Archive for April, 2013

By Okey Ndibe

Nigeria is crashing all around us and tottering towards a failed state. Yet, the custodians and squanderers of the country’s oil wealth in Abuja and elsewhere keep behaving as if they were presiding over a nation beset by mere hiccups.

The massacre of innocent civilians in the town of Baga, Borno State, is only the latest evidence of a space where life is nasty, brutish, and violently cut short. Initial press reports stated that some 185 people perished in fierce fighting between members of a militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, and officers of the joint task force. But Senator Maina Lawan, who is from Baga, asserted that he counted 228 casualties when he toured the devastated town. In addition, he said he found more than 4000 houses destroyed. Meanwhile, the Federal Government and the Nigerian military claimed that the death toll was 25.

Of course, the understatement of the scale of tragedies is a well known policy of the government. Whenever Nigerians die in scandalous numbers, the government trots out a casualty figure that often represents a mere 10 percent of the actuality.

In this case, whether the number was 228, 185 or 25, the conclusion is inescapable: too many innocent people lost their lives in a horrific, ill-conceived and poorly executed quasi-military operation. That’s the bottom line.

President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered an investigation into the massacre. It’s the usual ho-hum response. Nigeria is a place where, if you wait a day or two, another similarly dreadful event – even if not on quite the same scale as Baga – is bound to happen. The Presidency will then make its usual pledge to get to the root of things.

Here’s a safe prediction, then: Nothing will come out of the Baga investigation. No soldier much less an officer will ever be held responsible for mistaking unarmed, innocent people in Baga for discounted humans that deserved to be killed as if they were cattle.

At any rate, the horror in Baga is but one more illustration of a country in much deeper crisis than its leaders – and many citizens – acknowledge. Nigeria has actually been in a state of war for several years now, but there appears a conspiracy to conceal that fact. That war is, in large part, a product of the inherent incoherence of the concept of Nigeria.

If there’s a section of Nigeria where people are enthusiastic about the state of Nigeria, I’d like to know about it. At fifty two years old, Nigeria is besieged by at least four quasi separatist groups: Boko Haram, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, and the Oodua People’s Congress.

Of these four, Boko Haram – with its combination of religious fundamentalism and violent attacks – appears to have commandeered media attention. Some four years ago, the Nigerian state struck a so-called amnesty deal with MEND. But that deal is in reality shaky. It requires a steady funneling of cash into the pockets of a few ex-militant leaders, to the dismay of their frequently forgotten lieutenants. The recent killing of twelve police officers in Azuzuama, Bayelsa State, provided proof that militancy is very much alive in the Niger Delta.  

Besides, it appears as if MEND is being refashioned for a decisive role in the 2015 presidential election. In the last month, two friends of mine based in Abuja have told me that President Jonathan MUST win re-election – or re-selection – in 2015 because he has MEND as his trump card. Both men admitted that President Jonathan has been a woeful failure, even for the Niger Delta. Even so, they contended that, should Mr. Jonathan fail to secure the mandate to continue, then MEND is bound to ramp up violence in the Niger Delta, virtually shutting down Nigeria’s oil production. This prospect, both friends reasoned, would in the end strike fear in the hearts of the oil-dependent political and corporate ruling class in Nigeria, compelling them to support anything the president and his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are willing to do to secure another four years.

I wish I could describe their scenario as nonsensical, but that would be self-deception. As another friend of mine once told me, Nigeria is a country where any absurdity makes sense. Yet, that projection of MEND as the final cause of a Jonathan re-election provides yet another proof that Nigeria is a wobbly country living on borrowed time. If Nigeria were a firmly established nation, then such decisive means of blackmail would not be in play.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that justice should be the first condition of a stable nation – to invoke words Wole Soyinka deployed in his prison memoir, The Man Died. In the context of Nigeria, justice would suggest that the natural resources in the Niger Delta belong to the people of the area, instead of being hijacked by a visionless national elite incapable of creative application of the intellect to generate the resources to better their environment. In the spirit of true federalism, I support the idea of each part of Nigeria deploying their resources towards development. The Niger Delta deserves to keep most, if not all, the resources from oil. Every other part of Nigeria has its own bequest of resources, natural and man-made, to fund development.

To return to my original point: a Nigeria where any form of blackmail can be used to decide an election is a misconceived country. It’s a recipe for the intensified deployment of violence as a means of achieving political and other ends.

What most troubles me about Nigeria is the apparent deafness of its politicians and broad elite to the signs of a widening chasm, an increasingly violent repudiation of a country founded on false platitudes. That we’re one Nigeria is a huge lie. That we need to be one Nigeria is an even huger lie. A country, like any other community, must be shaped and animated by a set of values and principles. A sense of justice is indispensable. But before we even get there, a sense of volition – the idea that every group that belongs to this national family did so out of free choice, not compulsion – must be demonstrated.

Nigeria’s Supreme Court recently authorized the Federal Government to proceed to indict Ralph Uwazurike and other MASSOB figures for treason. Given Nigeria’s political history, it was a bizarre verdict. Uwazurike and MASSOB are no threats to Nigeria; Nigeria is a threat to itself. When the machinery of the Nigerian state – the police, the legislature and the Presidency – cannot answer the simple question of who killed twenty or so men whose corpses were found floating on Ezu River, then why blame anybody or group who openly seeks a divorce from Nigeria?

As far as the Nigerian state is concerned, the fate of the Baga dead is sealed. Justice will not be done to the victims of the Baga massacre anymore than justice was done to those floating corpses. The Nigerian state is in the business of discounting the humanity of its citizens, treating its people as if they were dispensable inconveniences. Daily, the Nigerian state wages a war against its people. Each time the state murders innocent people in Odi, Zaki Biam or Amansea,  it fosters the normalization of anarchy. And as long as that anomaly persists, there will be a job for Boko Haram, for MASSOB, for the OPC, for MEND – and for other separatist groups yet unborn.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

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By Chido Onumah

Last July, shortly after the horrific Dana Air crash that killed over a hundred Nigerians, I did a piece titled, “Murder Incorporated”. The thrust of the piece was that the government ought to take the larger blame for the incident. Why? Because ours is a country of “anything goes”.

There are laws, but people break them with impunity and no one gets punished. That really is what separates us from the rest of the so-called developed world. The lack of respect for laws by citizens and the inability of government to uphold the rule of law make all the difference between a stable and prosperous state and one poised to fail.

While working on the article referenced above, I came across a National Universities Commission newsletter that had a list of 44 “fake universities” in the country. That piece of information was meant as a cautionary note for students and parents as well as the public. It is hard to say how many of those concerned saw and benefited from the NUC alert. From all indications, not many.

Just last week, close to a year after the NUC highlighted the issue of “fake universities”, I visited the NUC website only to discover that the list had grown to 49 and counting. It is either that, in response to the country’s glorification of paper qualification, business is thriving for “fake universities” or those who are supposed to rein in these illegal entities are not doing what is expected of them.

That the NUC had to issue another warning recently is a pointer to how menacing the issue has become. The latest information about “fake universities” and “degree mills” in the country came via a public announcement signed by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie.

“The National Universities Commission wishes to announce to the general public, especially parents and prospective undergraduates, that the underlisted “Degree Mills” have not been licensed by the Federal Government and have, therefore, been closed down for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards, etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” Prof. Okojie noted.

The list of “fake universities” included such incongruous names as may not be needful to mention here.

For good measure, Okojie added, “For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who patronizes or obtains any certificate from any of these illegal institutions does so at his or her own risk. Certificates obtained from these sources will not be recognised for the purposes of the National Youth Service Corps, employment, and further studies. The relevant law enforcement agencies have also been informed for their further necessary action. This list of illegal institutions is not exhaustive”. How reassuring!

It is heartwarming that the NUC appears to be tackling the menace of “fake universities” frontally. But there are many questions begging for answers. What type of “investigations” is the NUC conducting? Universities are not daycare centres. How did these “degree mills” start off? Is there a “cabal” behind these “fake universities”? Are there no regulations/requirements before universities are accredited? Did the NUC accredit the universities it is investigating?

The NUC has a list of legally recognised universities in the country and any institution that purports to be a university that is not on the list should be closed down immediately and its proprietors prosecuted. That is the easiest way to put an end to this scam. In this regard, does the NUC have the support of the government and its relevant agencies to prosecute the proprietors of these illegal universities?

Coming on the heels of the Federal Government’s appointment of Salisu Buhari, discredited former Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the governing council of a federal university, it is easy to see the kind of support the NUC would get from the government. For those who need reminding, Buhari was the first speaker of the House of Representatives when the Fourth Republic took off in 1999. He came to that position having lied about his age and qualification. He claimed a degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, which he never earned.

When Buhari bowed to public pressure and tearfully tendered his letter of resignation to the House, claiming to be motivated by his zeal to serve his country, he received a thunderous applause from his fellow colleagues who agreed to pardon him. That pardon did come eventually through his mentor, then president Olusegun Obasanjo.

The other day, I watched presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, on TV trying labouriously to defend the appointment of Buhari. According to Abati, “The thing about pardon is that it turns you into a new man. Out of the 251 persons appointed to governing council of federal universities, I don’t think we really have to worry ourselves so much about one man”.

Perhaps, in tackling the problem of “fake universities”, the government needs to borrow a leaf from its own playbook. Only recently, through one of its agencies, the National Film and Video Censors Board, the government banned the airing and distribution of the documentary, “Fuelling Poverty”. The 30-minute film documents the corruption in the country’s oil industry, its impact and the response of Nigerians to the waste and obnoxious policies it has engendered.

The NFVCB says the documentary “is highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security”. It warned the filmmaker and his associates about the consequences of violating the order, saying “all relevant national security agencies (including the Department of State Services and the Police) are on the alert”.  I would think the menace of “fake universities” is a greater threat to us than a 30-minute film that merely documents what Nigerians already know.

We look forward to the outcome of the NUC’s “investigation” and hope that at the end of the day, we actually see people punished for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria .

Amid the outpouring of grief for Boston, a brutal conflict in northern Nigeria has killed hundreds of people. Why can’t we muster the same sense of empathy, asks Janine di Giovanni?

No one would ever argue that the bombing in Boston was not horrific. But there was something uncomfortable in the obsessive global news coverage, of the bottleneck of journalists flying into Logan Airport struggling to find the smallest remnant of some new detail to report. Was it the suggestion, subtly transmitted, that America is the center of the universe?

Women and children allegedly sacked from their houses by soldiers stand in front of burnt houses in the remote northeast town of Baga, Nigeria on April 21, 2013, after two days of clashes between officers of the Joint Task Force and members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram on April 19 in the town near Lake Chad. (STR/AFP/Getty)

Earlier in the week, I watched CNN from my home in Paris, devastated by the pointless killings at the marathon’s finish line. But I found it unnerving to listen to a South Boston columnist ranting on and on about how journalists at the scene could face post-traumatic stress disorder. It sounded as though he was struggling with a new angle, having exhausted his personal supply of misery.

Flipping the channel to BBC World, I caught the end of a report about the conflict in northern Nigeria, on the border of Chad. Images of bloodied corpses and fighting flashed on the screen.

The reporter, a local Nigerian, sounded weary as he duly gave the figures: 137 killed in clashes between the Nigerian military and the suspected Islamic insurgents. The injured were tallied at 77.

This was in a single night. As the Financial Times reported, “Scores of people” were killed.

I thought back to reporting in northern Nigeria after several states adopted Sharia law in 2000. I remember driving to remote villages outside of Abuja, the capital. I drove down dusty red roads for hours. I saw burnt out churches which had been lit on fire by radical Islamists with worshippers locked inside. I interviewed fathers whose entire families had been wiped out in a single night when their houses were doused with gasoline.

I was travelling with a veteran African correspondent, who after talking to the amputee, turned to me and said, “War is hell anywhere. But war in Africa is body parts in trees.”

I saw a man sitting in stocks, about to be whipped. I interviewed a man whose hand had been chopped off for stealing. He said that the Islamic court had ordered it, but mercifully allowed him a local anesthetic before.

One hundred thirty seven people in northern Nigeria in a single night; hundreds more throughout the conflict. Three people in Boston.

And I must be honest and say that one of my first reactions was about the way those three people looked. They were a graduate student, an adorable little boy. A 29-year-old blonde woman. They were people who looked like me, my son, or the students who gather outside my front door, waiting at the bagel shop for a lunchtime sandwich. That’s part of the reason our compassion lies so deep throughout the Western world. We can relate.

“War is hell anywhere. But war in Africa is body parts in trees.”

Flash to 1994. The genocide of Rwanda is beginning. But the world’s press—myself included—is focused on Bosnia. And the television viewers and radio listeners and newspaper readers are suffering from compassion fatigue. They are tired of Africa.

“Band Aid nearly killed me,” I remember a wealthy Londoner telling me in the mid 1990s, referring to Bob Geldof’s famous fundraising concert for the Ethiopian famine. “Then there was Somalia. By the time Rwanda rolled around, people had enough of images of starving African children…”

It was a terrible thing to say, but there was some perverse truth to it. It is also the reason why we, as reporters, had trouble keeping Rwanda in the news (and for me, later, stories from Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Zimbabwe….)

I had dinner the other night with a woman who asked me why so many reporters and people identified with the Bosnian war. I told her that aside from the fact it was another pointless and brutal conflict, the capital city, Sarajevo, was only a two hours’ plane ride from Paris, and that our editors were constantly telling us to find people that readers could identify with.

But this was nothing new. Whenever I got to some obscure African city, the first thing my editor told me to do was to find “the last Brits in the city.” (I worked for a British newspaper. This happened to me whether I was in Africa or Iraq or Afghanistan.)

“Why was that?” she asked me angrily. She said her sister-in-law, who is Rwandan, survived the genocide but lost her brothers and father. “Because the Bosnians were white? Because they were European? Because they were GOOD LOOKING?”

I cannot condense the horror of either the Bosnian war or the Rwandan genocide in the length of this column. But that woman had a point. Did we in fact, identify more with the Bosnians because, pre-war, they lived a café society, a cross between the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans? Was it because if you pointed a camera at a young girl, brutally mutilated by a shell, she also looked like someone’s daughter?

Boston will linger forever in our minds, and I don’t want to diminish it. But I cannot forget the image of a Nigerian woman, weeping, after losing her children in this week’s violence. Acres of newspaper inches have been devoted to the dead in Boston. Did anyone write about her?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/27/pity-boston-ignore-nigeria-the-limits-of-compassion.html

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Abdulrazaq O Hamzat
Discus4now@yahoo.com

Africa as a continent is blessed beyond measure by every standard,
both in terms of human capacity, natural resources and cultural
richness, but as the popular saying goes, everything in life has both
positive and negative effects, this I believe applies to the respect
in African culture.

Talking about the African Culture, there is no gain saying we are
endowed with the best form of cultural inheritance, beautiful
traditional ways of life and lovely interpersonal relationship which
is worthy of being proud of, and if properly understood and applied in
our daily lives, it could go a long way in helping us as people and
the motherland attain its rightful place in the comity of nations.

However, the African culture also have its negative effects, and one
of such effects I would like to dwell upon in this write up is
‘’respect for elders’’.

Respect they say is reciprocal, but to me, it may not be necessarily
so, provided the person you are respecting would not disrespect you in
return. Even if he or she would not respect you in case they are
elderly, at least, let there be no disrespect.

A Yoruba proverb in Nigeria says, omode ni ise, agba ni ise, ni a fi
da ile aye, which means that, both the young and old have roles in the
creation of the earth.

As a Yoruba person and indeed an African, unquestionable respect for
elders is a fundamental feature of our culture, which every child was
born, taught and grows up with.
Unquestionable respect for elders is already part of us as Africans
and so shall it be, but in my opinion, the culture has been over
abused by the Nigerian/African elders to commit evil and do injustice,
this explains the reason why Nigeria and indeed Africa remain
backward.
In a situation when an elderly person is doing things wrongly, things
that are destroying both the old and the young in the society, things
that are capable of destroying both the present and future
generations, the young is expected not to question that action even
though he or she would be affected in the consequences of the wrong
actions of the elder/leaders, if the young person tries to express his
displeasure with such wrong doing and offer advice, they are ignored
and tagged with unpleasant names.

Irrespective of how mannered and respectful a young person faulted the
wrong actions of the elder/leaders, such young person would always be
accused of rudeness, arrogance and disrespect. The substance of the
issue raised would be rubbished and personal ego would override,
forcing the young person to keep quiet and never contributing to any
issues of public interest ever again.

The result of such situation is the backwardness seen all over
Nigeria/ Africa, where the elders/leaders continuously do things
wrongly, while the youths are said to be too young to take part, or
when allowed to take part, are expected to just keep quite when things
are going wrong, or speak only when they are told to do so.

Any youth that acted outside this box are tagged with unpleasant names
and regarded as someone lacking respect and rude to elders, but I
believe this shouldn’t be so as it is against the ethics of equity and
fairness. It is against progress, justice and human right.
Having observed the situation over the years, I have resolved never to
keep quite in such situation anymore and I urge the entire African
youths to wake up from their slumber, especially when things are going
wrong, even if it means being called all sort of names and accused of
being rude, disrespectful and other names which i am certain does not
apply to us, we must speak up and ensure sanity is restored to our
societies.

The youths must do everything required to make Nigeria and indeed
Africa attain its rightful position among the comity of nations, even
if it means being rude, disrespectful and aggressive, we must enjoy
both old and young to do what is good and to avoid the wrong.
The consequences of keeping quite over the years is that, many
beautiful minds from Nigeria and Africa run abroad to a better
environment where they can actually be heard, a land said to be of no
respect for elders, yet working.

Many youths, even older people today in Nigeria/ Africa see going
abroad as a special blessing, something they dedicate a special prayer
session for in churches and mosques, when in reality, there is no any
special blessing abroad, except the blessing we take there ourselves.

So I ask, why would a land, where unquestionable respect for elders
hold no water be working, yet the land where unquestionable respect
for elders reign supreme would not?
I believe the difference is simple, over there, where people here run
to for security and greener pasture, issues are weighed over persons.
Irrespective of your age and position, when you are wrong, a younger
person can fault your position and both can agree with substance
without name calling or personal attack. The elders/leaders don’t feel
too old to be wrong; neither do they feel too knowledgeable to be
corrected by younger people. The old carefully consider the points of
the young and agree where necessary and In case there is mix up, or
issues of uncertainty, they go back to review their position to
identify the missing point and correct it.

However, It is such a regret that even though some people had gone
abroad, experienced the outcome of such inter relationship between the
old and the young which is a good and progressive atmosphere, they had
enjoy the benefit of the togetherness of both old and young abroad,
but they still come back home to suppress the voice of the young,
under the guise of age, calling them all sort of name for speaking out
on issues affecting their persons and nations.

It is worth to note that, I am not advocating disrespect to elders in
anyway, neither do I encourage rudeness or other negative ways of
approaching issues when relating with elderly people. In fact, I enjoy
youths to employ the best form of words in talking to them, be humble
and calm, respectful and mannered, but I believe the elders have a
major role to help the youth base issue on substance not persons.

When the elders continually do things wrongly and the youths had
employed all form of gentle approach so as not to sound disrespecting
and rude with no any changes, yet the actions of the elders continues
to have negative effect on our collective interest, young people that
want to put a stop to the wrong actions of the elders would therefore
have no other means than to speak out in whatever manner they deem fit
to stop the negativities.
It is worthy to also note that, the African culture placed the elderly
in a very strategic position of being the custodian of truth,
morality, manners, sincerity, guidance, good examples and more like a
deity worthy of a mini god. This explains why the culture mandated it
on every young person to always respect the elders no matter what, as
they have once been in the position of the youths, went through what
the youths are presently going through and are in the better position
to address the issues of concern, though, some issues require time and
serious effort, but unfortunately today, most African elders/leaders
have departed from their duties and the virtue such as truthfulness,
morality, manners, sincerity and good example which earned them the
right of unquestionable respect, they today symbolize more like a
destroyer rather than a builder of the society.

It is my believe that, after speaking in the best manners on several
occasions to make a leader or elder see reason why their action is not
good for the people with no changes, respecting someone destroying
your present and future becomes a crime against humanity and I can
actually say that, it is one of the most negative actions one can ever
perform.
Why should we speak with respect to someone destroying our future
disrespectfully?
Why should we employ the use of manners to voice out our displeasure
to someone intentionally stealing our resources with impunity without
manners?

Should we continue to say yes sir to people that had sold our
collective wealth to themselves and friends? Is it meaningful to
continue to listen to people who earn millions from our wealth, yet
refused to pay us some few thousands as salaries? I don’t think so.
If we continue in that manner, surely, their actions would always
continue till we are finally destroyed and perish. But I am not ready
to perish in silence by other people’s wrong actions, I can’t watch my
destruction and keep quiet, as far as I am concerned, the youths must
first take a step in the right direction, by acting to the actions of
the elders/leaders. React to them the way they react to us, treat them
the way they treat us, disrespect them the way they disrespect us,
show lack of manners the way they did to us, insult them the way they
insult us, abuse them the way they abuse us and finally making them
with their stolen wealth and age looks meaningless in the public.

When they visit your area, ignore them. When you meet them in public
place, tell them their crimes and if they come to your schools, read
their sins to them. Every were they go, let them be disappointed and
embarrassed of their own actions.

Only the worthy elders should be respected and the purposeful,
truthful and sincere leaders be honored. African must bury the culture
of respecting rogue and deceitful elders; we must avoid according
respect to insincere and untruthful leaders.

I thereby urge the African elders/leaders to improve their listening
hears, morality, sincerity and serve as a good example to avoid being
addressed in what they assume to be rude and disrespecting.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat
Discus4now@yahoo.com

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By Prince Charles Dickson

Where there are two/three/four and more rich Nigerian politicians/leaders there is laughter in their midst, and often it is a tinted atmosphere. #amebo#

For purpose of this essay, let me quickly say irrespective of all that the traffic acts stipulates, what the police says and police did not say on the tinted glass matter, in summary, a layman’s definition of a tint–a tint is a chemical or nylon put in or on a glass that makes it unable for you to see those inside, and in cases guarantees the privacy of those inside, in other words, there’s often a blurred picture of what one sees.

Over the week, a friend of mine brought to my knowledge again the farce called leadership in Africa’s biggest nation. He said to me “Mallam, have you seen the federal executive council (FEC) meeting pictures, imagine the way they are laughing, and exchanging banters?”

I quickly looked it up on my NAN wednesday picture schedule. I saw it, I understood it, not that it was new, but it is the focus of my admonition this week. A collection of ministers and aides all laughing and exchanging banters. After all, contracts have been awarded…to friends and associates, you don’t expect them to cry.

Beyond tinted and veiled condemnation on Baga, other killings and kidnap cases nationwide, our leaders simply live a tinted existence. They just laugh and make comedy of the serious issues bedeviling the nation.

I further looked up more pictures on the newspapers and watched events on television for the week, it only further confirmed that while Nigerians complain, suffer, groan under all forms of hardship. Our leaders are inside a tinted vehicle, inside tinted offices and get to homes with tint.

We cannot see them, and when they manage to see us, they really careless. When we see them, we really can do nothing. We are victims of the tint, a psychological state that make Nigerians behave normal in the light of crass abnormality. Between the led and leaders is a tragic case of blurred vision.

A nation of politicians with tinted hearts, lacking in focus, consistent in inconsistency, versed in policy somersaults and a people in dire need of visionary leaders but too tinted we cannot differentiate.

With tints, a whole nation lives a rumor, just a matter regarding the future status of NECO/JAMB is left as a dark matter. A minister for education, a junior minister, two education committees at the National Assembly, scores of aides and assistants yet we are all rabble-rousing in a nation that spends less than 5% on education.

In Anambra 23 illegal refineries were discovered, 23 excluding those that have not been discovered. Excludes those in Bayelsa, Rivers, Edo and other core oil areas. These are tints, with all these bunkering and stealing, we pay N97, and behind the tint they steal billions in subsidy.

While the South sympathizes with the North on Boko Haram, the Southwest is tinting itself with notoriety in kidnappings, fulani herdsmen at war with farmers in Delta, in Benue, in Kogi, and we can’t see each other because we wear tinted shades.

Tinted people that negotiate with ghosts, arrest ghosts, prosecute ghosts…one marvels, but really, it should not be surprising as they see things we can’t see.

When a Minister is never owed, has water running from taps in his/her high brow home, barbed security wired high walls, domestic help and best of education for his/her ward–He/she simply suffers a wide disconnect, his/her reasoning is defect and in his/her tinted existence believes his/her doing well translates to everything being fine–Nigerians don’t see well so we just nag and complain.

On the other hand because we can’t see the inside, we make tinted comments, he can steal as long as he’s from my side of the wood. She can mismanage funds as long as its our money. Those muslims, the christians, its the ibos fault, crazy hausas, foolish yorubas and many more veiled comments that only expose our ignorance and tinted nature and victimology.

The Federal Government within the week said it is looking beyond Nigerian banks to raise $3.4bn needed to fund power projects in the country “because of high interest rates being charged on loans by local banks.” The effect of the tint, the rates are high, small scale business people are on their own while government goes abroad for funds yet the collective wealth of the poor services the interests both low and high.

On the little matter of tinted glasses on cars–does a goat eat bone, and in local parlance ‘who dash monkey banana’. Of the several million plus cars plying our roads, how many ‘poor people’ that can manage a car, have cars with real tinted glasses?

Victims of the tint, N-Delta oil bunkerers tell FG they want amnesty, in Abia kidnappers say they deserve a feel of the tint, and in Edo new militants decry non-inclusion in the tint called amnesty. Rather than solve pressing security issues we are sharing monies.

The Yorubas say Bí ekòló bá kọ ebè, ara-a rẹ̀ ni yó gbìn sí i. Literally if a worm makes a heap, it is itself that it will plant in it. (The consequences of a person’s actions will fall on the person’s own head.) There’s need for us as a people to eliminate bottlenecks like the traffic acts tint rule and face the issues, the world is moving and would not wait for Nigeria.

It is when the snail wants to invite death that it lays eggs. (A person who knows an action will be disastrous but carries it our anyway deserves what he gets.) Government must and by encouraging private participation invest in infrastructure, education, healthcare and importantly remove tints that block participatory governance or else, Boko in the haram is just letter B after A, there will be coko, doko, eoko, and down to zoko haram.

If fish sleeps, fish will devour fish.(If one does not wish to be taken advantage of, one must be ever watchful.) Do we sleep and remain victims only to be eaten because of those that laugh at our woes–only time will tell.

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By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

I still recall vividly that bright sunny day in 2000 that I met Oby Ezwkwesili at a committee room of the House of Representatives. She was in her thirties, dressed in colorful skirt and blouse made from locally-manufactured Ankara, looking modest yet elegant with her trademark low-cut hair. She confidently walked up to me after a powerpoint presentation on the Federal Privatization Program, and introduced herself – “I am Oby Ezekwesili”. And like a Japanese business person, simply handed over her name card to me.

It was the beginning of a relationship that included not only strong family ties, but hundreds of hours of brainstorming sessions, mental battles and emotional moments in the service of our country, during which Oby and I grew in our jobs and roles to cabinet level positions. Today, Oby is fifty years old and my three year chronological advantage appears slightly dented – after all, we are now both “in our fifties”!

My sister Obiageli Katryn Exekwesili, known by virtually everyone as simply ‘Oby’ is a woman of no mean repute, a public servant that is well-known for her astonishing achievements not only in Nigeria, butnin Africa and globally. What many do not know is just how young Oby is. As she attains this golden age today, it is only fitting that the few of us that know her well pay this special tribute to a Nigerian that has consistently made our nation and Africa proud.

Oby’s parents were originally from Anambra State but she grew up mostly in Lagos and is fluent in Yoruba. Her father was a public servant employed by the Nigerian Ports Authority and early in life, instilled in Oby a sense of self-worth and confidence that she remembered fondly and applied consistently in our public service days.

She got her initial tertiary education from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant while employed by Akintola Williams Deloitte & Touché. She obtained a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos followed by a second Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. At the Kennedy School, Oby got special recognition when she won the Robert F. Kennedy award for exceptional public service.

Oby’s work experience includes auditing and consulting, financial services, civil society and government, thereby traversing the private and public sectors as well as the non-governmental. The combination of Oby’s disciplined and cosmopolitan upbringing, sound education and multidisciplinary skills mix was bound to produce an exceptional individual which Oby has turned out to be by any standard. It is therefore not surprising that in addition to all her work-related achievements, Oby is also a Pentecostal pastor, wife and mother of three wonderful young men.

Oby began her working life as an audit trainee and after qualifying moved to financial services, while also active as a founding director of Berlin-based Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog. She met General Obasanjo at this point when he chaired the board of the international NGO. She was then exiled by the Abacha regime for her activism and spent time in the UK before moving to Harvard University as an Edward Mason Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. Upon graduation, Oby was employed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs at the Harvard Centre for International Development. She returned to Nigeria to assist the Obasanjo administration in the broad area of economic reforms in 2000. It was at that point that we met.

Oby was then appointed Special Assistant to the President on Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence, initially reporting to Steve Oronsaye who was Obasanjo’s principal private secretary. She created the system of major contract prices review before award that saved Nigeria billions of dollars between 2001 and 2005, that came to be known as ‘Due Process’. Indeed, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, then finance minister gave Oby the title “Madam Due Process” which stuck. The Due Process office became institutionalized as the Bureau of Public Procurement in 2007. Oby was then promoted to the cabinet in 2005 where she initiated broad ranging reforms and legislation that brought sanity to the Nigerian mining sector. She was Education minister for 12 months and took earth-shaking steps to bring sanity and order to the chaotic and often incompetently managed ministry.

It was her performance record and personal qualities that earned Oby an invitation by then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to take up the dream job of every World Bank official – the Vice President, Operations for the Africa Region in March 2007. Once again, Oby delivered on the assignment and got retained, and her contract extended by Wolfowitz’s successor Robert Zoellick. Oby returned home in 2012, and now advises some selected African governments on economy policy and reforms under the auspices of the Soros Foundation.

It is evident from this that Oby is a workhorse and focused implementation machine. She is deep thinker and combines rare talents of numeracy, literary creativity and oratory. In a nation full of timorous souls unwilling to step on toes to get the work of the people done, Oby stands out as a consistent producer of results under the most challenging environments.

Oby’s nearly-single handed initiation, design and implementation of procurement reforms, our extractive industry transparency initiative and cleaning up Nigeria’s mining cadastre are well-known testimonies. Her bold plan to hand over the management of federal secondary schools to other private, non-governmental and non-federal entities would have focused the Federal Ministry of Education on setting standards and raising the quality of our beleaguered tertiary education sector. Sadly, most of Oby’s reforms have been allowed to flounder by mostly hapless and greedy successors.

So is my fifty year-old sister the perfect human specimen? Of course not! Only God is perfect. Oby is simply among the best I have come across in recent years. She is honest, incorruptible, and fiercely loyal to her friends, family, colleagues and country. In her interactions and relationships, she is not utilitarian. She is the friend one can count on through thick and thin. She does not do what is wrong or against public interest because it is popular or demanded by influential people or nations. She lacks guile and incapable of being conspiratorial. With Oby, what you see is what you get. What she says about you behind your back is what she will repeat to your face. Oby is a genuine person. I am fortunate to have her as a friend and sister. My children and indeed, many Nigerian youths are fortunate to have her as a mentor.

As Oby celebrates her fiftieth birthday today, I join Mama, Pastor Chinedu, Chinenmelum, Chinwuba, and Chidera Ezekwesili, and all well-wishers to pray for long life in good health, with happiness and prosperity for her, her family and indeed all well-meaning citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. May our future be infinitely better than our present and recent past, Amen

 

Image, Former Governor Of Abia State, Nigeria, and Coordinator of Njiko Igbo, To The British House of Commons On April 18, 2013

 

Honourable Members of the House, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

WHO ARE THE IGBO?

I will not detain you with genealogical or anthropological exercise here. Let it be sufficient for me to just say this about the origins of the Igbo: serious studies based on verifiable evidence indicate that the Igbo have lived in Igboland for almost as long as man has lived on earth.

 

The archeological finds at Ugwuele in Okigwe provide a meaningful evidence of human activities in the theatre of Igbo civilization more than two hundred and fifty thousand years ago. Evidence of man-made tools like axe, pottery and carved stones dug up at the present day Enugu and Ebonyi states lend credence to the existence of Igbo culture for scores of millennia.

 

My people are known as the Igbo and our language is Igbo.

 

Igbo people constitute one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria – what Nigerian historians have come to term the tribal tripod. The other two are the Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani.

 

The primary Igbo states in Nigeria are Anambra, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, and Enugu (if justice and equity reigned, there should have been 6 or 7, instead of just 5 states). Due to their mobility, the Igbo constitute between 25% – 60% of the population in some other Nigerian States such as Delta, Rivers, Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom and Plateau, to mention a few.   

 

Although my people mainly and primarily inhabit the southeastern part of Nigeria, they have, however, spread, like ants in the savannah, to every nook and cranny of Nigeria, Africa and indeed the globe – thriving, building and enriching themselves, their environment and others in all facets of life as they do so.

 

The veteran American diplomat, Henry Kissinger, hit the nail on the head when he aptly observed that: “The Ibos are the wandering Jews of West Africa… gifted, aggressive, Westernized; at best envied and resented, but mostly despised by the mass of their neighbors in the Federation.” – Henry Kissinger, MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT, Tuesday, January 28, 1969 [Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-5, Documents on Africa, 1969-1972].

 

IGBO AND THE PROVERBIAL RAINFALL

Permit me at this point to invoke an ancient African idiom which has its roots in Igbo wisdom: onye na amaghi ebe mmiri bidoro mawa ya, agaghi ama ebe o kwusiri (He who does not recognise the point at which the rain began to beat him would not recognise when the rain ceases to fall altogether).

 

For Igbo people in Nigeria, the rainfall ensued in the early 19th century when the British first explored the Lower Niger (I will put aside, for today’s purposes, the preceding hellfire that was black African slavery and the Igbo’s share of hell in it).

 

The rain began to beat us from January 1914 when Lord Fredrick Lugard completed the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates into Colonial Nigeria and became its first Governor-General. The Igbo did not have a say as to whether they desired to become a part of such a contraption or not.

 

The clouds lifted ever so briefly and the Igbo enjoyed a brief sunshine in Nigeria in the decade before and a few years after independence. Having embraced Christianity and western education with enthusiasm, they quickly rose to hold sway in the federal civil service, military, academia, commerce and industry – the Jews of West Africa were on the march, toiling, sweating and swinging upwards, to the envy and hatred of their compatriots.

 

The Igbo in Nigeria became quickly drenched in that awesome rain by way of separate episodes of pogrom: the Jos massacre in 1945, the Kano massacre in 1953 and the September 29, 1966 massacre in which tens of thousands of Igbo men, women and children were slaughtered. This last event led directly to the civil war of 1967-1970, which in turn resulted in mass starvation and deliberate anti-Igbo genocide.

 

And the rain has not abated. The bloody rain has continued to beat Igbo people, resulting in organised anti-Igbo massacres in Kano in 1980, Maiduguri in 1982, Yola in 1984, Gombe in 1985, Kaduna in 1986, Bauchi in 1991, Funtua in 1993, Kano in 1994, Damboa in 2000 and the Apo 6 massacre in 2005.

 

The ongoing nihilistic slaughter of Igbo people by an extremist militant group known as Boko Haram is yet to be documented. But there can be no question that a disproportionate percentage of the thousands of victims, dead or maimed or permanently impoverished, is made up of Igbo people.

 

The foregoing non-exhaustive examples occurred exclusively in northern Nigeria. They also represent occasions when Igbo people had been massacred by northern Nigerian Muslims who had been provoked not by any direct misconduct by the Igbo but perhaps because the Prophet Mohammed was insulted in Denmark by some European artist or because Allah’s name had been taken in vain in Los Angeles by an American satirist.

 

There is, therefore, a sense in which by simply being Igbo, Christian and entrepreneurial, the Igboman is adjudged guilty and vengeful punishment is indiscriminately and randomly applied on a recurring basis.

 

THE COUP THAT CONDEMNED US ALL

 

On 15 January, 1966, a few young Nigerian army officers led by an Igbo officer, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, carried out Nigeria’s first coup d’état. This resulted in the deaths of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, a prominent northern Nigerian of the Fulani ethnic stock and the Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, also a northern Nigerian Fulani.

 

Although the coup was foiled primarily by another Igboman, Nigeria’s first Major-General in the Colonial Army, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, nevertheless, the belief prevailed in northern Nigeria that Hausa leaders were singled out for elimination by Igbo people who had a grand design for political dominance.

 

This situation gave rise to a retaliatory pogrom in which tens of thousands of Igbo people were murdered in northern Nigeria. This led to the mass flight back to the Eastern Region of as many as two million Igbo people. 

 

It is conceded that the execution of the coup in question resulted in unintended consequences.  The ethnic composition of the putschists, the ethnic origin of the individuals killed, as well as the eventual assumption of power by Gen. Ironsi, himself an Igboman, created the erroneous impression that the coup was an ethnic-biased putsch organised mostly by Igbo officers in furtherance of Igbo hegemonic agenda.

 

However, I must insist that the coup was purely a military affair and that the civilian Igbo population knew nothing about it and had absolutely nothing to do with it.

 

Gen. Ironsi himself was not part of either the planning or the execution of the coup. Once the coup plotters lost control of events, General Ironsi was invited to take office as the military Head of State by the circumstance of his position as the most high-ranking military officer and the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army at that time.

 

There was neither a grand Igbo civilian conspiracy to overthrow a northern-controlled government nor to impose a unitary system of government, the phantom charges for which the Igbo people have paid and continue to pay a terrible price in Nigeria today.

 

It must also be noted that there have been several military coups in Nigeria since January 15, 1966 and yet the ethnic kinsmen of the perpetrators of such coups were not subjected to mass slaughter or wanton destruction of their property and places of worship.

 

But above all, on July 29, 1966, the northern officer corps themselves executed a retaliatory counter-coup in which the Head of State, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, was killed and over 300 military officers and men of Igbo origin were massacred. Why didn’t matters simply end there?

 

Eventually, the crisis reached its peak in May 1967 with the secession of the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region from Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra was declared and it was headed by the British public school- and Oxford-educated Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegu-Ojukwu.

 

The secession quickly led to a civil war after talks between former army colleagues, Yakubu Gowon and Ojukwu and the Aburi peace deal collapsed.

 

The Republic of Biafra lasted only until January 1970 after a campaign of starvation by the Nigerian Army with the support of Egypt, Sudan and the United Kingdom led to a decisive victory for the Nigerian side.

 

NEGATIVE DISCRIMINATION BY LAW

 

The Igbo in Nigeria have become the receptacle of anger, hatred, envy and frustration oozing out of their fellow compatriots. But this is on the level of the transactions between private citizens. How about the place of the Igbo in respect of the manner in which public affairs are conducted by the Nigerian federal government and its agencies?

 

The simple answer is that the rain has continued to beat the Igbo. To demonstrate this, I have composed a narrow but blunt table below:

 

ZONES

NORTH WEST

NORTH EAST

NORTH CENTRAL

SOUTH WEST

SOUTH SOUTH

SOUTH EAST

 

# OF STATES

 

7

 

6

 

6

 

6

 

6

 

5

 

# OF LOCAL GOVT AREAS

 

186

 

112

 

115

 

138

 

123

 

95

 

# OF FEDERAL CONSTITUENCIES

 

92

 

48

 

49

 

71

 

55

 

43

 

# SENATORIAL DISTRICTS

 

21

 

18

 

18

 

18

 

18

 

15

 

The above table does not represent an opinion or a hypothesis. It represents the blatant reality of the third rate status forced upon the Igbo in the political space in Nigeria.

 

We, the Igbo have strived but thus far failed to persuade the Nigerian establishment about the hurt and humiliation and deprivation that come with the idea that we as a people are legally condemned to third rate status in our own country, as amply demonstrated by the above table.

 

The implications of this calculated fraud against my people are so massive and go entirely untold: unequal allocation of resources, unequal voice at the Federal Executive Council, unequal representation at the National Assembly (the gravest of all), unequal juridic participation in the administration of justice in the federation, unequal participation in the federal civil service and adjunct bodies, unequal representation in the armed forces and para-military organisations, unequal representation in the diplomatic corps ensuring incapacity in showcasing the Igbo culture as part of a pan-Nigerian culture in our foreign missions and embassies, fewer primary, secondary and higher education opportunities for our children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

 

These structural disparities are constitutionally entrenched (please see the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999), thus their grave implications for Ndigbo are beyond the primary questions of inequity and marginalization.

 

The histories of nations are replete with evidence of existential threat to any group whose marginalization is made a subject matter of constitutional enshrinement.

 

With unequal voice in the Federal Executive Council, in the National Assembly, on the federal judicial benches and a vast array of other fora in which the Igbo suffer sub-parity representation, the strength of the advocacy of our problems and priorities is thus diminished. Little wonder, then, that the South-East Zone, the area inhabited by the Igbo, still manifests the physical characteristics of a conquered and occupied land, 43 years after the civil war.

 

Quite apart from the psychological assault it represents for Igbo people, the practical issues of unequal representation and unequal allocation of resources are calculated to retard the development of our region and our people. The massive difference which the resources and human empowerment that we are denied might have made in our society is something that calls not just for a sober reflection but a gritty resolve to bring about their speedy resolution.

 

The Igbo tenacity, drive and relentless optimism to pursue life’s enduring dreams of family, faith and success and to overcome life’s challenges will see them through. But the world must listen to them whenever they cry out. For they have long suffered and endured in silence, as the rain continues to beat them.

 

Njiko Igbo

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, before I give a full introduction of its nature and purpose, another blunt table will demonstrate why Njiko Igbo was brought into existence:

 

  1. NORTH CENTRAL – 17 YEARS 11 MONTHS 20 DAYS
  2. NORTH WEST –       13 YEARS 11 MONTHS 10 DAYS
  3. SOUTH WEST –       11 YEARS 10 MONTHS  8 DAYS
  4. NORTH EAST –        5 YEARS   3 MONTHS   15 DAYS
  5. SOUTH SOUTH –     5 YEARS   23 DAYS (by 29/05/15)
  6. SOUTH EAST –       6 MONTHS 13 DAYS

MUSLIMS          =     28 YEARS, 14 DAYS  (as at 2010)

CHRISTIANS    =     26 YEARS, 5 MONTHS, 15 DAYS (by 29/05/2015)

 

A citizen of Igbo extraction has occupied the presidency or premiership or Head of Government of Nigeria for just 6 months and 13 days in the nearly 53 years of Nigerian independence. Again, this is a historical fact and not a conjecture.

 

The presidency of the Nigerian nation has not eluded the Igbo by accident or by an act of divinity but by human design; and it is through human pressure that we can attain it.

 

Njiko Igbo is the catalyst and conduit for our collective action. We trust that you recognise, as we do, that power concedes nothing without a demand.

 

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, in a paper entitled ‘Ndigbo: An Integral Part of the Nigerian Project,’ says that the aim of the Nigerian project “…is to develop and sustain a nation in which all the constituent parts and citizens are able to pursue their self-fulfilment, and to enjoy as high a quality of life as possible; a nation that would be a source of pride to its citizens, to Africa and to peoples of African descent all over the world.” It is in this spirit that we have, therefore, decided to set up Njiko Igbo (Igbo Unity), which is a movement dedicated to changing the power formula in Nigeria in order to obtain justice and fairness for all Nigerians. As Chief Anyaoku further said, “There are so many Igbo names in the pantheon of our country’s pioneer educationists, professionals in medicine, law, engineering, journalism, and in private business.” So, why then can’t an Igbo man or woman become president of Nigeria?

 

Njiko Igbo is an organisation dedicated to the struggle for the ascent of a citizen of Igbo extraction to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015.

 

We are fully committed to the security and peace of our nation, and to the comradeship of a common justice and equality for all Nigerians.

 

We are neither supportive of nor opposed to any political party or the aspirations of any individual politician. Our primary mission is to enlighten and mobilise the Igbo population, both at home and in the diaspora, to stand firm and united in the pursuit of our collective goal. Our secondary duty is to connect with and persuade the rest of the Nigerian population about the justice of our cause.

 

Njiko Igbo is waging this struggle precisely because there is an irrefutable evidence of blatant anti-Igbo bias in the manner in which the political architecture of this federation is constructed.

 

Gross injustice is the ultimate outcome of that deliberate discrimination. And every man or woman possessed of conscience has a duty to take a moral stand against injustice whenever and wherever it is manifest. This expression of conscience forms the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people.

 

The impulse to demand justice and the instinctive revolt against injustice constitute the most essential ingredients of humanity. If we recognize this philosophical essence of what truly defines our sentient nature, then we must accept that this struggle is not only inevitable but mandatory.

 

Our strategic operations are two-pronged: (a) an intensive drive to build and foster a united front at home and, (b) an energetic national mobilization campaign to marshal public opinion and secure the solidarity and support of a majority of Nigerians.

 

Our methods will be conciliatory, unaggressive, solicitous and flexible but without being amenable to the old easy compromises and defensiveness that reinforced prejudicial assumptions about us as a people.

 

We shall seek to accomplish our mission in a manner and style deferential to elders, respectful of the sensibilities of other tribal groups and faiths, attentive to criticisms and open to disputations.

 

We are embarked on a big and noble dream borne out of the necessities of our history and the imperatives of justice, equity and fair-play. While our history is a proud, large and significant imprint in Nigeria, the reality of our contemporary existence has been rendered small by the politics of the Nigerian republic. These times call for self-assertion and Igbo people must rise and answer the challenges with one voice.

 

We are not pursuing the orthodox argument connected with the zoning of the presidency. This is, instead, a struggle for justice and equality of opportunity through the instrumentalities of persuasion, mobilization, projection of a creative vision for a stronger and successful federation.

 

No one should be in any doubt that the political struggles and strifes raging in this country today, and which will rage for at least another generation, represent the struggles to assert group identity and legitimacy, expressed through the mechanics of politics. Igbo people can ill-afford to take a passive stance in this maelstrom.

 

Conclusion

Former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Chief Raph Uwechue says of the Igbo, in a paper entitled ‘Igbo are nation builders:’

“To the Nigerian project, the Igbo have given a great deal yesterday, are still doing so today, and have a lot more in store for a much greater tomorrow.”

 

It is time for the bloody rain to stop. Igbo people are already drenched and soaked to the point of suffocation. It is not only in the best interests of the Igbo but also in the best interests of the Nigerian people for the sun to rise and shine on us all.

 

Permit me to use this opportunity to appeal to the British government through this distinguished gathering to increase funding for special projects that benefit the underprivileged in Nigeria and Africa in general. The proposed legislation to reduce aid for health, education and infrastructure, amongst others, while committing more funds to war areas such as Mali with the provision of arms and ammunition will be counterproductive both in the immediate and medium term. Nigeria needs increased funding to meet our development challenges, the biggest of which is achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This intervention will bridge the gap between the rich and poor countries, thereby making the world a much better place for all of us and our children.

 

I thank you for listening.