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Now that insecurity has ‘ended’ by Sonala Olumhense

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Happy New Year, Nigeria!  According to the calendar of the Federal Government, insecurity is now ‘over.’

Following seven years’ worth of the President, Major General  Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd) meetings with security chiefs, various and persistent directives and orders, repeated budgetary provisions and outlays, declarations of intent and ambition, speeches at home and abroad, expensive orders of sophisticated military equipment, one of which led to an unresolved political blowout in July 2019 over the government’s spending of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account, insecurity in Nigeria slammed to a halt at midnight last night, December 31, 2022.

It is a new day and a new year!  Mr Buhari has done exactly as he promised as he ran for office in 2015, reiterated on a “Next Level” basis in 2019, and routinely assured Nigerians whenever a microphone was placed in front of him: he has ended the plague of insecurity.

For anyone who has great faith in the word of the government, this first day of 2023 is surely one to celebrate.  Remember, only as recently as October 2022, Rauf Aregbesola, who is Buhari’s Minister of the Interior, reminded Nigerians that the insecurity nationwide would end in December.

According to the Minister, Mr. Buhari himself had given his security agencies yesterday’s deadline.  “I believe that nobody is resting in [any of] the arms of government with the mandate of maintaining law and order, guaranteeing security and eliminating threats,” Mr Aregbesola stressed.  “We are at it, and in the first instance, we must ask ourselves, governance is about ensuring the security of lives and properties. We will eliminate all insecurity issues by December…Nigerians will definitely heave a sigh of relief at the end of the day.”

It has been quite some time getting here.  Earlier, during his Democracy Day Speech in June 2021, Mr Buhari recalled his pre-election commitment, just as he had done dozens of times before.

“When you elected me as your President in 2015, you did so knowing that I will put an end to the growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North-East, but the unintended consequences of our scattering them in the North-East pushed them further in-country which is what we are now facing and dealing with.

“We will, by the Grace of God put an end to these challenges too. Unfortunately, like in most conflict situations, some Nigerian criminals are taking undue advantage of a difficult situation and profiteering therefrom with the misguided belief that adherence to the democratic norms handicaps this administration from frontally and decisively tackling them. We are already addressing these obstacles and we will soon bring some of these culprits to justice.”

And then one month later, Mr. Buhari again restated his pledge when he held a presidential dinner for members of the National Assembly in Abuja.  He told them that his administration would use everything within its powers to end insecurity in the country and bring the criminals responsible to justice.

And so, with December 2022 now accomplished, Nigerians must jubilate that Mr. Buhari’s pledge about insecurity also has.  As of last night, Nigeria is now a secure country.

This means that no longer are members of ISWAP and Boko Haram controlling an inch of Nigerian territory.  No longer is banditry the nation’s most prominent industry.  No longer are parents afraid that their children may be snatched from classrooms to be forced into marriage or converted into soldiers.

This means that no longer are there AK47-wielding cattle herdsmen overrunning farms and towns and villages.  No longer are Nigerians afraid of sundry criminals emerging from badly-maintained highways to make their choice of travellers for kidnapping-for-ransom or the harvesting of body parts.

This means that no longer will intercity train services be sacked by criminals who are better-armed and more intelligent than members of Nigeria’s security services.  Train services will no longer be requiring the protection of the Nigeria Air Force or expensive private security.

It further means that no longer are security institutions such as Kuje Prison and the Nigeria Defence Academy and police stations and airports in any danger of being taken by armed bandits at will.  It means that no longer will Buhari’s armed presidential convoys require the protection of armed presidential convoys or the Nigeria Air Force.

It means that Nigerian businesses and offices are no longer in danger of being ransacked by unknown gunmen taking advantage of the indifference of indifferent governments which look the other way when citizens need them the most.  It means that citizens can now walk the streets, unafraid either of other men who attack simply because they can, or of policemen in uniforms who shoot and kill citizens because the citizens are unarmed.

This means that as decreed and declared by Mr Buhari, the era of insecurity that came into operation during the reign of his predecessors is over.  Nigerians can now emerge from the shadows and from hiding and resume their lives.

It means that neither Mr Buhari nor his security chiefs nor the state governors will ever again be bothered with questions about insecurity, such as why they themselves need extensive and heavily-armed convoys and road closures just to get to the airport or to return home.  It means that even the wife of the president will find her heavily-fortified official home to be secure enough for her to live in, rather than another country.

But of course, everyone knows that nothing is often what it seems in Nigeria, particularly when the motivation is an official pronouncement.  Nigeria did not become secure as of last midnight, just as it never became more secure in the past seven and a half years because Mr. Buhari broadcast his directives into every television camera.

Buhari did not start the insecurity in Nigeria, but he acquired the presidency partly by bragging that he was the man to end it.  Instead, he has boosted it year by year because he neither really understood the challenge nor was he willing to do what was required to bring it under control.

Prominent among those problems is that the Nigerian leader arrived in office lacking genuine commitment and for the insecurity and any other challenge that Nigeria faced.  It is why there is no aspect of his brief in which he accomplished anything beyond platitudes.

Sadly, Nigeria is increasingly insecure because of—rather than despite—Mr. Buhari.  Despite his government’s claims, Nigeria is worse than before his arrival, and the entire world knows it: it is more chaotic, more dysfunctional, and exceedingly more corrupt.  That is one explanation why some of Nigeria’s most infernal creatures are currently trying to succeed him next May.

That is why, as we enter January 2023, and with less than five months before Mr. Buhari leaves office, is for him to be apologising profusely for the cynicism and betrayal of the outgoing menace he superintends.

Happy New Year, Nigeria?   Please!

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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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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