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Anthony Obi Ogbo

Akwete fabric makers must mechanize quickly—the Chinese are coming

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So, how can local Akwete fabric producers get adequate training to replace antiquated manual labor methods with competitive contemporary machines and mechanisms?

The new governor of Anambra State, Chukwuma Charles Soludo, may have set in motion what might be perceived as the second revolution of Akwete textiles. Throughout his campaign, and as recently as today, he has not just preached this philosophy but has also demonstrated it by voluntarily offering himself as this local trade’s brand ambassador. According to the governor, “My Akwete dress is not just a dress; it’s a statement. I want to make a statement with it. You know, in the entire Southeast, this is the only textile product alive, and it’s handmade by the women of Akwete in Abia State.”

Soludo’s proclamation soon aroused other leaders in the Southeast to follow suit and advocate a similar cause―to revitalize and purchase these local textiles. A few days ago, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia (Akwete’s home state) and other governors attending the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum wore Akwete fabrics to their meeting in the Ukwa East local government area.

Governor Ikpeazu has always been a fan of this fabric and has always expressed pride that it comes from his home state. Other political and community leaders and celebrities of Igbo descent have also used this fabric to demonstrate loyalty.

However, the purpose of this commentary is not to assess the people’s benefaction of, or devotion to, this product. By all indications, this product and the makers have now been given another chance to prosper from their handicraft once again. Igbos, it appears, are passionately ready to make this fabric their signature attire. One may recall that Akwete fabric textiles thrived during the nineteenth century and were worn by the women of Akwete (now Abia State). The Igbos then started trading this fabric for goods from international traders and those from other parts of Nigeria.

Online commerce has extensively superseded traditional face-to-face or business-to-business trade engagements

Currently, however, the Akwete production technique is not very different from what it was when it began. The weaving involves a laborious, manual interlacing technique performed on a two-system loom. Weavers sit on a low chair, and they labor for hours to produce a substantial length. Today, however, the global system has completely changed, and the economic environment is entirely different. Online commerce has extensively superseded traditional face-to-face or business-to-business trade engagements.

Remember, Akwete clothmakers are local, traditional fabricators who do not know about branding their talents nor elevating them to a competitive market level. They are, therefore, likely to lose their entire Akwete fabric culture to larger, capital-oriented companies from other places. It’s possible that while wearing this fabric at political events or in loyalty to a homemade product is healthy for promotion and ancestry comradeship, it might bear no economic relevance.

Currently, there have been attempts by a few Nigerian traders and investors to develop a more modernized fabrication system, but that might not be enough to sustain the modern global market structure.   For instance, with China’s advent as a significant player in Africa, trade and investment have grown tremendously. China now competes with the United States and European Union (EU) as one of Africa’s trade, investment, and aid partners. They are all over Africa buying up ideas and exploring products and cultures—and then commercializing them through predatory monopolistic ventures.

Globally, the fabric industry is strong. Unfortunately, African fabric dealers and manufacturers remain vulnerable to more aggressive, well-prepared foreign merchants. For example, Qingdao Phoenix, a Chinese textile industry specializing in African wax printing materials, touts the most advanced equipment and latest technologies in textile production. This company is also the manufacturer of the Hitarget brand, which features what are considered to be the most popular African print designs, styles, and colors. Interestingly, most Dutch designs available today within the African marketplace are low-cost reproductions made in China.

Akwete challenge is beyond a trending “made-in-Abia” excitement

Therefore, the Akwete challenge is beyond a trending “made-in-Abia” excitement. It is now a matter of urgency to facilitate the strategic transition from creating these products by hand to using relevant technologies. This philosophy must go beyond looking at who wears these fabrics or does the photoshoot; training, capital investment, and other appropriate support efforts are necessary to initiate technological innovation and process change.

So, how can local Akwete fabric producers get adequate training to replace antiquated manual labor methods with competitive contemporary machines and mechanisms? How can they embrace relevant technologies to distribute and market this product and eliminate the current, outdated business-to-consumer sales and distribution culture? How sincerely do they want to remain producers, distributors, or perhaps sole custodians of their talent and artistic culture—without losing out to today’s ruthless, capitalistic market environment?

Grab a coffee, and let’s have a conversation. #

♦Publisher of the Guardian News, Professor Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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Anthony Obi Ogbo

Contentious race for Harris County Judge—why voters must stand by incumbent Lina Hidalgo

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“Republican Party intentionally rendered Harris County a crime scene with bloody gun laws to corroborate their “tough-on-crime” campaign strategy.” ―Anthony Obi Ogbo

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It was not a surprise when the Houston Chronicle handed an endorsement to Alexandra del Moral Mealer, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s Republican Party challenger. Citing very flimsy justifications in its editorial piece, The Chronicle concluded, “we encourage Harris County voters to back Mealer in this race. We can only hope that once in office, she’d effectively address crime, tend to basic services, and restore civility on the court by governing as a strong local leader, not a partisan.”

And seriously, The Chronicle wants voters to believe that a Donald Trump student, a 2020 election denier who does not believe in democracy and rule of law could “restore civility on the court by governing as a strong local leader.”

Without a doubt, the race for Harris County Judge has taken a pugnacious turn for the worst.  From the corporate media to predatory Republican Party business gurus and cohorts, a do-or-die conspiracy venture to unseat this incumbent is costing her opposition a fortune. For instance, the latest campaign finance reports show that as of mid-October, Mealer raised nearly 5 million dollars—more than most state-wide candidates.

The opposition campaign funds are utilized to lampoon Hidalgo with a composition of junky advertorial slots littered all over the media. As a strategy to support their fictitious claim that Hidalgo was defunding the police, the Republican members of the Harris County Commissioners Court have consistently boycotted meetings, blocking the passage of the proposed county budget, then using that to generate campaign materials for the midterm.

There are obvious reasons why rapacious opposition cronies want Hidalgo’s pound of flesh. She is the first woman to be elected County Judge and only the second to be elected to the Commissioners Court. Additionally, her Democratic Party identity and all-inclusive progressive ideology make her the opposition’s nightmare. For instance, she expanded early childhood education, pursued criminal justice reform, and initiated stricter regulation of land development and pollution. To make her opposition witch hunters even more uncomfortable, she facilitated easier access to voting and passionately supported commonsense policies for undocumented immigrants.

Her aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic further elevated her popularity among Harris County residents.

Yet Hidalgo remains a hard nut, who in 2018 at the age of 27, and as a first-time candidate surprised the political establishment by crushing a three-term Republican brand name incumbent, Ed Emmett. Her aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic further elevated her popularity among Harris County residents.

The Republicans on the other hand floated a long list of policy meltdowns to back up their antagonizing disapproval of Hidalgo’s stewardship. According to The Houston Chronicle, which indeed provides overbearing media coverage for the anti-Hidalgo fraternity, “Our gravest concerns, though, involve Hidalgo’s failure to respond with urgency to Harris County’s crime wave.”

It is hypocritical when the opposition blames Hidalgo for the County’s high rise in crime without at least citing the root of the problem. The current uncontrollable crime rate was hatched when Gov. Greg Abbott and his Republican collaborators enacted the permitless carry bill into law in 2021. This deadly legislation, which took effect starting Sept. 1, made it legal to carry handguns without a license or training. Thus, the Republican Party intentionally rendered Harris County a crime scene with bloody gun laws to corroborate their “tough-on-crime” campaign strategy.

If any party should bring us matters of moral decency in government, it is definitely not the Republican Party

Hidalgo’s three staffers were indicted for allegedly steering an $11 million contract toward a Democratic operative, and the opposition has made this an anthem. I would agree with Hidalgo that the indictments are meritless and politically motivated. But wait a minute, if any party should bring us matters of moral decency in government, it is definitely not the Republican Party.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, is currently facing state securities fraud charges and reportedly is under FBI investigation for bribery, yet he is still on the ballot. It has been nearly seven years since the attorney general was indicted on felony securities fraud charges and he is still on the job. Additionally, Gov. Abbott recently appointed an officer indicted for misconduct during George Floyd protests to the police regulatory agency. Justin Berry was among 19 Austin police officers indicted earlier this year, accused of using excessive force against people protesting the murder of George Floyd. So, who really needs these lessons on moral decency?

The truth is that after a 2016 Harris County election “Blue Wave” when the Democrats swept up every single countywide seat, including the district attorney and sheriff’s offices, the Republican opposition has been alarmed about losing the state majority. Harris County, the third largest in the nation, has remained a Democratic Party enclave which might likely influence the state political dynamic.

The battle for Harris County Judge goes beyond the ongoing conspiracies orchestrated by a desperate Republican opposition. Their challenger, Mealer, is a good woman, but she is a stooge who is being planted by the anti-democratic Republican Party to represent their interests.

The call to retain the incumbent, Lina Hidalgo, in the office is not a partisan move.

I have always advised communities not to rely on corporate media endorsements to make their political choices because their interests are often profit-oriented, politically motivated, and thoughtlessly bigoted to appease some ulterior causes.  The call to retain the incumbent, Lina Hidalgo, in the office is not a partisan move. Ushering a Republican stooge into this office would tear this county apart. Also, Harris County voters must not be confused by sensational stories of the corporate media spewing amplifying headlines about this race being very tight.  According to Texas Trends Survey 2022: The Race for Harris County Judge, published by the Hobby School of Public Affairs of the University of Houston, “Among Harris County likely voters surveyed, the vote intention in the county judge race is 52% for Democrat Lina Hidalgo and 42% for Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, with 6% undecided.”

Now, if you care to know why the State Republican leaders are doing everything to block minority voters, here is why: In the same survey, Hidalgo holds a 71-percentage point advantage over del Moral Mealer among Black voters, 79% vs. 8%, and a 44-percentage point advantage among Latino voters, 69% vs. 25%.

Now you know why, come rain or sunshine, every minority must vote!

♦Publisher of the Guardian News, Journalism and RTF Professor, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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Anthony Obi Ogbo

Consolidating the South-East—Atiku’s ‘Dan Ulasi’ Move is a Smart Choice

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“Dan Ulasi understands Nigeria’s electoral maps and could read them with his eyes closed” ―Anthony Obi Ogbo

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Campaigns for the 2023 general election officially commenced on September 28, in line with the timetable and schedule of activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This date signaled the beginning of a process of shaping the electioneering landscape ahead of the general election. In the succeeding weeks, all the major political parties unleashed their supporters on the campaign trail to wave the flags of the electioneering crusade.

 

From the major streets of the core cities, as can be seen on social media, the Nigerian election campaign is trending. For instance, the Labor Party (LP), with Peter Obi as its flagbearer, touted highly attended October 1 rallies all over the country. The All Progressive Congress (APC), even with its flagbearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, out on an unexplained foreign visit, showcased highly attended rallies in the core cities of the North-West and South-West zones. The presidential candidate of the New Nigerian People Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, upon commissioning his presidential campaign office in Kano, bragged that his party was the fastest-growing political party Nigeria had ever seen. There was massive attendance when the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flagged off its campaign in Uyo with its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, leading the cause and urging Nigerians to vote for his party to ensure good governance.

However, what we must understand is that rally attendance or intimidating images of campaign gatherings do not determine the outcomes of elections. In my recent article, ‘The test of translating a movement into electoral victory votes,’ I outlined a pathway to victory and explained how strategic alignment can sustain a winning approach. I clarified the three most crucial winning structures: facilitating and sustaining an on-the-ground poll army, strategic coordination of electoral maps, and the ability to counter ballot mishandling and falsification of ballot figures. Strategy is key.

So, when Atiku Abubakar appointed Chief Dan Ulasi as the Technical Adviser on Contact and Mobilization for the South-East geopolitical zone, we can be sure that his party is strategically working the electoral maps. After all, the South-East is bitter with the Nigerian system over an unfavorable political arrangement that isolates it from core political leadership positions. This situation was made worse when another chance eluded them in the presidential nomination process of the PDP, a party they have passionately supported.

He has been working the electoral process since the Second Republic politics of the late 70s

The appointment of Chief Ulasi to walk this troubled cause might be a lucrative political gamble. He is a Nnewi-born ballot strategist and political technocrat; he has been working the electoral process since the Second Republic politics of the late 70s, was chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in Anambra State in the aborted Third Republic, and also served as chairman of the PDP in 2003.

He understands Nigeria’s electoral maps and could read them with his eyes closed. During the 2015 contentious presidential race between former President Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Ulasi also coordinated strategic structures and was the only PDP strategist to predict that his party was in trouble. His party at the time did not listen.

At the presidential level, the South East has been a PDP stronghold. Upholding that position requires strategists who understand the political landscape, and Atiku realizes that. Within his party’s framework, Chief Ulasi has strategically helped raise the South-East geopolitical ethnic group to the national political setting. In his recent media outing, he presented his insights on where the Igbos would be headed under each of the major political parties. He explained the danger of the Igbos voting for other major parties, especially the LP. “There is no way that those votes will lead us to victory. First, an election has happened in Osun and they failed woefully.” Chief Ulasi argued that voting for losing parties would isolate the Igbos once again from the central government. A situation they have been enduring since the current administration.

A lone candidate without considerable legislative support is limited in how they can help their base

The role of electoral maps is crucial in a democracy. A lone candidate without considerable legislative support is limited in how they can help their base. As I stated in my previous article, in Nigeria’s organizational structure, the executive branch does not make the laws; it carries them out. The judiciary evaluates the laws but often has the power to preside over crucial decisions. The National Assembly, which consists of a Senate with 109 members and a House of Representatives with 360 members, exerts significant power in making structural changes. In fact, should the President reject a bill, the Assembly could pass it by a two-thirds majority of both chambers and overrule the veto—in which case, the President’s consent is not required.

Under the current legislative structure, in the Senate (109 seats), the APC has 66 seats to the PDP’s 38 seats, while the other parties combined have two seats, with three vacant seats. In the House of Representatives (360 seats), the APC has 227 seats to the PDP’s 121 seats, while the other parties combined have 11 seats, with one vacant seat.

In conclusion, by transcending a quest for a new president, this election must involve strategies to mobilize for substantial control of the legislative chambers. Atiku’s invitation of Chief Ulasi to the PDP’s campaign strategy suite is specifically addressing this purpose. Without a doubt, he made a smart choice.

♦Publisher of the Guardian News, Journalism and RTF Professor, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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Anthony Obi Ogbo

Houston Nigerian groups, radicalized members, and the lessons of Okwesilieze

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“It may therefore be right to state that the “Okwesilieze Case” has broken that yoke of distinctive prodigality, irrationality, and deceit tormenting Houston Nigerian organizations. I hereby implore other organizations experiencing similar atrocities to follow suit.―Anthony Obi Ogbo

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Houston’s Nigerian community has been a little engaged with forum dialogs after the Texas International Guardian News ran a story update about a prolonged civil lawsuit between the Okwesilieze Women’s Club of Nigeria and a rival group formed by defecting group members “De Okwesilieze International Women’s Club”.

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The story, which was totally based on a court-endorsed mediation and settlement negotiations, emphatically stated that the said lawsuit ended in favor of the founding group, Okwesilieze Women’s Club of Nigeria. Also, the story stated that the defecting group, “De Okwesilieze, and their listed agents avoided what would have been a humiliating verdict and succumbed to mediation and settlement negotiations that completely appeased the plaintiff’s demands”.

But, yesterday, I received a strange phone call from one of the defendants (name withheld) mentioned in the case, violently questioning how there could be a loser or winner in a mediation process. Good argument, but not a smart one because the settlement speaks for itself. A mediation settlement where Plaintiff walks away with 99.9% of the demands in the original petition is indeed a slam-dunk.  That is exactly the dilemma faced by the defecting group. “De Okwesilieze.”

From a legal standpoint, mediation does not take the winner-loser approach but seeks a resolution of the dispute where the parties agree. However, mediation could also be “evaluative”, where the mediator assists the disputing parties in reaching a resolution by pointing out the weaknesses of their cases, and predicting what a judge or jury would be likely to do.

Without lectures about good or bad journalism, and without a logical analysis of the mediation process, the Defendants and their representatives in the Okwesilieze case lost woefully. Out of a long list of demands stipulated in this settlement, the below orders alone are a total humiliating defeat for these breakaways. To mention but a few, the defecting group was ordered to:

  • Immediately cease to use the name “Okwesilieze” as any part of their organization’s name.
  • Immediately cease to use the Plaintiffs team songs and greetings “Kwesi” as part of their Organization songs or greetings.
  • shall return the Plaintiff’s organization items in the procession of the defendants
  • shall pay to Plaintiff Organization the sum of $37,000.00.

So how does one explain a woeful failure? Let me make it clear, that rather than the ongoing social media winner-loser argument, the Houston community must learn from the Okwesilieze Women’s Club of Nigeria and their Founder and Leader Dr/Mrs. Gracie Gboliwe Chukwu. Dr. Chukwu had professionally hired good lawyers to institute legal action to challenge those she believed to have trespassed upon the group’s registered name, absconded with their process, and, worse, took away their funds by conversion.

 

This case should serve as a lesson not only to most Nigerian organizations in Houston but also to radicalized members among them who have a history of facilitating breakups and defecting with funds. This practice has been very common in this community because none of the groups have vigorously gone after these vandals.

It sounds surprising but true that in the past 15 years, organizations in the Nigerian community have lost an unprecedented amount of money to breakaway vandals who  would make the career off of community funds. Community organizations have also spent hundreds of thousands in fruitless litigations against these radicals.

It may therefore be right to state that the “Okwesilieze Case” has broken that yoke of distinctive prodigality, irrationality, and deceit tormenting Houston Nigerian organizations. I hereby implore other organizations experiencing similar atrocities to follow suit.

♦Publisher of the Guardian News, Journalism and RTF Professor, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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