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Russia, Ukraine: What is UN’s relevance? By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Exactly ten days after the world marked this year’s Saint Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for lovers to mark their solidarity and friendship, the world was thrown into a warfare that is beginning to be predicted as the commencement of World War III.

Russia under the dictatorial hold of their long term President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine and commanded the armed forces of his nation to bombard Ukraine from land, sea and air in an effort to annex the country and stop it from enlisting into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The opening verbal salvo from the aggressor in chief, was to warn the West to stay off Ukraine and let him achieve his plot to capture Ukraine. The Western democracies have responded with a rash of sanctions and subtle military aids to Ukraine but they can’t physically fight to stop Russia from having its way.

Incidentally, this ongoing invasion of Ukraine is the first real time war in this contemporary epoch that the rest of humanity are watching the military activities on televisions because of the sophistication of the means of broadcasting through cable television and satellite.

What this means is that the war in Ukraine began by Russia is seriously going to affect billions of people in the world just as those who are several thousands of kilometres away are also nursing the fear of this needless war because of the psychological trauma the violence that is being transmitted will unleash on everyone.

For a start, school kids who would also watch the proceedings of this war will even feel the emotional impacts much more than the elders. The President of the USA was the one who alerted that the long predicted military invasion has commenced. This was how some of us got wind of the war that began on February 24, 2022 when President Putin of Russia ordered his troops to bombard, invade and capture eastern Ukraine.

The President of the United States Mr. Joe Biden in a post on the social media wrote: “President Zelenskyy reached out to me tonight and we just finished speaking. I condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. I briefed him on the steps we are taking to rally international condemnation, including tonight at the United Nations Security Council. He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Leaders of the G7, and the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia. We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom also said his nation and British people are praying for Ukraine.  But the truth is that the combatants are right now killing each other inside Ukraine and the videos are actively transmitted to us.

From the publication Psychology Today by Stephanie A. Sarkis, she said watching violent news video can be hazardous to health. She wrote: “When I was an undergrad earning a degree in telecommunication production, I learned of a saying in TV news: “If it bleeds, it leads.” This means the more violent or anxiety-provoking event is, it draws in more viewers.

If you are watching videos of mass shootings or other violent events on TV or online, you are making yourself more prone to developing (or worsening) depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When you watch a violent video of mass shootings and other violence, you increase your chances of developing vicarious traumatization. You are bombarding yourself with violent images while not being able to stop or help. This increases your chances of anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and insomnia. If you have PTSD, viewing these videos can cause an increase of symptoms such as flashbacks.

Repetitive viewing of violent news stories can increase fear and anxiety in viewers, and can even cause people to have increased health issues (Vasterman et al. 2005). In a study by Pfefferbaum, et al. (2014), viewing of disasters on television, particularly terrorism, can increase cases of PTSD, depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and even substance use.

In a study by Ahern et al. (2004), people who watched more television images in the seven days after 9/11 had more PTSD symptoms compared to people who had the least amount of viewing.

The traumatic effects of watching distressing images on the news can have a lasting effect. After the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, adolescents who frequently watched earthquake imagery on the news had a higher rate of probable PTSD at a six-month follow-up (Yeung, et al. 2016)”, she concluded.

The Time Magazine has a comprehensive report of how key nations are responding to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The magazine said countries across the globe have appealed to Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation to protect civilians in the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukraine’s Embassy in London called Putin’s order an “unprovoked war,” adding that Russia is waging “a war against Europe, a war against the whole world.”

Media reports say that explosions have been heard in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, in Kharkiv and other areas of the country.

The Russian president warned against foreign intervention in the unfolding conflict. “To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me,” Putin says.

The UN says: “The Russian president’s announcement came as the United Nations Security Council was holding an emergency meeting over the crisis in Ukraine. Ambassadors from countries including the U.S., the UK and Albania denounced the escalation of the conflict in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine.’’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended the meeting, AP reported, and told Russia: “Stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance.”

The Security Council is chaired by Russia. In a broadcast of the meeting, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, could be heard demanding Russia relinquish its duties as council chair. “Call Putin. Call (Russian foreign minister Sergey) Lavrov to stop aggression.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also lamented that Putin had “ordered that last step.”
“As we are gathered in the council seeking peace, Putin delivered a message of war in total disdain for the responsibility of the council,” she said. “The council will need to act and we will put a resolution on the table tomorrow.”

As the meeting ended, Ukraine’s Kyslytsya told the Russian envoy: “There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador.”

The USA, which has in the last few days provided blow- by- blow intelligence of the plots of Russia against Ukraine has already responded.

In a statement, U.S. President, Joe Biden, called the attack “unprovoked and unjustified,” saying that Russia has chosen a war “that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden said.

Biden also tweeted that he had spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine.”

The U.S. president added he would be monitoring the situation and will meet with his counterparts in other G7 countries and with U.S. allies in NATO to ensure “a strong united response.”

Ukraine has expressed the desire to join NATO, a move that Putin condemns. NATO can’t physically intervene because the application to enlist in it by Ukraine has yet to be approved and this was the immediate trigger.

This war is not just against Ukraine or Europe but against the relevance or otherwise of the United Nations system which is skewed to favour five Nuclear powers including the current aggressor in Ukraine which is Russia.  To demonstrate how comical the UN system is, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian permanent Representative to the UN is the President of the UN General Assembly. The UN has condemned the invasion but the Security Council can’t take military action because Russia has veto power as well as China, which tacitly backs Putin in his aggression against Ukraine.

Whilst we have asked probing questions about the relevance of the UN when just one country with the might to launch Nuclear war can just decide to annex smaller nations and the UN can’t stop it. Why then are the nations united if just five members can decide to go rogue and the Heavens won’t fall? The bloodshed in Ukraine is needless and must stop forthwith.

Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission Of Nigeria.

Strictly Personal

Don’t cry for Mandela’s party; ANC’s poll loss is self-inflicted, By Jenerali Ulimwengu

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There is losing, and then there is losing. The loss that the African National Congress suffered in the recently concluded elections in South Africa is a loss of a special type. It is almost as if the erstwhile liberation movement willed this loss on itself.

This is Africa’s oldest political organisation, which, with its longevity and the special task imposed on it by history, became more than a party or a movement but rather became more like a nation — the nation of Black South Africans.

I mean, if you were a Black man or woman in South Africa and you wanted to identify as somebody who wants to be respected as a human being, you were automatically ANC.

True, this is somewhat exaggerated, but it is not very far from the truth. For most of its life since its founding in 1912, it always identified with and represented the people of South Africa, taking an all-inclusive approach to the struggle for all the racial, ethnic, and confessional groups in the country, even when the exactions meted on the country by the most nefarious ideology on the planet could have suggested, and did indeed, suggest a more exclusivist outlook in favour of the majority racial cohort.

It sought to unite and to mobilise energies nationally and internationally, and create a more equal society for all, that would be in sync with the most advanced and progressive thought of the world at different stages of its career. It became home for all South Africans regardless of colour, creed or social station.

Even after Apartheid was officially promulgated as the philosophy and practice of the national government after 1948, the ANC hardly veered from that steadfast philosophical vision. To galvanise adhesion and grow ownership, the ANC adopted strategic blueprints for the future, including the Freedom Charter of 1955, setting out the basic things the movement would do when it came into power.

In the face of intransigence on the part of the Boers, the ANC saw the need to alter strategy and accept that armed struggle was inevitable, and launched the MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation) to spearhead armed insurrection.)

Though MK was more effective as a propaganda tool than a fighting force, it did the job of getting the white minority in the country to realise that their lives of comfort were numbered as things stood, and that it made more sense to seek some form of accommodation with the Blacks.

Once that was effected, even those Whites who had been diehard supremacists suddenly realised, with regret, how stupid they had been all along: Not only were these Blacks, long considered subhuman, not only fully human but also corruptible—just like the Whites.

And so the White establishment set out to work on their old enemies, corrupting them to the core with the luxurious goodies that up to then the nouveau riches had not imagined, with things like the erroneously termed “Black Empowerment”, a programme designed to yank from the bosom of the people a handful of individuals with sufficient appetites to make them forget about the Freedom Charter.

Probably more than anything, it was this that spelled the start of the demise of the ANC. In the past, we had seen former freedom fighters in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau scramble into the blinding lights of Lourenco Marques, Luanda and Bissau, to be destroyed by the perils of Original Sin.

But South Africa was different in that the erstwhile oppressors simply took even the former “terrorists” by making them filthy rich, detached from the depressing realities of the masses of their people, by making them, in effect, traitors. So much so that when the workers at Marikana went on strike against a company owned by the current president of the country, the latter had absolutely no qualms about sending in the police to kill scores of protesters!

Now, the phenomenon of two sitting presidents being replaced by their party is spectacular in itself, but it belied a body politic that was groaning under its dead weight of sleaze and factionalism.

It may seem to some observers that the only thing that kept the various hungry factions together was the white-run oppressive system, and that after this was replaced with money-making cabals of ex-comrades, we found an ANC that was ideologically bankrupt and politically rudderless.

Now the ANC has to deal with the electoral result that has denied it an absolute majority for the first time, its crimes and misconduct have caught up with it. It has been sent to a political purgatory to atone for its sins, but while there, it must choose whom to work with among its sworn enemies:

Will it choose the DA, a lily-White party whose feeble attempt to ‘bronze’ itself with the recent choice of Mmusi Maimane as its head failed miserably? Will it rather be Jacob Zuma’s MK party, which is shamelessly an ethnic outfit bent on rehabilitating a misfit who has been disgraced multiple times as a rascal and a thief? Or could it be the EFF’s Julius Malema, whose day job has become, for some time now, to lambast the person of the current president and chief of the ANC?

We shall see.

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: jenerali@gmail.com

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Appraising 25 years of return to democracy, By Jide Ojo

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Last Wednesday, May 29, 2024, marked exactly the silver jubilee of Nigeria’s return to civil rule. However, the celebration has been shifted to June 12 in commemoration of the 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola which the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled. It was the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari, who did that. In a tweet posted on his X handle on June 6, 2018, Buhari said inter alia “Dear Nigerians, I am delighted to announce that, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day. We have also decided to award posthumously the highest honour in the land, GCFR, to Chief MKO Abiola. In the view of Nigerians, as shared by this administration, June 12, 1993, was and is far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29, or even October 1.”

Chief Abiola’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, was also awarded a GCON. Furthermore, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), a tireless fighter for human rights and democracy, and for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 election was posthumously awarded a GCON. Buhari said further that, the June 12, 1993, election was the freest, fairest and most peaceful election since Nigeria’s independence.

1999 to date has been described by political historians as the Fourth Republic. Recall that the First Republic was between October 1, 1960 and January 15, 1966. The Second Republic was between October 1, 1979, and December 31, 1983, when the military struck. The Third Republic was between 1990 and June 23, 1993, when IBB annulled the June 12 presidential election. Thus, the Third Republic was inchoate and inconclusive as it was aborted without a president being sworn into office. Out of Nigeria’s 64 years as a sovereign nation, 29 years were administered by military junta.

How has Nigerian democracy fared under civil rule in the last 25 years? Poorly. Leadership remains a bane of Nigeria’s progress. Although there are 11,082 elective political offices in Nigeria, the occupiers have been more concerned about personal aggrandisement than selfless service. That is why our elections are heavily monetised and prone to violence. Politicians, more often than not, adopt the Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means.’ They do all they can to compromise the electoral process and manipulate it to their advantage. For instance, campaign finance laws are breached as they spend far above the legal spending limits. Though there are copious laws against electoral violence with stringent penalties, the masterminds and the arrowheads more often than not do not get caught while their minions who get caught are bailed out of detention without prosecution.

If the Independent National Electoral Commission should publish the list of those successfully convicted for electoral crimes in the last 25 years, most Nigerians will be surprised at the infinitesimal number. This has sustained the culture of impunity in our electoral process. Little wonder INEC has been in the forefront of asking for the setting up of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal. Will Nigeria’s devious political class allow that law to be passed? That will be political hara-kiri!

So, since many of Nigeria’s political leaders ‘bought’ or procured their electoral victory, their loyalty does not lie with the electorate but to themselves and their rapacious political class. Because of the heavy spending on elections, the primary objective of Nigeria’s political class is to recoup their investment with super profit. Thus, there is a nexus between unbridled political spending and corruption. The truth is that if all the political officeholders were to live and survive on their basic salaries, there would be so much left for infrastructural development and good governance. However, while they are quick to show us their pay slip, the humongous amount they receive as allowances, estacodes and kickbacks are never mentioned.

Does it not occur to you that nobody will spend billions of naira to contest for a political office only to collect a sum of money that will not defray his or her political expenses? The truth is that not all politicians are bad but the good ones are very few. According to the former American President, Abraham Lincoln, “The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject anything, is not whether it has any evil in it; but whether it has more evil than good. There are few things wholly evil or wholly good.”

I watched a vox pop conducted by a lady in the United Kingdom asking Nigerians in that country if they would like to get £100,000 and move back to Nigeria. All the respondents said no to the offer. She probed further why they didn’t want to come back home, and unanimously they said it was because of our leadership problem. They all fingered leadership as Nigeria’s number one challenge. The irrefutable fact is that Nigeria is a crippled giant to borrow the words of renowned Professor of Political Science, Eghosa Osaghae. Yes, while I admit that we are not where we used to be, we are at the same time not where we ought to be. For many years, Nigeria laid claim to being the biggest economy in Africa but today we are number four after South Africa, Egypt and Algeria according to the International Monetary Fund.

Twenty-five years into this Fourth Republic, we have had seven general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023. We have also had five presidents namely, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari and the incumbent, Bola Tinubu. Two political parties have ruled at the centre; the Peoples Democratic Party which governed from 1999 to 2015, while the All Progressives Congress has taken over the leadership mantle at the centre from 2015 to date. Unfortunately, whether you’re talking of the APC or the PDP, or the three tiers of government namely, federal, state and local; what is common to all of them is poor governance. All the development indices that are pointing south are a cumulative non-performance of all the former holders of political offices and the incumbents. As we say, governance is a continuum.

I have said, time and again, that no individual has the magic wand to turn things around for the better in this country. The President, being the overall boss should work collaboratively with state governors and local government chairpersons. However, the president must lead by good example so he can serve as a moral compass to helmsmen and women at the sub-national level. I’m not comfortable with the spending spree of our political office holders who luxuriate in ostentatious lifestyles with their families while the majority of my compatriots languish in poverty.

Nigeria’s political leaders should imbibe the culture of prudence in the management of public finance. The borrowing binge should also stop. Many in the executive arm holding political offices are indulging in reckless borrowing under the guise of funding developmental projects. At the end of the day, there is nothing much to show for the huge public debts. It is important to block revenue leakages and stop oil thefts. It is an act of selflessness, not selfishness, of our political officeholders that will lead the country out of its current economic doldrums.

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