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USAfrica: Buhari’s uninspiring administration, long medical leave and politics of 2019. By Chidi Amuta

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Special to USAfrica [Houston] and USAfricaonline.com @USAfricaLIVE

 

We must quickly draw the line. Between a groundswell of sincere well wishes for a president on medical leave and exporting our penchant for silly opportunistic sycophancy to London, there is a wide margin. We need to carefully mind the gap before it deepens into a dangerous political gorge.

Empathy for the ailing president is normal and appropriate. Our common humanity and basic patriotism demand no less. Variously, our citizens have prayed, fasted, commiserated and even marched in procession in sympathy with Mr. Buhari in his present indisposition. In spite of the extreme hardship and multiple privations of the times, a painful calm now defines the current mood of the nation in deference to the absent president. The angry have swallowed their bile while the hungry have further edited meal plans. The tenuous hope endures among many that the man who promised us so much would soon return to deliver some happiness.

Photo opportunities of the president receiving empathisers in London have largely reassured a cynical home audience. Visiting officialdom has reassured us, mostly with no credible medical evidence, that the president is ‘hale and hearty’. What is yet to happen is for the man Nigerians elected to govern them to return and resume work. That is where we need him most since his motley visitors insist he is fit. Nigerians await the president’s return to full active duty. That expectation is our entitlement because Mr. Buhari’s job description is clear and specific: president and commander in chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

While ‘we the people’ anxiously await the return of our president, a wild traveling circus of political and special interest sycophants is steadily building up in London. The Senate president and House speaker have led the train. That visit is perhaps understandable given the strategic place of the legislature in our order of precedence. Innocuous special interests (mostly businessmen) have also reportedly sneaked into London to ‘greet’ the president. Factions of the presumptive leadership of the ruling APC have been to London. A delegation of the Governor’s Forum is reportedly underway. Many more are likely to follow in typical Nigerian fashion. Soon delegations of the Federal Executive Council, Service chiefs, permanent secretaries, governor’s wives, market women, imams, bishops, herdsmen etc. cannot be too far off. Some may even travel with full complement of soothsayers, prophets, imams, colourful dance troupes and traditional drummers.

A motley circus of fawning Nigerians is converting Buhari’s ill health into a traveling theatre with London as the stage. Public funds are being spent while major international airlines are smiling to the bank. The British audience must be somewhat bemused. But ordinary Nigerians are no doubt astonished at this festival of prodigality in a time of democratised hardship.

If the object of the president’s medical vacation was for him to get some rest and obey his doctors, the purpose is dead because we are transferring the schedulers and protocol officers of Aso villa to London to manage this deluge of presidential well-wishers.

For those visitors who occupy important government posts, it is disguised vacation time with the usual racketeering in estacodes and allowances. Perhaps this is a dramatisation of the joblessness of these officials at a time when the Nigerian commonwealth is terminally stressed and requires even more committed work by key officials of state.

I am not sure Mr. Buhari intended this traveling circus to accompany him to his health vacation. The president is reputedly a shy, self-effacing, compulsively austere and private man. He must be thoroughly embarrassed by this endless stream of political well-wishers. I am sure he would have preferred to be left alone to rest, undergo his medical tests and telephone Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to check on the affairs of state until it is time to return home. But political dramatists seem to be overwhelming Buhari’s more austere preferences.

We cannot totally blame the pro-Buhari touring band. The president is first and foremost a political persona. Wherever he goes, in health or infirmity, politics will follow him. Not surprisingly, most of the politicians jetting into London to wish him well know their art well. They visit the president in the day and retire to their hotels to hold innocuous nocturnal meetings to plot his 2019 succession. Politicians are dramatists of outcomes; they define their ends but act out their route.

However, embedded in this whole London drama are some of the contradictions of Mr. Buhari’s endangered presidency. Here is a president that Nigerians expected to place a moratorium on officially sponsored medical treatments abroad but who prefers to jet out to check an ear infection. Here is a man that many expected would provide the best health facilities for most Nigerians in Nigeria but allows for huge budget provisions for the state house clinic that he hardly trusts to run routine tests on him.

Here is the one leader that many expected would actively discourage the kind of sycophancy that is driving these comic trains to London. Even now, many Nigerians still expect that Mr. Buhari ought to summon the moral courage to insist that those officials who wish him well should stay home and discharge their responsibilities with even greater commitment.

In fairness, the president has spared us the confusion that his absence would have caused. He quickly transmitted the relevant authority for an acting president to the National Assembly. By the letter and spirit of the constitution, my friend and brother, Yemi Osinbajo is doing what he has to do, holding the fort for his boss and ensuring that the machinery of state grinds on. But Buhari’s communication machinery has failed a basic rule of public accountability. At his inauguration, the president declared that he belongs ‘to all and to none’.

His health status is public business and belongs to ‘all’. His vacation time and how he spends it is his private part and belongs to ‘none’ other than he. The task of walking that fine line is what seems to have overwhelmed his handlers. In these matters, there is no substitute to prompt, credible and sensible information. It is the absence of this rather than any appetite for mischief that has created room for wild rumours and ‘fake news’. The best way to course correct is to press the restart button, not to fruitlessly hunt for imaginary regime foes.
Admittedly, the general aloofness of the president and his self-effacing nature has not made the burden of his communicators any easier either. A public communicator at the apex of the place of power, no matter how ingenious, cannot put a spin on what he does not know. I would not know how much Buhari’s official communicators know about the situation of their boss. Mr. Buhari’s personal style (or lack of it) has unfortunately established the unflattering identity for his presidency as one that thrives on protracted silences.

This has led many Nigerians to see the president as distant and even insensitive at the best of times. Yet he is tenacious about his concern for the common folk and presents as a combatant against elite privileges. But his policies have ended up migrating the highest number of Nigerians into abject poverty and spreading misery to the most unlikely segments. These are perhaps unintended interim dividends of an otherwise well-intentioned presidency. However for those who share the optimism that our present misery is part of the foundation for future prosperity, the gate of optimism remains open. The fact that the president’s most spirited strivings and famed good intentions have so far rapidly pauperised and saddened most of the populace is enough to send even the healthiest of men to hospital.

At this point, the president needs to have a frank discussion with his London doctors. They need to agree on a workable schedule that enables him to return to work while pursuing whatever treatment options he needs. The mood of discomfort among the people could worsen if the president allows his prolonged absence to deepen the growing feeling that he is after all dispensable. While the supremacy of the constitution ordinarily makes every president dispensable, the unwritten law of political longevity compels every sensible incumbent to feign indispensability. And the risk for Buhari is even higher because the nation that elected him to improve things is in a sad state. Soon, people will begin to argue that there is no difference in their lot whether or not the president is in Abuja or London. Politically, that will literally end Buhari’s reign and incinerate the endangered myth that he could fix Nigeria’s multiple crises.

There still remains a bit of political capital that Mr. Buhari and his followership can recover. That depends on how much longer the president remains in London. If he returns home now and manages to do a quick rejig of his uninspiring administration, he might be able to take on the severe economic problems that we face.

If, however, he stays away for longer than is defensible, the Nigerian public may get used to life without him for as long as the machinery of government continues to run constitutionally. In either direction, a key political proposition has already been irreparably and fatally compromised by President Buhari’s long medical vacation: his basic political viability and electability in 2019.                                                                                                      Dr. Amuta, the Executive Editor of USAfrica since 1993, and USAfricaonline.com, is Chairman of Wilson & Weizmann., Lagos.

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AFRICA

FIRESTORM: Trump’s false tweet on “South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers”

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JOHANNESBURG: South Africa accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions on Thursday (Aug 23) after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

Trump’s tweet touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa – one of the most sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history.

The foreign ministry said in a statement it would meet officials at the US embassy to challenge the “unfortunate comments”, which were “based on false information”.

Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu would also speak directly with her American opposite number, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it added.

Trump wrote overnight: “I have asked Secretary of State … Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

His tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about [an alleged] plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.

“‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers’,” said Trump’s post, which tagged the show’s host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.

In the clip, Carlson painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation accompanied by on-screen graphics warning of the “threat of violence and economic collapse”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces elections in 2019, has claimed expropriating farms without ramaphosa-ANCcompensating their owners would “undo a grave historical injustice” against the black majority during colonialism and the apartheid era.

Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the white community that makes up eight per cent of the population “possess 72 per cent of farms” compared to “only four per cent” in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, Ramaphosa said.

The stark inequality stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid.

But plans to change the constitution have yet to be approved by parliament, and there is a vigorous debate in South Africa about how land redistribution would work – and whether seizures could be economically damaging as they were in post-independence Zimbabwe.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party which opposes forced expropriation but backs land reform, said “fear mongering by international leaders adds no value”.

“The injustices of land dispossession in South Africa can be addressed by our constitution in its current form. We must ensure ownership of land for all South Africans,” he tweeted.

Later on Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called for “a peaceful and transparent public debate”.

However she added that on “the expropriation of land without compensation, our position is that that would risk sending South Africa down the wrong path”.

Earlier this year, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sparked a diplomatic row after he said that Canberra should give “special attention” to white South African farmers seeking asylum.

The level of violence against farmers and farm workers is hotly contested but the police’s latest figures show there were 74 farm murders in 2016-17, according to the Africa Check fact-checking site.

South Africa’s leading farming lobby group AgriSA on Thursday praised the government’s “commitment to agriculture”.

“As a country it’s important that we find solutions together – we did this pre-1994 and we can do it again,” AgriSA chief executive Omri van Zyl told the SABC broadcaster.

Van Zyl was speaking at a conference on the land issue also attended by Deputy President David Mabuza who warned against “spreading falsehoods”.

“We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us,” he said.

But Kallie Kriel, chief executive of AfriForum – a group that advocates for its largely white membership – welcomed Trump’s intervention and attacked Ramaphosa for pressing ahead with the policy.

“We need to get international support to put pressure on the South African government to hopefully make them re-visit their stance,” he told AFP.

Kriel added that Trump could suspend South Africa from the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade programme if property rights were not respected.

“The US has a lot of power,” he said.

South Africa’s rand currency dropped as much as 1.9 per cent against the US dollar following Trump’s tweet, according to the Bloomberg news agency, ending four days of gains against the greenback.

Julius Malema, the leader of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, called Trump a “pathological liar” and told him to “stay out of South Africa’s domestic affairs”. ref AFP

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BUSINESS

USAfrica: Danger ahead as Nigeria face population explosion without plan

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By the Council on Foreign Relations

Special to USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com

 

At a population conference in New York, Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) Eze Duruiheoma estimated that the current population of Nigeria is 198 million, and that the population living in urban areas has been growing 6.5 percent annually over the past fifty years. He cites that World Population Prospects prediction that by 2050, Nigeria will displace the United States as the third most populous country in the world after China and India. He also noted the 2014 World Urbanization Prospects prediction that by 2050, 77 percent of Nigeria’s population will be urban. The NPC chairman also looked at the number of internally displaced Nigerians. With respect to the Boko Haram insurrection in the northeast, Duruiheoma estimated that the number of internally displaced is 1.76 million, which is lower than other estimates, some of which can be as high as 2.5 million.

Nigerians know they are by far the most populous country in Africa, and they are proud of it. Estimates of the size of the country’s population range from the World Bank’s 186 million to 205 million by UN agencies. An accurate census is difficult in Nigeria in part because of infrastructure shortcomings. In the past, too, census results have also fueled ethnic and religious conflicts exploited by political figures. Nevertheless, in 2017 the director general of the NPC raised the possibility of a census in 2018. Given the practical and political difficulties and with the prospect of national elections in 2019, that timeframe seems overly optimistic. In the meantime, it is necessary to fall back on careful estimates.

Duruiheoma pointed out in New York that Nigeria’s urban population growth has not been accompanied by a “commensurate increase in social amenities and infrastructure.” More generally, economic growth has not kept up with population growth. Hence, the enormous slums outside city centers.

In effect, Nigeria has no population policy that would limit births, and Nigerians have traditionally valued large families. Yet the country’s rapid population growth, especially in urban areas, poses difficult economic, social, and public health challenges. A huge, rapidly growing population is not necessarily a source of national strength.

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BUSINESS

USAfrica: Trump warns Buhari on “christians are being murdered, killed in Nigeria… we can’t allow that to happen”

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Trump warns Buhari on “christians who are being murdered, killed in Nigeria… we can’t allow that to happen.”

@Chido247

U.S President Donald J. Trump, this afternoon Monday April 30, 2018 at the White House, told visiting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that his government is not only monitoring but outraged by  “very serious problems with christians who are being murdered, killed in Nigeria.”

The transcription of Trump’s statement by USAfricaonline.com reads:

“We’ve had very serious problems with christians who are being murdered, killed in Nigeria. We’re going to be working on that problem; and working on that problem very, very hard… because we can’t allow that to happen.”

Buhari, a retired army General and dictator/ruler (1984-1986), attempted to minimize those issues when he claimed, contrary to video evidence and eyewitness accounts, that the “farmers and herdsmen” only carry stick and machete; not AK-47s and other deadly weapons. Across the social media, Nigerians share pictures/videos of them brandishing weapons.

Obama administration and Buhari’s started a deal for Nigeria to purchase up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft with sophisticated targeting gear for almost $600 million.

By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica [Houston], USAfricaonline.com and author of the 2018 book titled MLK, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Power, Leadership & Identity

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