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ELECTION, DEBATE AND THE NEED FOR ATTITUDINAL CHANGE

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Governorship Elections

Debate is a vital, far-reaching and inexpensive means of campaigning and earning the voters admiration before election. It is identical to an interview session wherein the employer (electorates) assess the job seekers (contestants) suitability for the job. In developed nations, candidates save debate dates and prioritize attendance over other political activities or duties. Participating in debates is not based on self-determined conditions or wish. It is an essential responsibility. Absence at debates is a political suicide that can break the backbone of a candidate’s political career or end it. In such climes, reeling out manifestoes, the implementation methodology and facing public scrutiny is not construed as rendering favor to the people, but a solicitation of it. The reverse is the case in Nigeria.

 

After returning to democratic rule in 1999, our political consciousness has increased, but our political culture remains undeveloped. On political consciousness, individuals were once upon a time begged to contest for top political offices, but people now struggle hard to become Councilors. Lagging behind, our political culture has not developed swiftly as the consciousness. Candidates still discount political debates since participation and performance are inconsequential on election results. The electorates are responsible for this. Top on most persons’ candidate suitability checklist is ethno-religious connection and political affiliation. Debate and manifesto assessment is rated unimportant. This embolden candidates, especially that of the dominant parties to dishonor debate invites. Such is the case witnessed at the just concluded Presidential debate organized by the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) and the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG).

 

Five presidential candidates, out of over seventy, were opaquely selected to debate. The five selected candidates are Obi Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Kinsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP). Ezekwesili, Durotoye, and Moghalu turned up for the debate, Atiku put in an appearance, but declined participating, in fulfillment of his earlier alert that he would not participate if Buhari does not show up.

 

Atiku’s refusal to debate diminished the admiration his visit to the United States earned him. Nigerians were initially impressed he returned from the US few hours to the debate and made it to the venue on time. His inner circle and political strategists miskicked the ball when they made Buhari’s decision determine their action. Atiku contends that he withdrew from the debate because Buhari “who is at the helm of affairs of the nation is not present to defend himself or his policies”. This argument holds no water. What if Buhari is a first-term contestant and not an incumbent seeking reelection?

 

Atiku shouldn’t have stormed out of the debate without participating. His action mirrors an applicant excluding himself from a job interview because a particular candidate is not present. Such action will, almost certainly, not earn the applicant the job. In this case, Atiku had the confidence to act in such manner because the employer (the electorates) has not made debating a winning determinant like the other employers in developed nations. Avoiding the debate because Buhari is absent is a disregard to the Nigerian populace who have stayed tuned to hear how Atiku intends to ‘get Nigeria working again’. It is also an unnecessary attack on Buhari’s right of choice. Buhari’s absence shouldn’t make Atiku desist from presenting his policies to the populace. Atiku took such action because non-participation in debates has no effect on electoral votes.

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Atiku’s seems to have acted based on concerns other than Buhari’s absence. He apparently left to avoid being humiliated by other candidates. He may also consider debating with presidential candidates who can’t earn half a million votes a waste of time and disrepute to his person. Such reasoning and ego is prevalent in our polity. Moghalu, Ezekwesili and Durotoye’s weak political structure humbled them to participate. They would have most likely behaved like Atiku or Buhari if they were in their shoes.

 

Nonetheless, it is un-presidential for a president not to attend a presidential debate. Buhari lost a golden opportunity to convince Nigerians that he is fit to continue being President. Avowing that busy official and political schedules clashed with the debate is an untenable excuse, especially when many people are casting doubt on his mental ability and had predicted his non-participation.

 

Defending Buhari’s absence is encouraging wrongdoing. Shuttling the country to campaign is good, but debating is a better means of reaching more people, including the electorates, Nigerians in diaspora, and the international community. Other programs should have been postponed if the President considers it important to take part in the debate. If it were to be his personal electoral duties such as the submission of nomination form, collection of return certificate, or swearing-in ceremony, would he be absent?

 

The APC and Buhari’s inner circle allegedly prevented him from participating in the debate in order not to further expose his intelligence deficiency. The Aso Rock cabal is handling Buhari like the late President Yar’Adua. They are encouraging him to stay in office despite being aware of his deteriorating health. One can only pray that Buhari doesn’t end like Yar’Adua because of the greed of a few persons. Buhari means well, but his ability to function effectively can’t increase, it will decrease further as he aged.

 

Atiku unrelentingly challenging Buhari to debate – and the President’s abysmal performance at public functions lately – made his team prevent him from attending the debate. This decision is irrational, but wise. Buhari lacks communication skills and the ability to speak on crucial issues offhand. He would have probably made a mockery of himself if he had debated with persons like Moghalu and Ezekwesili.

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Aside Buhari and Atiku, Presidential candidates will continue to boycott debates because majority of the voting population don’t cherish or know the importance of debates. The real Nigerian voters are largely the less educated people comprising of artisans, traders and thugs who neither watch television nor surf the web. Most of those clamoring for debate are the (social media) elites who do not have a voter’s card. As long as this trend persist, candidates will continue to shun debates and rather rely on handing out freebies and stomach infrastructure to win elections.

 

The three candidates respected Nigerians by participating in the debate, but Nigerians won’t reward them with their votes. Debate and brilliancy don’t win elections in Nigeria, political structure and financial strengths do. Moghadalu performed better than Ezekwesili and Durotoye, but the three are all winners, the losers are the absentees – Buhari and Atiku. But then, the obvious truth is that one of the absentees will eventually win the election. Other political parties are too syndicated or ethnic fixated to win presidential election in a plural nation like Nigeria. The less dominant parties must unite into a strong force, if they wish to beat the APC and PDP in 2023. 2019 Presidency belongs to either APC or PDP.

 

Nevertheless, Nigerians need a robust party other than the dominant APC and PDP. The difference between both parties is that between six and half-dozen. Castigating one for the other is a waste of time as none of them can transform Nigeria.

 

We must also abolish all the sociopolitical anomalies that breed inefficiency. Anomalies have turned Nigeria into the Durkheim (1893) propounded state of anomie. If civil servants retire when they’re sexagenarian, why should a septuagenarian contest for President? If Nigerian graduates needs to serve the nation for one year before they can secure government jobs, why should school certificate be the minimum academic requirement to become President? So long as this anomaly remains unrectified, the less credible and incompetent ones would continue to occupy crucial leadership positions. The debilitating effect is a continuous rise in the political consciousness to grab power, and a political culture that accommodates underdevelopment, poverty and inefficiency.

 

Political Scientists need to further research factors that’ll compel candidates to participate in debates. Measures such as tackling illiteracy, encouraging political participation, and initiating a robust voter education exercise will improve Nigerians ability to assess candidate’s competence via debates. The ability to take decisions without primordial sentiments will usher in a high political standard that’ll transform the political culture. Attitudinal change is urgently needed to sanitize the monetized political system and redefine the rules guiding the conducts of elections and debates.

By Omoshola Deji

*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

 

 

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Opinion

Man Makes Vegetable Soup Of Huge Snake Killed In His House

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A man with the Twitter handle caesar_mayor has shared pictures of a huge snake killed in his house.
Having killed the snake, he made  vegetable soup with the reptile, and shared pictures.
Some snakes are considered a delicay in Africa, and other parts of the world.
There are people who hold the opinion that the meat of a snake tastes like chicken.
Nigerian man cooks and eats huge snake he killed in his house
Nigerian man cooks and eats huge snake he killed in his house
Nigerian man cooks and eats huge snake he killed in his house
Nigerian man cooks and eats huge snake he killed in his house
Nigerian man cooks and eats huge snake he killed in his house
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Opinion

Nigeria/Russia Relations: The missing link  

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Russia

By Hussaini Monguno

On November 15, 1884, 14 mainly European countries gathered in Berlin for a meeting which lasted to February 26, 1885. The aim of that conference was to split the continent of Africa and share it to the Europeans who were scrambling over it.

The countries represented were; Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands. Others include; Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814 to 1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these 14 nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of Africa at the time.

Russia, though present at the conference, was not interested in the greedy project of acquiring Africa by force of arms. The Russians held firmly to the guiding principle of their policy as advocated by one of their founding fathers, V.I. Lenin who advocated equality and peaceful coexistence amongst all the peoples of the world.

It was this same message of equality of mankind that led Khrushchev (the former Soviet leader) to move a motion to end all forms of colonialism by 1960 at the plenary of the XVth session of the United Nations General assembly. The passage of the motion led to the crumbling of colonialism, and sovereign African states began to emerge one after another. Nigeria took its turn to gain independence in 1960.

The Soviet Union – precursor to Russian Federation – built into its foreign policy architecture a sensitive and positive response to assist Africa in building an egalitarian society for themselves.

In the case of Nigeria, the warm response from Russia was instant. Nigeria became independent on October 1 1960. In less than two months – on November 25, 1960 – the two countries established diplomatic relations.

The founding fathers of Nigeria said the foreign policy of the country was based on Africa as its cornerstone. Ordinarily, this should have drafted Nigeria very close to the Russians who took it on themselves to fight for the decolonization of Africa. Ironically, this was not the case because the first Republic leaders were under the heavy influence of the colonial masters.

The colonial masters induced Nigerian leaders to launch heavy, unfriendly propaganda against Russia in Nigeria during the early and mid-1960s. In contrast to this, nations like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Italy, Spain and other countries in Western Europe at large enjoyed positive propaganda which made them seem as ideal and friendly.

The system of governance in most African countries including Nigeria was fashioned after their former colonialists and gave preference to the interests of the colonial masters. With this mindset, the environment was not conducive to friendly Nigeria-Russia relations.

During the early 60’s, the main interest of the Soviet Union was to expand its political influence among the countries of Africa and have more states converted into socialist-oriented nations in the then ideologically polarized world that was popularly referred to as the cold war. Nigeria being a capitalist state was not inclined to change its orientation. Its colonial master and allies were opposed to Nigeria and any of its former colonies having cordial relationship with Russia which they came to identify as a strong iron curtain – not be allowed a space of further expansion in Africa. Any manifestation of or link to the communist ideology was met with censorship and repression.

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But there was no let-up on the part of Russia. They seized every opportunity to advertise their goodwill to Nigeria. When the civil war broke out in Nigeria with the Eastern Region declaring itself an independent state of Biafra, it was Russia that came to bail out Nigeria with arms to put down the insurrection. At the time, both the United States and the United Kingdom refused to sale arms to Nigeria. In fact France went a step further by recognizing Biafra as a sovereign state.

The Nigerian Civil War opened the eyes of Nigerian leaders to the reality of world politics. Nigerian youths became eager recipients of Soviet scholarships for higher education in the Soviet Union. This was a major opportunity for the Soviet Union to establish itself in sub-Saharan Africa’s major country.

Immediately after the war, General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s Head of State, paid a State Visit to Moscow in 1971. President Olusegun Obasanjo also visited Russia in 2001 and on June 24 2009, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev became the first Russian President to visit Nigeria.

These top level visits are too far in between and do not reflect the several challenges confronting Nigeria-Russia relations.

For instance, in order for agreements among nations to become operational, they are to be passed by the National parliament and that forms their legal framework. The agreements signed with Russia during these visits are yet to be ratified by the parliament with particular reference to the Abuja agreement of 2009 which covered six critical areas: Viz- Investment, cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, understanding in the field of exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes, transfer of persons sentenced to imprisonment, declaration on principles of friendly relations and partnership between Nigeria and the Russian Federation and several other agreements on the eventual establishment of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation (ICESTC) between the two countries.

Adequate knowledge and clear understanding of culture, history, language, mentality, world-view, capabilities and potentials of other nations are crucial to foreign policy making. There is weak indication that the two countries have sufficient and adequate perception of each other. This in part is responsible for the lack of the political will to fully implement their existing bilateral agreements.

We have had serial disappointments with the western world from their refusal to help in the fight to keep Nigeria one and their current refusal to help with weapons to put down the Boko Haram insurgency under the spurious claims that the Nigerian military is abusing human rights. The supply of military equipment and materiel notably the MI-35 attack helicopters by Russia have played a high value addition in our fight against Boko Haram. Unfortunately majority among the Nigeria political elites are under strong influence of London and Washington whose interest is to distance Moscow from the affairs of African countries.

Still, there has been increased trade between Nigeria and Russia since the civil war experience. Dramatically, the Soviet Union became Nigeria’s best friend and ally such that by the time the civil war ended in 1970 Nigeria had opened its doors to other Soviet imports such as consumer goods and industrial manufacture.

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The most significant highlight of the growing economic cooperation between the two countries was the award of contracts to Soviet companies for the establishment of the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex and for the laying of oil pipelines across the country in line with the articles form economic and technical cooperation agreed upon by the two countries.

The project was however not completed as scheduled, and has continued to suffer several setbacks over the decades due to what should be seen as a lack of political will and adequate appreciation of the potential of the steel project to radically transform the economy of Nigeria and its capacity to be the foundation for the industrialization of the nation.

Similarly, ALSCON, Nigeria’s only aluminum smelting plant, handed over to Russian aluminum giant, United Company RUSAL PLC was closed down in 2014. Again, nothing much is heard of Gazprom, the Russian national energy giant, the biggest in the world, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the exploration and exploitation of the nation’s huge gas reserves with a new joint venture company to be known as NiGaz Energy Company, which will also take part in several other critical infrastructural development projects, including the training of Nigerians among others. Both companies were expected to invest up to 2.5 billion dollars in the joint venture.

These are very good signs for Nigeria-Russia relations and should be pursued with vigor because they can lead to slow but steady growth of bilateral trade and the promotion of direct contacts between Nigerian and Russian officials and institutions, agencies and companies, opening up of opportunities for further cooperation in the area of energy, metallurgy, oil and gas and promotion of bilateral cooperation in the cultural sphere.

Nigeria needs Russian technology to boost industrialization just as Russia needs Nigeria as a market for its industrial products and military equipment. All issues on the privatization of ALSCON to Russian RUSAL including the legal tussles require diplomatic solutions in a manner that will bring the company to function at its maximum capacity.

The volume of on-going trade between the two countries still remains very low – a paltry $350 million. This is ridiculous given the rich economic and trade endowments of both Nigeria and Russia. Worse still, there is a consistent huge imbalance in favor of Russia.

Inadequate information on business opportunities in Nigeria poses one of the major problems. Foreign investors including Russians have no access to update and reliable information on business prospects in Nigeria. If and when Russian businesses discover, for example, the rich agricultural products that are available in Nigeria, they’d wonder why they had not known about these all along.

In Nigeria, there are exceptional high-quality agricultural products such as oranges, mangoes, citrus, sweet honey that could easily rise to the top of the market demand in Russia.

There are many options available for the two countries to expand and deepen mutual trade and diplomatic ties in the interest of the two countries, world peace and prosperity. These options must be speedily pursued.

–      Monguno is member, Board of Directors, FCDA-Abuja-Nigeria.

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Opinion

Man United, Barcelona Battle Over Victor Osimhen

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Victor Osimhen

The duo of Manchester United and Barcelona are said to be battling for the signature of Nigerian and Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen.

According to a report by French regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, the Lille forward might no longer be at Lille at the end of the coming transfer window.

According to reports by La Voix du Nord, the Nigerian international has many suitors and Man United is just one of the top teams keeping tabs on him.

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Man United are currently in the transfer market for a quality forward ahead of the winter transfer window in January, the likes of the quartet of Aleksandr Sobolev, Callum Wilson, Moussa Dembele and Mario Mandzukic are already on a list of probable strikers coming to Man United.

Interestingly, Osimhen, who will be handed Ligur 1 player of the month trophy during Lille’s home game against Bordeaux on October 26, was first linked with United after winning the top scorer award at the U17 World Cup in 2015, but Derek Langley, ex-head of youth player recruitment, denied the reports.

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