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PARTISAN DISENCHANTMENT RAISE CHALLENGES FOR HISTORIC LIBERIAN RUN-OFF
By Lindsay Barrett

George Weah (left) and Vice President Jospeh Boakai (right) opponents in Liberia’s second round run-off.

The approach of Liberia’s historic second round of voting in the recently contested presidential election, in which ex-soccer star George Opong Weah laid claim to a seemingly unassailable ten percent lead over incumbent Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai at the end of the first round, has now been challenged by several participants in the race. The most surprising aspect of the challenges presented before Liberia’s Supreme Court is the fact that a major complainant is the Unity Party, the party on whose ticket President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won two terms in office.

The party fielded the sitting Vice President as its flag-bearer but surprisingly while Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf vocally pledged her support for his aspiration she took no part in the campaign. Her own explanation for this stance is that she wished the process to be seen as free of official interference but over the weeks leading up to the voting and increasingly since then several commentators in the Liberian press and on social media have accused her of abandoning her party’s Presidential objective. The major issue on which this accusation was based in opinions voiced by some notable observers of the Liberian political arena was the assumption that Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf wished to undermine her Vice President because of some internal disagreements. During the campaign the Vice President’s supporters denied this allegation vehemently and insisted that Madam Johnson Sirleaf was fully in support of their candidate, but since the outcome of the first round most of them have changed their tune. READ MORE!

 

LIBERIA ON THE BRINK OF HISTORY AGAIN
By Lindsay Barrett

Photo left-Vice President Joseph Boakai; photo right- George Weah

The result of the first round of the recent Liberian presidential election has set the stage for what many observers have described as that nation’s most challenging choice of leadership in its history. The outcome of the poll has left George Weah the former world soccer star with what appears to be the unassailable advantage of a near ten-percent lead over Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai. However this result has been attributed not merely to Weah’s glamorous image and attraction for young voters but also to his alliance with elements of the imprisoned former warlord Charles Taylor’s supporters, This aspect of the Liberian exercise has taken many political analysts in the West African sub-region and beyond by surprise, because while the popularity of the former soccer star is not in doubt his alliance with the remnants ofa movement that brought war and devastation to Africa’s oldest republic for more than two decades was unexpected. The demographic profile of Liberia contains a major youth bulge in which nearly 80% of the electorate is under fifty years of age and about 65% of that bulge is estimated to be between 18 and 40 years of age. As a consequence many of those on whom the eventual result will rely are young people who, many observers say, may very well make decisions based on sentiment rather than on careful and reasoned concern. READ MORE!

 

BAYELSA AT 21: CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE OF ADULTHOOD
Story and photos by Lindsay Barrett

Gov. Dickson lays a foundation stone at the new Boro Town Kolokuma-OpokumaLGA(left).  Part of the Western Senatorial District Highway leading to Ekeremor LGA one of the most remote areas of the Niger Delta (left).
         
  

Although Bayelsa State has just achieved its coming of age the saga of its existence over the last twenty-one years is replete with political echoes which suggest that the territory that it occupies has a level of importance in the national arena that belies its youth. Apart from the fact that the birthplace of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is located there its emergence as the birthplace of the first person of Southern Minority origin to become President of the nation has thrown the young state even more prominently into the spotlight of public opinion.

This is especially so because the governors who have held power in the statesince the advent of democratic rule in 1990, are individuals whose impact on the political scenehas been noticeably controversial. The late D.S.P Alamieyeseigha, who designated himself the “Governor General of the Ijaw Nation” and openly espoused the cause of resource control as a central pillar of his policy thrust, set the tenor of representative governance of the state when he built the first major highway to traverse the core swamp terrain of the heartland of the Niger Delta leading to his hometown of Amassoma.

Until then common wisdom expressed by most developers from other parts of Nigeria held that it would be too difficult and prohibitively expensive to access the riverine communities of the Niger Delta by road. In spite of this,foreign companies and the Federal Authorities have spent huge sums to access these areas in order to exploit the natural resources and earn humongous returns for the national coffers and a few privileged private individuals. As a consequence although Bayelsa State occupies a territory that has contributed trillions of dollars for the national treasury since oil was discovered and first exported from the Öloibiri pioneer oil well in 1957, the impact on the welfare and development of the communities in the territory remained symptomatic of this neglect throughout the period from then until the state was created in 1996. READ MORE!

 

LIBERIAN ELECTION:VP BOAKAI IN SURPRISE POPULAR SURGE
From Lindsay Barrett

Vice President Joseph NyumaBoakai (right) and (left) a section of the huge crowd that attended his mega-rally in mid-September

As the twelve-year long two-term tenure of Africa’s first popularly elected woman President, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, draws to a close with elections scheduled for later this weekthe peaceful transition through the ballot from one leader to another in Africa’s oldest republic for the first time since 1943 is the historic objective that most observers are hoping for. However while Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has been vocal in support of her Vice President Joseph Boakai, an old hand in the Liberian political arena, several commentators in the Liberian media have questioned her commitment to his candidacy and suggested that she is only paying lip-service to his aspirations while secretly supporting the ambitions of either the ex-footballer George OpongWeah, or the lawyer Charles Brumskine a perennial aspirant who has contested twice before. In recent weeks these allegations have gained increasing currency in commentaries in both traditional media, and new-style social media focused on the forthcoming polls. However the public response to this twist in Liberia’s complex political arena has apparently unleashed reactionsin favour of the modest and unassuming Vice President from a substantial proportion of the electorate. Thousands of excited supporters turned out for a special rally to pledge support for his candidacy in mid-September and since then several influential institutions and individuals in Liberia have publicly endorsed him....READ MORE!

 

LIBERIAN ELECTIONS: VICE PRESIDENT BOAKAI IS THE MAN TO BEAT
From Lindsay Barrett: Just back from Monrovia

The “Big Three” in Liberian politics , (left) Vice President Joseph NyumaBoakai, (centre) Africa’s first Lady President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and (right) ex-soccer superstar and Presidential aspirant George OpongWeah.

Liberia’s Presidential polls that will commence on Tuesday this week will very likely be among the most important of such exercises to take place anywhere in West Africa in recent times. As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s constitutional tenure of two six-year terms draws to a close the region is watching the outcome with bated breath as it will test the resilience of the peace and stability that the regional community made enormous sacrifices to install during and after the long and brutal civil war that raged in Africa’s oldest republic from the early 1990’s until 2003. The revision and reform of the fundamental nature of the national polity that resulted out of the crisis and its resolution has created a new leadership paradigm in the nation. This has made it imperative that leaders throughout Africa take cognizance of the true values of the participants.... READ MORE!

 

JAMAICA/ GHANA TIES STRENGTHENED BY ACTIONS OF ISLAND NATION’S REPRESENTATIVE IN ABUJA
From Lindsay Barrett in Abuja

The historic connection of the Caribbean island of Jamaica with the ancestry of many of its people in the ethnic communities of modern-day Ghana is well known. Many of the national heroes of Jamaica’s history especially among the resistance fighters of the slave era bear names redolent with the cultural identity of Ghanaian origin. These include Nanny, Cudjoe, Quacoe and Koffi, leaders of the Maroon Rebellions of the 18th century, which led to the establishment of autonomous enclaves of freedom in the island. In addition to this the founding father of Ghanaian Independence, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah openly expressed his debt of gratitude to the Jamaican Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey whose life and actions inspired the Ghanaian leader’s vision of self-determination for all Africans. These historic echoes appeared to take on new and more contemporary relevance recently when Her Excellency Mrs. Ann Scott, the Jamaican High Commissioner in Nigeria (who is also accredited to Ghana) hosted two events that emphasised the fraternal empathy existing between the two nations.

H.E. Mrs. Ann Scott (left) High Commissioner of Jamaica in Nigeria & Ghana speaks at a reception bidding farewell to H.E. William AzumahAwinador-Kanyirege (right) outgoing High Commissioner of Ghana in Nigeria

The first of these was a low-key reception to bid farewell to H.E. William AzumahAwinador-Kanyirege High Commissioner of Ghana in Nigeria, who was leaving to a new posting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The reception, which was heldat the residence of the Jamaican High Commissioner,was attended by a small gathering of African Ambassadors with Nigeria’s highly respected diplomatic expert, and one-time Foreign Minister and former Under-Secretary General of the UN Dr. Ibrahim Gambari as a Special Guest. Many speakers paid tribute to the expertise and hospitable attributes of the Ghanaian diplomat and Mrs, Scott spoke with gratitude of his fraternal assistance to her at all times since they met. READ MORE!

 

LIBERIA’S DEMOCRATIC TOURNAMENT HEATS UP EARLY
By Lindsay Barrett

(Left) The road to Ganta: Chinese built highway is one of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s great legacies of renewal.

As soon as the West African Heads of State and Government concluded their historic Summit in Monrovia earlier this month Liberians were hardly given time to savour the reverberations of what turned out to be one of the most controversial regional meetingsin recent years. By the end of the week in which the Summit took place at the new five-star Farmington River Hotel, situated at the famous Robertsfield International Airport, activities surrounding the commencement of the race to inherit the mantle of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President of Africa’s oldest republic had diverted domestic attention from issues arising from the international event. While the rest of West Africa queried whether the unprecedented attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the regional meeting was responsible for the equally unprecedented absence of Nigeria’s sitting Head of State (in this case Acting President Yemi Osinbajo) at the Summit, Liberians were much more interested in the flag-off of party conventions to select aspirants for the exalted office. READ MORE!

 

RIVERS @ FIFTY:
CELEBRATING A NEW ORDER OF HOPE & CHALLENGE

By Lindsay Barrett

The recognition of past heroes of Rivers State autonomy and acknowledgement of Retired Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff’s (right) near legendary status as the first Governor of the state set the tone for the celebrations.

Prof. Godini Darah (left) delivered a well-received and exciting lecture at which ex-President Goodluck Jonathan (right with Governor Wike) was received with a standing ovation by the crowd.

Although the golden jubilee celebrations that have just ended in Nigeria’s Rivers State recalled memories of a glorious past the hopes and challenges of the future were also kept in profound perspective. The honour and gratitude expressed by the present governor Nyesom Wike for the work of his predecessors beginning with the first state Governor Retired Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff who was prominently visible in many events, set a tone of respect for the historic role of the state in Nigeria’s national reality.  This concern was prominently exhibited at the seminal anniversary lecture delivered by Delta State’s Professor Godini G. Darah. The lecture entitled Democracy and Development in Nigeria: The Case of Rivers State was an exciting and comprehensive examination of the historic provenance of the state and especially of its role as a regional economic powerhouse that has truly served as the “treasure base” of the entire nation. Prof. Darah’s presentation threw light on the original purpose for which the amalgamation of Nigeria in the colonial era was crafted. The origin of this structural transformation of Britain’s colonial intent in West Africa was traced to Lord Lewis Harcourt, a Colonial Secretary who was eventually to be granted historical recognition when the city of Port Harcourt was named after him. Professor Darah related this to the eventual transformation of the colonial structure from regional hegemony to state autonomy and proposed the ongoing fine tuning of this trend in the future as the best way forward for Nigeria if it was to remain a truly equitable and united nation. This exhortation drew increased relevance from the presence at the lecture of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan former President who was welcomed with a loud ovation on his appearance from the huge crowd of mostly young people. READ MORE!

 

RIVERS AT FIFTY: A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO PROMOTE REGIONAL COHESION
By Lindsay Barrett

Old Rivers State as it was when first created in May 1967.

Of the twelve states that were created as a result of the initial transformation from the colonial structure of regional administration in Nigeria in May 1967 the creation of the Rivers State, which was carved out of the Eastern Region, generated the most acrimony and resistance among those who opposed the initiative in the regions. This was because Port Harcourt in particular was regarded as a major commercial and industrial centre that members of the Ibo majority in the region had worked hard to develop, control, and manage while members of the indigenous ethnic groups that were the original owners of the territory had agitated for greater autonomy and territorial independence for decades. This latter sentiment was widespread among all the so-called minority ethnic groups throughout Nigeria at the time but the response on the part of the so-called major tribes had not resulted in any notable success for their aspirations except in the Western Region from which the Mid-Western Region had been carved out in 1963. General Yakubu Gowon’s decision to make states rather than large regions the basis for communal governance addressed this concern, but it was regarded at the time as a strategy for military victory rather than for the strengthening of the political relevance of the diverse regional communities of the nation. However after the civil war was won by the Federal Forces the socio-political relevance of this decisive move became ascendant in the concerns of the leaders of opinion in the new states and issues of concern arose over allegations of marginalisation of some minority ethnic groups and domination by more populous groups. READ MORE...

 

THE ORIGIN OF STATES CREATION IN NIGERIA: CONFRONTING THE FUTURE AT FIFTY
By: LINDSAY BARRETT

The founding of twelve Nigerian states was one of the most daring and historic initiatives implemented by the government of then Col. Yakubu Gowon when he announced it in May 1967. This decision was actually symbolic of the desire of Nigeria’s peoples to gain greater autonomy and self-determination in the administration of their regional affairs. However because the crisis of trust in the military that was eventually to provoke the Nigerian Civil War was the most prescient national concern of the period the fact that the decision to create states and close down the four large regional governments was taken by a military government has led many analysts to assume that states creation was actually a tactic aimed at increasing the Federal Government’s likelihood of victory in the conflict. While this might be true to a certain extent the effect of the change in the basic formula of governance that it brought about served a more far-reaching purpose than that of military opportunism. In fact it can be argued that the effect of the change in the regional formula was far more transformational in the Northern region where many more people were affected than in the Western Region where the division into the Western and Lagos states appeared to strengthen and consolidate the regional autonomy of Yoruba self-government. However, even though the number of people affected was far less the political impact of the decision had an equally profound consequence in the Eastern Region. There the consolidation of minority autonomy in the South-Eastern and Rivers States served to undercut what many leaders of minority communities alleged to be the ethnic hegemony of the Ibo-speaking majority in the region. The Ibo territories were then confined to the new East Central State It is this latter fact that has engaged the attention of observers who have continued to attribute the creation of states out of the old regional structure to military necessity rather than to the more positive motive of administrative convenience and the enhancement of communal development, factors which have become the driving forces of the process of state creation over the last five decades. READ MORE...

 

VETERAN JOURNALIST RECEIVES UNIPORT LITERARY AWARD

Lindsay Barrett (left) is presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Professor Julie Umukoro (centre) and Prof. Ibitamuno Amenigo (right-back to camera) at the University of Port Harcourt during the Gabriel Okara Festival.............................................................................

Lindsay Barrett, one of the most prolific and respected freelance contributors of feature articles to the Nigerian media has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in creative writing by the Institute of Arts and Culture at the University of Port Harcourt. Barrett was one of several awardees honoured at the recent Gabriel Okara Literary Festival, which was mounted to pay tribute to Nigeria’s great lyric poet and novelist Okara as he clocked 96 years of age. Below is the citation on Barrett’s achievement which was produced by the institute for the occasion.

 
“Carlton Lindsay Barrett, also known as Eseoghene (born 15 September 1941), is a Jamaican-born Nigerian poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist and photographer who since 1966 has lived in Nigeria, of which country he became a citizen in the mid-1980s. He initially drew critical attention for his debut novel, Song for Mumu, which on publication in 1967 was favourably noticed by such reviewers as Edward Baugh and Marina Maxwell (who respectively described it as “remarkable” and “significant”); more recently it has been commended for its “pervading passion, intensity, and energy”, referred to as a classic, and features on “must-read” lists of Jamaican books. Particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, Barrett was well known as an experimental and progressive essayist, his work being concerned with issues of black identity and dispossession, the African Diaspora, and the survival of descendants of black Africans, now dispersed around the world. READ MORE...

 

MA MARY PASSES ON
Liberian Peace and Civil Rights Heroine Dies At 88

By: Lindsay Barrett

Popular Liberian singer/broadcaster Miatta Fahnbulleh (left) interviews her mother the famous educationist and human rights advocate Ma Mary Brownell.

Even though she had reached the ripe old age of eighty-eight years many people who met Mary Brownell at her always open and welcoming home on Ashmun Street in Monrovia, Liberia, never believed she was about to transit from this world. To the end she seemed indestructible and her advocacy of women’s rights and the relevance of disciplined motherhood never waned. Ma Mary, as she was known by all, was a striking figure. Tall and graceful in her younger days, as she aged she retained an incredible sense of intellectual energy that made it seem that she would go on living forever. READ MORE...

 

Education and Politics: An African Story
By: Lindsay Barrett

Prof. Okello Oculi (left) introduces Prof. Mwesiga Baregu (right) and Dr. Wole Olaoye moderator of the event  (centre) to the audience

Photo left: Prof. Baregu. Photo right: The “leaders” : students of Anglican Girls Grammar School, Apo, chatter onstage as African leaders at the AU.

In November of last year we witnessed an impressive, although inadequately publicised, encounter between the generations when Professor Mwesiga Baregu, a brilliant septuagenarian academician from Tanzania presented a lecture to a small audience at the Nigerian Labour Congress Auditorium in Abuja. The majority of those present were senior students of the Anglican Girls Grammar School, Apo. While the Professor distilled a key lecture of his that had been presented earlier at the National War College into an informal address, the young ladies presented a dramatic rendition of simulated speechmaking by African leaders at a summit of the African Union based on the work of the Ugandan writer and teacher Okello Oculi. READ MORE...

 

OSINBAJO AND THE COMMON SENSE AGENDA
By: Lindsay Barrett

Recent events in the Nigerian polity have created unprecedented opportunities for analysts to pontificate about, and assess the performance of, the first government to have been elected to unseat an incumbent Administration in the nation’s post-colonial existence. In addition to the uniqueness of its origin the Buhari-led government has been forced to confront a set of economic challenges that appear to have hardly any precedent in the national narrative. The high cost of governance in Nigeria is a seemingly irreversible factor given the existence of thirty six State Assemblies, over seven hundred Local Government Councils, and a two-chamber National Assembly whose members have become accustomed to a luxurious allowance-driven lifestyle. For the Executive leadership headed by the President to manage and control the economic distress that both global and internal domestic exigencies have placed on its shoulders calls for a level-headed common-sense approach to some highly volatile political and social issues, which can easily be exacerbated by economic debility...............READ MORE...

 

LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE: NEW TESTS FOR ECOWAS DEMOCRACY
By: Lindsay Barrett

As Adama Barrow the new president of Gambia takes charge in Banjul the reverberations from the military intervention by ECOWAS that secured his mandate will echo loudly throughout the sub-region. Major elections are scheduled for two countries in the West African community in the next year and as campaigning for the election to choose the President of Liberia, later this year, and Sierra Leone, at the end of February 2018, heats up there are signs that the contests will be both acrimonious and closely contested. As a consequence it is not unlikely that the eventual results could be rejected or at least queried by the losers especially if these turn out to be the candidates endorsed by the ruling establishments. .... READ MORE...

 

 

HARASSING JONATHAN: A GROWING TREND IN ONLINE MEDIA
By: Lindsay Barrett

In recent weeks there has been a notable increase in stories appearing on the web alleging that Nigeria’s immediate past President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might have been implicated in acts of corrupt enrichment while he held office. It is particularly noticeable that many of these stories appear first in outlets of the so-called social media on the internet often authored by faceless anonymous reporters before being picked up and given greater credibility by the traditional media. As a consequence many of them have been regarded by Dr. Jonathan and his supporters as being unworthy of response or denial. READ MORE...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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