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IN THE THRESHOLD OF CHANGING WORLD

Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is one man never out of the news. Since he left office in 2007, he has remained a constant feature in the political scheme of things in Nigeria. If he is not writing acerbic letters to the leader of Black World’s most populous country, he is firing shots at members of the country’s National Legislature lampooning them for corruption. He did just that once again at a public lecture in Lagos on November 23 2016.

In a paper entitled “Nigeria Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Governance and Accountability” delivered at the first Akintola Williams Annual Lecture in Lagos, Obasanjo lambasted President Muhammadu Buhari for giving too many excuses for his lack of performance on the economic front, and also for his proposed $30 billion foreign loan which he said would amount to “mortgaging the future of Nigeria for well over thirty years to come”. The former President also dressed down the National Assembly, describing it as “a den of corruption by a gang of unarmed robbers.” The Judiciary and Military were also not spared as Obasanjo expressed disgust at the recent revelations of corruption in the two institutions.

The House of Representatives reacted sharply to the former Present’s speech, describing him as the “grandfather of corruption” in Nigeria.

Hardly had Obasanjo’s bombshell die down than the Director-General of National Population Commission (NPC) Ghaji Bello, reveal that Nigeria’s population was currently put at 182 million people, and that about 50 percent of this is less than 30 years of age, thus putting a severe strain on the nation, with its sliding economy and declining revenue to provide enough schools and health facilities.

Bello, who made this revelation in Abuja, said the latest estimate was based on the population of 140 million recorded in the last census a decade ago, using an annual growth rate of 3.5 percent weighed against other variables such as rising life expectancy and a declining infant mortality rate.

As the country’s population continues to balloon in the face of declining economic fortunes, social vices such as hunger, crime, drug abuse and prostitution can only but grow along with it. This scenario played out on November 11 when a seven-year-old boy was lynched and burnt to death by an angry mob in the Orile Iganmu area of Lagos for allegedly stealing garri. Garri is a staple food item in Nigeria. There were however conflicting reports that the victim was not a seven-year-old boy but a member of a gang of notorious thieves trying to steal an Infinix Hot Note 2 cellphone from a woman who screamed for help.

Neither the boy nor the woman’s name is yet known. However, as the gory video of the boy being burnt alive went viral, Nigerians reacted in outrage, thus forcing the Senate to pass a resolution to accelerate the passage of an anti-jungle justice bill to end mob killings in Nigeria.

Mob Justice has been a regular occurrence in Nigeria. In 2012 four students of the University of Port-Harcourt were similarly lynched and killed at Aluu community in Choba, Rivers State, in what is today known in Nigeria as the Aluu 4. Also in July this year a mob killed a street preacher, Mrs Juliet Agbame, in Kano for alleged blasphemy.

And in the United States of America, the acrimonious presidential election campaign has come and gone, but  the winner, Republican nominee Donald Trump, is having his victory  challenged in three key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein on the grounds that unspecified “anomalies” may have affected the election’s outcome.

Immediately after the election results were announced, protests broke out in different parts of America as people rejected Donald Trump’s victory. Many Americans were outraged that Hilary Clinton, the Democratic Party presidential candidate lost the election in spite of having won the popular vote. They argued that for all Americans to have a say in who becomes their President, the electoral system must be reformed as the winner-takes-all Electoral College system has twice in only five elections produced anti-democratic outcome. The protests prompted a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers including J. Alex Halderman, (director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society) and John Bonifaz, (founder of the National Voting Rights Institute) to begin studying the election results. In the process they found statistical anomalies. For example, Clinton’s votes were discovered to be 7% lower than expected in counties that used electronic voting machines to tally votes, as opposed to using paper ballots and optical scan voting systems.

Donald Trump has filed his objection to the vote recount, while Jill Stein, in a surprise twist, has dropped her petition for a recount of votes in Pennsylvania after a judge ordered her campaign team to post a $US1 million ($1.34 million) bonds. Her team has however vowed to continue the fight in federal court. It will be interesting to see how this pans out at the end of the day.

While the legal battle over the US Presidential vote recount rages on, her longest hitherto living enemy and a man who ruled Cuba with an iron-fist will for 47 years, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz a.k.a Fidel Castro quietly passed on 25th November at the age of 90. He died ten years after handing over the mantle of Cuban leadership to his younger brother, Raul Castro who broke the news to a shocked Cuban nation in a late night broadcast on national television. A period of national mourning was immediately declared till 4 December, when Fidel Castro’s ashes were interned at a cemetery in the south-eastern city of Santiago City with 21-gun salute.

Fidel Castro was one of the most renowned and popular revolutionaries of the 20th century, especially in emergent independent countries of the Third World seeking a future free from colonialism or extreme capitalist. Very few individuals in the last century had a more profound impact on their country than Fidel Castro had in Cuba. Throughout the Cold War, he was a thorn in Washington’s side.

An accomplished tactician on the battlefield, then 32 year old bearded Castro and his small army of revolutionaries overthrew the US-backed military leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Within two years of taking power, he declared the revolution to be Marxist-Leninist in nature and allied his country firmly with (then) Soviet Union. He successfully warded off the counter-revolutionist invasion by Cuban exiles armed and supported by the United States in 1961. He also survived a total 638 assassination attempts many of which were allegedly plotted by American regimes. Castro went on to survive nine American presidents, from General Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, and did not formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the US until July 20 2015 when both countries re-opened embassies in Washington and Havana.

Finally, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kick-started his first ever tour to Africa with a state visit to Monrovia where he met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 24th November. While in Monrovia, both leaders discussed issues of mutual interest, including peace and security, gender equality, human rights, education and economic growth. They also met with prominent women leaders, including Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director for Women, Gender and Development with the African Union; Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; local community activists and youth. Prime Minister Trudeau underscored Canada’s commitment to empowering women and girls, recognizing gender equality as being essential to sustainable development and inclusive peace. The Canadian Prime Minister announced that $12.5 million in new aid would be made available to support democracy, peace and security and gender equality in Africa.

From Liberia, Trudeau flew to Madagascar where he participated in the XVI Summit of La Francophonie held on 27th November. During the Summit, the Prime Minister also announced his Government’s willingness to provide $112.8 million for international aid projects that will benefit several African countries and Haiti. The fund will be used for projects that aim to fight climate change, empower women, and protect their rights. It will also be used to stimulate economic growth, which will create job opportunities for young people and women, and to counter terrorism and prevent radicalization.

Nigerian-Canadian Newspaper will continue to monitor and report these developments and more as they evolve in a fast-changing world. Happy reading