Drogba: It’s about the team

TO GO WITH Fbl-Asia-CHN-Drogba,FOCUS by Cameron WilsonThis photo taken on August 4, 2012 shows Didier Drogba gesturing as he plays for Shanghai Shenhua FC in their game against Hangzhou Greentown in Shanghai Hongkou Stadium.  A month after arriving in China, Drogba is living up to the expectations of fans and players who have given him the new nickname "Devil Beast" for his strength.    AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/GettyImages)

TO GO WITH Fbl-Asia-CHN-Drogba,FOCUS by Cameron Wilson
This photo taken on August 4, 2012 shows Didier Drogba gesturing as he plays for Shanghai Shenhua FC in their game against Hangzhou Greentown in Shanghai Hongkou Stadium. A month after arriving in China, Drogba is living up to the expectations of fans and players who have given him the new nickname “Devil Beast” for his strength. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/GettyImages)

Johannesburg – Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba doesn’t believe the team revolves around him anymore. The team’s fans think otherwise.

The Ivorians arrived in South Africa on Wednesday to begin another desperate quest for a long-awaited African Cup of Nations title.

The tournament favourites were showered with flowers by noisy, drum-beating fans at a small airport on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Even with African player-of-the-year Yaya Toure and other high-profile stars in Ivory Coast’s powerful squad, Drogba was still the one the hundreds of fans clamoured to see.

In bright orange T-shirts, the supporters pushed up against metal security fences to touch the tall striker and offer him flowers as he walked past them and onto the team bus.

One woman, with an Ivorian flag wrapped around her waist, fell to the ground and moaned, “Drogba, Drogba,” as the bus pulled away.

Africa’s best player for probably the last decade, Drogba is now 34 and has touched down at what many expect will be his last African Cup. He’ll be nearly 37 when the next one rolls around.

Even so, Drogba said he wouldn’t let his unfulfilled desire for the international title that will complement a glorious club career distract the Ivorian team this month.

“I’m not thinking about myself, I’m thinking about the team,” he said.

Ivory Coast, despite their rich recent talent, haven’t won the continental championship in over 20 years.

“There’s no pressure at all,” he added after being asked if his time was running out. “I think we still have time.”

Drogba wouldn’t even get into the business of his club career, and whether a move back to Europe from China was an imminent possibility.

“The focus for me is the African Cup,” he said, “so I don’t want to speak about what’s happening in China. African Cup, thank you.”

The Ivorians flew in to Lanseria International Airport – Johannesburg’s second airport – in a white chartered plane with “Cote d’Ivoire” emblazoned on the sides in orange letters.

The players smiled, waved and touched hands with the fans through the fence and posed for photographs for their followers as they emerged from the terminal.

They’ll relocate to Rustenburg in the next few days, where they meet Togo, Algeria and Tunisia in Group D.

“It’s a tough group,” Drogba said, “(but) if you want to win it, you have to face the best teams.”

Toure and coach Sabri Lamouchi also indicated the players were aware of but not overburdened by the expectation again placed on Africa’s top-ranked team, who have had a string of heart-breaking near misses in recent African Cups.

The disappointment culminated in a painful loss to Zambia in a marathon penalty shootout in the final at the last tournament, just 12 months ago.

Toure said the Ivorians “have to be as strong as possible.”

“What we want is to prove to our fans that we want this trophy,” the Manchester City midfielder said. “We have to concentrate match after match.”

Coach Lamouchi, speaking through a translator, said: “We are here for a mission.”

UK support is good news for Ethiopians by Ethiopian ambassador to London

The Guardian,

Your article on DfID’s support for Ethiopia‘s development is very misleading. (UK bid to spend millions training forces accused of abuse, 11 January). Blanket condemnation of the federal and regional government efforts to protect civilians of Ethiopia’s Somali region from atrocities committed by ONLF terrorists is unfair. The difficult job they do in a region which borders Somalia, where al-Shabaab and international groups were freely operating hand-in-glove until recently, should be given due recognition.

The security forces of the region, whose members are drawn from the local community, have helped defend that community and territory from the criminal acts of those who kill innocent civilians and destroy property, which is why the vast majority of the region is now peaceable and beginning to thrive. DfID recognises this, which is why it is funding police training. There isn’t a police force in the world which does not require regular training sessions so it may live up to its responsibilities in its interaction with the people it serves.

Your report cites Amnesty International‘s concern at”any engagement” with the Liyu police. Would Amnesty prefer that no further training was given? DfID can be proud that it is assisting with such valuable training and other development support in key domains such as health, education and provision of clean water.

Reporting on the Horn of Africa by Human Rights Watch is generally biased and anti-government. It takes at face value allegations that are made by terrorist groups, with no on-the-ground verification, yet dismisses out of hand government statements and well-documented cases of abuses by terrorist groups. Terrorists have been murdering citizens and government officials and destroying property in the Somali region for years, yet HRW has been largely silent on all this.

Some organisations appear to be complicit in the violence as they have become the voice of terrorist organisations which are affiliated to al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda.

Your article failed to mention that the vast majority of the opposition ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front) are in fact talking to the government with a view to laying down their arms. Others from among them have already done so and now work with the regional administration in its protracted pursuit to improve people’s livelihoods.

But a few ONLF members are still bent on creating chaos in the Somali region. Some of them operate freely in the United Kingdom from where they run their public relations campaigns. But it should be clearly understood that they are not supported by the overwhelming majority of those who actually live in the Somali region where they are working on a wide range of development projects.

Human Rights Watch has, in the past, accused the Ethiopian government of using aid for political purposes, but it was proven wrong by our partners who monitor closely how funds are spent. Ethiopia is recognised as one of the countries which make the most effective use of bilateral and multi-lateral aid, always prioritising pro-poor policies, with excellent results; suffice to examine, in the Somali region alone, the number of schools, vocational colleges, the new hospitals and hundreds of clinics and health stations and the millions who now have access to clean water. Towns and villages throughout the region are now connected by road to the capital Jijiga, which has become a dynamic city effectively linked to both Addis Ababa and to the outside world by an international airport.

Rest assured that the DfID funds will be well spent on key priorities. This is good news and deserves to be reported as such.
Berhanu Kebede
Ethiopian ambassador to London

Kenya Election: Peter Kenneth Picks Osumba As Running Mate

Nairobi — Eagle Alliance presidential flag bearer Peter Kenneth has named Ronnie Osumba his running mate for the March 4 election, a man he says shares common values of addressing issues affecting the country.

“In selecting a running mate, we have been guided by shared values. Ronnie Osumba is the Eagle Alliance’s choice of my running mate. He is 33 years old,” said Kenneth.

The duo have pledged to address challenges such as food insecurity, education reforms, unemployment, healthcare and negative ethnicity, which Kenneth says is an excuse for poor leadership in Kenya.

Osumba said the Eagle ticket represents a new way of leadership founded on integrity and service.

“Peter Kenneth’s record speaks for itself. And it is this man that I stand by as we seek to become the next government. I want a new direction for my country,” said Osumba in his acceptance speech. “I want to ensure that every able bodied person has employment.”

Party of Action leader Raphael Tuju dropped his bid in favour of Kenneth but will continue chairing the coalition.

The selection of Osumba as Kenneth’s running mate came as a surprise to many who expected it to be Tuju, a former advisor of President Kibaki.

Osumba, a Starehe Boys’ alumni, holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing from Moi University and has worked for Safaricom as Head of Public Sector Sales.

Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua and Musalia Mudavadi are yet to announce their running mates.

Karua has continuously stated that she will do so before the stipulated timeline for party lists submission.

Liberia’s jailed ex-President Charles Taylor ‘wants presidential pension’

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor waits for the start of the sentencing hearing in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands. Picture: Evert-Jan Daniels Source: AP

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor waits for the start of the sentencing hearing in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands. Picture: Evert-Jan Daniels Source: AP

Liberia’s jailed ex-President and war criminal Charles Taylor appears to have written to MPs demanding an annual state pension of $25,000 (£15,600).

Liberian Senate Secretary Nanborloh Singbeh said the letter would be discussed by MPs next week.

The letter purportedly from Taylor says the withholding of his presidential pension is a “mammoth injustice”.

Last May, a UN-backed court sentenced him to 50 years in prison on 11 counts of war crimes.

He became the first former head of state to be convicted on such charges by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II.

Taylor, who is in jail at The Hague, is appealing against the judgement by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

It ruled that as Liberia’s president, he aided and abetted Sierra Leone’s rebels during the 1991-2002 civil war.

Family’s needs

The BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh reports from the capital, Monrovia, that the signature on the letter very much looks like that of Taylor.

However, the letter contains some simple spelling errors, such as “principal” for principle, “cease” for seize and “giving” for given, he says.

This has raised questions about whether Taylor personally wrote the letter, our correspondent adds.

However, Taylor’s brother-in-law Arthur Saye told our reporter that the ex-president did write the letter.

The letter also calls for the government to give accommodation and diplomatic passports to Taylor’s wife Victoria and his two daughters.

“The fact is that I have not received my entitlement as set out under the law as a former president of Liberia since I resigned the office on August 11, 2003,” the letter to the senate reads.

“May I, with respect, request in this formal manner the intervention of this august body in bringing an end to this mammoth injustice and cause my law annuities to be made available to me.”

Taylor is also quoted in the letter as saying that he is entitled to consular access and diplomatic services at The Hague, but he has been “denied that right”.

Our correspondent says Liberian law states that a former president who has “honourably retired to private life and who is not in any way gainfully employed by government” would receive a pension equal to half the salary of the incumbent president.

Taylor timeline

Sierra Leone-Liberia map

• 1989: Launches rebellion in Liberia

• 1991: RUF rebellion starts in Sierra Leone

• 1997: Elected president after a 1995 peace deal

• 1999: Liberia’s Lurd rebels start an insurrection to oust Taylor

• June 2003: Arrest warrant issued; two months later he steps down and goes into exile to Nigeria

• March 2006: Arrested after a failed escape bid and sent to Sierra Leone

• June 2007: His trial opens – hosted in The Hague for security reasons

• April 2012: Convicted of aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes

• May 2012: Sentenced to 50 years in jail

• June 2012: His lawyers say he will appeal against his conviction

Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria in 2003 after the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebel movement laid siege to Monrovia.

His private villa on the outskirts of the city is in a poor state and his once prestigious mansion in his hometown of Arthington, some 40km (25 miles) west of Monrovia, is in ruins and covered by overgrown vegetation, our correspondent says.

The letter also told legislators of the “sacred and overriding” principle that “justice must not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”, our reporter adds.

The letter was read out during a plenary session of the upper house on Tuesday, and would be discussed by MPs next week, Mr Singbeh said.

Senator Lahai Lansanah, who is a member of the governing United Party (UP), said: “Taylor’s request about retirement benefits should be given due consideration because he served this country as president.”

Taylor was arrested in 2006, while trying to flee Nigeria.

He apparently feared that the Nigerian government would bow to pressure from the US to hand him over to the UN-backed court to stand trial.

The court was set up in 2002 to try those who bore the greatest responsibility for the war in Sierra Leone in which some 50,000 people were killed.

During the appeals process, Taylor will remain in The Hague. BBC

Kenya police : Gunmen believed to be al-Qaida-linked militants kill 5 people in a restaurant

Kenya –  An official says gunmen suspected to belong to Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked rebels have shot dead five people and seriously wounded three others at a restaurant in eastern Kenya.

The region’s police chief Charlton Mureithi said Wednesday that supporters of Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels are suspected because the dead include a senior prison warden, fitting into a pattern of prior attacks on security personnel. Mureithi says the attack took place at the Dune restaurant in Garissa town. In October gunmen shot dead a police officer and wounded another in Garissa. In November, three Kenyan soldiers and two police officers were killed were shot dead in the town.

Kenya has had a series of explosive attacks since it sent it troops to Somalia to fight the al-Shabab rebels.

Kenyans burn coffins to protest at MP move to triple bonuses

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Hundreds of demonstrators torched 221 coffins outside Kenya’s parliament on Wednesday in protest at legislators who voted last week to triple their end-of-term bonuses and award themselves state funerals.

President Mwai Kibaki, aware of popular resentment over lawmakers’ perks and with an eye on a March 4 general election, subsequently refused to sign the benefit increase into law.

But Kenyans went ahead with the protest march anyway to highlight their anger over a political class in East Africa’s largest economy widely regarded as greedy and corrupt.

They staged a macabre procession through central Nairobi, wailing and singing as they hoisted coffins made of plywood and tarred in black paint, representing Kenyan lawmakers.

Dressed in black T-shirts, protesters waved placards with hand-written slogans including “bury the vulture with your vote” and “vacancy for honest leaders”.

“In this symbolic burial, we are laying to rest some 221 caskets, we torch these caskets to signify the end of one era and the birth of another,” said Boniface Mwangi, head of the Kenya ni Kwetu (Kenya is Ours) group, which organized the march.

In their last act before parliament shut for the election, lawmakers passed a bill to increase their end-term bonus to 9.3 million shillings ($107,200) each. Kibaki had rejected a similar attempt to raise their send-off pay in October.

This time, the legislators also wanted diplomatic passports for themselves and their spouses, armed bodyguards for life paid for by taxpayers and the right to be given state funerals, now the preserve of presidents and notable achievers.

The government would have incurred an extra cost of 2 billion shillings to pay the higher bonuses to people considered by many Kenyans to be already overpaid, lazy and venal.

The bill was even criticized by some of the lawmakers.

“It’s unfortunate the lobby group condemned the whole legislature while some MPs were against the move to hike their pay package,” outgoing legislator Bonny Khalwale told Reuters.

Kenyan lawmakers earn about $13,000 a month, the bulk in tax-free allowances – a huge sum in a country where an unskilled urban laborer may earn as little as $60 a month, and with a per capita GDP of $800.

In 2011 they refused to pay back taxes demanded by the government, then bought new seats, worth $2,400 each, at taxpayer expense for members of the chamber.

“I support the protest, the legislators have been in parliament for the last five years. They are greedy with one aim – to hike their hefty salaries,” said Sarah Mohamed, a student who watched the demonstrators.

“Ordinary wananchi (Kenyan citizens) are struggling to keep food on the table,” said Dennis Ngeno, 27, a security guard.

($1 = 86.7500 Kenyan shillings)

Somalia: Shebab Have ‘Decided to Execute’ French Hostage

Somali Islamists say they have decided to kill a French agent they have held since 2009, as confusion continues over whether he is in fact still alive.

The Al-Qaeda linked Shebab said in a statement they have “reached a unanimous decision to execute the French intelligence officer, Denis Allex,” who goes by a pseudonym.

On Saturday, French commandos launched a raid to free the hostage, but the rescue bid failed and resulted in the death of two French soldiers.

French officials suggested at the time that Allex was most likely killed in the raid, a position echoed by the governor of the lower Shabelle region where the raid took place.

But Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rageh told a news conference on the phone that Denis was still alive.

Wednesday’s statement did not explicitly say whether Allex was still alive.

The French army responded to the statement by accusing the Shebab of “manipulating the media”, and reaffirmed that Allex is likely already dead.

France’s Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud told Europe 1 radio: “We have no element since the raid indicating Denis Allex is alive. We think he is most likely dead,” he said.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that the raid, by the elite DGSE secret service, was sparked by the “intransigence of the terrorists who have refused to negotiate for three and a half years and were holding Denis Allex in inhuman conditions.”

The minister said at the weekend that a French soldier was missing, but on Monday he said it now appeared that the soldier had died. He did not indicate that he was a commander. Le Drian said 17 guerrillas were killed in the raid.

Sources in Somalia said one of the reasons the raid failed was that the rebels had received advance warning, which senior Shebab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim confirmed to the news agency AFP.

Le Drian’s explanation was that French troops had underestimated the Islamist rebels’ strength when they launched the operation involving some 50 troops and at least five helicopters, and some help from the United States.

President Barack Obama has acknowledged that US forces provided limited technical support for the operation, but said they had played no role in the fighting.

Denis Allex is the longest held French hostage overseas since French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, who had been held for more than six years by Colombian guerrillas until being rescued by Colombia’s security forces in 2008.

Nigeria: 2015: How far can opposition parties go?

Opposition parties are back on the drawing board. But how far can they go in 2015 without a formidable alliance. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU writes on the lessons past botched alliances and the imperative of a new merger plan.

Can opposition parties get it right in 2015? To observers, history may not repeat itself, if the main opposition parties form a formidable alliance to confront the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the next general elections. There are signs that the parties are determined. Their leaders are afraid that PDP may cause more havoc, if it is not dislodged at the polls in 2015.

Indisputably, the parties are meeting to perfect their strategies. Options being explored include fusion, merger , accord and alliance. Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) chieftain Senator Chris Ngige confirmed the merger talks, stressing that the proposed mega platform is in the interest of democracy. “Fourteen years after the emergence of the present dispensation, it is obvious that nothing good can come out of the PDP and that is why we are determined that, by the first quarter of the year, Nigerians will see that the progressives mean business,” he said.

Political parties involved in the alliance talks are ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Other like-minded, smaller parties may also come on board.

According to analysts, the parties have woken up to the reality that none of them can single-handedly floor the PDP, unless there is collaboration among them in national interest. It is believed that the envisaged collaboration by these parties may restore ideological politics and present the polity with alternative choices between conservative and progressive ideas.

ACN controls five of the six states in the Southwest geo-political zone. In other zones, the party is also popular. It has federal and state legislators, who are committed to progressive ideals. ANPP has maintained its hold on Yobe and Borno states. CPC is the ruling party in Nassarawa, but the party also has federal and state legislators in some states in the North.

Many challenges are confronting the opposition camp. Top on the list is how to agree on a popular presidential candidate and running mate. If they are to merge, as it is being contemplated, they have to agree on critical issues, including party name, logo, manifestoes, constitution, symbol and composition of leadership at the federal and state levels. After overcoming these hurdles, the next challenge is the registration of the new platform by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The commission’s spokesman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said the new party must meet the conditions stipulated by the 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act. “If a political party is to participate in an election, the party has to be on INEC’s register before INEC issues its notice”, he added.

There are other challenges that will confront the opposition leaders. The PDP is aware of the threats to its 2015 calculations. Already, sources close to the opposition parties said that they anticipate threats by the PDP, may plant moles in the fold to frustrate the coalition. Also, PDP is likely to motivate the remaining mushroom parties outside the merger plan to support its presidential candidate at the general election. But, observers believe that the success of the collaboration depends on the opposition leaders, who are expected to make sacrifices and be less inflexible and more condescending without compromising their fundamental principles.

It is not the first time an alliance is being mooted by the opposition parties. Ahead of the 2011 polls, talks between the ACN led by Chief Bisi Akande and CPC led by Major-General Buhari (rtd) had broken down, owing to irreconcilable differences. Indeed, their inability to harmonise these differences, approaches and strategies led to the failure of the proposed accord. Akande blamed the botched alliance talks on the CPC leader, who he said was stiff and unbending where compromises were expected. Buhari refrained from any rebuttal or clarification. He was diplomatic. However, when the proposed alliance broke down, the picture of the 2011 elections became clearer. Ironically, Buhari’s running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, had warned in October that year, that PDP would overrun the scattered opposition parties, if they failed to come together. The Convener of Save Nigeria Grouop (SNG) was miffed by the declaration by the PDP leadership that the party will be in power for 60 years. He said the opposition gave the ruling party the licence to aspire to perpetuate itself in power. “If all these parties fail to present a candidate, PDP will overrun them. Only a combined effort can bring PDP down, ” Bakare stressed.

Many eminent Nigerians also expressed worry over the PDP’s bravado. Some of them advised the alliance drivers to put the alliance back on track. However, they met a brick wall. Sources close to the two parties- AC N and CPC- said mutual trust was absent and their leaders consequently closed their eyes to the slim opportunity for renewal of contact.

Initially, PDP leaders were jittery when the hope of an alliance brightened. An attempt, said a source, was made to harass prominent AC N leaders over the proposed collaboration. “They were either to be intimidated by the anti-graft agents, the Code of Conduct Bureau and security agents or distracted by other means, especially through the erection of credibility hurdles,” added the source.

Also, ACN National Publicity Secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed alerted Nigerians that the federal government wanted to molest certain party leaders, ahead of the elections.

Before the prospects of alliance dimmed, many Nigerians who were tired of the 12 years of PDP rule, were eager for the consummation of the alliance.

Explaining the mass support for a strong opposition bloc, Lagos State AC N chairman Otunba Oladele Ajomale said: “Many people who know what progressive governments have accomplished at the state level want a replica of those achievements at the centre”.

In 2011, prominent opposition figures, who wanted alliance talks to resume with speed, volunteered to broker meetings between the leadership of the two main opposition parties. These senior citizens, who were involved in the pro-democracy struggles that heralded the civilian dispensation in 1999, were sad that opposition parties were in disarray in the country. Following their pleas, a meeting between the CPC leadership and these concerned elders to fine tune arrangements for wider and painstaking consultations that would lead to meaningful cooperation between the two platforms was held in Lagos. Then, fears were rife that, unless both parties put their minor differences aside and acted with the speed of lightening, time was running out for any alliance and substitution of candidates. Already, political parties and candidates had started campaigns.

Among eminent Nigerians who waded into the pre-alliance crisis between AC N and CPC are a retired General and former minister, a former university don and chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), rights activists, leaders of labour movements and pro- national conference agitators.

Shedding light on their intervention, the source, said: “These eminent Nigerians feared that, if PDP was not stopped in the 2011 election, Nigeria, which was being mismanaged, may become bankrupt. These elders were concerned about the direction the country was going. They have studied the national budget and realised that the pattern of recurrent expenditure tended to show that there was no concern for development.

“There is a lot of silent corruption going on. The President was perceived to be a weak man, but he had the capacity to wreck havoc on the opposition for his party to survive”. In addition, the source said the elders doubted the ability of either the AC N or CPC to single-handedly dislodge the ruling PDP “in an unpredictable Nigerian environment”.

“These people had to swing into action too, I suspect, because many Nigerians complained to them. They have access to information, which is beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians and there is cause to suspect that the masses of our people have placed great hope on active and effective cooperation between Akande’s AC N and Buhari’s CPC”, added the source.

Will opposition parties learn from their past mistakes? This remains a puzzle. Historically, Nigeria is a fertile ground for two party system as the alliance patterns have always shown. This, perhaps, is the greatest lesson of the moment.

In the past, unlike the opposition parties, the ruling parties have often moved swiftly by seizing the storm. Instructively, when opposition parties converged under the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), the Federal Government polarised the movement. While frontline politician Alhaji Balarabe Musa was selected as the leader of the group, another opposition politician, Dr Olopade Agoro, challenged his leadership. The CNPP because a dog that could only bark, but not bite. The leader of the light weight Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP), Chief Rasheed Shitta-Bey, who reflected on this tragedy, reasoned that, although the scattered parties are united by the similarity of ideas, they are separated by ego, personality clashes, rivalry and competition”.

The loss of focus and cohesion has agitated former Yobe State Governor Abba Bukar Ibrahim, who is among the leading ANPP leaders involved in the proposed alliance. He said the opposition is blind to the power of strength in unity. “There is no party that can single-handedly defeat the PDP, which believes that power is a matter of life and death”, he warned, advising progressives to close ranks. Alhaji Balarabe Musa agreed with this view. He pointed out that many opposition leaders feared that they would lose their identities, if they surrender their groups and promote a larger platform that could be result-driven.

To the AC N chieftain, Chief Bisi Adegbuyi, the time is ripe for the opposition arrowheads in Nigeria to emulate their counterparts in other countries, where, after pulling their resources together, the progressives dislodged their conservative rivals from power. He advised the opposition to explore the possibility a coalition government. “We should borrow a leaf from Israel, Canada, Pakistan, and even Kenya. In a diverse country with a multiplicity of tribes, cultures, languages and religions, it is not possible for a single party to form the government”, he advised.

History has shown that many opposition leaders usually back their moves with hypocritical commitment. In the First and Second Republic, when concerted efforts were made by opposition leaders to forge an alliance, it was short-lived. Instead, it has been relatively easier for the opposition to team up temporarily with the ruling party for pecuniary political gains. For example, many were surprised in 1960 when the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) led by Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe forged an alliance with the Balewa’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), instead of Action Group (AG), which was closer to its ideological leaning. When the alliance broke down in 1964, prominent NCNC ministers in Balewa Government refused to leave the government. Later, AG, NCNC and some smaller parties came together in an alliance for the purpose of 1964 federal elections. But there was no strong leader to wield them together. AG leader, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was in prison and many believed that Dr Michael Okpara, the NCNC leader, lacked the leadership capability to move the alliance forward. The onslaught by NPC was unbearable. As a former Western Regional Minister, Chief Ehinafe Babatola, recalled, there was division within the alliance over plans for the elections. While a section supported aggressive pursuit of victory, others who feared the NNA’s suppressive machinery, canvassed the boycott of the polls. Both camps went ahead with their antagonistic strategies.

Thirteen years after the military rule in 1979, the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), which was an incarnate of the banned NCNC led by Zik, teamed up with the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in an uneasy accord, following the 12 two-third controversy. When the accord broke down in 1981, NPP ministers held on to their portfolios in the federal government. Some of them even defected from the NPP to NPN. In 1999, PDP and All Nigeria Peoples Party (APP) formed a controversial alliance. The chairman of APP, Senator Mahmud Waziri, later abandoned his party when he was appointed Special Adviser by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2003, the national chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Alhaji Ahmed Abudulkadir, was rewarded by Obasanjo with the position of Special Adviser on Manufacturing, following the inexplicable cooperation between selected party leaders and PDP federal government. In 2011, ANPP led by the late Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke isolated itself and teamed up with the PDP to form an strange ‘Government of National Unity (GNU)’. The terms baffled Nigerians. The party also became polarised.

Since 2007, when the country has been witnessing bad elections, opposition groups have been holding discussions on possibility of an alliance. But the Southwest, which was perceived as the main pilot in the venture, has been politically divided. Opposition figures outside the zone were in regular contacts with a faction of the entrenched establishment, which had regrouped under the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), following the eclipse of the AD. But the old men lack mobilisation prowess, unlike their old colleagues, who are in AC N, the widely accepted party in the zone.

The alliance talks supported by the men of the old order had also hit the rocks in 2011. From its ashes rose two parties; the MPPP led by Shitta-Bey and another mega party sponsored by Prof Pat Utomi, Chiefs Olu Falae, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olaniwun Ajayi. Although the former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, also tried to bring some groups together for the purpose of rallying progressives, the effort did not see the light of the day.

Observers are of the opinion that 2015 offers another opportunity. The options are also plausible; mergers, accord, alliances and fusion. Former Kano State governor and ANPP chieftain Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau assured that the alliance talks would succeed. “We are determined to make it work”, he said. The party chairman, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, has also demonstrated seriousness and commitment like Akande and Buhari. Already, meetings are being held regularly to concretise the idea. But Buhari faces personal hurdles within his camp. While the CPC chairman and former Information Minister Prince Tony Momoh, and former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Mallam Nasir el-Rufai are said to be enthusiastic about the alliance, it is not certain that Buhari’s former running mate, Bakare, and spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, are supporting the initiative.

In 1964, 1979, 1999, 2007 and 2011, attempt at collaboration among oppositional parties failed. Proposed alliance, fusion and accord also crumbled. Will it be different this time? Will they succeed in 2015? Time will tell. The NAtion

Nigeria: Kwara PDP supports Gov. Ahmed on purchase of aircraft

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara is in support of the plan by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed to purchase 15 additional aircrafts for the state owned International Aviation College.

The Party’s state Publicity Secretary, Mas’ud Adebimpe, said this in reaction to condemnation from some political parties. In a statement issued on Wednesday in Ilorin, Adebimbe described Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) condemnation of the plan as mischief.
He said that the plan by the governor to buy the aircraft was in line with the policy of the PDP-led government to diversify the economy of the state.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the kernel of the Shared Prosperity Programme of the PDP administration in Kwara State is to create a credible platform for the emergence of highly trained manpower,” he said.

Adebimpe explained that the International Aviation College is the only non Federal Government driven Aviation College in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa. He advised opposition parties to appreciate the fact that the PDP-led government in Kwara was forward looking and remained committed to the transformation of the state.DAily Times

World Bank – Poverty Has Reduced in Nigeria

By Abdul-Rahman Abubakar, Daily Trust

The World Bank has praised economic policies of the present administration declaring that it has led to slight reduction in the country’s poverty index from 48 to 46 percent.

Speaking when he visited President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday, World Bank’s vice president for Africa, Mr Mouktar Diop, said Nigeria’s economic indicators remained positive even times of recession.

He said “at the time when the economy is going down, we have seen that Nigeria has been keeping a growth rate which is rather significant. So, I was here to hear from the President’s priority and discuss other issues such as how poverty has been evolving in the country and what we can do to accelerate the reduction of poverty.

“Our work recently has shown that there is slight reduction in the level of poverty in Nigeria moving from 48 to 46 percent. The trend is good. It needs to be accelerated obviously. What we discussed are the policies that we can put in place to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction in Nigeria.”

Diop said the World Bank has decided to intervene in Nigeria’s energy crisis saying, “We decided at the World Bank to put up a task force which will include private sector branch to support the reform. It is good that the reform is really making progress. I was with the main players of the power sector today, and they were all happy with the reform process so far.”

On his part, Jonathan said though some of the reforms were not easy to push through, his administration would continue to do its best towards ensuring sustainable growth in the country.

“We will continue to do our best. We would have had more robust growth by now but for the global economic recession. With your continued support, we will certainly achieve more,” the president said.

Jonathan said that with the continued support of the World Bank, other international institutions and investors the Federal Government will achieve an even higher growth rate for the national economy.