Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Obama Okays Buhari’s Agenda For Defeating Boko Haram

THE US President, Barack Obama, on Monday offered strong support for Nigeria’s new President, Muhammadu Buhari, saying he had a “clear agenda” for defeating the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, and was working to root out corruption. Speaking as he greeted Buhari on his first visit to the White House since his election in March, Obama said the two leaders would discuss ways to cooperate against the group, which had wreaked havoc in parts of the West African country. Obama told reporters in the Oval Office that Buhari had integrity and “a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram extremists of all sorts inside his country.” Boko Haram has carried out multiple attacks in northern Nigeria, most notably the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who are still missing. The specific tactics Buhari will use against the group are still unknown, say experts who study the region. White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the United States could offer intelligence to help the Nigerian efforts as well as support for communities hurt by the group. Buhari’s election is the first democratic power transition in decades, which Obama called “an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy,” and the visit is meant to usher in a new chapter in relations between the two countries. The US cooperation with Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, had virtually grounded to a halt over issues including his refusal to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military. Buhari’s move on July 13 to fire military chiefs appointed by Jonathan cleared the way for more military cooperation, the US officials have said. Since Buhari’s election, Washington has committed $5m in new support for a multi-national task force set up to fight Boko Haram. Obama did not signal whether he might send the US troops to help train Nigerian forces. The US is also looking at improving its economic ties with Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, especially as relations with two of Africa’s other big powers, Egypt and South Africa, have cooled. Obama called Nigeria one of the most important countries on the African continent and in the world and he commended Buhari’s work in rooting out corruption that he said had held back Nigeria’s economic growth. Buhari also met with the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, later on Monday discussing countering violent extremism. Meanwhile, Buhari on Monday said the sustained pressure mounted on the immediate past administration by the US and some European countries made the last general election in Nigeria to be free and fair. A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, quoted the President as speaking while responding to the welcome remarks by Obama before the start of the bilateral meeting between officials of both countries at the Oval Office of the White House, Washington DC, on the second day of Buhari’s four-day visit to the US. “Without the external pressure, we would not be where we are today,” Adesina quoted the President as saying. Buhari recalled that the pressure started from the visit of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to the past Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega. “Nigeria will be ever grateful to President Obama and the United States for making Nigeria to consolidate its gains on democracy,” the President added.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Breaking: President Buhari appoints Mrs Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman of INEC

President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Mrs Amina Bala Zakari as the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) following the conclusion of the term of Office of Prof. Attahiru Jega. This was disclosed in a statement signed by Haruna Imrana, Director of Communications for the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. According to the statement, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Barr. Danladi Kifasi who conveyed the appointment in a letter, said it is with effect from June 30, 2015 until the appointment of a substantive Chairman. Mrs. Zakari is presently a National Electoral Commissioner at INEC. Amina Bala Zakari, a pharmacist by profession hails from Jigawa State. She completed her Secondary Education from the prestigious Queens College Yaba, Lagos. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree in Pharmacy with Second Class upper (Best Graduating Student) in 1980 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. After completing the National Youth Service, she worked as a Professional Pharmacist in various hospitals from 1983 – 1996. She then moved into the consultancy field to serve in various capacities as a consultant in Health and Social Services from 1997 up till her appointment as National Commissioner, INEC. She has also served as a Special Assistant to the President and was posted to FCT where she served as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Social Development and Agriculture and Rural Development from 2004 – 2007. Her Consultancy services covered Federal MDAs (FMWH, NAFDAC, NPHCDA etc) MDGs and the Private Sector. Amina Bala Zakari is a registered Pharmacist and Member Pharmacist’s Society of Nigeria as well as Member of Nigeria Institute of Management (MNIM). Other qualifications obtained include, Certificate in Managing Drugs Supply for Primary Health Care from MHS Amsterdam in 1997, Certificate in Project Management 1998, Certificate in Senior Management from Crown Agents London in 2005 Certificate in Executive Education in Business Management from Harvard Business School.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gays and Lesbians can now live legally in the US.

The US Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation Friday in a much-awaited landmark decision that triggered wild jubilation and tears of joy across the country. In a 5-4 ruling, the highest court in the United States said the Constitution requires all 50 states to carry out and recognize marriages between people of the same sex. President Barack Obama praised the ruling as “a victory for America.” The court decision marked a fresh coup for the White House, coming a day after the Supreme Court upheld an important and disputed section of Obama’s signature health care reform. “Today we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect,” Obama said at the White House, which was later lit up in the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement. “This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts — when all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.” The Supreme Court ruling made the United States the 21st country or territory in the world that recognizes same-sex marriage as legal. Flag-waving LGBT advocates on the packed Supreme Court forecourt — some in tears — cheered, danced, shouted “USA! USA!” and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in celebration. Prominent in the crowd was Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case, clutching a photo of his deceased husband John Arthur. He took a brief phone call from Obama, who told him: “Not only have you been a great example for people but you’re also going to bring about a lasting change in this country. “And it’s pretty rare where that happens, so I couldn’t be prouder of you and your husband. God bless you.” Obergefell, who was live on television at the time, replied humbly: “Thank you, sir. That means an incredible amount to me.” Also in the vast crowd outside court as the life-changing news filtered through were Robert Westover, 51, and Tom Fulton, 57, who hugged and kissed. “It feels like my birthday, the prom, our wedding day. It’s hard to express the intensity of this moment, that our love now is equal,” Westover told AFP. The decision was applauded across the country, with Hollywood celebrities such as Katy Perry and Ben Affleck offering praise, while in New York revelers waved rainbow flags and gathered at a famed gay bar to celebrate. – Dissenting voices – The case was brought by 14 same-sex couples, and the widowers of two gay couples, including Obergefell, who had challenged de facto bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. All four states had insisted in their respective constitutions that marriage could only be a union between a man and a woman. “The Fourteenth Amendment (providing equal protection under the law) requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state,” the court ruling said. Marriage has been a core institution in society since ancient times, “but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society,” reasoned Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the ruling. To exclude them from marriage, Kennedy said, would deny same-sex couples “the constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage.” Voicing dissent was Chief Justice John Roberts, who expressed concern that the court was making a decision better left to elected state legislatures. “If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” he said. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. “But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.” The decision came two years to the day after the Supreme Court, in another major ruling, struck down a controversial federal law that denied US government benefits to wedded gays and lesbians. – ‘A tragic error’ – While some praised the ruling, others were eager to voice disapproval. The conservative Family Research Council expressed outrage, saying “no court can overturn natural law.” “Nature and nature’s God, hailed by the signers of our Declaration of Independence as the very source of law, cannot be usurped by the edict of a court, even the United States Supreme Court,” it said. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose state has also prohibited same-sex marriage, said the fight going forward was now one of “religious liberty.” “No court, no law, no rule and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” he said in a statement. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which champions the Vatican’s opposition to marriage equality, called Friday’s outcome “a tragic error.” “Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” it said.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I did not remove DSS from Aso Rock - President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday dispelled rumours that State Security Service operatives have been expelled from the Presidential Villa. Mr. Buhari, who spoke through his Senior Adviser, Femi Adesina, said the speculations on the expulsion of the SSS operatives were unfounded. A statement from the presidency said: “Rumours that personnel of the State Security Service have been expelled from the Presidential Villa are unfounded. “President Muhammadu Buhari has given no such order. “While it is true that a reorganization of security at the Presidential Villa which involves the realignment of personnel from various services is underway, the exercise does not translate to the expulsion of DSS personnel from the premises in any way. “The changes being made are routine adjustments which are not unexpected in any dynamic environment from time to time.” There had been claims that Mr. Buhari barred SSS personnel from serving as part of his security team. The presidency denied the reports.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

James Horner, Titanic music Composer die in a plane crash

James Horner, the celebrated composer of the scores of several Hollywood smash-hit films including “Titanic” and “Avatar,” died Monday in a plane crash at the age of 61, US media reported. Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported the composer died when his private aircraft crashed in Santa Barbara, California. “Brilliant Composer James Horner, friend & collaborator on 7 movies has tragically died in a plane crash. My heart aches for his loved ones,” wrote director and colleague Ron Howard on Twitter. Horner won two Oscars for his work on “Titanic” – one for its theme song “My Heart Will Go On”, performed by Celine Dion, and another for the film’s score. He also won Oscar nominations for the music of numerous other box-office hits, including “Apollo 13,” “Braveheart” and “Field of Dreams.” His first nomination came in 1986 for the sci-fi horror film “Aliens.” Horner’s most recent Oscar nomination was for another sci-fi epic, James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar”. With expansive and emotive soundscapes, Horner’s scores carried films to their climax and accompanied top actors as they delivered some of their most moving performances. Tender kisses in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” grand battles in “Troy” and moments of stirring drama in “A Beautiful Mind” were all set up by Horner’s hand. American film touchstones of the 1990s such as “Patriot Games”, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and “Jumanji” were also composed by Horner. Top actors and directors in the film and television world paid tribute to Horner online. “Incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of James Horner. I grew up loving his work. He leaves behind a spectacular musical legacy,” television series creator Seth MacFarlane tweeted. “There is nothing that shaped my movie-going experience more than the musical genius of James Horner. He will live on through the ages,” tweeted actor Rob Lowe. Actor Ron Perlman, who starred in “Enemy at the Gates”, said he was “lucky to be able to say I was in a movie that was scored by James Horner.” “Flights of angels dear sweet beautiful mind…,” he wrote on Twitter. Other composers also spoke of Horner’s lasting influence on their careers. “James Horner, thank you for inspiring a young me to pursue a career in film music. Thank you for your music. Rest in peace.” wrote Steve Jablonsky who composed music for the “Transformers” film series. Horner also scored popular animated films “The Land Before Time” (1988) and “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” (1991). He was nominated for an Oscar for the song “Somewhere Out There” in “An American Tail.”

[UPDATED] Why I stopped the Tradition of Feeding/gifts during Ramadan, Xmas – El-Rufa’i

Gov. Nasiru El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State, on Tuesday reacted to criticisms over state government’s stoppage of gifts during festivities, saying it was due to poor finances of government. El-Rufa’i said in a statement signed by his media aide, Mr Samuel Aruwan that the government was broke and needed to conserve resources for development. The decision of the governor came under serious criticism from civil servants especially those in the lower cadre over the stoppage of the annual gift. “Kaduna State is broke and needs to tighten its finances to serve the people better in a manner that befits their massive support for change,’’ the governor said. He explained that the practice had been used to siphon “government resources in the guise of gifts to prominent politicians, public servants and famous figures, or the feeding of indigent persons during religious occasions.’’ The governor stressed that his administration would no longer play to the gallery to score cheap political goal and fraudulently enrich few individuals by continuing with the scheme. “Findings have revealed how it is mainly prominent politicians and influential personalities that benefit from the Ramadan and Christmas gifts instead of the so called poor. “Food stuffs, bought with public resources, are distributed to prominent government officials and other personalities, while the poor in whose name those foods are procured queue in droves for crumbs,’’ he said. El-Rufa’i challenged prominent individuals benefiting from the gesture to deploy their wealth to support the poor instead of taking from them. The governor said, he was coordinating with some of his friends to pool resources “to provide Ramadan feeding as private individuals to the vulnerable in our society.’’ “This is a healthy way of building a caring society, and if more widely adopted by people of means, will certainly provide for more persons than a fraudulent system of government provision that at best reaches only a few,’’ he added.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Is there Hope for Nigeria? - Chinedu Opara

By Chinedu Opara - There is no doubt that many Nigerians have wondered and are still wondering where the nation is heading to and if there is any hope for recovering from the present problems. Any nation weighed down the way we are by the enormity of problems confronting us should worry for its future! Nigerians follow the politically correct nuance of referring to problems as challenges. Good! But where challenges are not confronted and dealt with, they remain problems! These challenges could be seen as: issues of security of life and property, political stability, economic development, degraded infrastructure of power, transportation, educational and health facilities; all pervasive corruption and excessive greed and self-seeking amongst the three tiers of government, unresponsive governance and growing pessimism amongst the vast majority of the country’s population. Yes I am Young, But since I was born and come of age to know right and wrong, I have continuously been hearing of Nigeria’s glory in the past! I can’t help but wonder where it all went wrong. Was Nigeria ever really the giant of Africa? What really happened? Given the level of individual and group self-seeking, and pessimism about our country, the real questions to ask today are: Are there true Nigerians left out there? Are there believers in Nigeria out there? What are the values on which this country is rooted? Are there people standing up for such values? Corruption and infrastructural deficit, failure of educational and health institutions and the prevalent insecurity are symptoms of a citizenry that has turned its back on the nation. The problems confronting us today are symptoms of lack of belief in any value and indeed, a resistance to all laws that protect our common citizenship while we pursue self and group aggrandizement. Young people only care about their stomach. No jobs for the Youth. Maybe things has worked before now, But it is not accurate Nigerians have abandoned merit, law and order, and is aggressively pursuing obsessive tribal, religious, sectional and regional interest. This is even more prevalent among our Youths. Leaving me to wonder what the future of Nigeria will be. The Nigeria I see today is no more than a goat owned by all but no one takes responsibility to feed it. Everybody wants to milk the public goat for self-enrichment. It is, therefore, unrealistic to expect that the economy would not collapse under such mindless rapacity that has unleashed on us politics of do-or-die. Thus, yesterday’s champions of nationalism are today’s strident ethnic champions. People I looked up to are now Fans of individuals just cause of politics. These ethnic champions are proud of their role. Some are celebrated and bestowed with our national honours for being ethnic nationalists while the young tow that line to achieve likewise! Can you feel the shame? Any nation where a few or any group places its interest above everybody else’s or above the nation, any nation where the operating philosophy is everyone to himself, nothing can work. And so it has not worked for us and even that which worked in the past if at all it did have been lost to selfishness and excessive greed. It is unrealistic, in fact, a pretence, to think that once our self or group interest is taken care of, Nigeria will be okay. That has not happened; that cannot happen. The Nigeria that will work for any individual or group is a Nigeria that works for all! Man is the only agent of change for good or bad. The economy of a nation can collapse and the citizens take collective responsibility and rebuild it. But any nation where the citizenry is destroyed by excessive greed, self-seeking, loses the capacity for self renewal. That is the reason why Nigeria is reeling from crisis to crisis. That is why we have gone from a strong economy to a weak economy. Our oil resources, notwithstanding. That is why all the fine documents, from Vision 2010 to 20:2020, have failed to transform our economy. That is why every aspect of our national life has collapsed. That is why we have gone from being the giant of Africa to a whimpering mouse. Just yesterday We topped Africa’s Economy, today President Buhari is crying of empty treasury with Billions of dollars deficit. Nigeria is being shot to pieces and we are sitting, hoping for a miracle to stop it. No people have paid so much lip service to their country like Nigerians. Whatever Nigeria is today is what we made of it. Whatever Nigeria is not today is what we have failed to make of it. It is absolutely in our hands. Can President Buhari make the difference? Can he rise above himself, to put Nigerians to work for Nigeria? Can President Buhari reinvent the Nigerian citizenship that is patriotic and passionate about our country? I believe in Nigeria