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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

UK-Rwanda relocation plan for asylum seekers is a hot potato by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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In 2019, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African immigrants held in horrid conditions in detention centres in Libya under an agreement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the African Union.

There was applause.

In August 2021, as America’s 20-year-old military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan unravelled into chaos, in Africa —Rwanda and Uganda — agreed to take in Afghanistan refugees.

Among the Afghans who relocated to Rwanda, escaping the Taliban’s well-known hostility toward education for women, were all 250 students of the famed Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.

There were cheers and extravagant praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda hosts nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa.

In April this year, hell broke loose. The UK announced that it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.

The Boris Johnson government insists the programme is aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.

Critics have come out swinging with fury, calling the plan immoral, racist, and several arguing it is risky because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new “democracy test” for resettlement, has opened up a tricky window into the protection business.

The UK asylum affair, meanwhile, has muscled its way into the headlines about the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting being held in Kigali.

The high emotions the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has kicked up, are a pointer to how complicated, immigration and refugee have come. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.

If Donald Trump’s election victory in the US in 2016, and his turbulent racist-fuelled term tell us anything, it is that the western world has reached “peak” migration.

Uncomfortable to confront, but it is probably no longer sustainable for, especially, people from the south to continue emigrating and fleeing to the West in large numbers. Domestically, the fear of people of colour “replacing” white communities is reaching a fever pitch, and fuelling extreme right-wing politics.

We’ve to grant it. The demographic make-up of the West is changing, and by the end of this century, white people will be minorities in nearly all the major European countries. Not too many people will take their disappearance with great fortitude.

For the western left and progressives, migration and the diverse nations it makes possible is where they see the future of their play in politics. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labour, ensuring their profit in a world where China is eating their lunch. Things like the UK-Rwandan plan, do have long-term political and economic consequences.

Yet, that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of immigrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa weren’t attacked. The difference could be because Libya’s and Afghanistan’s crises are partly outcomes of western — NATO and the US — interventions that went horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess — and there is some consensus of the western left and right on that.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele

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What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement  roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption!  The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.

In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.

Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!

This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem  quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage  will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.

Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia,  decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.

The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.

That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial  time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!

 

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