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Buhari, Emefiele’s handshake across our heads, By Festus Adebayo

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This week, there will be a stampede in Nigeria. Stampede for the new Nigerian currencies. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) policy of currency exchange has been variously lauded for its power to purge the system of slush funds warehoused for election purposes. However, its symptom as a vengeful political weapon which manifests as preparations towards the January 31 expiration of old notes reach their crescendo, have revealed the rump of this very shoddy policy.

The new Naira notes are nowhere in circulation. They are however scattered at weekend party venues and in the warehouses of politicians. The currency change system is so inept that politicians are weaponizing its effeminacy, through commercial banks, as an opportunity to mop up the new notes of Godwin Emefiele, Nigeria’s ex-assumed fugitive Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, known in underground circle as Meffy’s new notes. In Emefiele’s Nigeria, there is weird politics among functionaries of a government that is immersed in and is a victim of its own incompetence. It is the ordinary woman selling fish in the market and the poor who will suffer this weird politics being played between the taciturn megida – Nigeria’s President Muhamadu Buhari – and Meffy, his sidekick, as well as the strange birds which have made for themselves a comfortable nest in the inept system.

Did you see the picture that adorned the front pages of some Nigerian newspapers last Friday? It was that of Emefiele. He was locked in a hand-pumping pose with his principal, Muhammadu Buhari. In the photo, the duo was shawled in what appeared to be a slapstick, titivating session. It was one you would find among folks who had just won a million-dollar tombola. Or the unconscionable camaraderie during the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Or where a recipient had just been invested with a membership of the biology of Alfred Nobel, through being inducted into the highly prestigious Nobel hall of fame.

The said picture clearly disguised the infamy that undergirds it. Or the grits of what it innocuously advertised. Those days when cigarette smokers puffed at their sticks, in disdain of those who mocked them, Yoruba equalized the puffed smoke as akin to the smoker ensuring that a sparkle of fire flared over his enemies’ head – o gbe’na g’ori ota. That handshake shared similar unspoken victory paraphernalia with those smokers’ grandstanding. Enveloped together in this camaraderie at Aso Rock, apparently like clinking wine glass cups to mark a full denouement of a grisly drama, were the Chief of Staff to the president, Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, Borno governor, Babagana Zulum and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

That picture purely disguised the crises that signpost the life of Nigeria. Or the bedlam that is the country’s economy and finance. If you are a student of semiotics and are conversant with the politics of meaning in Nigeria’s journey to the 2023 election, the import and purport of Meffy and his boss’ kindergarten pose for a photo-op would dawn on you in its rawest manifestation. If you needed a perfect fit to that ancient emoji image conjured by the saying that Nero fiddled while Rome burns, look no further from this infamous photograph.

Why does a man who had just returned from “an annual leave” and is meeting his principal, ostensibly to brief him on what had transpired during his holiday abroad, need to pose for a public photograph with his boss? Why was the mood celebratory, with a convergence of the inner machine of Aso Rock giving the photo-op a life that is as large as a dinosaur’s? The reality oscillates in the firmament of the darkest minds of Nigeria’s I-don’t-care governance apparatus. It is an apparatus that preferences brackish politics at the expense of the people’s welfare.

A few kilometers from the Aso Villa where that celebration was taking place, Nigerians were gnashing their teeth in petrol queues. Nigeria is currently embroiled in one of the most grinding petroleum scarcity rituals of its existence, with government advertising an apparent lack of manhood over the matter. At petrol stations at the moment is a live dramatization of the chaos that Buhari will bequeath to the next administration.

If the DSS does it job as it should, Buhari and Meffy would, last Thursday, most probably not be lost in that miasma they wrongly saw as the celebration of their political enemies. They would most probably be busy finding solutions to the economic drift. Petrol stations are today where the greatest treason against a sitting government is committed without any scintilla of care in the world. The stations advertise Wole Soyinka’s season of anomie and a government without direction.

At petrol stations, people freely and openly singe this government’s flesh; a government they see as the worst in the history of Nigeria. Again, at petrol stations is where you will find the strongest manifestation of class in Nigeria. Nigerians who do not experience the dual tyranny of Buhari and Meffy and who know none of their joint pains go buy their fuel as high as N300 a liter while the ordinary Nigerians queue at major petroleum distribution marketers’ stalls in serpentine, multiple kilometer lines. They are in search of a commodity that is domiciled in the bowels of Nigerian soil. Gone are the days when petrol stations wait for government to announce price hike before advertising this on their meters. Today, in underscore of the effeminacy of the government in Abuja, various meter prices are advertised without any fear. It is where you will find out that there is no government, no governance but photo-ops.

When I see such governmental castration of fervor and ability as demonstrated by the bedlams at petrol stations, what my mind hovers over is that favourite South African short story of mine entitled The Dube Train. It was authored by Drum magazine journalist, Can Themba, one of the collectives of Apartheid journalists like Nat Nakassa, who blended journalism with creative writing. This they weaponized as social commentaries against the ills of the white government and the crass disconnect of government from the pains and pangs of the people.

In the said Themba story set in a busy train coach heading for Dube Town on a Monday morning, a woman is physically assaulted by a tout called tsotsi and the passengers say nothing. A woman then spanks the men “Lord, you call yourself men! You poltroons! You let a small ruffian insult you. Fancy, he grabs at a girl in front of you….you might be your daughter…if there were real men here, they’d pull him off and give him such a leathering he’d never sit down for a week.” The tout pulls a knife, stabs a man who nonetheless hauls him out of the train, to his death. The passengers winced, without a whimper.  The ending that Themba gives the story is what fascinates me here and in which I find a corollary with the Nigerian situation under Buhari and Meffy: “it was just another incident in the morning Dube Train” as “the crowd is greedily relishing the thrilling episode.”

Like the passengers in that Dube Township train this Monday morning, Nigerians no longer bothered about the absence of governance in their lives. Indeed, they are relishing the grisly episode and waiting for the affliction to expire in May. With cost of living hitting the firmament and food prices a whiff off the cloud, the prayer is that Nigerians do not hit that macabre and astonishing narrative of what happened in the biblical chapter called the Kings. It is a ghoulish narrative of two Israelite mothers who, hungry and unable to endure the pangs, agreed to mutually devour their children for supper. It was a very challenging, governmentally rudderless time in the city of Samaria which was under siege and embroiled in an unprecedented food scarcity. This resulted in these mothers’ cannibalism. Already in Nigeria, the economy is pushing the people to Samaria. We witness the extreme of crimes that even criminologists find no corollary to in crime literature. Pastors are faking their own kidnaps so that they can extract illicit profit from their congregation; sons are killing their parents for rituals. It is like Samaria, here we come.

Yet, Meffy and his boss are sucking into the 2023 election politics with so much aplomb and Gothic pleasure. That picture may be saying all that with an unspoken magistracy of the power they think they wield. You ask how? All right. You will remember that since the president’s political party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) concluded its party primary last year, throwing up a man who the presidency’s disdain and disavowal for were known to even babes and suckling, Aso Rock was said to have gone the route of its notorious ethnic politics? Is that still convoluted?

Godwin Emefiele was drafted into this odious rat race by the same cabal. That selfsame Aso Rock consort got depleted by one, with the passage of that media mogul who Meffy was pictured with in a sequestered and groveling posture. The consort, which held the key to the heart of the presidency, had been propelling him like a marionette since he became the CBN governor. It was the one that asked him to throw his hat into the ring of the APC presidential contest and was miffed that its lapdog lost to its adversary. This then should explain why Meffy was so audacious in his awkward quest for the presidency while he was yet the CBN governor. He was even so audacious as to sneak to his Ward 6 in the Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, to register as a card-carrying APC member. This much was confirmed by Nduka Erikpume, chairman of his ward, who confirmed it to the press last year. This is in violation of Section 9 of the CBN Act, 2007, to wit that, “The Governor and the Deputy Governors shall devote the whole of their time to the service of the bank and while holding office shall not engage in any full or part-time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not…”

When this noxious ambition crumbled, like a dog in fruitless scamper after a mongrel, Meffy, defeated, wagged his tail cowardly and retreated into his cage. No sanction from the system for this impunity. And he lived happily ever thereafter.

Knowing that the overall boss lacks a mind of his own, but apprised of his disdain for the party fellow, the remnants of the cabal struck a deal with one of the contenders for the office of the president. If you are in doubt about this, ask Nyesom Wike. You remember the Rivers governor’s famous or infamous volley of diatribes last year against those who he alleged – and I paraphrase – “because someone in Aso Rock promised you presidency, you can look down on others!”? All right. Meffy is alleged to be in cahoots with these folks and, in street gossip, has benefitted this clan with billions of dollars through the duplicitous exchange rate policy. He is also rumoured to be inside the cocoon of the cabal’s ethnic politics. So, the role of Meffy, as the Chancellor of Exchequer, in this ethnic power expansionism, is to muzzle the party folk, money-wise, in the build-ups to the February 25 polls.

The drama against Meffy is thus a political rebound from the flank of the party folk, with the target of paying back the CBN governor in his own coins. The DSS is easily an anvil of this vendetta. It had filed an ex-parte application to have Meffy detained for what panned out to be the whole period of the elections, on allegations of fraud and terrorism financing. In the application, it claimed that preliminary investigation revealed that Emefiele was involved in acts of terrorism financing, fraudulent activities and involvement in economic crimes of national security dimension. While dismissing the application, the Federal High Court said it would not be stampeded into hounding “an innocent man” and subsequently issued an order restraining the DSS from “arresting, detaining or questioning” the CBN governor.

At the outset of this plan to get him arrested, and aware that there was an orchestrated plan to get him arrested by the DSS, Emefiele easily jumped on the presidential plane carrying his principal godfather to the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC which held between December 13 and 15, 2022. However, told that his assailants were still on the prowl, Emefiele turned self into a temporary fugitive, so much that while Buhari returned to Abuja a day after the conclusion of the summit, Meffy was nowhere to be found.

An online newspaper claimed that as he returned to Nigeria from his temporary exile last week Monday, a detachment of military police escorted him from the Abuja airport. “Emefiele… security is bigger than that of the President,” said the newspaper, a claim that is yet to be refuted.

However, while it is within his presidential power to take a “detractors, go to hell!” photograph with Emefiele, moral authority convicts Buhari for not at least attempting to investigate the pot-pourri of allegations against this financial sidekick of his. Never in the history of CBN governorship had any of its heads been totally enveloped by an odious and scandalous tarpaulin of financial malfeasances as this. While we may be eager to dismiss the allegation of financing terrorism against Meffy as trumped-up vendetta, allegations that Emefiele has humongous stakes in twelve banks are confounding and needed to be dispensed with. This is followed by similar allegation that he has turned the CBN into an Alaba market of Stone Age prebend exchanges where personal rents are haggled as they do in a fish market. But not Buhari. He doesn’t have a history of auditing his appointees for wrongdoings. He rather abets them by his weird silence.

Where then will this Emefiele grotesque drama end?

Strictly Personal

Russia-Ukraine Conflict: A discussion from the African desert, By Isaac Mwanza

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Africa Is not for Sale. Africa is open for business not for sale or looting. We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours,” ~ Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera

INTRODUCTION

It was a bright summer Tuesday in the Khomas Highland plateau, Windhoek. As the cool breeze from the rising water levels in the Orange River swept across a city with extraordinarily rich fauna, leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) organ on peace and security gathered on 31 January 2023 to deliberate the political and security situation in the region. While at it, they reiterate the earlier SADC position against the coercive behaviour of the United States of America to use its aid power to hold them at ransom over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

REACTION TO U.S. LAW ON AFRICA

On 27 April 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” which, once passed by the Senate, would effectively punish African governments and nationals who work with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

The law specifically targets Africa in what the U.S. claims to be a law to counter “malign Russian influence and activities” and states its objectives as including “holding African governments and their officials accountable for aiding Russia’s malign influence and activities in Africa.”

The bigger question is why has America decided to enact a law targeting trade relations between Africa and Russia and not make the same law on trade relations between China and Russia. Is it because our African leaders are pawns in this game?

It can be inferred from the decision to enact this law that the Joe Biden administration intends to use its mighty power to force African nations to choose between the USA and the Russian Federation.

That is a glaring expression of the worst form of colonial and imperial arrogance as well as a jurisdictional overreach by the leader of the Western alliance.

The law has been opposed by Africa’s regional bodies such as SADC as it seeks to unduly influence foreign policies and trade relations by African countries who either support or refuse to denounce Russia in its conflict with Ukraine.

The African Union is taking a firm and conscientious position of non-alignment to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

For close to a century now, African countries that had been freed from the bondage of European colonialism enjoy strong ties with both mega powers, namely, the USA and the Soviet Union which, after the monumental changes of 1989, reverted to its former status as the Russian Federation.

But America is now attempting to dictate to the developing world, Africa in particular, and to the rest of the world at large, that this must change.

Having failed to persuade the world of its noble intentions, the Biden administration is now resorting to economic and military coercion in an attempt to bring about the global political realignment that the U.S. seeks, and which it hopes, will allow it to remain the dominant economic power that it has been since the end of World War II and the resulting economic order.

The Biden administration has placed its hands on foreign aid and sanctions as weapons which they will use, together with its NATO allies, to beat Africa into submission and to crush Africa’s collective sovereign will.

But this pattern by America’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – is becoming predictable.

In an address to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr., superciliously declared, “Every nation, in every region, now has the decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

President Bush went on to brand the three countries opposed to U.S. foreign policy — North Korea, Iran, and Iraq — as rogue states, “the axis of evil” whom he alleged, had harboured, financed, and aided terrorists even though no citizen of these States had ever attacked the U.S.

None of these countries were involved in terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September 2001.

President Bush could be forgiven because Republicans are quite well known for bullying other nations and for war-mongering.

But the U.S. Democratic Party has always been seen as being more friendly towards Africa, especially during the term of its previous Democratic President, Barack Obama.

It is, therefore, a very surprising development, that the Democratic administration of President Biden, would single out Africa, which also shares longstanding ties to Russia, for punishment under this rather ridiculous law that ostensibly seeks to counter Russian malign influence in Africa.

The decision to enact the law on Africa is ridiculous as it defeats the very idea of national sovereignty which President Biden purports to be defending on behalf of Ukraine.

It can be inferred that this U.S. law on Africa will require African States to surrender their sovereignty in defending the sovereignty of Ukraine. Do Joe Biden and his colleagues in Congress think that African leaders and we in Africa’s sovereign States are subject to America’s will?

Unfortunately for President Biden, Africa, and its people may not share the goals which his administration, NATO, and western allies may have set for Ukraine.

Africa is aware that Russia has genuine security concerns about the adversarial NATO alliance establishing itself on Russia’s south-western border, just as Africa was concerned when the former Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, attempted to establish military bases on America’s south-eastern coast on the island of Cuba in the 1962 Cuba missile crisis.

Going by previous history of similar military adventurism, Africa has its own misgivings about the U.S. hegemony, as shown in previous articles, which showed that America had been on a similar path in Cuba, Grenada and more recently in Venezuela.

In the Middle East, the U.S. threatens and erodes the sovereignty of the Arab nations by providing billions of dollars in military and other aid to Israel which then acts as an enforcer of U.S. hegemonic policies, suppressing Arab states while ensuring that the Palestinian people do not and cannot achieve the sovereign status of a nation.

The U.S. has subtly blocked every attempt by the Palestinians to achieve sovereign nationhood and has used Israel to keep the Palestinian people under bondage while making a big show of its desire for all people to fully enjoy their human rights, self-determination, and sovereign status.

The U.S. and EU’s coercive, patronizing, and bullying behaviours regarding Africa’s position toward the war in Ukraine, show utter disrespect for our African countries as sovereign nations who have the capacity to make sovereign decisions.

It goes without saying, that sovereign nations get to decide who they are going to associate with or not; that is an issue of international law, state policies, and principles. America is wrong to use its domestic law as if somehow, the U.S. has universal legal jurisdiction.

It is also unacceptable that the U.S. should use its aid which, ostensibly, is intended to assist recipient poor countries in their development as a weapon of foreign policy, preying on the dependence our African leaders have on such aid in achieving their national development goals.

It is morally wrong for the U.S. to subvert African nations’ home-grown solutions by forcing them to take a position with the U.S. and its NATO allies, over Russia or gagging trade relations between sovereign States.

If the U.S. and its NATO allies were genuine about allowing sovereign nations to decide for themselves who to associate with, they should have applauded our position of non-alignment than coercing African countries by threatening them, using a new law, with punishments for trading with Russia.

It is therefore noble that we must commend their Excellencies, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Namibian President, Dr. Hage Geingob, leaders of Eswatini and Lesotho as well as ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique for being loud and clear in endorsing the AU position of non-alignment in conflicts outside the continent and against the U.S. law on Africa.

But it is now important for President Hichilema and other individual African leaders to personally come out and defend their position on this questionable U.S. law than hide behind collective decisions made in boardrooms.

CONCLUSION

The U.S. is known for promoting people’s self-government, free will, and choices. It is a leader in that area. Many of us are attracted to the United States of America because of its founding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it has espoused over two centuries.

It is therefore not in the best interest of America to dictate how Africa must make its decisions. Africa must trade with anyone it desires, including the U.S., Russia, and China – all of them having been Africa’s all-weather friends.

The coercive and bullying behaviour to stop Africa and its people from deciding on their own, whether to trade or even side with Russia, is an infringement on the sovereignty of individual States and a subversion of the collective will of the African peoples.

It is even more disturbing that the US House of Representatives would go so far as to threaten punishment for disobeying America’s foreign policy dictates. Probably, this is being done upon realisation by the West that African leaders cannot do without foreign aid, and they value aid as a panacea to their prolonged stay in power and developing Africa.

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Strictly Personal

We the people, not just media, should query leaders on taxes, By Elsie Eyakuze

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Former Comptroller and Auditor-General Prof Mussa Assad had some choice words for Tanzanian media recently in remarks about taxes, fees, levies, et cetera. Roughly translated, he said that if journalists took their jobs seriously they would put a lot of effort into querying elected politicians about their taxes instead of issuing a barrage of weak content.

Interesting. I wonder if he knows that Tanzania Revenue Authority’s tweet the other day about their new TikTok account. While he is out there perseverating about how to distribute the tax burden more justly, TRA has signed on to a popular social media platform that has some espionage and security issues.

Prof Assad is right, we should be asking about the taxes paid by our elected officials. To that I would add the entire public sector. I read a tweet from a Kenyan who alleged that big political families in Kenya are not paying taxes, and why don’t they get the kind of scrutiny that the Kenya Revenue Authority is trying to subject other Kenyans to. The KRA’s move to inhabit Kenyans’ phones and garnish taxes off their accounts and mobile money accounts is the stuff of technological dystopia nightmares.

Vote in their own favour

We’re not there yet, but we share the Who Pays Taxes question with our neighbours. I think Prof Assad is aware, as we all are, that legislators vote in their own favour all the time and they will not legislate to increase their tax burden and this is Tanzania. Journalists spend plenty of time with politicians, they tend to know what interviews can yield good information. Asking a secondary school student about their views on progressive taxation is interesting, asking a seasoned politician that question, especially if they know what you are up to, will yield a lot of hot air.

Investigating, documenting and then publicising their income streams and actual tax records, though? Bruh. Is he offering protection? When journalists go off to ask difficult questions of the powerful, they rarely come back. That is a strong disincentive for journalists.

This is Tanzania. We have an economic philosophy of hunger and big bellies. When a person succeeds enough to get a good position in government, the pressure to bend the rules will come from sponsors, sponsees, friends and family, who stand to benefit from patronage. Patronage is a very expensive political system for the patron, requiring access to vast amounts of money. This encourages behaviour that is corrupt, and it incentivises MPs to award themselves fat salaries and very low taxes, which they may avoid with no consequences.

What Prof Assad should really be asking is why the collective doesn’t rise up and ask their MPs about their tax records and tax policies, especially during election years. Why place the burden of inquiry on the media when everyone can be recruited?

We, the people, are the majority, and we have certainly been vocal as consumers about questioning and grappling with and even rejecting fees, levies and taxes before. And yet time and time again we vote for the very same Party and people who are apparently living off the sweat of our brows. A far more interesting story, that, and worthy of the time and effort.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email elsieeyakuze@gmail.com 

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