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Nigerians have expressed divergent views about President Muhammadu Buhari’s indefinite stay abroad.
In separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, critics demanded accountability while others sued for calm.
Exactly 50 days ago on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari left the country for London in what the State House described as a trip for medical check-up.
The latest trip has surpassed the extent of his first trip of the year in which he left on January 19 and returned on March 10. He spent exactly fifty days on that trip.
Back then, the presidency said Mr. Buhari will be away for only 10 days, which later turned out to be five times longer.
During the course of his first trip, senior administration officials, including Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, ministers and media advisers, were providing Nigerians scattered updates about the president’s health.
Unlike the first trip, however, information flow has been in short supply this time around, which has left the citizens with little choice but to speculate.
Altogether, the president has now spent 100 days receiving medical care outside Nigeria out of 176 days so far in 2017.
Even when he dashed back to the country on March 10, he was unable to fully carry out his official duties before he was ultimately flown back to London.
Despite Mr. Buhari admitting he was ill and urging prayers from Nigerians, his office still continues to turn down request that he disclose specific details about his illness.
Mukhtar Dan’Iyan, a security analyst, said Nigerians should mount pressure on the government to release more details about the president.
Mr. Dan’Iyan said the fact that Mr. Buhari’s family spent the long Sallah holiday in Nigeria was suspicious.
“It’s strange that on the day of one of the most important Islamic festivals, neither the president’s wife nor his only son was by his side,” Mr. Dan’Iyan said. “This means they’ve given up on their familial duties, or the president is simply not in a position to be with anybody.”
Liborous Oshoma, a Lagos-based lawyer, raised five questions for which Nigerians much continue to demand answer from the administration.
“What is the status of the President health?
“Who is paying for his medical and or hospital bills?
“If we (Nigerians) are the ones paying, how much have we paid thus far?
“We read almost every day in the news that Mr. President is recovering fast and would soon return to his seat. Is he in any condition to continue when he returns? Or he will return and go back after a couple of weeks or months?
“Why is resignation not an option?” the lawyer said.
Deji Adeyanju, a social media enthusiast and former Peoples Democratic Party strategist, demanded immediate resignation of the president.
“President Buhari should resign,” Mr. Adeyanju said. “It’s obvious he can’t get up from his sick bed to read a Democracy Day speech and now Sallah.”
He added that the Sallah audio has created new doubts about Mr. Buhari’s condition.
But some federal lawmakers called on Nigerians to continue to display patriotism and understanding of their ailing leader.
Razak Atunwa, a member of the House of Representatives from Kwara State, said the government is running smoothly because of Mr. Buhari’s respect for the rule of law.
“With all sense of patriotism and equanimity, it is important to bear in mind that we have a president who is in a situation that is by no fault of his own.
“Having met the constitutional provisions, the president shows he is a man of rule of law,” Mr. Atunwa, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, said.
“Governance has not suffered and will not suffer for his being away,’ he added.
Similarly, Sunday Karimi, a PDP lawmaker from Kogi State, enjoined Nigerians to appreciate the actions the president took before embarking on his medical trip.
“The president did not pray for his situation,” Mr. Karimi told PREMIUM TIMES. “We owe him the responsibility to pray for him because, as Christians, we were taught to pray for those in authority.
“Within the ambit of our Constitution, what the president was required to do was to transmit a letter to the National Assembly that he had handed over to his Vice President. Which he did.
“There’s no power vacuum as we all can see the acting president performing all executive activities,” Mr. Karimi said.
ANC members at the Siyanqoba rally at Ellis Park Stadium in July. Provinces are setting targets ahead of the party’s 2017 conference. Picture: Lucky
Revolution? What revolution?
“ANC cadres owe their first loyalty to the revolution,” I heard Cabinet Minister Jeff Radebe say on the weekend.
One hears ANC leaders talk about “the revolution” virtually every day. Their official goal is still the “national democratic revolution”.
They still call each other comrade. At every meeting and rally they still shout Amandla! – although nowadays this is mostly exclaimed from the stage in an attempt to restore order or to shut up dissidents.
Revolution my backside.
The ANC’s faux revolutionaries are more interested in enriching themselves, empowering their rich business partners, enjoying Johnny Walker Black, blue light convoys, five star hotels and first class flights than in the plight of the ordinary people.
Or, to use the definition of revolution, to overthrow the existing social order.
Exactly thirty years ago, in July 1987, I met a real African revolutionary: Thomas Sankara, then president of Burkina Faso.
I was in the company of Thabo Mbeki, Van Zyl Slabbert and a few other South Africans when Sankara met us for a chat in his presidential house in Ouagadougou.
Sankara overthrew the corrupt and oppressive government of Upper Volta in a military coup in 1983 and renamed the dirt poor country Burkina Faso, land of the upright people.
He immediately slashed the salaries of cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and the president himself and ordered all to only use economy class flights. He banned police escorts for VIPs and most bodyguards.
He sold the long, black official Mercedes of the ministers and officials and replaced them with small Renaults and Peugeots. I saw him drive around in an old Peugeot 404 with a cracked windscreen.
Sankara’s philosophy embodied anti-imperialism, self-reliance instead of depending on aid and a restoration of national pride and sovereignty.
He broke the power of traditional tribal chiefs.
He did everything he could to eradicate poverty and restore the dignity and confidence of his people.
He made radical changes to the health and education systems and fired under-performing teachers and civil servants.
He launched ambitious agrarian reform projects and had millions of trees planted to combat desertification.
He gave tens of thousands of people jobs by having them build houses, roads and a railwayline instead of borrowing money and contracting big companies.
Sankara was the first African head of state to agitate for equal rights for women. He even ordered that women stay at home on Women’s Day while their husbands do the shopping, cooking and taking care of the children.
“We must produce what we consume,” was one his mantras. He boasted at international conferences that he only wore clothes from locally produced cotton, spun, designed and made by locals.
He often clashed with the former colonial master, France, and publicly criticised its co-opting of ruling elites in Francophone Africa. He publicly confronted president Francois Mitterand during an official state visit for allowing South African president PW Botha to travel to France. He spoke out against the corruption of the governments of neighbouring countries like Cote d’Ivoire.
While we were in Ouagadougou, we attended a hearing of the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal in a local stadium where civil servants and politicians accused of corruption were tried in public.
It was more about public humiliation than heavy sentences, because in most cases it involved a few hundred rand or less.
We also witnessed civil servants doing physical exercises before work in the mornings, because Sankara encouraged all Burkinabe to be active and healthy.
And yes, in the end Sankara went too far by banning trade unions and opposition parties and allowing the Revolutionary Defence Committees to abuse their power.
His deputy and old friend, Blaise Compaoré, hungered after power and conspired with Sankara’s internal and external enemies. He had Sankara executed just two months after we met him and Compaoré became president. (He was ousted after a violent revolt in 2014 and fled to Cote d’Ivoire to avoid prosecution.)
Self respect. Human dignity. National sovereignty. Put the citizens’ interest first and the poor people’s foremost.
Eradicate corruption, state capture and abuse of power. Clean up state-owned enterprises.
Good schools for every child, affordable tertiary education, proper skills training and a humane, functioning national health system.
Make the civil service lean and efficient.
Use all available resources to empower people and give them a stake in the economy to undermine inequality.
Give people enough free urban land to live on and provide land and support for all those who want to be farmers.
Restore the integrity of the criminal justice system and the efficiency and accountability of the police, special investigation units and SARS.
Implement the national development plan and do everything possible to grow the economy and create job opportunities, because social and economic transformation is virtually impossible during a recession.
When you start doing this, comrades of the ANC, you may call yourself revolutionaries once again.
(Watch a documentary on Thomas Sankara here.)
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Generally, Jubilee will still win the election.
I am foreseeing that the final results might end up at 52 percent and 47 percent or thereabouts for Uhuru and Raila, respectively.
Most people have made up their minds by now and this is reflected in the percentage of undecided persons – 12.
If the opinion polls give a fair representation of what is happening on the ground, the contest between Jubilee and NASA is stiff. But Jubilee is still ahead, because it has put a lot of effort into its political campaigns, which I think will give them another two or three percent for their victory.
From where I stand, I cannot foresee a runoff, because I am not seeing the rest of the Presidential candidates garnering more than one percent. Jubilee will get between 51-52 percent. The last efforts made by Jubilee and NASA can have some impact in the election and so a slight mistake from either side can cost them a lot. According to how the two camps have been conducting their campaigns of late, even if NASA were to get more votes, it is unlikely that they will overtake Jubilee.
Jubilee has already consolidated their bases and we are yet to see their last-minute practical on infiltrating the NASA strongholds.
Some of the criticism raised by NASA on the Jubilee government sells strongest in the alliance’s strongholds, such as the high cost of living. But the issues do not sell so well in the Jubilee strongholds such as Rift Valley, especially on the issue of the maize shortage. The issue consolidates in NASA strongholds.
Jubilee has tried, but I think they are focussing more on individuals rather than on what they have achieved. My advice to Jubilee is that they should talk less about Raila and ‘vitendawili’ and highlight the projects that they have accomplished in various parts of the country. They should focus on achievements like infrastructure, provision of clean water and employment.
Jubilee has challenges on youth unemployment. If they are going to package that strategy, and the President signs that Bill of allowing graduates to get internships, he will attract more support from the youth.
Their manifestos – which Jubilee launched yesterday and NASA is launching today – will have less impact on the voters as already a good percentage have made up their minds on who to vote for.
Kones is former MP for Konoin
NAIROBI Kenya’s ruling party promised to expand free education and healthcare in a manifesto published on Monday, but did not acknowledge problems in existing social services that have triggered strikes as elections approach.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, the head of the Jubilee Party, is seeking a second and final five-year term in office in the Aug. 8 polls. Voters will choose a president, legislators and local representatives.
Public debates have focused on social services and the cost of living, although some voters will cleave to tribal allegiances. More than 1,200 people were killed after the 2007 polls when political protests unleashed ethnic violence.
Kenyatta’s chief rival, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, is heading the National Super Alliance, a coalition of opposition parties that has yet to publish its manifesto. [nL8N1HZ3LQ]
In its new policy pledges, Jubilee promised to provide free, quality primary healthcare for all Kenyans; free secondary education; affordable housing and connect every citizen to the electricity grid by 2020.
Kenyatta, the wealthy 55-year-old son of the country’s first president, said he has slashed maternal mortality, overseen devolution, built new roads and opened a new Chinese-built railway linking the port of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi.
“Employment creation is at the heart of the next Jubilee administration’s priorities,” he wrote in a preface to the manifesto.
Reuters was not able to independently verify all the president’s assertions, but maternal mortality has been falling in Kenya since 2003, and the Kenya Power Company said it has 6.1 million connections, up from 2.26 million in March 2013, just before Kenyatta took office. Many new roads have been built and the first phase of railway opened last month. [nL3N1IX33J]
The Kenyan economy grew at 5.8 percent last year, far outstripping the sub-Saharan average of 1.3 percent.
But challenges remain, the cost of living chief among them. Annual inflation was at 11.7 percent in May, the highest for five years. High prices and a regional drought have caused a national shortage of the staple maize flour. [nL8N1IQ2YO]
“How can we vote for this government when people’s children are hungry?” asked mother-of-three and registered voter Mercy Indiazi.
Education standards also concerned her: Kenya introduced free primary education in 2003, but media reports about absent teachers, missing classroom materials and poor standards are also common.
The manifesto also highlighted advances in healthcare, although Kenyan doctors went on strike for four months, beginning last December, over poor pay and conditions.
Union officials said that doctors often had to conduct operations without basic equipment such as gloves. University professors have also mounted sporadic strikes over pay and conditions.
(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Alison Williams)
KINSHASA Congolese authorities have identified 10 more mass graves in a region where the military and militia fighters accuse each other of summary executions and burials.
The 10 new graves announced by the military on Monday bring to 52 the total number of such sites found in the Kasai region since the start of an insurrection last August by the Kamuina Nsapu militia which wants the withdrawal of military forces from the area.
Army prosecutor General Joseph Ponde told reporters in the capital Kinshasa that Kamuina Nsapu fighters were suspected of dumping bodies in the graves in Kasai province. The government also blamed the militia for mass graves discovered in neighbouring Kasai-Central province.
But witnesses in Kasai-Central interviewed in March by Reuters said they had seen army trucks dumping bodies.
Bodies have not been exhumed from the newly found graves -discovered by Red Cross workers – and there are no estimates of the number of people buried in them.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in fighting between government forces and Kamuina Nsapu, according to the local Catholic church.
Another 1.3 million have fled their homes in an insurgency which poses the most serious threat to the rule of President Joseph Kabila who refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December.
The United Nations’ human rights chief last week accused a militia with links to the government of murdering and mutilating civilians in Kasai.
Congolese authorities deny those charges.
Last week, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved an international investigation into the violence, though Congolese authorities insist U.N. investigators will only be providing technical assistance.
(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Robin Pomeroy)