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Is America’s Democracy On The Decline?

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By Habib Aruna

With the United States presidential election just more than a month away, the world is watching with an unusual frenzy and animated indignation the campaign between the incumbent, President Donald Trump of the Republican Party and his challenger, former Vice President, Joe Biden of the Democratic Party.

The concern of the world and indeed, lovers of democracy on what is playing out in a country regarded as the bastion of democracy all boils down to the erratic and demagogic behavior of a leader, who was supposed to be the leader of the free world. Rather, the United States President in the past three and half years, has conducted himself in a manner that is starkly different from conventional norms and tradition. He has indeed constituted himself as the real danger to the more than two centuries democratic experiment.

For a President that told the world in his January 2017 inauguration speech that he was going to pursue an America first policies, most of his utterances and actions have been antithetical to democratic principles and values. Trump has eroded all the gains made under President Barack Obama that was supposed to ensure global peace and security, and even went as far as to take side with the Russian ruler, Vladimir Putin, who is widely seen as a threat to global democratic order.

Indeed, more worrisome has been Trump’s constant attack on democratic institutions; chastising those who disagree with him, incessantly describing the media as fake and using derogatory language that belittle his high office on political opponents. Almost all his appointees who have resigned from the White House have all come out to tell the world how incapable he is and the threat he poses to the country and the world if he is re-elected for second term.

Before the emergence of Trump, United States Presidents have always been referred to as leader of the free world, presupposing the evident truism that the American democracy has been a global brand that nations of the world aimed to emulate. Countries and more than casual observers of world politics for more two centuries have followed with keen interest the evolution of democracy in the United States and not a few have used it as a veritable template.

More importantly, is the enviable way and manner power transits from one party to the other without rancor or bitterness. The world always awaits the reaction of losers in major elections. And what has become the envy of the world has been the obligatory phone calls often put across to winners by losers.

However, with the emergence of Trump, this vital democratic tradition of free and fair electoral process and peaceful transfer of power is about to be truncated. Like never before, something that is unthinkable is brewing in God’s own country. Interestingly, the man who took an oath to be the symbol of democracy and chief occupant of the Oval office is actively championing the debasement of the very system that brought him to power. He is doing everything in his power to circumvent the democratic process!

Trump has actively sought to delegitimize the results of the November election, falsely claiming universal mail-in voting intended to protect people amid the coronavirus pandemic is ripe for corruption although there is no evidence this is true. According to the Washington Post, in the five states that already allowed universal mail-in voting, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, there have been no issues with widespread fraud.

“The only way we’re going to lose is if there’s mischief, and it’ll have to be on a big scale, so be careful,” Trump said. “We do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘Oh, let’s, we’ll go and we’ll do a transition,’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating. We’re not going to stand for it.”

This attack claiming Democrats are trying to cheat is also baseless when it is the President who has sought to limit resources to the U.S. Postal Service to curtail its ability to handle the influx of mailed ballots.

Trump has also said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the presidential election, meaning he intends to legally challenge the results if he loses. This is the normal template of a Banana Republic, which makes the Western countries and other democracies to be worried and concern. Because what moral ground do the Western world has to preach democratic tenets around the world when the world leading democracy cannot conduct basic elections.

For sure, it is doubtful if the founding fathers that gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 ever thought there would be a President that would stretch the system they put in place to the limit. Recovering from a victory of independence over the British and trying to find a system of government that would not put legislative and executive powers in the hands of one man, the delegates were quick to embrace the Lockenian philosophy that created an executive head but with adequate checks and balances. The three organs of government, executive, legislature and judiciary were thus created.

We have to also note that the leader of the war, General George Washington who contributed his resources to the prosecution of the war, had a larger than life image and was well respected. He was unanimously made to preside over proceedings at the convention. The decisions reached by the delegates which formed the bulk of the constitution were made with the implicit recognition of the character and patriotism of Washington.

The delegates were also not unaware that noble men; men of high integrity would be voted for to occupy the highest office in the land. For instance, the constitution did not stipulate any term limits for Presidents, knowing full well that Washington will be the first president. Washington ended up serving for just two terms and by so doing setting a precedence that successive presidents have followed till today.

There is however a lacuna in the system that the constitution did not adequately address, but the founding fathers were of the belief that the system would evolve to consummate a near perfect system, if there is enough vigilance by the people to checkmate the excessive use of power by office holders. Suffice to note the eternal advice given by the oldest delegate, Benjamin Franklin to a lady who wanted to know the outcome of their meeting: “A republic madam, I hope you can keep it”.

For sure, I don’t think the founding fathers ever thought in their wildest imagination that there would be a President that will be audacious enough to break all norms and tradition, while his party looks on sheepishly and helplessly. A president that is shameless; lacks basic decency; selfish and greedy; autocratic and dictatorial; hypocritical and corrupt and above all, poses a great danger to the very foundation of America’s democracy. He has since become a laughing stock among comity of nations.

Do we still wonder why notable figures in the country, both civilians and retired Military Generals, across party lines, have openly come out to oppose his re-election, saying the future and values of their country is at stake in this election? As we await the verdict of the United States electorate on November 8, one thing that is for sure is that the world will be a better place without Donald Trump.


Aruna, a journalist writes from Ikeja

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Opinion

Sowore Condemns Attack On Home Of Joe Igbokwe

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Human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore has condemned the attack on the residence of Joe Igbokwe, the Special Adviser on Drainage and Water Resources to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in Nnewi, Anambra State.

“I totally and unequivocally condemn the attack on Joe Igbokwe family house on Nnewi by arsonists. Nothing should be done to silence Mr. Igbokwe in a democratic society,” Sowore posted on Facebook.

Recall that the country home of the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was on Sunday set on fire.

Igbokwe in a Facebook post accused members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) for the incident.

“IPOB invaded my house in Nnewi about now. I am sure they raised (sic) down my house giving the jerrycans of petrol being offloaded from their sienna via CCTV. To God be the glory I am still alive,” Igbokwe posted on Sunday afternoon.

The APC chieftain also shared a video from the aftermath of the attack, with an accompanying caption that reads: “Here it is. My Home in Nnewi has been sacrificed. No life was lost. To God be the glory.”

Hours after he posted the video, he deleted it from his Facebook page as well as the initial post.

Over the past weeks, unidentified gunmen have targeted known prominent names in the South-East.

Most of the attacks have been blamed on the members of IPOB, whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is in detention over charges of treason.

The IPOB leadership has, however, distanced its members from the attacks.

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Opinion

#ProjectEnableAfrica: The Essence of Social Integration Of Persons With Disabilities 

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The diversity of persons within a community is a prerequisite to any economy’s growth, making it essential for total inclusion within society. About 15% of the World Population lives with some form of disability, while one-fifth of the same figure experience significant disabilities. With this in mind, one needs to have a working definition of disability, which has been defined as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major activity. As such these persons have a higher tendency to be excluded and discriminated against, both intentionally through the actions of people and unintentionally through the inadequacies of an environment. This inadvertently brings the feeling of being social outcasts, leading to emotional and psychological breakdown.

In addressing this need, the international community, namely the United Nations (UN) created the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), wherein Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities – is specific on this need. The Federal Government of Nigeria has also played a key role in advancing the social integration of PWDs by legislating the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act.

In ensuring integration of People With Disability (PWD) as an integral part of the society, first, a state must ensure adequate participation of these persons within the society. In striving to achieve this, one must first consider the problems surrounding PWD, what constant issues they face in their daily lives, their struggles and the actual underlying problems of the non-inclusiveness of an environment. 

In understanding their problems, one needs to understand that certain conveniences such as easy access to transport systems, quality education, socializing with friends and several others would seem to be more of an inconvenience to PWD. Solving these problems is crucial as it is only when these problems have been solved that PWD can take a step further in participating and becoming an integral part of the society.

Before moving on to environmental steps for total inclusion, it is important to note that exclusion of disabled persons does not only emanate from external sources but likewise these persons can deliberately exclude themselves from society, arising as a result of personal insecurities due to their disabilities, always wondering what others would think about them. This is psychological, one which has to be deliberately catered for through therapy and constant counsel by professionals and loved ones. Having dealt with this, PWDs must begin to live in the new realities of their disabilities, they must accept it as who they are and move past the person they used to be, for those not born with their disability. 

Accepting one’s disability is a crucial step in being included within the society because nobody can make one feel inferior without that person’s consent, as such if they begin to accept who they are and their essence within any society, then they themselves begin to be inclusive. Lastly, PWDs have to consistently push themselves to be the better version of themselves, like every other abled person. 

Humans are generally known to push for what they want or believe in, and PWD should not do anything less than this, as when they strive for their beliefs and passion then all persons within the society begin to recognize and respect these people because of their achievements notwithstanding their disability. A good example is Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs and yet inspires many; another good example is Nigeria’s very own Cobhams Asuquo, a musician, producer and songwriter who can play the piano, despite being visually impaired.

Having taken a look at the internal and personal inclusion by PWD themselves, it would be incomplete without considering the external factors that would contribute to the total inclusion of these persons. For one, abled persons need to be sensitized about the emotional and physical hardships of PWDs, reasons for inclusion, how to behave and respond to PWD. Once this can be handled, our society would have taken immense steps for inclusion, as many organisations would begin to respond to the need of making their facilities more inclusive.

The Nigerian Disability Act recently signed into law, protecting those with disability is indeed a commendable law and very laudable, observing from its Section 1 which absolutely prohibits any form of discrimination against PWD, to other sections prescribing penalties and regulations. The implementation of this law to the very letter is an essential step to inclusion in Nigeria, this law can be regarded as a solution but just like many laws within the state, it may become a dead law if the people, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and government do not intentionally ensure its implementation. The first step here is proper sensitization, then ensuring that building plans being submitted to the government are inclusive, transport systems are more accessible, preference to disabled persons for service provision, be it on a queue or reserved parking or seats be respected etc.

Lanre Olagunju and Duro Femi Ajala are disability rights advocates, they wrote in from Project Enable Africa, Lagos

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Oniru Of Iruland: The Making Of A Successor

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Iru Kingdom: The End Of A Dominating Dynasty

By Idris Gbadegeshin

Lagos, the Centre of Excellence, means a lot to many people. For some, it is the most viable State in Nigeria in terms of commercial activities. For others, it is home.

However, Lagos is one State that prides itself in its respect for traditional institution. Dating back to the 14th Century till date, the traditional institution has continued to be revered from generation to generation.

Albeit, a few cases of succession brouhaha have been recorded in some traditional stools over the years, the ability to resolve in the collective interest of the people has continued to supersede personal ambition.

One of the most recent was the installation of the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi, whose ascension to the throne was challenged in court by one of the contenders of the Ikorodu royal throne, Odupitan Adeniyi Eniola, precisely from the Lambo branch of the Lasunwon chieftaincy family of Ikorodu Kingdom.

Though, Eniola’s attempt to stop Shotobi’s coronation did not see the light of day, it took a while for the wounds created to heal, if at all it ever did.

Hence, keen watchers of the traditional institution in Lagos are currently concerned on the impending succession issue for the Oniru of Iruland.

The demise of the last king on the throne, His Royal Highness, late Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru has created a vacuum and the need for a successor.

A brief history down memory lane reveals that there are only three recognised Ruling Houses entitled to the Oniru Royal House.

The ruling houses include Abisogun, Akiogun and Ogunyemi Ruling Houses as stated in the aforesaid Declaration Made under the Customary Law Regulation Selection to the Oniru Chieftaincy of Lagos of 14th September, 1993 and approved by the then Executive Governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Agbolade Otedola.

The Declaration clearly states the number of Ruling Houses, the approved rotation and the procedure to be followed in the nomination of the candidates by the Local Government Authority.

It is worthy to note that since 1589, 14 different monarchs have ascended the stool as Oba of Oniru. For the records, they include Onigefon – (1589-1620); Mabogunje – (1621-1654); Ihuntayi – (1655-1687); Odudu Eleyiwo- (1688-1709); Abanu – (1710-1735); Olaletan- (1736-1790); Orisasanya-(1792-1820); Orumbe – (1821-1835); Abisogun- (1836-1855); Akiogun – (1856-1893); Ogunyemi – (1894-1926); Lawani Oduloye- (1927-1933); Yesufu Abiodun-(1936-1984) and lately, Idowu Abiodun-(1994-2019).

But what many are not privy to is the fact that the 13th Oba of Oniru, HRH Oba Yesufu Abiodun who reigned from 1936 to 1984 was from the Akiogun Ruling House and upon his demise, it was the turn of the Ogunyemi Ruling House to ascend to the throne of Oba of Oniru.

The Ogunyemi Ruling House who was next in line to produce the candidate to the stool of Oba of Oniru however declined and conceded their right to the Akiogun family thereby paving the way for the immediate past Oniru, HRH Oba Idowu Oniru who was also from the Akiogun Ruling House to be nominated and selected as the Oba Oniru.

Baring this in mind, it is therefore obvious to every discerning mind that the Abisogun Ruling House is the next in line to nominate and select a candidate to ascend the throne as the 15th Oba of Oniru.

A departure from this arrangement has the potential to cause chaos that would not be in the interest of the State, let alone the Oniru community.

Already, the Abisogun family has listed Hakeem Ajasa as its choice candidate for the highly revered stool and he is reported to have the blessings of the top echelons of the Lagos Traditional Institutions. But not many are familiar with his history.

Ajasa, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) is the present Chief Personal Security Officer (CPSO) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

This Political Scientist, who graduated from the Lagos State University (LASU), also holds a Professional Masters In Intelligence and Strategic Studies (MISS) from the Osun State University, Osogbo.

Since joining the force as a Divisional Crime Officer at the Kano State Police Command in 2004, he has continued to rise through the ranks, owing largely to his dedication and passion for the job.

After serving two years in Kano, he was moved to the Sectional Head Anti-Fraud Section at the C.I.D Panti in Lagos, before he was posted to the Lagos State Government House as the Second in Command to the Chief Security Officer during the administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola.

In 2010, Ajasa was posted to Osun State as the Aide-De-Camp to the Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, a position he manned for five years. His hands-on on the job earned him a greater responsibility as the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, before he was earlier this year posted to the Force Headquarters in Lagos as the Commanding Officer 22 PMF, Ikeja, Lagos.

He was only to spend a few months in Lagos as a greater responsibility, yet again, came calling as the CPSO to the number four citizen of the country.

Ajasa’s destiny with fate readily reminds of the present Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi who was selected from amongst several well to do indigenes of Ile-Ife who were also heirs to the throne on 26 October 2015. He has since then shown that his choice was a step in the right direction, uniting the Yoruba race and providing the needed leadership to bridge the gap between the people and the political landscape.

As indigenes of the Iruland wait with abated breathe on who will ascend the highly revered throne, the popular English idiom readily comes to mind which says thus: ‘whom the cap fits, let him wear it’.

Gbadegeshin, A Historian, Writes From Victoria Island, Lagos

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