Allen Onyema and Air Peace V. US Department of Justice: Points to Ponder

“The Nigerian media space went agog when the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division on November 19, 2019, filed Case 1:19-cr-00464, A “True Bill”, otherwise known as Grand Jury Criminal Indictment against the persons of Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, a Nigerian Citizen, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace; and Ejiroghene Eghagha, a Nigerian citizen and the Chief of Administration and Finance of Air Peace. Commentators have speculated on the guilt or innocence of the accused. 


By  Emmanuel N. Emenyonu, Ph.D

My purpose is to shade some light on the issues using the tools of my professional training and exposure, given that this is of national importance to Nigeria and Nigerians both home and abroad.”


Others have offered some theories relating to the motivations and hidden hands behind the Indictment. Some ‘experts’ have pontificated on the seriousness of the charges especially money laundering. Some commentators have even likened the Indictment to some recent high profile indictments involving some Nigerians alleged to have engaged in sundry cybercrimes and advanced fee fraud schemes. 

Nothing could be furthest from the truth as there are hardly any facts in the November 19, 2019 Grand Jury Indictment supporting any such comparison. Let me make it clear that the purpose of this article is not to hold brief for the accused persons. It is my understanding that they accused persons as should be expected, have retained competent counsels for that purpose. 

My purpose is to shade some light on the issues using the tools of my professional training and exposure, given that this is of national importance to Nigeria and Nigerians both home and abroad.

In all, the indictment alleges in its 36 pages and 88 paragraphs 35 counts of diverse criminal offences. Count One alleges Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud an offence covered by title 18 of U.S. Code (U.S.C.)§ 1349. Counts Two to Four allege Bank Fraud contrary to 18 U.S. C. § 1344. Counts Five to Eight allege Conspiracy to Commit Credit Application Fraud, covered under 18 U.S. C. § 371. Counts Nine through Thirty-Five allege Money Laundering, covered under 18 U.S.C § 1957. Finally, Count Thirty-Six, 

Aggravated Identity Theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). Counts One to Eight, name both Allen Onyema and Ejiroghene Eghagha as defendants. Counts Nine to Thirty-Five, specifically name only Allen Onyema as defendant. Count Thirty-Six names Ejiroghene Eghagha as the sole defendant. If convicted of any of the charges, the Indictment is seeking for forfeiture to the United States of any property derived from proceeds traceable to such offenses, including Money Judgment and Banks Funds held in JP Morgan Chase Account ending in 5512 ($4,017,852.51), Bank of Montreal Canada account number ending 7523 ($4,593,842.05) and Bank of Montreal Canada account number ending in 7515 ($5,634,842.04), totaling $14,246,536.60.
Count One, paragraph 1 alleges that the defendants conspired to, “knowingly devise and execute and attempt to execute a scheme and artifice (i) to defraud financial institutions the deposits of which were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, that is, Wells Fargo Bank and JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA, and (ii) to obtain and attempt to obtain moneys, funds and assets owned by and under the custody and control of those financial institutions by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, as well as by omission of material facts, in violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344.” 

The charges continue from paragraph 2 to give the profile of Mr. Onyema, his trips to Atlanta, opening of US Bank Accounts, transference of funds from Nigerian bank accounts to US bank accounts, ownership of Air Peace, personal expenses at Atlanta area stores and even eating at restaurants and sundry immaterial issues. 


May be, these were aimed at the emotions of the members of the grand jury.  No where did the indictment actually convey how the defendants harmed US depositors and their funds. 


Counts Nine to Thirty-Five give a list of routine transfers from one Wells Fargo Account ending 8621 to two other Wells Fargo Accounts ending in 0125 and 8020, all belonging to and under the control of the accused persons ranging in amounts from $150,000.00 to $1,000,000.00.
The charges either expressly or impliedly cover a wide array of complex topics dealing with international letters of credit, such as: international aviation business; structuring of operations between a foreign parent company and its subsidiary(ies); international banking and financial flows; international transfer pricing and taxation; and Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations enforcement. 


Any one of these topics is complex enough all by itself and a case that has combinations of these topics is bound to be very difficult to untangle.
It is important to always bear in mind that this is a Grand Jury Indictment, usually secured ex parte, that is, in the absence of the accused. In Grand Jury proceedings the accused is not entitled to Sixth Amendment rights to defense counsel in the grand jury room, nor the right to examine and cross examine witnesses. 


From its historical intentions of protecting innocent citizens against overzealous prosecutors, some experts opine that the American Grand Jury system is broken. 

For instance, the American Bar Association, has criticized the GJ system for “being a mere rubber stamp for the prosecution without adequate procedural safeguards”. William J. Campbell, a former federal district judge in Chicago, noted in 1973 that: 
“[T]oday, the grand jury is the total captive of the prosecutor who, if he is candid, will concede that he can indict anybody, at any time, for almost anything, before any grand jury.” 

Not much has changed since Judge Campbell made those observations. In an Editorial on Sunday, April 16, 2012, the New York Sun reminded readers that, the Chief Judge of New York State’s highest court, Sol Wachtler, “once said that grand juries were so pliable that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” 

It is therefore important for people especially in the court of public opinion to withhold judgement based on a one-sided narrative presented by the prosecutors, who have been known to be overzealous. It is not unheard off to have Grand Jury indictments dismissed. 

For instance according to the 2018 Annual Statistical Report of the US Attorneys Office, out of the 151 non narcotics related Money Laundering indictments that were determined, 18, representing about 12 percent were dismissed.

As at last count, it has been reported that the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has entered the fray. The EFCC will need to bear in mind that the overriding interest in the US Department of Justice Grand Jury Indictment against the named officials of Air Peace is the interest of the United States, not natural justice per se. 
The US DOJ in the Indictment is asking that funds which clearly originated from Nigeria should be forfeited to the United States if the accused are found guilty. 

This is against natural justice and biased towards US interests. In the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Statistical Report of the US Attorneys Report, the US Department of Justice declined to press ahead with the prosecution of a total of 2,573 alleged criminal matters on account of “Prioritization of Federal Resources and Interests (emphasis mine) “. 
A partial breakdown of some of these offenses the US DOJ declined to prosecute for the above stated reasons: violent crimes (452), Terrorism/National Security (171), Drugs (414), Official Corruption (67), white collar crimes (623), government regulatory offenses (99) and organized crime (13). These are very serious offenses for the US DOJ to decline prosecution citing prioritization of Federal Resources and Interests. 
I have not seen anything in the Grand Jury 

Indictment of the CEO of Air Peace Chief Allen Onyema and the Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of the same company Mr. Eghagha to warrant the US DOJ to rank this issue higher in their priority than even crimes involving terrorism and national security of the United States. Except there are aspects to this case that the US DOJ has not mentioned yet, the Nigerian EFCC should resist the temptation to be used as a pliant tool for bringing down a thriving Nigerian company that is providing jobs directly and indirectly for thousands of people all across Nigeria and beyond. 
The EFCC should remember the case of Arthur Andersen LLP which was charged by the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas on May 6, 2002, in connection with the ENRON scandal, convicted on June 15, 2002; the conviction affirmed by the 5th Circuit (the relevant US Federal Appeal Court) in 2004, only for the US Supreme Court to overturn the rulings of these lower courts in favor of Arthur Andersen in 2005. 
Unfortunately, for the Arthur Andersen, it was unable to recover from these legal setbacks and had to shut its doors notwithstanding the ruling of the highest court in the land. 

Overzealous US DOJ prosecutions can lead to incalculable harm to individuals and companies even when they are finally exonerated. The economic interest of Nigeria should weigh heavily on the minds of the leaders of EFCC as they proceed on this issue.

In conclusion, with respect to Money Laundering cases, banks and financial institutions who are the gatekeepers of the financial system have a high degree of responsibility in combating the crime by adhering to AML due process procedures especially, knowing their customers (KYC). 
This is a major plank of Anti Money Laundering (AML) laws and regulations in many jurisdictions. 

For instance, in September 2019, ING, the big Dutch bank was fined the sum of $900 million for lapses in the bank’s KYC implementation. If as alleged, Air Peace and the leaders of the company engaged in serial AML offenses using wells Fargo, why is Wells Fargo Bank not included in the Indictment or in any separate indictment for that matter for Counts Nine to Thirty-Five? 

It appears here that the US DOJ is primarily concerned with protecting Wells Fargo and the two other systemically important banks named in the Indictment. 

The connotation of sinister criminal activities on the part of the accused which has been suggested by the Indictment and various headlines is not supported by a careful reading of the Indictment. 
Usually in major financial crime cases such as this, the indicting US Federal agency will identify the victims and the magnitude in US dollar terms of losses suffered by the victims. No victims were specifically mentioned not to talk of the monetary amount of the losses incurred by the victims. 

The US companies that sold airplanes and the banks that profited from facilitating those transactions have not asked to disgorge the profits arising from those transactions. Air Peace and the accused persons should put up a robust defense to clear their names from what looks to be an overreach by zealous prosecutors.

Emmanuel N. Emenyonu, Ph.D (Glasgow), LLB (London), CPA (Massachusetts), FCA (Nigeria), a Professor of Fraud and Forensic Accounting at Southern Connecticut State University, has at various times taught International Accounting, Financial Accounting, Taxation, Finance and Accounting Information Systems at leading universities such as University of Nigeria, Yale University, Covenant University, Howard University and Quinnipiac University

Enemies within: Novice African-American Women Judges might be under vindictive surveillance

Judge Smoots-Thomas is in trouble today because she is not  Senator Ted Cruz. Novice African-American Women Judges must reassess their community activities, political conduct, and financial practices to comply with the demands of their new designation.

After a Harris County District Court Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas was indicted and later suspended for allegedly misappropriating $26,000 in campaign contributions, it became obvious that “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under disgusting surveillance. Every move, every breath might be under systemic scrutiny.  “Black Girl Magic Texas,” represented 19 Black women (17 beginners) who ran for a judge in Texas Harris County–and all 19 won. Together, they made history, becoming the largest group of Black female judges to be elected at the same time in Harris County history.


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

The fine art of judging is a complex phenomenon provoked by thoughtful application of law and the test of constitutionality.  


Smoots-Thomas’s indictment was brutal. For instance, earlier this month, she was led into a federal magistrate’s courtroom in Houston wearing handcuffs where she pleaded not guilty to all charges. Her attorney, Kent Schaffer, said the judge’s prosecution was political.  Schaffer, a partner at Schaffer Carter & Associates in Houston, claimed it happened because Smoots-Thomas was an African American and a Democrat.  Smoots-Thomas was first elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012 and 2016.

Schaffer was right. Smoots-Thomas is Black and Blue. It was obvious that a sudden change of the County’s court districts from red to blue would come with dire consequences. This strain actually started years back when the “Black Girls Are Magic” campaign mantra was conceived. But this campaign was only a strategic move to elect African-American women in various sectors of the society where they were under-represented. “Black Girl Magic Texas,” was later accomplished in the Judiciary when 19 Black women who ran for a judge in Texas Harris County won.

PRIVILEGED: Texas Senator Cruz (left) had a similar issue and was neither arrested nor handcuffed. Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton (middle) conveniently ran for reelection even as he was grounded with a filthy securities fraud indictment. He narrowly won this race. Judge Smoots-Thomas (right) is in trouble today because she is neither Cruz nor Paxton.

Prosecutors claim Judge Smoots-Thomas misused nearly $25,000 (not 25 million) in campaign funds between January 2016 and March 2017. Her seven-count indictment reveals that she spent the money on a home mortgage, private school tuition, jewelry, and travel. Texas law required her to report to the Texas Ethics Commission whenever she used campaign funds for non-political expenditures.

UNDER VINDICTIVE SURVEILLANCE: The chambers of the fraternity of the “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under vindictive surveillance. Our novice Black Judges must therefore watch out for two major evaluation competencies: effective application of judicial practice and exemplary bench demeanor.

But let me be clear, that the aim of this article is not to categorize ethical violations within race and gender. I am simply discussing an uneven justice system; inequity of law prosecution; and unequal treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system, which is one of the most serious problems facing our society. For example, Judge Smoots-Thomas is in trouble today because she is not  Senator Ted Cruz.

Texas Senator Cruz had a similar issue and was neither arrested nor handcuffed. The racially privileged Senator was caught in a deep hole of financial fraud. He ascribed his failure to disclose two bank loans totaling more than $1 million in federal election filings as a clerical oversight. An in-depth investigation of these transactions which involved Goldman Sachs Group — where his wife, Heidi Cruz, was employed at the time—and Citigroup was suppressed. Also other details regarding this scandal were under-reported.

There is also this bizarre case of the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton who conveniently ran for reelection even as he was grounded with a filthy securities fraud indictment. He narrowly won this race. This was in 2018.

The chambers of the fraternity of the “Black Girl Magic Texas,” might be under vindictive surveillance. Our novice Black Judges must therefore watch out for two major evaluation competencies: effective application of judicial practice and exemplary bench demeanor.  

The fine art of judging is a complex phenomenon provoked by thoughtful application of law and the test of constitutionality.  In fact, the essential qualities of a good judge were explained by Socrates: “Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.” These characteristics, in conjunction with relevant moral necessities, remain the hallmark of effective exercise of the extensive powers of the judiciary.

The Novice African-American Women Judges must not just live up to expectation but also watch out for amoral conduct. This is because the enemies are within the County court districts, tapping phone lines, shuttling courtrooms, listening to every conversation, snooping manila folders–all in search of actionable misconducts and process oversights. While most of these judges are focused on the vision and honor of doing justice and administering the law, they must also make changes in their community activities, political conduct, and financial practices to comply with the demands of their new designation.  

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

African Americans and Clean Climate: Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must step up

We need an organization strong and powerful enough to hold elected leaders accountable for protecting our health and environment, and advancing our interests.

There has been a major divide between the Republican and Democrat lawmakers when it comes to voting on measures to tackle the climate crisis.  It is true that the fossil fuel industry now almost entirely favors Republicans in campaign contributions. However, the truth remains that at this point, the Black community should prioritize health over material electioneering support.


By Carroll G. Robinson

Studies by researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reveal that Black Americans are subjected to higher levels of air pollution than their white counterparts irrespective of social status.  Most such mucky pollution comes from burning fossil fuels. The study published in the American Journal of Public Health explains disparities in distribution of particulate matter emission sources by race and poverty status. It suggests that black Americans were exposed to significantly more of the small pollution particles associated with various long and heart-related disease and untimely death.

To this end, Black Democrats must be environmentalists. Protecting our planet matters to our health, our children, our seniors, our safety and our prosperity. Climate change, environmental injustice, air pollution, water pollution, flooding and contaminated land are all on-going threats to the health, safety, quality of life, prosperity and the future of Black America. So too is transportation, infrastructure and economic inequality, the education and wealth gaps and food deserts.

The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must remain a leader in the fight for environmental justice and to end climate change and environmental health disparities. The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats must be not just the leading defenders of our voting rights, but also our health, our children, our elders, our families, our neighborhoods and our planet.

There should be no more crushed concrete plants, landfills or illegal dumping of old tires, garbage and broken furniture in our communities. These are public health, safety, quality of life and environmental justice issues.

Without more explanation about significance of a clean and safe environment, l must conclude; it’s not enough for us to just elect Democrats to public office. We need an organization strong and powerful enough to hold them accountable for protecting our health and environment, and advancing our interests. That organization must be the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

Thank you and God Bless Houston. For constructive dialogue, you may contact me directly >>>

Carroll G. Robinson, Esq.

Hon. Robinson is the former Chairman, City of Houston Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee; Former Vice Chairman, Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council (H-GAC TPC) and Associate Professor of Public Administration, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University.

The Policy of Dishonesty–Between the War Situation Room and a shameful Photo Op

President Trump created his own Situation Room moment. He set up his table, gathered and positioned some available officials, ushered in the photographer and pretended to be watching the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

From fabricated or deceptive claims about trade and the economy to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, the United States’ President Trump has made ‘dishonesty’ the core focus of his policy-making scheme. Apparently, the only time he doesn’t lie is when he is asleep. 


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

Apparently, the only time President Trump doesn’t lie is when he is asleep. 


Two days ago, the White House released what would have been a War Situation Room showing President Trump and his team supposedly directing and monitoring the killing of the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.  But this bizarre gathering was actually a sham to replicate a historic 2011 moment when President Barack Obama watched from the Situation Room as commandos went after Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda.

The difference in the photos reveals the difference between a real war situation room and a discreditable photo-shoot situation

Obama’s ‘Bin Laden Situation Room photo was impromptu, capturing a tensed moment as  this President flanked by his national security team, received live updates from Operation Neptune Spear, which led to the killing of bin Laden. But last week, eight years later, President Trump created his own Situation Room moment. He set up his table, gathered and positioned some available officials, ushered in the photographer and pretended to be watching the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

President Trump’s photo in the real sense reveals the dishonest face of this administration. It may be recalled that early in September, President Trump displayed his fabricated version of Hurricane Dorian forecast map to show the powerful storm was on track to hit Alabama. Of course, he had to lie. He had falsely stated in a tweet earlier that Alabama was among the several states expected to face impacts from this storm.

President Trump on holds a chart showing the original projected track of Hurricane Dorian that appears to have been extended with a black line to include parts of the Florida Panhandle and Alabama.

In an administration pervaded with mediocrity and policy-making inaccuracies, the White House is experiencing an alarming decrease in trust and reputation.    Just last month, the Washington Post reported that President Trump has made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days by significantly uttering exaggerated figures, making unwarranted claims and irritating the social media with horribly outright falsehoods.

So it is not a coincidence that the photos reveal the difference between a real war situation room and a discreditable photo-shoot situation. 

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

November 5 Houston’s Mayoral race is no joke: you must vote the incumbent or perish

Politics is all about interests grounded on a philosophy of “who gets what?” Voters make their choices based on their individual and communal policy-making expectations and necessities. Thus, the choice of keeping the incumbent must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

In just is few days, voters in Houston would go to the polls to make their choices over a roster of candidates running for various city office positions. Among those contests, the mayoral race is considerably critical—coming when the disastrous team in the White House has flung democracy in the United States into a chaotic experience. They have created bogus laws and executive orders to destroy families, law enforcement, commerce, and strangulate the very fundamental rights America was built on.    


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

Buzbee says he wants to end corruption, restore effective government and deliver results for all Houstonians, but it would take an ethical leader to restore ethical leadership.


But the Houston city government led by Mayor Sylvester Turner stood its grounds to protect the city against such challenges. He liberated the city from two major catastrophes; Hurricane Harvey and the Political Storm Donald Trump. Besides his leadership performance during this historic Harvey catastrophe, Mayor Turner also resisted Trump’s cold-blooded immigration policies; and rallied his law enforcement to focus on saving lives rather than a collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to tear up families. According to Mayor Turner,

“My job starts with the never-ending effort to provide a safe, secure and prosperous environment for every resident of Houston in their places of work, their places of worship, their school, their homes and elsewhere. The city does not try to do ICE’s job, nor does it try to impede ICE. And we will continue to be a city that builds relationships, not walls.”

There are other policy issues at stake in this election, but let us remember that no strategy actions would persevere without a peaceful and secured city.

While this may sound satirical, there are essentially two major candidates in this race–Mayor Turner and others. Turner’s argument rests on his first-term stewardship, touting a successful handle of the budget, a deadly Hurricane Harvey, pension system reforms and the economy. His closest rival, Tony Buzbee, objected. Buzbee is a decorated Marine, a successful lawyer and business owner running on governance ethics. He says he wants to end corruption, restore effective government and deliver results for all Houstonians.

Cover of International Guardian’s election edition.   Houston’s Mayoral race is, therefore, a fraternal call to vote the incumbent or perish. Just like America and Trump, if Houston scorns the current opportunity to keep its current leadership, this city might end up in self-destructive misery.  

But it would take an ethical leader to restore ethical leadership. For example, to date, Mr. Buzbee has not properly come clean on how and why a young Dallas-based female court reporter descended on his home and vandalized his valuable collections.  29-year-old Lindy Lou Layman was accused of smashing and destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures in Buzbee’s mansion. Layman according to Harris County court documents, poured liquid onto paintings, tore paintings off the wall and threw sculptures across the room, resulting in about $300,000 damage.

Challengers from left: Tony Buzbee, Bill King , Dwight Boykins, and Sue Lovell. In any election process involving an incumbent, the choice of a candidate must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

In furtherance of his questionable moral worthiness, Mr. Buzbee has shuttled in-between parties courting the most questionable moments and supporting underhanded politicians. For instance, in 2002, he unsuccessfully ran for the Texas state House as a Democrat. But in2012, he supported squarely, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. That was not all.  In 2016, Buzbee hosted a fundraiser at his River Oaks mansion for then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, and subsequently gave $500,000 to Trump’s Inauguration Committee.

There might be nothing wrong with supporting candidates, but Mr. Buzbee’s double-dealing attitude with both the Republicans and Democrats possibly reveals con and disloyalty, and questions his moral decency in politics and leadership.

Please note that there might be nothing wrong with supporting candidates, but Mr. Buzbee’s double-dealing attitude with both the Republicans and Democrats possibly reveals con and disloyalty, and questions his moral decency in politics and leadership.

Another issue with Mr. Buzbee’s candidacy is his contribution of almost $10 million to his campaign. The message might be simple – that Bagby Street might be up to be mortgaged to a millionaire affiliated to Donald Trump. And you may not be surprised too if Hilton Americas becomes a Trump Tower.   

Other candidates in this race are rightly exercising their constitutional rights to vote and to be voted for. Yet their chances remain infinitesimal based on the latest poll by the University of Houston published on the eve of early voting. The poll shows that Mayor Turner could win without a runoff, as he keeps a wide lead over his opponents, with 43.5 percent support among likely voters.  Mr. Buzbee followed by 23.4 percent. Bill King and Councilman Dwight Boykins trail with 7.8 and 6.8 percent respectively. The rest of the candidates, including Sue Lovell, poled below 2%.

Replacing Mayor Turner must not just be based on his first-term superintendency, but also the caliber of his challengers.  Because the incumbent is not working does not mean that we should replace him with a numbskull unfamiliar with the people of Houston, their resources, and the city’s political terrain.

Mayor Turner is the incumbent. Replacing him must not just be based on his first-term superintendency, but also the caliber of his challengers.  Because the incumbent is not working does not mean that we should replace him with a numbskull unfamiliar with the people of Houston, their resources, and the city’s political terrain.

Mr. King actually  admitted when in an interview with ABC13, that  “I think that people probably don’t know the more human side of me because, uh, they see me as a sort of analytical person,” King says, proclaiming himself as somewhat of a nerd.”  So if the people do not know him, why is he in the race?

Politics is all about interests grounded on a philosophy of “who gets what?” It means that voters make their choices based on their individual and communal policy-making expectations and necessities. In just is few days (November 5), voters in Houston would go to the polls to make these choices. But as usual, the discussion question would be whether voters would go to the polls with emotional conscience regarding their interests or whether they would ignore those values to seek candidates peddling frivolous but deceptive campaign rhetoric.  

In typical electioneering process where the incumbent is seeking reelection, a contender must substantially establish four core causes;  

  • A blueprint to transform campaign promises into action.  To date, days before the election, these contenders have not offered any significant proposal besides the rendition of uncorroborated website campaign narratives.  
  • Contenders must show solid proof of policy-making competence. Buzbee and King had pledged to clean up the city office from corruption. But a proposal to fight corruption with amoral characters would bastardize any transformation process. It takes moral people to shape moral society.
  • Contenders must show a connection with the people. Houston, the most diverse nation in the country deserves a leader that is familiar with the multi-cultural face of the city. Mr. Buzbee does not know Houston beyond River Oaks’ vicinity where he resides. Another major contender, Mr. King actually  admitted when in an interview with ABC13, that  “I think that people probably don’t know the more human side of me because, uh, they see me as a sort of analytical person,” King says, proclaiming himself as somewhat of a nerd.” So if the people do not know him, why is he in the race?
  • Last, this position is for a city’s top leadership, not a store manager. Any contender ready for this position must have been tested in managing a high-figure budget; must possess unmatched knowledge of the legislation process, as well as running voluminous city’s day-to-day activities.  

Therefore, based on the aforementioned circumstances, Houston has a choice to make between an incumbent and some incompetent contenders yet to defend their campaign claims. In any election process involving an incumbent, the choice of keeping him must be based on not just his accomplishments but also the quality of his challengers.

Also, I must remind voters that Houston is a family. November 5 Houston’s Mayoral race is, therefore, a fraternal call to vote the incumbent or perish. Just like America and Trump, if Houston scorns the current opportunity to keep its current leadership, this city might end up in self-destructive misery.   

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

Intimidating Progress: Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg got it totally wrong

This blatant attempt at intimidation of advocates for reform, a federal judge and the Democratic members of the Harris County Commissioners Court won’t work.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is wrong for attacking cash bail reform in Harris County. Her attacks are made doubly worse by trying to enlist the help of police chiefs and officers to boost her attacks.


By CARROLL G. ROBINSON

“Harris County is not Hong Kong right now or Alabama in the 1950s.  Intimidation can’t stop the march towards progress for Black, Brown and  poor people, in Harris County, who have to navigate our criminal justice  system”


Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is wrong for attacking cash bail reform in Harris County. Her attacks are made doubly worse by trying to enlist the help of police chiefs and officers to boost her attacks.

This blatant attempt at intimidation of advocates for reform, a federal judge and the Democratic members of the Harris County Commissioners Court won’t work.

It’s long past time to reform and fix the criminal justice system so that it stops destroying the Black and Brown community.

Decriminalizing poverty is not a threat to public safety. DA Ogg’s arguments against the bail reform plan are nonsensical. She is essentially arguing that people, out on bail, will commit crimes therefore poor people should be denied bail while rich people, who can afford it, should be granted bail. That is the illegal and unconstitutional status quo that those of us for bail reform are trying to fix right now.

The only other way to reasonably understand DA Ogg’s claims is that though she says she supports bail reform, she is in reality opposed to bail for all defendants. That too is illegal and unconstitutional.

It’s long past time to reform and fix the criminal justice system so that it stops destroying the Black and Brown community. If Vince Ryan had stood up to the Republicans on Commissioners Court when he had the chance instead of wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money defending the criminalization of poverty, we would not have to now be treated to this sad spectacle being led by a Democratic DA.

The attacks on cash bail reform by Kim Ogg and Vince Ryan are not progressive change. What we are witnessing is advocacy for the same old double standard where the police are called in to intimidate and oppress the poor.

The old mantra of law and order was both bad policy and immoral. It was used to criminalize and over police Black and Brown communities. Its advocacy extends back to Bull Connor, J. Edgar Hoover and the war on crime that extended from Richard Nixon to Reagan until the opioid epidemic was declared a national medical emergency.

The attacks on cash bail reform by Kim Ogg and Vince Ryan are not progressive change. What we are witnessing is advocacy for the same old double standard where the police are called in to intimidate and oppress the poor.

Harris County is not Hong Kong right now or Alabama in the 1950s. Intimidation can’t stop the march towards progress for Black, Brown and poor people, in Harris County, who have to navigate our criminal justice system.

The moral arch of the universe bends towards justice and reforming the cash bail system in Harris County is a manifestation of justice.

Thank you and God Bless Houston. For constructive dialogue, you may contact me directly >>>

Carroll G. Robinson, Esq.

Hon. Robinson is the former Chairman, City of Houston Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee; Former Vice Chairman, Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council (H-GAC TPC) and Associate Professor of Public Administration, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University.

KPRC’s “Internship” story series: between Investigative Story and Political Hit Job

In the media clan, political hit job can be crookedly camouflaged as an investigative news, especially when the story segment is suffused by sentiments, lacks integrity, and denotes a blatant show of unfairness.

Investigative Journalism often entails an in-depth story examination with the purpose to either uncover fraud or test various policy actions for public attention. In the newsroom confraternity, one major challenge in managing report process standards is having trained researcher-reporters who understand the fundamental techniques about the subject.   However, this process becomes a hit job where it is bastardized into a destructive political vendetta to appease specific political interests.


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

Perhaps if Mr. Marvin Agumagu’s name was “Marvin White,” KPRC 2’s headlines would have read differently and most positively, too.”


Using media to systematically cajole undecided voters or a gullible populace to favor specific interests or candidates is not new in America’s politics.  Last year, the National Enquirer parent company, American Media Inc., paid $150,000 in hush money to suppress alleged mistress of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election. Specifically, David J. Pecker, chairman and CEO, admitted paying off a former Playboy model to crush her account of an alleged sexual affair that could have jeopardized Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Using media to systematically cajole undecided voters or a gullible populace to favor specific interests or candidates is not new in America’s politics.

Therefore, it might not be a coincidence that Tony Buzbee, one of Mayor Turner’s major contenders in the upcoming City general election immediately hit the campaign ground with a video collage of KPRC 2 News pieces. It is also not a coincidence that same week, Buzbee injected into his promotional networks, a whopping $2.5 million, pumping up his campaign treasury to almost $10M from his pocket. Yes, his pocket.

David J. Pecker, chairman and CEO, admitted paying off a former Playboy model to crush her account of an alleged sexual affair that could have jeopardized Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In the media clan, a political hit job can be crookedly camouflaged as investigative news, especially when the story segment is suffused by sentiments, lacks integrity, and denotes a blatant show of unfairness.  For the record, this story centers on the validity and ethical implications of a 31-year-Marvin Agumagu, who was offered a position in an airport’s Executive Internship Program. KPRC 2 News rightly needed information.  But retrieving this information from the Mayor’s office was never an issue. Indeed, it was a matter of public information request as the law permits.

It is barbaric for KPRC 2 News reporters to stalk Houston’s mayor and chase him around all corners of his official business venues with cameras for information they conveniently had access to.

Therefore, it is barbaric for KPRC 2 News reporters to stalk Houston’s mayor and chase him around all corners of his official business venues with cameras for information they conveniently had access to. When KPRC 2 News was finally done, it declared in another watery story, “Mayor Turner finally answers questions on camera about intern paid $95K annually.” For God’s sake, what is the difference between written responses made available to the media and the same responses expressed on camera? Of course, the whole idea was to create sensational videos for specific Mayor Turner’s political opponents for the upcoming elections.

We can take this to the banks, but if Mr. Agumagu is guilty of any sin, it must be unconnected with his ethnicity, his color, and his rapport with the City of Houston–fourth largest city in the United States presided by a Black Mayor who has refused to yield to the mainstream media tyranny.  

This story which persevered for almost three weeks without an iota of new information did not establish how $95,000 annual salary is inappropriate for a senior staff analyst who attained three advanced degrees, including a bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree and a law degree. Yet KPRC 2’s story totally scorned a reasonable investigation of Mr. Agumagu’s workforce competence, rather, it focused on his salary and hiring process to generate a drumfire of negative political attacks to bully the Mayor. The story hammered consistently on discrepancies over specific emails, mayor’s statements, and the program’s design process.

Perhaps if Mr. Marvin Agumagu’s name was “Marvin White,” KPRC 2’s headlines would have read differently and most positively, too.  

Besides his unmatched academic feats, Mr. Agumagu is not an entry-level rookie and would not have been hired to make coffees and teas as KPRC 2’s story sarcastically implied. My goodness, this dude has worked around local governments, facilitated projects, and maintains vast knowledge on international business, politics, and diplomacy–a skill-set consequential to the core mission of the Houston Airport systems in expediting an upper echelon of international connectivity for Houston’s growing diverse population.

Stalking Mayor Turner: Therefore, it is barbaric for KPRC 2 News reporters to stalk Houston’s mayor and chase him around all corners of his official business venues with cameras for information they conveniently had access to.
Stalking Mayor Turner: Therefore, it is barbaric for KPRC 2 News reporters to stalk Houston’s mayor and chase him around all corners of his official business venues with cameras for information they conveniently had access to.

We can take this to the banks, but if Mr. Agumagu is guilty of any sin, it must be unconnected with his ethnicity, his color, and his rapport with the City of Houston–fourth largest city in the United States presided by a Black Mayor who has refused to yield to the mainstream media tyranny.  Perhaps if Mr. Marvin Agumagu’s name was “Marvin White,” KPRC 2’s headlines would have read differently and most positively, too.  

Again, I must reiterate that the public must ignore any attempt by the media to decide their prospects. The last time a set of American voters gambled with their chances to elect a leader, they ended up with Donald Trump–an unscrupulous bigot that is currently making a mockery of essential values of America’s democracy. At this time, voters must be very careful with unscrupulous contenders hiding behind the media to steal their votes. With the city elections less than a month away, voters must be careful about those investigative stories on the TV screen. They might just be another “political hit job.”   

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

Black Voters Make Texas Biggest Battleground State In 2020

Texas is now the Biggest Battleground State (BBGS) in America because it has the largest Black population in America.

If Texas Democrats invest in registering one million new Black Democratic voters for the 2020 General Election, educating them on the need to Vote the Entire Ballot From  Top To Bottom because there will be no straight ticket voting in 2020, and  turnout 1.5 million Black Democratic voters in 2020, Democrats will turn Texas Blue.


By Carroll G. Robinson

If Texas Democrats invest in a Black to Blue strategy of voter registration, voter education and Black GOTV, not only will Democrats win the White House, we will also elect a Democratic United States Senator from Texas, retake the Texas State House, secure a Democratic State House Speaker, send more Texas Democrats to Congress, win statewide executive, regulatory and judicial elections as well as sweep county elections and county judicial races all across Texas.
Black voters, especially Black women, will decide if Texas moves from a battleground state to a solid Blue state in 2020. 

Texas will turn Blue in 2020 if Texas (and national) Democratic Party leaders recognize and acknowledge that Black Voters are the Decisive Voters in turning Texas Blue in 2020.

Black voters have been, and still are, the most loyal voting block and constituency in the Texas and national Democratic Party coalition. 

If Texas–and national–Democratic Party leaders really want the biggest bang for their investment in winning Texas in 2020, then their priority must be investing in Black voter registration, education and turnout because it will produce the best and highest return on their investment. Black voters vote 90% or more for Democrats. No other group comes close to that level of political support, commitment and loyalty.

It’s time for Black voter loyalty to be fully acknowledged, recognized, rewarded and respected. If Democrats have not already recognized it by now, Democrats can’t win, and won’t turn Texas Blue, without massive Black voter turnout in 2020. To do that, the Democratic Party at the national, state and county levels must all hire local Black consultants, policy advisors and field organizers and also invest in local Black media outlets, radio and newspapers, and in mail, robocalls and door knocking in the Black community all across Texas; rural, suburban and urban.

Thank you and God Bless Houston. For constructive dialogue, you may contact me directly >>>

Carroll G. Robinson, Esq.

Hon. Robinson is the former Chairman, City of Houston Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee; Former Vice Chairman, Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council (H-GAC TPC) and Associate Professor of Public Administration, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University.

Mayor Turner’s “$95,000-a-year internship” story: Is KPRC 2 News trying to meddle with the City Election?

With the city elections less than a month away, the current recycling of “The Sylvester Turner “$95,000-a-year internship” story segment with no new information is becoming unprofessionally redundant and may signify election meddling.

The timeline trailing KPRC 2 News segments on how an intern recommended by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner earns $95,000 a year suggests there might be hidden or perhaps abnormal motives. But the story is substantial and admirably investigative. KPRC 2 reporters had penetrated Mayor Turner’s business and fished out a breaking news report, that an entry-level local government job which he recommendation carries abnormal salary earnings of $95,000 a year.


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

In the middle of this storm is a 31-year-Marvin Agumagu who was offered a position in an airport’s Executive Internship Program in rather a suspicious manner, raising concerns about why he was given the salary of a senior staff analyst, $95,000 a year with benefits whereas the average internship makes about $22,000 annually. 

Meticulously, KPRC 2 News might have invested more resources in this story than their coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

But Mayor Turner defended his actions explaining that Mr. Agumagu’s salary was appropriate based on his education and experience. For instance, noted Turner in a statement made available to the media, “He has three advanced degrees, including a bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree and a law degree. He also has experience in international relations and governmental affairs which is an asset for the City of Houston’s 5-star international airports.”

Apparently, Mayor Turner’s explanation was not enough for KPRC 2 News. They had run this same story over three times with different headlines, teasers, powerful promos, and ambiguous story riders. Meticulously, they might have invested more resources in this story than their coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

This sarcastic sub-headline caught my attention, “How much would you pay someone to fetch coffee and make photocopies? $10,000 a year? $20,000 a year?” But KPRC 2 News knew that this was not just a basic internship position. As the Mayor’s camp noted, “The official job title for the Executive Intern is Senior Staff Analyst (Executive Level) with a pay grade of 28. The Department Director chose the job title and pay grade and the Human Resource Department determined both were consistent with the specified duties and responsibilities of the position.”

One of Mayor Turner’s major opposition in the upcoming City general election, Tony Buzbee (Left) has already called for a full investigation into the issue. Currently, the Buzbee campaign has infiltrated the networks with advertisements created off of KPRC 2 News’ consistent bashing of Mayor Turner (right)..

But for the records, approval was done under the City of Houston’s Administrative policy. According to the Mayor, “The process is routine, and I have signed 122 of these reclassifications for each of the 23 city departments since taking office in January 2016.”

Yet KPRC 2 News remained adamant in its story segments, recycling the same content and rewording every sentence to fake freshness.  In fact, they have indirectly fed Mayor Turner’s election opponents with both campaign talking points and advertisement catchphrases.

For example, One of Mayor Turner’s major opposition in the upcoming City general election, Tony Buzbee has already called for a full investigation into the issue. According to Buzbee “The mayor claims he can’t find the money to pay for police, fire, and floods, but based on three emails, he can hire an intern for 95K a year plus benefits.” Currently, the Buzbee campaign has infiltrated the networks will advertisements created off of KPRC 2 News’ consistent bashing of Mayor Turner.

KPRC 2 has indirectly fed Mayor Turner’s election opponents with both campaign talking points and advertisement catchphrases.

Nevertheless, Mayor Turner is not new to such media campaign machinations.  Recall Turner v. Dolcefino when in November 1991, KTRK Channel 13 ran a news story about Turner during a close mayoral race. Turner lost that election and ended up in a very lengthy libel lawsuit with both the TV station and their reporter. 

Mayor Turner (left) has consistently led in the polls. In a recent poll of 501 registered voters that Houston Public Media commissioned together with KHOU, Mayor Turner led his rivals with than a third of respondents (36.5%). Tony Buzbe (right) trails with 22%.

So it could be said that  Mayor Turner again might be under the mainstream media bombardment and as we can see, this trend increases as the polls draw closer. Just two weeks ago, KTRK-TV ran another investigative story linking a rapport between Mayor Turner and Kelsey-Seybold Clinic to a breakfast meeting, campaign donations, and city insurance contract.

It is not a coincidence that all these are coming less than one month when Houston voters will decide the next mayor for another four-year tenure.  Mayor Turner has consistently led in the polls. In a recent poll of 501 registered voters that Houston Public Media commissioned together with KHOU, Mayor Turner led his rivals with than a third of respondents.

At this point, if there are substantial updates in this story, let viewers know if not, KPRC 2 News should wrap it up or shut up

With the city elections less than a month away, the current recycling of Turner’s “$95,000-a-year internship” story segment with no new information is becoming unprofessionally redundant and may signify election meddling. If there are substantial updates in this story, let viewers know, if not KPRC 2 News should wrap it up or shut up.

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

As a matter of personal values–I do not mourn dictators

My job is to comfort their victims, share their horrific deeds, and document their interminable exit

The metaphysical model of death is a three-way process–social withdrawal, biological (organ) shutdown, and psychological departure (mental exit). Former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has finally fulfilled these conditions at 95–two years after he was forced to relinquish power to end a disgusting 37-year rule.  


By Anthony Obi Ogbo


Mugabe’s final moments were a contrast to his years as a dictator.  His physical changes were vivid as he emaciated hourly. Grounded on his ailing bed in a treatment facility in faraway Singapore, this dictator watched his external world gradually diminished into a hopeless state that eventually lured him into his current perpetual sleep.  

Do not get me wrong: from that Austrian-born leader of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler, and the Killer-leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, through Benito Mussolini of the Kingdom of Italy, every dictator, including Mugabe has a success story. He was an icon of freedom in Africa’s political fraternity. Undeniably, he is a pan-Africanist who once championed the liberation movement of his people. In fact, his influence on the history of Zimbabwe remains ineffaceable.   

Today, two years after his ejection from office, Mugabe is finally dead. He may not be allowed into Heaven because he would question God on why he created the White Race. Equally, he would be denied entry into hell because he might go there to seize their lands.  So where would the almighty Mugabe go?

But why would a dictator who once claimed the ownership of a country he ruled and abused for 37 years die in a treatment facility in another country? That is the characteristic of the African dictator who would deny their constituent healthcare but send their families abroad for treatment; who consequently would run down their education system and send their families to the most expensive schools in the west. Mugabe is no exception.

His leadership of the former British colony was red marked with bloodshed, persecution of political opponents and a pattern of large-scale election roguery. Mugabe watched his people perish under senseless political, social, and economic policies that triggered uncontrolled inflation, leaving his country the worst economy in the continent.  He shut down the opposition and tortured his critics as a hobby. He usually would invoke a pretentious “Blame-the-west” tactics to sidetrack his leadership woes.

His forced- resignation on November 21, 2017, made good news nationwide as Zimbabweans took to the street to celebrate an end to Mugabe’s dictatorship. He was 93 at the time and could not stand on his own for 20 seconds. Today, two years after his ejection from office, Mugabe is finally dead. He may not be allowed into Heaven because he would question God on why he created the White Race. Equally, he would be denied entry into hell because he might go there to seize their lands.  So where would the almighty Mugabe go?

I have nothing to do with their ailing moments. Thus, I have nothing to do with the death of Mugabe. As a matter of personal values–I do not mourn dictators. As a compassionate soul, my job is to comfort their victims. As a journalist, I have a duty to share their horrific deeds and document their interminable exit. I document and share spectacular images of their funerals and compile those deceiving eulogies by hypocrites that grace their funerals. Notwithstanding these values, I would say, Rest in Perfect Peace Mugabe.

Nevertheless such is life–a weird stage where distasteful clowns make appearances, perform and eventually leave. Mugabe played his role on this stage as a repentant self-made demigod, who annoyed peace until eventually, the blows of his wicked powers were subdued by death.

Please do not accuse me of mischievously being insensitive because that is not the intent. I have nothing to do with their ailing moments. Thus, I have nothing to do with the death of Mugabe. As a matter of personal values–I do not mourn dictators. As a compassionate soul, my job is to comfort their victims. As a journalist, I have a duty to share their horrific deeds and document their interminable exit. I document and share spectacular images of their funerals and compile those deceiving eulogies by hypocrites that grace their funerals. Notwithstanding these values, I would say, Rest in Perfect Peace Mugabe.

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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