Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category

JONATHAN, BEWARE OF BLAIR!   1 comment

“Tony Blair is not known to do principle but deals which give him money. This is not a man any Nigerian leader who wants to solve Nigeria’s problems should take advice from… Jonathan, [beware] of Blair.” –E. O. Eke

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is too close to President Goodluck Jonathan for my liking. I fear there is something weird or shady going on. Blair has met with Jonathan at least six times since he became Acting President in February 2010. Blair and Jonathan have had four meetings in Abuja (February 20, 2010, November 17, 2010, June 17, 2011 and July 31, 2012), one meeting on the sidelines of the 2012 UN General Assembly in New York at a sponsored event (September 26, 2012) and most recently, in Lagos, on April 20, 2013. The frequency of these Blair–Jonathan meetings can only suggest there is more to it than meets the eye.

Fair enough, Blair has visited Nigeria, under Jonathan, for some humane causes. His faith foundation, for example, has the stated intention of seeking to entrench tolerance between Nigeria’s two main religions. What gets me, and I would assume, other discerning Nigerians, worried, though, is that Blair is ostensibly taking advantage of Jonathan’s gullibility to secure lucrative deals for his business partners and cronies. A case in point is the deal Blair brokered for the US bank, JP Morgan, which led to an upgrade of its representative office in Nigeria to a full branch. Blair is a JP Morgan adviser and is said to also have oil and gas interests. Make no mistake about it: Nigeria’s financial services sector is about the fastest growing in Africa and any investor is assured of good returns from it.

In 2010, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said “Blair [supported Nigeria] in the area of health but more importantly in the area of debt relief. Blair led G7 to get us debt relief.” But, interestingly, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also said that it was her former colleagues and contacts in the World Bank and the IMF that played a leading role in persuading Western powers to grant Nigeria debt relief. Either way, if Blair indeed played a significant role in helping Nigeria to clear off her debts, it is likely that he is now leveraging on that to secure juicy deals as part of his ‘payback’ package.

Blair is often full of praises for Jonathan whereas he always veils his criticisms of the man. Whilst one may excuse Blair’s veiled criticism of Jonathan as a given for diplomatic etiquette, how can one justify the unrestrained praises Blair often heaps on him, with his obvious ineptitude and failings?

On November 17, 2010, for instance, a few months to the 2011 elections, Blair made an indirect endorsement for Jonathan’s presidential bid during an audience with Jonathan and the CEO of JP Morgan. Blair said it was the confidence the international community had in Jonathan that attracted JP Morgan to do business in Nigeria. As Vanguard Newspaper reported, “According to Blair, there was a huge amount of goodwill in the international community towards supporting President Jonathan’s efforts to achieve rapid socio-economic development in Nigeria.”

Similarly, in June 2011, at an audience with Jonathan, Blair described him as a “focused leader”. In fact, after he emerged from the closed door discussion with Jonathan, Blair told reporters that Jonathan would do well as President in the term he had just won. Blair said, “I think the President is absolutely focused on the right areas… that he is making the changes that are necessary.”

However, on July 31, 2012, apparently perturbed by the spate of violence in the country, especially as, I would think, they threaten the investment climate needed to facilitate his business interests, Blair again held talks with Jonathan, in the company of some British officials. It was reported that that meeting was to seek ways to end the menace.

Most recently, in Lagos, on April 20, Blair said “There is need for safety and security of the people…” He added that “For total and stable national transformation to take place in any country there is need for the government to provide adequate power supply, construct new roads, eradicate polio, ensure job creation and do other things that make life meaningful.” For a visit that came only a few weeks after the widely condemned Alamieyeseigha pardon, if Blair truly means well for Nigeria, he would have capitalised on that to strongly speak up against corruption. Corruption is, unquestionably, the main reason why Nigeria lacks adequate power and infrastructure.

Jonathan is fleeceable and easily impressed by the company and compliments of, especially, Western leaders. Blair, an Oxford-trained barrister, expert in the art of persuasion, is just cashing in on that and surely having a field day with his unsuspecting prey. Jonathan would be better advised to be more cautious in his dealings with Blair. An attribute of good leadership is the maverick ability to decipher the motives of powerbrokers that often employ beguiling means in the pursuit of their selfish interests, especially when the national good is at stake.

In a recent opinion piece urging Blair to hands off Nigeria and Jonathan to be wary of his friendship with him, E. O. Eke, a Nigerian medical practitioner who lives in England and keenly followed Blair’s premiership, wrote, inter alia, “Goodluck Jonathan should study closely what happens to Blair’s friends. At the peak of Gadhafi’s dictatorship, Blair was his best friend. He reintroduced him to the West and claimed that he was a changed man. His role in helping Gadhafi’s son (Saif) obtain his degree at the London School of Economics has not been investigated. Blair is still resisting the call to declare how much Gadhafi paid him for that PR job. We know what happened to Gadhafi a few years later. Jonathan should tell Nigerians how much Nigeria paid Blair to attend a breakfast meeting with him in New York (in September 2012). We know that Tony Bair does not do such things on charity.”

Also, in a November 2012 opinion piece, captioned “We shouldn’t be welcoming Tony Blair in Nigeria,” analyst, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, argues that “Blair comes into Nigeria so regularly that most people seem to have forgotten that he does not even command respect in his home country anymore and is unable to walk around in London, with same spring in his step that we see during his regular, and obviously lucrative, Nigerian visits. Blair is reviled around the world for his role in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He told lies about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, as justification for the invasion… Blair should no longer be welcome in Nigeria. His regular visits here assault our human decency!”

In August last year, Nobel Laureate and anti-apartheid icon, Desmond Tutu, said it was “morally indefensible” to share a platform with Blair and withdrew from a leadership summit that Blair was to attend. Tutu later called for Blair and Bush to face trial for the “physical and moral devastation caused by [their] war in Iraq.”

Concurring with Tutu’s stance, a commentator, George Monbiot, writing in The London Guardian of September 3, 2012, said “That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisy Tutu has exposed.” In fact, Monbiot founded an organisation calling for Blair’s arrest.

Blair is not only notorious for having been Bush’s right-hand man in the illegal war in Iraq. Blair has also been noted for his involvement in shady deals in Libya, Kazakhstan, etc. He ought to be on trial for his horrid role in Iraq; not globetrotting to expand his business empire. Jonathan, beware!

LESSONS FOR NIGERIA FROM FRANCE’S ELECTIONS   20 comments

President Goodluck Jonathan visited France in November 2011 to meet with some French investors. He also secured a French loan to the tune of $100 million after he met his counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy. Jonathan used the Sarkozy audience to, among other things, solicit France’s assistance to tackle the Boko Haram menace.

Beyond that, however, and whilst not justifying the French loan Jonathan took, Nigeria must now appreciate the unsolicited ‘gift’ of France’s exemplary political culture that was once again on sublime display at her just ended 2012 presidential elections. Nigeria has plenty of lessons to learn from this latest amiable chapter of French politics! Such of these lessons include the following…

First and foremost, French politics is particularly unique for its solid ideological blueprint. Fair enough, extreme ideological persuasions could sometimes lead to democratic stalemate as the recent case with the US Congress shows. But, almost all the time, a politics of ideology where fine distinctions could be made between the candidates and their various parties’ platforms and manifestos, such as is in vogue in France, is a joker for the strengthening of democracy in that it makes it easy for the electorate to rationally decipher where to pitch their tent.

Secondly, Nigeria must copy from French politics the practice that denies a governing party the selfish, divisive perception that it can remain in power for as long it desires. Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) likes to think of itself as politically disposed to governing Nigeria for generations. A former national chairman of the party once said the PDP will be in power for at least the next 60 years! When politicians make such silly comments, it simply shows that their interest is not in governing aright but in wielding power at any cost for their own selfish interests. Harvard Professor of International Development, Calestous Juma, says: “Political parties [are] tools of democracy, not delivery vehicles for political leaders.” When asked what would happen if he lost the elections, defeated French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, simply and unhesitatingly said, “There will be a handover of power. The nation is stronger than the destinies of the men who serve it!”

Yet another lesson Nigeria should endeavour to learn from France is that of a politics that guarantees an incumbent’s defeat if he doesn’t deliver irrespective of whether he created prevailing problems or not! I have encountered a handful of Nigerians who attempt to excuse the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, on the premise that many of the problems Nigeria is faced with today didn’t begin with him! No one denies that. But then, when someone puts himself up to be president, he is accepting responsibility for all that the country is facing. We must evolve a system wherein, like the French, if a president or any other elected official cannot deliver, even in his first term, he or she should be fired! For all his merits, especially on the international scene, Sarkozy understood this fact. Indeed, he fully accepted responsibility for his defeat at the polls! The presidency is not a platform for on-the-job training. The welfare, and in some cases, the survival, of many people depends on the policies and actions that the president makes and takes. There is no room for mediocrity!

In addition, the overall civility and tolerance of the French political establishment throughout this hotly contested campaign should further remind us that politics is not a do-or-die affair! It is only in an atmosphere of maturity, civility and tolerance such as the French have shown, that an incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost an election by 48.33% to his opponent’s 51.67% and yet we don’t hear of any civil uprising or threats of violence by his supporters.

Above all, one pertinent lesson Nigerians must themselves learn from the sterling example of the latest episode of France’s inspiring democratic practice is that sovereignty lies with the people and they must not fail to use it at every given opportunity in determining those who should govern them. Turnout was very high in both the first and second rounds of the 2012 French presidential elections. Whilst the first round was pegged at above 80%, the second round was said to hover around 75%! Indeed, the high turnout was majorly influenced by prevailing economic hardships. This explains what Prof. Juma meant when he said: “French voters have made it clear that economies serve people and not the other way round.”

In life, we excel when we emulate the positive examples of those who have gone ahead of us. From the French Revolution in 1789 till date, France has evolved a sound political-cum-democratic culture worthy to be emulated by a nation with a nascent democracy like Nigeria.

NB: The French President-Elect, Francois Hollande, told his friends at age 15 that his dream was to become president someday! Today, at age 57, he has fulfilled that dream! Hopefully, Hollande’s motivation, rooted in his psyche, will urge him to do his utmost best for his country. For Nigeria, this is a lesson that indicts our system which has produced mostly unwilling and accidental folks as our president – with unsurprisingly below par leadership performances.

GOD bless Nigeria!

Follow me on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

MY BEEFS WITH ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF   17 comments

Ordinarily, Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 73, would not be the subject of a blog article of mine. But after reading her feature article attempting to justify President Goodluck Jonathan’s inclusion in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people rankings for 2012 on April 18, I cannot help but seek to clarify some of the disingenuous facts in it.

Johnson-Sirleaf embarrassingly said Jonathan “possesses the qualities needed at this moment of great challenges.” She added that “In two short years, President Jonathan has shown… the dexterity to find the remedies to [Nigeria’s] many complexities.” As if that was not enough, Sirleaf outrageously claimed that “[Nigeria] has grown out of its past of corruption, mismanagement and brutality…”

Any honest and objective observer of the Nigerian political scenario would disagree with Sirleaf’s obviously flawed postulations above. Time without number, Jonathan has demonstrated that he sorely lacks the qualities of a good leader, not to talk about the kind of leader Nigeria needs. Jonathan has been very insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. To cite examples as proof of that would take a full article. Also, it is such a big deception for Sirleaf to profess that Nigeria has grown out of corruption and mismanagement. Indeed, less than 24 hours after her article was made public, the House of Representatives panel on the management of the fuel subsidy funds revealed large-scale fraud of more than ₦1 trillion between 2009 and December 2011. Recently, Nigeria has been awash with news of huge pension funds stolen by senior state officials as well as accusations and counter-accusations of bribery in almost every sector or agency probe as for instance in that which involved Arunma Oteh, the Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Indeed, the jumbo salaries of legislators and the ₦1bn 2012 feeding allowance of the presidency themselves comprise a form of official corruption by greed!

It is worth noting that Johnson-Sirleaf has often been enmeshed in controversy. In 2010, Sirleaf announced that she was going to run for a second term, backtracking on an earlier commitment she made in 2005, before she became president. Also, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which she created in 2006, included her in a list of fifty persons that it wanted barred from holding public office, for her role in Liberia’s first civil war.

Recently, in what has become her nepotic trait, Johnson-Sirleaf made one of her sons, Charles Sirleaf, the Deputy Governor of Liberia’s Central Bank and another, Robert Sirleaf, the board chair of Liberia’s national oil company (NOCOL). Robert is concurrently serving as a senior advisor to his mother. It should be recalled that Sirleaf’s brother, Ambulai Johnson, served as Liberia’s Interior Minister in her first term.

Ostensibly, it would not be out of place to think that Sirleaf’s article on Jonathan is akin to the sweet-talk that is characteristic of a typical African sycophant especially when there are lucrative deals at stake as indeed, they are, in the case between Nigeria and Liberia, with the latter receiving over 30,000 barrels of oil per day from the former. With her son chairing NOCOL’s board, the script is made even more inviting.

For some like me who passionately support women’s foray into politics, especially in Africa, Sirleaf has become a huge disappointment. Thankfully, a second African female president has just emerged in Malawi’s Joyce Banda.

Banda has officially stated that she doesn’t want to be addressed as “Madam President” but rather, simply as “Mrs Joyce Banda.” It remains to be seen, though, if that symbolic but inconsequential gesture will translate into Banda not abusing the privileges of her high office, and concentrating on doing the right things to prove that women can make a positive difference – a thing that is fast eluding Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf!

Follow me on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

Posted April 20, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Foreign Affairs

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NIGERIA NEEDS JEFF SACHS AS WORLD BANK PRESIDENT   8 comments

Following Robert Zoellick’s indication to step down as President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank), at the end of his 5-year term in June 2012, on March 2, prominent development economist, Special Advisor on MDGs to the UN Secretary-General, and Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, 58, threw his hat into the ring. I believe his candidature has plenty of merit both for Nigeria in particular, and for the world at large.

However, given the exclusivity with which Americans have occupied that crucial global development management office since the institution was created in 1945, it is relevant to hear calls to now allow a non-American, and preferably someone from the emerging economies to be given a shot. I agree with this reform-driven desire. But then, at the same time, another major reform aspect which has often been undermined is that those who have been appointed World Bank President in the past have mostly been Wall Street bankers or Washington bureaucrats and politicians with very little expertness on actual development challenges and issues.

Professor Jeff Sachs’ candidature is a paradigm shift from that coterie. He possesses the requisite professional capacity and wide-ranging international experience needed to lead the World Bank at this point in time. Besides, he is a Washington outsider and a technocratic maverick.

As a student of Development Studies and a concerned Nigerian and African, I have scrutinised and believe strongly that Prof. Sachs’ World Bank presidency will be good for Nigeria. During the recent nationwide crisis that greeted the removal of the fuel subsidy for instance, on separate occasions, he spent valuable time tweet-chatting with a few Nigerian activists and making his views known on the issue. I was privileged to be one such Nigerian. In my January 8, 2012 chat with him, he pointedly said: “I believe the [Nigerian] government didn’t prepare [the fuel subsidy removal policy] well… I support OccupyNigeria’s fight for clean and honest government.” Sachs added: “I am a fan of Nigeria’s civil society and no friend of corruption… Keep up your efforts for good governance.” You can see the full chat here: https://raymondeyo.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/my-tweet-chat-with-prof-sachs-un-sgs-special-advisor-on-the-fuel-subsidy-removal/

The venerated economics professor’s views were as straightforward as his openness and candour were remarkable. Despite his very busy schedule, Prof. Sachs devoted that much time with me to make those sterling points on issues in Nigeria. Very few Nigerians in such high positions of authority will so humble themselves and speak with the forthrightness that Sachs did.

While I am not an advocate of dependency on aid, it is important to underscore that the World Bank has gone beyond just being an instrument for it. Indeed, Prof. Sachs is himself opposed to increases in foreign aid. He prefers a judicious and systematic management of the Bank’s existing resources. Meantime, the Bank’s highly technical assistance to boosting Nigeria’s agriculture, for instance, is something to cherish particularly given how much great benefit our economy can reap from that vital sector. Also, the Bank is leading many climate-change mitigation initiatives across the globe which we will do well to be part of. To sustain and multiply these positive efforts, the World Bank needs someone with the hands-on experience like Jeffrey Sachs!

Pending much-needed broader reforms of the global governance system, I reckon that US President Barack Obama, who has the prerogative to nominate the World Bank President before an election by the Bank’s Board of Directors, had pledged during his 2008 campaign to undertake a multilateral approach to global affairs as against his predecessor’s ruthless unilateralism. In that light, whilst Obama has welcomed the emerging nations, admired their rise and supported the G20 as a major decision-making forum for global economic affairs, he should use his lone World Bank presidency nomination to further reflect that dynamic multilateralism by nominating Sachs – a man who is more a citizen of the world than otherwise.

Prof. Sachs, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable development, has got an international reckoning and reputation unmatched by his peers whether in the West or in the emerging nations and President Obama will do both himself and the world a favour by nominating Sachs. Sachs has made Obama’s job even easier by embarking on what the BBC describes as “an unusually public campaign [for the job].” Sachs is not resting on his laurels. He is pragmatically reaching out to nations and other World Bank stakeholders – literally campaigning for them to back his bid – and they are responding positively.

The world has reached a point where we cannot allow mediocrity in the governance of institutions that have a huge bearing on, especially, the survival of many of the world’s poor. We must give leadership to those who truly have the heart and the head to make the difference. For this present World Bank presidency purpose, it is Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs who fittingly and unequivocally squares up!

NB
To further appreciate why Prof. Sachs deserves to be the next World Bank President, I invite you to read these:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-shank/jeffrey-sachs-world-bank_b_1314363.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/mar/04/jeffrey-sachs-beat-world-poverty
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Sachs

Posted March 6, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Foreign Affairs