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.
Critical Views On Russia’s Policy Towards Africa Within Context Of New World Order
In September WhatsApp conversation with Matthew Ehret, a Senior Fellow and International Relations Expert at the American University in Moscow, he offers an insight into some aspects of Russia-African relations within the context of the emerging new global order.
In particular, Matthew gives in-depth views on Russia’s valuable contribution in a number of economic sectors including infrastructure development during the past few years in Africa, some suggestions for African leaders and further on the possible implications of Russia-China collaboration with Africa. Here are important excerpts of the wide-ranging interview:
What are the implications here and from historical perspectives that Russia is looking for its allies from Soviet-era in Africa…and “non-Western friends” for creating the new world order?
Russia is certainly working very hard to consolidate its alliances with many nations of the global south and former non-aligned network. This process is hinged on the Russia-China alliance best exemplified by the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union with the Belt and Road Initiative and the spirit of cooperation outlined in the the Feb. 4 Joint Statement for a New Era of Cooperation.
Of course this is more than simply gaining spheres of influence as many analysts try to interpret the process now underway, but has much more to do with a common vision for instituting a new system of cooperation, creative growth and long term thinking uniting diverse cultural and religious groups of the globe around a common destiny which is a completely different type of paradigm than the unipolar ideology of closed-system thinking dominant among the technocrats trying to manage the rules based international order.
Soviet Union, of course, enormously supported Africa’s liberation struggle and resultantly attained political independence in the 60s. What could be the best practical way for Russia to fight what it now referred to as “neocolonialism” in Africa?
Simply operating on a foundation of honest business is an obvious but important thing to do. The African people have known mostly abuse and dishonest neo-colonial policies under the helm of the World Bank and IMF since WW2, and so having Russia continue to provide investment and business deals tied to the construction of special economic zones that drive industrial growth, infrastructure and especially modern electricity access which Africa desperately needs are key in this process.
African countries currently need to transform the untapped resources, build basic infrastructure and get industrialized -these are necessary to become somehow economic independent. How do you evaluate Russia’s role in these economic areas, at least, during the past decade in Africa?
It has been improving steadily. Of course, Russia does not have the same level of national controls over their banking system as we see enjoyed by China whose trade with Africa has attained $200 billion in recent years while Russia’s trade with Africa is about $20 billion. But despite that, Russia has done well to not only provide trains in Egypt, and has made the emphasis on core hard infrastructure, energy, water systems, and interconnectivity a high priority in the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit and the upcoming 2023 Summit.
Generally, how can we interpret African elite’s sentiments about Russia’s return to Africa? Do you think Russia is most often critical about United States and European Union’s hegemony in Africa?
I think the over arching feeling is one of trust and relief that Russia has returned with a spirit of cooperation. According to all the messaging from Lavrov who recently completed an important Africa tour late July, I can say that Russia is very critical of the USA and EU approach to hegemony in Africa. As Museveni and the South Africa Foreign Minister have recently emphasized, they are sick of being talked down to and threatened by western patronizing technocrats, whereas we see a sense of mutual respect among the discourse of Russian and Chinese players which is seen as a breath of fresh air.
While the west is obsessed with “appropriate green technologies” for Africa while chastizing the continent for its corruption problems (which is fairly hypocritical when one looks at the scope of corruption within the Wall Street- City of London domain), Russia supports all forms of energy development from coal, oil, natural gas and even nuclear which Africa so desperately needs to leapfrog into the 21st century.
Understandably, Russia’s policy has to stimulate or boost Africa’s economic aspirations especially among the youth and the middle class. What are views about this? And your objective evaluation of Russia’s public outreach diplomacy with Africa?
So far Russia has done well in stimulating their youth policy with expanded scholarships to African youth touching on agricultural science, engineering, medicine, IT, and other advanced sectors. Additionally the Special Economic Zones built up by Russia in Mozambique, Egypt have established opportunities for manufacturing and other technical training that has largely been prevented from growing under the IMF-World Bank model of conditionality laced loans driven primarily by the sole aim of resource extraction for western markets and overall control by a western elite. Russia has tended to follow China’s lead (and her own historic traditions of aiding African nations in their development aspirations) without pushing the sorts of regime change operations or debt slavery schemes which have been common practice by the west for too long.
Sochi summit has already provided the key to the questions you have, so far, discussed above. Can these, if strategically and consistently addressed, mark a definitive start of a new dawn in the Russia-African relations?
Geopolitical confrontation, rivalry and competition in Africa. Do you think there is an emerging geopolitical rivalry, and confrontation against the United States and Europe (especially France) in Africa? What if, in an alliance, China and Russia team up together?
China and Russia have already teamed up together on nearly every aspect of geopolitical, scientific, cultural and geo-economic interest imaginable which has created a robust basis for the continued successful growth of the multipolar alliance centered as it is upon such organizations as the BRICS+, SCO, ASEAN and BRI/Polar Silk Road orientation. This is clear across Africa as well and to the degree that this alliance continues to stand strong, which I see no reason why it would not for the foreseeable future, then an important stabilizing force can not only empower African nations to resist the threats, intimidation and destabilizing influences of western unipolarists.
Sahel security crisis ‘poses a global threat’
Rising insecurity, including the proliferation of terrorist and other non-State armed groups, coupled with political instability, is creating a crisis in the Sahel that poses a “global threat”, the UN chief warned Thursday’s high level meeting on the vast African region, which took place behind closed doors at UN Headquarters in New York.
“If nothing is done, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks issued by his Spokesperson’s Office.
“A coordinated international breakthrough is urgently needed. We must rethink our collective approach and show creativity, going beyond existing efforts.”
The insecurity is making a “catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse”, he said, leaving some beleaguered national governments, without any access to their own citizens.
‘Deadly grip’ tightening
Meanwhile, “non-State armed groups are tightening their deadly grip over the region and are even seeking to extend their presence into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.”
The indiscriminate use of violence by terrorist and other groups means that thousands of innocent civilians are left to suffer, while millions of others are forced from their homes, Mr. Guterres told the meeting of national leaders, during the High Level Week summit.
“Women and children in particular are bearing the brunt of insecurity, violence and growing inequality”, he said, with human rights violations, sometimes committed by security forces mandated to protect civilians, “of great concern”.
And the crises are being compounded by climate change, said the UN chief, with soil erosion and the drying-up of water sources, “thereby contributing to acute food insecurity and exacerbating tensions between farmers and herders.”
“Against a global backdrop of turmoil on energy, food and financial markets, the region is threatened by a systemic debt crisis that is likely to have repercussions throughout the continent.”
The conventional international finance remedies are not helping, the UN chief said bluntly, with more and more countries forced to channel precious reserves into servicing debt payments, leaving them unable to pursue an inclusive recovery, or boost resilience.
“It is absolutely necessary to change the rules of the game of the financial reports of the world. These rules of the game are today completely against the interests of developing countries, and in particular the interests of African countries”, said Mr. Guterres, “with debt problems, with liquidity problems, with inflation problems, with instability, necessarily posed by this profound injustice in international financial and economic relations.”
Democracy, constitutional order
The UN chief called for a “renewal of our collective efforts to promote democratic governance and restore constitutional order” across the whole Sahel, which stretches from Senegal in the west to northern Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, a belt beneath the Sahara of up to 1,000 kilometres.
The rule of law and full respect for human rights are indispensable for ensuring security and sustainable development, Mr. Guterres said.
Addressing national leaders and senior politicians from the region, he said the UN “stands ready to work alongside you, with urgency and solidarity, for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sahel.”
South Sudan: Extended roadmap for lasting peace deal, a ‘way point, not an end point’
Since 2018, the Revitalized Agreement between the key players in South Sudan’s long-running civil war has provided a framework for peace, the Head of the UN mission there, UNMISS, told the Security Council on Friday – “despite continued outbreaks of intercommunal violence”.
UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom said that although key provisions of the Agreement are set to end by February, the parties agreed in August on a Roadmap that extends the current transitional period by 24 months.
While a welcome development, he reminded that “there is no alternative to the implementation of the peace agreement”.
“Let me underscore that the roadmap is a way point, not an end point”, he said.
Inclusive political process
The UNMISS chief flagged the importance of an inclusive political process and the opening of civic spaces as “essential conditions” for a robust and competitive electoral process.
He then outlined some steps underway – from President Salva Kiir and first Vice-President Riek Machar’s agreement to resolve the parliamentary impasse, to the graduation of the first class of joint armed forces recruits – for which budgetary resources, integration and deployment, are vital to allow a broader security sector transformation.
“Failure to address these critical issues…have the potential to reverse the gains made,” Mr. Haysom warned.
He went on to describe violence on the regional level, marked by cycles of cattle raiding, abduction, and revenge killings along with fighting in Upper Nile state that has displaced thousands of people.
The Special Representative reported that while conflict-related violence is also increasing, UNMISS continues to support prevention through policy frameworks and other areas.
“The Mission is strengthening its support to the justice chain in each state…to address crimes that risk destabilizing the peace, including those involving gender-based violence,” he told the ambassadors.
Mr. Haysom said that UNMISS has managed to accomplish a “double pivot” in its focus and operations, by channeling resources towards the political process; proactive deployment to violent hotspots; and expanding its protection presence for civilians.
He assured that South Sudan’s natural resources have “tremendous potential” for either conflict, or cooperation.
“It is always political that can make the difference”.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he acknowledged that food security continues to deteriorate, leaving some 8.3 million people in need and outstripping available funding.
Noting that the Humanitarian Response Plan is only 44.6 per cent funded, he urged donors to fulfil their pledges.
He asserted that the next few months would be “a litmus test” for the parties to demonstrate their commitment to the Roadmap, warning against “delays and setbacks”.
In closing, the Special Representative reaffirmed the importance of the international community’s support.
“Our collective task now is to support the parties in fulfilling their obligations to the people of South Sudan as per the timing of the Roadmap,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Lilian Riziq, President, South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network discussed a broad-based and inclusive process for all key participants, underscoring the need for a new transitional governance process.
She underscored that election timelines are indispensable, noting that four years on, levels of revitalized agreement implementation have not brought security or ended humanitarian misery.
She also highlighted ways that precious oil revenues in South Sudan, have been heavily misused.
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