Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hard View (2013, Year of The Water Snake)


2013; YEAR OF THE WATER SNAKE

We survived! Contrary to the prediction of the Mayans, the world didn’t end in 2012. Yes, the Mayans got it wrong, 2012 was not the year of the final disaster, destruction and mayhem. But even though the deadline for the prophesized end of the world has passed without any fire storm or killer tsunamis ushering in the demise of our species, in Nigeria, at times, it felt as if the world was ending. This is because 2012 was the year that we could truly confirm that the soul, spirit, and humanity of Nigerians had been lost as evidenced by the bombing mass murders by extremists, the constant kidnappings and the burning and butchering of University students by a whole village community. 2012 was the year where our government flirted with disaster, thanks to their impiety towards Nigerians with the callous fuel prize increase. 2012 was the year Nigerians barely survived their suffering and saw the repeat of severe tragedies; from air crashes to mass road accidents. No doubt, it has not been a year of joy and jubilation for Nigerians. 2012 was even the year Nigeria was ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist publication as the worst country in the world to be born.

So as we wave goodbye to a year filled with calamities and usher in a new dawn, as we ease into 2013, it’s time to craft those ritualistic projections, predictions and resolutions. Hot on the heels of an incredibly turbulent year, we hope 2013 will bring with it a combination of events that will soften the hardship felt by Nigerians and by extension minimize the cynicism felt towards government. As the horizon dawns, it may be useful to take stock of the past year, see if we can detect any precedents and learn any insight from the events that have come before us.

At the helm of the challenges that Nigeria faced in 2012 is the deficient security situation. From church bombings, to kidnappings, to outrageous crimes, 2012 was the year of the criminal; the year where villains who were ready and set to cause pandemonium ran about their business as if they ruled the world. Helpless we watched as innocent men, women, children were blown in their places of sanctuary. Outraged we were subjected to terrorist footage of intimidation and threats. Powerless, we observed as Nigerians were one by one kidnapped by gung-ho criminal buccaneers. Shocked we held our breath as several of our University youth were tortured and burned, shot in their hostels and lured on Facebook, raped and strangled. Helpless, outraged, powerless and shocked we watched! Meanwhile our authorities, our police, our security forces stood clueless, sat gridlocked almost as if suffering from some sort of self-induced stagnation, unable to bring sanity to our security situation.

Other avoidable incidents include the condition of our air safety. Suffice to say; never again do we want to see a repeat of this kind of chain of air disasters. The painful lessons learnt, and there are many, must never be forgotten.

On the international front, things have not been that different. One may have thought that, six years after the global financial crisis first broke, the recession would be well behind most markets and the global economy would have pulsated back to life. Instead, huge swathes of the world seem to be embarking on a path with long-term stagnation. Then there’s the drama that is still playing out in the Middle East. The Middle East may have seen a season of the Arab Spring, but none of us could have foreseen how persistent and fierce the conflict in Syria would become. Hot on the heels of the late Gadhafi, many of us never would have thought that President Bashar Assad would make it another year in office.

So much has happened in Nigeria in the last 365 days, yet nothing has happened at all! And even though one can only hazard a guess as to what the next 365 days has in store for us, based on past actions; there are some probabilities and based on folklore; there is one calendar system with a reputation for the depths of its wisdom and accuracy of its character analysis and prediction; the Chinese calendar. The system is the oldest timekeeping system in existence and although the actual Chinese New Year is yet to begin, 2013 according to the Chinese will be known as the year of water snake. So what does the water snake predict for us this year?

According to the Chinese calendar if, after the frenzy of 2012, the year of the dragon, we thought we were out of the woods, then we have another thing coming. In Chinese myth, the year of the water snake is a year of obstacles and shakes-ups that traditionally brings many challenges and disasters. It is imagined that it will be a very slow year but at the same time, there will be a lot of unexpected events in 2013. It’s a year when quick manoeuvres are going to be needed in order to avoid unexpected obstacles. In general, snakes are tricky creatures which move in a manner where its body undulates making it difficult to tell which direction it is moving in. Apparently, that is what can be expected with any year that is represented by the water snake; it will seem to go in one direction, and then, very unexpectedly, it will veer in completely another direction. Legend has it that those who do best in the year of the water snake are the people that have a natural ability to move at the velocity of the snake and who are able to traverse tricky waters.

True to the Chinese Calender, judging from the events of 2012, reading from the body language of the president, it would be fair to say that Nigerians can expect a year filled with colourful commotion as far as politics goes. This is to be expected because for every active politician in Nigeria, in the run up to the dreaded 2015, 2013 may well symbolize a make or break year. All the backbiting and politicking we have witnessed since the last election will appear to be child’s play compared to the subterfuge we are about to witness as we move towards 2015.

And subterfuge it certainly will be, especially given the fact that the machinations and intrigues for the second, or is it third, coming of President Goodluck Jonathan has already started. Rather than perform their official duty of which they were appointed into office, a number of the Presidents band of merry men appear to be more interested in transferring national wealth to their private accounts and prancing about with indicted criminals and thieves. Amid expos├ęs of grand embezzlement, sleaze and mismanagement, the President and his cabinet seem to care very little that the nation around them is crumbling piece by piece.

How about the opposition parties, what if anything will they do to stem the behemoth of the ruling party as we approach 2015? Well, the opposition party have only one option and that option is no other than the great merger we have been hearing about. For the first time, since 1999, it looks like the opposition may finally be in a position to marshal a counter movement against the ruling party, even win in 2015. But that can only become a reality if in-house cleansing, strategy and perception is applied by each of the merging parties. Individual members of the opposition must put their personal ambitions aside in the interest of the greater good and merge as one whole entity. Thereafter, they must put the issue of a zonal presidency aside and consider adopting a consensus candidate based on achievement and popularity not tribe. A candidate that comes from any part of the country, a candidate that is ready, willing and able to transform this country to the level it deserves should they be victorious.

So only time will tell if the predictions of the Chinese will produce any truth, but as long as it is not as incorrect as the great 2012 Mayan prophesy, then Nigerians had better brace themselves. As a people who thrive for development, Nigerians need to make a new resolve to take charge of their destiny as they did in the beginning of 2012. Occupy Nigeria must always be on standby in readiness for the call of duty.

Whatever happens in this great land, we must look to our future with hope notwithstanding the fact that according to the Chinese, the year of the snake will surely produce a ‘shake-up’… or shall I say ‘snake-up!’

Welcome to the Year of the Water Snake folks. Welcome to 2013!

Hannatu Musawa
www.hannatumusawa.com
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Hard View (Nigerian of The Year)


NIGERIAN OF THE YEAR

This has been a year of great national confusion and ordeal for Nigerians. It has been a time when we witnessed the rise in senseless violence, national disunity, economic hardship and institutional misappropriation. At times like this, finding an individual that stands head and shoulders above everyone else to be labelled ‘The Nigerian of the Year’ is a pretty hard task. But when I decided to rummage the length and breadth of this our glorious land to identify who I believe has distinguished themselves and deserves to be labelled the Nigerian of the Year, I had only one yardstick in mind.

What, perhaps, was the most important criteria for me was to identify a person who had built, not only on a very important tradition of civic leadership, but that of charity and stepped forward as an individual to solve the problems of our communities, without waiting for government to act. With that in mind, the first name that came into my head and lingered up to the time I wrote this piece was that of Gen. T.Y Danjuma (rtd), GCON.

Having followed his effort and contribution to the quality of countless Nigerian lives since leaving government, the choice of General Danjuma was a relatively easy one.

Talk is cheap, but General Danjuma has backed it up by walking the walk and demonstrating the characteristics of the principals and values that have made him into the respected statesman and generous philanthropist that he, no doubt, is. With his enormous charitable contributions over the last couple of years, especially this year, one would be hard pressed to find many Nigerians at his level that have given so much back to the needy in society.

Charitable giving should be central to a Nigerian society which has increasingly seen the collapse of families, the breakdown of the social fabric, and a slowdown in upward mobility. The hardship that people are facing daily is so much; Nigerians are currently painfully trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder. The spirit of giving should be the essence of our institutions, our communities and our educational training. One can only imagine how a substantial increase in charitable giving could help to achieve breakthrough solutions for some of our national crises and provide a safety net to reduce hunger, homelessness, and other forms of material poverty. Charity is necessary for the thriving of unity, education, the arts, science and medicine, and the protection and safety of our society. It provides food for the hungry, care for the sick, shelter for the homeless and maintenance for those less privileged. If we had more of a consciousness toward charitable giving, there is no doubt that we would be dealing with a more humane society and provide fresh thinking about how to offer hope and opportunity for impoverished Nigerians.
However charitable giving, although ideal, is just not the reality for most Nigerians who barely have enough to cater for themselves and their families. But in our very peculiar society where 95% of the population can barely make ends meet, while 5% are worth more than the economy of a small nation, there are those that have been privileged and have the ability to exhibit the spirit of giving, should they choose, in a way that can really make an impact. The lifeblood of charitable giving is voluntary; individuals make their own decisions, following their own convictions about how they can best make a difference. And this is where I believe General Danjuma distinguishes himself.

General TY Danjuma has always impressed many people in the way he has conducted himself during many years of public service, especially given the fact that he is on record to be the only Nigerian Army officer known to have turned down an offer to be the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. History tells us that when General Murtala Muhammed was killed in the 1976, General Danjuma was asked to become the Head of State to which he refused. Upon insisting that the hierarchy must be followed, General Danjuma then went ahead to encourage the ascension of General Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State and single handily appointed General Shehu Yar’Adua as the second-in-command. However, despite such an impressive history, it is his work in charity and philanthropy that makes him stand head and shoulders above Nigerians of his calibre and makes him my Nigerian of the Year.

Apart from the personal and financial support he gives the families of his departed colleagues and individuals that ask for his help, General Danjuma gives a vast majority of charity through his Foundation. In 2008, the TY Danjuma Foundation was created and since then has spent almost N1 billion in giving aid to the poor and sick. Currently partnering with over 50 NGOs throughout Nigeria, the Foundation's purpose is to offer assistance to the less privileged through the use of development programs. Rather than operate as a conventional charity, the Foundation is run more as a philanthropic organization. By operating in this manner, the Foundation partners and makes grants available to other deserving causes and Non-Governmental Organizations.

Since its inception, the Foundation has provided basic amenities for poor communities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people in order to alleviate poverty. Only very recently, approximately N180.6 million was given by the Foundation to 17 non-Governmental Organizations in order to assist them in their operations for the 2012 Grant Cycle while $500,000 was given out by the Foundation as grants to NGOs working to relieve suffering in the state of Taraba.

No matter the ‘Urban Legend’ attached to the seemingly overbearing persona of General TY Danjuma, the truth is that he is a very good, gentle and kind man who has shown loyalty to his friends and family and patriotism to his country. Earlier on in the year Leadership Newspaper named him ‘Man of The Year’ and outlined some of the Student Scholarships he provided outside his foundation. Apart from the Scholarships, Leadership delineated that; “He has built a hospital for the Nasarawa State University, a hall for Bighham University, a library for Ajayi Crowther University, and just about offering similar support for the Bayero University, Kano. All these are outside free medical services to more than 30,000 people. He has also built schools in Bauchi and FCT communities that have never had schools, provided income generation grants to women’s groups in Ekiti and Edo states, provided scholarships for more than 100 orphans in Nasarawa State, provided drinking water in Gombe and Taraba states, assisted people living with leprosy in five states, provided capacity building to more than 150 NGOs, established the Taraba Community Fund, and has already committed a minimum of $5million (N800million) to assist the nation in achieving the MDGs.
When I think of the philanthropy and the contributions to charity that General Danjuma has made, I smile. I smile for his spirit of giving, for his passion to alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities, for his dedication to provide education for children and young adults, for his commitment to provide free medical care for indigent people, for his bravery, for his aerial ability, for his passion, for his patriotism, for his loyalty, for his professionalism, for his decades of service.

This has been a year of great national confusion and ordeal for Nigerians. It has been a time when we witnessed the rise in senseless violence, national disunity, economic hardship and institutional misappropriation. At times like this, finding an individual that stands head and shoulders above everyone else is a pretty hard task. In such an atmosphere lacking in many true role models, General Danjuma, because of his spirit of giving, stands as ‘The Nigerian of the Year’.

General TY Danjuma is truly a Nigerian hero. I have always admired him as a leader, a person, a mentor and a dear father. I have also admired the way he constantly challenges himself and displays his belief in discipline, instituted authority and orderly succession.

Many of us can learn a great deal from a person like General Danjuma and one hopes that those privileged Nigerians and those within his calibre can take a leaf from his book and ‘play it forward’.

I guess I’ll leave my last words of 2012 to my ‘Nigerian of The Year’, General TY Danjuma when, in a recent conference, he called on all well-meaning Nigerians who were endowed to commit to giving back to the society.

He said; ``The philanthropic space in Nigeria is empty but the need and cry for help from communities are huge; we cannot keep looking up to foreign donors and philanthropists to fill this gap, we must give back to our society.``

Hannatu Musawa
I invite you to follow me on Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Hard View (CHRISTMAS; OCCASION TO ENGAGE)

CHRISTMAS; OCCASION TO ENGAGE



Yes, its Christmas time again. For every Christian and some non Christians, it’s a time of generosity, a time to serve, to feed, make memories, a time to be with family, to celebrate, to rest, a time to clothe and care for the needy and a time to wish a stranger Merry Christmas with a smile. Within the next few days, many communities across Nigeria will hold their different traditional Christmas celebrations and festivals and gather to renew family bonds. But as loved ones and friends gather, the ensuing ambience in Nigeria today resulting from the persistent ineffectiveness of government is sure to cast a damper on the yultide merriment.
The Christmas period has always been an expensive time, but as time goes by in this country, due to the economic hardship, the challenge of observing this holiday to it’s full capacity is greatly diminished. Many breadwinners have become victims to the dearth of money in the system. Familys hoping to travel to their hometowns and villages are faced with the prospect of the high cost of the trip home predictably as well as possible elongated fuel queues. The traditional meal of rice and chicken is no longer widely available to many homes across the nation.
Needless to say, in addition to the individual trials Nigerians face in making this Christmas a half way decent one, the political atmosphere abound has forced the average Nigerian to ponder further about the future of this country. Whether we are talking about the zoning malarkey, or the intended manipulation of the populace with several political sit tight gimmicks, splitting up the country or whether we are questioning ourselves as to whether we were ever a nation of laws and constitutional democracy, Nigerians remain mystified and in the dark as to the genuine intent and purpose of our brand of government.

While hardly anyone in this country is under any illusions as to the sincerity of most government officials and their engagement to the plight of the masses, the means and manner of most of them has been, needless to say, quite pathetic. Since our independence, when the first set of government officials came on the scene, they were still practicing the brand of governance that the colonialists left with them. That was a kind of governance where officials communicated with the public in order to ascertain the real issues that underline the relative problems of the day. Government officials back then considered the people’s mandate and asked questions from the masses in order to map out formidable strategies that had the capacity to revitalize the nation. But alas, that is not the trend we witness in the governance of today, because our brand of governance as it stands now is one of power grabbing and control of the treasury of the nation, without any consideration for the Nigerian people. The original way of communicating with Nigerians is not evident anywhere in the States or at the Centre. Instead what we have are government officials and politicians who are more or less regional chiefs, who only believe in getting into office by the power and might of their insulated cartel.

In the present day economic and political situation in Nigeria, there is need for our leaders to map out a strategy where the various national issues are dealt with using people oriented solutions. The Nigerian people live in agony. The pertinent questions that are peculiar to all Nigerians, the downtrodden and the oppressed are the following; how are we going to be provided with a decent standard of living, good roads, good schools, food, adequate healthcare, power and electricity, security of life and property, employment for all our children that have passed out from the various tertiary institutions and have unity and peace? These are some of the questions that have been left unanswered by the government. These are the questions that the government has to debate and discuss with the Nigerian people for the people to have a meaningful existence and for them to have their very basic entitlement.

Every Nigerian has a right to exercise their God given potentials to the fullest, regardless of their place or standard of birth. Nigerians are yearning for a better means of living and it is time for us to have a vitalized political and social environment that will create an atmosphere whereby Nigerians will have sound mind and sound body. The Nigerian people are yearning for a social order where the nation will be self sufficient so that we can have an abundance of food, constant power supply, good roads, unity, peace, understanding and essential facilities obtainable in all other reasonable environments. That is what the Nigerian people are yearning for. Those are the issues that are still to be addressed.

Currently, government officials are not accountable; they do not need to sell their values or policies to the people. As long as they have made the cut to be in government, as long as they and their families are properly catered for, the rest of the population can go to the netherworld. As stake holders in this country, we should not accept the things we constantly complain about and know that we have the power to take our future into our hands; once we are organised and objective.

Nigeria stands at the precipice of its existence as a confused and splintered nation. As we approach Christmas, move forth towards New Year and catch a glimpse of what we should expect in these few years leading up to the elections of 2015, we must display the initiative to take control of our future. We must douse our anxiety and any justifiable concern we feel over our prospect and the issues that continue to plague our communities. We can do this very simply by having a clear vision and direction as to where we plan to steer the country and by using that vision to stand up and reject the oppression of a certain political class. As we move on, Nigerians must put their efforts together in progress in order to be a people who have the integrity, value, capacity and good intent to take Nigeria from whence we are into a bright new beginning.

Borrowing the words of Pope Benedict XVI, whose advise was that Christmas was a special time of great joy, love, fun, an occasion for deep reflection and a time for Christians to engage with the world, one hopes that all Nigerians take the time to engage in Nigeria. Christmas time is always a special period, a unique and thrilling time for families, for children, men and women who celebrate it.  It is a time of great fun and a time when many Christian families huddle together in front of the television to watch the captivating drama of how Jesus was born in a Manger in Bethlehem, the Shepherd boys taking care of their cattle and their sheep, the wise men from the East on their camels and gentle Mary protecting her baby in the crib.

One prays that all Christians will embrace the spirit of the season and the hope of the New Year and all of us of other faiths will work towards the peace, togetherness and progress of this our great nation. Despite the fact that many Nigerians who will be celebrating Christmas will not be able to afford the scrumptious Christmas meal they desrve, will be unable to buy that new Christmas dress they want or exchange the kind of gifts they desire, I will cease this opportunity to wish each and every one of my Christian brothers and sisters a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Article Written By Hannatu Musawa

www.hanneymusawa.com

I invite you to follow me on Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hard View (Unsuitable Celebration)

Unsuitable Celebration
 
The helicopter crash this past weekend that claimed the lives of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, the immediate national security adviser, retired Gen. Owoye Azazi and four others, was truly a tragedy. It was a tragedy, not only for the obvious reasons that people have died or that it was further confirmation that the Nigerian aviation industry has totally collapsed and does not meet even the most basic standards. What added more to the tragedy were some of the reactions and responses expressed by Nigerians. Although the reactions from the social networks, commentators and several public voices in and out of Nigeria were mixed with many lamenting the unfortunate deaths, one couldn’t help but mention the inappropriate celebrations which were predominantly based along ethnic, religious, political and ‘a general disdain towards anything and anyone who is part of government’ lines.
 
Now, I dislike the ethnic and religious politics that many of our present office holders play, the misuse of positions by our politicians when they pull stunts such as using Military Helicopters to shuttle themselves for private purposes, the sycophancy of flood-condolences of anyone or anything associated with government, the corruption, the stealing, the misrule, the selfishness of leaders just as much as the next person. However, reveling in the fact that a person has died, even if one did consider them an enemy, seems not only vile and disturbing but also duplicitous and distinctly in-humane. No matter what the situation, no matter whom the person, the death of another human being should inspire contemplation and reflection, not celebration and sneer.
 
This incident is not the first to expose such a disgraceful display of sadism. When the late President Yar’adua died, some Nigerians rejoiced at his passing for ethnic, religious and political reasons. Even recently, when the Taraba State Governor, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, escaped death after a plane he was flying crashed in Yola, and when the mother of the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was kidnapped, people used the opportunity to taunt their distress and celebrate their suffering.
In truth, the celebrations undoubtedly confirm the negative prejudices about us and the subtle reality about what we have become as a people. It perpetuates the stereotype of Nigerians as unfeeling, wicked, cruel and inconsiderate. Celebrating the death of a person because they were a part of government or revelling in the fact that someone associated with government has been kidnapped does absolutely nothing to progress us as a people.
 
I understand the intense suffering, emotion and anxiety that go into being a Nigerian within the backdrop of the crippling and frustrating atmosphere that we exist in, but nonetheless, it seems wildly inappropriate to celebrate a person’s sorrow, agony and especially death. Yes our leaders have shortcomings and have cheated and are continuing to cheat us beyond belief, but celebrating the death or misery of anyone purely because they were or are part of government or because they are of a different tribe or religion is just senseless, primitive and shallow-minded. As a Muslim, who is fully submitted to the teachings of the Quran, I know that it is forbidden in Islam to speak ill of the dead or offend the living relatives of the dead no matter how acrimonious the relationship was. And as a person who has fully read the Bible, a line from Proverbs 24:17 also comes to mind in this respect; “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Therefore none of us, Muslims or Christians, based on our religious doctrine have a carte blanche to celebrate the death of a fellow human being.
 
No matter how anyone feels about the men we lost last week, the fact of the matter is they are dead and their reckoning has started. They have passed on to a place where each and every one of us is destined to go someday. Instead of focusing on the shortcomings of those who have already passed to the extent where their deaths are being celebrated, our time may be best spent by removing our blinders and whole-heartedly looking inward, examining ourselves to see whether we represent what we want Nigeria to be. To see whether each of us is so different from those we abhor so much. It would go without saying that anyone who has the heart to celebrate the death of another has the incapacity to operate at the standard we are holding our leaders to and they may even have a higher likelihood of taking a life if given the opportunity. As they say, we each have a choice to be the change we want to see in the world. One must always keep these issues in mind that, behind every death, there are hordes of people; wives, children, friends and neighbours who are in pains at the loss of their loved ones. President Yar’Adua, Governor Yakowa, General Azazi and the many other government officials we have lost are no different.
 
Of course, lessons must be drawn from this helicopter crash and other tragedies and the behavior of our leaders which has reduced our society to such a low where we are so indifferent and stony to their personal plights must be addressed. But there is a time and a place for everything. Now is a time to allow the families of the men who were lost to mourn and for thr dead to be burried. It is a time for us to show our humanity as a people and not celebrate another’s death.
 
I send my best wishes and condolence to all the friends and families of those who passed. Their death, as the death of anyone, greatly saddened me. But more than anything, maybe because Kaduna is my home, I was incredibly moved by the death of the late Governor of Kaduna State, Ibrahim Patrick Yakowa. I never knew, saw or met Governor Yakowa but from all the personal and official accounts one has come to learn of him, as the first person from Southern Kaduna and first Christian to govern Kaduna State, he proved himself to be a detribalized, fair and humble person with a towering spirit. From most accounts that I have come across, he was a kind and gentle man, with a lively mind, who will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by the vast majority of the populace in Kaduna. He was known to be a person with a profound commitment to create a humane society and was fair in balancing the trials that continue to plague Kaduna. In such a state which is deeply challenged by sectarian and ethnic dichotomy and violence, his example of impartiality under adverse conditions must serve as a source of inspiration for other leaders and for young people. He will be warmly remembered for the grace and dignity with which he officiated at the helm of the state he governed. He leaves a powerful legacy of commitment to a humane society, and social action towards this end.
 
No matter our challenges or differences in this country, we must learn to believe in peace and human dignity again. We must stand as a collective to make those who endeavour to plant bombs in people’s sacred sanctuaries, those who kidnap, abduct and murder others for financial gains and those who dance the ‘Gangnam dance’ when someone dies a vanishing minority.
 
There is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr which effectively sums up the status quo: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
 
 
Hannatu Musawa
 
I invite you to follow me on Twitter - @hanneymusawa

Hard View (A Walk Well Walked)

12th December 2012
A Walk Well Walked
 
Nelson Mandela is ageing and his ‘spirit and sparkle’ is fading, his wife has said, as it is disclosed that South Africa’s former president is suffering from a recurring lung infection and has been hospitalised. Millions all over the world yet again hold their breath at the news that the Madiba, one of the greatest moral and political international heroes of our time, is ill and fighting for his life.
Nelson Mandela feels more like a father than a famous figure to the likes of myself, who through out our lives recognise him as the central persona in one of the most gripping and moving political dramas in the world. His story has been one of strife, great effort, obstacle, new hope, and the ultimate achievement. And even in the midst of his darkest days, he demonstrated with vigour the task of a great leader, by leading his country from the shallow hole it was in, to the elevated heights of freedom. He did this with the spirit of a saint and a perception of strength, bravery, generosity, courage and forgiveness. Nelson Mandela is a true freedom fighter whose love for his people has no end and whose life and personal success will be remembered long after the world has forgotten the evils of the oppression that once engulfed his people. He is a star who has brightened the lives of many and set the ultimate example for all leaders in Africa, because he is one who will not compromise his people’s cause for self interest. The radiance of his personality has touched the lives of many over the years and we hope to continue drinking from his river of humanity as we pray he pulls through.
 
In a role seldom witnessed in Africa, he selflessly dedicated his life to fight against one of the most powerful systems of oppression ever conceived, and today he stands as a decisive testimony to the victory of nobility and hope over desolation and odium, of forgiveness and love over revenge and hate. His life personifies what a true patriot should do and how they should behave under the most trying of circumstances. The spirits of all the revolutionaries and freedom fighters of this world, past and present, surely would smile blessings upon him because he always stood fair against all kinds of domination and was willing to give his life for it. In his own words, Nelson Mandela once said, “I have fought against white domination and against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a free society in which all live together in harmony, with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
Growing up in South Africa as a young black boy in the first half of the last century must have been a real ordeal as a result of apartheid. Blacks were segregated, abused, persecuted and treated little better than animals. The apartheid regime enacted laws that regarded them accordingly. But despite such adversity, Nelson Mandela was always a fighter from a young age. Instead of accepting this unreasonable system of government, he made the decision to resist and began his lifelong journey to free South Africa from the shackles of repression. Little did he know that his resolve back then would lead to the demise of apartheid, pave the road to the presidency and the ultimate honour of a Nobel Peace Award.
 
Of all his sacrifices, the most heart-wrenching is without a doubt the sacrifice of his private life and youth for his people. I once read an interview with one of his daughters in which she described the solitude of growing up with a father that was incarcerated and branded terrorist by the government, and the loneliness of having to share him with the whole of South Africa upon his release. But even before his incarceration, Mandela was forced to live apart from his family. In an attempt to survive and evade the authorities, Mandela moved from place to place and adopted a number of camouflages. He became so good at avoiding the authorities that were stationed in every nook and cranny that at a point he was labelled the ‘black pimpernel’.
 
Decades into his struggle for the liberation of black and coloured people in South Africa, Mandela, together with Walter Sisulu, Dennis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Mosoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni and Ahmed Kathrada, was charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. While in prison, Mandela never compromised his political principles. The apartheid government numerously offered Mandela the reduction of his sentence as long as he abided by certain conditions, but every time they offered, Mandela would refuse on the notion that ‘…only free men could negotiate.’
 
After decades of prison labour, Nelson Mandela and his colleagues were eventually released on February 11, 1990. On that bright day, at 4:14pm, almost an hour late, a jubilant Mandela, dressed in a light brown suit and tie and holding Winnie’s hand, appeared at the gates of his prison, smiled at the ecstatic crowds and punched the air in a victory salute before taking a silver BMW Sedan to freedom. With his tenacity unblemished, he went back to his life’s work, determined to end the struggle he and others had set out to do almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa, Mandela was elected president of the party. On May 10, 1994, he won and became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. And, unlike most other African leaders, even though he was at the apex, he retired in June 1999 and relinquished power with no fuss after only one term in office.
 
Before being taken to hospital, he was known to peacefully reside in his birth place with his wife, Graca, where his most private moments were filled by his greatest pleasure: watching the sun set while listening to classical music and reading to his grandchildren. Accounts suggest he usually got up by 4:30am, exercised by 5am and took breakfast of plain porridge, fresh fruit and fresh milk by 6:30am while reading the days newspapers.
 
Despite severe provocation, Mandela never answered racism with racism but symbolised the triumph of the human spirit over man’s inhumanity to man. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived, and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation. He has never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and justice.
 
Words cannot describe how blessed this generation is to have lived during the times of a man like Mandela. I and millions of people around the world who love him dearly have learned so much from him and will continue to cherish him. If the world can have more people like him, it, indeed, would be a much better place to live in. He reminds me of a late woman named Hajia Wowo that I loved so much. But more than that, when I think of him, I do not see a person; I see an institution of goodness and a beacon of strength…I see my conscience!
 
In his autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom,’ Mandela describes his struggle as a journey, and of that journey he says, “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

And indeed, as we pray for his fast recovery, for the great Madiba it has been, for the last nine decades, a walk well walked!

Hannatu Musawa

I invite you to follow me on Twitter - @hanneymusawa

Hard View (A Tribute To The Rarest Gem Of All )

5th November 2012
A Tribute To The Rarest Gem Of All

On Friday, November 30, 2012, literally hundreds were shocked by the announcement of the death of Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammad Buhari, the first daughter of the former head of state, General Muhammad Buhari (retd). To anyone that knew or heard of her gentle soul, Zulaiha or Magajiya (she was named after her paternal grandmother), as she was fondly called by her loved ones, was the most humble and gentle human being you could ever meet. An endless list of complimentary words cannot define the incredible person that this astoundingly selfless lady was. She was the pride of her family, the most obedient daughter, the most caring mother any child could wish for, a devoted wife, a faithful friend and a priceless asset to her community.
 
Zulaiha was born on December 5, 1972, to Muhammad Buhari and Safinatu (now late). She attended nursery school in the USA where her family lived at the time. She graduated from primary school at Air Force Military School, Lagos. Zulaiha began her secondary school in Queens College, Lagos, and in 1985 she began her JS2 at Federal Government College, Kaduna, where she graduated in 1990. She was admitted to study economics at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, where she later completed her post-graduate diploma in management. She worked for a while at African Intercontinental Bank (AIB). Zulaiha then proceeded to work with Ministry of Steel and Solid Minerals in Kaduna until her passing on.
 
The Hajiya Safinatu Buhari Foundation (HSB) was founded by her, in loving memory of her late mother, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari, who died of diabetes in February 2006. The foundation catered for the destitute who were stricken by the disease. She also served as the treasurer of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). In addition to these community service obligations, she worked diligently, yet silently, on several other NGOs in her immediate community and beyond. Only those closest to her knew of her battle with sickle cell anemia, a condition that she lived with bravely for she never succumbed to it until it so cruelly snatched her away.
 
In Nigeria, annually, over 150,000 children are born with the sickle-cell disease. Over 100,000 of these children die annually. An estimated 5,000,000 Nigerians live with sickle-cell anemia. These statistics came from the former director, Institute for Medical Research and Training, College of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Professor Adeyinka Falusi. Many Nigerians are unaware that this country has the highest number of sickle cell patients in the world, yet it has the poorest health care and support for the helpless patients.
 
Sickle-cell disease (SCD) or sickle- cell anaemia or drepanocytosis is an autosomal recessive genetic blood disorder with overdominance, characterised by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. Sickling decreases the cells’ flexibility and results in a risk of various complications. The sickling occurs because of a mutation in the haemoglobin gene. Life expectancy is automatically shortened. In 1994, in the US, the average life expectancy of persons with this condition was estimated to be 42 years in males and 48 years in females, but today, due to sophisticated drugs and better management of the condition, patients can live up to their 50s and beyond. In Nigeria, the statistics are obviously not as favourable. This disease can cause several complications such as: overwhelming post-(auto) splenectomy infection (OPSI), stroke, silent stroke (a stroke that causes no immediate symptoms but is associated with damage to the brain), opioid tolerance, acute papillary necrosis in the kidney, leg ulcers, consistent eye infections, high mortality risk during pregnancy, gall stones, aseptic bone necrosis, malfunctioning of spleen, bacterial bone infection, increased pressure on the pulmonary artery and high blood pressure.
 
Sickle-cell disease occurs more commonly in people (or their descendants) from parts of tropical and sub-tropical regions where malaria is or was common. In areas where malaria is common, there is a fitness benefit in carrying only a single sickle-cell gene (sickle cell trait). People with only one of the two alleles of the sickle-cell disease, while not totally resistant, are more tolerant to the infection and will therefore show less severe symptoms when infected. It is crucial to educate and enlighten parents with the AS genotype about the risks involved, as their child may turn out to have the SS genotype. In much the same way that we inherit blood type, hair colour and texture, and other physical traits, the sickle-cell gene is also inherited. If one parent has sickle-cell anaemia (SS) and the other has sickle-cell trait, then there is a 50 per cent chance of a child having sickle-cell disease and a 50 per cent chance of a child having sickle-cell trait. When both parents have sickle-cell trait, a child has a 25 per cent chance of sickle-cell disease.
 
It is a wonder that a person living with this traumatic disease made such a positive impact on the community as Zulaiha did. She was an epitome of virtue, an unassuming lady who lived her life with the humility and simplicity unheard of for a former first daughter. My sister, Hadiza and I, with tears of sorrow and a heavy heart, recall the memorable undergraduate days spent with Zulaiha at ABU, Zaria. She had a humble nature, a forgiving spirit, and dedication to studies. She was accommodating to friends and loved ones, and her gift of a simplistic character drew her to everyone and endeared her in the eyes of all that were privileged to be part of her life. Her soft-spoken voice and beautiful smile were the perfect antidote for calming fiery tempers in the dorm and class. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Zulaiha never raised her voice or lifted a finger to hurt anyone or anything around her. “Yaya Babba” (as she was fondly called by her sisters) had the gift of an amazing spirit of living her life in the most exemplary way, and this served as a shining example not only to her peers, but her loved ones at home.
 
Zulaiha is survived by her husband, Captain Junaid Abdullahi, three wonderful children, Halima Junaid, Muhammad Buhari Junaid, and her precious new born baby girl. Her memory lives on in the hearts of her caring father and mother, beloved sisters and brother, family and many friends. They should take much consolation in the fact that very few people can be described with the wondrous accolades that this dearest soul has been. No father can be prouder of a daughter with such an admirable spirit; no child can be prouder of a mother who strived beyond her illness to ensure they got the best in life; no sister can be prouder of one who showed them the path of dignified humility, and no friend can be prouder of the legacies this amazing soul has left behind; no one can question the will of the Almighty; no one can comprehend the torturous pain her family is going through, for surely the grief of even the silent tears are the most painful. But a woman that lived her life in peace and goodness will surely be rewarded accordingly in the hereafter.

It is said that a diamond is the rarest and most precious gem, but in Zulaiha Muhammed Buhari, the rarest and most precious of all has been lost.

Written by Hadiza Musawa

— Hadiza is my sister and wrote this tribute.

Twitter- @HadiMusawa

Hard View (Tussle Of The Dragons)

28th November 2012
Tussle Of The Dragons
 
All nationals in a country are expected to look up to their leaders for guidance and inspiration. When there is an apparent rift in perceptions and ideals in ways to execute the mission and vision of a country’s agenda, there will be cracks in the harmony of national coexistence.
 
When a question was asked former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a recent conference in Warri relating to the terrorist group Boko Haram, he stated clearly that it was important for President Goodluck Jonathan to be decisive in tackling insecurity, as he himself had done while tackling the militancy in Odi, Bayelsa State in 1999. After that statement, the former Head of State, retired General Yakubu Gowon during the launch of a book, “Stay At The Top”, spoke against former President Obasanjo, saying he was “weak and highly irresponsible.” The book was written by a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Omoniyi Komolafe.
In what seems to be a war of words, Obasanjo fired back on Saturday, November 24, 2012, by stating, through his spokesman, Malam Garbadeen Mohammed: “When did General Gowon become the spokesman of the Jonathan administration?” He insisted that “there’s nothing irresponsible about my comments on the insecurity in Nigeria. I was only interpreting the reality. I expressed an opinion on the way the Boko Haram crisis is being handled and said if the current strategy is not working, then there has to be a change of strategy to achieve results. If the strategy were working, Boko Haram would have become a thing of the past by now.”
 
For a country in desperate need of a decisive and positive anchor in leadership direction, both present and former leaders are expected to have common strategic objectives of fighting crime and corruption. The people expect distinctive competence while proficiently guiding them towards a more hopeful future. A highly educated society with ideals would be forced to eliminate partiality of religion, ethnicity or regional diversity. Our leaders in Nigerian are no doubt Nigerians themselves; therefore; our leaders are a reflection of what we ourselves are. A more objective assessment of our nation’s public affairs would be more welcome in today’s society. The world-acclaimed writer, Chinua Achebe, identified bad leadership as Nigeria’s greatest problem. But can a country of 160 million claim to be so pious and totally blame governmernt for the prevading corruption and insecurity in the land? The answer has to be no, for in us, the people, lies the solution to all our problems.
 
As leaders and followers, we are collectively responsible for fairness, honesty and integrity. The laws of the land should be just and transparent. There should not be an encouragement of financial dictatorship by endorsing the powerful and wealthy to be even stronger, and this can be done with the imposition of an efficient tax system. Commendably, the Federal Inland Revenue Service has done a courageous job of collecting 3.5 trillion naira in 2012 alone. The law enforcement agencies need to be restructured. Instead of pointing fingers at security forces for not doing their jobs properly, why not replace that criticism with a system that rewards officers for preventing any form of criminal activity from taking place while they are on duty? Major changes and reforms should take place with a specific emphasis on economic activity while encouraging consumer demand and job creation. Essential infrastructure such as roads, ports, schools, hospitals, and information technology machinery should be prioritised. The rebranding and rebuilding of Nigeria’s seemingly lost glory should be achieved passionately, with a sense of great national pride. A solid legacy should be left for the future generation of Nigerians to come.
 
After the advent of the oil boom in the 1970’s, Nigeria’s ranking in the world has declined considerably. Nigeria is faced with numerous economic problems, including a serious decline in its agricultural sector and a claustrophobic national debt situation; one that seems to be mounting.
According to the World Bank Economic Review, “While some decline in non-oil traded goods sector reflects efficient adjustment to the oil boom, policy with regards to public expenditure, exchange rates, pricing, and the trade regime could exacerbate such decline and impede readjustments as the boom subsides.”
 
Nigeria is the largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa and a member of OPEC since 1971. Yet, appallingly, Nigeria has the third highest number of poor people in the world, after China and India. The country is plagued by low levels of human development (two out of five children are stunted in growth), regional, religious and social conflicts as well as environmental challenges. It has become apparent that the vast natural resources at Nigeria’s disposal have apparently not advanced human development at all. The discovery of crude should have afforded Nigeria an advantageous opportunity to generate national income and improve the living standards of its people. That has not happened.
 
Leadership is a continually evolving responsibility that requires creativity and positive energy, and adopts certain principles and techniques as tools to manage people and the economy. The most valuable aspect of its economy is its human resources. This resource factor relates to the possession and use of human resources, especially specific skills that impact on the economic capacity and ability to implement productive strategies. Relevant factors include extensive manpower planning, public corporate image, quality of public office holders and public officials, union management and relations, employment, and, most importantly, the satisfaction and morale of the people.
 
My fellow Nigerians should be empowered and motivated to achieve common goals for the good of the country as a whole. Transparent leadership recognises the strengths and weaknesses of the people. It strengthens the weaknesses and builds on the strengths. The society must be educated enough to share information for the sake of nation building. We want to follow and trust our leaders to lead us on the right path to follow. Mistakes are made by all nations of the world, but Nigeria desperately needs to acknowledge its shortcomings and highlight them in the most plausible way. The reality of the situation of Nigeria today is a far cry from the qualities listed above.
 
All past heads of states and presidents of this great nation have contributed in various positive ways to build Nigeria. The passion of Nigerians should be engaged to deliver on the core values of our founding fathers. John Maxwell has defined leadership as influence. The trust in its entirety of the past and present leaders by Nigerians is a burden they have to bear. There is no room for a breach of that trust, neglecting transparency or the compromise of integrity via a failure to act positively or the unwholesome practices of unethical violations.
 
The pride of our leaders should be ignored for innovative implementations to achieve success. Ideally, we should all be committed by one common goal: the security, economic strength and pride of national sovereignty of all Nigerians. But when the influential leaders of the giant of Africa are engaged in a caustic public display of accusatory words, it does little for the morale of a desperate society other than highlight the tussle of the dragons.

Hannatu Musawa

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @hanneymusawa

Hard View (Innocence Lost)

14th November 2012
Innocence Lost
 
For the last couple of months, a scandal has been brewing in the United Kingdom – a scandal of titanic proportion which reduces a British national treasure from the highs where only heroes dare to roam to the lowest depths of a villainess terrain. The late Sir Jimmy Savile was not only one of the most loved and respected men in Britain, he was quintessentially an omnipresent and eccentric adornment to British public life.
 
As a disc jockey, television presenter, media personality and charity fundraiser, Jimmy Saville singlehandedly raised an astounding £40 million for charities and transformed the lives of thousands through his television show “Jim’ll Fix It”. He was a personal friend to Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles, Lady Diana, Knighted by the Queen, given a Papal Knighthood by Pope John Paul II, amongst so many other honours. However, it was not until after his 2011 death that hundreds of allegations of child abuse and rape became public, leading the police to believe that Savile might have been one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.
 
With these allegations, it came to light that Jimmy Saville may have sexually abused over 300 young boys and girls, including mental patients and critically sick children. The crashing end to a legacy that was Jimmy Saville could not have been worse. Child abuse is not only one of the most horrific crimes imaginable, it is also one of the most damaging on the victim.
 
One can only fathom the disastrous effect such a crime would have on the poor children that have fallen victim to it. It is really sad to know that, in this day, we live in a world where such monstrosities can take place against such innocent beings. In some of the cases I have personally come across in the past, children as young as 16 months have been raped and abused. One of the most profound and heart-breaking cases was one that I have written about before: a four-year-old girl that was raped consistently by her neighbour and carer. When I came across the case, the little girl was already physically and psychologically damaged and had tragically contracted HIV from her abuser. I tried everything to pursue the case and assist the family but, unfortunately, I was unable to keep in contact with them as they were displaced during one of the past Kaduna riots. Up until now, I am unable to get the devastating image of that little girl’s face out of my mind and I know it will remain with me for the rest of my life.
 
One cannot imagine why any adult would descend to such a low that they would feel the need to molest children. But I think the truth is that there is no simple explanation as to why some adults sexually abuse children. Although some make excuses for it by saying that paedophiles are mad people, but I think that explanation gives these abusers an easy way out. Unfortunately it may just come down to the basic fact that some people have an unhealthy interest in children and they do not care that sexual contact between adults and children is harmful to the child. In fact, certain molesters create the belief that they are merely showing affection by molesting a child. However, for the vast majority who are aware that their actions are wrong, they go to great lengths to keep their offences secret in order to continue to abuse children.
 
Unfortunately, there are so many myths and assumptions drummed into our consciousness and built into our society that help to create a safe haven for child molesters. For example, some believe that it is almost always the fault of parents because they neglect their children or that certain classes of people do not molest children. In order to hinder child molesters, these theories must stop so that we can concentrate on the conduct of adults and an atmosphere that empowers perverse adults to molest children. I think that the most frightening aspect of child abuse is that about 75-85% of molested children are molested by relatives or other familiar adults and not strangers, just like in the case of the family I met.
 
As a parent, I would think that, the most important strategy to protect children is to have good communication with them. It is important to explain to children the difference between good and bad physical contact and to talk to them regularly, listen and observe their behaviour. One must know about their child’s activities and feelings. If, in the unfortunate situation, a child has been abused, they most likely may be too afraid and embarrassed to talk about it. In that situation, it is up to the parent to detect the physical and behavioural signals.
 
An abused child may lose appetite, regress to infantile behaviour such as bedwetting or excessive crying, fear the dark, have recurrent nightmares or disturbed sleep patterns, unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual matters, expressing affection in ways inappropriate for a child of that age. A parent should notice whether a child has vaginal or rectal bleeding, infections or venereal disease, torn or stained underclothing and other signals such as aggressive or disruptive behaviour, withdrawal, running away or delinquent behaviour, or even unusually failing in school. In a situation where children show adult-like sexual behaviour, it is usually because they have been exposed to it by another child or adult, because children tend to copy and repeat adult behaviours. Most experts agree that boys and girls have an equal chance of being sexually abused, although some children are more likely to become victims than others; children who are easily controlled by adults make easier targets.
 
The abuse of children, in my opinion, is the worst action against any society. It is a problem of international proportion, especially when children are being trafficked from continent to continent in order to fuel this grotesque, illicit trade. Every time I am confronted with the harrowing facts that many of the children trafficked for sex slavery in Africa end up victims of AIDS or that a proportionally high number of the victims are tempted to commit suicide, my heart breaks. I have never been an advocate for capital punishment, but, in the case of child abusers, I would vigorously campaign for the worst kind.
 
I met Jimmy Saville as a young girl in 1984 on a TV programme called “Saturday Starship” when members of my class were invited to appear on a programme he was holding. It was the highlight of my life back then to meet this larger than character who was so giving and kind. Jimmy lived up to every expectation we had as he joked, teased and smiled at all of us who participated. Little did we know then that behind the quirky, cheeky smile that Jimmy had lay a dark and sinister secret. Jimmy’s story is a lesson to everyone to be more vigilant when it comes to their children. I hope it will serve as a deterrent to stop other children being abused.

Hannatu Musawa

I invite you to follow me on Twitter -@hanneymusawa

Hard View (Victorious Barack Hussein Obama)

7th November 2012
Victorious Barack Hussein Obama
 
As I write this, the deadlock of the race is being settled as both candidates’ pursuit of every single vote comes to an end and Americans decide their president for the next four years. For all Obama supporters all over the world, the lead for Barack at the US presidential election is a relief. Even for those of us who have no direct connection with America, the race was excruciating to watch because it is so ruddy close. But though the race is closer than initially predicted, Barack’s narrow lead is still a decisive one; one good enough for those of us who hope and pray that he will eventually emerge victorious.

From the time that Mitt Romney emerged as the Republican Party nominee, I was not as convinced as some that the race would be a walkover for Barack. Like him or hate him, Romney is an accomplished politician born with a political silver spoon, a great leader, an astute businessman and a person that is more than fit and qualified to occupy one of the highest and most powerful offices in the world.

Having secured the ticket of his party, he came into the race as the underdog to a very likeable but flawed Obama. In the aftermath of the party conventions, Obama was clearly ahead in the polls and the bookies’ favourite to win, while Mitt Romney faced accusations that he was a man who was affluent, arrogant; callous, aloof and out of touch. It seemed inevitable back then that Barack would win. Romney himself further augmented this following a series of personal gaffes by himself and a stunningly incompetent campaign team.

The extremely damaging tape, which caught Romney alienating 47% of the American electorate, reinforced the suspicion and adverse assessment people already had of him. His incredibly chauvinistic and pigheaded support of Richard Murdock in the wake of Murdock’s rape comments saw Governor Romney alienate himself further from the vital female vote that was so crucial to his campaign victory. Then, there was the imprudent advert released by Romney’s team that infuriated the motor industry, which suggested that some vehicle production was to be relocated to China due to cheaper labour. This one advert fortified the notion that Mitt Romney was an adversary to the crucial Mid-western blue-collar voters.

However, notwithstanding all of this, during the course of his campaign, Romney managed to take on the challenges of his potential failure head-on by reinventing himself, presenting an image of a moderate conservative within a highly conservative party. He backtracked on some of his earlier controversial promises, distanced himself from the party he was leading and by extension distanced himself from an incredibly unpopular and moronic President Bush. And a large number of Americans bought into it.

So, there and then it proved that the game wasn’t over for Governor Romney; that he could reach out and snatch victory right from the palm of a seemingly complacent President Obama. So there and then the race for the White House really and truly began and the game was on!

The American Election 2012 has been a very interesting and surprising one. It has been a bitter and unpleasant campaign with a horde of seemingly critical moments that had the potential to alter the overall outcome of the elections particularly in favour of Romney. But none of them left a lasting impression. President Obama came into the race with a truckload of mistakes and weaknesses but, whatever they were, the opposition seemed unable to effectively exploit them.

The attack of the American Embassy in Libya and the murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were considered a death knell to Barack’s popularity surge. But Obama managed to dodge this and so many other bullets that were coming his way. Somehow, all the shockers and the outrages during this campaign have one way or another worked to the president’s advantage.

Elections are decided by the basics. Apart from the fact that Obama is one of the most likeable public figures of this generation, apart from the fact that Obama must be the one person the lady luck chose as her first born. Apart from the fact that this one man has managed to catch the imagination of the whole world since he came onto the scene, the reason why Obama is likely to win the American election and is likely to embark on another four-year term is due to the fact that none of the major political changes projected by Romney and his team have crystalized.

For a start, there was a belief that the passion that saw Obama into office in 2008 would vanish. Many of us thought that the euphoria that followed his last campaign and victory would have dimmed owing to the harsh reality and ongoing struggles of the ordinary American voter.
Several commentators were of the opinion that Romney would have absorbed the misplaced euphemism from a fractured society and stubborn economy. But that really wasn’t the case. The Democratic base doesn’t seem to have lost their appetite and energy. And this energy was part of the factor that has given Barack the momentous lead in the undecided swing states where Romney is facing margins too expansive to close.

The behemoth of a fledgling economy and the high unemployment figures, which was expected to give Mitt Romney and the Republican Party victory on a silver platter, was not to be. The blessing of lady luck was on the side of Barack because just as the factors of a fractured economy were about to bite the US president, vital economic indicators stayed on a positive trajectory with the effect that wide-ranging economic assurances rose in their wake. By extension, the unemployment figures suddenly went down. This saw a rise in Barack’s approval ratings. “No time like the present!”

And who could forget the first presidential debate, which leashed life into the Romney campaign and unraveled the moving train of Barack’s victory. With his lackluster performance in Denver, Obama performed the part of a presenter who stands on stage to introduce the main act in a show. That act was Mitt Romney and the governor came out all guns blazing, shinning and thriving. Suddenly, thanks to Obama, Romney looked like the better occupant of the White House. A reset button had been pushed, the playing field had been leveled and, for Obama, the heat was on for the first time in the race.

While Barack fought back and won the two subsequent debates, the dynamic encasing the race radically changed course. But even with that, the essentials remained unaffected. Slowly with determination and the hand of lady luck, the narrative in Barack’s favour finally began to realign itself.

The most palpable came in the form of a devastating hurricane Sandy. Barack Obama cut the figure of a compassionate and sensitive president who was well and truly in command by responding to the plight and need of his people. He toured the areas affected with Chris Christie, a Republican governor. He fully supported the relief efforts and the relief agencies. This was the same sentiment that endeared the American people to a widely unpopular George Bush in the aftermath of the 2001 Twin-Tower attacks. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, failed to capitalize on presenting himself to the American people in the same way.

But despite any of the factors that may have played into Barack’s potential victory, the bottom line is that he is a good man and a successful president that has done a good job since he has been in office. The last four years have been tough for President Obama. But even with the challenges he has faced especially in managing a slow economic recovery, he has been able to sustain the economy. He has readjusted the negative image of America created by the Bush administration. He has annihilated America’s no 1 enemy, Osama bin Laden, and has secured America against any major terrorist attacks on American soil. He has spelt the end of two unnecessary wars and is calling American soldiers back home. That is certainly not bad for a man that was riding against the wave.
By the looks of it from the exit polls, Barack Obama is well on his way to victory. This son of the world ends the 2012 presidential race much in the same way he began: on the back of the ultimate victory. And as his lead increases, as the final results are being read, I would like to congratulate Americans all over the world in advance for making a wise and right decision, not only for America but for the whole world.


Hannatu Musawa

I invite you to follow me on Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Hard View (Barbaric Bombers, Not Muslims)

31st Octiber 2012
Barbaric Bombers, Not Muslims
 
Another day, another church bombing! The more frequent these mass murders become, the sicker one feels to the pit of their stomach. How anyone can justify the cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children that went to worship their God on their holy day is beyond me. Apart from the disgust and anger that Nigerians feel, the fear -- that foreboding we have of more violence -- is so thick in the air you could almost slice it. Granted, it’s no secret that the country is at its most unsafe, but even with our present anemic security situation, nobody could have imagined that our society would descend to such a low where barbarians go as far as bombing people as they worship in their churches. These acts of violence have put the entire country in a heightened state of fear and suspicion and warrants peace-loving Muslims to come out and condemn the acts in the strongest terms.

Any Muslim that understands the spirit of peace in Islam knows that there is nothing and nowhere in the teachings of Islam that condones the kind of violence where one is given a carte blanche to murder innocent families who were celebrating their day of significance in a place that they considered to be their sanctuary. Any Muslim that knows the overwhelming message of hope, justice, faith and peace among human beings of the Qur’an is completely devastated.

When one sees the phrase in the Quran which “unambiguously” states that innocent people, regardless of their race and faith, must not be killed in any circumstance, one wonders which interpretation gives credence for some to commit such aggression. It is clearly mentioned in the Quran that, if anyone kills an innocent human being “who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people”.

Even during war-time, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) told his followers not to harm non-combatants. That if they had to go to enemy territory for war, the soldiers were not to harm elderly people, women and children and also must not destroy farms and fruit trees as people may suffer because of the shortage of food. In His teachings, he emphasized the right to life of people, animals, birds, and even ants. And if it is prohibited to harm even an ant, what could make anyone think that it is all right to kill a fellow human being?

The expression in the Quran, “there is no compulsion in religion”, is known to even those who continue to insist that Shari’a law must be applied in the whole of Nigeria. But Nigeria is not made up of only Muslims, and, even if it was, one section of the community does not have the right to decide the fate of the rest. If the Holy Prophet (PBUH) provided assurances to non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim majority countries and ordered Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim majority countries to abide by all laws and the rules of the country, there is no reason for any Nigerian Muslim not to abide by the law of this land. The belief that God is a just God that welcomes those who believe in Him and lead a righteous life, by whatever name they call themselves, should be enough reason for us to co-exist peacefully. In the Quran, it is written: “Surely, those who believe those who are Jewish, the converts, and the Christians; any of them who believe in GOD and believe in the Last Day, and lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. [Quran 5:69]

When small minorities of the Muslim population interpret the teachings of the Holy Quran in a manner that is unknown to the majority of the other Muslims, it affects us all. And it makes life worse for Muslims who are striving to live by the peaceful teachings of Allah and peacefully co-exist with their Christian brothers, sisters and neighbours.

If the purpose of the violence and intimidation that we have seen is to achieve some sort of political gain, then, it really is fruitless because it affects innocent civilians who have little or no impact on political change. While government people continue to protect themselves in their bullion vans and bulletproof homes, the victims will continue to be those who are already suffering. Violence begets violence and the only possible outcome of such aggression will be the furtherance of more violence. And now that violence has been brought into the fray, it seems to have become second nature in our environment. Our humanity has been reduced to a level of barbarism that cannot be dealt with in any position of serious negotiation. Using the fear of death and destruction to motivate people to do what one wants furthers this epidemic and cycle of violence. Pointing an AK47 in a person’s face and forcing them to do something will probably motivate them to do it at that time, but it will quickly devolve into something much worse. The people who continue to exact this kind of violence must have families of their own that they love and protect. They need to put themselves in the position of the victims and imagine, just for a moment, the pain people feel when they lose their families in such a violent way.

We are all brethren — descendants of the same Adam and Eve, from the lineage of the same Prophet Abraham/Ibrahim. We have been created of distinct peoples, beliefs and tribes that we may recognize one another. There is no reason for us to hate, kill and main one another. Both of our sacred books speak of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

In the Quran it says: “Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered” [Quran 2:136].
The Bible says: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” [Corinthians 10:31-32].

Our lives must be held sacred. Our unity must be held strong. Life is granted by God alone, and no person has a right to take it without justifiable cause. We have no room for a religious war in Nigeria and one prays that all parties, especially our Christian neighbours and those targeted and hurt in these heinous attacks, can continue to exercise patience and restraint. As for those who continue to unleash violence, may they know that every last drop of blood that (God forbid) comes from any reprisal attacks is fully and squarely on their heads! May they remember that, sooner or latter, in this life and in the hereafter, they will have to answer to the Almighty and pay for every lost life that they have directly or indirectly claimed.

As I reminisce and mourn for the innocents and lives gone, my thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and the families and friends who suffered. “Dear God, Oh Allah! Please, Oh please, bring healing to this nation, and make it a peaceful land.”

Hannatu Musawa
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @hanneymusawa