Ides Of November From Bayelsa

The election of November 16 in Bayelsa is not what left us dumbfounded. It is rather the lessons from how we got to Nov 16. The implications of the feudal system of Nigeria’s politics and it’s culture of imperial arrogance driven by “I Pass My Neighbour” mentality, is quite deeper than we have assumed. And the damage is no less colossal. For a homogenous ethnic population Bayelsa shows that the gross disparity between resource pool and human development index of the Niger Delta and of Nigeria is not a problem of ethnicity. It is just a political elite trapped in a culture of mediocrity and lack of imagination which the feudal system formalized through our 1999 constitution. 

The election result from Nov 16 has changed not only Bayelsa but also ownership title of the political playground of the Niger Delta. Suddenly everybody among our political elite now is vulnerable or appears to be more vulnerable going forward ! The real question is why didn’t our political elite see the danger ahead before November 16? Could only be because they tend to overrate themselves. Just look at an emerging “casualty” list:

1)            The only former President from Niger Delta ( President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan- GEJ) has been robbed of a political platform. That platform was first diminished even when he was in office by a crude combo: first was that he misread the social forces that could have helped him to redefine success at the national political arena. Imagine if the masses had stood solidly behind him across Nigeria as true stakeholder groups in the electoral process. That would have been enough to prevent the crime scene of a most questionable election process in 2015 where high cost machines were paid for by INEC and the fear of underaged voters knocked the equipment into disuse. In addition GEJ had the arrogance of some Governors to contend with, including  his own kith and kin.

For instance then Governor Amaechi felt better to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan’s apparent lack of sufficient attention to the economic interest of his own Niger Delta people ( a valid critique, in NY view). And when GEJ left office, his influence was deflated in his own backyard by Governor Seriake Dickson who should have treated GEJ as our region’s centre of energy & the biggest political asset of the Niger Delta.

2).           If the leadership of a zone is to be determined by victory of a party in one’s home state, APC has a big room for the Edo Governor & his in-coming Bayelsa counterpart. They and their patrons should claim the seat at the table anytime President Buhari’s henchmen call for the midnight power-feast. Those who did not win in their states WILL NOW BE DESPERATE to find other credentials to claim relevance. Rightly or wrongly some persons in their respective home states now have cause to suspect every move that can create tension due to this development. 

3) The capacity of Ministers to represent their political zones effectively is on the table too. Now what will this APC victory give to Buhari’s Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva? How will it benefit Bayelsa and Niger Delta? In 1979-82 we saw Prof Ambrose Alli who was UPN Governor of Bendel State sandwiched by NPN of Gov Melford Okilo ( old Rivers) and Governor Clement Isong ( then South Eastern State). Still Prof Alli valiantly planted UPN development programmes and discipline among the political elite in Bendel State then. It hastened progress of Niger Delta economy at the time, because the NPN States were forced to rise to the challenge.

Will that happen now? I doubt so because the present political parties do not have the party discipline of our Second Republic (1979-1982). Otherwise it will show respect to those who appear to be doing a good job based on performance assessment. One such person is the Minister of Transport, Rt Hon Amaechi. He has in my own judgement, beaten every other Minister to the back seat. Just before the 2019 general election, his followers invested him with a new title as a Lion. It is a title that Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia did not make so popular for African politicians.

But Rt Hon Amaechi has shown such sheer energy and service to Nigeria, that you cannot ignore his claim to the title. Twice he led President Buhari’s campaign from the front. And twice he delivered victory. In 2019 he even got a little help from rhe judiciary whose members he was widely accused of instigating a midnight crusade against, to purge some of them of corruption. If it is true, he deserves the title of Lion even more. It is only a true Lion that will dare go strolling in a Cattle settlement or RUGA that belongs to the judiciary in this day and age!

According to media reports the Minister of Transport has been able to extend railway link to Daura on the way to neighbouring Niger and is clearing ground to plant a Federal University of Transport there. Can you imagine that he achieved all this when his counterpart in the Ministry of Works, Power & Housing (in President Buhari’s first tenure), was busy lamenting about no fund?  As Rt Hon Amaechi said in the video clip on Whatsapp platform at the valedictory Exco meeting with President Buhari before the new cabinet came into existence, one thing he was very sure of was that he has not been “Islamized”. But I don’t think such a credential makes him a beautiful bride in a system that does not appear to believe in innocence and fair mindedness.

The proof of the pudding will be what happens from now. For instance whenever a measurement of hard- copy indicators is conducted between Katsina State and Cross River state from 1914-2018, it will show that Daura is hundred of miles behind Calabar in terms of historical contribution to the national economy. It should make logical sense that Calabar deserves more transportation infrastructure investment than Daura. We would expect that in a political system where a self-confessed Marxist who believes in social justice is the Minister of Transport, Calabar will be awash round the clock with dredgers, giant cranes, earth movers and Tower scaffolds for even an 8- lane highway, bustling Seaport and new railway terminus, to open Cross River State as a new land gateway to Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

The business argument for this is solid, that it will create one huge international market for agro-industrial productivity and a massive organic food Export Free Zone. Never mind that Cross River State is Niger Delta. But it hasn’t happened. Not much can be seen in Akwa Ibom or any other part of Niger Delta as an original economic investment decision in favour of our home zone since 2015. And Amaechi has served about the same length of time as GEJ! Haba Mallam!!

4) The election result has not improved Governor Seriake Dickson’s market value to Bayelsa State or the PDP. It is clear that he never thought of himself as the Governor history will remember for opening the back door to Ijaw heartland for any other party, than the one Ijaw Elders felt proud to identify with from 1999 .

5) What becomes of the common man in the unfolding scenario in Bayelsa? How do we ensure that the new regime does not follow “I Pass My Neighbour” mentality and further worsen the quality of life and human index standards of the Ijaw man, woman or child? The signs are ominous!

Someone said former President GEJ taught Governor Seriake Dickson a lesson with this November election. Really? It may be so but don’t buy this account as a solution to the challenges ahead. Yes, there was a melting point when Governor Seriake Dickson’s conduct made his former “god fathers” helpless & provoked public anger . But they had been so from the day he was sworn in to do a second term, without GEJ as President of Nigeria. The PDP, APC, APGA or any party does not control any Governor or legislator in Nigeria.

Like a true Emperor, a Governor claims the entire arena of decision- making to himself. Every seating Bayelsa Governor appears to jump into that bandwagon: Isnt that what all Governors do since 1999? They are Emperors and act it with gusto! They become gods in their own little territories.

Teaching someone a lesson suggests that you are in control. The situation unfolding in Bayelsa now in my view, appears to be a sad continuation of the classical “Crackers biscuit metaphor” . Check Odili & Amaechi, Tinubu & Ambode, Jonathan & Timipre Sylva, etc. The list is endless. The drama by GEJ  and Seriake Dickson, now is only a “narrative continuum”: When you break Crackers biscuit, it hardly comes out as neat pieces! In Nigeria it often tends to leave those around the dining table who broke the biscuit, with far less pieces than they imagined. They make do with a survival scramble for the pieces on the floor. The winner takes it all!

This happens where the winner becomes the owner of the party & government. That is what we learn from the recent US experience with Donald Trump as President. He has literally swallowed the Republican Party as Michael Bloomberg argued in Businessweek of October 14, 2019 edition titled “Trump Won’t Stop His Abuses of Power”. In my view President Buhari should file claims for the US to pay intellectual property rights on Donald Trump’s playbook. It is a stolen copy of field notes that belong to Nigerian politicians from 1999.

Like a Nigerian politician, Donald Trump simply created a Republican Party after his own image. He never plays by the rules of the party, unlike Ronald Reagan or the George Bush lineage that followed party discipline! Donald Trump is buying over the party by demolishing everything he met. He deploys freely the theory of brinkmanship in politics. He puts all Republican elected officials on a rolling barrel. And they become beholden to him.

Same story in Nigeria since 1999. Our politicians appear to be OWNERS of the party once they “win”. So the only rules they go by, are the rules of the OWNER ( the man of the moment).

 Bayelsa after Seriake Dickson, cannot be any different. The emptiness of Nigeria’s politics is driven by the hidden force of “I Pass My Neighbour” mentality since 1999. The “Winner” tends to take all, and reduces the rest of us to praise singers or an angry audience watching by the sideline. With time, the tension and struggles to play Emperor, will damage the big masquerade and he will leave the arena with a tragic limp.

And the loser? It includes the one time winner. In this Bayelsa case, the owners of PDP in the state lost the “people power” which resides in our abused electorate. Bayelsa workers were denied of a future to be proud of. Pensioners are not even on the Governor’s discussion list. The State was reduced to Yenagoa and no more! Did you see the video footage of polling activities on TV? In Amassoma & other places, people were lining up in knee-high flood water to vote. Government abandoned them all through! They sleep in canoes. 

So on election day, the people simply looked the other way. They allowed those who showed more muscle, to throw their Emperor’s government down by any means possible.

When the public tends to dislike the opposition more, they shout and throw themselves in the line of fire to chase the hungry hawks away. That was what happened in 2015 in Rivers State. Despite the power of incumbency under Governor Amaechi’s brand new APC front, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike snatched the office of Governor of Rivers State for the PDP. And in 2019 the same people put their lives on the line in different communities to fight off the hurricane of Federal might against Governor Wike.

Can the new man be the People’s Emperor to reverse the anguish they suffered under Governor Dickson? That can only happen where the people are organized as strong stakeholder groups to set the agenda of governance. Professional groups, Labour associations, Women organizations, Social platforms and Business fronts need to stand up to push a coherent public agenda that will create a high productive and decentralized economy for the state

Those who think “it is their own turn” now to benefit from the intoxication of political power, won’t let it happen. Are we prepared to fight to break the feudal system which PDP started and has passed over to APC? Or we should prepare to raise Almajiri groups in Brass, Nembe, and everywhere else that has a corridor to the Atlantic.

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When States (Nations) Fail

A state or nation, big or small, could fail. Its institutions and other collaterals simply collapse after a long period of pressure. Internal and external pressures sometimes combine to bring a state to its knees. We have seen or read about cases of internal pressure being the most important single factor occasioned by fighting among power holders, real and potential. We have also read about the collapse of a state coming after the exit of a strong man who had managed to hold the different interests which constitute together. Libya (Muammar Ghaddafi), Somalia (Siad Barre) and Yugoslavia (Josip Tito) are great examples of this type of failure.

Great empires have fallen too as history poignantly tells us after a period of steady decline in administrative competence and/or economic fortunes. People readily point to Somalia’s fall in 1991; but they forget the USSR behemoth established in 1922 which collapsed in 1991. Yugoslavia collapsed in 1992 after a long period of tension. A collapse does not often come overnight. It starts gradually and steadily and ultimately consumes all. A failed state, Wikipedia says “is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly.”

These thoughts came to my mind last week after the unfortunate incident between men of the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Police which occurred along Ibi Jalingo road in Taraba State. A special squad of policemen had been dispatched to arrest and indeed succeeded in arresting Alhaji Hamisu Bala alleged to be ‘‘a notorious but very rich and highly influential kidnapper.’’ On their way back to base, the squad led by ASP Felix Adolije ran into a military contingent and the soldiers opened fire on and killed three policemen and a civilian. The soldiers, it was reported, set the suspected criminal free.

There is a manhunt for the liberated criminal as at press time. On social media ‘war’ broke out between those who took umbrage at the terrible act of the soldiers and those who felt that the policemen had been given a dose of their own medicine. To be sure this is not the type of discussion that should take place at all. It simply shows that there is a deep cleavage between the people and the institutions that are supposed to protect them. Add to these two institutions the judiciary, the legislature and the executive arms of government.

The high command of Nigeria Army and Nigeria Police must be or should be in deep embarrassment about the whole incident. The Federal Government also ought to be worried by the incident because it is one too many in our recent history. No credible steps have been taken so far to reassure the nation of order across. There is an increased disrespect for law, order, codes of social behaviour and engagement. Perhaps the government and its institutions are overwhelmed by the depth and scope of atrophy which the nation currently battles with. Which itself is frightening. Whether by default or design there is a script for doomsday being acted out. Are the actors aware of the enormity of the challenge that we face? Is the nation going for broke?

The Taraba incident is a symptom. If its portents have been missed by Abuja it is the duty of civil society to point fingers in the right direction. We are headed in a dangerous direction. Other incidents had in the past promoted this narrative. Apart from failure of the Nigerian state to arrest and prosecute criminals of a particular type, the outcry of a former Chief of Army Staff General Theophilus Danjuma (retired) that the Nigeria Army was no longer a national institution but a partisan one, was a marker, an etching in the memory of watchers of our recent history. He called on Nigerians to prepare to defend themselves against the army funded with taxpayers’ funds. This could only happen in a state that is on the way to perdition. Subsequent events have proved that the respected general was not crying wolf when there was none.

When leaders promote a sectarian and narrow agenda at the expense of the collective will or the common good, they sow the seed for a failed state. This entails disregard for the sensitivities of other stakeholders by incumbent leaders. Such men of power see themselves as rulers and scheme to impose a viewpoint on others. There is a presumption that power resides in them and that whatever happens they can manipulate the political system in a pre-determined direction. When states fail it is often the deeds of the men in power. States fail because of the men not despite the men in power or out of power.

Disintegration or outright rejection of an existing political system by stakeholders are options. It is a process, a journey of sorts. Once a state by design or default destroys its national institutions there is no guarantee that the centre can still hold. It is a sign of anarchy for self help to be the only true way to justice. When the forces at the centre carry on as if there are no alternatives to their stay in power then all options are placed on the table. Two former Heads of State retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo called different interest groups to a mediation meeting about three weeks ago in Minna and Abeokuta respectively. The subtext was clear: Abuja is not saying or doing the right things. A third force was necessary.

Nigeria should not be allowed to fail whether by acts of omission or commission. Nigeria is not too big to fail. Words and actions which can hold the country together should be carried out. Those extreme statements coming from some so-called leaders should be disregarded. They are likely to get on the first jet out of the country if push gets to shove because they have the means to do so. The soldiers who killed the policemen at Ibi should be brought to book as quickly as possible.  Courtesy The Guardian.

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Nigeria’s N35billion Tower Of Babel

The Federal Government announced last week Wednesday that it had approved N1.4billion to design the head office of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Someone heard the bombshell and shouted Halleluyah! The person said Nigeria is now designing its own Tower of Babel! I agree. Only a Tower of Babel – so tall its top reaches the heavens – could be so costly to design – N1.4billion! Designing is not building; it is paperwork.

When the world gasped at the cost, the minister who announced the Federal Executive Council approval said the design sum was not too much – because the building is a 12-storey. How do I calculate that? I know that a billion naira is one million in a thousand places. But what do I really know about architecture and building design and their costs? I don’t know anything. A bloody reporter!

If we bait our trap with a whole elephant, what animal is it going to catch for us? What benefit is Nigeria hoping to get from that DPR white elephant? The design cost was made hefty enough to daze the poor. It is a bulldozing price. Only big and rich Nigeria could pay that price. Big men must always do big things. But if we use N1.4billion to design a building, how much will the building proper cost us? The cost of the construction is N35billion.

The minister did not tell us how the government arrived at the cost even when the design was not ready. Again, what do I know? But I know that we are going to spend N35billion to build a house we don’t need. I said we don’t need the building because that department already occupies a cosy space in Lagos – even in Abuja and the 36 states. But because Nigeria is a loss centre that fails in all things, our progressive government has decided that this difficult period is the auspicious time to use billions of naira to haul that department to Abuja, the golden city.

Is it a curse that Nigeria must spend money it doesn’t have on things it doesn’t need? It has N35billion to build a mountain but lacks money to remove Nigeria from the map of the sick and dying. The worst place to live; the worst place to be born; the nation with the highest number of out-of-school children building its own Burj Khalifa! The government has its priority. The priority is not the universities with decayed infrastructure. The priority is not the millions without jobs. We remember those ones only on election days. Deadly roads don’t need fixing, hospitals can remain what they were in January 1984 – consulting clinics. The nation’s 13.5million out-of-school children don’t have to be in school, they are useful cannons on election days. The priority is to build tall buildings in celebration of official unwellness. We forget that unbuilt children throughout history always auction their father’s prized buildings.

Spending unbudgetted billions to build castles in the sky should sound nice and smell good only to those in government and their concubines. Did President Buhari ask any question at all before approving that project? Where the DPR presently is in Lagos, who owns it? Has it not been delivering its mandate from that building? Must every agency of the Federal Government move its head office to Abuja? The ports are in Lagos and Port Harcourt, one day, the gleaming Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) headquarters building in Marina will be abandoned for a mountainous house in Abuja which will be built with borrowed funds. It will happen.

 The business of the NNPC is in the oil rich South, but the corporation’s head office is in Abuja. There are several examples of this. Before these agencies moved to Abuja, they had buildings they occupied in Lagos. Who lives in those buildings now and what values have the new buildings in Abuja added to the national worth?

We are a crazy nation of unthinking money spenders. In the 1970s, we said our problem was not money but how to spend it. Today, even with the pocket very empty, we still don’t know what to spend our poverty on. Let me ask: If the DPR must move to Abuja, must it occupy a N35billion skyscraper? How many persons is it going to house in that structure to warrant the expenditure? As of this time last year, DPR announced that it had “a total of 1,100 staff with offices in 28 states of the federation including Abuja.”

So, how many of the 1,100 workers are in its head office for whom this edifice will be built? What will they be doing in that tall building? Will there be a refinery there to bail us out of the illness of fuel importation? Or the building will house the shrines of all the gods that are troubling Nigeria?

A street labourer sipping Moët should be told clearly that what he drinks is his blood. How is the government going to pay for this project? Has it been budgeted for? The total budget of the DPR for 2019 is N39.3billion with N681million as capital expenditure, N592.9million as overhead and N38.06billion as personnel cost. In 2018, it budgeted N32billion for personnel while its capital vote was N1.331billion. So, the question again: Where is our ‘progressive’ government going to source this N35billion to pay for the construction of this prodigy and the N1.4billion for the design? Or will the government tell us that expenditure without budgetary provision is no longer an offence under the ICPC Act?

So, what happened? N1.4billion to design a Tower of Babel, N35 billion for its construction. And that price is very liquid, not cast in any solid matter – not stone, not iron. It is a sliming piece of cake that will change form every year to feed itchy fingers. The design will keep changing in form and cost. The project itself will undergo cost transformations from this year going forward. God knows that these items will appear in 2020 – even in 2021 budget proposals (and approvals). There will be price variations and paddings. The completion will be when Nigeria is completely finished.

This government confounds. Its lovers won’t see anything wrong in anything, including this. Dignifying bad governance with ducal crowns won’t clean our ruling clan of its odium. Lovers of this government – body, soul and all its ways – should explain this N1.4billion + N35billion project and others of similar smell. Should this nun already found whoring still go on preening in celibacy? Geoffrey Chaucer in his The Canterbury Tales has a monk who feels revulsion at the spirit and letters of the sacred text he swore to live by. Is he still a monk – the one who eats, talks and acts dirty? Those who approved N1.4billion to design a building, how do we describe them? Incorruptible patriots?

I thought our progressives said they detest waste and suspicious expenditures. The picture gets clearer now with every action taken by this corrective regime. Our palace is occupied by men who wield moral sceptres in the day but quietly slip away into the night of debauchery. These men we see won’t stop reminding us that they are the best in our lives, yet, we get odious bargains from them. They tell the poor these are the best ever of the times, yet the poor forage in plentiful want. Williams Shakespeare wrote about “Mad world, Mad kings, Mad Composition.”

That world looks like here. Charles Dickens (in A Tale of Two Cities) painted a pernicious world of inexplicable paradoxes – an anaphoric tragedy: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” This sounds like a history of our present. Our leaders are cleansing the system with poop and slime.

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Postponed Elections: Concerns On Ethnic Stereotyping Prof. Adele Jinadu

We learnt that Professor Okechukwu Ibaenu, INEC National Commissioner was summoned to report to the Department of State Security (DSS) for interrogation. Others from INEC summoned with him include Chidi Nwafor, the Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Ken Ukeagu, Director of Procurement; Osaze Uzzi, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity and Bimbo Oladunjoye, the Assistant Director of ICT. The DSS has the responsibility to convene and interrogate anyone suspected to be a threat to national security and we do not in any way question that.

We understand that the DSS has since withdrawn the summons but we remain concerned. Our concerns stem from a web design that suddenly emerged on the social media presenting alleged linkages between the Atiku Campaign Organisation and leading civil society activists of Igbo ethnicity and Professor Ibeanu in INEC. Key civil society activists were targeted in the campaign – Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Clement Nwankwo, Sam Amadi, Innocent Chukwuma and Chidi Odinkalu. Alleged linkages were then drawn to Professor Ibeanu and Mike Ogini of INEC, Bukola Saraki in Senate and the Ballard facilitation of the Atiku trip to the United States and even Donald Trump. Within hours of the circulation of this web, a massive social media campaign with the hashtag #INECIbeanuMustGo was trending presenting Ibeanu as the Atiku Campaign mole in INEC with responsibility for scuttling last Saturday’s election and rigging the forthcoming elections.

We know Okechukwu Ibeanu to be a committed democrat who has devoted his life to the struggle for peace and democracy in Nigeria. He is a respected professor of political science and was in charge of logistics, having taken over from Amina Zakari in October 2018. Subsequently, a different ad hoc committee was set up specifically for the elections. The ad hoc committee has 17 members, and is headed by Ahmed Tijjani Mu’azu, a retired Air Vice Marshal. Making Ibeanu the fall guy for the botched elections is therefore completely wrong. INEC has collective responsibility for the failure.

There appears to be an orchestrated campaign against Okechukwu Ibeanu. His house in Enugu and his car have been broken into with valuables, including laptops and iPads, taken away. On Monday, an article written by Ibeanu in December 2015 resurfaced on the social media followed with a comment: “Nigeria has a Biafran agitator as the REC for Logistics, no wonder this unpatriotic individual, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu who has made his mission to undermine the Nigerian state.” The article in question was a rejoinder to an opinion written by Ibrahim Jibrin (“Jibo”), one of the signatories of this press release on perceptions of the Igbo Question and Biafara

Professor Ibeanu has had a distinguished academic career at home and abroad and was special rapporteur of the United Nations from 2004-2010. In 2016, he was appointed INEC national commissioner representing the south-east. He was the Chief Technical Officer to Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman between 2010 and 2015 and contributed enormously to the success of the 2011 and 2015 elections.

We have the following concerns:

1) There are too many conspiracy theories in circulation and a great deal of mudslinging in the campaigns. In addition, the campaign has been characterized by strong ethno-religious mobilization on all sides, which can be harmful to nation building.

2) This is a clearly orchestrated campaign to smear the names of these people, most of whom have devoted their lives to the struggle against military rule and for democracy for the past three to four decades.

3) The said campaign is divisive and is geared to smear an ethnic group and present them as enemies of democracy and free and fair elections.

4) The smear campaign can only do harm to the difficult process of consolidation of Nigerian democracy.

We therefore appeal to all stakeholders to desist from pursuing campaigns of calumny against any group, and to instead, focus on ensuring that the elections hold in a spirit of nation building that would allow the winners of the elections carry forward the Nigerian national project. Let us all work with INEC and all other authorities involved in the electoral process to re-build trust, and to ensure that there is peace and concord before, during and after the elections.

A press statement by Prof. Adele Jinadu, Femi Falana and other leaders of civil society and democracy groups.

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Editors' TakeOpinion

Ezekwesili The Last Days Of Endorsements Alpheaus Paul-Worika

In the last days of electioneering, we experience fever pitch activities of desperate politicians. With less than 10 days to the presidential elections,   this is a very critical period; the time football enthusiasts refer to as injury time in a must-win or must-not-lose match. It requires all manner of tactics to overcome the opponent. Endorsement is an age-long technique in electoral contests  and comes with a certain freshness. Its admixture of a semblance of popularity and inclusiveness gives its brew a compelling aroma and a bitter taste in the bud long afterwards.

Only a handful of politicians fail to reckon with this gambit. Former minister of Solid Minerals and Education, former World Bank vice president for Africa and 2019 presidential candidate of the Action Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is finding it difficult to understand what this is about. Right under her rose, while still deep in  her campaign outreaches and preparations to wrest power from the siamese twins of transactional politics, members of her party in a rather ominous brand of politics had negotiated something and decided to endorse President  Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.

Lamenting the betrayal and contempt of her party members, Ezekwesili, did not succeed in concealing her disappointment as her emotions failed her. She wiped her eyes as her voice quivered. She wondered how she could drop her presidential ambition for a ministerial position when she had rejected several offers for same position by past and present administrations. How could she be so convinced to be the party’s standard bearer while members of her party had their mind elsewhere.

 Not being a typical Nigerian politician, her foray into the electoral contest had actually astounded many Nigerians and elicited mixed reactions about her capacity to deal with intrigues  of political correctness and due process. Most professional politicians do not have scruples about what happens to whatever names they had made in the course of their various endeavours. These category of politicians have given Nigerian politics its peculiar flavour. To be a successful politician is to live a fallacy and move about gaily in a turncoat. To survive blackmail, you are expected to keep a long distance from this politics. But that is the trick.  Those who are afraid of a healthy political competition deliberately provoke those with strength of character into certain acts of misjudgment to expose their vulnerability.

Ezekwesili, the transparency amazon saw the blackmail and quickly returned to herself, perhaps back to her role as a vociferous activist and global economic governance analyst. But she has learnt some lessons that would enrich her experience about her dear country and why things are less predictable even with the clear indicators.

Hopefully Ezekwesili will see more clearly in the next complex of days why a very patriotic coalition of mentally and morally strong Nigerians is required to restrategise in the nation’s true interest. While that option needs consideration, this is the season of endorsement and so much humour go with it.

The joke seems to be who can get better and more valuable endorsement groups. And the canvassers are working to beat deadline. The vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Peter Obi, was criticized by a priest for not making appreciable contribution to the Adoration ministry. The Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Mbaka  later visited President Buhari. The purpose was not very clear but religious leaders are usually not left out of these endorsement visits.  Imams, Alfas, prophets and various organizations flaunt some names and get passage through the corridors of influence into important circles of target personalities.

Many ethnic leaders overrate their influence and consider their endorsements as critical to the victory of any political contender. Consequently we witness political drama of sorts by pro and anti endorsement camps. Some members of Miyetti Allah, a formidable group of Fulani herdsmen that had never hidden their support for President Buhari’s second term, recently endorsed the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. PANDEF, AFENIFERE, OHANEZE, and NEF in a new kind of simultaneity, announced their endorsement of Alhaji Atiku.

Amidst these ethnic endorsements, the brickbats are flying. Former governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, Director General of VON, Osita Ikechukwu and others have flayed the Igbo leadership and assured their patrons that the endorsement is inconsequential. Niger Delta youths disagree with PANDEF just as there have been divergent views in other ethnic groups. No matter. The Atiku camp is upbeat. His campaign director general, Senator Bukola Saraki says the endorsement means national acceptance of Atiku and total victory for the PDP.

Association of prostitutes and an association of white witches have reportedly endorsed Alhaji Atiku after their meetings (in a coven). Pray, what if not as a moral dampner, will prostitutes’ and witches brazen endorsement do for a candidate. Certain endorsements actually add nothing if not damage the reputation and chances of the intended beneficiary.

Dozens of ex-military officers including APC chieftain, Bubar Marwa  endorsed Prresident Buhari perhaps as counter to the support Atiku is said to be enjoying from retired Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Danjuma etc. It does not matter that the co-ordinator of the endorsement is a political acolyte. National Union of Local Government Employees, a union of civil servants in the third-tier of government also endorsed the president. Wither the neutrality of the civil servant in politics.

Endorsement has become so much a part of our politics that we are determined to get foreigners to also be a part of it. Prominent members of the major political parties travel overseas to America, the European Union, United Kingdom and international agencies to get their endorsement even when the interest of western nations is transparent electoral systems with norms and values. Now we have come nearer home to our neighbours in Niger with two governors in the campaign of a candidate. What happens to diplomacy if their preferred candidate is not returned. Their presence at the podium was beyond the endorsement threshold notwithstanding the attempts at justification. With endorsements you can’t imagine the magnitude of desperation we have to endure, and for our cerebral Oby, the betrayal is beyond fathom.

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Editors' TakeOpinion

Law, Morality And Youth Circle Alpheaus Paul-Worika

The brouhaha over the allegations of corruption against the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, his suspension from office and the prompt swearing in of a substitute has polarized even lawyers more than it ought to unite them. As labourers in the temple of justice, lawyers are well versed in the issues that are already in the public domain and for which all manner of persons have become emergency and uninformed commentators.

Arguments about the proprietary of critical political decisions often dovetail into contentious issue of what should prevail in the contest between law and morality. This avoidable distraction takes the shine off what should be the gain from a dialectical engagement. Nobody wins in a contest between law and morality because both principles are too close to call and what separates them is emotion which determines every standpoint. With law and morality, there can hardly be a winner or a loser. And that is what politicians feast on.

While lawyers quote various sections of the law and express divergent opinions ironically in defence of the law; and laymen highlight moral points of view, the politicians strike mortal blows to the system confident that there will be enough cacophony to douse the effect of an unpopular but suave political decision.

So, Justice Onnoghen is out and Justice Tanko Mohammed is in. And while we await the outcome of the National Judicial Council’s seize of the matter, Onnoghen is not in charge anymore and Mohammed will continue to act as being in charge while the political puzzles are fitting properly.

In this debacle, the Nigerian youth remains a poor spectacle. The protests for and against the suspension of Onnoghen were carried out by youths, some without adequate understanding of the real issues for which they were called out to the streets.

Some of the protesting youths said Buhari was a dictator while others said Onnoghen was suspended because he was caught-red handed with dollars.

The prevailing scenario more like a debacle has offered a window for opportunists to express themselves and their convictions and even earn something that can put food on the table for a while. But this is the sour point. Youth do not raise vital and critical questions about anything anymore. They only seek to rent their services to the highest patron. This apparently explains why the fight against corruption should intensify with few weeks to the general election, when allegations of corruption against people even in the president’s cabinet have remained mere allegations.

It remains a curious subject that despite petitions against the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, he remains the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said President Buhari has given approval for the prosecution of Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to Government of the Federation, yet Osinbajo had said that the president did not know about Justice Onnonghen’s arraignment. The list of accusation is too long and in the public domain.

With youths making up over 55% of Nigeria’s population, the desired impact of their vantage position as critical stakeholders is infinitesimal. Rather youths have formed a wide circle of jesters that are expending their great potential in comic relief. Inappropriate use of youth energy has serious implications for economic and social development. It misled our president to declare that the youths are lazy. It has also created a groundswell of ready footsoldiers for political thuggery and various forms of criminalities.

A trending post in many Whatsapp platforms is the story of youth in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. All the frontliners in the anti-colonial struggle were youth. They mobilized themselves into a united front as they focused on their goal. There were excuses around but they elected to ignore them.

In the face of daunting challenges, the predilection to substance abuse has intensified. Over 14% of persons between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to cannabis, tramadol and other narcotic substances.

Nigerian youth are strong and resourceful, and should bring their immense courage and creativity into the social mix, to put an end to the political game that treats them as pawns and touts and savages.

The elections may be at the heart of the ongoing political struggle that seem to pitch Nigerians against one another in various circles; but the youth must rise above political patronage and challenge the institutions that seek to undermine their capacity and progress.

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Between Political Games And Social Relations Alpheaus Paul-Worika Ph.D

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari, two of a kind, did a spectacular thing at the National Council of States meeting in Abuja, last Tuesday. They disappointed their fans by the level of camaraderie they displayed, shaking hands ‘presidentially’ and generally expressing warm felicitations that contradict the belligerent mode of their fans.

The two leaders demonstrated uncommon statesmanship, in a manner that confounded even their critics. Both men have a myriad of supporters as well as critics. They share many other things in their history. They are retired generals of the Nigerian Army and fought in the Nigerian Civil War. They became Heads of State in unique circumstances, each being reluctant to lead and persuaded by colleagues to take over the reins of government; and after leaving office, both men were further persuaded to run for election.

They became democratically elected heads of a civilian administration and have become the only two Nigerians that have governed the country as dictators and democrats.

The two leaders as long time associates and members of the National Council of States, have a relationship far beyond what Nigerians can see. And they have both confessed at different times, the affection and respect they have for each other.

In the build up to the 2015 presidential elections, Chief Obasanjo was one of the political leaders who approved and encouraged President Buhari to achieve victory eventually. His farm at Otta was Mecca to many office seekers.  Even though he was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obasanjo did not hide his displeasure over the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan and actually worked against the PDP in the interest of the APC.

Leaders of the APC in their individual rights and privileges made a show of their courtship with Obasanjo; and when the former president tore his PDP membership card (or rather watched as an aide performed the function), the biggest beneficiaries of PDP’s loss were Buhari and his supporters.

With that card tearing act, Obasanjo announced his complete departure from the PDP and took on the role of a nationalist. He wrote letters to President Goodluck Jonathan making various claims and allegations on governance.

Obasanjo intensified his globetrotting and sold the need for a regime change to the international community. He was very firm and strident in criticizing the Jonathan administration, amplifying the inconsistencies and contradictions in the system while Buhari’s political associates hailed him.

Indeed, the former president was described as bold, courageous and a man of integrity who could dare and speak truth to power no matter who was in charge. Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi said during one of Obasanjo’s visits to commission some projects in Rivers State, that he was the ‘small’ Baba (younger version of Obasanjo) who does not know how to speak from both sides of the mouth. He eulogized his bluntness.

To some politicians, Obasanjo is a talkative; a man who claims to be what he is not. They would mention his attempts to rewrite the constitution to remain in office and the many legal infractions and human rights issues that form part of the history of his administration. But his consistency is a great sell that is worthy of consideration. Obasanjo’s utterances might be toxic, and non sequitur, but his courageous stance when the vast majority are coerced to docility expands his circle of friends and admirers.

Until a few days ago, that list included President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu, Right Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and many political stalwarts in the APC. Is everything politics or must politics be in everything? This question is latent in the reactions that have greeted Chief Obasanjo’s so long a letter to President Buhari, on several issues including alleged plot to compromise and rig the 2019 elections.

Rather than take Obasanjo to the cleaners by pointing out the hollowness or falsity of his claims, the responses have been rather abusive and enmeshed in emotion. Those who should give direction on decorum and proper responses are throwing bricks and bats.

The response by the presidency which represents the president’s view was to urge Chief Obasanjo ‘to get well soon’. The man who attended the Council of States meeting did not appear sick in body or mind. Indeed, only a very healthy mind in a strong body can articulate a 16-page letter on various aspects of governance.

Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay took umbrage and in very harsh tone, declared that Obasanjo’s attitude was rude and meddlesome. In 7 pages of anger, Sagay said “the status of an ex-president is one of quiet dignity, respect, discretion, decorum, discipline and restraint. And Obasanjo does not have a simple one of these.”

Tinubu, co-Chair of the APC campaign council did not particularly respond to the letter. But he accused Obasanjo of lacking the courage to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day, and also for championing rigging of elections and therefore incompetent to criticize Buhari over impunity, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, in apparent reference to the vexatious letter, said under Obasanjo, there were irregular payments of subsidy claims while Borno State suffered from Boko Haram even though funds were appropriated to fight insurgency.

The anger is palpable. But we can draw the line between political games and sincere qualitative criticisms and analysis. Obasanjo’s pattern is predictable to any student of current Nigerian politics. He is brash but forthright. He cooks his pot of criticisms with a rich mix of facts, logic and prose. The dish might be served in a wrong platter, but the content are always deserving of profound introspection; because the effects could be potent, dangerous and far-reaching as political supporters and acolytes pull punches.

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Patriotism, Official Responsibility And Consequences. Alpheaus Paul-Worika Ph.D

The renewed offensive by the Boko Haram insurgents and the record of casualties on all sides, reinforces the need for a review of the operational strategy and pattern of deployment of security chiefs.

Our dear country is in battle with fighters who have the courage, men and logistics to hold out in a military combat that has defied technical defeat several times.

Every week these renegade fighters attack our military. Recently they attacked Rann, after attacking a military base in Madumeri. Our troops retook the town few days after.

We shouldn’t remain in denial of the fact, that our commitment to end the orgy of violent hostilities in the North East requires more from all Nigerians particularly those in charge of that great project, as we continue to send well-trained and well equipped troops to the theatre of war. But our efforts have been symbolic somewhat.

Last week, at the national military cemetery in Abuja, five gallant crew members of a NAF Helicopter providing air support to ground troops crashed. The chief pilot, Peremowei Jacob died less than one month after his wedding.

The senseless war orchestrated by a warped mindset is apparently sustained by various factors including our willingness to cope with excuses and to rationalize alibi.

Even when the reasons adduced for our inactions actually fit into dereliction of duty or abdication of official responsibility, we maintain aloofness and move on. But the result of our attitude follows naturally. In the best of times, we profess to take responsibility and keep mute afterwards as though official responsibility suffices for its own sake.

This is why it appears that despite the moral, technical and financial support the military has enjoyed in the present administration, the government’s determination to achieve success have oscillated between chasing the insurgents away from one town or another, to arresting and blocking their sources of logistics supplies.

Reports of degrading Boko Haram do not excite anymore as our inability to take them out with superior intelligence and superior firepower seem to give room for resilience.

Just when the military report a success against the insurgents, more onslaughts and counter-offensives with frightening dimensions of hostilities are reported. It leaves open questions of who is to take responsibility for the massive security breaches and threats by Boko Haram and armed bandits in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari understands the mood of Nigerians and recently took responsibility for the performance of the service chiefs. In an interview on Arise TV against the backdrop of the need to rejig his security chiefs, the president urged Nigerians to be patient with his administration and support the efforts of the military.

President Buhari gave more than tacit satisfaction of the performance of his service chiefs. Yet his affirmation was not a pat on the back. As a military officer with an enviable record of curbing insurgency in the North East, he is very familiar with the terrain and what it means to rout Boko Haram.

With humongous funds and technical support from all corners; with bilateral and multilateral co-operations, well-motivated officers and men, and supportive Nigerians,  what could still be lacking? Those in strategic offices and critical positions of authority understand the weight of responsibility and the consequences thereof.

It is the reason public officers are subjected to swearing oaths of office and allegiance before they are allowed to assume office. The Kernel of official responsibility is to demonstrate capacity, efficiency and fidelity to the demand of the office. At all material times, official responsibility includes self-sacrifice that shows the best patriotic effort.

It is the value of service that strengthens or otherwise determines if anyone should remain in a particular position beyond a certain period inspite of personal views and talents; or to give way to someone with a different approach for better result.

Consequently public officers are to be at their best at all times; to have and show  good understanding of their efficiency-level and the challenging circumstances they face and to quit if it becomes exigent.  

Negligence or failure to uphold the principle of official responsibility has consequences for national safety and progress. Those who occupy public offices hold such position in trust for the people and are expected to live up to the peoples’ expectations.

To take responsibility for the failure of a public officer or appointee is to accept blame on their behalf and surrender to fate; with the feeling that there is no better alternative. Such feeling is an albatross that endangers patriotism with consequences.

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Shagari: From The Hindsight Of History Alpheaus Paul-Worika Ph.D

It is meet to refer to history with a halo on its crown, as the custodian and repository of knowledge.

Those who love to be treated with ardor as people of means and good mentality, pride themselves as rich in ideas generated from the pool of human experience over time. They stand out in every society for their capacity to power the various organs and functionalities of the system and enliven the human spirit.

Their repertoire of reflections on similar events, provide veritable foundation on which to erect strong and enduring structures and institutions; in a sustainable and progressive manner.

But history is its own enemy. For several reasons we are victims of the paradox. As a product of experience, history is susceptible to sentiments and emotions that determine and influence the chronicler. This could explain why many people do not learn from history or simply ignore its noble lessons. We repeat the mistakes that consume those who took the precipitous actions we seem set to plunge into. And often, we plunge willy-nilly into disaster.

Our failure to reckon with the subject of history gives us a farcical feeling of amnesia.  We deliberately forget the ethereal summary of our actions and the possibility to be confronted with our record in our life time; sometimes as early as when we are still active in public service; enjoying the perks and pageantry that accrue therefrom.

Often it takes a sorry tale such as death to remember that we failed to do what we ought to do at some auspicious moment and simply pretend to carry on with our lives as we please.       Obasanjo’s critical comments on ex-Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the volte-face evident in his support for Atiku’s presidential bid is a clear lesson. Men of history do not approbate and reprobate.

The death of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s first executive president, at the age of 93, also provoke several issues concerning our sense of personal history and the history of our service to our country.

Shagari, a simple school teacher, who became Chief executive of Nigeria for four years and three months, was toppled by a military regime headed by Muhammadu Buhari, a General, in December 1983.

The military clamped down on the principal leaders of the political class and sentenced them to various jail terms; over charges of corruption. That is the history. Shagari and other key actors of his second Republic were criminalized and many of them recoiled into their shells, creating a generational leadership lacuna that has proved difficult to adjust.

 At some point, the second Republic was described as a disgrace to democracy. The immediate victims of the putsch remained silent and ate their shame. And for 35years, after he was shoved out of office, Shagari lived in his little town in Sokoto State with his rural folk. Then he died. And the eulogies and tributes  streamed in.

President Muhammadu Buhari commiserated with the family and declared that flags fly at half mast for three days in honour of the late deposed president describing him in beautiful terms.

Did it count for nothing that President Buhari should eulogize the man who was removed forcefully from office for various infractions and treat him with reverence and platitudes at death?

The military junta set out to fix the country and introduced various policies and programmes to achieve their agenda.

To be sure, Nigerians appeared elated as they stood  in queues to procure essential commodities or waited at the banks to get new monies for their survival.

Things were done differently it seemed and Nigerians saw the political class in the desired perspective as a class of thieves and crooks.

It served the justification for the new helmsmen to give commands as the politicians headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari pined away in lamentation. They had fallen and like Lucifer, they were fit only for eternal furnace.

Many years later, it has become very clear, with the benefit of hindsight that Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a good man and that there were many good people under the classification of politician who were not well treated. Prof Ambrose Ali had one house which he could afford as a university teacher. We learnt many years later, that Dr Alex Ekwueme came out of office poorer than before he got into politics and eventually became Vice President.

Shagari as president refused to live in the official residence of the nation’s chief executive. When he left office, he returned to his modest home in Shagari village to continue from where he left for national service. These political leaders are no more, but they have left us with a moral burden which we must discharge with patriotic fervor rather than emotive outbursts.

Our attitude to our leaders is problematic. When we treat every politician as a crook, we invariably demonize everyone and give reason for patriotic and selfless leaders to be in the minority that cannot make the desired difference. This is an issue that should bother even the present leadership in Nigeria.

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Front PageOpinion

Safeguarding Nigeria’s Electoral System

The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria will be the country’s sixth since 1999, after a long period of military rule. Most of these elections were tainted by acts of violence and vote rigging. In the past, election violence was blamed on lack of education among citizens, poverty, long history of military rule and corruption. However, political patronage is also to blame in a country where power and state resources are often exploited for personal use by office holders. The scramble for the “national cake” by the political elites is often the real reason for many politicians’ do-or-die attitude.

Such was the case when former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo declared in 2007 that the April elections would be a do-or-die affair for the country and his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In the just-concluded Ekiti and Osun States elections, it was glaring how desperation triggered electoral malpractices prominent of which were the cases of “vote-buying” and “voter intimidation”. It clearly shows that we have a lot to do in ensuring the 2019 general elections in Nigeria is not characterized by fraud, violence and malpractices.

With the 2019 general elections less than two months away, Nigeria’s ability to hold free fair elections is open to question. Of particular concern are the security threats posed by the Boko Haram insurgency, the president’s decline of assent to the electoral act amendment bill, perceived voter apathy and the clashes between farmers and herdsmen in some parts of Nigeria. There is also the threat posed by the arming of rival political supporters.

Although the government claimed to have “technically defeated” Boko Haram, the armed group was able to carry out bloody attacks and do so with so much effect. The insurgents recently carried out an attack on the military base in Metele, Borno State, killing dozens of soldiers in the process.

In the2015 elections, the Boko Haram threat affected elections in many parts of Northern Nigeria. If the threat is not significantly contained, it will pose a threat to free and fair elections in 2019.

Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, several states in Nigeria, such as Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa have witnessed violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in recent months. Although this was not an issue in previous elections, the intensity of the clashes has increased tremendously.

In the same way Boko Haram was the primary campaign issue prior to 2015 elections, the clashes between armed herdsmen and farmers pose election risk. Several opposition political parties have already seized on insecurity as a campaign rallying point. Violent clashes could potentially ensue if the security situation is not addressed before the elections.

For the third time, President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018, alleging draft issues. The electoral act of 2015 amended by the National Assembly hopes to strengthen electoral processes and purge the system of all forms of fraudulent activities, ensuring the 2019 general elections are free, fair and credible.

With the provisions of the amended Electoral Act Nigerians should indeed anticipate a shift from the norm of fraudulent activities in elections to elections that would be transparent and credible. The onus therefore, now rests on the president to give assurance of a credible election as an alternative to the electoral act amendment bill to give Nigerians a glimmer of hope in the electoral process in 2019.

The proliferation of arms prior to elections also remains a huge threat. Since the 2003 elections, the arming of supporters has become an election tool and as in previous elections, political patronage is often behind the formation of insurgent groups towards the time of elections in order to seek undue advantage over their political opponent. Indeed, former vice president, and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar claimed to have warned some state governors against arming youths prior to elections.

Some Nigerians have totally lost faith in the electoral system of the country that they find it rather useless coming out to vote during elections. This issue, need to be addressed in ensuring the electoral process is successful.

Nigerians need to trust security agencies and the electoral commission.Security agencies should guard electoral materials and electoral officers and give citizens that assurance that they can cast their votes freely without any form of intimidation and attack.

But in recent times, security agencies have failed in maintaining neutrality. They are compromised by politicians and political parties to hijack electoral materials intimidate voters and members of the opposition. All security agencies on electoral duty must put in their best to defend the larger interest of the nation.

They must resolve to carry out their assignedduties in strict compliance with the rules of engagement and the law, and be made to face the consequences if they fail. Perhaps this calls for urgent and vigorous effort to establish the Electoral offences commission.

To ensure credibility of the 2019 elections, the electoral umpire must ensure that votes count. All stakeholders must realize that elections remain an anchor of democracy and everything should be done to protect it.

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