Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, a veteran Diplomat and Development Studies Expert with thirty-year achievements in the Nigerian Foreign Service. She is widely known for her performance orientation, positive mentorship and team spirit. In recognition of her high-level competences, the Anambra State Government appointed Ambassador Ajulu-Okeke to serve in various capacities. She also served in the All Progressive Grand Party (APGA), a Southeastern-based political party, before relocating to the United States.
In the present-day Federal Republic of Nigeria, several years after its independence, the leaders have not succeeded in rebuilding its state institutions enough to reflect all-inclusive ethnic diversity, let alone in adopting Western-style democracy that takes cognizance of different public opinions on development issues in the country. The struggle for and misuse of power have brought the country into a stalemate, disrupting any efforts to overcome the deepening economic and social crisis, she explained in her in-depth discussions.
In this interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah from Modern Diplomacy, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke further spoke about many other significant and outstanding issues that are creating tensions in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and why the Biafra has to work unreservedly towards self-determination and independence. Here are the interview excerpts:
How is the situation, in your interpretation, in the Eastern regions that constitute Biafra today in Nigeria?
The situation in the region is dire depicting a derelict lack of infrastructure widespread unemployment, insecurity and youth hopelessness. As a result of decades of state endorsed systemic exclusion since the end of the Civil War, economic emasculation of the East by Nigeria in giving all Easterners £20 irrespective of previous bank holdings at the end of the war, State sponsored nepotic ostracism which eschewed merit and human enterprise from mainstream governance, Easterners found themselves at the brink of socio-economic exterminations and had to pull themselves up by sheer perseverance and dint of effort resulting in disenchantment with Nigeria and a massive migration to new diasporas.
In the region, what economic spheres are available for foreign investors? Currently what foreign players are showing interest in the region?
There are no foreign investors of repute in the region. However, a plethora of virile local entrepreneurs abound which provide fertile ground for viable foreign investment. The indigenous entrepreneurial spirit and the dexterous will to survive the odds has been of immense value in containing widespread poverty. To this end, a number of indigenous entrepreneurs such as Innoson Motors, Coscharis Forms, Lynden Forms, ABC Transport, Air Peace, AA Oil et cetera, have become successful industrialists from sheer dint of self-effort.
The economic spheres open to foreign investors will usher in unprecedented growth is in the area of human capital especially in the digital space. Human economy and venture capital leveraging on the age-old entrepreneurial apprenticeship tradition is the way to go for any foreign investor. No foreign investors are currently showing interest in the region due to heavy occupationist police and military presence in the region that does not permit the thriving nature of free enterprise to grow as people live and operate in a climate of persecution and fear.
What investment incentives and kinds of business support are available for foreign investors in Biafra?
The Republic of Biafra will emplace a sustainable merit-based investment regime and a justiciable investment clime based on the rule of law. With the emplacement of security and the rule of law, merit and equity in governance models and institutions and a sense of patriotism and belonging in the Citizenry, the restored Republic will lay enviable firm sustainable foundations for investor confidence and economic growth based on tried and tested models and international best practice. The model of business support incentives readily available to the People are the traditional entrepreneurial self-help. Highfaluting government postulations on business exist on paper but are beyond the reach and access of the common man, especially the unschooled rural dweller or urban slum dweller with no access to political or nepotic privilege.
Since 1970, after the civil war, has Igbo women’s status changed in the Eastern Nigeria? Generally, what are the popular perceptions about Igbo women, as against Yoruba, in Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Nothing has changed for the Igbo Woman since after the Civil War. With the increasing socio-political incarceration endured by her male brethren, Igbo women lost their self-esteem. Popular perception of the Igbo Woman are no different from the plight of their male brethren. The renowned resilient strength and baseline support for which Igbo women are known for has been corroded by willful denial of opportunity by the Nigerian State. Many have been forced into unwholesome practices for basic sustenance and are now part of the human and brain-drain which has engulfed the East.
Do the social and cultural changes influencing the activities of women in Biafra State. Can you please discuss the main spheres where Igbo women are currently?
Currently Igbo Women agonize over the seemingly disparate dissipative efforts of their Male brethren in their quest for the restoration of Biafra. Within the sphere of Christianity however Igbo women have excelled and found avenues for self-worth and social expression as religious activities and platforms have created viable avenues to restore the self-esteem of the Igbo Woman. Also, Igbo Woman in the diaspora has again and again proved beyond all reasonable doubt her achievement orientation and resilience in all walks of life. Names like Chimamanda Adichie and Ngozi Okonjo-lweala are household names.
What are the challenges, in your view, that remain especially for Igbo women and the youth in the region of Biafra?
Several challenges exist, the first of which is coercive alien hostile occupation of our homeland which have severally subjected Igbo Women to rape, ravaging their homes and farmlands, decapitating their husbands and children and sources of traditional rural livelihoods. Widespread poverty, unemployment and unemployable skill sets, remain a major challenge. State endorsed occupation of large portions of rural and village communal lands by alien hostile Jihadists have hampered the ability of women to provide for their families as supportive income earners.
Many women and young graduates from schools and cannot find jobs as there are no factories to absorb them and Government, the major employer, has become an overburdened inept nepotism and corrupt. With the prevailing socio-economic climate and the steadily dwindling economic fortunes and hostile stance of the Government towards entrepreneurial endeavor of Easterners, the future is bleak for women and youth. The only glimpse of hope in the horizon is a fallback to the age-old traditional practice of nurtured apprenticeship has been the bulwark of survival and sustenance in the face of the current existential threat facing Easterners.
Could it have been better if the region were independent of the federal system of governance?
An independent Biafra will, of course, usher in a regime of laws. A merit-based system of law and order. Independent Biafra will emplace a just and fair system where merit is accorded due cognition and reward and criminality and kleptomania is eschewed. In five years of independence indigenous enterprise of the East will reach unparalleled heights with world class infrastructure and a first-tier digital economy. This will be achieved through the effort and resilience of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra. In the face of years of criminal neglect by Nigeria and our strong footing in the Diaspora, Biafra’s emancipation and development will be the Eighth Wonder of the World.
In your objective assessment, what can you say are the current achievements or gains in the economic sphere for the Biafra under Federal President Buhari?
Absolutely nothing. The current entrapment of Biafra within the British Nigeria contraption prevents the actualization of its investment and development potential in all ramifications. This is why we Easterners want to delink from this entrapped arrangement called Nigeria.
What are some of the weaknesses and strengths of Nigeria’s stranglehold on Biafra?
Nepotism at all levels and institutions of Government. Morbid corruption. Endemic kleptocracy. Ethnic cleansing and persecution of Christians and ethnic capture of the military and security apparatus of the State. Our current entrapment in Nigeria has been of no gain to the East and a lingering Albatross.
What do you suggest could be possible exit ways out from all these? Most probably, you would advocate for political independence, to become a separate republic?
Some members of the international community and the Comity of Nations were not part of and did not participate in the 1885 Berlin Conference which saw the scramble for and partition of Africa and heralded blatant conquest colonialism. Greedy European nations lumped indigenous nationalities together with little regard for their distinct indigenes and cultures identities. European colonialism therefore created unstable amalgamations of hitherto strange and alien groupings into artificial contemporary nation states of today.
In many African nations such as Nigeria, these indigenous nationalities have had a hostile acrimonious fractious relationship that has impeded development and led to unstable anarchy. The result is that there is massive corruption and widespread kleptocracy with indigenous ethnicities in power making strenuous effort to capture State resources to the exclusion of other groups. This scenario found in many African countries today have led to several Civil Wars and quests for self-determination notable of which is the Nigeria-Biafra War and the enduring quest for self-determination of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra and recently of the entrapped nationalities of the Western and Middle Belt Regions.
The international community has long recognized that the structure of many African states remains unsustainable due to the artificial nature of their creation. They also recognize that many of these indigenous nationalities such as the Igbo have enduring ancient democratic state and governance systems that were subsumed by colonial conquest and use capable of having separate countries as seen with the Republic of Biafra.
The way forward in restoring these ancient nationalities and bringing sustainable peace and development to the beleaguered peoples of Biafra is through the conduct of plebiscites that will afford the indigenous nationalities the inalienable right to choose how they are governed.
In Nigeria, the juxtaposition of ancient nationalities with incompatible values presently held together by a coercive military decree in a centrist top down military format federations, fundamental regional autonomies should be returned to the constituent indigenous groupings through the conduct of plebiscites. There should also be the renunciation of the military Decree 1999 Constitution which has been held the constituent indigenes hostage since 1999. A return to the truly democratic 1963 Constitution and holding of self-determination autonomy plebiscites for all indigenous nationalities will usher in sustainable development and peace.
Paying Tribute to Mother Teresa of Somalia, Late Dr. Hawa Abdi
I know this earthly life is temporary, but I felt great sorrow when I heard the passing of Dr. Hawa Abdi who died at age 73 in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Dr. Hawa Abdi helped the helpless, the ill, and the internally displaced women and children, and the weak in war-torn Somalia for decades. She studied medicine in Ukraine and “In 1983, she opened a one-room clinic, on her family’s ancestral property, which over the years grew into a settlement which hosts tens of thousands of people, mainly women and children. The settlement in the Afgooye corridor, less than 15 miles from Mogadishu, includes a hospital, a school and a refugee camp.”
When Hawa Abdi was 11, her mother died due to childbirth complications, and because of the medical reason her mother lost her life, and owing to the fact that childbirth-related death was common (and still is) in sub-Saharan Africa for lack of maternity care, Hawa Abdi decided to become a doctor, especially a female gynecologist. And when the civil war broke out in Somalia in early 1990s, as many Somalis were getting displaced by the war, mainly in and around the capital, Mogadishu, more and more people, especially women and children, moved and took refuge in and around the compound of Dr. Hawa Abdi. She worked tirelessly to save lives and became a lifeline for tens of thousands of Somalis. She was not only helping the needy civilians, but the wounded of the countless warring sides in and around Mogadishu and elsewhere ended up over the years in her clinic and hospital to be treated impartially. Hawa Abdi was a selfless figure who helped her fellow countrymen and countrywomen without discriminating them based on their clan, the main malice that has been destroying Somalia for decades, the biggest factor that plunged the country into an endless civil strife.
At times, Hawa Abdi confronted the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al Shabab to save people in her camp, even when they threatened her. At certain times, some of the people in her camp fled for their lives, but she stayed in her camp no matter how dangerous it was to be fearless. That is how brave she was.
Hawa Abdi not only took risks herself, but she supported her daughters to become doctors so that they can help the needy people in their homeland, Somalia. When you look at the alternative, which is for them to live a peaceful life elsewhere, they prefer to stay in their country and help their people. This can teach the Somali people that these beautiful souls sacrificed so much by saving their fellow Somali citizens.
Hawa Abdi was a role model for millions of Somali girls and women. She braved great adversaries in life. She overcame countless challenges and showed all Somalis, even men, that one person can have a great positive impact on her country and people. She showed her African sisters and brothers, with resolve, mountains can be moved because we live in an inner-connected world where one person, one village, and one city can have a certain influence on the entire world. On the other hand, the world has become a global village, and I believe, compared to when Hawa Abdi started her venture decades ago, now we have more opportunities to do what Hawa Abdi did; the world is more connected than before, and information can be obtained faster and more efficiently. The power of the internet is amazing, and if one can have the access and ways to find and understand the right data, one can do wonderful things to change life for the better.
The news of Hawa Abdi’s death shook the Somali social media world. Many Somali social media users, including me, shared their sadness on the death of this giant woman. Rest in peace!
Spilling Oil and Mosaic Racial Prejudices
My heart is heavy with prayers on behalf of Mauritius where I am blessed to be residing and working, as an oil spill catastrophe compounds the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in this idyllically beautiful though in so many ways fragile land. Thanks with ultimate love to those in many places around the world who have texted and emailed your concerns to me about Mauritius. Your prayers and positive thoughts are well needed and greatly appreciated.
This tear jerking natural disaster gives us a reflection today exacerbated with the horrible Beirut blast earlier this week and the deteriorating oil tanker in the Red Sea unattended as proxy war rages in Yemen ; and the profit motive loosening of environmental protections in America,Brazil , and elsewhere in the established and emerging West. And it is impossible for us , none of us, to escape from the web of disastrous environmental circumstances engulfing all of us whether we believe in global warming or not-the coming further biodiversity consequences of global warming adding rock salt to the wounds of and going beyond the present COVID 19 pandemic and its emerging mutations.
Whether we live in the declining North and West or in the emerging South and East in the world, or on mainlands or on islands, the climatical catastrophes are now causing us all to be jolted rudely out of our beds of complacency.We are being forced to open our eyes without the time to indulge in the luxurious privilege of rubbing them to get the sleep out of our dropping post-dreamland eyelids.
What more will it take for we human beings to realize and act constructively about the sobering fact that physical environments and the non-human lives within them and what we human beings do to them have real consequences at all times.We can never afford to waste one minute ignoring anything or being careless when it comes to our environments and to non-human living animals and plants. No matter where we are or stand in any society especially one which claims to be a democracy ,we can never afford be sleep at the wheel.We must always be alert and be proactive and preventive rather than passive and indifferent since that which is a tranquil paradise environment or a scenic port or luscious green forests or beautiful spacious plains and even impoverished and wealthy rural and urban living spaces can in the blink of an eye go up in explosive environmental and life taking smoke or toxic spill.
It is one thing when such environmental and life taking destructions occur beyond our human control such as an earthquake or cyclone or hurricane or volcanic eruption so long as preparations by governments and communities are made so when some mass destructive catastrophe does occur everyone no matter their wealth or poverty and cultural background are all taken care of the same quality of life way.It is the most tragic mass catastrophe which occurs when it is due to governments and communities having the ability to develop natural disaster preparation capacity though don’t bother to do so or ignore the warnings of citizens and noncitizens since for demographic reasons they do not have the respect of the powerful to be listened to and heard for urgent action.Thus when the natural disaster comes those in government, private sector, and civil society power are caught flatfooted and the entire society comes to suffer in one way or another. We all become victims of our own negligence within not outside our control.
In the midst of and in the aftermath of any natural disaster be it beyond or within human control there invariably is raised in these global social media days the human rights concern of the uneven ways the mass catastrophe affects the quality of life of impacted populations. This is especially the case for the quality of life of mass natural disaster effects on historically excluded and marginalized populations. In Mauritius it is the issue of African Kreoles; that is, those Mauritians with African descent heritage who acknowledge their heritage though realizing there are many Mauritians of Indian, English, and French descent with African heritage though not acknowledged let alone in more cases than a few, even known.
Yesterday evening one event I attended in the nearby Town of Rose Hill, not cancelled due to the impending oil spill disaster, was the first ever public conversation in Mauritius about racial prejudice in this otherwise island paradise. Though there was the predicted attempt by some speakers to dilute the issue by speaking about other kinds of non-racial social prejudices ,the focus appropriately always came back to systemic and structural anti-Afro- Kreol prejudice in this land most apparent in the public and in the corporate private sectors and in interracial dating, marriage, and family formations in relation to Afro-Kreols . Paradoxically people here in Mauritius are so closely knitted and friendly though can be so deeply historically divided in their racial prejudices ( Though treated kindly as a brother in most private and public places I have been in Mauritius, I have not been totally immuned from anti-Black racism before or/and after I have opened my American sounding mouth.For instance , consider the Indian doctor seeing me for the first time asking me if the “Professor ” before my name was my actual title or a nickname– well we know Black people, especially older or younger men ,no matter their nationality are not well educated and love nicknames like Prof and Doc, right?🤭😊).
Most of the speakers tried to link their concerns about historical and contemporary anti-Afro-Kreol racial prejudice to the globalizing U.S.George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protest movements supplemented with American peace songs.Just as much there could have been needed attention given to how the oil spill disaster is a tragic reminder of the historic Afro-Kreol fishing industry and how much it has been excluded from especially corporate domestic and global trading markets and trends towards importing fish from other countries than from their own largely Black fishermen.
But it was a good start especially with so many young people present..the future of this nation with such potential to become incredibly great. Have to start somewhere in discussing publicly such a delicate paradoxical blemish in a society with aspirations to be a big league nation in a world where any form of racial prejudice will ultimately impede the dreams of lofty national ambitions.
In moving forward from last night’s first public try to have a conversation about anti-Afro-Kreol racial prejudice and as the gallant efforts to contain the drifting oil continue, there is the chronic need of a more comprehensive national restorative justice initiative involving government and local community leaders developing platforms to have difficult transparent conversations to address the deep societal ugliness captured in what an Afro-Kreol sage told me soon after my arrival: as one Mauritius poet said: Mauritiuians grow two things: pineapples and prejudices.
Though Mauritiuians are indeed nice and kind in public and in their numerous festivals and religious celebrations, what is expressed way too often behind closed doors and in private and public unspoken or spoken preferences in who gets what when it comes to power and privilege and to decent quality of life ( including recruitment invitations to faith communities) are totally different stories. The mosaic spillings of racial prejudices in Mauritius hidden and usually when mentioned explained away under the guises of words like communalism and religion or through mere pretending that such degradation while happening don’t happen, is a slow cancer eating away at the soul of this truly lovely nation which needs to be brought to the surface and made to cease.That is ,if the nation wants to become in substance, not just in global measures of development, a big League global democracy. The mosaic of racial prejudices against Afro-Kreols, African and Asian immigrants,Chinese, Francos, British,Indians, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus in Mauritius has created and sustained very much taken for granted divisions of marginality and exclusion in public and private spheres of Mauritius life which wastes human resources, and create social and emotional distance anxieties and fears and contributes tremendously to brain drain of the highly talented though with devalued demographics migrating elsewhere . Unless this mosaic of deeply rooted racial prejudices is thoroughly publicly addressed, acknowledged, and properly processed and resolved through authentic restorative justice public policy designs and effectively monitored in implemented in the midst of the bare wires of racial inequality being exposed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and now oil spill crisis tainting tourist attracting beaches with obvious racialized winners and losers who always win and lose here wasting human and material resources in so many ways in the process, what will Mauritius be say next year let alone say 10 years from now as a highly vulnerable island state with such high profile ambitions of being a big league African democracy in the world?
And of course from a global perspective, Mauritius ,in reflecting about this big intricate question, is a case study for the rest of the world as most of us around the globe are in the midst of environmental disasters with such dire consequences for most of us residing in such unequal societies.If it is not racial prejudice, it is prejudices premised on age, caste, culture, ethnicity, gender , language, nationality, religion ,socioeconomic status or stateless status, which construct the false dehumanizing walls which keep us apart and degrade our views of others and of ourselves about human capacities to contribute to the well being of the societies we develop, sustain, and change. And then when natural disaster hits elites in private and public sectors are either prepared to address the needs of the most privileged while at best emergency crumbs are tossed to the least among us( e.g. the pathetic COVID 19 pandemic economic aid distributions with the predictable racial disparities, in the States though virtually all over the world).Or through ignoring what the usually ignored forewarn about possible future natural disaster due to the color of their skin or ancestry or some other source of demographic degradation, such as per chance being Afro-Kreol fishing men and women expressing concern about the tilting grounded ship …and now we see.
Every competent voice in every society is needed and it endangers society when needed competent voices are categorically ignored and otherwise devalued. Otherwise we can venture into waters with oil slick streaks and do so totally un- necessarily with long lasting if not permanent catastrophic consequences for all of us especially for the most vulnerable and underprivileged but for all of us.
Russia’s Lukoil Finds A New Home In Senegal
Undoubtedly, a number of Russian companies have largely underperformed in Africa, which experts described as primarily due to multiple reasons. Most often, Russian investors strike important investment niches that still require long-term strategies and adequate country study. Grappling with reality, there are many investment challenges including official bureaucracy and technical hitches in Africa.
Lukoil, the largest Russia’s oil company, has had a long history, going forth and back with declaration of business intentions or mere interests in tapping into oil and gas resources in Africa. In the past, Lukoil have said in separate reports about its business deals in a number of African countries including Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. These are coastal countries on the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) in West Africa.
Besides technical and geographical hitches, Lukoil noted explicitly in its official reports that “the African leadership and government policies always pose serious problems to operations in the region.” It said that the company has been ready to observe strictly all of its obligations as a foreign investor in Africa.
Lukoil has moved to Senegal. Predominantly rural and with limited natural resources, Senegal is classified as a heavily indebted poor country, with a relatively low Human Development Index. Most of the population is on the coast and works in agriculture or other food industries. Other major industries include mining, tourism and services.
Energy is produced by private operators and sold to the Senelec Energy Corporation. According to a 2020 report by the International Energy Agency, Senegal had nearly 70% of the country connected to the national grid. Current government strategies for electrification include investments in off-grid solar and connection to the grid. Senegal has a population of approximately 15.9 million.
In spite of that, business is business. Quite recently, Lukoil, one of the largest Russia’s oil companies, publicly declared that it finally concluded an agreement with Cairn Energy PLC to acquire a 40% interest in RSSD (Rufisque, Sangomar and Sangomar Deep) project in the Republic of Senegal for $300 million in cash.
The agreement provides for potential bonus payment to Cairn Energy PLC of up to $100 million after the commencement of production. The transaction is subject to customary conditions, including the approval by the Government of the Republic of Senegal.
The blocks of the project covering 2,212 sq. km are located on the deepwater shelf of the Republic of Senegal 80 km from the shore with the sea depth of 800-2,175 meters. The blocks include two discovered fields: Sangomar and FAN.
The Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Sangomar field was taken early 2020 and the field development has begun. According to the Company’s estimates, the recoverable hydrocarbon reserves of the Sangomar field total approximately 500 million. The field is planned to be launched in 2023, with designed production level of 5 million tons of crude oil per year.
The RSSD project is currently implemented under a production sharing agreement. Woodside is the project’s operator with 35% stake. Other participants are FAR (15%) and state-owned company Petrosen (10%).
“Entering the project with already explored reserves at early stage of their development is fully in line with our strategy and allows us reinforcing our presence in West Africa. Joining the project with qualified international partners will allow us to gain additional experience in development of offshore fields in the region,” said Vagit Alekperov, President of PJSC Lukoil.
It has, however, one success story. Lukoil company’s operations in the Republic of Ghana where it has focused on upstream exploration. The reserves evaluated on the blocks proves to be sufficient for their industrial development.
On the opposite side, Russian news agencies reported that Lukoil exited projects in Cote d’Ivoire, where it had led exploration in the deep offshore. The company confirmed the information about leaving the projects to TASS News Agency.
In August 2015, Lukoil also pulled out of the oil and gas exploration and drilling project that it began in Sierra Leone. According to Interfax, a local Russian News Agency, the company did not currently have any projects and has backed away due to poor exploration results in Sierra Leone.
It reported that drilling in West Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, did not bring Lukoil the expected results, as preliminary technical results did not demonstrated commercial hydrocarbon reserves. According to official reports, Lukoil has been active in a number of countries with a high level of political and economic risks that could significantly complicate the work of the company in a particular region, and even lead to its termination.
Russia’s Lukoil is one of the world’s biggest vertically integrated companies for production of crude oil and gas, and their refining into petroleum products and petrochemicals. The company is a leader on Russian and international markets in its core business and its key mission is to harness natural energy resources for human benefit and supports long-term economic growth, social stability, prosperity and progress in the regions where it operates.
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