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Israel vows to 'finish the job' in Gaza as War Cabinet member threatens a Ramadan deadline for Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday brushed off growing calls to halt the military offensive in Gaza, vowing to “finish the job” as a member of his War Cabinet threatened to invade the southern city of Rafah if remaining Israeli hostages are not freed by the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel’s government has not publicly discussed a timeline for a ground offensive on Rafah, where more than half the enclave’s 2.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge. Retired general Benny Gantz, part of Netanyahu’s three-member War Cabinet, represents an influential voice but not the final word on what might lie ahead.

“If by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Gantz told a conference of Jewish American leaders. Ramadan, expected to begin March 10, is historically a tense time in the region.

As cease-fire negotiations struggle after signs of progress in recent weeks, Netanyahu has called demands by Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group “delusional.”

The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it still hopes to broker a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement, and envisions a wider resolution of the war sparked by Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel.

The U.S. also says it will veto another draft U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire, with its U.N. ambassador warning against measures that could jeopardize “the opportunity for an enduring resolution of hostilities.”

But Netanyahu opposes Palestinian statehood, which the U.S. calls a key element in a broader vision for normalization of relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia. His Cabinet adopted a declaration Sunday saying Israel “categorically rejects international edicts on a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians” and opposes any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The international community overwhelmingly supports an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace agreement. Netanyahu’s government is filled with hard-liners who oppose Palestinian independence.

Netanyahu wants Israel to achieve “total victory” over Hamas. In response to international concern over a Rafah offensive, he has said Palestinian civilians will be evacuated. Where they will go in largely devastated Gaza is not clear.

The suggested timing for the offensive came as the World Health Organization chief said southern Gaza’s main medical center, Nasser Hospital, “is not functional anymore” after Israeli forces raided it in Khan Younis last week.

Israeli strikes across Gaza continued, killing at least 18 people overnight into Sunday, according to medics and witnesses. A strike in Rafah killed six people, including a woman and three children, and another killed five in Khan Younis, the main target of the southern Gaza offensive in recent weeks. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies.

“All those who were martyred were those whom the Jews asked to move to safe places,” said a bystander after the Rafah strike, Ahmad Abu Rezeq.

In Gaza City, which suffered widespread destruction early in the war, an airstrike flattened a home, killing seven people, including three women, according to relative Sayed al-Afifi.

Israel’s military rarely comments on individual strikes and blames civilian casualties on Hamas because the militants operate in dense residential areas.

UN SAYS RAIDED HOSPITAL NO LONGER FUNCTIONS

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a WHO team was not allowed to enter Nasser Hospital on Friday or Saturday. In a post on X, he said about 200 patients remain, including 20 who need urgent referrals elsewhere.

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said at least 200 militants surrendered at the hospital. He also claimed that Hamas in Khan Younis is defeated, and that Hamas is largely leaderless in Gaza. He gave no evidence to support the claims.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 70 medical personnel were among those arrested, along with patients, leaving 150 patients without medical care. It said Israel refused to allow patients, including newborns, to be evacuated to other hospitals.

The military says it is looking for the remains of hostages inside Nasser Hospital and does not target doctors or patients.

The Oct. 7 attack killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostage. Militants still hold around 130 hostages, a fourth of them believed to be dead. Most of the others were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November.

The war has killed at least 28,985 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. On Sunday it said 127 bodies were brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

Around 80% of Gaza’s population have been displaced, and a quarter face starvation. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said 123 aid trucks entered Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing Sunday and four trucks of cooking gas entered through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. That’s well below the 500 trucks entering daily before the war.

In the occupied West Bank, a shootout erupted when Israeli forces went to arrest an armed suspect in the town of Tulkarem. The military said the suspect was killed, and a member of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police was severely wounded. It described the target of the raid as a senior militant. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were killed.

The war in Gaza has threatened to ignite wider conflict in the region. The U.S. Central Command said it conducted five self-defense strikes Saturday against cruise missiles and drones in area of Yemen controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group.

US OPPOSES A NEW CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION

Algeria, the Arab representative on the U.N. Security Council, has circulated a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, and rejecting the forced displacement of Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the draft “will not be adopted” and runs counter to Washington’s efforts to end the fighting. The U.S. vetoed previous resolutions that had wide international support.

The U.S., Qatar and Egypt have spent weeks trying to broker a cease-fire and hostage release, but Qatar said Saturday the talks “have not been progressing as expected.”

Hamas has said it will not release all remaining hostages without Israel ending the war and withdrawing from Gaza. It also demands the release of hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including top militants.

 

AP

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

NATO troops, disguised as mercenaries, control MLRS, air defense in Ukraine — top brass

Military personnel from NATO countries, under the guise of mercenaries, operate air defense systems, multiple launch rocket systems, and tactical missile systems in Ukraine, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff and First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, said in an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezdanewspaper.

"NATO military personnel, under the guise of mercenaries, participate in hostilities. They control air defense systems, tactical missiles and multiple launch rocket systems, and are part of assault detachments," he said.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine accuses Russia of executing injured prisoners at Avdiivka, Vesele

Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday they had opened an investigation into alleged shootings by Russian forces of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Avdiivka, and two at a village in the same region, after Russia claimed full control of the city.

"An investigation into the shootings of unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war in Avdiivka and Vesele has been launched," the prosecutor's office in Donetsk region said on its Telegram channel.

The prosecutors referred to information about "the execution of six prisoners" at a position in Avdiivka, adding that they were "seriously injured and awaiting evacuation." It said the information had been shared on Telegram but did not name the source.

Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy as saying: "There is still no possibility to confirm or refute" the killings at Avdiivka, as an investigation was ongoing. However, he added it would not be the first time Russia had committed war crimes.

The Donetsk prosecutor's office said a video fragment taken by a drone showed a Russian soldier shooting two captured Ukrainian soldiers at close range at the village of Vesele.

"Not wanting to leave the prisoners alive, the occupier kills them with automatic weapons," the office added, without saying when the incident had occurred.

Earlier on Sunday, the official Telegram channel of Ukraine's land forces shared video apparently shot from a drone of people in uniform in a narrow trench.

An armed person the post identifies as Russian is seen approaching two uniformed people identified as Ukrainian and then discharging his weapon and apparently shooting them both.

The Ukrainians in the footage do not appear to be attempting to defend themselves and are in a narrow trench in single file as the other soldier approaches and appears to grab them both.

After initial confrontations, the two injured people are seen collapsing on to their sides in the trench, twitching. The other person is then seen standing back briefly, before appearing to shoot them both again.

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Russia's defence ministry did not respond to a Reuters email sent outside regular business hours seeking comment on the allegations, the latest in a series of accusations leveled by Ukrainian prosecutors that it has killed prisoners of war. Russia has denied such claims.

Reuters could not immediately verify the video or other details of the account by the Ukrainian prosecutors and military.

 

Tass/Reuters

Monday, 19 February 2024 04:40

Incompetence weds corruption - Niyi Osundare

The Quickest Way to Kill A Nation

           1

Pepeye, nigba too m’owe

Ki lo be l’udo se?

     And a dark, unruly tragedy is born

As the Nation thrashes about

     Like a snake without a head

Do you really wonder

     Why so much power

Should be thrust upon

     Those with so little sense

Do you wonder why

     Those with no eyes

Have forced their way

     To the fore front of our chase?

 

They who have no heads

     Have stolen our caps

Those with no legs

     Have taken over the daintiest of our trousers

Toasting the talisman of tribe and tongue

     Invoking the charisma of creed and class

They sneak their serpents

     Into the quietest corner of our garden

Jumble up the geography

     Of our bearings

And exploit the sorrowful saga

     Of our grand un-remembrances

Always, the wrong foot forward

     Then our tales of incessant woes

How can a land so lavishly endowed

     Be so medievally misruled?

The mindless clique who rule our pack

     Have killed our soul and frittered our faith

Those incapable of thinking

     Have now turned our “Leaders of Thought”

 

               2

Lukurumusu wrested our Golden Crown

     And headed straight for the putrid mud

His mouth stuffed with the corpses

  Of assassinated oaths

Fierce and frequent was

     His quest for that Crown

He crawled, caviled cajoled, cried in countless bids

     Till a mongrel coalition rewarded his frenzy

Now up in the saddle

     And finding, so fast, the Crown

Too big for his middling head

     As an unraveling Nation rues its fatal choice

The Nation bleeds from all pores

     Old separatist animosities re-draw the map

As Luku retreats into a conclave of clan and cronies

     Merit and Good Judgement his prime disposable virtues

Clan over competence, tribe above truth

     Square pegs in round holes

And the Nation grabs the reverse gear

     And speeds, break-neck, into medieval darkness

 

             3

Now Bandits stoke our fears

     An oil-drenched Nation lacks

The brain to power its progress

     A mindless paint-over of a battered currency

Has thrown the nation’s debt-drained economy into a tailspin

     The ‘cashless’ country dreamed up by

Emefailure, Chief Witchdoctor of the National Vault,

     Has turned Nigeria into the saddest joke of the Universe

From the rocky seat of power

     It has been silence, empty, disdainful silence

But why did Luku fight so hard for this Crown

     When he knew it was too heavy for his head?   

Unspeakable hardships harass our being

     Untimely deaths deplete our ranks

There is not a single corner in this land

     Untouched by this plague from our mindless Pharaoh

Unhappy the land where rulers cannot THINK

     And/or are too haughty to know

The world asks with impatient consternation:

     Why is Lukuland such a Netherworld of Fools?

Ignorance kills a Nation

     Our own is already close to a disgraceful grave

What do you do with/to a Nation

     Which so conscientiously disables the able?

Oh Duck, why your frantic craving for the river

When you knew you lacked the power to swim?

** Niyi Osundare, one of Africa’s Foremost Poets and Academics, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans.

Are you pushing a rock uphill? When you're working on bringing a product or service to market, sometimes it can feel very burdensome – like you're pushing a heavy load skyward. A lot of effort is required and you're becoming exhausted in the process.

But this is to be expected, right? You're always hearing that every new idea takes time, effort, patience, determination and plain hard work to become successful.

It's true that what we perceive as an overnight success is usually at least 10 years in the making. There's more to it than that, though. Some ideas really are just easier to launch.

These ideas are like rocks rolling down a hill. They gather momentum easily and require less effort. These are the ideas you need to be able to identify quickly and test.

Why? Because the challenges that every inventor must conquer to bring any new idea to life are numerous. The more you can do to limit these challenges, the greater your likelihood of success.

Below, I've listed five questions to help you identify ideas that are going to take off. (Hint: There are fewer barriers to overcome.)

1. Is it a simple solution to a widespread problem?

A problem many people experience for which there is no elegant solution – yet – is what I call a "sleeping dinosaur." We're all aware of the need for improvement.

2. Is it easily understood?

Instructions aren't needed, because the purpose of the item and how to use it are obvious. (Education is costly and uncertain, making it a big barrier to overcome.)

3. Is it easily demonstrated?

You don't need a prototype. A simple sketch, 3-D computer-generated visual, or even a drawing will do. Our vision helps us process new information quickly. Being able to visually convey the benefit of the idea is a powerful selling tool.

4. Is it easily manufactured?

There's no need for new machinery. Your idea is not reinventing the wheel. No research and development means very little capital expenditure. Ideas that don't require reconfiguring a supply chain are much easier to scale and ship.

5. Does it cost the same or less than competitors?

After you receive interest, one of the first questions you will hear is, "What does it cost?" Cost is a huge hurdle to overcome for product developers. Ideas that gather momentum easily are the same or cheaper than similar products.

What comes next? Putting the right team together, which begins to take away perceived risk. Then, when you start showing the idea, it moves forward. It rolls.

Now, your job is to guide it to market by filing the right intellectual propertypatents, finding the right commercialization partners and ensuring everyone involved profits along the way.

This isn't easy; it's practically an art form. If you are doing this for the first time, find a mentor. Specifically, someone who has repeatedly achieved what you are trying to do. Identifying ideas with the potential to roll is much easier in hindsight.

Learning the difference between ideas that require a heavy lift versus those that roll is a skill every entrepreneur needs to develop. I highly recommend focusing on simple ideas first, because there is a great deal of inertia to overcome when implementing anything new.

Later, after you've developed a better understanding of what's required to turn an idea into a product, you'll be able to spot obstacles and overcome them more easily.

Looking back, one of the most difficult ideas I commercialized was a rotating label. New machinery had to be built in every manufacturing facility, which wasn't scalable.

Consumers didn't know how to use the product instinctively, so we had to place a demo at every point of purchase in Walmart showing how it spun. (We even filmed a commercial with Alex Trebek, the late host of the game show Jeopardy, with the same goal in mind.)

And because the rotating label was actually two labels, it doubled costs. While it offered a clear benefit, the product ultimately failed for these reasons.

One of the easiest ideas I licensed was the Michael Jordan Wall-Ball to the toy company Ohio Art. They were already selling an indoor Nerf basketball hoop that featured a small image of the iconic basketball player.

Why not transform the entire backboard into the shape of Michael Jordan? Three days after I pitched this simple idea, I received a licensing agreement in the mail – and earned royalties for the next 10 years.

The idea made good business sense. Cost was reduced by going from plastic to paper. By changing the packaging from a box to a clamshell, the product stood out better. Enlarging the image of Michael Jordan made it more attractive to fans.

 

Inc

Nigeria’s economy faces fresh concerns as data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed a significant decline in the country’s capital importation in 2023.

Amid gruelling foreign exchange woes, the NBS said Nigeria only attracted a meagre $3.91 billion in foreign capital inflow last year — the lowest since 2007.

According to TheCable Index analysis, in the five years between 2007 and 2011, inflow ranged from $5.7 billion to $9.57 billion.

A significant jump occurred in 2012, with inflows reaching $16.62 billion. This was followed by two consecutive increases exceeding $20 billion between 2013 and 2014.

Inflows dipped again from 2015 onwards, with a brief recovery in 2017. This culminated in a decline of $3.91 billion in 2023 — marking a 17-year low.

Notably, at $24 billion, 2019 saw the highest foreign investment in the past 17 years. However, this peak was not sustained, hinting at the uncertain nature of foreign investors.

The NBS said portfolio investment (FPI) in 023 was 29.5 percent ($1.15 billion) of the $3.91 billion total capital importation. The highest FPI in the last 17 years was in 2019 at $16.4 billion, followed by $14.9 billion in 2014, and $11.8 billion in 2018.

On the other hand, foreign direct investment (FDI) stood at $377.4 million, and other investment was $2.38 billion last year.

According to the NBS report, 18 states that failed to attract foreign investment in three years (2021 – 2023) include:

  • Bauchi
  • Bayelsa
  • Benue
  • Borno
  • Cross River
  • Ebonyi
  • Edo
  • Enugu
  • Gombe
  • Imo
  • Jigawa
  • Kaduna
  • Kebbi
  • Nasarawa
  • Sokoto
  • Taraba
  • Yobe
  • Zamfara

Eight out of the 18 states, recorded zero foreign investment in five years (2019-2023). They are:

  • Bayelsa
  • Ebonyi
  • Gombe
  • Jigawa
  • Kebbi
  • Taraba
  • Yobe
  • Zamfara

LAGOS CONTINUES TO ATTRACT CAPITAL AS OTHERS LAG

In 2023, Lagos took the lead, outshining others — including the federal capital territory (FCT) — to top the list of states that attracted the most foreign investments.

Further analysis of the data shows that the country’s major commercial city raked in $2.50 billion, representing 64 percent of the total capital inflow into Nigeria.

The NBS report said the FCT emerged as the second top investment destination with $1.17 billion — 30 percent of the country’s total capital inflow.

Other states that attracted foreign investments in 2023 are Abia ($150.09 million), Akwa Ibom ($39.13 million), Ogun ($27.09 million), and Rivers ($6 million).

Adamawa attracted $4.5 million, Anambra ($4 million), Niger ($1.50 million), Ondo ($200,000) and Ekiti $51,000.

 

The Cable

Governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have advised President Bola Tinubu to throw in the towel if he cannot provide a sustainable solution to the problems plaguing the nation.

The PDP Governors who gave the advice in a statement at the weekend reminded the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government of the need to be guided by the fact that it is (APC) that sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria, not to compound them or shift blame and use propaganda to confuse issues.

The Governors noted that the hardship and suffering being faced by Nigerians have no tribal, religious or party colouration, stressing that “a hungry man is an angry man”.

Accordingly, the governors said while all tiers of government have a role to play, the APC led Federal Government has a disproportionate role to mobilise Nigerians and all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions, adding that “If it cannot do so or is unable to do so, it should graciously throw in the towel.”

The PDP Governors pointed out that the buck ultimately stops at the President’s table as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Chief Salesman and leader of Nigeria.

However, they promised to continue to work collaboratively with the President in finding lasting solutions to “a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015”.

The Governors also frowned at the Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the APC-led Federal Government who criticised the PDP-GF for their suggestions, advice and “patriotic intervention on the way forward for the country in a communique issued at the end of their recent meeting in Abuja.”

“Attempts by the Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the Federal Government who criticised the PDP Governors’ Forum for their patriotic intervention should be guided by the fact that the APC sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria not to compound them or shift blame, or grandstand or use propaganda to obfuscate or confuse issues.”

“PDP governed States are comparatively the best in Nigeria in terms of developmental policies, programmes, and projects that benefit their States positively, regular payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities, and minimum wage to their workforce.

“State governments that are delinquent on these issues are not of PDP extraction. It is false to say so.

“Even the food crises are exacerbated by insecurity and high exchange rate issues, among others, which are largely federal subjects.

“The PDP Governors as stakeholders in governance would continue to work collaboratively with Mr. President to find lasting solutions to a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015. We believe in co-operative Federalism.

“We are not in doubt that he is trying his best. We only hope and pray that his best is good enough to take Nigeria out of the woods in the shortest possible time”, they said in the statement signed by CID Maduabum, Director-General of PDP Governors’ Forum.

 

Daily Trust

Israel stages airstrikes across Gaza, makes arrests at hospital

Israeli forces carried out arrests in Gaza's largest functioning hospital, health officials and the military said on Saturday, as airstrikes hit across the enclave and rain battered Palestinians taking shelter in Rafah.

Israeli forces raided the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis on Thursday as they pressed their war on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules the enclave.

"Occupation forces detained a large number of medical staff members inside Nasser Medical Complex, which they (Israel) turned into a military base," said Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday pledged to push on with the military campaign and said troops would move into the southern border city of Rafah.

The Israeli military said it was hunting for militants in Nasser and had so far arrested 100 suspects on the premises, killed gunmen near the hospital and found weapons inside it.

Hamas has denied allegations that its fighters use medical facilities for cover. At least two released Israeli hostages have said they were held in Nasser and Israel has released pictures and videos supporting its claim that Hamas operates within medical compounds.

The Israeli incursion into the hospital has raised alarm about patients, medical workers and displaced Palestinians sheltering there.

About 10,000 people were seeking shelter at the hospital earlier this week, but many left either in anticipation of the Israeli raid or because of Israeli orders to evacuate, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Further south in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population are sheltering, the winter cold added to already dire conditions when wind blew away some tents of the displaced and rain flooded others.

INTERNATIONAL CONCERN FOR RAFAH

Israeli plans to storm Rafah have prompted international concern that such action would sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Netanyahu said Israel was intent on taking out Hamas battalions in Rafah - regardless of whether a deal was reached to free the remaining Israeli hostages - and that there will be room to evacuate the civilian population, including in areas north of the city.

"But we need to be sure to do this in an orderly fashion. That's the directive I gave to the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). The IDF is doing it and preparing it."

"Yes, there is a lot of opposition in the world, but this is exactly the moment we have to stand and say 'we will not do half the work or three-quarters of the work'."

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel for a lack of progress in achieving a ceasefire deal in Gaza, the group said in a statement on Saturday.

Haniyeh added that Hamas would not accept anything less than a complete cessation of hostilities, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and "lifting of the unjust siege," as well as a release of Palestinian prisoners serving long sentences in Israeli jails.

Israel's air and ground offensive has devastated much of Gaza and forced nearly all of its inhabitants from their homes. Palestinian health authorities say 28,858 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

The war began when Hamas sent fighters into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

At least 83 people were killed in airstrikes across the Gaza Strip since Friday, health officials said, including one person on Saturday in Rafah, an area that borders Egypt and which Israel says is Hamas' last bastion.

Residents and medics said more died as night fell on Saturday when Israeli warplanes carried several airstrikes on at least seven houses, killing and wounding dozens of people. Hamas media outlets put the number of those killed at 38. The Israeli army spokesperson said they were checking into the reported strikes.

The Israeli military said its jets had killed numerous militants in Gaza fighting since Friday.

Across the border, air raid sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Saturday.

 

Reuters

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Shoigu tells Putin Avdeyevka is under full control — defense ministry

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin that the town of Avdeyevka near Donetsk has been taken under full control, the Defense Ministry stated.

"Today in the Kremlin, Russian Defense Minister Army General Shoigu reported to the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces that the Center grouping of forces under command of Col. Gen. Andrey Mordvichev has taken under full control the town of Avdeyevka of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which was a massive fortified stronghold of Ukraine’s armed forces," the ministry said.

"In the Kremlin today, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin the group of troops Center under the command of Colonel-General Andrey Mordvichev gained full control of the town of Avdeyevka, in the Donetsk People's Republic, which was a major stronghold of the Ukrainian military," the Defense Ministry said.

An area of 31.75 square kilometers has been liberated from Ukrainian nationalists. The enemy’s losses in the fighting for Avdeyevka over the past 24 hours alone exceeded 1,500 men.

Under continued Russian fire only scattered groups of Ukrainian militants managed to escape, abandoning weapons and military equipment. At present, measures are being taken to clear the town of militants and seal off Ukrainian forces that have fled the locality and entrenched themselves at the Avdeyevka coke and chemical plant, the Defense Ministry said.

The Ministry stressed that information about the advance of Russian troops was not made public until the complete defeat of the enemy and the establishment of full control of the locality.

"The liberation of Avdeyevka made it possible to push the frontline away from Donetsk, thus significantly securing it from terrorist strikes by the criminal Kiev regime. The group of forces Center continues offensive operations to further liberate the Donetsk People's Republic from Ukrainian nationalists," it added.

** Russian air defense intercepts 33 Ukrainian drones in 5 regions overnight — ministry

During the night, Russian air defense systems intercepted and destroyed 33 Ukrainian drones in the Belgorod, Voronezh, Kursk, Bryansk, and Kaluga regions of Russia, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Saturday.

"Tonight, an attempt by the Kiev regime to carry out a terrorist attack using 33 aircraft-type UAVs on sites on the territory of Russia was thwarted. The air defense systems on duty intercepted and destroyed 4 UAVs over the territories of the Belgorod region, 4 UAVs - over the Voronezh region, 1 UAV - over the Kursk region, 18 UAVs - over the Bryansk region, and 6 UAVs - over the Kaluga region," the ministry reported.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

At least three dead in Russian assaults on Ukraine cities, officials say

Russian forces shelled and fired missiles at a series of cities in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least three people and leaving others under the rubble of shattered buildings, Ukrainian officials said.

Two cities close to the front line in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region -- Kramatorsk and Slovyansk -- came under fire.

The city council in Kramatorsk said on Telegram that a missile hit a section of town used for industry and individual houses, killing two people. Rescuers were combing rubble for another person believed to be trapped beneath it.

Kramatorsk has been the scene of some of the deadliest attacks in the nearly two-year-old war, including a missile strike on the town's train station in April 2022 that killed 63 people.

Russian shells on Saturday struck a school in the nearby town of Slovyansk, with rescuer teams searching for at least one person trapped underneath piles of debris.

Russian forces have been making slow progress in their drive through Donetsk region, but both towns would be certain targets for Moscow if they made greater progress along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front line.

Further north in the town of Kupiansk, scene of heavy Russian attacks for months, one person was killed when a two-storey house was struck by Russian shells, the governor of Kharkiv region said.

Reuters could not independently verify any of the reports, but they occurred in areas where Russian assaults are frequent.

Russia says it does not deliberately target civilian sites.

** Zelenskiy urges leaders to send arms as 'artificial' shortage helps Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged allies at a global security conference on Saturday to plug an "artificial" shortage of weapons that is giving Russian forces the upper hand on the battlefield and said stalled U.S. aid was imperative.

Addressing the gathering of politicians, diplomats and military officials from around the world, who gave him a standing ovation, Zelenskiy mixed gratitude for the support shown by Western countries with urging them for more.

He spoke at a critical juncture in Russia's nearly two-year-old invasion of Ukraine, with his troops forced to withdraw from the devastated eastern town of Avdiivka.

Ukraine faces acute shortages of ammunition and U.S. military aid has been delayed for months in Congress.

"Unfortunately keeping Ukraine in an artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in ... artillery and long-range capabilities, allows (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war," Zelenskiy said.

He said that sending additional packages of weapons and air defences to Ukraine was the most important thing its allies could do.

"If your artillery (range) is 20 km (12 miles), but Russia's is 40 km, there is your answer," Zelenskiy said.

Some European leaders cast a downbeat assessment of Western efforts to help Ukraine.

"We should have supported you much more from the very beginning of this war," said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, "because Ukraine cannot win a war without weapons. Words are simply not enough."

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Europe should have started investing more in its defence industry two years ago.

Along with Ukraine, the conference focused on the war in Gaza, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggesting there was "an extraordinary opportunity" in the coming months for Israel to normalise ties with its Arab neighbours.

U.S. FUNDING

Asked about the delayed U.S. aid after a bilateral meeting with Zelenskiy, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, denounced "political gamesmanship" in Congress that had no place in such matters.

U.S. Republicans have insisted for months that any additional U.S. aid to Ukraine, and Israel, must also address concerns about migration.

Meanwhile Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he would ask European allies to reimburse the United States for around $200 billion worth of munitions sent to Ukraine.

That has raised concerns by Kyiv and its allies that U.S. funding for Kyiv in its war against Russia would dry up completely if Trump goes on to win a second term in the November U.S. election.

Zelenskiy said there was no alternative though to U.S. aid.

“We are counting on the United States as our strategic partner, that they would remain our strategic partner," he said.

EUROPE MUST UP ITS DEFENCE GAME

The delay in U.S. aid is putting more of a burden on Europe, with Germany the second-largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine. Berlin says it has provided and committed to some 28 billion euros ($30.2 billion) of such aid so far.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz side-stepped questions on Saturday on whether to give long-range Taurus missiles to Kyiv, although he did urge other European capitals to match Berlin's hike in military assistance.

Speaking to Reuters at the conference, Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said his country was "ready to stand up and be counted" on defence spending ahead of a NATO Washington summit in July.

The country last year set a target for the first time to raise its defence spending to at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2026, in line with a long-held goal among members of the NATO alliance.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine must be integrated into Europe's defence programmes as Russia was "outmassing Ukraine" with soldiers and by "throwing quick and dirty weapons produced in North Korea and Iran".

The European Commission will present a defence industrial strategy proposal in three weeks, she said, and will also open a defence innovation office in Ukraine.

A potential return of Trump to the White House is fanning fears about U.S. commitment to defending its allies.

Trump said a week ago that if re-elected later this year he would not defend allies within the NATO western defence alliance who fail to spend enough on defence - although the NATO charter specifically commits members to defending each other in the event of attack.

'STOP WHINING ABOUT TRUMP'

Trump or no Trump, Europe still has to strengthen its ability to defend itself, Scholz and others underscored at the conference, dubbed the "Davos of Defence".

"We should stop moaning and whining and nagging about Trump," said outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. "We do not spend more on defence or ramp up ammunitions production because Trump might come back."

"We have to work with whoever is on the dance floor," said Rutte, frontrunner to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as secretary-general of NATO when he steps down.

Stoltenberg reiterated the importance of not undermining the defence alliance with talk of European defence autonomy.

Talk in particular of a potential European nuclear deterrent that would not involve the United States is "not helpful", he told Munich delegates on Saturday. And it "would only undermine NATO in a time when we really need credible deterrence".

 

Tass/Reuters

On January 11, 2012, Bola Tinubu published a sober, thoughtful, deeply insightful, and penetratingly foresightful article titled “Removal of Oil Subsidy: President Jonathan Breaks Social Contract With the People” that uncannily prefigured the untoward consequences of petrol subsidy removal that Nigerians are currently grappling with.

The article has trended on social media in the last couple of weeks, but I had never taken the trouble to read it until multiple people who I regard highly sent it to me in what seemed like a coordinated torrent of forwards.

But after reading the 4,000-plus-word article and finding out that it predicted the current petrol-subsidy-removal mass excruciation Nigeria is suffering with almost mathematical exactitude, I became suspicious of its authenticity. It was too good to be true.

My incredulity compelled me to make inquiries, which led me to realize that the Nigerian Tribune had actually fact-checked the genuineness of the article on May 31, 2023. It not only found that it wasn’t fake but also scanned and uploaded a printed copy of the article published in The Nation, Tinubu’s paper.

I encourage everyone to read it. In the article, Tinubu derided the 2012 removal of petrol subsidies as the “Jonathan tax,” and the following paragraphs are particularly noteworthy for the mysterious precision of their prescience:

“Government claims the subsidy removal will create jobs…. The stronger truth is that it will destroy more jobs than it creates. For every job it creates in the capital intensive petroleum sector, it will terminate several jobs in the rest of the labor intensive economy.

“Subsidy removal will increase costs across the board. However, salaries will not increase. This means demand for goods will lessen as will sales volumes and overall economic activity. The removal will have a recessionary impact on the economy as a whole. While some will benefit from the removal, most will experience setback.

“What is doubtless is that the Jonathan tax will increase the price of petrol, transportation and most consumer items. With fuel prices increasing twofold or more, transportation costs will roughly double. Prices of food staples will increase between 25-50 percent….

“Most people’s incomes are low and stagnant. They have no way to augment revenue and little room to lower expenses for they know no luxuries; they are already tapped out. The only alternative they have is to fend as best they can, knowing they must somehow again subtract something from their already bare existence.

“There will be less food, less medicine, and less school across the land. More children will cry in hunger and more parents will cry at their children’s despair…. Poor and middle class consumers will spend the same amount to buy much less. The volume of economic activity will drop like a stone tossed from a high building. This means real levels of demand will sink.

“The middle class to which our small businessmen belong will find their profit margins squeezed because they will face higher costs and reduced sales volumes. These small firms employ vast numbers of Nigerians. They will be hard pressed to maintain current employment levels given the higher costs and lower revenues they will face.

“Because the middle class businessman will be pinched, those who depend on the businessmen for employment will be heavily pressed. States that earn significant revenue from internally generated funds will find their positions damaged. Internally generated revenue will decline because of the pressure on general economic activity. The Jonathan tax will push Nigeria toward an inflation-recession combination punch worse than the one that has Europe reeling.

“This tax has doomed Nigeria to extra hardship for years to come while the promised benefits of deregulation will never be substantially realized. People will starve and families crumble while federal officials praise themselves for ‘saving money.’ The purported savings amount to nothing more than an accounting entry on the government ledger board. They bear no indication of the real state of the economy or of the great harm done the people by this miserly step.”

Like I have done for years, Tinubu also fulminated against “European conservatives” whose economic prescriptions are at variance “with the needs of the Nigerian populace.” He even said something that is eerily close to what I wrote in a previous column. “There has been no nation on the face of the planet that has developed or achieved long-term prosperity by devotion to conservative, ultra-free market economic ideas that dominate this government,” he wrote.

“If no nation has grown using these conservative ideas,” he asked, why are we stuck with them? I have an answer, and it’s three-fold: sadly familiar Nigerian elite self-love, xenophilic obeisance to meanspirited racist wretches at the IMF/World Bank, and a visceral disdain and blithe unconcern for ordinary Nigerians.

Like Tinubu pointed out in 2012, the removal of petrol subsidies in 2023 merely took money from the so-called oil subsidy cabal and put it directly into the pockets of politicians without hurting the bottom line of the subsidy cabal. The cabal simply pushed the extra cost of importing petrol to consumers.

In the aftermath of the removal of subsidies, allocations to the three tiers of government rose by 29.05% in just six months. By the end of 2023, governments shared N15.1 trillion, which represented an increase of N3.4 trillion from 2022.

Note that, according to the Punch of September 22, 2023, N3 trillion was budgeted for petrol subsidies from June 2022 to June 2023 (although it was N1.57 trillion in 2021 and N1.27 trillion from January to May 2022, indicating obvious fraud). In other words, the money that would have been used to keep the pump price of petrol at less than N200 per liter was simply shared between the presidency, governors, ministers, and the rest.

State governors now receive several folds more money than their normal monthly allocations without a corresponding increase in their expenditures. Because they have way more naira than they have use for (of course, they don’t care about the masses), they convert the extra naira into dollars, which contributes to the relentless depreciation of the naira, according to the BusinessDay of February 13.

In other words, to put it even more crudely, the masses and the economy benefited more from the corruption of the subsidy cabal than from what has replaced it since May 2023. But, as I pointed out earlier, the subsidy cabal isn’t hurt in the least by this change. Apart from pushing the cost of importation to consumers, they are now receiving subsidies through the backdoor to keep the price of petrol from climbing to over N1,000 a liter, which the IMF is now instructing Tinubu to stop.

The only losers are ordinary Nigerians, small businesses, the informal economy, and the manufacturing sector. After Tinubu said subsidies were gone in May 2023, the GDP of the transportation sector contracted by 50.64% in the second quarter of 2023 and by 35% in the third quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The road transport sector is the most reliable barometer to measure the health of commerce and of the informal economy in Nigeria. Petrol subsidy removal is killing it. A November 28, 2023, BusinessDay headline succinctly captures this: “Subsidy removal pushes transport industry into recession.”

My job as an inveterate opponent of subsidy withdrawal is made easier by the knowledge that Tinubu knows the truth. He knows for a fact that petrol subsidies are not a waste, especially if the corruption in the administration of subsidies is addressed. He knows that it’s an investment in the people and in the economy.

Petrol doesn’t just power the transportation sector, it’s also the main source of electricity generation for industries, small businesses, and the vast majority of our people. Given that Nigeria has the worst electricity generation record in West Africa (and possibly in Africa), it’s easy to see why a drastic rise in the cost of petrol activates an across-the-board cost-push inflation and deepens the misery index in the country.

Tinubu knows this but has chosen to care more for the validation of the sadistic bastards at the IMF and the World Bank than the comfort and wellbeing of his people.

There’s no doubt that it’s the IMF and its evil twin, the World Bank, that are ruling Nigeria. Tinubu’s government is just a proxy. For example, just two days after the IMF told Tinubu he must remove electricity subsidies (I had no clue such a thing existed given the unreliable electricity in Nigeria) Minister of Power Adebayo Adelabu announced that the government would withdraw electricity subsidies.

The same IMF has also instructed that the surreptitious subsidies the Tinubu administration is paying to stop petrol prices from getting to—or even rising above— N1,000 a liter must be stopped. Get ready for another bumpy ride, Nigerians. Until half the country drops dead from starvation, the IMF, which is the real government in Nigeria, won’t rest. I can guarantee you that.

Late Afrobeat superstar, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, in his early musical ensemble days as Africa ‘70, recalibrated a folklore that told the story of food shortage and hunger. The folklore, which Fela entitled Alujanjankijanbrims with the motif of greed and its implications. The hunger folktale goes thus: Long time ago, a very severe famine hit the animal kingdom, leading to intense food crisis. As against the predictions of diviners called to seek the face of divinities for solution, hunger continued to ravage the land, so much that the kingdom’s silos were completely depleted. Lion, the king of the jungle and the monarch of the kingdom, called a meeting of all known animals. After all, don’t the elders say, though “eat” and “become” are rendered same way in Yoruba lingual representation, what to eat occupies a higher hierarchical ladder than what we want to become? (Ohun t’a o je l’agba ohun t’a o je). With hunger pelting their bellies, all the animals literally crawled to the central square. Lion, with his hitherto luxuriant but now withered mane, cleared his throat and spoke. There was no gainsaying that the food crisis in the kingdom would prove fatal, leading to animals dying in droves, he said. Except urgent and quick remedy was procured, Lion underscored the calamity ahead. A drastic action was agreed, to wit, every mother of each animal must be offered in martyrdom to ensure a continuation of the animal race. The agreed modus operandi was that each of those mothers must be brought to the square and mutually devoured, for the sustenance of the race.

Upon hearing this, rather than toe the difficult line of the collective effort to stem hunger in the kingdom, at nocturne, Dog selfishly went home and parceled his mother out of the kingdom. He loved his mother so well that he would rather die than offer her as meal for the survival of the hounds of the animal world. Dog thus fled to a very remote jungle and, perhaps in a conjuration, hid Mother Dog in the sky. Every other animal, including Tortoise the trickster, complied and their mothers were brought to the square, tethered and collectively devoured. So each day, Dog walked to a particular spot and conjured out his mother by singing a song which Fela made a melodious offering of. The song goes thus: “Mother, Mother, send down your rope/All have killed and eaten their own mothers/I, Dog, took my mother to the sky/Mother, Mother, send down your rope.” In its original Yoruba rendition, it goes thus: “Iya, Iya, ta’kun wa le o/Alu jan jan kijan/Gbogbo aye pa yeye re je/Alu jan jan kijan/ Aja gbe ti re o d’orun/Alu jan jan ki jan…

After each orchestra-like musical rendition, Mother Dog looked down from the sky and magnanimously dropped a rope which Dog climbed to the sky. There, Dog was treated to a feast by his mother. He did this to the curiosity of other animals about his rotund look, until Tortoise the trickster came into the equation. He clandestinely trailed Dog and found out the secret. The next day, the trickster went to the spot and, perfectly mimicking the Dog, sang same song and a rope was lowered. As he climbed the rope, Dog appeared and, totally flummoxed, began to sing, tearfully, that his mother had listened to the voice of a scammer. Didn’t his mother recognize his voice again? Infuriated, Mother Dog cut the rope and Tortoise landed in a ghastly crash which turned his carapace into shell of fragments. Scarcely able to walk, he meandered into the home of a native orthopedic who salvaged the shells by gluing them together. This story, aside teaching morals, using their experience of the desperation of food crisis, became Yoruba’s own cosmological explanation of the tortoise’s fragmented shells.

Make no mistake about it: there is hunger in the land. A viral video last week depicting the Nigerian food crisis in its grim showed a tumult of unruly crowd queuing for N100 bread at Lagos Island being whacked with lacerating cudgels. Among other crises, Nigeria is facing a severe food crisis that is threatening lives and existence. Food stress itself is not a totally new phenomenon in the world. Each country and epoch devises different responses to their hungers. In the period between the 1950s and 1960s, India was thrown into a cauldron of food shortages, so severe that the country of Jawaharlal Nehru became known as a “begging-bowl” nation. The same happened in the pre-historic world that was often ravaged by famine. In each of these countries, responses were devised for the crises. Take the example of Pharaoh’s Egypt during its bitter plague of famine. It bought food from other lands which it stored in silos. Egypt even promoted the biblical Joseph as Prime Minister to manage the era of food shortage.

In 1816, the grueling Napoleon war brought in its wake an extremely cold, dark weather throughout northern Europe and northeastern United States. It was said to have been as a result of a super eruption from the Dutch East Indies city of Indonesia Mount Tambora which triggered global climate shifts. It manifested as smoke and ash that gushed into the atmosphere. The sun was completely covered. It got so severe that in July of that year, in Albany, New York, as well as in other cities in northern Europe, snow was recorded for the very first time. For farmers, the Mount Tabora eruption led to huge crop failures and famine throughout the northern hemisphere. It was so severe that 1816 got nicknamed the “year without a Summer” and the “Poverty Year.” When they couldn’t get bread to eat, people resorted to eating sawdust and straw. The result of the Indonesian eruption was famine, riots, disease outbreak, and mass death. Trust literature to take its full course, the great Romantic poet, Lord Byron, who was living in Geneva at the time of this near apocalypse, penned a poem out of that calamity which he entitled Darkness.Byron drew a picture of an "icy Earth" that is enveloped by desolation, burning cities, and global warfare.

The starvation and famine provoked by the Indonesian eruption was so huge that many German and Swiss residents fled to Russia and the Americas and Italians moved to cities. It led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who were killed by the combined effects of starvation and exposure to typhus. By 1817, as we have in Nigeria today, food prices had increased astronomically and dramatically. As a response to this, governments had to make direct interventions in failed markets, with local governments coordinating food imports to feed starving people.

Africa also had its own share of food crisis. In the 1970s, the drought in the Sahel and Ethiopia drew global attention to the famine in the Horn of Africa countries of Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia. The Ogaden war, similarly known as the Ethio-Somali war, was a military conflict fought between Somalia and Ethiopia which raged from July 1977 to March 1978 over the Ethiopian region of Ogaden, further worsened the famine. In Nigeria, the unsavoury civil war images of hunger and countrymen devouring lizards and toads for protein scared the world. From Ethiopia, skeletal images of hunger-ravaged Ethiopians surfaced, bespattering world television screens and littering pages of newspapers. As they sat comfortably to devour their dinners, the “unhealthy” images of children with distended stomachs, big heads and tiny legs on their television screens tampered with the appetites of world leaders. They had to do something urgent about it, if only to retain their appetites at dinner.

The current Nigerian food crisis is drilling down to the basest of the people’s agonies. Food and other goods’ inflation has soared to its highest figure ever. Hot protests are erupting like the scalding lava of volcanoes. The upward skyrocket in prices of staple foods is benumbing. Purchasing powers of the people have been stretched so thin that many families cannot afford to feed themselves. Cement price is said to have hit about N10,000 per bag while rice is nearing a hundred thousand Naira. Already, the spiking food prices with its rising inflation figure, is forcing Nigerians to troop to the streets in protests in Niger, Kano, Osun and Lagos States. Those who know the effect of this crisis are scared. The World Food Programme, (WFP) in its latest publication, is afraid that the crisis could have a globally consequential effect on the country’s over 220 million people, Nigeria being the most populated country in Africa and the sixth in the world. Before now, the about 84 million Nigerians, representing about 37 percent of the total population, who lived below the poverty line was worrisome to the WFP. Singling out conflict and insecurity, rising inflation and the impact of the climate crisis for the food stress in Nigeria, the WFP projected that the country’s 26.5 million people would face acute hunger in the June-August 2024 lean season. This is further worsened by the conflict in the North East which has succeeded in displacing 2.2 million people, leaving another 4.4 million food insecure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

Now, like the animal kingdom gathering, we are gathered to tame the monster of hunger. So, what are the responses from leaders of Nigeria? On his part, President Tinubu ordered the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to release maize, millet and gari of about 42,000 metric tonnes. He also met Nigerian governors at the Aso Rock Villa on Thursday where he sternly decreed that food importation was not an immediate panacea to the crisis. Tinubu also pleaded with the governors to deepen investments in the agricultural sector of crop production, livestock development and management to shore up food availability.

Northern Nigeria’s response to the food crisis has been to play the ostrich and effectively act the role of the Dog in time of famine. This it is doing by stylishly and selfishly ethnicizing the food crisis situation. The north’s stand is always predictably selfish, as if it is destined to go the way of the self, as against the collective. Reminds me of what my mother would say, of a man destined to go to bed hungry who, even if a bowl of pounded yam is kept on the rafter waiting for him, the rat would climb up to ruffle the bowl to tumble down.

The first selfish Dog was Niger State Governor, Mohammed Umar Bago. In the wake of the protest that rocked Minna a little over a week ago, Bago banned mass purchase of foods by traders from the southern parts of Nigeria from the state's local markets. Emir of Kano, Aminu Bayero, Like the Dog, also took north’s Mother Dog to the sky. While receiving Nigeria’s First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu, in his palace last week, Bayero urged her to relate the message to her husband, Bola Tinubu, that hunger, starvation, and insecurity plaguing the country had become urgent issues to address. Also, speaking through an interpreter, in spite of several analyses that have been made on the vacuity of the north northernizing the FCT, by condemning the Federal Government’s plan to relocate offices of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and Central Bank of Nigeria from Abuja to Lagos, Bayero still doubled down on it.

Last Wednesday, at the 6th executive Northern Traditional Council committee meeting held at the Arewa House in Kaduna, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar and his Northern Traditional Council, like the Alujanjankijan anecdote Dog, took the north’s Mother Dog to the sky. They warned that revolt of northern people looms if the rising poverty, hunger and insecurity in the country were not faced headlong.

There is no doubt that the current food prices are taking their tolls on the people. They also tug at the here-and-now, peremptory policies of successive governments of Nigeria who seem to lack a natural endowment of good leaders – the vision to see tomorrow. Truth be said, there had been warning indicators that Nigeria would face severe food crisis. It didn’t begin today. None of the leaders gave heed to them. When Fulani herders were ravaging the food basket states of Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, Kaduna, Yobe, Niger and Jigawa where rice, peppers, cassava, yams, plantains, pineapple, maize, beans, and palm oil were got from, what, for instance, did the government of Muhammadu Buhari do? How did they warn of revolt of other parts of Nigeria? Agreed that the problem became hydra-headed with the announcement by the Tinubu government of an end to fuel subsidy payments at inauguration in May, 2023, as well as the unification of exchange rate windows, we cannot play the ostrich as if we didn’t know that the food crisis of today began under Buhari when farmers, due to insecurity, could not go to the farms.

Feelers from across most of the states still producing foods, in spite of the rampaging insecurity, reveal that a coordinated attempt is being made to stop food going to the south. I imagine what would be the effect if southern states also order essential commodities from their states not to go northwards. What would be the effect, for instance, if petrol is not allowed to go to the north? While the totality of Nigeria is feeling the brunt of the food crisis, northern leaders’ wolf cries appear too self-serving and selfish for comfort. When their son, Buhari, was making Nigeria hell on earth for the rest of Nigeria, how much of those cries did we hear from the Emir of Kano and the Sultan? This subterranean attempt to southernize the Nigerian hunger by the north fits perfectly into a hackneyed pattern of blaming the rest of the country other than it for Nigeria’s crisis. If northern forefathers had tamed the malady of Patience Jonathan’s “Born trowey” children, otherwise known as the Almajiri syndrome, we most likely would not have the banditry system on which Nigeria has sunk trillions of Naira and which has cut short the lives of thousands of the people. In the same vein, if the Borno State-born Mohammed Yusuf’s Islamist group, Boko Haram, was not allowed to grow by selfsame northern elders, Nigeria may not be grappling today with a ravaging insecurity that is majorly responsible for the Nigerian food crisis. If the north is trying to curate an Arewa or Uthmania Republic, it should concisely state this so that we will know that we need visa to enter each other’s zones and shout “to your tents oh Nigeria!” Otherwise, we cannot have a country that puts a leash on intra-trade relations.

The way out of the Nigerian food crisis isn’t to sectionalize our ordeal. It cannot even be helped by a tokenist declaration of national emergency on agriculture by Tinubu. He has to put on the garment of a statesman at this critical time. As urgent as quick fixes in taming deaths from starvation are, government must put on its thinking cap by looking for long-term and sustainable solutions. One way is to face agriculture with unexampled vigour. This is the time for Tinubu to search the length and breadth of Nigeria for his own Adedunmola Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, a professor of agricultural economics from the then University of Ibadan reputed to have incubated Obafemi Awolowo’s highly applauded agricultural programme. Oluwasanmi must still have progenies of his agricultural sagacity scattered all over Nigeria. The Nigerian food crisis demands almost a Marshall Plan, a sound economic policy that will prioritize agriculture and not the tokenism of more than half a century of governance that we have had. Institutional reforms that will safeguard land tenure and raise farmers’ productivity, thus boosting food supplies and lowering prices to consumers are urgently needed. Its final aim will be ensuring good returns for agricultural investments. For instance, why not give Southwest governors incentives to return to cocoa farming which is witnessing remarkable boom and bloom in the world market today, encourage southeast palm-oil and north’s essential farm products?

It is not rocket science. India, already an object of mockery in the comity of nations due to its ravaging hunger in the 1960s, embarked on and successfully accomplished a journey to food self-sufficiency and agricultural development strategy. Today, India is a major exporter of foods. A good, forthright and determined leadership can achieve the Indian Midas touch for Nigeria. Rather than each Nigerian region clandestinely ferrying its mother out of harm’s way like the Dog as the north is doing at the moment, Nigeria must collectively look for remedy to this crisis.


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