Category Archives: Somebody’s Got To Say It

Somebody’s Got to Say It: She Was the Iron Lady…..Period!

I have always admired former British prime minister, Baroness Margaret  Thatcher.  And although I haven’t always agreed with some of her politics — notably her pro-apartheid stance and the introduction of the poll tax — in her heyday, she was undoubtedly a strong and decisive woman who led from the top, took substantial risks and wasn’t fazed by standing alone on key policy issues. The Russians didn’t tag her the “Iron Lady” for nothing. And as a supporter, I am hugely looking forward to seeing her biopic ” The Iron Lady” over the next few days.

Since “The Iron Lady” opened in the UK, approximately two weeks ago, there has been a lot of hullabaloo over its accuracy and the emphasis on Baroness Thatcher’s illness. Biopics are almost always controversial. “Malcolm X” was controversial and so was “Ali” and “JFK,” to name but a few. It just isn’t always easy to cramp an illustrious career into an average  2-hour long film, hence the conclusion from some film critics that biopics just don’t work.

I am rather miffed that the biopic highlights the former prime minster’s present poor health. Even though she has been quite poorly for some time now, Baroness Thatcher is now 86 and her illness is far removed from her political career, which ended roughly 20 years  ago. Hopefully, those who will go to see this film will be far more interested in the portrayal of Baroness Thatcher’s rise to fame and glory, and her political achievements, than the aging process and dementia.

What’s more, it really and truly pains me when people jump on any bandwagon for their own selfish interests, and are totally oblivious to the hurt they cause others in the process. In a recent interview with “The Guardian” newspaper, former Tory cabinet minister, Jonathan Aitken, said of the film that he was “uncomfortable and a bit upset about the vehicle of the dementia-ridden lady who flips in and out.” But then in true hypocritical fashion he reveals that Baroness Thatcher exhibited signs of dementia when she attended a dinner party at his home a year ago:  “She suddenly started to talk about Keith Joseph [the politician credited with inventing Thatcherism], then later about the preparations for her wedding.”

Aitken also recounted a fellow former Cabinet member at his dinner party asking a question about David Cameron, but Baroness Thatcher obviously didn’t get who David Cameron was…”

Now some may excuse Aitken’s telling tales out of school as nothing but a sly strategy to whip up enthusiasm and publicity for his own biography of Baroness Thatcher, but I think his indiscretion smacks of a betrayal of sorts. How would he feel if, in 15 years time (age 84),  he wet himself at a dinner party, due to a medical condition, and his host went public with that information?  For heaven’s sake, the Iron Lady is now 86 years old!  How many of us will make it to 86, much less, gracefully?

Jonathan Aitken surely owes Baroness Thatcher a profound apology for his indiscretion. And when his book is eventually published, Aitken should be compelled to make a significant donation from the proceeds to a charity that promotes research into conditions of the brain including dementia.

The video clip posted below shows Baroness Thatcher in full bloom at her last prime ministers questions in the House of Commons. Oh what good memories of the way she really was.


Somebody’s Got to Say It: Where Is the Sanctity of Gaddafi’s Body?

I never met him during his lifetime and although I consider myself neither friend nor foe of the man, I find the manner of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s death quite crude and the subsequent handling of his corpse inexplicably inhumane. While I truly believe that those who live by the gun will ultimately die by gun, I also think it is morally wrong to take delight from the demise of a fellow human being.

Understandably, to an extent, all is fair in love and war. But the one million dollar question is this: did Colonel Gaddafi have to die such a brutal death? Given that the odds were heavily stacked against him in the last couple of months, why didn’t he broker a face-saving retreat deal with the necessary stakeholders and then relinquish power?  Many African and Arab counties would have given him and his family political asylum. The fact that he was also a wealthy man would have facilitated things in this regard. But of course, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Dictators, by their very nature tend to work on a flawed sense of perpetual invincibility, forgetting that nothing lasts forever.  We understand from history that more often than not, tyrants lose focus and then gradually become far removed from reality.  Eventually they meet a violent end. Such was the fate of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Sanni Abacha of Nigeria and Idi Amin of Uganda.

Following the pretty gruesome video clips of Colonel Gaddafi’s last moments aired on the various global news networks, there have been calls for an inquiry into the events leading up to Colonel Gaddafi’s death. While these scenes were quite disturbing,  in the grand scheme of recent events in Libya, it is doubtful whether any meaningful benefit would emerge from such an inquiry.

As a mere mortal myself, my main gripe is with the way Colonel Gaddafi’s corpse has been handled by the Libyan authorities. The  main world religions accept that the physical body of a deceased should be handled with dignity and utmost care. Placing Colonel Gaddafi’s corpse in a commercial freezer, with very little to shield his dignity, and allowing Libyan men to view his body and take pictures on their mobile phones is highly inappropriate and in bad taste.  Evidently, there is  no preservation of the sanctity of Colonel Gaddafi’s body. Surely, this runs afoul of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The Libyan authorities should realise that whatever his crimes during his lifetime, Colonel Gaddafi is no more. His account on earth is now closed and he will answer to his creator for his deeds on earth. That the Libyan authorities chose rather to violate the sanctity of the dead, as an act of revenge, is most sad and inexplicably inhumane.  Even if all the reports of Colonel Gaddafi’s alleged crimes against humanity are true, that still doesn’t justify the Libyan authorities inhumane handling of his body.

In the words of Lady Macbeth, what’s done cannot be undone. Colonel Gaddafi’s life has come full circle.  The fine detail of his deeds on earth will now be relegated to the annals of history.  It is ironic that the young army officer, who led a bloodless Libyan revolution 42 years ago, has now died a brutal death in a bloody revolution.  The circumstances surrounding Colonel Gaddafi’s death are somewhat tragic and many will argue that he brought it upon himself.  But that is a discussions for another day. My bone of contention today is the sanctity of  Colonel Gaddafi’s lifeless body.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. – ( Martin Luther King Jnr)

Is “Uterus” a Dirty Word?

They say laughter is the best medicine for the heart and I must have overdosed on it when I heard that Republican lawmakers in Florida say “uterus” is a dirty word, and as such, should not be used in the Florida House.

Approximately two weeks ago, during  a political debate on the floor of Florida House, Democrat Congressman, Scott Randolph, remarked that his  wife should “incorporate her uterus” to stop lawmakers passing excessive abortion laws. Consequently, the use of the word uterus offended the Floridian Republicans, who claim that it is a dirty word.

Personally, I don’t see how “uterus,” which according to MedicineNet, is the scientific name of the “hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum,” is a dirty word. Since when did medical and scientific words constitute dirty language?  Maybe the Floridian-Republican-lawmakers-turned-linguistic-conspirators would have preferred it if Congressman Randolph had used the hip-hop variant  for “uterus” instead of its correct scientific name.  But seriously, the Republicans should stop behaving like a bunch of ungovernable kids and use their “cerebrum.”

Strangely enough, the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU), has since purchased the domain name, and adopted the slogan, “My Uterus Is My Business.”  How truly hilarious.

The video clip posted below provides a more comical take on the story.

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Somebody’s Got to Say It:(3) “Birthers” Get A Life!

“All philosophies, if you ride them home, are nonsense, but some are greater nonsense than others.” – Samuel Butler

Only in America, the land of propaganda and fairy tales, does a rather silly story develop, engulfing the entire nation as it snowballs. I guess the chickens do need to come home to roost sometimes.

Anyway, a few days ago, while surfing on the Internet I happened upon a recent Donald Trump interview, where he was basically questioning Barack Obama’s birth credentials and his eligibility to be US president.  According to Trump, no one seems to remember Obama from Hawaii – where he was born –  which could imply that Obama was not born in the US.

At the time, I thought Trump was simply trying to whip up momentum and interest for his own political ambitions, so I dismissed these comments as no more than mere castles in the sky. But hey, I was wrong.

This ludicrous allegation appears to be a big issue in the US.  A telephone poll carried out by Wenzel Strategies in mid March shows that 77% of Americans are aware of the saga over Obama’s birth credentials. In fact, 61% of Independents, 58% of Republicans and 13% of Democrats want Obama to prove he is eligible to be president by virtue of being born in the US.

Those who hold with this conspiracy theory are known as the “birthers” and they believe that Obama’s birth certificate is fake, that he was born in Kenya and that he does not qualify to be US president.  There are a number of websites promoting this rather absurd theory, including a Facebook fan page.

I think Obama, for his part, has remained dignified amid this political farce, sometimes joking about the idea.  As the African adage goes, you laugh about things you cannot cry over. Despite Obama’s dignified handling of the situation, this saga is ludicrous, a waste of time, and tantamount to campaigning after the election.

Considering the historic significance of Obama’s election win in 2008, he would never have made it to the White House on suspect credentials. It’s most certain that US intelligence agencies would have gone over Obama’s  background with a fine-toothed comb before he became president.   Or are the birthers suggesting that US intelligence agencies botched what should have been a fairly routine check?

Okay, maybe this conspiracy theory started off as a campaign rhetoric in the run-up to the 2008 elections, but for God’s sake, Obama is now over two years into his presidency and there are far more important things to deal with than this political birth-obsessed nonsense.

There is a critical situation in Japan, which has not only claimed the lives of between 10,000 – 20,000 people, but also poses significant future environmental risks. There is also an alarming political situation in the Middle East, which could change the political dynamics of the region for years to come. Furthermore, the US foreign policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is causing more world conflicts, than the US cares to admit.  In the same breath, we cannot forget the US-led war on terrorism, which seems to be a toxic investment yielding no plausible return at the moment, apart from creating more US animosity. So how can this baseless conspiracy theory take pride of place over more serious matters affecting humanity?

I am, however, somewhat relieved that not all Americans are awash with this nonsense. In the wake of Donald Trump’s recent comments, former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, made the following remarks about Obama:

“He’s born in the United States, I don’t see any real question about that, and even if some people have some doubts in the back of their minds it’s really too late and futile. … We have so many more important things to talk about.”

Thank you Rudy!  Birthers, get a life !  Stop propaganda wars ! Somebody’s surely got to say it.

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Somebody’s Got to Say It (2): 50 Years of Catastrophic Oil Spills In Nigeria Must Stop Now !

I firmly believe that the first step towards solving a problem is acknowledging that the problem exists.

According to a recent story reported by AllAfrica Global Media, the Nigerian government is embarking on an initiative to establish a  “regulatory framework for the oil and gas industry, to deal with catastrophic oil spills in the country.”

My immediate reaction is one of shock that a country ranked 16th highest oil-producing country in the world, according to CIA World Factbook (2008), and extracting 1.8m barrels of crude oil a day, does not already have a robust regulatory framework in place to monitor and manage oil spills.

The Nigerian government has tasked a forum of oil and gas stakeholders with the responsibility of delivering the regulatory framework. Addressing these stakeholders at a safety workshop on oil drilling, held in Abuja,  the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, made the following remarks:

“Your recommendations at the end of this forum may invigorate the process of establishing the body. Nature has been very kind to us in this part of the world but we should not overlook the necessity of putting adequate plans in place to overcome any natural challenge that might arise at any point in time.”

I wonder what specific “natural challenge ” Mrs. Alison-Madueke was referring  to? Was she insinuating that oil spills are caused by natural disasters? Well, if she was, it does not wash. According to Amnesty International, the oil spills in Niger Delta region of Nigeria  result from:

“corrosion of oil pipes, poor maintenance of infrastructure, spills or leaks, human error and as a consequence of deliberate vandalism or theft of oil.”

Oil spills have catastrophic effects on marine life, wild life, drinking water and the general health of the people who live in the vicinity of oil drilling activity. Sadly, since oil production commenced in Nigeria in 1959, this has been the fate of the  Ogoni people of the Niger Delta.  Moreover,  it is this environmental damage and economic injustice that the late environment activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, spoke out against and for which he and eight other activist were executed by the Nigerian military government  in November 1995.

I am appalled by the Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s remarks that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ( aka BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill) necessitated the safety workshop in Abuja and the need for the regulatory framework on oil spills. How disgraceful ! What an insult to the Ogoni people;  the families of the slain Nigerian activists; the memories of  the slain activists; and the countless  others across the world advocating against environmental pollution.

It is worrying that Mrs. Alison-Madueke is more concerned with the recent oil spill in the US – a country that has stringent environment laws which are effectively enforced –  than the 300 oil spills occurring annually in the Niger Delta according to Amnesty International.

Before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst oil spill in the history of oil drilling was the Exxon Valdes oil spill in 1989.  The Exxon Valdes oil spill resulted in a leak of 25-32 million gallons of oil compared to the 206 million  gallons of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. According to the CNN clip at the end of this post, oil spills of a similar magnitude to Exxon Valdes have occurred every year in Nigeria for the past 50 years.  This is alarming.

While Shell is responsible for the environmental pollution of the Niger Delta region, successive Nigerian governments are not without blame. Why previous Nigerian regimes never publicly held Shell accountable for its reckless venture in the Niger Delta remains a mystery.  In my opinion,  in a country rife with bribery and corruption,  the effectiveness of the new oil and gas regulatory framework, will hinge not only upon the robustness of the framework itself, but to a large extent its ultimate enforcement.

Given that the Minster of Petroleum Resources, is a one-time Executive Director of Shell,  is this a case of setting a thief to catch a thief ?

In  1995,  Ken Saro-Wiwa was awarded the Goldman Environmental Award in the US.  As he was incarcerated at the time, his son Ken Saro-Wiwa Jnr accepted the award on his behalf.  Excerpts of his acceptance speech, smuggled out of prison and  read by his son at the award ceremony, follow thus:

“I submit that we have every reason to be emotional in our struggle for the sanctity of our environment. The environment is man’s first right. Without a safe environment man cannot exist to claim other rights,  be they political, social or economic.”

I applaud Amnesty International for its campaign to make Shell accountable for the human rights impact of its operations in the Niger Delta. Please  sign up with Amnesty International to help fight social injustice, not only in Nigeria, but wherever in the world it rears its ugly head. United we stand, divided we fall.

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