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.
Hydro-projects in Africa: Interview with Vladislav Vasilyev
As widely known, Russia plans to hold the second Russia-Africa summit in 2022, as a further step to make inroads into Africa – that comprises a diverse collection of countries, each with its own set of development setbacks and challenges. The political culture and investment climate are, in fact, diverse but are also important forces in determining the levels of the economy.
As it aims at raising its economic profile, Russia is strongly encouraging Russian business leaders to prioritize sustainable development-oriented projects as a practical step towards raising the living standard of millions of impoverished population in Africa.
For instance, JSC Institute Hydroproject promises to transfer its experience in advanced and innovative technologies, and efficient use of water resources, especially ways of managing and ensuring reliable hydro-energy supply. JSC Institute Hydroproject can further help in the accelerated social and economic development in Africa.
In this interview, Vladislav Vasilyev, Head of International Projects Department at JSC Institute Hydroproject, discusses his company’s efforts directed at establishing hydro-projects in Africa, further touched on the state support for Russian business in Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:
– How important is African market for your company, JSC Institute JSC Institute Hydroproject?
JSC Institute Hydroproject has vast working experience in African countries wherein we have done designs of HPPs in Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, San Tome and Principe, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia. We would like to separately emphasize about the masterpiece high class engineering of the Aswan dam on the Nile river in Egypt. JSC Institute Hydroproject management has deep knowledge of the African market.
– What are your expectations from African governments, industrialists and agribusiness directors in cooperating on products and services of your company?
African countries are among the fastest growing in the world. About one and half billion people live there, and that constitute approximately 20% of the world’s population. At the same time, there is a big demand in infrastructure development. Even the United Nations, forming the “Sustainable Development Goals” emphasizes the high development needs of the African region.
The African market is a big challenge in all areas of water use, from land reclamation to large and complex knowledge-intensive industries, not to mention the usual but much-needed electricity generation. In this regard, we see many opportunities for cooperation with governments, industrialists and in the huge agroindustry.
– Do you envisage any key problems and impediments to developing business, especially in the sphere of agriculture in African countries?
Difficulties and obstacles are possible – this is life. However, we can look at things differently, and see the obstacles as opportunities and incentives. For example, the lack of land reclamation networks makes it possible to build and develop a water delivery system that can become a link to strengthen the local neighboring countries and peoples.
The construction of a hydroelectric power station requires a channel with a large water pressure, which means the presence of a water basin, a reservoir. This will not only provide the local region with electricity, but also provide water. Here are a number of issues that are being resolved with the participation of the design and survey and research school of such a company as JSC Institute Hydroproject.
– How competitive do you see African market for Russian companies, generally, and for your company, specifically? From the previous experience, what challenges Russian companies and investors face in Africa?
There are several challenges, which are still in place for Russian engineering companies on African market. Russia is still not a member country of African Development Bank. AfDB announces many tenders, which are closed to companies from non-member countries. Still it is only a few African countries, who signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation with Russia.
– Business needs vital information, knowledge about the investment climate and so forth. Do you think there has been an information vacuum or gap between the two countries?
In my opinion we can talk about the rapprochement of the positions of Africa and Russia, the formation of new and strengthening of long-standing ties. This is explicitly noted, for instance, by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Head of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uganda, Olive Kigongo.
Joshua Setipa, Managing Director of the United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, says of the importance of high-tech companies: “It is important for us to continuously develop our partner network and establish cooperation with organizations that can help and support less developed countries with their technological and innovative potential. I am sure that working in Russia and, in particular, at the events of the Roscongress Foundation will help us to use the country’s opportunities for the benefit of others.” He said so at the recent Russia-Africa summit in Sochi.
– In your opinion, does the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022 hold an opportunity for raising the level of investment and business engagement with Africa?
Russia-Africa summit is unique platform that is expected to bring together corporate business directors and potential investors from both regions – Russia and Africa. We can simply agree that investments are always possible, and Russia is highly interested in them. This is also a state and business interest. Such people and companies are also among our partners.
According to the achievements of recent years – this is not only the First Joint Russia-Africa Summit, but also during many previous bilateral forums, it is important to say that cooperation in the business sphere is just gaining momentum.
Now there is a lot of work to be done, including a well-structured and well-coordinated policy for Russian business, restructuring foreign policy and supporting economic circles – with African politicians, business people and residents of African countries. It is necessary to cooperate between scientific, technical, humanitarian, information, and digital platforms, and ultimately to develop common approaches for the implementation of our upcoming joint projects.
Nigeria- Ghana Trade War: Where to from here
Several months after a series of bilateral talks between the Nigerian government and authorities in Ghana aimed toward addressing the nearly a decade-long controversy that led to the closure of Nigerian traders’ shops in Ghana, the problems have not been resolved. Hundreds of shops belonging to Nigerian traders are still under lock and key; while most of the owners are stranded. A number of them said they beg to feed, as many of them remain reluctant to return to Nigeria despite a window created by the Nigerian government to facilitate their safe return.
What has happened so far?
President Muhammadu Buhari stunned Nigeria’s neighbors when he unexpectedly closed the country’s land borders to goods trade, saying the time had come to crush contraband trade. The land borders with neighboring Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were closed to goods in August 2019, with partial openings and closings for people prompted by the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.
The center of the lingering controversy was a $1 million levy imposed on Nigerian traders and other foreign investors to pay Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) before the shops would be opened. The conditions set by the Ghanaian authorities had triggered a debate in Nigeria and within the African sub-region, which many considered as a breach of ECOWAS’ trade protocols.
However, on 19 June 2020, armed men entered the compound of the Nigeria High Commission in Ghana, and destroyed buildings under construction. Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama described the vandalism as “outrageous and criminal” and urged the Ghanaian authorities to make sure that they protect Nigerian diplomatic buildings. Nigerian residents in Ghana held a demonstration calling for Nigerian government to take action. Although a piece posted on the Nigerian High Commission website in Ghana places responsibility on a businessperson who had previously claimed he owned the land where the building was being built, Nigerians living in Ghana still took to the streets to protest for their protection. The Ghanaian foreign ministry also promised that security had been “beefed up”.
Flashback on bilateral talks
The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had last year summoned Ghana’s Chargé d’Affaires to Nigeria, Ms. Iva Denoo, with whom he discussed the closure of the Nigerian-owned shops in Accra with a view to addressing the problem. Onyeama described the action taken by the Ghanaian authorities as politically motivated. However, his Ghanaian counterpart, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, countered his allegation, insisting that the crackdown was on illegal foreign retail businesses in Ghana.
Botchwey, described in a tweet by Onyeama, tagging Ghana’s policy on retail business as a politically motivated move as ‘most unfortunate. She said the Ghanaian government did not target any particular nationality in the exercise. “Countries sometimes take tough decisions in order to enforce their laws, just as Nigeria took a decision to shut its borders to stop smuggling, despite its impact on ECOWAS member countries,” she had said.
Is Ghana innocent?
While it’s easier to quickly point a finger at Nigeria as the aggressor, given it’s the bigger country who opted to shut its borders, therefore creating a ripple effect in the smaller economies, Ghana also has laws that clash with ECOWAS protocol, which ensures the free movement of the community’s citizens, as well as free and fair trade. The 2013 Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act (GIPC) is one such Act. It prioritizes the interests of Ghanaian traders and business owners by designating certain only its citizens, whereby foreigners wanting to set up shop in Ghana must have a minimum equity capital of $10,000, run enterprises. That alone limits the number of foreigners – particularly from the poorer surrounding West African countries – who can successfully work in Ghana.
Where to from here
While tariffs can result in individual ‘winners’, a full trade war, protectionism, and a reversal of decades of globalization would damage economies across the board, hitting emerging markets particularly hard. COVID-19 has arguably pushed many countries towards concentrating on themselves, as many economies have been negatively affected in an exceedingly shocking manner. Although few expect to see the kinds of tensions witnessed in the 1980s when Nigeria expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, half of whom were from Ghana.
- Nigeria border closure weakened trade across West Africa
- A full trade war and globalization reversal will benefit nobody
- Nigerian traders have suffered the most; Ghanaians also faces pain
- Traders have seen big losses.
- Demolition of Nigerian High Commission building in Accra.
H.E. President John Mahama Appointed As AU High Representative for Somalia
The Chairperson of the Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, has announced the appointment of H.E John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana, as his High Representative to Somalia.
As the High Representative for Somalia’s political track, President Mahama will work with the Somali stakeholders, to reach a mutually acceptable compromise towards an all-encompassing resolution for the holding of Somali elections in the shortest possible time.
In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative will be supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), to ensure that the mediation efforts and the peace support operation work together seamlessly.
The Chairperson of the Commission calls on the Somali stakeholders to negotiate in good faith, and to put the interests of Somalia and the well-being of the Somali people above all else in the search for an inclusive settlement to the electoral crisis.
This should usher in a democratically elected government with the legitimacy and mandate to resolve the remaining outstanding political and constitutional issues that are posing a threat to the stability of the country and the region as a whole.
The Chairperson of the Commission also encourages all the Somali stakeholders and the international community to extend every support to the High Representative, who will arrive the country in the coming days.
Ambassador Abukar Arman, a former Somalia special envoy to the United States and a foreign policy analyst says there have previously been interventions from neighbors have not brought Somalia the promised peace.
It is clear that no Somali can pursue a political career in his own country without first getting Ethiopia’s blessings. Already, Ethiopia has installed a number of its staunch cohorts in the current government and (along with Kenya) has been handpicking virtually all of the new regional governors, mayors and so forth.
In October 2010, the African Union appointed Jerry John Rawlings as the AU High Representative for Somalia to “mobilize the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.”
That however, Ambassador Arman says the former Ghana president and AU Special Representative for Somalia is now assuming his new post with significant diplomatic capital, mainly resulting from the credible work of his fellow countryman, former president, and Special Envoy to Somalia, Jerry John Rawlings.
“On the other hand, he would be carrying the hefty political burden that comes with the so-called African Solutions for African Problems and its cash-gulping record. The concept is taken hostage by African sloganeers and foreign elements eager to advance zero-sum interests,” he wrote me in an emailed message.
Make no mistake, Somalia is held in a nasty headlock by a neighbourhood tag-team unmistakably motivated by zero-sum objective. It is their so-called African solution (not so much of the extremist group al-Shabaab) that is setting the Horn on fire.
According to AFP news report, Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule. But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital. The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohamed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks. Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms. Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohamed re-launched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote. In the meanwhile, the international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon.
Somalia remains the epicenter of global geopolitical and geo-economic competition. Some of the major ones are in a cut-throat competition that further complicates the Somalia conundrum. With its longest coastline, bordering Ethiopia to the west, Kenya to the southwest and the Gulf of Eden, Somalia has attracted many foreign countries to the region in East Africa.
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