Archive for October, 2012

By Prince Charles Dickson

To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism.
~ J. William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power (1966).

This week my admonition is more than criticism at Jonathan, PDP or leadership, its criticism at my beloved Nigeria, it is criticism directed at you, yes…you reading this essay and the author.

I have chosen to do us a service, as I penned this, a suicide bomber let go his baggage in Kaduna, and a night earlier a car bomb went off in Bauchi, meanwhile glancing through the morning headlines…Robberies and Kidnaps down South and just for full effects in Delta due to the flood, which sacked a hospital, morgue attendants had to put dead bodies on the rooftop.

Welcome to Nigerianstan as it is in many parts. Very little to cheer about, but some of us won’t give up…even in the face of increasing threats and despair.

I have a wonderful and loving family from Potiskum, they can’t go home, stuck in Kaduna, earlier this year, it wasn’t bad. We all were home for a wedding, but these days we can’t go home even for funerals of loved ones.

They are called Jama’atu Ahlil sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, but these days the popular term is gunmen, infact ‘unidentified and unknown’.

Indeed it is only in an unknown society that unidentified gunmen simply kill citizenry who are equally at the mercy of unknown soldiers.

In Potiskum, our sister was dragged out of the house, her hubby was away, the house was razed down as she watched with her daughter.

Three Islamic Schools, King Abdulazeez Model Islamic School Iqra and Al-Furqan and seven public schools set ablaze.

Like Kano, house to house searches little success, the gunmen remain unidentified and in cases confirmed by this writer, the houses were arms are found and with links…”Orders are given from above to stay action”.

Nothing happens in Yobe, nay Potiskum, subvention collected and I dare add, stolen in the name of security, no business, schools shut, banks closed, and worship restricted.

Everyone suspects the other. Alhaji and his medical doctor son were killed, even the elder son was advised to stay away from the funeral.

And while many turn the other face because its not your business, Pharm Danbaba Suntai, governor of Taraba, act of self-piloting a little aircraft to crash brings home more realities.

First, I wish him recovery, and while not courting controversy but criticizing us for our collective failure, I ask:

1. When did he get his license to fly, how long has he been flying…how did he get time for flying classes and with all the ‘supposed fatigue’ of governance, should he be exercising this hobby?

2. Very importantly, where is our information management channel, I was informed of the crash some 15minutes after it occurred by a source in USA.

While Taraba and Yola and Nigeria tagged with rumours including the presidency. The likes of NAN, NTA, FRCN were awol?

3. As I write this, Fulanis say they found the crash victims, Airforce say no, and claim credit.

4. The Commissioner of police who should just shut up in Yola says “if Danbaba was an ordinary citizen he would have been discharged”. Thank the Almighty ordinary citizens can’t buy motor spirit ‘talkless’ of aviation fuel. Does he think its an Okada accident?

In the same vein the CMD of the National Hospital lied through their teeth, “There is no need to do any operation on him. He is very stable. Given what happened, we are actually satisfied with the situation at the moment.

What is the essence of a National Hospital that lacks the capacity to tackle an improving, stable crash victim, needing no surgery. Must it be Germany, India, UK and Cape Verde?

Finally, the governor’s condition was stabilized when he was flown out from the Yola international airport to Abuja, and he was ‘very stable’ when he was flown to Germany.

But Aide de Camp (ADC) to the governor, Dasat Iliya is still lying unconscious in a hospital bed…apart from being in a coma has a leg fracture.

The Chief Security Officer (CSO), Timo Dangana, has two fractures on both legs, while the Chief Detail to the governor, Joel Dan has a fractured arm.

They are responding to treatment at the Specialist Hospital Yola but may be transferred to Jalingo once the ADC regains consciousness, not to Germany?

We are treated like rags, what can we do, we were told Dame Patience was resting. She swore she has never been to hospital in Germany but she thanked God for giving her a second chance…do the comprehension.

And I end this conversation, as former Italian Prime Minister and President, AC Milan, a world class football club, Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to 4 years in jail for tax evasion. Though I hear he would serve out 12 months.

Just tax evasion! It is a big deal, a jail warranted crime. What matters – crime is crime and if jail is deserved, jail must be served.

Here the likes of Silvio Berlusconi and others are above the law.

Nigerians hate Nigeria and themselves. I am part of a forum and could not just understand the rational behind a member’s question “if Danbaba Suntai was a muslim” simply because of Sallah wishes to him.

But really only over-religious Nigerians wish an unconscious patient recovery to eat sallah meat. Only a highly ethno-sensitive nation is on fire ala Achebe/Awo when people can’t eat.

While the usual suspects, shared the PHCN loot, to themselves. To control how much you pay for electricity, how to have it and when to have it. We remain mute…

You and I, are in the South or some comfort zone, you think its a Potiskum problem, Aluu is just Port Harcourt, kidnap on high scale would soon start in the North too…we don’t need a soothsayer to tell the effect of Fashola’s motorbike fight, unemployment in East and more.

The Berlusconis in our midst are known, I am talking/writing, its done at risk to personal life, but one would rather die standing for a cause than murmuring on your knees for no cause. Until we are no longer Nigeria, Potiskum is part of us, there are gunmen everywhere too, the next target could be me or you. Time will tell

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By Stella Omepa

 

For hours I stood in line waiting eagerly for my turn.

 

An elderly woman was standing right before me and for the first time in many years, I found a good Nigerian. I couldn’t stop but wonder what the heck she was doing there.

 

Mr. A’s wife was in labor pains, he had just received the call and needed cash to join them at the hospital and the good Nigerian smiled, wished him the best and let him in.

 

Then she turned and smiled at me. I somehow managed to return the smile.

I didn’t need a magician’s hint the moment I saw Mr. B, the look on his face said it all. He whispered something I couldn’t make out and the good Nigerian nodded and shifted immediately to let him in.

 

Knowing exactly what was to follow; I turned in time to avoid her face and that smile that displays volumes of unspoken words. That wasn’t the time to act nice. I was getting irritated by her kind gesture.

 

Then came along this school girl, she said she wasn’t going to be allowed to sit for her exams which was in a few minutes if what she owed the school wasn’t paid.

 

I could no longer contain it; “Mummy?” I struggled to keep my voice low. “We cannot stand here and allow everyone who comes along to go right ahead of us like we have got no business of our own. In fact, it is clear you don’t intend to leave here today but I want to and so it is my turn to seek your permission to go before you.”

 

She simply smiled and asked me to run along. I felt defeated and my anger instantly melted into confusion. “What if they were all lying?” I asked helplessly.

 

“What if they weren’t?” She asked.

 

I ignored the question she had returned for an answer and focused my attention on the reason why I was there.

 

We eventually finished at the same time even though I got a cashier’s attention before her. There was probably more to my transaction than hers.

 

You know, I lost my son a few months ago. She said walking gently behind me. I stopped, and then turned around to face her.

 

That experience taught me one lesson—not to lose focus of that which is important. Nothing in life is greater than giving another a reason to smile. I didn’t have an emergency of my own and sacrificing a little of my time for those who came with one isn’t too much even if they were lying. They must have lied for a reason and that is not up to me to judge.

 

I let you have your way because my intension wasn’t to waste your own time. Each time I turned, I was only trying to be sure you were okay. If you had said otherwise, I would have given up my space after the first man came in.

 

I watched as she walked away quietly, then the reason why I was so impatient hit me.

 

It was my birthday and I had a lot to do.

 

I am one of those who shares the same birth month with our dear country and we are celebrating that of this year when Nigerians are arguing the 2013 budget.

 

Our leaders are truly determined to make Nigeria better but the more determined they get, the more they lose focus of that which is important—reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.

 

Only the budget for the 2013 state house feeding or welfare package as it is called makes the poor man hungry and wrinkles the face that should be covered with smiles born out of gratitude for a nation that is immensely blessed with natural resources.

 

Hmmm, not until we eventually produce the crop of leaders who will quit thinking primarily about themselves and their own self-preservation, we will never undergo the heroic transformation that will take us to the height of a truly independent state.

 

It will remain the case of the good woman in her firewood kitchen, soul hearted food, and the presidential kitchen sweet aroma, but selfish by product.

 

That leader could be you or elected by you. All it takes is to think primarily about Nigeria instead of self, either as a leader or the led for the leaders makes the nation and the led makes the leader.

Ibos, Yorubas And The Rest Of Us

Posted: October 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

We grab a dog with the hands and it escapes; thereafter we beckon it with two fingers. (If both hands cannot detain a dog, two fingers from a distance will not bring it to where it escaped from.)

As a public commentator, I often say its not everything you must have an opinion on, or talk about. You cannot be an expert on all things but there are times when common sense in the face of present realities should guide us.

And for me, this is one such case…Prof. Achebe has no doubt stirred the hornet’s nest with his latest work. ‘There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra’, I love the title, indeed, there was a country. Before I go further, this is not a review of the book, and unlike many that have critic the work without reading it, I have read it, and this is just an intervention.

There was a Biafra, for some 30 plus months. There was also a Nigeria that produced great men in their own right…Soyinka, Awo, Ojukwu, Zik, Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, and co.

These men and a few women were no saints, they erred on various fronts, errors that hunt and continue to haunt us today. They were not infallible. One of such infallible, is Chief Awolowo, he’s dead, another is Achebe, and alive. We have Gowon, alive, another is Ojukwu, dead.

Dramatis personae of the country Achebe writes about and others will tell the story and continue to tell such stories from their standpoints and in almost manners that suit their ego and people. It is to be expected but then, there are key issues that Achebe’s work has raised.

Sadly we are a nation that, once a list, a comment, an opinion is muted, we look at the name, religion and ethnic cleavage, it cannot be right if it is not from our own side of the pole.

All the war of words have threaded tribal lines, most Ibos support the hauling insults on Yorubas, very few Yorubas agreeing with Achebe. The North viewing the war of words, content with its own internal strife that has almost brought her knees down.

Both parties in the civil war engaged in massive false propaganda both at home and abroad during the war and both sides committed atrocities. However have we gone about reconciliation in the right way? I say no, because today in different ways we continue in the same manner, false propaganda and atrocities against each other.

Deeply rooted in the current argument remains a catastrophic trend of economic, political and social situation in Nigeria, occasioned by undemocratic and irresponsive governance, monumental corruption, high level insecurity, failure in all facets of national life.

Achebe through what he calls ‘IMPRESSION’ on Awo, brings to the fore, the amorphous form of the Nigerian statehood.

A nation of many impressions, we all have impressions of each other, and on each other. We care less about whether these impressions are right or wrong.

Armed robbers are caught we check the names whether they are Ibos, Yorubas or Indians. Some friends brought to my knowledge the community head of the now infamous Aluu is an Alhaji,…so what is the impression here?

A high profile BH member is caught, a senator says he’s my nephew but I do not know what he does; does it really matter, after all these days one is loosing count of the number of commanders killed and caught and we simply do not know who is who anymore in Potiskum and Maidugiri…it’s simply a case of impressions.

Is it not true that Achebe’ s story is a subject of debate because we have refuse to collectively look at the Nigerian project in a way that it profits the participants, is the civil war not an impression to some and reality to others?

How do we cope, in a Nigeria where the Jos crisis has remained an impression or Borno an impression, a situation where Mubi deaths are impressions because there was no video and Aluu is no impression because there is a video.

Some 40 years after, we are still fighting to define genocide, whose fault it was and is, and more is committed on our roads, by robbers, terrorists and government at all levels. While we are still under the 20 pounds impression, reality of biting poverty remains with us.

We are fighting each other over mistakes of the past, and doing nothing at correcting them, while sadly even committing more grievous ones.

The Yorubas worship Awo, with no effort made to reproduce a near Awo in leadership.

The Ibos are all shouting foul and marginalization but really where are the Achebes, in a very disorganized unit, whose first enemy is herself.

My brothers in the North are blaming Jonathan and government while citizens are led to the slaughter slab and economy killed. My impression is the common enemy is our 19 state governors, leaders of politics, tradition and thought that have sat down, done nothing other than murmur about having lost power which in the first place when we had nothing was done with it.

The minorities live with the impression of its our time. So whatever we do, who cares, infact no one should comment.

We have fought a war, do we want to fight another, our best days truly are gone…The era of Flora Nwanpa, Zainab Alkali, Cyprian Ekewensi, Soyinka, Fawehinmi, Achebe, Balewa, Awo, Zik, and co. These days, there are very few persons to look up to, no roles, no models, only legislators that can barely write their names but earn millions.

We are not ready to address our issues, we are only beckoning with two fingers the dog we could not catch with the whole hand, there was a civil war, genocide occurred, leaders on both sides were guilty…today children born ten years after the war know very little of the war if anything.

We have very little history of who we are as a country, at every turn in national discourse like the axiom, aki í fi ìyá ẹní dákú ṣeré, we joke that our mother has collapsed, always trifling with serious matters, playing with a loaded and primed gun. Forgetting that one does not hide something in one’s hand and yet swear [that one knows nothing about it]. We know our problems, it’s not Achebe nor Awo, it is us, whether we want to solve it, time will tell.

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By Okey Ndibe

Chinua Achebe’s new book, There Was A Country: A Personal Narrative of Biafra, has in the last two weeks been subjected to a barrage of “reviews” by Nigerian commentators. The book has invited both harsh denunciations and effusive praise. Achebe’s place as one of the world’s most important writers is secure. Given his stature as a novelist and intellectual, it is hardly surprising that a new book by him would ring up a carnival-scale reception.

But the brouhaha over There Was A Country has pretty little to do with the book. Most of those who have either denounced the book or championed it have yet to read it. The feud over the book has to do, it appears, with the different camps’ perceptions of what the book is about. It’s a curious, quintessentially Nigerian kind of drama, this rush to pronounce on a book without first taking the time to read and absorb it (my own formal review will appear next week). Nothing more painfully illustrates the appalling state of public discourse in Nigeria than the spectacle of so many would-be critics both shrieking about There Was A Country and announcing they had not read it. In fact, one or two of the book’s most furious foes declared their intention never to read it. That’s a confession to intellectual dishonesty or a disdain for discourse.

How did so many people find themselves in a tizzy on account of an unread book?

The late Obafemi Awolowo has been the lightning rod for the “debate.” On the Internet and newspaper pages, many (mostly Yoruba) politicians, intellectuals, pundits and bloggers have sought to chastise Achebe for daring to write critically about Awo’s role in the Biafran War. At the heart of the furor is Achebe’s charge that the late politician was an architect of the war-time doctrine that starvation was a legitimate instrument of war. Besides, the author hardly pulls punches when he accuses Awo of masterminding a policy that impoverished the erstwhile Biafrans. That policy was to pay a mere twenty pounds in Nigerian currency to each Biafran adult regardless of their pre-war assets.

Many of Achebe’s bashers know about his unflattering portrait of Awo not from reading the book but because the (British) Guardian carried excerpts as an op-ed piece. Instantly, the would-be critics began to act as if the book was an all-out assault on Awo and the larger Yoruba ethnicity.

That misperception begot one of the most inelegant moments in publishing history – a sustained, near-hysterical attempt to enter into an argument against an unread text. One doubts that many other books anywhere in the world have ever been subjected to the same treatment: a willful reduction of a complex, ambitious text to its outlook on one personage. In recent literary history, one can think of only one parallel – the zealous fury that hounded Salman Rushdie after the publication of Satanic Verses.

What began as the cause of defending Awo quickly became an exercise in gratuitous vilification of Achebe and, in several cases, denigration of his ethnicity. In a fit of mischief, one attacker asked the federal government to pull Achebe’s Things Fall Apart from Nigerian classrooms. The prescriber saw in the classic novel’s title evidence that Achebe had been engineering the falling apart of Nigeria – as if that ill-conceived edifice needed any help. A few critics hoisted up an old canard: that Achebe had it in for Awo because Wole Soyinka had won the 1986 Nobel Prize in literature. Of course, the purveyors of such silliness are simply clueless. They know nothing about the warm friendship that the two literary giants have maintained for several decades.

We’ve seen a predictable outcome, for there’s no formula for engaging sensibly with a book one hasn’t read, much less digested.

One is not saying that all of Achebe’s critics would have fallen in love with his book had they waited to read it. It’s altogether possible that some of them would have found the book even more objectionable. But that’s beside the point. Even when one disagrees with a book – in fact, especially then – one is served by grasping the book’s essential points. It ought to be a fairly self-evident principle.

And because too many of the anti-Achebe warriors failed to read him first, it was no wonder that their utterance tended to be shrill, coarse and without context. Convinced that the author had degraded their icon, some Awo partisans proceeded to lob infantile insults at their presumed nemesis.

It was the perfect recipe for a Nigerian-made war. Many Igbo warriors rose to Achebe’s defense. Like Achebe’s traducers, many defenders of the author wrote without the benefit of reading There Was A Country. For all their fervor, they too could not claim to speak from a familiarity with Achebe’s book. So it came to pass that we had a sordid mini-ethnic war in progress. Innuendoes flew in every direction; stereotypes were dusted up and hurled at ethnic targets. We became a people content to throw punches in the dark, seeking to pulverize whole ethnic groups. A sad day!

What does it all mean? For one, the preemptive salvoes against a book that’s only now reaching many Nigerian hands strikes me, on some level, as a war on memory and history. As a writer and participant in the events of the Biafran War, Achebe’s witness is of inestimable value. At the end of the day, his fans as well as many of his foes are bound to realize that they owe him a huge debt for offering us the benefit of his experience of Nigeria’s tortured political evolution that culminated in war.

Achebe should feel mighty fulfilled that he’s forced Nigeria to begin some conversation about Biafra, a subject that the country has done its damndest to avoid. True, what’s transpired so far can hardly be called a conversation; a screaming match does not a conversation make. Even so, one has the hunch that, sooner than later, the violent pitch of the verbal exchanges will yield to a more sober response.

If anybody was in doubt about the imperative of talking about the war, the vociferousness with which Achebe’s book has been received in some quarters ought to dispel it. Yet, some of Achebe’s noisiest detractors have accused him of opening old wounds. That line of reasoning suggests a profound delusion. Biafra remains – will remain – an open, raw sore until Nigeria makes a conscious choice to reflect on that bloody chapter of its history. One has argued elsewhere that the tragedy of Nigeria is to proceed as if the Biafran War never happened.

Think about it: the violent convulsion in the Niger Delta, the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the decimation of Odi and Zaki Biam, and the massacres in Maiduguri – to take a small sample – would most likely not have happened had Nigeria not carried on as if there had been no Biafra. The tragic reign of injustice in Nigeria is linked, at bottom, with Nigeria’s project to erase the memory of Biafra.

Achebe’s timely book has come as a rebuke to us all, an invitation to examine where the rain began to beat us – however painful the process of this searching of the soul. Once the decibel comes down, the deliberation will begin. That or doom wins.

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By Prince Charles Dickson

We the willing led by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

A lot has happened in our beloved nation in the last one week, We have seen the fallout of the Aluu killings, now popularly called Uniport 4, I have noticed the silence on the Mubi massacre…my admonishment this week is a function of the current state of the Nigerian mind.

Voltaire says a man should be judged by his questions rather than his answers. The essence of this essay is to evoke thoughts, not court controversy but my first question, should be, isn’t Nigeria one big controversy?

So let us start this way, why is it that the Mubi Massacre has received less media spotlight or outrage than the Uniport 4?

Mr. President cannot know everything cannot handle most things, but how is it he just shared money for flood areas and had no comforting words for families of almost 50 young men that were hacked down in Adamawa and Rivers?

Maybe for the supporters of the ruling class all they need for us to do is continually ask the wrong questions, that way they don’t have to worry about answers.

In recent years, I mean in 13years of ‘democratic’ experimentation, no one has been held responsible for ethno-political and socio-religious related killings. Guns are retrieved, suspects taken to court once or twice and no headway, why?

How does a society move when it refuses to pay salaries to her teachers for six, seven and even a year or how is it that we have teachers that are teaching with their father’s TCII certificate?

Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to ask those questions that continues to give meaning to life.

Why is it, a child attends minimum of 16 years of formal education, factor in, 6 more years for the sciences and maybe law, the ASUU/NASU strikes and NYSC…that’s 22 years of education with little learning, no job available and when it is available, the kid is ill-prepared?

Let me ask us, a silly question, indeed silly because questions are great, but only if you know the answers. If you ask questions and the answers surprise you, you look silly. So, is Nigeria a united nation, the Igbos don’t ‘like’ Yorubas, the Yorubas don’t ‘like’ the Hausas, the minorities and the majorities in the minorities and minorities in the majority, all because of the sharing formula?

How is it that you pay a service charge for five years on a billing meter at home and the meter is never serviced even for once and you pay a thousands in bills for non-existent electricity?

Many of us have followed the Chinua Achebe and Awo squabble and while I say its a piece of history, the question is how much of the civil war history is taught in schools, other than the fabled Mungo Park discovered River Niger, what do we know of ourselves, is it not a fact that we rely on outsiders to tell us about ourselves?

Are we not bothered that young persons in a recent survey know more of Lionel Messi than Tafawa Balewa, more of Real Madrid than Zik, or Manchester United having more followers than our national assembly?

Why is it that kids now love, memorize and are more comfortable with Ben 10, spiderman, superman, Xmen, sonic, Barney and friends etc theme songs and don’t bother about our national anthem?

In the ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ Milan Kundera says “Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.”

So maybe I should ask naïve questions like what is the relationship of Nigerian police and twenty naira, why is it that you visit a police station to report a crime, you asked to bring money to buy plain sheet and pen?

Can someone tell me how Bankole blames leaders, IBB and Obj admonishes those in authority and one wonders if these are not the leaders themselves who then is leading Nigeria?

The 2013 Budget has the usuals, billions for food, training dogs and cats, buying spoons and transport money for guest to the big boys, but it equally has new realities, like provision for 5m Women Farmers To Get Mobile Phones, how about male farmers and how about laptops and Ipads, and blackberries?

Okay, how did we get here, I mean the state which we currently find ourselves.
Questions, I’ve got some questions more, like how we became bothered about what Mr. President drinks or smokes, loosing focus of his abysmal performance index, and progress report full of positive figures while we are faced with reality of increased suicides, a once rare phenomenon?

From a point where kidnapping was a taboo, to taking expatriates hostage for money, now its wholesale and retail kidnap, how did we get to these all time low?

Do we not find it funny that state governors leave their domains, go to Germany spend weeks in the name of learning, bringing investors and bilateral talks, just asking, if its not laughable, I recall a governor from the East that went Ukraine and was speaking Igbo with his host simply because they were not speaking English…?

Why is it that Christians poison crayfish and palm oil and send to the North and Muslims poison suya and inject oranges and apples to kill Christians…in the words of Miriam Toews depression is caused by asking oneself too many unanswerable questions.”

As a people depression has set in, we are either willing and ready to check it or full insanity will manifest, already we are a bundle of contradictions, top five happiest nation, top five religious, top five kidnap, top five corrupt, we simply top the charts, a pot pourri of the very good, extremely bad, and wickedly ugly.

Why should billions be spent daily on security and yet peanuts available for medical services, and education?

Why do many people have to starve in satellite towns in Abuja, while there are surpluses rotting in fridges and dustins in Maitama and Asokoro?

In conclusion, these are random questions, we need to find near satisfactory answers to them. Nigeria, delicately poised between near greatness and total failure and collapse…how we address these questions, only time will tell.

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Mubi Massacre: Like Many Before

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

A kì í gbọ́n tó “Èmi-lóni-í.” One cannot be as wise as “I-am-the-owner.” (One should not presume to know as much about something as the owner.)

As I put pen to paper in admonishing us Nigerians, it is exactly one week, according to Police figures 27 students were killed, butchered, maimed and sent to the world beyond.

In that one week, a sizable number of commentaries, reportorial, editorial, opinions and very little in outrage. Somebody pardon me, but that’s the truth, very little in outrage. We gradually with time have become a people that seems to be loosing our humanity and not many are taking notice.

It took NANS, two days to respond, off course, they wanted to gather the facts (sic), the Nigerian Labour Congress did not think it was an issue to weigh in on. The federal executive council was even worse, as the best they did was sickening (take their turns in condemning the act).

David Mark came close maybe by asking for the capital punishment for the perpetrators, but really that’s as close as it gets. News reports talked of several arrests by the police, but the police denied any arrests.

How did we get here, where dozens of students could be killed ‘just like that’. And one week no real headway concerning motive, killers and arrests?

I have a vague idea, we got here the same way we got to the spot where a girl was raped serially in the east and it was put on social median yet all that was denied by the authorities. We got here when kids were killed and thrown into the well in Kuru, no one was held liable.

We got to our present state when there was Dogo Nawa and the Jos praying ground massacre, the christmas day bombings and countless daylight murder be it Boko Haram, haram boko or bokoless haram.

We got here slowly and steadily and we don’t even know yet, that seamlessly we are moving even further. One week gone, authorities have no tenable official empathy for parents and relatives of these kids. Not even the state governor has been to Mubi.

Only a week back a boat capsized and some three scores plus drowned, it just passed off as news. How about those roasted by accidents based on human causes, nothing just happens to anyone, as long as yours is not involved, we give thanks and carry on.

We are becoming by the day, strange, defying death in our mean way by a non-challant unexplainable manner.

How is it that the death of these students have been reduced to rumours, same way the death of some traders in same Adamawa was treated to rumours and case closed. No proper sense of closure to any mass killing irrespective of creed, faith or origin.

In Mubi, Christians and Muslims were killed, cut short in their prime. I say it categorically with time it will be confined to the dirt bin of once upon an event and left with several permutations of who it could have been. Investigations will take forever, while police and other security agents involved will be posted elsewhere and others will die.

All these are for many reasons like the vague ones I have raised…the elite are not killed, their children do not school in Mubi or are not trapped in floods in Markudi, Lokoja or removed places in Anambra or Delta.

Over a decade of heinous murders, no visible headway, phoney arrests are made, police statements are contradictory, cold blooded killers get bail and no convictions, we all loose our humanity and become quasi-cannibals. In a community on Port Harcourt over alleged stealing or robbery, students are beaten, and burnt to death in very unclear stories.

Finally Cynthia the facebook killers after commentary is fading in our consciousness. Just same way in few weeks after the usual ‘Mubi Massacre-How students were killed and eye witness stories’ it will all fade.

In Abuja in the last few months mob actions have been the order of the day. Citizens stripe suspects both male and female and apply jungle justice of various forms. If victim is lucky the police arrives, if not, you pray and wish you are not mistaken for a crime by the public.

As much as I am a believer in the goodness of the real Nigerian spirit. I am also afraid to say that a sizable number of Nigerians have become wicked beyond imagination and for now those few are winning.

I don’t need to re-echoe the fact that government and its security apparatus has been stunned, I don’t need blame Jonathan, NSA, SSS or the maligned police. These persons are not loosing families, or friends like the common man.

I end with these few facts, when some years back, the kidnap market opened shop, we played politics with it, many of us cried our voice hoarse but today the African Insurance Organization says Nigeria accounts for 25% of global kidnappings reported worldwide. This was disclosed this in its newsletter on kidnap and ransom insurance cover during the ongoing forum in Balaclava, Mauritius

“We have become designated as the global capital for kidnap for ransom due to the huge record of kidnap cases reported in the country yearly”, the report said.

Thus, making the likes of Mexico a childsplay…the Mubi massacre is another dimension to our blind race to doom, let’s us not think that all these will just go away, I started by saying A kì í gbọ́n tó “Èmi-lóni-í.” One cannot be as wise as “I-am-the-owner.” (One should not presume to know as much about something as the owner.) We are the owner of this contraption, where we are headed, only time will tell.

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By Terfa Tilley-Gyado, Special to CNN

Political commentator says Nigerians largely indifferent to growing security threat. Twenty-five students were executed at a university in Mubi, Adamawa state Monday Tilley-Gyado argues insecurity has now become a constant companion for many Nigerians

Abuja, Nigeria (CNN) — In Nigeria, nobody speaks of terrible things. Where some unimaginable atrocity has been committed the news is often met with pursed lips, a double snap of the fingers and a swift motion over ones head to invoke a purge against evil. To speak of terror is to welcome it into one’s life.
A terrible thing happened in Nigeria on Independence Day. In the small town of Mubi in the North-east, 25 students were rounded up a few hours before midnight. Their names were called out one by one.

This was no typical roll call, however. The owner of each name that was called was swiftly executed by unidentified gunmen. No group has yet claimed responsibility. However Mubi is situated in Adamawa state which has become volatile of recent, an unwilling hotbed for the radical group, Boko Haram.

The cold blooded massacre is one of the worst to hit an educational institution in Nigeria and yet nobody is really talking about it. It is not a hot topic at the workplace or on the streets. The public mood is palpably apathetic. Two full days later and the news is only just filtering through to many.

Even where there is a flicker of interest, pursed lips, double finger click, arms raised. Next topic. Thank you very much. The federal government has responded typically which is to say that the old book of cliches has been dusted down for frantic recital.

No stone unturned. Perpetrators brought to book. Remote and immediate causes will be investigated. The cliches are often peppered with words like probe and investigative and panel.

There is something sacred about learning institutions. When one thinks of the more infamous attacks on educational institutions — Dunblane, Columbine, Toulouse, Erfurt — it is shocking to see there is not a similar outpouring of grief in Nigeria over those who died in Monday’s attack.

The sad truth is that insecurity has now become a constant companion for many Nigerians. As a result there is no longer any shock value. Attacks segue seamlessly into more attacks at a pace that makes it impossible to distinguish, digest or mourn appropriately.

Disbelief has made way for indifference as no one simply knows how to respond anymore. One week a church is hit, another a mosque. Today a newspaper headquarters is bombed tomorrow a petrol station is set ablaze. The pattern of violence is predictably indiscriminate.

The strategy to combat the rising insecurity — if indeed there is a strategy — is not a winning one. Eyewitnesses to the Mubi killings say the shooting lasted for almost two hours uninterrupted after which the killers casually disappeared into the night.

The latest attack will once again question the imperative of a regional or state police force. The national police system is crumbling under the weight of increased responsibility. The argument, which is slowly gaining traction, is that a local police force would have a far greater appreciation of the terrain, natives and nuances of a particular place.

The current practice of stationing police officers in completely unfamiliar surroundings puts them at an obvious disadvantage.

However even if a state police system becomes a reality, the long term solution to tackling insecurity must go beyond fighting fire with fire. There are more fundamental issues at play.

The disparity that exists between Nigerians is greater now than it has ever been. There are no new interconnecting roads and bridges to reconnect cities and states. Strangers remain strangers. It will always be easier to maim or kill those that are unfamiliar to you.

A greater push must be made to plan and budget public spending that will be used to finance the ever deepening infrastructure deficit.

Where idleness exists crime and violence invariably follow. The inordinate amount of unemployed Nigerians can be linked directly to rising insecurity levels. There is insufficient power to energize the productive energy of the economy.

Cosmetic initiatives such as the almajiri school system, which combines Muslim and western education, are rubric failures. People have to eat before they can learn. An empty stomach is the poorest of receptacles for qualitative learning.
A better initiative would be to establish commodity boards to buy produce at government guaranteed prices. This puts money in the hands of the poor rural farmers who are most vulnerable yet paradoxically have the responsibility of feeding a country. The human potential of a satiated nation is close to infinite. A full belly is the most effective distraction against crime.

Until such measures are put in place the Nigerian society will need to rediscover the ability to police itself. The growing number of atrocities is being perpetrated by people indigenous to the area.

Rising insurgency has led to rising insularity. Neighbors are now regarded with suspicion. It is a harsh truth to bear. There are killers in the midst of everyday Nigerians. Only a greater acceptance of civic duties; to observe and report suspicious behavior can expose those that lurk in the shadows yet continue to wreak havoc across the land.

Editor’s note: Tilley-Gyado is a Nigerian journalist and commentator. He is a former bureau chief and editor of the newspaper, 234Next. His works have been featured in Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph and several Nigerian newspapers. He has also worked as a political analyst for AlJazeera. Follow him on Twitter: @TerfaTG

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By Jaafar Jaafar

I’m piqued, seriously. Just as I was trying to beat the deadline, news reports say nearly 30 students were shot dead in Mubi, Adamawa State. This forced me to remodel the primer of this article to reflect the latest woe.

Like the title of one of iconic Wole Soyinka’s books, Climate of Fear, Nigerians especially those in the northern part of the country, are living in climate of fear. Our dreams crumble like our businesses. Like breathing, deaths occur every second. But where are we heading to for goodness’s sake? Are we all heading to Golgotha? With all these maladies at home, you wonder what benefit our president’s foreign trips will provide the country. Peace? No.

But President Goodluck Jonathan appears to be in competition with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who late Gani Fawehinmi said visited 52 countries in one year. And Jonathan seems so determined to break the record.

Whenever the president travels abroad, at least millions are spent on luxury hotel bills, estacode, choice drinks, shopping, honoraria, logistics, among others.

While the nation internally grapples with Boko Haram insurgency, spate of kidnapping, armed robbery and oil bunkering, the same nation is battling with diplomatic crisis on the international stage. Recent diplomatic challenges Nigeria finds herself in have punctured the country’s foreign policy, which was ballooned out of proportion by the president’s spin aides.

The deportation of 125 Nigerians by South Africa in March, the stoning of the president in Kampala, the failure of the government to secure clemency for 17 Nigerians sentenced to death in Indonesia, the defeat of President Jonathan when he contested the presidency of AU, the inability of government to re-open Bakassi file and recent deportation of 1,000 Nigerian pilgrims to this year’s Hajj only show the weakness of Nigeria’s foreign policy. The deportation of women pilgrims is now the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Do you think Saudi authorities will quarantine and bundle out the citizens of America or any other serious country the way we were treated? I think any Saudi official who dares block American envoy from visiting Americans is obviously risking a jail term.

It seems for President Goodluck Jonathan, diplomacy means junketing around the world with dozens of aides to attend events that are far from dispensing the tonic of Nigeria’s systemic ailment. What relevance is nuclear summit to a country that cannot produce helmet or military boots? What would a country that cannot explore its vast hydropower potentials for electricity say at a nuclear summit? What will a Nigerian president tell a UN summit on Rule of Law when he is dining with subsidy thieves at home? You see, it’s just that the president has become a sucker for Eagle One, the Boeing Business Jet (737) that transports Nigerian president.

Despite the fact Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has three ministers but the president’s territorial instinct and crush for skies make him pocket their junketing roles, reducing them to mere visa negotiators.

Having had perhaps swimming as his childhood pastime, President Jonathan’s new romance is flying around the world. And despite Jonathan’s penchant for flying, Nigeria has one of the worst aviation industries in the world. Since the president’s primary interest is flying, one would expect Nigeria to attain stardom in the aviation stage. Alas, our aviation industry is deteriorating by the day.

Punch editorial of September 26 doesn’t seem to hold any punches when it flays the president’s travels. “The doubtful value of the trips,” said the newspaper, “is underscored by the poor judgment in the choice of places to visit, timing and the utterances of the President. It was in poor taste, for instance, to have attended the inauguration of Yoweri Museveni for a record fourth presidential term even after he had manipulated Uganda’s constitution to abrogate term limits, spent 26 years in office and had been accused of electoral abuse, provoking mass protests. Jonathan would have saved himself the discomfort of being caught in Museveni’s convoy when it was pelted with stones by irate Ugandan voters in Kampala.”

On the president’s much-criticised trip to Brazil, the editorial says, “[t]he timing of the President’s trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Earth Summit in June was insensitive. Terrorists had just struck in Kaduna, Kano and Yobe states in a weekend orgy of bloodletting that left over 70 dead. But as Nigerians mourned, their President travelled for a summit that the environment minister could well have handled. The President’s entourage is also excessive and wasteful.”

But early this month, the Special Adviser to the president on media, Dr Reuben Abati dissipated energy in penning a hagiography about the president’s foreign policy. Said he in his opening remark, “The gains of President Jonathan’s diplomacy are often overshadowed by misrepresentations of the size of his delegation.” A point Abati missed is the fact that the sheer size of the entourage and frequency of trips is not yielding any pragmatic result.

When President Goodluck Jonathan travelled to little-known countries like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica early August for their Emancipation Day and Independent Anniversary respectively, one expected to see a pride of heads of government moving majestically into Aso Rock to celebrate our 52nd Independence anniversary – however low-key the event, that is. None was seen.

Jonathan needs time at home to concentrate on our internal problems that are threatening our existence as a nation. He needs to sit tranquilly and find the clue to the corruption slipping our oil industry into abyss. The president also needs to study his proposed 2013 budget to go in synch with his “austerity measure” and to avoid the embarrassment last year’s N1 billion Aso Rock food budget caused.

Unless if President Jonathan is trying to find our lost NigComSat 1 satellite, these frequent air travels should stop immediately.

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By Prince Charles Dickson

So who do we blame, and really is it a blame game or the scary realization that we are just a nation run on auto-pilot, one for which after 52yrs, we are still plagued largely by the same problems.

We are 52yrs today, parts of the country is in water, we are deep in flood, and equally flooded on all fronts by corruption, mismanagement, maladministration and poor governance structure coupled with a citizenry with a vague picture of what patriotism is or should be.

Barely two months ago when parts of the Shendam, Mikang axis and the Southern parts of Plateau was cut off from the North. It was just one of those rare occurrences. Then the city center was next with a death toll of over a score…parts of Bauchi too was not left behind. But like all floods, all issues that have plagued us, with a wave of hand, its been confined to the bin of history.

While we mark our 52nd year of ‘dependence’, we do so with the news that over a million of us are likely to die if the Nyos Dam in Cameroon happens to collapse.

Many have never heard the name Nyos before or know that we could be victims of this magnitude of disaster if neighboring Cameroun open a dam until now. The names Kiri and Lagdo dam in Cameroon are new, River Benue overflowing its banks brings new significance.

And while we witness realities of a bad situation on ground NEMA was presenting a manual to prevent an even more disastrous occurrence at a ceremony.

Like I said, this is no blame game, NEMA has tried, tight budget, using big boats and local canoe owners for the evacuation exercise, exhibiting ‘Nigerian promptness and expertise’ in the rescue efforts and relief distribution’, but it smacks of selfishness that while on the immediate very little had been done as prevention, by a body responsible for combating these forces of nature is a reflection of all that has been wrong with us for 52yrs.

Lake Nyos is close to Nigeria and sources say a 2005 UNDP report had predicted that the dam was at “a point of potential collapse” infact within 10yrs it may collapse. Yet after some 7yrs, nothing has been done. So it is for 52yrs, and same lackadaisical attitude, same way of doing things and expecting different results .

Emergency body, NEMA says “It is estimated that between Cameroon border and River Benue, 50 settlements, including Katsina-Ala, Kashimbilla, Waya, Manga, Gamovo, Andie, Terwegh and over 15,000 hectares of land will be flooded by Nyos.

“Also, over one million people and 20,000 heads of cattle and other livestock will be affected and could perish,” by the same Nyos.

Based on the report, financial losses estimated to be in billions of naira, comprising of crops, residential and commercial structures, utilities and infrastructure, including roads and bridges and other services will occur.

All that havoc, when the Dam at Lake Nyos collapses. However, it has not, but when it does, all these predictions and others not known will occur. The reason is simply, the facts very undisputeable.

In the last one month there has been no Lake Nyos but how well has NEMA coped?

In many of the flood ravished states, there were flood warnings and alerts by the appropriate bodies. But really how much was done in terms of proper enlightenment and were there cases that enforcement was necessary, or its same old story, 52yrs after, Nigerians sadly do not take warnings serious.

We are not only just faced with a bad case of flood, but possible outbreak of epidemics, it is so strange that with the level of devastation, no national emergency was declared.

Both ruling party and opposition played politics of Labaran Maku, sale of power stations and health of Patience amongst many inconsequentials while citizenry are carried away by all sorts of floods.

From Anambra, to Kogi, Niger to Edo, Delta to Plateau, parts of Nassarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and Imo, little has been done, apart from the usual assessment tours when people are in desperate want, displaced and not knowing where to start from. This excludes the Lagos, Ibadan and Ogun axis…

Depending on whose figures, more than 30,000 people around the country are displaced, and stranded. Death toll now beyond 500 people and its on the increase. No one really cares, and 52yrs no one cares.

Interestingly as Nigerians groan under the effects of these floods, the House of Representatives called the Ecological Fund a mystery fund, one with no accountability whatsoever. And here we are, with a situation where the monies in that fund could be best utilized. But has that not been the case with us, 52yrs of misplaced priorities.

One cannot point to any very-quick-fix-it solution, no drastic measure, no long term plan either, no one even understands how and why the dam was opened causing the rise in water level in some states.

We are marking 52yrs in what is now popularly called low-key, when indeed it is actually disastrously and calamitously a big national tragedy we have.

Farmlands have gone, food prices would soar, so also livestock that have drowned.

And while I said its not a blame-game, I dare say government has failed, same way its been for 52yrs, flooding in corruption, missed opportunities and nearly chances.

It hurts to know that you cannot blame government for removing roofing sheets from submerged houses, A/C or electronics that have disappeared from peoples’ home. 52yrs we have been our own flood…

The fact is, we remain largely the architect of our flood as a nation…we really can address the floods that ravage us as a country, the long unanswered question is, do we want to, only time will tell.

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By Simon Kolawole

There is this fascinating story about an Abuja traffic warden. A motorist had failed to obey traffic lights. The warden stopped him, hopped into the car and told him he was under arrest. But he noticed that the motorist continued driving without a care in the world. The warden became uneasy, wondering if he had arrested a “big man”. Abuja is full of “big men” – senators, reps, ministers, SAs, SSAs and PAs. Law enforcement agents are always careful not to arrest a “big man”. The consequences are never pleasant.

“Why are you not talking?” the warden asked the motorist, who still did not utter a word. The warden asked again: “Please, are you somebody? Tell me if you are somebody!” The motorist kept his cool and drove on. As soon as the car slowed down at another intersection as the traffic lights went red, the warden jumped out of the car, saying rather remorsefully: “You must be somebody! That is why you are not saying anything! You must be somebody!” He practically ran back to his duty post.

The rules and regulations in Nigeria are not meant to be obeyed if you are “somebody”. It is a country where the “big men” do not want to pay a little toll of N100 at the airport, claiming to be “somebody”, while the rest of us have no option but to pay. The “big men” hardly want to pay personal income tax (and you can bet they pay the possible minimum), while the poor workers have their taxes deducted at source. The “big men” park at “no parking” points at the airport, with their police escorts keeping watch and causing heavy traffic for everyone else.
Nigeria is a country where “somebody” is king at the expense of others. Take banking, for instance. If you are “somebody”, you can afford to owe banks billions of naira and refuse to pay. The poor fellow owing N1 million will be harassed, arrested and detained. The “somebody” owing billions and has blatantly refused to honour his obligations will be having fun. The private jets and mighty mansions, some already advanced as collateral, will remain at his beck and call. In civilised countries, if you cannot honour your obligations, you are declared bankrupt. You will lose your collateral. You will be blacklisted from taking more loans. It is simple logic. You cannot be bankrupt and still be living like a king.

In Nigeria, you owe a bank. You own all kinds of luxury toys. You fail to meet the repayment terms. Your collateral remains intact. You continue your life of exuberance. The Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) pays off your loan to save the banks. AMCON then asks you to start paying your debt at a heavy discount. You head to court to stop it from recovering the debt. Before we know what is happening, you have been given a national honour. Member of the Niger or Member of the Benue, whatever. And while we are still trying to understand what is happening, you are taking another loan. Now, how can any country progress that way?

I know that in our country, notorious owing is not a crime (unlike in Dubai, where you could be jailed for failing to pay your debt). Debt is part of business, sure. You take debt to finance business. That is how the economy works. But the economy can stop working when you stop paying. Failure to pay up actually reduces the amount of credit available to others. It places a restriction on the capacity of banks to give out loans to grow other businesses and stimulate economic activities.

Furthermore, failure to repay puts depositors’ funds at risk. Some have lost their life savings and their lives as well because of the activities of these fat cats who like to call themselves entrepreneurs but who are mainly influence-peddlers and rent-seekers. In addition, bad debts can lead to bank failure, which could create a systemic problem and bring down other banks and other sectors. Those who argue that borrowing is a simple private transaction between the customer and the bank are probably unaware of what irresponsible lending/borrowing has done to the economy. It can affect everybody, including the cleaner in my village.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently published the list of chronic debtors. The list is a register of who-is-who in the economy. We are talking about those who observe their siesta in the corridors of power, including some state governments. I would have been surprised if the CBN governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was not bludgeoned over this list. You don’t mess with powerful people in Nigeria and get away with it.

I understand the blacklist is meant to warn banks on their lending. There are predator borrowers who move from bank to bank using the same collateral. It only makes sense for the regulators to step in and stem the slide. Nigerians should not forget that AMCON spent tax payers’ money to buy the bad debts running into trillions. We should not forget that millions of shareholders lost their life investments in many banks that were liquidated because of the erosion of their capital base by toxic assets. We should not forget that what has happened before can happen again.

Ironically, as soon as the CBN naming-and-shaming list was published, some of the debtors started paying up. These were the same people who were behaving as if they were above rules and regulations because they are “somebody”. The banks must stop giving out loans without securing them. Debtors who don’t want to be named and shamed must be willing to honour their obligations as well. The judiciary must also stop granting ridiculous injunctions to debtors who are seeking technical grounds to delay repayment. And, of course, the CBN and AMCON must take themselves more seriously and stop amending the list of debtors as if they don’t know what they are doing.

And Four Other Things…

52 YEARS OF NOTHING?
As Nigeria marks its 52nd independence anniversary tomorrow, I want to make a prediction. The cynics will say we have nothing to celebrate, that Nigeria is a failure, that it is all gloom and doom. Let me be fair, though: everyone is entitled to an opinion. My own opinion is that we are not where we should be. We should be competing with Korea and Brazil by now, but we are still struggling. But I will not go the extent that Nigeria is a failure. No. The evidence before me suggests that greatness is ahead of us and only a reckless gambler will write Nigeria off. There is still a tomorrow, I believe.

BAKASSI FANTASY
The Senate has asked the Federal Government to appeal for a review of the International Court of Justice judgment on Bakassi, which forced us to hand over the peninsula to Cameroon. We had lost the case in October 2002 but we can still ask for a review by October 10, 2012. Given that the ICJ relied on the map supplied by the Nigerian authorities to effectively cede the peninsula to Cameroon, what new evidence are we taking to the court? Or do we just want to ridicule ourselves the same way our politicians keeping asking the Supreme Court to reverse itself?

FLOOD FROM HELL
If not that the Bible says the earth will not be destroyed by flood again, I would have been worried that the world is about to come to an end with the growing cases of flooding. In the last few weeks, flood has done extensive havoc in Nigeria, from the North to the South. Places that should normally be free of flood are soaked and floating. I’m at a loss over this. I get a feeling some circumstances are not beyond human control, just that the government did not act on time to relocate people despite all the warnings that preceded the disaster.

OLYMPIC GOLD FOR GRAFT
When I recently wrote on the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria, I did not realise I was embarking on a journey I couldn’t finish. Many readers have expressed disappointment that I did not offer any suggestions on the way forward. A particularly angry respondent wondered if I was just the typical critic, highlighting the problem and ignoring the solution. I’ll be honest: I have little or no ideas on how we can fight the monster to the finish. But I still think it’s a multidimensional problem that requires a multidimensional approach. We have a very long way to go!

Email: simon.kolawole@thisdaylive.com

http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/impunity-is-the-name-of-the-game/126390/

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