces of politicians must retreat from Anambra State. The state has bled enough. The hemorrhage must stop. Let the February 6th, 2010 Anambra State Governorship elections be canvassed by Anambra people, for the people, so that families and communities shall see the faces of traitors and saboteurs among their own. In the end, let the TRUE WINNER of the elections govern. My party, APGA, and I will always respect the will of the people. That is what gives meaning to my life. When this happens, that is, when the people of Anambra State effectively resist electoral fraud and ensure that the choice of the people emerges as Governor, I will retire. As I retire, I expect that other Igbo States and the Nigerian nation will do what has to be done to exorcise the demons of electoral malpractices from the 2011 general elections in the country to ensure that these also become free and fair.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for listening. I thank our host, Professor Chinua Achebe, who in his work titled “The Trouble with Nigeria” diagnosed our national malaise as the absence of effective leadership, for showing effective leadership by convening this conference. May God bless him and his family. May God bless Ndigbo. May God bless Nigeria.
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By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
Virtually every Nigerian knows and strongly believes that any day Nigeria is able to make up its mind to end its obscene and ruinous romance with the stubborn monster called “Corruption”, this country will automatically witness the kind of prosperity no one had thought was possible in these parts. Just imagine the amount of public funds being stolen and squandered daily under various guises by too many public officers and their accomplices, and the great transformation that would happen to public infrastructure and the lives of the citizenry if this organized banditry can at least be reduced by fifty percent!
Now, is this monster divorceable? Of course, yes. But are there any signs that anyone in the corridors of power is interested in ending the strong grip it maintains on the very soul of the nation? That is the problem. It is sheer foolishness to expect any of them to willingly block the very hole from which great goodies also flow to him or her just because some other persons are also benefiting from there. No, you can neither fight corruption with soiled hands nor retain monopoly of it! It spreads like cancer. And the whole thing has now been horribly compounded by the emergence and empowerment of a very formidable class whose sustenance and longevity solely depend on its ability to continue sustaining the culture of corruption and bleeding the nation pale. Continue reading