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Online commerce has extensively superseded traditional face-to-face or business-to-business trade engagements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

How I Pleaded With God to Kill President Muhammadu Buhari

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“Three deadly plagues I have always despised: Donald Trump, COVID-19, and Muhammadu Buhari.” —Anthony Obi Ogbo

I am not a sadist, but all through my life, there have been three deadly plagues I have always despised: Donald Trump, COVID-19, and Muhammadu Buhari. So in 2017, I spent seven days fasting and praying, asking God directly to take away the life of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. I knew that was the right thing to do, and I will explain why along the line.

Buhari came in as president in early 2015, all mean and angry. Most surprisingly, his ignorance and total lack of competence to lead such a complex economy were exposed less than one year into his term in office. He started by using his executive powers to victimize regions he accused of not voting for him; he then went after the opposition with unfounded allegations of embezzlement. He created animosity among tribes and religions and totally ignored all the election promises he had made. He was so dumb to matters of governance that, under his watch, his economic team plagiarized a budget. The budget he presented turned out to be a carbon copy of the one made by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

Unemployment was growing and spreading like a California wildfire, and insecurity grew out of hand as Boko Haram terrorists outnumbered the national army. Buhari exonerated thousands of apprehended Boko Haram and ISIS terrorists and recruited them into the Nigeran Army—a move that has currently crippled the country’s security intelligence. Indeed, I knew the country was headed toward total anarchy if something was not quickly done to stop this man. Impeachment was off the table, especially with the Nigerian lawmakers who are stakeholders and partakers of a fraudulent administrative structure. So, as a concerned Nigerian citizen who was equally affected by Buhari’s stupidity, I had to do something.

Impeachment was off the table, especially with the Nigerian lawmakers who are stakeholders and partakers of a fraudulent administrative structure.

He was very sick at the time and was a sorry tenant in an obscure hospital in London. He was emaciated to the bone and looked like a cornfield scarecrow; it was obvious that his life was grinding closer to a final rest. Rumors of his death had clouded social media with unsubstantiated news and analysis, and his camp was not just communicating; rather, they babbled with watery explanations about his ailment, and at some point, they claimed he was just on vacation. This was when I had to do the right thing to save millions of lives put in harm’s way through Buhari’s reckless and tyrannical governance.

I gathered my all-time spiritual warfare, including Psalms 109:8–15. Fasting for seven days was a little challenging because I had to appease my addiction to Ethiopian Sidamo coffee. It’s a wet-processed Ethiopian espresso known for its complex flavor and rich acidity.

I resumed my prayer request invoking Psalms 109:8, that his days would be few and that another man (Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, I guess) would take his place of leadership. I meant every word. I chanted verses 8–15 severally in a loud voice and ended by asking God squarely to kill this man by granting him everlasting rest from his sick bed. I did this every day with six-hour fasting. If I may confess, I fell short on the fasting part and often accidentally violated the process with my routine coffee and granola bar addictions. I asked God for forgiveness each time I mistakenly broke the fasting. I ended my prayer-and-fasting event with the same theme—kill this man and set Nigeria free.

I thought my prayers had worked for a moment, but then I could not figure out why God did not grant my request.

Exactly three days after my prayer revival, when I was already celebrating victory, the news of Buhari’s return from his medical trip radiated through the airwaves and on social media. I saw him on the video, and he looked healthier and stronger, walking without support, shaking hands, and talking. I felt like a yahoo-scam victim, then realized I did this all by myself. I thought my prayers had worked for a moment, but then I could not figure out why God did not grant my request. Could it be the coffee and granola bars that often interrupted the fasting moments? I have no clue.

Before you judge my actions, it may interest you to know that Buhari is not just an ordinary man. He is a rare creature who is never happy but whose sadness is dependent on making the lives of those he does not like miserable. In my book on how he bastardized his executive mandate, I described him as the most dangerous killer bee: one that would perch wheezing on the scrotum for a destructive sting. Punch it and smash the manhood; leave it, and he would sting one to death.

He was groomed in an uncultivated military confraternity where a constitutional system and civil liberties are taboo. All his life, as a privileged Fulani breed, he has lived through a system where mediocrity outruns excellence; this explains why, under this ugly culture, a man who has no proof of a high school certificate could rise beyond the law, his country, and the entire masses.

Currently, Buhari has about eight months left in his eight-year hellish regime. And please note that I have no regrets about my kill-Buhari prayer actions and would do it again against any leader that threatens my communal interest with ignorance of mandate, meanness, and idiocy.

♦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

The rousing Peter Obi movement—is radical change finally coming to Nigeria?

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Advocacy to vote for individual candidates without considering their party affiliation will not change the current system; rather, it may yield a disruptive and regressive governance environment —Anthony Obi Ogbo

The current governance system in Nigeria has reached the brink of structural catastrophe. The entire leadership system is wrecked beyond recognition, and the victims of the ineffectual and callous leaders are those who cheered and voted for them. There are clear indications that a radical change is needed to rescue this nation from a deadly slumber. Unfortunately, the masses yearning for system overhaul have been hypocritical and reluctant in using their electoral privileges to facilitate a new paradigm through the polls.

Just recently, Nigerians have witnessed an eruption of youths, all over the country but predominantly in the south, showing up in unprecedented numbers to acquire their permanent voter’s cards. This movement saw a massive surge in voter registration and prompted the Independent National Electoral Commission to extend the registration exercise to September 2022.

Without a doubt, there is tension among party stakeholders regarding the current movement. Contenders in this election already know that Nigerian youths do not play when they unite to fight a cause related to system woes. Indeed, they have every reason to worry, because these young people are advocating for Peter Obi, a charismatic former governor of Anambra State, who defected a few days before his People’s Democratic Party primaries to become the Labor Party’s flagbearer.

Obi is a smart man—a compassionate conservative moderate—who has for months profiled himself as a righteous anti-establishment candidate ready to overhaul the social, political, and economic principles of the system. His message has resonated with the Nigerian Youths, who are voluntarily trooping out in their masses to blow his trumpet. Their excitement over changing the system is generating extensive attention, and for good reason.

The last time Nigerian youths championed a cause was around October 2020 when they created an internet hashtag that took Nigeria and the world by storm. #EndSARS, initiated through Twitter, was a call for the disbandment of Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad. This movement drew the support of many world leaders, including the United Nations’ Secretary-General, António Guterres, and United States (US) President Joe Biden.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude ” —Maya Angelou

However, these young people are right; the only option left to save Nigeria from the current disaster is a total governmental overhaul—a radical change that would usher in something entirely new. The embrace of a new paradigm could facilitate a revolutionary replacement of old beliefs and ways of doing things with fundamentally new concepts. According to the American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

The value of change has been acknowledged throughout history. Nineteenth-century African American social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, understood the necessity of transformation. According to Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Barack Obama II, the 44th president of the US, also made sense of the change process. According to Obama, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

 

The question, however, is about how this movement can be translated into actual votes, how to translate those votes to victory, and how to ensure that victory leads to legislative policies that open up the path to transformation.

In the presidential system, one major problem with anti-establishment lone candidates or parties is that they often struggle with governance. Currently, the Labor Party—which Obi represents—has no seat in the Senate and only one seat in the House of Representatives. Therefore, promoting Obi without his Labor Party and all the Party’s candidates in the legislature might not accomplish a drastic system transformation in the long run.

Therefore, the current advocacy to vote for individual candidates without considering their party affiliation will not change the current system; rather, it may yield a disruptive and regressive governance environment. To prepare Obi for victory, as well as position him to lead an anticipated change culture, the Labor Party must be carried along with him. They must win significant seats in the forthcoming election. If not, an Obi presidency under the existing structure would be a square peg in a round hole. Such a calamity would see us witness a president of Igbo descent struggling in a den of hostile and antagonizing system adversaries.

♦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

Toward 2023: The Igbo cause and structure of the Nigerian politics

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How can a lame-duck president with zero legislative support lead a people out of system inequality in a predominantly hostile political environment? In a democracy, the president does not have the authority to make laws or facilitate major structural transformations.  The Igbo community is yearning for equal justice and equity through sweeping governance restructure. So, what kind of candidates or parties should they be looking for? Are they better off backing an immobilized president with Igbo DNA or negotiating with a congressional majority to push their agenda?

In the past six years, major Igbo political leaders encouraged the combative agitation for statehood stirred up by a separationist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Elected Igbo representatives or officials used IPOB and their often extremely divisive crusades for political convenience. However, they did not weigh some long-term political implications of those messages.

For instance, IPOB championed violent “no-referendum-no-election” operations that unleashed bloody violence at political rallies and polling stations where election workers and individuals were simply participating in the process. IPOB also recklessly destabilized the commercial sector in the Southeast. Most Igbos ignored numerous warnings from political observers about the long-term destructive nature of the trend of pushing forward their agenda of a national system that would serve their communal interests.

Astonishingly, just recently, a few months before the general election that would usher in another regime, the Igbos have been all over Nigeria’s political scene grappling with how to align themselves to attain relevance. The group has been unsuccessful in its negotiations to attain a presidential ticket in the two major political parties. However, Peter Obi, a charismatic former governor of Anambra State, defected a few days before his People’s Democratic Party primaries to become the Labor Party’s flagbearer.

Obi’s candidacy soon picked up unprecedented momentum among the youth, especially those of his Igbo ethnicity, who are now mobilizing themselves for a historic voter-registration drive to push his candidacy. Strangely enough, the same activists who championed the movement to isolate the Igbo youths from the political process because they wanted a Biafra are now flying the Labor Party flag and leading the “Obi-kere re nke” campaign mantra in a push for an Igbo president. It was precisely this cause that they had opposed for over six years. So, where does this leave the Igbos?

The purpose of this article is not to predict the electability of any candidate, nor is it to sugarcoat the prevailing rocky political environment; rather its goal is to provide some empirical insights as well as lay a more realistic foundation to enable competent Igbo thinkers to explore the prevalent political options before making any meaningful decisions about the 2023 general election.

In a democracy, interest, not tribe, drives party affiliation and support

Politics facilitates communal interests. In a democracy, interest, not tribe, drives party affiliation and support. In other words, communities look for candidates who have the capacity to make decisions not just on their behalf but also in accordance with their interests.  Therefore, it would be worthwhile to first identify the interests of the Igbos.

The majority of the problems Igbos are facing today originate from the country’s constitution and its current governance structures. In a nutshell, their demands focus on the following:

  • Reconstruction of the current constitution to impartially address revenue and resource allocations, electoral maps, the structure of state and local governments, and the draconian federal character.
  • Reconstruction of the current constitution to overhaul the current security structure and decentralize internal security.
  • Laws to protect Nigerian citizens, their families, homes, and businesses in every part of the country.
  • Laws to address marginalization or quota and guarantee equal opportunities to all Nigerians

With the aforementioned crucial needs, how could voting for a lone candidate without considerable legislative support help the Igbos? In Nigeria’s organizational structure, the executive function does not make the laws; it carries them out. The judiciary evaluates the laws but often has the power to preside over very crucial decisions. The National Assembly,  which consists of a Senate with 109 members and a 360-member House of Representatives, exerts much power in making structural changes. In fact, should the President reject a bill, the Assembly could pass it by two-thirds of both chambers and overrule the veto —in which case, the President’s consent would not be required.

Under the current legislative structure, in the Senate (109 seats), the All Progressives Congress (APC) has 66 seats; the People’s Democratic Party occupies 38 seats while others have 2 seats and 3 vacant seats. In the House of Representatives (360 seats), the APC occupies 227 seats; the People’s Democratic Party has 121 seats while others have 11 seats with one vacant seat.

There are Igbos advocating for individual candidates and others embracing the Labor Party to appease their strong desire for an Igbo president. The latter needs to bear in mind that, currently, the Labor party has no seat in the Senate and only one seat in the House of Representatives. Is the Labor party projecting to win significant seats in the forthcoming election? If not, how could a president of Igbo descent, with one shaky legislative seat out of 360 help the Igbos under the current constitutional structure?

It may also be interesting to note that anytime a national election is polarized along tribal lines, the first major loser is the Igbo tribe because they do not have the numbers to succeed nationally, and they are not trusted by other regions to collaborate in good faith. The much-hyped rotational presidency is not a constitutionally mandated process but an arrangement by political parties. Thus, legislative support is needed to enshrine most of the demands of the Igbos in the constitution.

It might be hard to swallow, but the truth is that the problem of the Igbos is not in Aso Rock but lies within the legislative axis. The current get-out-and-register exercise inspired by Obi is commendable, but a harsh truth remains: it is going to be a rough and bumpy ride to 2023. Igbos must set aside their emotions and put on their rational, critical-thinking caps to play hardball politics.

♦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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