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Soyinka at Harvard: carpets Jonathan, Obasanjo, chides Igbo on sectional politics

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Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has interpreted the outcome of the recently concluded presidential election as a stark choice between a failed president and a former military dictator; saying president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari was the better of the two evils as the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan had been an unmitigated disaster and failure.

 Defending his support for the former military dictator, the foremost dramatist said at a personal level, it was a “painful decision to tell people to vote Buhari, but the country needed a new beginning. I was more against Jonathan, than I was pro-Buhari,” he told a sold-out audience at the Harvard University Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, where he delivered a lecture on: “Predicting Nigeria, Electoral Ironies”

“If the incumbent had been anything near competent,” Buhari’s most maladroit statement about the dog and the baboon being soaked in blood, would have been enough to scuttle his presidential ambition for the fourth time, Soyinka averred. As the nation’s much talked-about centenary year ended, the 2015 elections offered Nigerians an opportunity to halt the nation’s descent into anarchy. In Soyinka’s view, four more years of Jonathan would have seen Nigeria plummet further, as the crawling giant of Africa, and the beggarly, weeping boy in the comity of nations.

In a country where one of the six zones that make up the federation was on the verge of excision, with millions of beleaguered citizens marooned in the north east of the country; and thousands more cruelly murdered by insurgents, all Jonathan could offer was mollifying rhetoric and empty promises. Even as the nation tittered on the brink of perdition, a mesmerizing state of perplexity seemed to envelope the seat of power. Nigeria is in a state of war, and the President, Commander-in-chief must not only lead but be seen to lead the charge. The situation demanded exemplary leadership, which Jonathan could not provide; not because he was unaware of the problem; he was just at a loss for solutions. “It is not for nothing that he [Jonathan] was called clueless,” Soyinka said amid derisive applause.

Accusing Jonathan of setting the law of simple arithmetic on its head; referring to the split in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Soyinka regretted that Jonathan’s recognition of the minority after a straightforward, peer election rendered democracy meaningless where it should have been most fervently exemplified. “Nothing is more unworthy of leadership than to degrade a system by which one attains fulfillment, and this is what the nation witnessed time and time again under Jonathan, who increasingly becoming intolerant of opposition in an escalating streak of impunity and authoritarian madness, which was most blatant and unconscionable.” He disclosed that “even after Jonathan personally confided to him that he made a mistake by surrounding himself with the wrong people, the president continued to surprise us in ways that very few could have conjectured.”

He condemned the appointment of Gbenga Daniel as Jonathan’s campaign manager in the southwest zone describing Gbenga’s action of locking out members of the State House of Assembly because the legislators refused to allow him borrow money as an infamy and said Jonathan must be held responsible for the increase in impunity in the nation that threatens to scuttle the hard-earned democracy. Soyinka presents a grim picture and makes no bones of the fact that he has lost faith in the Nigerian project. The “militricians” – soldiers turned politicians in power aren’t looking for excellence; their civilian cohorts are worse. Short cuts and how to circumvent the system for the profit of a few are the norm of governance. Those who do honest work are derided as lacking the skill to fit it. Ironically, things haven’t quite changed a bit after 16 years of democracy in the country. How do you account for a society saddled with monsters strutting the national landscape as leaders? How do you counterbalance the national madness for the sanity of ordinary citizens trying to make sense of their lives? Soyinka finds the answer in predicting Nigeria; electoral ironies, to counter the inanities of leadership and those ruining the nation with their greed and avarice.

In Predicting Nigeria, Soyinka outlined seven key metrics to provide a historical context within which the parlous state of the nation and its current efforts at national rebirth could be strategically analyzed. The seven metrics, as in the biblical seven plagues include the elusive quest for the original document of amalgamation that purportedly stated that the Nigerian project was a 100-year experiment that was to end in 2014. Against this backdrop of prediction 2014, came the second plague, which was the tilt towards national fragmentation wrapped in political desperation and polarization along religious lines as the country headed into the 2015 general elections. It is on record, he said, that tension generated by conflict of religious interests and beliefs have led to loss of lives and property, yet Nigeria as a nation was not founded solely on the basis of Muslim/Christian configuration. Had every religious leader or their followers adhered to the tenets of their religion in a way that is shorn of worldly manipulations, there is no doubt that Nigeria would have been a better place for every citizen and would have been saved much of the stress and strain being witnessed today, Soyinka said. If Nigeria must have a new lease of life, religion must cease to be a defining factor or must play a less destructive role. And that is what the constitution of Nigeria expects it to be.

According to Soyinka, the political fault lines that gave rise to primordial sentiments were championed by micro-nationalistic organizations, such as the Movement for the Actualization of the Southern States of Biafra (MASSOB), the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and sundry organizations like AREWA in the north. Even after the fratricidal civil war of 1966-70, Soyinka said the Igbos remained unrepentant and resolute towards their strategic objective of secession at worst; or a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction at best. He said although MASSOB did not have the same Pan-Igbo outreach like the umbrella Ohanaeze Ndigbo socio-cultural group, MASSOB carried sufficient clout amongst the Igbos to open offices, defy government directives against its secessionist activities and even printed its own currency.

The climax of MASSOB’s war against the Nigerian state was the call for sit-ins and civil disobedience that shut down markets and public services as Igbos stayed at home in a symbolic gesture to assert Biafran independence. “The call was honored by governors in the two principal Ibo states, though without fanfare,” Soyinka noted, adding humorously that the Igbos are probably the only group of Nigerians that you can predict with great accuracy whom they will vote for in an election, because they tend to put their votes where their stomachs take them; suffering as it were, from incurable money-mindedness, as they would stop at nothing in their quest for personal financial gain. In response to the belligerent show of strength by Southerners who had become “increasingly bellicose and provocative”, a highly resentful northern elite under the AREWA consultative forum, became obsessed with the politics of dominance.

Northerners took statements by Asari Dokubo; who warned the nation to re-elect Jonathan or go up in flames as a declaration of war. Northern politicians like Buhari responded in kind: “if what happened in 2011 repeats itself in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood.”

Soyinka admitted that the unhealthy rivalry between the two dominant religions, Christianity and Islam, is so bad that Nigeria has on a number of occasions been subjected to undue tension and bitter acrimony. It is only by sheer providence that Nigeria has been able to survive the war of attrition and mutual distrust created by religion and fanned dutifully, selfishly and hypocritically by its leaders. Soyinka recounted how he became saddled with the onerous responsibility of negotiating the release of kidnapped American hostages by MEND militants, explaining that it was the unintended consequence of his decision to grant refuge to Asari Dokubo’s wife who sought asylum in his house after her husband was tricked and jailed by then president Olusegun Obasanjo. He regretted that Dokubo was transformed into a Frankenstein monster by the Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration who gave him millions of dollar contracts to secure the creeks and protect oil installations, even after Dokubo had initially rejected the government’s amnesty program; insisting he should be the one granting amnesty to the government.

As Nigeria harps on the inevitability of unity amidst another war against murderous insurgents with a nondescript cause, which he described as the “godfather of all plagues”– Boko Haram, the famed writer made no secret of his belief that Boko Haram was the brain child of northern politicians, notably former Borno governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, whom he accused of ordering the extra-judicial killing of the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in police custody to prevent him from revealing his backers. Daring Modu-Sheriff to sue him for defamation, Soyinka took strong exception against the controversial photo-op, which had Modu Sheriff in audience with Jonathan and Chadian president Idris Derby in Ndjamena, saying Jonathan’s widely publicized scandalous liaison with the alleged Boko Haram financier, was inappropriate and indecent; portraying either extreme naivety or callous disdain for public opinion.

Irrespective of how Sheriff came to sit with Jonathan, Soyinka said it was unlikely there was any country in the world, where such grave accusation bordering on national security and public peace has been levelled against a former public official so high, and no investigation is made. Either way, it was a bad sight to see; as it conveyed contempt for the principles of accountable leadership. Soyinka also faulted Jonathan for failing to won the war against Boko Haram. Even as the nation was bleeding, the body language and the atmosphere in the seat of power did not reflect the pain and vulnerability of the country. Was Jonathan so numbed, so unshockable, so desensitized to sympathize with the Nigerian people? The offensives against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria were too shameful and belittling and Jonathan’s leadership quotient hit rock bottom by his failure to visit Chibok. It was certainly an unimaginable feat of political miscalculation and a colossal error of judgment; as it portrayed Mr. President as thoroughly insensitive. By his uncanny display of ineptitude in rescuing the Chibok girls, the president was derelict in his duty to the Nigerian people. Soyinka accused Jonathan of being in cahoots with selfish politicians who have turned the insurgency into a self-enriching industry.

Admitting that the patriotism and sacrifice of the soldiers who have reversed the tide against Boko Haram is the reference for all if Nigeria would be safe and if each Nigerian would be his brother’s or sister’s keeper, Soyinka hailed the singular patriotism of Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, whose sacrificial act of preventing the Liberian Ebola carrier, Patrick Sawyer, from unleashing the dreaded virus on all of Nigeria, saved the country from a health catastrophe beyond imagination; saying she personified the best of Nigeria and the best in the Nigerian. Her life is a profile in courage and a good place to begin in forging a national character if Nigeria would have a future.

Contrasting Dr. Adadevoh’s example with that of first lady, Patience Jonathan, Soyinka strongly condemned the first lady syndrome and their pervasive influence on Nigerian politics. Given that the office of first lady is unknown to the Nigerian constitution, a better conduct was expected of the first lady at a time when the ship of state was floundering; rather than the valorization of impunity. In concord with the dictates of right reason and good conscience, the bare-faced debasement of the law by Mrs. Jonathan; who by association with democratic rule, should be an ambassador of civil decorum, respect for the rights of persons and the rule of law, deserves condemnation. If Mrs. Jonathan would abuse her position to fan her ego, it is at least the duty of the President who ought to know better, to negate this anomaly by reining his wife’s embarrassing comportment.

In very unglamorous language, Soyinka said the theatre of political absurdity which Nigeria degenerated under Obasanjo is highly despicable and stands condemned in the strongest terms. Having assumed power under a civilian dispensation, democracy in Nigeria became a dangerous object of derision, no thanks to Obasanjo who decided to pervert legality and constitutionality in his quest for tenure elongation. Having directly handpicked his successors, and by default responsible for the crisis of governance that ensued following the demise of late President Yar’Adua, it is difficult for Obasanjo to stand blameless in the ensuing breach of constitutional order. Obasanjo, coming for the second time, had a lot to do to change his public perception and prove his critics wrong. Describing Obasanjo as a pathological liar, Soyinka responded to OBJ’s damning condemnation of his person in his memoirs, saying OBJ remained the most “sadistic, self-serving, self-adoring, manipulative hypocrite” whose lust for power drove him to choose Yar’Adua (despite the latter’s failing health); because he believed Yar’Adua will die during the arduous campaign, and setting a propitious scenario for him to hang on to power; even as a “back-seat driver.”

With the election of Buhari whose anti-democratic credentials are well known and established, Soyinka noted that another chapter in Nigeria’s life must begin. Soyinka believes Buhari’s election signals the country’s desire to lay to rest existing prejudices and distrust and feelings of marginalization in whatever form, as a way of inspiring confidence in the strength of a diverse country. If Buhari the “Militrician” (soldier turned politician) is sensitive to all areas of mutual distrust, he will earn the confidence and trust of the people, and this will certainly imbue his actions with legitimacy and acceptability. This is how, in the final analysis, a new Nigeria, which is the dream of all, will be born.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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