Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Nigeria’s Failed Promises

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I was 7 years old the first time I recognized political fear. My parents and their friends were talking about the government, in our living room, in our relatively big house, set on relatively wide grounds at a southeastern Nigerian university, with doors shut and no strangers present. Yet they spoke in whispers. So ingrained was their apprehension that they whispered even when they did not need to. It was 1984 and Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was the military head of state.

Governmental controls had mangled the economy. Many imported goods were banned, scarcity was rife, black markets thrived, businesses were failing and soldiers stalked markets to enforce government-determined prices. My mother came home with precious cartons of subsidized milk and soap, which were sold in rationed quantities. Soldiers flogged people on the streets for “indiscipline” — such as littering or not standing in queues at the bus stop. On television, the head of state, stick-straight and authoritative, seemed remote, impassive on his throne amid the fear and uncertainty.

And yet when, 30 years later, in 2015, Mr. Buhari was elected as a democratic president, I welcomed it. Because for the first time, Nigerians had voted out an incumbent in an election that was largely free and fair. Because Mr. Buhari had sold himself as a near-ascetic reformer, as a man so personally aboveboard that he would wipe out Nigeria’s decades-long corruption. He represented a form of hope.

Nigeria is difficult to govern. It is Africa’s most populous country, with regional complexities, a scarred history and a patronage-based political culture. Still, Mr. Buhari ascended to the presidency with a rare advantage — not only did he have the good will of a majority of Nigerians, he elicited a peculiar mix of fear and respect. For the first weeks of his presidency, it was said that civil servants who were often absent from work suddenly appeared every day, on time, and that police officers and customs officials stopped demanding bribes.

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Perhaps the first clue was the unusually long time it took him to appoint his ministers. After an ostensible search for the very best, he presented many recycled figures with whom Nigerians were disenchanted. But the real test of his presidency came with the continued fall in oil prices, which had begun the year before his inauguration.

Nigeria’s economy is unwholesomely dependent on oil, and while the plunge in prices was bound to be catastrophic, Mr. Buhari’s actions made it even more so.

He adopted a policy of “defending” the naira, Nigeria’s currency. The official exchange rate was kept artificially low. On the black market, the exchange rate ballooned. Prices for everything rose: rice, bread, cooking oil. Fruit sellers and car sellers blamed “the price of dollars.” Complaints of hardship cut across class. Some businesses fired employees; others folded.

The government decided who would have access to the central bank’s now-reduced foreign currency reserves, and drew up an arbitrary list of worthy and unworthy goods — importers of toothpicks cannot, for example, but importers of oil can. Predictably, this policy spawned corruption: The exclusive few who were able to buy dollars at official rates could sell them on the black market and earn large, riskless profits — transactions that contribute nothing to the economy.

Mr. Buhari has spoken of his “good reasons” for ignoring the many economists who warned about the danger of his policies. He believes, rightly, that Nigeria needs to produce more of what it consumes, and he wants to spur local production. But local production cannot be willed into existence if the supporting infrastructure is absent, and banning goods has historically led not to local production but to a thriving shadow market. His intentions, good as they well might be, are rooted in an outdated economic model and an infantile view of Nigerians. For him, it seems, patriotism is not a voluntary and flexible thing, with room for dissent, but a martial enterprise: to obey without questioning. Nationalism is not negotiated, but enforced.

The president seems comfortable with conditions that make an economy uncomfortable — uncertainty and disillusion. But the economy is not the only reason for Nigerians’ declining hope.

A few months ago, a young woman, Chidera, came to work as a nanny in my Lagos home. A week into her job, I found her in tears in her room. She needed to go back to her ancestral home in the southeast, she said, because Fulani herdsmen had just murdered her grandfather on his farm. She showed me a gruesome cellphone photo of his corpse, desecrated by bullets, an old man crumpled on the farm he owned.

Chidera’s grandfather is only one of the hundreds of people who have been murdered by Fulani herdsmen — cattle herders from northern Nigeria who, until recently, were benign figures in the southern imagination, walking across the country with their grazing cattle.

Since Mr. Buhari came to power, villages in the middle-belt and southern regions have been raided, the inhabitants killed, their farmlands sacked. Those attacked believe the Fulani herdsmen want to forcibly take over their lands for cattle grazing.

It would be unfair to blame Mr. Buhari for these killings, which are in part a result of complex interactions between climate change and land use. But leadership is as much about perception as it is about action, and Mr. Buhari has appeared disengaged. It took him months, and much criticism from civil society, to finally issue a statement “condemning” the killings. His aloofness feels, at worst, like a tacit enabling of murder and, at best, an absence of sensitive leadership.

Most important, his behavior suggests he is tone-deaf to the widely held belief among southern Nigerians that he promotes a northern Sunni Muslim agenda. He was no less opaque when the Nigerian Army murdered hundreds of members of a Shiite Muslim group in December, burying them in hastily dug graves. Or when soldiers killed members of the small secessionist pro-Biafran movement who were protesting the arrest of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a little-known figure whose continued incarceration has elevated him to a minor martyr.

Nigerians who expected a fair and sweeping cleanup of corruption have been disappointed. Arrests have tended to be selective, targeting mostly those opposed to Mr. Buhari’s government. The anti-corruption agencies are perceived not only as partisan but as brazenly flouting the rule of law: The Department of State Security recently barged into the homes of various judges at midnight, harassing and threatening them and arresting a number of them, because the judges’ lifestyles “suggested” that they were corrupt.

There is an ad hoc air to the government that does not inspire that vital ingredient for a stable economy: confidence. There is, at all levels of government, a relentless blaming of previous administrations and a refusal to acknowledge mistakes. And there are eerie signs of the past’s repeating itself — Mr. Buhari’s tone and demeanor are reminiscent of 1984, and his military-era War Against Indiscipline program is being reintroduced.

There are no easy answers to Nigeria’s malaise, but the government’s intervention could be more salutary — by prioritizing infrastructure, creating a business-friendly environment and communicating to a populace mired in disappointment.

In a country enamored of dark humor, a common greeting among the middle class now is “Happy recession!”

♦ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author, most recently, of the novel “Americanah.”


Let’s Be Clear: Donald Trump Bragged About Sexual Assault

By Mark Joseph Stern

The Washington Post released a stunning video on Friday that captured Donald Trump bragging about his sexual exploits in 2005. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women],” Trump said. “[I] just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The Post described the clip as an “extremely lewd conversation” about “kissing” and “groping,” framing the story as a shocking report about his vulgar language. Other outlets adopted this angle as well.

That is an odd way to frame this revelation, because what Trump describes in the recording is, quite literally, criminal sexual assault.

Sexual assault statutes vary state by state, and we don’t know where the alleged conduct occurred. But consider the sexual battery statute in California, where the conversation in question took place. Under that law, any person “who touches an intimate part of another person” for his own sexual gratification and without the victim’s consent has committed sexual battery. He is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment. Or consider the law in New York, where Trump lives. There, an individual is guilty of a sex offense if he “forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire.” A person found guilty of this sex offense risks imprisonment of up to one year. In Connecticut, where Trump long maintained a vacation home, the law is similar: An individual is guilty of sexual assault when he “subjects another person to sexual contact without such other person’s consent.” (“Sexual contact” need not even involve the touching of “bare skin.”) Again, an individual convicted of this form of sexual assault faces up to a year’s imprisonment.

Trump boasted of kissing women and touching their genitals without their consent. In much of the country, including those states in which Trump lives and works, that is sexual assault. And if he was telling the truth on tape, he could have been prosecuted and imprisoned for a considerable amount of time. That should be the story we discuss this weekend—not the acceptability of his “locker room banter.”

 Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.

George H.W. Bush planning to vote for Hillary Clinton – Defection a Big Deal

Now neither former president Bush is supporting the Republican nominee, with the senior Bush actually crossing party lines to vote for Clinton. They’re joined by the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, meaning that three of five living former Republican presidential nominees have opted not to support their nominee.
Now neither former president Bush is supporting the Republican nominee, with the senior Bush actually crossing party lines to vote for Clinton. They’re joined by the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, meaning that three of five living former Republican presidential nominees have opted not to support their nominee.


George H.W. Bush is planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s not considered major news by most mainstream outlets. But it should be. The story, first picked up by Politico late Monday night from a Facebook post by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, got almost no play for example from the New York Times. It created only a very small flurry of interest on Twitter, at least judging from my feed.

As Philip Bump at The Fix shows, Bush’s vote is highly unusual. The only previous exceptions after Franklin Roosevelt to the norm that former presidents support their party’s nominee were presidents who were aged, one president — Richard Nixon — whose support wasn’t wanted, and one instance in which Jimmy Carter failed to endorse Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996.

Now neither former president Bush is supporting the Republican nominee, with the senior Bush actually crossing party lines to vote for Clinton. They’re joined by the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, meaning that three of five living former Republican presidential nominees have opted not to support their nominee. And there’s a long list of important, albeit not quite as prominent, Republicans who won’t support Trump, some of whom are supporting Clinton. That’s not even counting those who grudgingly support “the Republican nominee” without saying his name, or in some cases without being willing to say he’s qualified for the job.

It’s extraordinary. The last time anything at all similar happened was in 1972, when many leading Democrats deserted George McGovern. Sure, there are always a handful of cross-party endorsements in every election, but nowhere near this number, and many of them in normal years turn out to be either very conservative Democrats backing Republicans or very liberal Republicans backing Democrats.

It’s also the best evidence, from people who follow politics closely and presumably care about both the fate of the Republican Party and of the nation, that Trump really isn’t a normal potential president. These stories are the easiest way to show just how different Trump is from a normal nominee — something reporters have struggled to demonstrate.

After all, every presidential candidate lies, as Hillary Clinton famously did about sniper fire on a tarmac once; it’s hard to differentiate that from how Trump is unusually untrustworthy. Any candidate can be caught with a knowledge gap or botch a question, as Gary Johnson did about Aleppo and the New York City bombs recently; it’s hard to show that Trump is unusually ignorant about politics and world affairs.

Many candidates also have faced some questions about their personal finances; Trump is off the scale on that one, too (as can be seen in everything from the latest reporting on his personal “charitable” foundation to the lawsuits alleging that Trump University was a scam).

And plenty of candidates have made an ugly remark at some point or have been accused of using dog whistles to appeal to hatred, so how to show that the bigotry at the core of Trump’s campaign and his political persona are far more serious?

The cold hard fact is that elite Republicans flee from him precisely because of any or all of these four disqualifying attributes — that he can’t be trusted, that he doesn’t have the information base to do the job, that his business and personal finances are a mess, and that he’s running as a bigot.

In other words: Trump is different. He’s not a normal candidate. His candidacy is untenable, according to those who have the strongest incentives to get it right.

Whether that information would matter to voters is an open question. I’ve seen plenty of people mock the idea, but I think there’s a good chance some Republicans would see it as a fairly strong cue. Regardless, Republican disunity and defections may be the single strongest way to demonstrate something absolutely central to understanding this election: why Donald Trump isn’t just a show-business version of a regular candidate.

Change Begins with who? The Nigerian President and the butchery of the change philosophy

By Anthony Obi Ogbo
By Anthony Obi Ogbo

Less than two years after he took office, President Buhari and his selection of incompatible cohorts have run Nigeria’s social system into anarchy; cluttered the country’s political structure; and ran the economy into a near irreparable recession. But recession may not be astonishing because organizational challenges come and go. The danger is that this president may not even know that his country’s economy is in recession, while he ignorantly flip-flops from one social campaign to the other.

In a mist of economic catastrophe, President Buhari’s first disastrous move was to launch a movement against societal indiscipline. The aged authoritarian had declared a war on “indiscipline” last month, recreating a “task force” that would supposedly ensure orderly queues, clean streets, and enforce punctuality across the public service system.

This was a reintroduction of one of his punitive programs in his days as dictator. Shortly after he seized office in 1983, General Buhari, as he then was, set up the “War Against Indiscipline,” (WAI); using hardened military bullies to terrorize citizens with brutal penalties and humiliations. For instance, civil servants who turned up late for work were publicly and physically abused, while Nigerians accused of dropping litter and jumping queues faced penalties ranging from compulsory press-ups to fines.

As President Buhari was busy rehearsing his campaign against Indiscipline, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) hinted that the country has dropped into recession. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 2.06 percent in the second quarter of 2016 after falling 0.36 percent in the previous three months. To make it worse, Nigeria’s  oil industry went down against weaker global prices.

Unperturbed by the impending fiscal hardship, President Buhari resumed another campaign – this time , a movement tied to a transformation process he adopted as a campaign promise late 2014. The new campaign tagged ‘Change Begins with Me’ is expected to engrain accountability, integrity, and positive attitude among the populace to comprehensively attain national development.

This President charged his frustrated citizens to be part of his campaign because the change they would see begins with them. According to President Buhari, “If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society. In other words, before you ask ‘where is the change they promised us?, you must first ask, ‘How far have I changed my ways? What have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society’?”

President Buhari, just like most African dictators, had adopted a call for patriotism and action by a former United States President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural speech in 1961 that Americans should ask not what their country could do for them, but ask what they could do for their country. Failed leaders, especially in Africa, had relied on this phrase to intimidate their citizens into love and service to their country even when these leaders leave them without the least basic necessities. But President Kennedy was only energizing his populace by expressing the significance of patriotism and unyielding support for public service. He wasn’t preaching on how to support indolent leaders who terrorize their people.

Recessions is harmful for any country and any responsible leader in this condition should organize relevant resources to seek the way out. The most relevant entity or player to stop recession or divert the economy to the path of growth is the government. Unfortunately, President Buhari, so detached with both his subordinates and constituents is yet to present a blueprint to address his economic woes. With an inexistent economic team, this president has totally ignored any prime actions on alleviating his current predicament; rather he had trotted from one social campaign to the other, professing policies that bear no relevance to his regime’s immediate needs.

But this latest campaign, ‘Change Begins with Me’ reveals about this regime, a total lack of comprehension of the change development. Change is a fundamental application of the transformation process, and neither begins with the leader nor the lead; rather, it is a revolution from a current state to a proposed future state to inspire relevant development. In a change environment, the leaders take charge in managing the development and surmounting barriers of the process. Thus, an estimated change can only be effective when leaders understand the development mechanism, significant complications, and other barriers that must be mitigated.

President Buhari had complained about some elements that  break pipelines and other oil facilities, thus robbing the nation of the much-needed resources. But his inability to properly address the issues involving the Niger Delta indigenes contradicts his change campaign and further frustrates the country’s constitutional mission to attain unity. In organizational development or governance, change hardly thrives in a system riddled with economic injustice and sociopolitical uncertainty.

President Buhari’s campaign that a “Change” process must begin from the constituents is a misguided development preference. In the transformation fraternity, both the leader and the led are united in the process and must uplift each other in a greater height of success. In the domain of organizational transformation, the leader takes charge in developing a feasible agenda; he must communicate a clear vision, build trust, and generate necessary understanding among subordinates. But President Buhari cannot facilitate a change process by a current isolation of both his subordinates and the masses from the governmental process.

With Nigeria and its current dysfunctional governance, any proposed change process must be a paradigm shift. A process revolution that would start from president Buhari himself. This president must embrace the mechanics of Organizational Development. He must create a new structure that would radiate fundamental principles that foster collective involvement of significant stakeholders; boost learning; advocate justice and equality; create path to effective communication; mutual obligation, and other factors that would engage people and foster strategic means to collectively solve problems.

Anthony Ogbo, Ph.D. is the Publisher of Houston-based International Guardian, and author of “Governance Buhari’s Way.”

Trump’s “Deplorable” Minority Outreach Has Backfired

By SKC Ogbonnia
By SKC Ogbonnia

Let me start by disclosing that I have been a Republican throughout my donkey’s years in America. This affinity is shaped by my values as an African. For we are fundamentally religious, pro-life, support prayers in school and advocate school choice. More profoundly, we promote traditional marriage between a man and a woman. We also work very hard, strongly oppose higher taxes, and are very cold to radical feminism. These conservative principles are widely shared by most people of colour as well as the Republican Party.

Therefore, even as the minorities have generally owed their allegiance to the Democratic Party in recent decades, there is always a high possibility for a dramatic shift. Such shift had seemed ripe in the 2016 presidential election that determines which party takes over from President Barack Obama.

Vaulted to power on the mantra of hope and change, Obama has been painted as opaque by the minority groups that anchored his journey to Pennsylvania Avenue.  Without a doubt, he has recorded a measurable success in the general polity, especially considering the gloomy spectre upon assumption of office. But the minorities remain peeved that the election of one of their own as president has not reflected the desired change in their immediate communities. More strikingly, the Hispanics feel betrayed that Obama has deported more illegal aliens than others before him. And the black elites are not enthused that President George W. Bush showed more interest and did more for Africa than the first African American president.

Yet I am joining the vast majority of the American minority to support the Democratic Party in this electoral cycle. This is noteworthy because it means endorsing a party that has nothing in common with me. My reason, though, is simple: Donald J. Trump.

He is truly deplorable. He neither shares Republican ideals nor conservative values. But to gain political prominence, Trump would embrace the Tea Party, a hateful fringe sect within the Republican Party that constantly stokes racism, hegemony, and xenophobia. With the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity then stale voices; Trump became a fresh echo-chamber to the birther conspiracy. The birther goal, of course, was to delegitimize the first African American President by falsely claiming that Obama was not born in the United States.

The birther scam ultimately endeared Trump to the ultra-conservative right-wing America. But it also sowed a deep seed of discord with the black population. His perceived shortcomings within the African American community notwithstanding, any serious jab on President Obama remains a personal slap on any black face.

But the bombastic billionaire was not done. By the summer of 2015, Trump noticed that the very extremist right-wing lane was wide open in a Republican field of 17 presidential candidates. And he was set to go full circle. The gambit this time was to rubbish the other major minority group in a manner never witnessed in history. By the minute he was done with his eventual announcement for a presidential bid, the Latino image in America would never be the same. Donald Trump simply branded their immigrants as drug-pushers, criminals, rapists, scum-bags, and much worse. And his target audience roared in agreement.

Trump’s toxic rhetoric did not hinder his meteoric rise to the Republican nomination. For extremism has been a wining tonic for primary voters. After all, the American electorate is very forgiving. Any logical pivot to the center is typically welcome for the general election. But this case is entirely different. Mr. Trump is the antithesis of political logic, and that is where his dream of the White House became a mirage. The objective point is that the man actually knew where to start but did not know where not to go: Courting the minority votes.

Often ignored in the electoral debate is that Donald Trump once had the chance to gamble his way to the Oval Office, if the minority voters had remained lukewarm about the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. While Trump’s right-wing supporters had shown steady enthusiasm, the minority voters were ambivalent about the 2016 polls altogether. But that was then.

Trump, since then, has attempted to reap where he did not sow by pandering to the minorities. He has shuttled to Mexico, assembled at a black church, and called his opponent a bigot. But the manner of the outreach is definitely deplorable and has backfired. The whole maneuver has finally exposed him as an erratic goofball. Even his message on immigration, the very signature campaign issue, has become so incoherent that the few Latino leaders on his camp are fleeing while his base supporters are beginning to grow in doubt.

More broadly, the brazen outreach woke up the Democrats early enough. They have come to realize that minority votes must not be taken for granted this time, and they are now countering with specific policies. Worst for Trump, the press as well as the Democratic leaders have masterfully brought to fore Mrs. Clinton’s tireless attention to minority communities while at same time exhuming his life-long iniquities against people of colour.

Race is now left, right, and center of the presidential election; and that is not a winning proposition for the real estate mogul. For example, a recent survey by USA Today and Suffolk University has revealed that a stunning 44% of likely voters think that Donald Trump is a racist. For the Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe the Republican nominee “appeals to bigotry.” The political optics is that the potential US president is a racist.

This racial spectacle has emboldened Mrs. Clinton to expose a cache of fetid sins against Trump. She has already called out his linkage to Alt Right, a right wing group that advocates white supremacy. She would double down by openly declaring a group of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables…racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”

The minorities now fully get it. Not only do they now see a fighter in Hillary, they are profoundly provoked. In short, they no longer have to ponder Trump’s rallying question: “What the hell do you have to lose” for voting for him?  They have since known to answer: “Everything”

There is everything to lose with a “deplorable” racist in the White House. The minorities now see the election as a matter of good versus evil. Party affiliation notwithstanding, we have finally become enthusiastic to vote en masse against Mr. Trump, thanks to his deplorable outreach for minority votes at the Eleventh Hour.

■ Dr. SKC Ogbonnia, Ph.D., writes from Houston, Texas – Contact: email to

Golden Rice False Alarm: That anti-GM rice propaganda in Nigeria

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants.
Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants.

By Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu

Last week, the print and electronic media in Nigeria were awash again with a major propaganda news item on Genetically Modified Foods. This time, a false alarm was raised by unidentified sources that Dangote and Nigerian government have flooded Nigerian market with GMO rice. The news item was followed with a warning that ”eating GMO rice is as bad as eating rice laced with rat poison popularly known as sniper in Nigeria”. The news item was clearly the handiwork of uninformed groups and persons who have consistently been waging war against the policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria in joining many forward-looking countries of the world to fight poverty and hunger through modern Biotechnology. The propaganda is bound to fail because it is a product of falsehood and the National Biosafety Management Agency in Nigeria has reacted by unequivocally debunking the fake news.

This article is meant to lead readers to have a deeper insight on the issues at stake and the inherent falsehood in the raging propaganda. The controversial commodity is called Golden Rice (GR).

The idea behind Golden Rice is to improve the food that people have access to or can grow themselves. The intention of using rice as a vehicle to address micronutrient deficiencies dates at least to the early 1980s. The idea emerged within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system and led to the conventional breeding efforts to increase iron and zinc in rice in the 1990s.

In 1982, from David Dawe of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) case study, researchers in Indonesia found that child mortality is reduced by 30% by distributing vitamin A supplement in poor villages. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the 1990s, Professor Ingo Potrykus at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg, Germany collaborated to the creation of vitamin A fortified rice. In 2000, after years of research, these scientists successfully produced the first strain of golden rice, using daffodils genes and bacteria. This genetically modified rice that contains beta-carotene is widely referred to as Golden Rice (GR).

Scientist Parminder Virk of the International Rice Research Institute scientist holding sample of GMO Golden Rice
Scientist Parminder Virk of the International Rice Research Institute scientist holding sample of GMO Golden Rice

Subsequent research by Syngentia has utilized cereal genes rather than daffodil genes to generate much higher levels of beta-carotene in so-called GR2 Lines (Paine et al., 2005). In these lines, the enzymatic activities in the genes found within maize or rice is utilized to produce much higher levels of beta-carotene in the rice grain which are 20 times higher than the original line.

In September, 2004, the first GR field trial in the world was harvested in Crowley Louisiana, USA. It took several years before GR could be planted in an open field. This delay was because the target countries, with high rice consumption and high vitamin A deficit did not have biosafety regulations in place. This is a necessary condition attached to the agreement with GR licensees that no field releases may take place in the absence of a national regulatory framework.

As at 2013, Philippines has completed its multi-location field trials and is in the process of feed testing. The International Rice Research Institute and the Philippines Rice Research Institute are working to commercialize this GR this 2016.

Golden Rice is genetically modified to provide beta-carotene in the rice grain and it could potentially address widespread vitamin A deficiency in poor countries were rice is a staple. Very significantly, GR improves vitamin A status so that it could become a solution to address vitamin A supplementation, the promotion of breastfeeding, nutrition education, homestead food production and food fortification. In 2012, a study by Tang et al, found that 100-150g of cooked GR provides 60% of the Chinese recommended intake of vitamin A.

Creating rice with beta-carotene content was not possible until the advent of biotechnology. Much of the current funding for development comes from various foundations and institutions including United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and Monsanto.

Starving children at an IDP camp in northern Nigeria
Starving children at an IDP camp in northern Nigeria

The polished rice grain does not contain beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor, which the body converts into vitamin A. In low-Income populations were rice is the primary staple, several micronutrient deficiencies are chronic problems including Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) which is often a problem where rice gruel is used as a weaning food. Such deficiencies are particularly pronounced in children who need greater nutrient density in food to meet their high nutrient needs. VAD is responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and up to 2 million deaths each year and this was referred to as “Nutritional Holocaust”. Particularly susceptible are pregnant women and children. Across the globe, estimated 19 million pregnant women and 190 million children suffer from the condition. The good news however is that dietary supplementation of vitamin A can eliminate VAD.

Pope Francis blessing sample of golden rice brought by Prof. Ingo Potrykus
Pope Francis blessing sample of golden rice brought by Prof. Ingo Potrykus

While the link between VAD and blindness captures public attention, VAD is widely recognized as a globally significant problem. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2004, p.4) estimates that “Vitamin A Deficiency is compromising the immune systems of approximately 40% of the developing world’s under-fives and leading to the deaths of an estimated one million young children each year”. This situation unfortunately has not changed over the past decades.

Although scientists, multi-nationals, seed companies and the CGIAR genuinely believed in the positive humanitarian potential of this technology, negative reactions to GR were immediate and in many cases quite emotional. All the opposing groups agree that VAD is an important problem but objected to GR either as an inappropriate or ineffective solution based essentially on the three points listed as follows:

i). That GM foods are inherently unsafe to human health and the environment. GR poses risks of these kinds and thus will not achieve its humanitarian goals.

ii).That rice is directly consumed by the poor, and thus the poor would be “guinea pigs” for any human health impacts. Either GR will not provide enough vitamin A to do any good or will provide too much, resulting in vitamin A toxicity.

iii). That GR is part of the continued use of “Green Revolution” technologies that are unsustainable and harmful to the poor.

In furtherance of their argument, they raised alarm in Nigeria last week through online sources. They posted thus: “Alarm… Dangote and Nigerian government have flooded Nigerian market with GMO rice, pls note: eating GMO rice is as bad as eating rice laced with rat poison popularly known as sniper in Nigeria, GMO products are banned all over Europe due to its deadly effects, pls share this info to create awareness and save lives… Sent as received. thanks”

Those opposed to GM technology allegedly for ethical, environmental or health concerns seem to have felt that this represented a commercial conspiracy to win over the public. They wanted to debunk this technology because of perceived diversion of attention from potential negative impacts to positive impacts. It is unfortunate that this scientific breakthrough generated so much attention when it remained fairly far from implementation.

The suspicion often caused by the anti-globalization activists against GMO crops (but not GMO processed foods like cheese and beer or medical applications like insulin and many new drugs) paradoxically reinforced an “environmentally justified” set of regulatory hurdles which only large companies can afford. As such, they end up shooting themselves at the foot while the farmers and consumers who would benefit from those crops are collateral victims as there seems to be no scientific justifications for these high regulatory costs.

In a press briefing on September 7, 2016, by Dr. Rufus Ebegba, Director General/CEO, National Biosafety Management Agency unequivocally stated that there is no iota of truth in the issues raised in the alarm against alleged imported GM rice. ”As a Regulatory Body established by the government to regulate the activities of modern biotechnology and the release and use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country to ensure safety to the environment and human health, the NBMA wishes to unequivocally state that, there is no iota of truth in the said post and reinstates that no GM Rice has either been imported or released officially into the country.”

He further stated that “It will suffice you to know that there is no GM rice that has been commercially released anywhere in the world. It should also be recalled that government has banned the importation of rice in Nigeria. This ban was widely publicized in the media and there are no indications that the ban has been lifted.” The DG therefore enjoined Nigerians to disregard the post and join hands with the agency in its quest to ensure safety in the practice of modern biotechnology in Nigeria in line with global best practices.

GR has the potential to reach the important sub-populations that have not been targeted by current interventions in parts where rice is the predominant staple and weaning food. Several studies are currently trying to assess the potential benefit of GR using different economic methods and building their analysis on some strong assumptions about nutritional benefits. Because GR is still so far from actual production and consumption, little is known about bioavailability, losses in storage or cooking or many other factors that would influence the actual delivery of vitamin A. These studies are beginning and will help define the deployment options of the product.

It is instructive to note also that the pro GMO advocacy has been growing from strength to strength globally. This summer, 110 Nobel Laureates signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its efforts to stop GR from coming into the market. Earlier, on November 7, 2013, Pope Francis also gave his personal blessing to GR.

♦ Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu is the Executive Director of Every Woman Hope Centre (EWHC ), publishers of Lefecare magazine in Nigeria



Nigeria and the Implications of a Donald Trump Presidency – Fani-Kayode got it all muddled up

In the opening paragraph of his views about the implications of a Donald Trump’s Presidency to Nigeria, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode declared his support for Trump’s presidential bid. Trump is the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election running against the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

By Dr. Anthony Obi Ogbo
By Anthony Obi Ogbo

But as applies in any true democratic setting, Fani-kayode’s support for Trump is justified. The application of politics is often based on interests, which entitle individuals and organizations to their choices of either electioneering candidates or governance policies. However, Chief-kayode went beyond his choice of a candidate, and delved into other issues he inaccurately illustrated.

For those who do not know, Fani-Kayode is a former Nigerian Minister of Aviation (2006-2007) who joined active politics and juggled between Nigeria’s two major political parties; the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition’s All Progressive Congress (APC). In June 2014, he finally settled for the PDP and was later appointed the Director of Media and Publicity for the 2015 Presidential Campaign Organization of the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. His candidate, Jonathan lost this election.

Since this period, Fani-Kayode has written editorial articles and commentaries about significant issues of Nigeria’s politics. He has reliably presented substantial arguments on various issues, but his latest take on Trump offered opinions that were not only based on falsehood, but also inconsistent with the existing facts.

In the most part, Fani-kayode cluttered his materials on current affairs, and rendered some analysis that revealed a lack of thorough knowledge of the United States politics. For instance, his support for Trump, in his words, was because Trump “admitted publicly that the American-inspired removal of Arab secularist leaders like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Ghadaffi, Hosni Mubarak and, more recently, the attempt to remove Bashir Al Assad were wrong, short-sighted, counter-productive and have led to nothing but chaos.”

Fani-Kayode may not have been aware, but during his nomination campaign process, unprompted media interviews of Trump clearly exposed his ignorance about politics of Africa and Middle East. Here is a candidate who could not identify Africa on the world map – and worse – Libya, Nigeria or Egypt from the African map. America saw this movie with Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice presidential candidate in 2008 presidential campaign who had no single knowledge of her country’s foreign policy at the time.

Fani-Kayode in furtherance of his ill-informed opinion claimed that Trump was  well known for his disregard and contempt for radical Islam, his firm opposition to islamist intolerance and jihadi terrorism and his concerns about the activities of those that seek to establish a new world caliphate where sharia law is applied. This is absolutely false. Fani-Kayode either ignorantly or intentionally ignored to emphasize how Donald Trump’s rapidly changed policy positions, including his radical views on Islam.

Donald Trump in 2015 had proposed a blanket ban on Muslims based on what he called “hatred” of the West innate in Islam. He advocated for the first time, the monitoring of mosques as a way to deal with radical Islamic terror. Asked if he’d consider closing some mosques, Trump said “absolutely, I think it’s great.”

In 2016, Trump softened these policies to ban on only Muslims coming from countries with a history of terrorism. Accordingly, Trump’s policies have been tainted with outright falsehoods while he simultaneously refused to offer specifics on implementation strategies.

The truth however, is that in America, after the W. Bush’s horrible tenure, most voters no longer relate to block-headed candidates who only read campaign scripts and make imaginable promises about matters that are beyond their knowledge. It might have worked in Nigeria with Buhari, but in the United States, experience matter; and that why John McCain failed with Palin, and Mitt Romney failed woefully with Paul Ryan.

Unlike in most African countries where democracy is bastardized beyond recognition, the United States President does not dictate laws and orders.

Fani-Kayode in his article, had also questioned the trio of President Barak Obama, and his past and present State Secretaries, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry on matters inconsequential to their constitutional powers. Unlike in most African countries where democracy is bastardized beyond recognition, the United States President does not dictate laws and orders. President Obama has been operating under a Republican dominated congress and often struggled to implement his own proposals. He has important job to do besides what an individual in Nigeria thinks about his office.

Funny enough, Fani-Kayode in his piece blamed Obama, Clinton, and Kerry for imposing an arms embargo on Nigeria when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, but failed to explain the disgraceful events that trailed the United States’ actions.

In his own explanation at the time, Mr. James Entwistle, the American ambassador to Nigeria attributed a United States blockade of Nigeria’s ability to purchase weapons to human rights violation by Nigerian troops in the Nigerian North-east.

This was consistent with the Leahy Law or Leahy amendment – a U.S. human rights law that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. This law was approved by the congress in 1997, years before President Obama took office. So why blame Obama?

But Fani-Kayode evaded what could have been a thorough justification of this embargo. For the fact that Nigeria’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, allegedly stole more than $2bn (£1.3bn) with funds meant to procure arms to fight Boko Haram was enough reason to conclude that this institution was justifiably troubled with high-level corruption and mismanagement – for even Fani-Kayode himself has been facing charges for allegedly being a beneficiary of that loot. Fani-Kayode it was alleged, received N1.7 billion directly from Mr. Jonathan in funds that they suspected came from Dasuki –  not Obama.

Axelrod may have been hired by the APC, the same way Fani-Kayode was hired by the PDP. In fact, Fan-Kayode made more money in his PDP position than Axelrod made from the APC. Therefore, by whining about Axelrod assisting Buhari in his election victory, Fani-Kayode who headed Jonathan’s campaign was actually narrating his own incompetence and abysmal failure.

Fani-Kayode most ridiculously shot himself on the foot when he claimed that Obama’s campaign manager David Axelrod was paid large sums of money to assist President Buhari to come to power. As a point of reference, Axelrod was a former Obama’s campaign manager who operated a consulting firm at the time. He may have been hired by the APC, the same way Fani-Kayode was hired by the PDP. In fact, Fan-Kayode made more money in his PDP position than Axelrod made from the APC. Therefore, by whining about Axelrod assisting Buhari in his election victory, Fani-Kayode who headed Jonathan’s campaign was actually narrating his own incompetence and abysmal failure.

If I may ask Fani-Kayode, was it Obama that appointed Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega who tactically delivered victory to his Kingsman? Was it Obama that headed Jonathan’s campaign? Was it Hillary that procured a card reader that could not even recognize the President’s finger print at the accreditation process? Was it Kerry that registered thousands of underage voters in the North? I can go all day.

It is ridiculous that rather than evaluate their lapses on why they failed to retain Jonathan’s incumbency, those who headed his campaign and indeed the party leaders were busy blaming their structural woes on Obama. As I mentioned in my book, “Governance Buhari’s Way”, managing failure remains one of the best part of effective governance. In organizational leadership, failure is not unacceptable. What might be disastrous is when managers fail to immediately assess measures and reconcile their lapses. After any election, especially in a race as controversial as the PDP-APC presidential polls, a “postmortem” is compulsory to enable players explore relevant thoughts about their performances. In other words, winners engross in strategizing about implementing their blueprints and projections, whereas losers evaluate their losses to make amends for a comeback.

If I may ask Fani-Kayode, was it Obama that appointed Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega who tactically delivered victory to his Kingsman? Was it Obama that headed Jonathan’s campaign? Was it Hillary that procured a card reader that could not even recognize the President’s finger print at the accreditation process?

However, in the Nigerian system, the situation is absolutely the opposite. Most winners are immediately occupied with infighting over their opportunities to loot public funds. The others are busy lampooning losers with foul language for losing. Losers on their own part are enthralled in some “don’t blame it on me” mentality. Fani-Kayode exemplifies an incompetent loser who is yet to assess his failures, but would arrogantly go around to pass blame on others.

Fani-Kayode made substantial points about specific ill-advised actions of John Kerry over Nigeria’s politics but those are absolutely unconnected with Trump’s ability to lead. Nigeria made that mistake when out of frustration about specific policies of President Jonathan, cheered a dictator into office. Today, those who committed this error are licking their wounds. Consequently, structural policies by Obama, Hillary or Kerry unfavorable to Nigeria do not justify Trump’s leadership proficiency.

Anthony Ogbo, Ph.D. is the Publisher of Houston-based International Guardian, and author of “Governance Buhari’s Way.”

How the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is misleading the world about Nigeria

Is John Kerry actually representing the United States or is he serving some incomprehensible interests?

Before the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry visited Nigeria last week, he placed his agenda on the table. With priority accorded to

By Anthony Obi Ogbo
By Anthony Obi Ogbo

corruption and security, the august visitor also wanted to discuss the state of the economy with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. This visit which was hailed as the last possible engagement by a major American official during the Obama administration came at the right time; a dire period in Nigeria’s fragile democracy, where cries of hardship by a frustrated populace have replaced the national anthem. The visits also was billed to solidify a bilateral affiliation between the two countries after a period of strained relations.

Ordinarily, a top-ranking American diplomat visiting Nigeria would be expected to make as a first destination, the commercial hub of Lagos (the former Nigeria’s capital), or the seat of the government in Abuja. However that was not the case with this visit. Kerry headed straight to the  city of Sokoto; predominantly Muslim and an important seat of Islamic learning situated in the extreme northwest of Nigeria

Kerry’s visit to Sokoto confirmed the devotion accorded to the Sultan of Sokoto—Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, as a strategic partner of the U.S., regarding sociopolitical issues in Nigeria and neighboring Muslim regions. The visit soon provoked a controversy. For instance,  a prominent Christian group, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) voiced out their condemnation, accusing Kerry of being “discriminatory and divisive.” Another organization, the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade also expressed concerns that the United States was fueling ethnic and religious tensions in Nigeria by supporting northern leaders.

These organizations might be right in their discontentment of Kerry’s itinerary.  In a country divided since its independence in 1960 over ethnic and religious differences, it was awfully intolerant for Kerry to have flown in, socialized with Muslim clerics and winged off. He was in Nigeria on Monday and Tuesday, and was hosted by the Sultan of Sokoto, the most senior Islamic cleric in the country. He also met with 19 governors of Nigeria’s northern states and held talks with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a Muslim.

CAN president, Reverend Supo Ayokunle, said Kerry’s visit showed a “lack of respect for the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria” and favored the country’s Muslim population to the detriment of the Christian community.”  Proponents of the regime however differ, praising Kerry’s visit to the Muslim region as an effective partnership strategy in strengthen America’s ongoing battle with Islamist extremism. The sultan is believed to have much leverage with Nigerian Muslims and was seen as the appropriate channel to get the U.S. message across in fighting terror.

Most observers believe that Nigerian Christians are under siege and are the major victims of a supposedly secular governmental system that is currently undermined by the regime. But during his visit, Kerry spent more time showering praises to his Muslim host rather than reveal his country’s position in assisting Nigeria with corruption, security, and state of their ailing economy.  According to Ayokunle, Kerry’s actions speak volume; “his body language were very divisive.”

This is not the first time Kerry has crashed dabbling into a delicate Nigeria’s politics. Earlier in 2015 – during a heated Nigeria’s presidential campaign, Kerry  inappropriately criticized the incumbent regime of President Goodluck Jonathan for an election postponement that was legally justified. He had impolitely issued a release expressing his deep disappointment about the postponement, urging that the Nigerian government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.

Kerry and the Sultan (Center). With Nigeria’s current governance predicament; the first major question would be, when has the Sultan become the country’s spokesperson on matters of corruption, security, the state of the economy? If the Sultan was a force in coordinating fights against terrorism and sectarian violence, why is Northern Nigeria still in such a security mess?

Unfortunately for Kerry, the postponement was later vindicated. From all valuations, there was no way the election could have been held with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru M. Jega admitting to poor supervision, and process unpreparedness.

Kerry was also criticized for overreaction – acting without adequate information from reliable agencies from the United States monitoring the developments. For example, shortly after Kerry’s release, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a United States nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide in collaboration with International Republican Institute (IRI) issued their report contradicting the secretary’s position on the issue.

This time, again, Kerry may have misled America with his senseless Nigeria’s visit. He may have goofed in his misguided Sokoto adventure. With Nigeria’s current governance predicament; the first major question would be, when has the Sultan become the country’s spokesperson on matters of corruption, security, the state of the economy? If the Sultan was a force in coordinating fights against terrorism and sectarian violence, why is Northern Nigeria in such a security mess?

If Kerry was serious about using traditional or religious rulers to boost his Nigeria’s security agenda, he could have visited the Chiefs in the Delta region also, where pollution perpetrated by major United States oil companies have ravaged many communities; and where  government forces have been engaging local militants in bloody battles. Kerry also forgot to visit the Religious leaders or historically prominent chiefs in the Southern zones where the Fulani herdsmen armed by the regime destroy farmlands, and communities; and fatally attack individuals and families at will with sophisticated weapons.

The fact is that  Kerry does not get it. His visit contradicted the very U.S. policy he endorsed. Earlier this month, the U.S. government  through Kerry’s own office placed a danger alert on 20 States in Nigeria over security fears in the affected areas, claiming a lack of confidence in the Nigerian Army – to guarantee the safety of its citizens. The states affected were; Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

With these states including those in the South-South and South-East, why does Kerry think that a visit on security with just the Sultan of Sokoto, and then all Northern governors were appropriate? How would Kerry’s visit to Sokoto solidify a bilateral relationship between Nigeria and United States? Is John Kerry actually representing the United States or is he serving some incomprehensible interests?

Author, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is the publisher of Houston-based  International Guardian.

Here’s what African Americans have to lose if Trump is elected

Donald Trump went to a lily white Dimondale, Mich., (nearly 93 percent white) on Friday to lecture African Americans on why they should be voting for him:

To those hurting, I say: What do you have to lose by trying something new? I say it again, what do you have to lose? Look, what do you have to lose? You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose? . . .

By contrast, the one thing every item in Hillary Clinton’s agenda has in common is that it takes jobs and opportunities from African American workers. Her support for open borders. Her fierce opposition to school choice. Her plan to massively raise taxes on small businesses. Her opposition to American energy. And her record of giving our jobs away to other countries.

Clinton, of course, is not for open borders nor for “giving our jobs away.”

He continued with his anti-immigrant spiel: “Hillary Clinton would rather provide a job to a refugee from overseas than to give that job to unemployed African American youth in cities like Detroit who have become refugees in their own country.”

By Jennifer Rubin
By Jennifer Rubin

Where to begin? The 58 percent figure has been debunked previously (the real number is too high but about one-third of what he claims). In July, the unemployment rate for all African Americans was 8.4 percent. So, contrary to Trump’s cockeyed view, more than 91 percent of African Americans looking for work do have jobs. Moreover, not all African Americans live in poverty or go to schools that “are no good.” This does not mean all liberal policies have worked or that policy innovations are not needed, but the real world bears only a slight resemblance to Trump’s dystopia. In making exaggerated and downright false accusations, Trump distracts from solid conservative arguments against liberal policies (e.g., opposition to school choice, Obamacare’s high marginal tax rate on the working poor) that do adversely impact African Americans.

The Clinton campaign put out a statement castigating Trump’s remarks: “Trump painting the entire community as living in poverty with no jobs continues to show he is completely out of touch with the African-American community.”

Trump doesn’t say, for example, if he’d be willing to spend more on worker training, education and other targeted programs that might address youth unemployment; he does, however, favor a tax plan that hugely benefits the rich. Until Friday, he hadn’t talked much about his plans to fight poverty and discrimination and we still don’t know what he would do, for example, to increase the success rate of African Americans in college or increase access to capital for African American entrepreneurs. In the past, he’s said he wants to eliminate the Education Department. Does that mean dispensing with Title I support for schools serving impoverished students? (African American children make up about 28 percent of Title I recipients.)

Let’s, however, return to the question he posed: What do African Americans have to lose by electing Trump? Let’s count the ways.

Trump has championed a strict law-and-order agenda that rejects the suggestion there are legitimate complaints in the African American community about policing. He is a lightning rod for racial animus and tension, falsely accusing cities with large African American populations to be crime havens. With Trump, we’d lack a president who had any conception that there is a problem with policing in minority communities or any desire to bring communities and police together.

This is someone who declines to speak at African American gatherings (e.g., the NAACP). He’s someone who just brought on to lead his campaign the former head  of a website pandering to the alt-right — that means white supremacy. Only after prodding and a growing controversy did he figure out that he should denounce David Duke and the KKK. And, of course, this was a man heavily invested in birtherism, asserting the president was born in Africa, not in the United States. It’s ironic that in the very speech asking what minorities have to lose, he pits African Americans against immigrants. And let’s not forget his shout-out at a California rally: “Look at my African American.”

There is a reason Trump is getting in some polls 1 percent of the African American vote. (A number of African American and other minority employees of the Republican National Committee quit rather than work on his campaign, by the way.)

In addition, he may not realize it, but his Muslim ban, support for racial profiling and lies about Muslim Americans’ complicity in terrorism have a particular resonance with African Americans. A 2011 Pew study found: “Among the roughly one-in-five Muslim Americans whose parents also were born in the U.S., 59% are African Americans, including a sizable majority who have converted to Islam (69%). Overall, 13% of U.S. Muslims are African Americans whose parents were born in the United States.” So when Trump demonizes all Muslims, he’s demonizing many African Americans.

Aside from his repugnant rhetoric, Trump’s “solutions” for the country will make life harder for the poorest Americans, of which African Americans are a disproportionate share. In May, CNN reported:

The tariffs would cost the average household $2,200 a year, or 4% of their after-tax income, according to a new study from the non-profit National Foundation for American Policy conducted by David Tuerck, Paul Bachman and Frank Conte, all of Suffolk University. This is largely because imports under Trump’s policy would become more expensive, raising the price of competing American-made goods by 11%. That would effectively levy a consumption tax on purchases and cut into the incomes of shoppers.

“All of the benefits for producers would be extracted from consumers,” said Tuerck, who heads the economics department at Suffolk. “It’s using a blunt sword to do brain surgery. It would cost consumers an awful lot for rather small benefits for U.S. producers.”

Moreover, all voters, African Americans included, stand to lose with a president who fawns over dictators, demonstrates abject ignorance about our nuclear arsenal and undermines NATO. All Americans lose when the president declares he is going to order the military to commit war crimes or clamp down on a free press (banning reporters, threatening revision of labor laws). And all Americans lose when the president plans to add billions to the debt.

As a final note, at first glance it might seem odd for Trump to go to a nearly all-white community to declare how much he cares for African Americans. Well, it is doubtful that he or his advisers think they are going to do much better with African Americans than they are now. But, plainly, his divisiveness and association with racial bigots bother a lot of white voters. They view him as intolerant and hostile to nonwhite Americans. Many are embarrassed to support him for precisely this reason. This is Trump’s way of telling white voters, Look! I’m not so bad! I love African Americans!

In other words, in a campaign built around playing into the fears and resentments of whites, Trump is now trying to assure more sensitive voters that, hey, he’s not a racist after all. African Americans are props for him as he seeks to repair his rotten standing in the polls. It’s far from clear many Americans are going to fall for this.

♦ Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

Follow @JRubinBlogger

Nigeria at Rio: Patriotism in an empty stomach

President Muhammadu Buhari in a group photo with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Sports and Youth Development Solomon Dalung, President of Nigerian Olympic Committee Habu Gumel and some national athletes prior to the RIO 2016 Olympic Games. These athletes had to compete under stress of empty pockets; and often rely on athletes from other countries for basic expenses.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a group photo with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Sports and Youth Development Solomon Dalung, President of Nigerian Olympic Committee Habu Gumel and some national athletes prior to the RIO 2016 Olympic Games. These athletes had to compete under stress of empty pockets; and often rely on athletes from other countries for basic expenses.
By Anthony Obi Ogbo
By Anthony Obi Ogbo

I have always emphasized the misapplication of the quote by a former United States president, John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, that Americans should ask not what their country could do for them, but ask what they could do for their country (January, 1961). This is because some failed leaders, especially in Africa, dwell on this phrase to manipulate citizens into love and service to their people without even providing them with basic necessities.

As a fact, President Kennedy was only energizing his populace by expressing the significance of patriotism and unyielding support for public service. He wasn’t preaching on how to love indolent leaders who terrorize their people, or how to fly our national flags without jobs, foods, roads, water, and worse, roof over our heads.

 In Nigeria, supposedly Africa’s giant, instances of dedicated athletes representing their country in global tournaments without basic allowances are a tradition and no longer make the headlines. Athletes have been made to pay their travel expenses in some cases as their own contribution to a country that is giving them an opportunity to travel abroad to showcase themselves. What a travesty.   

But the current 2016 Olympics Games is no exception.  Nigerian sports authorities had issued a memo asking their Olympics athletes to source their travel expenses. To save face, the ministry quickly reversed their decision after the memo made it to the social media and stirred public condemnation.

A terrible event soon emerged from Atlanta, Georgia where Nigeria’s Olympic soccer team was grounded because the sports ministry had not paid for their trip. To save face again, the sports ministry reportedly arranged another flight for the contingents. Another embarrassment event in   Brazil   exposed how the soccer team captain, Mikel John Obi paid about $4,000 to save the team from missing their flight to Salvador. Players and officials   were held up in Sao Paulo over hotel bills incurred by additional officials.

Yet  the team persevered after an excruciating journey to Brazil, less than six hours before its opening game. They endured these adversities; didn’t show any fatigue from their travel ordeal before their opening game, beating Japan 5-4 Thursday night. Nigeria also emerged their group leader, beating Sweden 1-0, and lost 0 – 2 to Colombia to qualify for the quarter finals.

Just as things got better for this team, another distraction struck once again. The players threatened to boycott their subsequent games over unpaid allowances. They complained that they have not received their outstanding allowances from their pre-Olympic training camp in Atlanta, as well as bonuses due for their group stage matches. The team’s coach Samson Siasia  backed his squad after they reportedly boycotted a training session ahead of their quarter-final with Denmark  today.

Siasia confirmed that the squad had only received allowances for 11 days, despite participating in months of training in both Nigeria and Atlanta prior to the tournament, and indicated that he would back the players if they decided to boycott their forthcoming match.

Besides the soccer team, other athletes representing Nigeria also go through similar ordeal. Ordinarily, athletes with oversea careers are less affected because they are well-off. But athletes living in Nigeria had to compete under stress of empty pockets; and often rely on athletes from other countries for basic expenses. What a shame!

Flying the national flag: Amidst a thread of atrocities, some Nigerians and indeed the agents of the regime are busy camouflaging the abuse of their Olympic contingents with songs of patriotism and diversity of a nation.
Flying the national flag: Amidst a thread of atrocities, some Nigerians and indeed the agents of the regime are busy camouflaging the abuse of their Olympic contingents with songs of patriotism and diversity of a nation.

Amidst these atrocities, some Nigerians and indeed the agents of the regime are busy camouflaging the abuse of their Olympic contingents with songs of   patriotism and diversity of a nation.   President Buhari, unconcerned about his battered athletes, applauded their patriotism and asked them to use the soccer team’s success over the Japanese as a source of inspiration for success. The President also vowed, prior to the game, that the Federal Government was fully committed to the contingents and would ensure that funds budgeted for the games would be released without delays. So where are the funds?

Let us call a spade a spade. Wearing national jerseys and flying the flags does not justify the love for ones country for these are the event routines. Currently, there are more than a thousand recruiters at the Olympics, scouting and signing up athletes from countries like Nigeria where sports persons have no future.

Are we yet to wonder why and how any good athlete in Nigeria ends up in Europe or America? These days they migrate to Asia and Middle East to seek better careers and more so, respect for their talents. As author and philosopher, Mark Twain, noted, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Regrettably, ordeal of these athletes are a proof that the Nigerian government do not deserve any loyalty from a population they horribly exploit. Poet, William Cowper was absolutely right, “No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach.”

♦ Author, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is the publisher of Houston-based  International Guardian.

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