The President Has Not Violated the Federal Character Provision In Appointments, By Okoi Obono-Obla

The allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari has made appointments in favour of the Northern part of the country in violation of the Federal Character provision contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) is groundless and baseless.

Indeed, President Buhari has scrupulously complied with the Federal Character provision enshrined in the Constitution in making appointments concerning the Government of the Federation.

Section 171 (1) of the Constitution vests on the President the power to appoint persons to hold or act in the offices and  to  remove persons so appointed from any such office .

Section 171 (2) of the Constitution specified such offices to, namely –

(a) Secretary to the Government of the Federation;

(b) Head of the Civil Service of the Federation;

(c) Ambassador, High Commissioner or other Principal Representative of Nigeria abroad;

(d) Permanent Secretary in any Ministry or Head of any Extra-Ministerial Department of the Government of the Federation howsoever designated; and

(e) any office on the personal staff of the President.

Section 171 (5) of the Constitution provide that  in exercising his powers of appointment under this section, the President shall have regard to the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity.

So that it is not correct for some people to contend the President must comply with the Federal Character principle in all manners of appointments he makes.

Section 147 (1) of the Constitution stipulates that there shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President.

Section 147 (3) of the Constitution provides that any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14(3) of this Constitution:- provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.

Section 14 (3) of the Constitution provide thus: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.

Accordingly the President appointed Ministers from all the 36 States of the Federation on the 12th November, 2015.

The President also appointed Permanent Secretaries from all the 36 States of the Federation in compliance with Section 171 (2) (d) of the Constitution.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer Babachir David Lawal is from Adamawa State in the North Eastern Region of the country in accordance with Section 171 (2) (a) of the Constitution.

The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Wilfred Oyo-Ita is from Cross River State in the South/South Region of the country in compliance with Section 171 (2) (b) of the Constitution.

The Chief of Staff to the President is Abba Kyari from Bornu State, North Eastern Region. See Section 171 (2) (e) of the Constitution.

But the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Barrister Ade Ipaye is from Lagos State, South West. He is attached to the Office of the Vice President. See Section 171 (2) (e) of the Constitution.

None of these persons are Fulani as erroneously peddled in some quarters.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engineer Babachir David Lawal is not Fulani or Hausa.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari is Kanuri not Fulani or Hausa as wrongly peddled in some uninformed quarters.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai and the National Security Adviser, General M. Munguno are not Fulani or Hausa as falsely asserted in some quarters by detractors.

The Acting Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim is not Hausa or Fulani but Nupe.                                      The Current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Mahmud Mohammed  and the President of the Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa respectively were not appointed by President Buhari as falsely asserted by some detractors of the present administration. Indeed the duo were appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan on merit.

Recently the President nominated 47 Persons from 32 States of the Federation and sends their names to the Senate for confirmation as Ambassadors/High Commissioners or other Principal Representatives of Nigeria abroad in compliance with Section 171 (2) (c) of the Constitution.

Those who divide the country into North and South are mischievous, misinformed and totally wrong.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is not divided into North and South.

Constitutionally the Federal Republic of Nigeria is divided into 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Section 2 (1) of the Constitution provide thus: Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Section (2) of the Constitution provide thus: Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.

Section (3) (1) of the Constitution provide thus: There shall be 36 states in Nigeria, that is to say, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.

Administratively, the Country is further divided into North East, North West, North Central, South East, South West and South/South.

On the 14th January 1914, the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria were amalgamated to form the Federation of Nigeria.

In 1946, the Federation of Nigeria was divided into three Regions namely Northern, Western and Eastern Regions.

On the 27th May 1967, the regional structure was abolished and the three regions were divided into 12 States namely Kano, Lagos, Western ; Benue/Plateau, North Central, North East, North West, Kwara, East Central, Mid-Western, Rivers and South Eastern States.

In February 1976, the 12 States of the Federation of Nigeria were divided into 19 States.

On 23rd September 1987, the 19 States were divided into 24 States.

On 27th August, 1991, the 24 States were increased to 30 States.

On 1st October, 1996 Ebonyi, Gombe, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Nassarawa and Zamfara States were created to bring the total number of States in the country to 36.

The Constitution did not provide that all classes of appointments made by the President must comply with the federal provisions of the Constitution.

I submit without fear of contradiction that if the writers of the Constitution intended that all classes of appointments made by the President must reflect federal character they will have rightly stated so.

Okoi Obono-Obla

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Turkish President Appears In Istanbul To Denounce Coup As Rebel Soldiers Surrender

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flown in to Istanbul, after an army group said it took over the country.

He was seen surrounded by cheering supporters, saying in a live TV speech that the coup attempt was an “act of treason” and the army must be cleansed.

Sixty people died during overnight clashes, many of them civilians, and 754 soldiers were arrested, officials said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the situation was largely under control.

He has ordered the military to shoot down aircraft being used by coup plotters.

Earlier, one of the helicopters being flown by forces involved in the coup attempt was shot down over the capital Ankara.

Hulusi Akar, are still unknown. He is reported to have been taken hostage by rebel soldiers.

Gen Umit Dundar, commander of the 1st Army, has been appointed acting chief of staff.

Sporadic gunfire is still reported in major cities.

Reports also say rebel soldiers in some areas have been surrendering their weapons to police loyal to Mr Erdogan.

The surrender of one unit of 60 soldiers, who had taken control of one of the Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul, was shown live on TV on Saturday morning.

Istanbul’s main Ataturk airport is now under army control, and flights – which had been interrupted for some hours – were due to resume from 06:00 (03:00 GMT).

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the coup attempt “was foiled by the Turkish people in unity and solidarity. Our president and government are in charge”.

“Turkish Armed Forces was not involved in the coup attempt in its entirety. It was conducted by a clique within the armed forces and received a well-deserved response from our nation.”

It is unclear who is leading the coup faction or how much support it enjoys.

The group earlier declared that a “peace council” now ran the country and there was a curfew and martial law.

Soldiers were seen at strategic points in Istanbul, with jets flying low in Ankara.

Two large explosion were also heard near Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

There were also reports of blasts at parliament building in Ankara. MPs were believed to be hiding in shelters.

Broadcaster CNN Turk was reportedly taken over by soldiers, and its live broadcast was cut.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama urged all parties in Turkey to support the “democratically elected government”.

Nato called for “full respect” for Turkey’s democratic institutions.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the country was “a key partner for the European Union”.

“We call for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order,” he added.

Speaking in Istanbul in the early hours on Saturday, President Erdogan promised to clean up the army.

“Those who drive around in tanks will have to go back to where they came from,” he said.

He also dismissed the coup leaders as “terrorists”.

Mr Erdogan earlier told CNN Turk by mobile phone the action was by a “parallel structure” that would bring the necessary response. He has used this term in the past to refer to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric he accuses of fomenting unrest.

However, in a statement, Mr Gulen rejected any suggestion he had links to the events.

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey,” he said.

Mr Erdogan had called on people to take to the streets to oppose the uprising.

He said: “I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports. I never believed in a power higher than the power of the people.”

The president said he had returned to Istanbul from the holiday resort of Marmaris in the south-west of the country. He said the town was later bombed.

Defying the announced curfew, a number of Erdogan supporters turned out on Taksim Square in Istanbul late on Friday.

There were reports of clashes there, with some on Twitter saying that gunfire had been heard near the square.

After the military takeover was announced, a statement from the group was read out on national broadcaster TRT. It said that the democratic and secular rule of law had been eroded by the current government. There would be new constitution, it said.

Mr Yildirim told NTV by telephone: “There was an illegal act by a group within the military that was acting out of the chain of military command. Our people should know that we will not allow any activity that would harm democracy.”

Traffic was stopped from crossing both the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul.

Gunfire was also heard outside Istanbul police HQ and tanks were said to be stationed outside Istanbul airport.

BBC

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What They Won’t Tell The President By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Nigerians, reactions to my column last week were not unexpected. As anticipated, they were indeed varied. Some people were impressed that anyone could tell President Muhammadu Buhari what most people would never dare. Others felt I could talk because I don’t work with the President and therefore do not feel the pressure of those that do. A few more simply dismissed my contribution as they usually do without any good reason.

It could be true that more often than not, aides usually misread their bosses and idols and so feel under pressure not to irritate, annoy or even antagonise their Boss. I have had the privilege of working and interacting with bigwigs at home and abroad and noticed that many of their employees treat them with awe, fear and trepidation but not necessarily with respect. On my part, I have tried to remain truthful, respectful and loyal to my bosses without being fawning or uncritical. Sometimes, they would love and appreciate these attributes. On other occasions, they’ve chosen to live in denial and bury their heads in the sand like ostriches do. Even when they have discovered the truth, ego has sometimes denied them the chance of accepting the fact that you were right and they were wrong.

So I wasn’t surprised that some Abuja guys were not impressed about my recent article titled HOW THEY MISLEAD OUR LEADERS. I won’t be surprised if our President did not read that important article because it was kept away from him. The easiest way to fail as a leader is to be shielded from reality by cronies who tell you all is well when all is far from being well. The other way to invite failure is when a leader allows sycophants to invite and amass enemies for such leader. I witnessed both of these first hand during the seeming deification of President Goodluck Jonathan by those who felt he was beyond reproach. But after his government collapsed, most of those who fought imaginary enemies on behalf of President Jonathan simply vamoosed and left the former President to his personal ordeal. Ironically, it was those of us considered his enemies that came out boldly to defend him and to protect his rights under the rule of law given the statesmanship that he had demonstrated in the twilight of his administration.

What I find baffling is the fact that man never learns any didactic lessons from history. Less than two years ago, many of those who have somehow found themselves in power today hailed the critics of Jonathan’s administration. They found our pens more powerful than machine-guns. They called to thank us for our patriotism and gallant battle to restore hope to a dangerously bleeding nation. I remember one particular gentleman, who is currently a Minister; he used to phone me to commend my maturity in attacking issues rather than personalities. Today he has stopped calling and I’m sure he is no longer comfortable with the same level of patriotism and maturity that he praised.

Let me reiterate that I love President Muhammadu Buhari but mine is not a fake or blind love. I was taught by my very traditional mum that “a mother chastises a child she loves” and I have translated that to mean that conversely, a child must offer true words of advice to parents he treasures. This is why I talk about our President with such respect and decorum but at the same time I boldly analyse his policies and actions and candidly offer advice as I see fit. I believe we can help in supporting him by telling him the true state of affairs and painting the real picture of things. Nigeria is much more complex and complicated than some of those in power today wish to admit. I suspect they have also assumed that they know the mind-set of the President who they perceive as stubborn and unyielding and would rather play along in order not to invite his wrath. The impression out there is that Baba is mean and vengeful and can trample on and injure anyone in his line of fire. When I tell people I met a soft, gentle, humble and caring man once in 2011 and twice in 2015, they tell me that was all a façade and I couldn’t judge him on those accounts. It may be necessary for the President to free his people from this self-manacled bondage they have chosen for themselves, as I once advised. The unfounded fear of Buhari may stultify the progress of this government. And only the President can help his men and women overcome this dangerous paranoia. The world has moved beyond the type of maximum rulership which this suggests and the President is not such a person in any event.

I have have been seeing posts on social media indicating that some aides have been telling Baba that majority of Nigerians are satisfied with his government and that only the disgruntled elements, otherwise nicknamed “wailing wailers”, are complaining. But this is not true. Nigerians are complaining about many things and Baba needs to know. Of course, not everyone is lamenting like the Biblical Jeremiah. There are always new beneficiaries in every new government. And those who have crossed the bridge, or ladder, of pain into comfort don’t usually see the misery they left behind. That was the anecdotal case of the French Empress who asked why people could not eat cake when there was scarcity of bread. Little did she realise that bread and cake belong to the same family of flour and that the issue was one of poverty not merely famine or supply.

Nigerians are complaining about the slow pace of work. They want Baba to jazz things up. Not that they expect him to do it all but they are hoping he can rejig this government and bring in proven and tested Nigerians from any part of the world and whatever political or religious background. It is the prerogative of every government to hone its engine of governance regularly by discarding worn-out batteries, plugs and pumps. You may need to flush dirty engine oil and replace with premium lubricant. It should be obvious that what we have at the moment is far short of the speed and stamina required to take Nigeria to the next level.

Nigerians are complaining about the seeming Nothernisation of the key sectors of the Nigerian economy and polity. I am personally not very worried about ethnic sentiments as a completely detribalised Nigeria but there are those who feel very strongly about this and the President may need to allay their reasonable fears of being extinguished and exterminated from the national politics of Nigeria. My honest suggestion is that Baba should come out to tell Nigerians the criteria he uses in arriving at his choices. He should confront his critics with superior logic and the mathematics of appointment distribution. He should not just dismiss this as a non-issue. That is the burden placed on him by Constitutional democracy. Every controversial action and decision must be explained tirelessly and endlessly. As I have said several times nothing beats merit, not even primordial ethnic sentiments.

Nigerians are complaining about the high cost of governance especially in this era of dwindling national fortunes. Many are telling us that we persuaded them to vote APC because we flaunted the credentials of Buhari as a frugal and simple man not susceptible to frivolous spending or profligacy. They are taunting us that they have seen no evidence of the reduction in the extravagant spending on presidential jets and the upkeep of government personnel and their families. Again it may be necessary to update and educate the Nigerian people on how government has concretely worked on cutting costs in these austere times. It is always good to talk to people who may not know the facts and those who feign ignorance deliberately. The government communicators should, please, not be so dismissive lest they are accused of being standoffish. No effort should be spared at carrying everyone along including known and unknown troublemakers.

Nigerians are complaining about the religious sensitivity of this government. They believe that Northern Christians are being studiously marginalised and this should be urgently addressed. In a country where the President was blackmailed in the past about his religious antecedents by being described as an Islamic fundamentalist it is only appropriate for the President to sensitise people and propagate his commitment to secularism.  A good example of this is the fact that whilst he may have felt the need to pick Christians as his running mate in the past two elections he was not forced to pick Pastors as his running-mates.  It is clear that he did this out of choice and to show that he was willing to work side by side with Christian fundamentalists in the task of nation building. Baba should not jettison the principle of religious tolerance he has imbibed and displayed. It would be politically rewarding if he gives every Nigerian that same sense of belonging. Nothing is more volatile than religious conflagration and it is always a handy weapon in the hands of enemies of State.

Nigerians are wondering what direction the economy is headed with the incessant free-fall of the naira despite all efforts at arresting the kamikaze plunge. Added to this is the deregulation of the price of petrol and the pains being felt by these twin policies can only be described as untold hardship.

While Nigerians are highly impressed that Baba is fighting looters to standstill they want to know what is happening to all the humongous cash already recovered. Many states are still in financial mess, unable to pay their workers. Like someone joked on Twitter yesterday, the hope is that Baba would not keep the money in savings for the next government that will come and redistribute to the looters again. That should be food for thought.

It would be fantastic if we can do what President John Dramani Mahama is doing in Ghana, by investing heavily in legacy projects that will definitely outlive his government and launch Ghana into the big league of modern nations. Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana by revamping and upgrading our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, railways, oil facilities, seaports, and so on. It would be sweet victory for Nigerians and President Buhari if they can enjoy the fruits of some of the recovered loot in the very near future.

Nigerians are also talking about the spate of agitations for the breakup of the Nigerian State, especially the renewed call by the pro-Biafra groups of South East Nigeria to carve out an Igbo nation. While we may not understand the exact mission of the Niger Delta Avengers, one of the most lethal militant groups in Nigeria today, it is not likely to be too far from that of the Biafrans ultimately. The groups must be delicately handled. Their leaders may have personal and selfish ulterior motives but what is clear is that they are echoing the sentiments and yearnings of their people for self-determination borne out of frustration in being marginalised in the Nigerian power game. At the end of the day, there is nothing violence can achieve that dialogue cannot handle better and faster. It is time to tone down the drums of war and set Nigeria on the path of restoration, peace and progress.

There are simply too many distractions and Nigerians are suffering as a result. I have no doubt about President Buhari’s patriotism and zeal and his desire to improve the lot of Nigerians. It is about time that he demanded the same of his lieutenants and require them to put national interest over and above personal or party interests.

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Full Text of President Buhari’s Speech At 2016 Army Day Celebration In Gusau, Zamfara

Protocol:

I am delighted to be in your midst today in Gusau, Zamfara State to witness the Grand Finale of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2016. I am particularly glad with the choice of Gusau for the conduct of this exercise and for the wisdom of incorporating a live Field Training Exercise into the celebration to clear remnants of cattle rustlers and armed bandits terrifying innocent citizens in this general area.

The remarkable success recorded during the conduct of the exercise has no doubt served the purpose and aptly drive the realization of the theme of the celebration which is, Optimizing the Capability of the Nigerian Army to meet Contemporary Security Challenges.

I sympathize with the people of this area for the enormous losses they suffered as a result of the incessant activities of the insurgents and cattle rustlers whose actions have made farming, livestock management and other economic activities more difficult even in the face of the general economic challenges.

I am quite optimistic that the operations of the last few days will surely lead to the restoration of economic activities of surrounding communities bedevilled for some time now by the menace of cattle rustling and banditry.

I therefore commend the Chief of Army Staff for this foresight and initiative and for mobilizing adequate resources to ensure precision in the conduct of the exercise. I also applaud the collaboration with sister services and other security agencies in order to degrade and decimate the miscreants. I urge you to intensify and perfect current strategies, approaches, techniques and tactics towards curtailing all forms of lawlessness across the country.

It is quite gratifying to inspect the equipment displayed which showcased the robust capability of the Nigerian Army to ward off internal and external aggression against the nation. The Command Post Exercise also reminds me of the importance of staff work in the field during the civil war in the 60s and the Chadian Operations in the 80s.

I am pleased at the dexterity, prowess and level of professionalism displayed by various components including the combat airborne jump by personnel of the Nigerian Army supported by the Nigerian Air Force. I am quite confident that the Nigerian Armed Forces have been amply repositioned more than ever before to resolutely confront contemporary and emerging security challenges in the country.

The involvement of private partners in the defence sector especially in terms of provision of specialist equipment under the Public Private Partnership is a welcome development. I urge the Armed Forces to leverage on this opportunity towards enhancing capacity.

On the part of the Government, let me assure you of our resolve and continued support to enhance the operational efficiency of the Nigerian Armed Forces to effectively discharge their constitutional roles. We remain committed to ensuring that you are provided with the required resources and impetus to operate professionally and efficiently.

Finally, I congratulate all the award recipients for their outstanding contributions to the successes recorded by the Nigerian Army. I urge all officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army to sustain the current tempo. I also congratulate the Nigerian Army for its one hundred and fifty three (153) years of noble and purposeful existence and for being a critical instrument of national unity, cohesion and integration. We look forward to better days ahead. 

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Photos: President Buhari Visits Zamfara

L-R: Governors Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, with President Muhammadu Buhari during the flag off of the 75km Kucheri-Bilbis-Danjibga-Keta-Wanke road in Zamfara State... Wednesday 13/07/16
L-R: Governors Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, with President Muhammadu Buhari during the flag off of the 75km Kucheri-Bilbis-Danjibga-Keta-Wanke road in Zamfara State… Wednesday 13/07/16
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State with President Muhammadu Buhari during the flag off of the 75km Kucheri-Bilbis-Danjibga-Keta-Wanke road in Zamfara State... Wednesday 13/07/16
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State with President Muhammadu Buhari during the flag off of the 75km Kucheri-Bilbis-Danjibga-Keta-Wanke road in Zamfara State… Wednesday 13/07/16

Wanke 4

Wanke 3

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Sanders Endorses Clinton Democrat Presidential Candidate

On Tuesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders officially endorsed his political rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Primary contest to be President of the United States. The rally, held at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire, confirms that that Mrs. Clinton has an unobstructed road to secure the Democratic party nomination.

News of Mr. Sanders’s endorsement of Mrs. Clinton follows developments that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will not charge her for any alleged criminal activities stemming from her handling of classified government information on a private email server.

Mr. Sanders said today that, “I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.”

Speaking on the end to their rivalry he insisted, “This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face.”

“We are stronger when we have each others’ backs. That’s why we will fight to secure universal health care, raise the minimum wage, and protect Americans’ fundamental right to vote — not corporations’ right to buy elections,” Mrs. Clinton said.

She maintained, “We are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump!”

In a tweet that went out today, Sanders thanked his supporters: “Thank you to the 13 million Americans who voted for me and the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who worked so hard on our campaign.”

Speaking on the Sanders campaign, Mrs. Clinton said, “Senator Sanders has brought people off the sidelines and into the political process. He has energized and inspired a generation of young people who care deeply about our country.”

According to the New York Times, an anonymous source claimed that some high-ranking Democrats said that Mr. Sanders “could become chairman of the committee that will work on trying to carry out a proposed $15 federal minimum wage.”

The specifics of the extent Mr. Sanders’ contribution and role in the Mrs. Clinton’s campaign are not fully known. Nonetheless, Mr. Sanders declared, “I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump.”

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Dear President Buhari, Nigeria’s Unity Is Negotiable! By Chido Onumah

Since the public presentation of the book We Are All Biafrans and the intervention of a former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, who chaired the event and delivered a speech titled “Restructuring for Nigeria’s national unity” – a speech I recommend to everyone interested in the unity and survival of Nigeria – the issue of restructuring Nigeria and negotiating its unity has once again taken the centre stage of national discourse.

No less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari has had to weigh in on the debate. During his Eid el-Fitr message to Nigerians on Wednesday, July 6, 2016, he was reported to have said: “I assure them (in reference to the Niger Delta ‘militants’) that when we were very junior officers, we were told by our leaders, by the Head of State, Gen. Gowon, that to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done…we never thought of oil. What we were after is one Nigeria. Please, pass the message to the militants that one Nigeria is not negotiable. And I pray they better accept it. The constitution is very clear…I assure them there would be justice.”

Before President Buhari’s admonition, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had noted during a parley with The Punch on Tuesday, June 28, 2016: “I am on the side of those who say we must do everything to avoid disintegration. That language I understand. I don’t understand (ex-President Olusegun) Obasanjo’s language. I don’t understand (President Muhammadu) Buhari’s language and all their predecessors, saying the sovereignty of this nation is non-negotiable. It’s bloody well negotiable and we had better negotiate it. We better negotiate it, not even at meetings, not at conferences, but every day in our conduct towards one another.”

The opinions of these two prominent Nigerians reflect the two divergent opinions on the issue of restructuring Nigeria or negotiating her unity. I had planned this article – that was before President Buhari’s remarks – as a cautionary note to the Left, progressives and genuine patriots in Nigeria. I believe they are the only ones predisposed and sincerely open to solving the current crisis. Regrettably, this is one issue that has divided the Left, progressives and patriots in Nigeria. This division has defined the kind of response – ranging from obfuscation and doublespeak to outright denial and combativeness – that has made it impossible to have a coherent national narrative and action plan. Since those who ought to speak out and act have maintained criminal silence and indifference, they have yielded the space to conservative analysts of every hue, hypocrites, blackmailers, anarchists, and fifth columnists.

So what are the issues in contention? There seems to be a general agreement, even among those who brought us to this near-tragic end, that Nigeria is not working for Nigerians. However, and this is where the divergence of opinions sets in, Nigeria is not working not because it is not workable, but because it has been rigged to fail. Take the issue of the civil war (1967-70) which President Buhari alluded to. That war was fought in part because of natural resources (oil specifically). That was the driving force of the so-called federal offensive and to some extent it also defined the geo-politics of what would become the secessionist Republic of Biafra. After 30 months of fighting and millions of lives lost, there was a “negotiated” settlement. A truce was declared with the catchphrase “No victor; No vanquished.”

Unfortunately, 46 years after the end of that internecine war, low-intensity conflicts by state and non-state actors are raging across the country, from Boko Haram in the North-east, Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and Arewa People’s Congress (APC) in the North-west, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other groups in the South-east, the Niger Delta Avengers and Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) in the South-south to the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the South-west and potential avengers in the North-central. What this tells us is that that war didn’t really end and hasn’t ended. What then do we do to fix Nigeria? The simple answer would be to return to the negotiation table.

To be clear, Nigeria has always been negotiated. The problem has been that the “victors” or those who control power at each round of negotiation have unilaterally defined the structure and politics of the country going forward. Again, I return to the issue of oil. Before independence in 1960, this was the “sharing” formula for crude oil revenues: Oil producing states (region) retained 67.4% of revenues, the federal government got 20%, non-oil states (regions) got 12.6%. After the civil in 1970, the regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon through Decree No. 13 “negotiated” a new formula: Oil producing states retained 45% of revenues, the federal government got 55% while non-oil states got 0%. In 1975, the regime of Gen Murtala Muhammed in another round of negotiation through Decree 6, came up with this formula: Oil producing states would retain 20% of revenues, the federal government got 80% and non-oil states got 0%. In 1976, Gen Obasanjo, then military dictator, in his omniscience, gave oil producing states 0% of revenues while the federal government got 100% and the non-oil states got 0%.

President Shehu Shagari who came to power in 1979 brought a bizarre twist to the “sharing” formula. He retained the Obasanjo formula of 0% allocation to oil producing states and 100% to the federal government to be shared in this order: 50% shared equally among states, 40% shared based on population and 10% based on land mass. By 2000, during the reincarnation of Gen. Obasanjo as civilian president, a new revenue sharing formula was negotiated which gave oil producing states 13%.

As Prof. Yakubu Aboki Ochefu notes in the introduction to the book Nigeria is Negotiable, “Beginning from the Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85, the ‘negotiated’ existence of what eventually became Nigeria in 1914 (unfortunately, negotiated without the input of those who would eventually become Nigerians) has always been a part of its historical experience. Under British colonial rule, the economic and administrative structures of the country were continuously rejigged until independence in 1960.

“Between the official versions of the decolonisation history that gives a prominent role to our nationalist heroes for winning independence from the British, to others who believe in the ‘conspiracy theory’ of decolonisation, the process of how the region with the least democratic credentials ended up as the driver of a new democratic enterprise epitomizes aspects of the negotiated experience. As a country on its ‘third missionary’ journey to a truly democratic nation, the fundamental questions of nation building that began over 100 years ago have not been fully and or properly answered. We must collectively negotiate to ensure that we retain the map (of Nigeria) but change the way we exist under that map.”

On April 22, 1990, a group of young Nigerian army officers – mainly from a section of the country (the same army President Buhari told us last week fought to keep Nigeria one) – attempted to overthrow the military regime of Gen Ibrahim Babangida. While that abortive coup lasted, the rebellious soldiers excised five states of the federation – Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi. That coup and the excision order were popular and well-received in many parts of the country. Clearly, if that coup had succeeded, the aftermath would have been another civil war. Gen. Babangida responded to that mutiny by dividing Nigeria into 30 states from 21 (just as Yakubu Gowon divided Nigeria into 12 states from four regions in 1967 to weaken the Biafra secession).

Having told ourselves a few historical home truths, let us quickly avail ourselves of one more opportunity to reclaim Nigeria. When people call for restructuring Nigeria, they make the call for a reason. And it should not be dismissed peremptorily. The rulers of the country use every opportunity to speak about the unity of Nigeria and hardly do anything to build or enhance that unity.

I don’t think the issue really is about the unity of Nigeria. Undoubtedly, many Nigerians want to live in a united Nigeria. It is important, therefore, that we do not conflate the issues. The call for restructuring Nigeria has nothing to do with the “dissolution” of Nigeria. You can believe that “Nigeria is non-negotiable” and still support the call for restructuring the country. That call is basically about building an inclusive and equitable nation; one in which your worth and position are determined not by where you come from or your religion; a nation founded on a popular constitution validated by “we the people”.

On a final note, let me emphasize that restructuring Nigeria has become a “categorical imperative” for the country. It is either we restructure or perish! Restructuring Nigeria is not an elitist concept (even if it is sometimes used by sections of the ruling elite to negotiate power) neither is it about splitting Nigeria. We can restructure (or negotiate) Nigeria without changing the internal map of the country; it is more about resource control rather than resource allocation; more about devolution of power and, therefore, responsibilities. It is about enhancing citizenship rights and the existential confidence in the country.

Of course, restructuring Nigeria is not a silver bullet or cure-all for our problems. But we can’t take on our problems as a nation without a generally acceptable and workable structure. In a sentence, we MUST “re-federalize”.

Onumah’s latest book is We Are All Biafrans. He can be reached through conumah@hotmail.com; Follow him on Twitter: @conumah

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Appointments: Between President Buhari And His Critics, By Inibehe Effiong

Many Nigerians, including notable supporters and apologists of the present administration, have vociferously criticized and lampooned President Muhammadu Buhari over what they term his “lopsided appointments”. Those who are aggrieved have taken to social media to ventilate their misgivings over the way and manner the president is making his appointments which they insist is excessively favouring the Northern part of the country to the disadvantage of the South. Others have accused Buhari of not being gender sensitive owing to the low presence of women in appointive positions in his government.

It seems the announcement of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Monday 4th July, 2016 was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Since the announcement was made, the social media has been inflamed by tirade of disapproving and excoriating commentaries directed at the president’s perceived insensitivity to the geographical spread of Nigeria. Buhari has been accused, among others, of promoting and enthroning a Northern oligarchy in the nation’s political and leadership equation to the detriment of national cohesion and inclusiveness.

The statistics and figures on the appointments of heads security agencies, the members of the NNPC Board and other sectors (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) so far made by Buhari are already in the public domain. It is not neccesary for me to enumerate them in order to prove a point. The facts are undisputed and they speak for themselves.

There is this seemingly irresistible perception that President Buhari is yielding to the machinations of separatist and divisive forces. Those who defend the trend of appointments which for all intent and purposes, are skewed and lopsided in favour of a section of the country seem not to be mindful of the structural complexity of the country.

Those who see nothing wrong in the manner the president is making his appointments have ferociously argued that what is important is competence and service delivery. That attention should not be paid to the regional or religious identities of the appointees. I agree in principle with this argument. But that is not the end of the matter.

This argument about competency is not new. It is a familiar one.

One identifiable defect with this line of argument is that it tends to disregard the fact that there are “incorruptible”, competent and service oriented Nigerians in every part of the country. Also, those who have not seen any abnormality in Buhari’s appointments have either deliberately or inadvertently failed to distinguish between a desire for competence and a clear demonstration of nepotism and favouritism.

From what we have seen so far, there is reasonable basis to infer that the parameters used by Buhari in making appointments are not necessarily targeted at competence and service delivery. One is tempted to query whether these controversial appointments are not primarily actuated by nepotism? Is the president not tactically and uncaringly foisting a corrosive culture of exclusion and segregation? If this is so as widely canvassed, it is indeed a very sad commentary.

This in itself is corruption.

Whoever cannot distinguish between a quest for excellence and manifestation of nepotism should not bother to join this conversation.

Even in the traditional African polygamous family setting, it is not acceptable for the father to show excessive preference and love for children of a particular wife, no matter how illustrious they may be, while relegating the children of his other wives. This can only lead to bad blood and acrimony in the home which may ultimately threaten the peace and development of the family.

Beyond this, federal character is still part of the Nigerian Constitution. The provisions of Section 14 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) are unambiguous. It states emphatically thus:

“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

Furthermore, Nigeria has an institution funded with tax payers money called the Federal Character Commission which is a creation of an Act of the National Assembly.

If federal character is to be abolished, let it be universal. It should cut across every sphere of our national life, including the educational system. Nobody should oppose federal character in political and executive appointments but favour quota system in admissions into institutions of learning. That will be hypocritical. Let the anti-federal character campaign be total and all encompassing.

Those that are referring to the appointment culture and practice under the erstwhile administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan in an attempt to justify Buhari’s skewed appointments are doing a great disservice to the very foundational mantra upon which the present government was elected – CHANGE.

We should not be preaching change only when it suits our egregious interests. I am against what Buhari is doing because in the final analysis, it will only cause disaffection in the country. Buhari is not being nationalistic in his appointments. He is being unapologetically discriminatory, parochial, self-serving and sentimental.

There have been strong insinuations that some individuals have assumed near absolute and almost unrestrained powers under Buhari’s presidency. These persons are reportedly the unseen hands behind a large proportion of the president’s actions, decisions and appointments. Notable among them are Mamman Daura (president Buhari’s nephew); Babachir David Lawal – Secretary to the Government of the Federation and
Abba Kyari – Chief of Staff to the President.

The trio are said to be the unquestionable, infallible and undisputed ring leaders of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet. They have been credited with an aura of invincibility. Mamman Daura for example is said to be the “Alpha and Omega” of Buhari’s presidency, only submissive to Buhari and no other. Some have even alleged that Daura can veto the decisions and directives of the president if he so wishes. I pray this should be a hyperbole of the state of affairs in the presidency. Otherwise, it would mean that a silent coup has been staged against the popular mandate of the Nigerian people.

These men have been accused of orchestrating Buhari’s skewed and flawed appointments. I cannot vouch for the veracity and credibility of these insinuations and accusations. What I can say with certitude is that when the current mandate of this government expires by May 2019, nobody will credit the trio of Mamman Daura, Babachir David Lawal and Abba Kyari with the failures or successes of the administration. Buhari will take the blame and praises.

Nigerians did not vote for them. There was nothing like Sai Mamman Daura; Sai Babachir Lawal or Sai Abba Kyari during the 2015 presidential election. We only exclaimed ‘Sai Buhari’.

Some commentators have said repeatedly that the president needs to work with people he can trust. This is the most unfortunate response to the issue. Nigeria is a vast and diverse country with over 170 million people, which cuts across over 150 tribes and six geo-political zones.

There is an unwritten requirement that any person seeking the highest office in a pluralistic country like Nigeria should meet – the capacity to locate trustworthy and competent citizens across the length and breath of the country who can help him achieve his aspirations, policies and programmes.

Buhari was loudly accused of being deficient in this unwritten requirement during the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 presidential elections which he participated. The president’s critics told everyone who cared to listen: that Buhari is an unrepentant divisive figure destitute in nationalistic norms. Buhari never admitted this accusation levelled against him by his political foes. During the 2011 presidential election, Buhari in an effort to disabuse the minds of the Nigerian electorates, opted for a Pentecostal pastor from the South West, Mr. Tunde Bakare, as his running mate just to disprove the pro-North and anti-South character ascribed to him.

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say who was/is right between Buhari and his critics.

The most tragic aspect of it is that president Buhari appears not to give a damn (Apologies to Jonathan) about what people say. The president seems to have this covert disdain for unfavourable public opinion. For Buhari, critics can cry to death, and it is inconsequential whether they shed blood, instead of tears, in the process.

I am very aware of the tendency to refer to anyone who expresses reservations about the president’s actions and appointments as pro-corruption. Today, criticisms, no matter how well intentioned, are commonly responded to with the dismissive slogan that “corruption is fighting back”. Such generalisation is rather naive and simplistic.

Conversely, the raw truth is that nepotism in appointments can only mean that corruption is coming back. This is not the view of another “Wailing Wailer”. On the contrary, it is the view of one of those patriotic Nigerians who ignored ethnic and religious affiliations and campaigned vigorously in support of Buhari’s candidacy during the last presidential election.

I sincerely want president Buhari to succeed, not only in fighting corruption, but very importantly in uniting this deeply polarised nation. Without unity, the gains of the anti-corruption fight will look very insignificant. If nepotism is not a specie of corruption, then corruption is meaningless.

It is not too late for president Buhari to retrace his steps. The president should always bear in mind that the verdict of history will not be influenced by the hypocrisy and arrogance of today.

Thank you.

Inibehe Effiong is a Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) and can be reached at:inibehe.effiong?

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President Buhari Sharpens Focus On Niger Delta, By @GarShehu

OUT OF THE BLUE, a group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA sprouts. They kill soldiers and policemen. They kidnap and kill oil company workers. Piracy on the high seas. They asked oil companies to stop operations and pack out of the Niger Delta region.

They blow up oil pipelines, power and other infrastructure. They attack and kill prominent individuals, ransacking homes up and down the coastal areas, including lately, Lagos and Ogun states.

All these for what?

It is still unclear what they want. From the diverse, if vague and inchoate voices of the militants, some say they want to take control of the oil resources in the region. Sometimes when the rhetoric gets uglier, they call for the breakup of Nigeria as a country!

The scariest part of what is happening is that the media, in their appetite for sensational stories are egging them on to make a great display of seditious, anti-national sentiment. In the last stages before her government’s defeat of the Irish Republican Army,IRA Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher likened publicity for the terrorist to oxygen needed for survival. “We must deny terrorists the oxygen of publicity,” and the independent English press gave the Prime Minister a free pass.

In the midst of these unfolding events, President Muhammadu Buhari had maintained an uncharacteristic aloofness.

Many had thought for instance that he would tackle the new onslaught on the economy with the same hawkishness that characterized his tenure as military Head of State in the 80’s. But he did not panic, either.

In fact several of the political leaders of the Delta, themselves severely under pressure for their inability to keep up with salary payments have been in the forefront of the calls for the “strongest possible military action” against the terrorists. The country’s third richest state, Delta State gave notice a week ago that workers salaries can no longer be guaranteed.

So far, the President has resisted the urge to pull the trigger. Yes, the army has mobilized to the region but military action has been stayed as the country absorbs the incredible shock that has come with the fall of oil revenues. Records of oil exports are at their lowest levels in 30 years.

The Punch newspaper, in an editorial on Friday July 1 warned the government about inherent “landmines” in any negotiations: “It is like dealing with a blackmailer: he keeps making all sorts of demands, reasonable and otherwise. Worse, there is a high probability that other splinter militant groups will emerge based on the negotiations with the NDA. They will threaten the state expecting to be negotiated with. At the end of the day,the government would have numerous groups to contend with than it can handle.”

In my conversation on this issue with General Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser precisely two weeks back, he informed this reporter that he met 14 groups claiming leadership to the renewed onslaught on the nation’s economic jugular vein.

Each of the groups had been brought to him by a serving governor or a former one; a serving minister or one that had left office with assurances that “this group is the one to talk to.”

The amazing discovery he made from his meetings is the lack of unity among them as each group that came attacked the one that came before it as inconsequential.

Leaning on an editorial by the influential British newspaper the Economist, the Punch recommended strong military action. Quoting the Economist, the newspaper said “Buhari should not try to buy them off. Rather, he should arrest those those who have committed acts of violence or extortion.”

At a meeting with the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact group led by His Royal Majesty King Alfred Diete-Spiff at the State House last Thursday, President Buhari spoke most extensively on his own approach to the crisis in the region.

He told Diete-Spiff, himself a former military governor of the old Rivers State that peace and stability in the the Delta region and the country is the priority of his government and there will be no compromise on this. To show respect for the visiting ruler, President Buhari recalled that he was “a bloody army Lieutenant” when the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass was a military governor.

He disclosed that his decision on what to do dealing with the problem of the region will be based on the reports he is expecting from the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu who is interfacing with all stakeholders; the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta overseeing the amnesty program and the new management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

Allying fears that he would jettison the Niger Delta Peace Plan he inherited from the previous administration, President Buhari told his visitors that he had read the agreements and the gazette outlining the amnesty program.

He said he had asked his officials on assignment on the Niger Delta to look around and see how many of the signatories to the amnesty agreement are still around.

“Let them find out what has been achieved and what is left and then write a report.

“I have asked the Minister of State Petroleum to work with the oil companies. We need to get as much intelligence as is possible before we start talking.

“I sympathize with the investors who borrow money, half way through, their investment is blown away.

“I have encouraged law-enforcement agencies to contact leaders like you (Amanyanabo). When I move in, I will have plenty of information so as to deal with the issue once and for all. We will talk to as many groups as possible. We won’t give up.

“Whatever remains of the Yar’Adua agreement will be met.”

He then talked about the impact of the collapse of the oil prices, which averaged about 100 US Dollars from 1999 to 2015, saying that its fall to about 30 Dollars a barrel some weeks ago was shocking. “I would have been in coma if not for the fact that I was in Oil (sector as a past minister) for three years.”

He then sent an important message at this meeting: “We intend to rebuild this country so that our children and grandchildren will have a good place. But a lot of damage has been done. Tell the people to be patient.

“When you get together, pacify the people. Let them be patient. We will utilize (their) resources with integrity.”

The President’s conciliatory note came a day after he hosted the National Council of Traditional Rulers to a Ramadan Iftar, at which event he asked the rulers to “beg the militants in the name of God to stop their sabotage of the economy.” He appreciated the efforts they and the oil companies were making and said he did not wish to undermine them. This equally signaled a highly conciliatory direction for the resolution of the crisis.

It is clear from the foregoing that the President is taking a bit of time but it is also because he is determined to find a lasting solution to the recurring crisis in the Delta.

It is important for the country that a lesson be learned from the many past meetings and agreements between government groups and the militants that have yielded only short term political dividends. What is wrong with those agreements that they don’t last?

How many of those agreements,joint statements, ceasefires and peace declarations do we have on record so far? Why haven’t they given us peace?

Second issue the President is obviously weighing is the integrity of the country’s internal capacity for the resolution of crises.

Over the years, this country has evolved ways of dealing with problems, real or imagined that threatened its existence from time to time. The amazing thing about it is that solutions emerge from within, that is without the involvement of external influences. This why we have come this far.

In his desire to build a country in which every part is carried along, he is mindful of the fact that if any part of the body is paralyzed, the whole body cannot be said to be alright. The President is mindful of the fact that the Delta region is an important part of the whole.

But as he charts his course for a permanent peace in the Niger Delta, it is important however that militants don’t mistake his efforts as a sign of weakness.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity.

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‘It’s Difficult To Convince Buhari When Additional Hardship Is Placed On The People’, Says SGF

Babachir Lawal, secretary to government of the federation (SGF), says it is not easy to convince President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly on issues that could result to hardship for the masses.

Addressing reporters in Yola, Adamawa state capital, on Saturday, Lawal said the recent deregulation of the downstream sector that led to rise in fuel price was a painful decision taken by the administration to save the nation’s economy from total collapse.

He said Buhari is always on the side of the masses.

“It was a very difficult task convincing the president on this. The president is always on the side of the masses,” he said.

“The president is not easily convinced when additional hardship is placed on the people.”

He also dismissed reports that he had plans to contest governorship election in Adamawa, saying: “At over 60 years of age and my position as SGF, I should not be thinking of being a governor; governorship should be left for younger people.”

Lawal also said people have been accusing him of using his position to influence the appointments of those close to him.

He denied the allegation, saying the current administration considers merit in all its appointments.

“The whole thing is funny; they are even saying that I favour my own tribe of Kilba in federal appointments because Boss Mustafa was recently appointed the managing director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Agency,” he said.

“People need to know that Mustafa is not only well qualified for the job but also a chieftain of the party who actively participated as an official in Buhari Campaign Organisation.

“Buhari knows Mustafa’s capacity and Buhari’s appointments are always based on merit.

“If they said I engineered the appointment of Mustafa because he is a Kilba man like me, how about other appointments of Adamawa indigenes that are not Kilba.

“Another funny thing is that in Abuja, some people are accusing me of favoring Adamawa.”

He urged Nigerians to shun rumours and politics of sentiments, adding that Buhari has good plans for Nigerian and was committed to positive transformation of the country.

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President Buhari Praises Cameron’s Statesmanship, Courage

President Muhammadu Buhari Friday said he regrets the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, which will come into effect in October.

President Buhari said Nigeria has enjoyed remarkable goodwill, support and understanding under the capable leadership of the outgoing Prime Minister over the years.

The President said Cameron’s resignation in response to the outcome of a referendum that supported Britain to leave the European Union “was a demonstration of courage by a democratic leader who respects the will of the people, even if he didn’t agree with their decision.”

President Buhari noted that by ‘‘putting the will of the people before his political future, the Prime Minister proved himself to be a selfless leader with respect  for democracy and voter sovereignty.’’

The President expressed hope that Nigeria looks forward to greater cooperation and consolidation of shared interests with Britain, despite  the outcome of the referendum.

Garba Shehu
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
June 24th, 2016

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