Monday, 31 July 2017

Democratic Party Doldrums


A lot of journalists, political commentators, analysts and comedians are currently very preoccupied with Donald Trump and his modern presidential antics. And it is right that he should be subjected to a fair degree of scrutiny. All public officers should expect to be accountable for their stewardship. Trump's difficulty in accepting any level of scrutiny of his actions is another sign of the deterioration of political governance in America.

However, the reality of the day is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and he was properly elected into office. There is little point in continuing to question how he could have become president. The duty of all fair minded people is to now ensure that he governs for the benefit of most if not all Americans. However, the Democratic Party has an entirely different challenge on its hands. Hillary Clinton's defeat wasn't just a rejection of her as person but also a repudiation of Democratic Party and its approach to grassroots politics.

The Democratic Party has failed to win significant elections in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as losing the presidential election. This would suggest that on a local level it just isn't making a good enough impression. On issues like cost of living, unemployment, housing and law order the party seems to lack a clear and relevant message. Opposition to Trump is necessary but it isn't all that needs to be done.

In selecting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders the party opted for the politics of personality over sound social policy. The Democratic Party is frantically searching for a leader whereas what it needs is a message and a thumping rallying cry. It's time it came up with a set of messages that reflect the feelings and wishes of grassroots America, and tested and refined them. Key figures in the party need to see this as a priority over jostling for leadership of the party.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Changing Nigeria's Political Landscape

copyright: Micha Klootwijk
Politics in Nigeria is corrupt and unevolved. It is riven by mismanagement and tribal partisanship. There is a strong belief that it is unlikely to see a change for the better anytime soon. It is difficult to argue with that. Even the current crop of up and coming political aspirants are steeped in the lazy and uninspired principles of their forebears. Unfortunately entering into politics is driven by a desire that accumulate wealth or escape poverty rather than a vocation for selfless public service. This has created a status quo of corruption and incompetence in both the executive and administrative arms of government.

It is time for a new vanguard of socially conscious Nigerians to create a new narrative that both connects with the aspirations of Nigerians and addresses their most pressing needs. In order to do this there needs to be a profile created for public service. Capability and integrity have to take precedence over wealth and patronage. Public can no longer be seen as a passport to personal wealth.

Successive governments have failed to address security issues with regards extremists and crime and disorder. Public services only serve to entrench deprivation and inequality. Economic policy has been regressive. There is little appetite for investment in sustainable development. Economic regulation is inadequate and poorly enforced. The north east remains isolated, unsafe and underdeveloped. The south remains an environmental disaster zone exploited by oil companies and local militias.

An association of young people supported but not led by some like minded older and wiser hands need to come together to form a viable political party. Nobody with present or past affiliations with political parties or groups in the country should be eligible to take up membership. This new party would campaign on a platform of good governance, transparency, financial accountability, economic development, youth empowerment and open society. This new political movement will start small and look to grow its membership and relevance on a local and national basis. It will seek to develop a solid support base and promote its political values across all states. It would hopefully be able to build this up into a credible national presence.

It is time to reimagine Nigeria as a place where there is strength in diversity. Where unity can be achieved through fairness and unselfish patriotism. A place where social capital is built up, maintained and reinvested in national development. A place where elders are role models and mentors to the youth. A place where young people grow up with a sense of integrity and an aspiration to personal and public improvement.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Labour Party's Halfway Housing Hokum

One thing Karl Marx made clear was that first principles don't add up to much if they are not backed by a sound working theory. Jeremy Corbyn is very quick to flaunt his socialist credentials but it has become clear that he has no idea of what a coherent theory of socialism for the 21st century should be. He doesn't seem able to define the role of a socialist government in relation to public services, economic production or social welfare. The Labour Party's new housing proposals seem to be another example of him lacking the rigour to define a fair and responsible approach without alarming a section of the electorate.

Labour's new housing policy proposes more action against 'rogue landlords', more new builds including social provision and reversing housing welfare reforms. These sound appealing but are mostly populist attempts to sway voters rather than a genuine effort to reform housing policy. Focus mostly on building more homes for sale will further the ambitions of the middle class and increase urban purge of poorer working class groups. There's no mention of support for sustainable housing.

A genuine socialist housing policy would come up with rent control proposals for inner city and urban areas, scrapping of right to buy policy and targeting help to buy solely at essential staff. That way low income and young people have improved access to affordable rental accommodation in accessible areas. It will also ensure that social housing is targeted at those most in need. This will provide an opportunity to reform council housing allocation policy.

While these Labour proposals will do some good; yet again Corbyn sacrifices coherence for convenience. Housing requires both policy reform and attitudinal change. A cohesive policy that will change things for the better for the most people over the longest time is what is needed. The Labour Party's proposals offer little more than more of the same.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Starvation in Africa: The New Face of Imperialism

Image courtesy: Project Authenticity
The United Nations has indicated that there are almost 10 million people at risk of starvation in Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. In a continent that is well provided for in resources and potential this is calamitous state of events in the 21st century. It would come as no surprise that all these African countries are involved in some form of religious, tribal or political conflict. It has become a political trend in Africa for the welfare of millions of people to be put in jeopardy by warring factions pursuing selfish personal interests.

The three countries highlighted represent just a few of the many countries in Africa where poverty and starvation are rife due to political mismanagement and corruption. Economic development has all but petered out throughout the continent due to pillaging by political leaders with the assistance of overseas governments and multinational corporations. Even though each new government makes very earnest pledges to tackle corruption its endemic nature means that the very people promising to clean up the system are busy lining their own pockets covertly.  Any efforts to come to grips with corruption are either halfhearted or futile.

The quandary Africa finds itself in now us that a lot of people are focusing on historic ravages of colonialism and imperialism as the root of modern day travails. However, not enough of a spotlight is being shone on the modern day graft and racketeering that has been given a veneer of respectability. A lot of successful business have benefited from looted public funds or unfair favourable business terms allowed them by cronies in government. As a result very many African governments offer very little in terms of social welfare or affordable public services. Until public finances are properly focused on improving living conditions of the citizenry and not just funding governance structures and enriching private individuals and corporations Africans will continue to see increasing hunger and starvation, even in its so called emerging economies.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Carry on Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn appears to be failing both as the leader of the Labour Party and the leader of the opposition. He has alienated most of Labour's parliamentary party and still seems unable, reluctant even, to develop an effective working relationship with them. When he was voted leader of the Labour Party the hope was that he would rescue the party from the centrist reactionary mode it was stuck in. Maybe he would bring a more person friendly and compassionate approach to policy making. Unfortunately it appears he is stuck in a past of grandstanding soap box politics where people make loud speeches and promise to give power back to the people. Unfortunately, in this day and age what people want are wealth and security. Neither of which Corbyn has a plan for.

There are major concerns about how the UK government is handling the process of exiting the European Union. However Corbyn seems determined to do all he can to ensure that Article 50 is triggered as quickly as possible. He hasn't come up with any proposals for dealing with quitting the single market or handling the ending of free movement agreements. Two issues that are fundamental to the future wealth and welfare of Britain. It's almost as if he's expecting Brexit to lead to a revolution which will end in the people rising up and overthrowing the government. Given that Corbyn's ideas have not been revolutionary, or even evolutionary, it is highly unlikely that he will be at the forefront of that revolution should it materialise.

It could be said that inexperience and constant talk of leadership challenges have undermined and impeded Corbyn's tenure. He however has repeatedly gone rogue with statements not in line with Labour Party policy and clearly not discussed with beforehand with his cabinet or MPs. He has failed to adequately engage with influential groups in the Labour Party and put forward an effective front as opposition. This has also meant that the Labour Party has not successfully presented itself to the public as a government in waiting. In fact, it has not come up with any clear positions on the economy, transportation, health, housing or immigration.

It is unlikely that the Labour Party can win a future election under Corbyn. He could however do a better job of holding the government to account. And maybe developing a policy framework that presents a viable and attractive alternative to the current brand of fascistic conservatism being shoved down our throats at the moment.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Stop! You're Killing Me

Modern society has been blighted by a plague of killings and a fascination with killers. We live in world where depicting killing has become normalised and in fact popularised over generations. Almost every major religion makes frequent references to killing as a way of propagating its beliefs or maintaining its integrity. National governments have installed the threat of war as a deterrent. Government sanctioned killing by agent or drone are rife. Nationalistic causes have largely adopted killing as an attention grabber and negotiation leverage. The news media literally salivate at the prospect of reporting murders and deaths in any context. Book, film, tv and social media are dominated by killing and gratuitous violence.

Tragically we now live in a society where people too often resort to murder to take what they want, avenge a slight or assuage hurt feelings. One can only pray that resorting to murder to resolve knotty issues doesn't become the norm. It seems to be a consistent theme in everything we read and watch.

It is difficult to imagine us evolving into a kinder and more gentle society when killing and maiming have become skills to most desire. Violence in our society won't abate until we turn away from the gratuitous enjoyment of killing and violence. Killing is a reality of the world we live in but we have become dangerously desensitised to its destructiveness.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Nigeria's Culture of Human Trafficking

Nigeria has a less than proud history of association with slavery. It's major ports were once staging posts for the slave trade. The active role played by some tribes in capturing neighbouring villagers and selling them to slavers is not explored in too much detail these days. Even back then there were lessons that could have been learnt in tackling tribalism that has blighted the Nigerian federation in modern times. Unfortunately, even though the slave trade has long been abolished it would appear that in the 21st century slavery isn't quite eradicated in Nigeria.

For many years now it has been the practice for families in the village to send young family members to work as servants for wealthy people in the cities. In many cases it involves sending children and teenagers to work as househelps. Children in their pre teens are often sent to work as servants while their parents receive payments to cover the wages they would have earned. In some cases the host families are content to have children of school age working for them but not enrolled in education.

There have been numerous cases of young girls being sent abroad to work as nannies or house helps for families but being abused and held in appalling conditions. Very often they are denied education, not paid, and held illegally in the countries they have moved to. Meanwhile, they are mistreated and subjected to extreme deprivation in an attempt to keep them subdued and captive.


In parts of Nigeria parents are marrying their under aged daughters off to older men for dowries or to pay off debts. In some cases the girls are betrothed and remain with their parents until they finish secondary school. A lot of the girls being betrothed in early youth are often unable to complete, or attend secondary school at all. Where they do complete secondary school any further formal education they receive is often at the behest of their husband or fiancé.

There is a very lucrative industry of trafficking Nigerian women abroad for the purposes of prostitution. Amsterdam and Italy used to be prime locations for this. However, in recent times the UAE, and Dubai in particular have become targets for Nigerian traffickers trading in women for prostitution.

It is time that the government in Nigeria recognised the prevalence of human trafficking in the country. This should involve increasing awareness of the rights and protections needed for young girls. The wealthy should not be able to deny them the right to education and freedom despite collusion from their parents or families. Law enforcement in the country should be actively engaged in combating trafficking in all its forms.