Friday, 03 April 2020
Politics

Politics (168)

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that President Muhammadu Buhari should withdraw his remark in his new year message to the effect that he will be “standing down” in 2023.

According to the PDP, the President and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), would have no other option than to exit office at the end of this tenure.

In a statement on Wednesday by the spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described President Buhari’s new year message as completely uninspiring, tasteless, repetitive, vacuous, and that it not galvanise any form of hope for a despairing nation like Nigeria.

“The PDP holds that Mr. President should have the courage to issue a fresh new year message to show remorse for the corruption, incompetence and misrule of his administration as well as admonish his disintegrating APC against its crass insincerity, violence and divisive machinations that have brought so much pain, anguish and despondency to our nation.

“Indeed, President Buhari should stop presenting a picture as if he has the option to continue in office beyond 2023.

“The PDP holds, in total submission to the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that it is not an issue of ‘standing down’ or not being ‘available’ for future election, but a decided and inevitable position as contained in the constitution that he must quit office after two terms, which will end in 2023.

“Mr. President, therefore, does not have any other choice before the law. Whether President Buhari likes it or not, he and his APC will exit the arena at the end of this tenure. History is replete with lessons from those who sought to stretch our nation beyond her limits.

“Moreover, President Buhari and his extinguishing APC ought to have known by now that Nigerians have moved ahead and cannot wait to see them go.

“The citizens are no longer swayed by empty promises and false performance indices as replete in Mr. President’s new year message”, the PDP said.

The party called on the President to end what it described as “showboating” by issuing a fresh new year message to demonstrate a commitment to electoral reforms by returning the 8th Assembly Electoral Act amendment bill, which he refused to sign, to the present National Assembly without any further delay.

It also called on the President to waste no time in signing the bill into law after it might have been retooled to meet current exigencies and passed by the current National Assembly.

The President was also called upon to order the immediate prosecution of his party leaders who allegedly perpetrated violence in the 2019 general election.

Specifically, the main opposition party charged the President to ensure the arrest and prosecution of persons involved in the killings that characterised the governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun, Bayelsa and Kogi States, where APC used thugs and security agents allegedly unleashed mayhem and killed innocent persons who came out to perform their civic responsibility at the polls.

“Mr. President should apologise for the violation of human rights, attacks on institutions of democracy, disobedience to court orders and constitutional violations under his administration as well as order an immediate investigation and prosecution of all those who played roles in these ugly episodes.

“Furthermore, the PDP charges President Buhari to use the opportunity of a fresh New Year Message to apologise for his administration’s failure to secure the nation and for plunging our country into a biting economic recession occasioned by the incompetence, corruption and unbridled treasury looting in his government which led to the degrading of our nation from one of the world’s fastest growing economies to world’s poverty capital with an excruciating unemployment rate, decayed infrastructure and accumulated $83 billion debt.

“Such course of humility in showing remorse, seeking help and getting competent hands to manage our economy and security system should be the legacy which Mr. President is expected to pursue without which history cannot be kind to his administration and his APC”, the party stated.

Posted On Wednesday, 01 January 2020 19:40 Written by

Year 2019 was a very eventful year for Nigeria as a country. It was a year the country experienced unforgettable events among which shook it to its very foundations. Some of the events are here brought back to readers’ memory:

1. Vice President Osinbajo’s copter crash: What would have been a day of national mourning, by sheer providence, turned into a moment of excitement, singing, dancing and praising of God by Nigerians when the number two citizen in the country, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo survived an air crash for the second time. Osinbajo and few of his aides were on election campaign visit to Kogi State on February 3 when his helicopter crash-landed in Kabba. Undeterred, the VP who was unhurt alongside his aides, continued the campaign trail for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The first incident was in June 2017 when he went to Gwagawalada Area Council, Abuja FCT to attend graduation of 40 senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service. The chopper he was traveling in crash-landed shortly after take-off. He was unhurt. These two similar events earned him the sobriquet “Ojabo koku” (One who fell from up without dying) among his Yoruba kinsmen.

VP Osinbajo: Escapes death twice in air crashes

The crashed chopper

2. 2019 General Elections: The elections were held across the country between February 23 and March 16, with the presidential being expectedly the most acrimonious. As a matter of fact, the kind of gang up against the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari overtly staged by various categories of people mostly from the opposition camp, some former leaders, religious leaders mostly from the Christendom, and corrupt politicians who were choking under his anti-corruption crusades had never been witnessed in the chequered history of Nigeria.

It started with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, leading a revolt against the government, as he had done to every government that has ruled Nigeria, except his own. Other disgruntled elements who could not wait to see Buhari’s back, for various reasons, seized the opportunity to join the wagon kick-started by the former President. Even the main opposition party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whose image, had in the past been ruined by Obasanjo, in his desperation to clinch the position of number one citizen, swallowed all the bitter pills Obasanjo had rammed down his throat and went back to his traducer like a prodigal son, giving effect to the saying: ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. Obasanjo also reciprocated by going back to his own vomit, asking Nigerians to vote for the same man he had warned the people to steer clear of. Primordial sentiments capable of destabilizing the country such as ethnicity and religion were employed by the opposition camp as tools of campaign. It got to a point that fear that the country was going to break up was palpable.

Former President Obasanjo: spared no effort in campaigning against Buhari

As if to worsen the matter, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), reminiscent of the 2015 incident, announced a postponement by one week on the eve of the much awaited presidential election. The Presidential and National Assembly elections earlier slated for February 16 were shifted to February 23 while those of the Governorship and State Assembly earlier scheduled for March 2 were postponed to March 9. This event cast initial shadow on the electoral process and it took repeated statements of reassurance from the INEC and government to Nigerians and the international community that the elections would not only take place, but would also be free and peaceful, to calm frayed nerves.

Buhari: victorious in the end

In the end, Mr. Buhari triumphed as he defeated his closest rival Atiku Abubakar with a wide margin of almost 4 million votes. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won 15,191,847 votes, while Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) got 11,262,978votes.
The legal tussle and razzmatazz that followed the results’ announcement got finally settled by judgment of the apex court on October 30 which affirmed Buhari’s victory.

3. EFCC’s onslaught against Yahoo boys: An aspect where the country’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made record achievement to the relief and excitement of majority of Nigerians aside catching some hitherto untouchable big thieves such as former governors and making them to cool off in jail, was busting of the most lethal industry of fraud- the cybercrime called ‘yahoo yahoo’. Multitude of the yahoo boys, who on daily basis wrecked life out of hardworking citizens and foreigners alike, were rounded up this year and made to face the music. The cases were too many that the year 2019 can correctly be dubbed ‘yahoo gangs bursting year’, because hardly would a weak pass without at least a gang being busted by operatives of the EFCC. Few of the major arrests published by P.M.NEWS at various times in the year are here catalogued:

EFCC Boss, Ibrahim Magu: fearless anti-corruption fighter

– March 26 six suspected yahoo boys were arrested in Ibadan, Oyo State, when operatives of the EFCC raided their hideout at the Kolapo Ishola Estate, Akobo area of the ancient city. Items recovered from the suspects include five different models of exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones.

– In May, the United States arrested 16 suspected internet fraudsters in several US cities, Canada and South Africa, majority of whom are Nigerians.

The 27 Yahoo Yahoo suspects arrested in Owerri

– On Wednesday 3 April, the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC arrested 11 suspected ‘Yahoo-Yahoo Boys’. Six of them were arrested at 2nd Pipeline, Ologunerun, Ibadan, while the other five were picked up at a location in Ijebu-Remo, Ogun State. Same day, the Oyo State special security outfit, Operation Burst, paraded two suspected yahoo boys after a woman jumped from a two-storey building in Ibadan, Oyo State to escape from Yahoo Boys who wanted to use her for ritual.

– On April 19, Police rescued a woman captured by Yahoo Boys for ritual in Asaba, Delta State.

Yahoo Yahoo boys arrested by EFCC in Osogbo

– On April 25, Ibadan zonal office of the EFCC arrested 32 Yahoo Boys. Items recovered from them include six exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones, several documents containing false pretences and fetish objects.

– On May 1, South-east Zonal Office of the EFCC arrested 37 suspects in Owerri, the Imo State capital. The arrest followed a raid on some targeted residences in Okwu Urata, Aladinma and Egbu areas. Items including 25 exotic cars of different brands such as Mercedez-Benz, Lexus, Toyota and expensive mobile phones and laptop computers were recovered.

18 Yahoo Yahoo boys arrested in Lagos

– On May 8, fifteen suspects between the ages of 18 and 30 were nabbed by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the EFCC in a late-evening raid on Blue Chip Hotels, Rumuigbo in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Many laptop computers and phones were recovered from them.

– On May 17, The Abuja Zonal office of EFCC arrested ten suspects. 2 exotic cars 6 laptops, 10 smart phones and 1 international passport were recovered from them.

– On June 20, operatives of the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC arrested 31 suspects made up of 27 males and 4 females from their hideouts in Osogbo, the Osun State capital. Exotic cars of different brands, laptop computers and phones were also recovered from them.

Some of the cars seized from Yahoo Yahoo boys

– On July 10, thirty suspects aged between 18 and 27 were arrested when the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided some mansions in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital. Eight exotic cars, laptops, mobile phones and several documents suspected to contain information used to access their victims were seized from them.

– On Sept.3, the Benin Zonal Office of the EFCC said it arrested no fewer than 133 internet fraud suspects in eight months through its ‘Operation Re-wire’. The biggest of the arrested suspects was a woman, who allegedly worked in collaboration with foreign counterparts. She was said to have amassed a princely N656million through the illicit trade. Her arrest was made possible with the collaboration of FBI.

– On Sept. 9, Operatives of the EFCC Abuja and Ilorin Zonal Offices arrested 13 suspects in separate operations. As usual, exotic cars and other items were recovered.

– On Sept. 26 and 27, the EFCC arrested no fewer than 53 suspects in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu. Cars of different brands, laptop computers, phones and charms were recovered from them.

– On 14 October, a staggering figure of 94 suspects were arrested when operatives of the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided a night club notorious for hosting parties for suspected internet fraudsters in Osogbo. 19 exotic cars, laptops, scores of sophisticated mobile phones and other items were recovered from them.

– On Friday, Nov. 15, seven yahoo boys were sentenced to various jail terms by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court Enugu, Southeastern Nigeria.

– On December 4, again the Ibadan zonal office of EFCC raided a Lagos hotel believed to be a hideout for internet fraudsters and arrested a suspected internet fraud kingpin, Rasaq Balogun, and 26 others. Balogun’s illicit activities dominated intelligence gathered from previously arrested ‘police spies’ during a raid on their Abeokuta base. According to findings, Balogun harboured an army of young men recruited to carry out financial frauds through the use of internet.

4. Shiite Protest: On Monday July 22, a protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) otherwise known as Shiite in the Nigeria’s capital of Abuja turned violent when the demonstrators clashed with security agents. Government vehicles including those owned by the emergency management agency were burnt by the aggrieved protesters. Many lives both of the Shi’ites, police officers and a young reporter undergoing the mandatory one year service under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, Precious Owolabi, were lost. Among the police officers who lost their lives in the violence was a deputy commissioner of police. It was alleged that the group threw petrol bombs as part of the protest. As a result, on the following Tuesday, the Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mohammed Adamu ordered 24-hour surveillance on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs.

Ibrahim El-Zakzaky: leader of the Shiites still in detention

The Monday incident followed a similar protest two weeks before when two Shiites were killed and two police officers injured at the National Assembly complex in Abuja. The Shiites were demanding release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, who have been in detention since their arrest by Nigerian soldiers for alleged murder in December 2015. During the arrest, his house was raided by soldiers and hundreds of his followers, including three of his sons were killed.

Shiites on the March in Abuja

5. Obinwanne Okeke: The most shocking of the cases of internet frauds was that of the 32-year old billionaire Obinwanne Okeke, Chairman, Invictus Group, who prior to his arrest by the FBI, had been celebrated by the world as a role model to African youths. He made the cover of Forbes Africa magazine in 2016 and was listed as one of Africa’s Under 30s Most Promising Entrepreneurs. In December 2018, he was a guest speaker at TEDxYaba 2018, speaking on “the DNA of the Nigerian entrepreneur”. His recommendation was considered very inspiring even to the most laid-back youth. Hear him: “The success of a business is largely dependent on you as the owner. If there is any part of you that appears to be a limitation, don’t let it hold you back. Take deliberate steps to develop yourself to match your weakness, growth is continuous. Associate with people that will inspire you and are ready to support you. Develop these traits in the right proportion. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. Go for it. Start Something Today!”

Obinwanne Okeke: the young billionaire fraudster

Therefore, it was an embarrassed world that received the shocking news on August 16 of his arrest by the FBI. He was discovered to have fleeced companies in US and UK of hundreds of millions of dollars through wire frauds.

Obinwanne Okeke on Forbes Africa cover in 2016: everyone fails to pick the red flags

6. Xenophobic attacks: The world was jolted in September when xenophobic attacks erupted again in South Africa with many nationals of African countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Gambia, etc lynched and their properties and businesses destroyed. The outraged world roundly condemned the acts of bestiality visited by South Africans on their fellow Africans. The unabated attacks on foreigners most of whom were Nigerians led to reprisal attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria. Such investments as the popular supermarket, Shoprite and the communication giant MTN Nigeria closed shop for days during the disturbance. Nigeria evacuated its stranded nationals from the hot land with assistance of Air peace Airline. It took strong messages and actions from notable leaders in the world and visit by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari for the madness to stop. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa apologized to Nigeria.

Xenophobic: South Africans on the rampage

7. ‘#RevolutionNow’ and Sowore’s arrest: Omoyele Sowore, activist, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 election and publisher of Shahara Reporters, an online news publication known for its investigative activities, was arrested along with a colleague, Olawale Bakare, on August 3 ahead of a planned nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow and charged with conspiracy to commit treason. Sowore had previously led a demonstration where he called for a revolution in the country. The video clip of the protest and his address went viral. The drama of his arrest; the granting of a bail with very stiff conditions; and the disobedience to court order by government months after meeting his bail conditions brought public opprobrium both from home and abroad on the Buhari administration. The outcry, especially from the international community, pressured the government to toe the line of reasoning by ordering his release from detention. He was therefore released on December 24, 2019 alongside former National Security Adviser, Retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki who had been in detention since December 2015 over an alleged laundering of $2.1billion money meant for arms purchase during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Dasuki, Sowore: released Dec. 4

8. Sex-for-grades: The menace was very rampant in 2019. Very many cases were recorded in the year. The biggest incident being an undercover investigation carried out, for more than a year, by the BBC on some randy university lecturers in Nigeria and Ghana. Its video, at conclusion of the investigation, was released on the BBC Africa Eye on Monday October 7. The video revealed a senior lecturer known as Dr Boniface Igbeneghu from the faculty of Arts, a former sub – dean in the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the head of a local Foursquare Gospel Church harassing a female student sexually, promising good grades in return. Boniface was caught on camera telling his victim to ”Switch off the light, lock the door and I’ll kiss you for one minute”.

DR Boniface Igbeneghu: ASUU member accused of sex-for-grade

Several students had alleged that they had been harassed by Dr Boniface, which made BBC send an undercover journalist to him, posing as a 17-year old secondary school graduate seeking admission, a trick he fell flat for. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Foursquare Gospel Church subsequently suspended him. Another lecturer of the university caught in the documentary was Samuel Oladipo, a lecturer in the department of economics. He was also suspended.

Taiwo Oloyede, Principal Assistant Registrar, communication unit of UNILAG on Wednesday 9 October confirmed that the university’s panel headed by Ayodele Atsenuwa, a professor and dean of the faculty of law, had suspended the two randy lecturers. The University of Ghana also suspended two of its own indicted by the famous documentary. The two lecturers are Professor Ransford Gyampo and Dr Paul Kwame Butakor.

Again on Wednesday November 13, Vice Chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, Prof. Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, disclosed that a lecturer had been dismissed, while 10 others were suspended over the allegation of demanding cash or sex for grades from desperate students in the university. He made the disclosure when the Rivers State House of Assembly committee on Education led by Christian Ahiakwo visited the institution as part oversight function. These incessant cases have led the National Assembly to propose an Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill aimed at deterring and punishing offenders. The bill sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege seeks to jail a lecturer for up to two years if he or she winks at or touches a student in an inappropriate way. In the case of sex with minors, even if the student consents to it or lures the lecturer into it, the lecturer is liable.

Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq: the woman President Buhari was rumoured to have chosen as second wife

9. President Buhari’s phantom marriage: On October 11, the news spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria like wild fire in harmattan that the Nigeria’s number one citizen who was less than 4 years away from age 80 had decided to marry one of his younger ministers, Sadiya Farouq, as second wife. A wedding invitation card with photograph of the President and that of the 45-year old Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development standing by each other accompanied the fake news published by some mischief makers on social media. Absence of immediate denial from both the number one family and the concerned woman helped to keep flame the rumour blazing across the country. It took days before Nigerians realize it was a hoax.

Anthony Joshua: A pride of Nigeria

10. Anthony Joshua: On Saturday December 7 the Nigerian-born British boxer Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua ended major events of 2019 on a happy note for Nigeria when he became a two-time world heavyweight champion following his victory over the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr in a tense rematch in Diriyah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He had lost the belt to Ruiz in June. He outclassed Ruiz to score a unanimous points victory to regain his IBF, WBA and WBO titles in emphatic fashion. He dominated the match from the onset. Dubbed the “Clash on the Dunes”, the eagerly anticipated rematch marked the first time a world heavyweight title fight has ever been staged in Saudi Arabia. It was clearly a classic win.

The 2012 Olympic champion revealed he had adapted his style after June’s loss to Ruiz for the first time in his career. It was a moment of excitement for all Nigerians both at home and abroad with President Muhammadu Buhari leading the pack of notable figures who showered encomiums on the awesome pugilist. Joshua is a British boxer with Nigerian roots. His both parents are from Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria. He visited Nigeria in July and spent weeks before returning to the UK. He was born on 15 October 1989, and has, since the sweet victory, been ranked as the world’s best active heavyweight by BoxRec.

Posted On Tuesday, 31 December 2019 04:25 Written by

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Saturday, marked properties belonging to former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

According to EFCC, the marking is to ensure that the properties are not dissipated, following the December 5, 2019 order of Justice Muhammed Idris sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos that Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, be wound up and all assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

Kalu, who is the Senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly, had been arraigned alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited and Udeh Udeogu, his Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House, over an amended 39-count charge bordering on conspiring and diverting the sum of N7.65bn from the coffers of the state.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them by the EFCC, thereby leading to their full trial.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, called 19 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court.

The defendants, however, testified on behalf of themselves during the trial.

The parties, during the proceedings on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, adopted their final written addresses.

In his final submission, the prosecution counsel, Jacobs, urged the judge to jail the defendants, saying the prosecution had proved the allegations against them.

Jacobs also urged the court to wind up the company as provided by the Law and all its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

However, the defence counsel urged the court to “dismiss the charges, acquit and discharge” their clients.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Idris found the defendants guilty on all counts.

Justice Idris held that the prosecution had established its case against the defendants.

The Judge further held that “the case was conclusively investigated, as the prosecution conducted thorough investigations.”

Justice Idris, therefore, convicted and sentenced the first defendant, Kalu to five years imprisonment on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; three years on counts 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32,
33; 12 years on counts 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38 and five years on count 39.

The second defendant was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment on counts 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32 and 10 years on counts 34, 37, 38 and 39.

Justice Idris further held that “In respect of the third convict, Slok Nigeria Limited, an order is hereby made that the company shall hereupon and without further assurances, but for this order, be wound up and all its assets and properties forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Posted On Sunday, 15 December 2019 18:02 Written by

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has re-arraigned a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Maurice Iwu, for an alleged fraud of N1.23bn.

He pleaded not guilty. Justice Nicholas Oweibo granted him bail and adjourned till November 25, 2019.

Posted On Friday, 25 October 2019 01:02 Written by

Siddin Sarkin Kano, Alhaji Auwalu Maja, has revealed the circumstances that prompted his sack by Emir of Kano, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi 11.

He told reporters on Monday at Kano that he was sacked for honouring Kano Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje during the march for his tribunal victory.

Maja alleged he has been relegated to the background since the emergence of Sanusi, saying his hard work was not commensurate with what he gets.

Recalling the incidents that led to his sack, he said: “When Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje returned to Kano after two weeks of official trip with President Muhamamdu Buhari, last Wednesday, I was one of the people that joined the mammoth to welcome him.
“On that fateful day, I presented a regalia and the portrait of the late Emir of Kano, Sarki Ado Abdullahi Bayero to Governor Ganduje to show my excitement and joy as I joined the good people of Kano state to celebrate with him over his victory at the Tribunal.

“It was that singular action of mine that prompted the current Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi 11 to give a verbal instruction for my dismissal and vacation from my official residence where I have lived for over 20 years.

“When they conveyed the Emir’s instruction to me, I immediately complied and vacated the residence. This is the third time I have been asked to vacate that office!
“Apart from that, I was also asked to hand over the keys of my office to another person as well as, all other properties belonging to the Palace and I complied.

“By virtue of my assignment, I used to work with Shamaki (the head of the Place Guards) directly. It was the Shamaki, Alhaji Wada Najalo that carried out the Emir Sanusi’s instruction to sack and dismiss me from the Palace.

“Based on the instruction given to me to hand over all the properties of the Palace, I asked my boys to bring out all the Palace properties under our care and present them to Shamaki, which they did.

“However, my utmost concern is that since the coming of Emir Sanusi, I am being relegated to the background.My official assignment is a tedious one which I carried out religiously but my hard work is not commiserated with my welfare.

“I have no personal animosity against Emir Sanusi or anybody in the Emirate. They humiliated me because I honoured Governor Ganduje. Now my appeal to the emir is restore my position.”

Posted On Monday, 14 October 2019 20:17 Written by

WASHINGTON — As he tries to tackle the greatest challenges to American power in Asia, President Trump is overturning policy toward China and North Korea that for decades was as canonical as Confucian ritual.

With North Korea, he is engaging with the enemy in hopes that negotiations will yield a surrender of nuclear weapons. With China, Mr. Trump says the United States must take a big step back from an economic relationship that has strengthened a formidable rival.

The shifts were prompted by internal changes in each country, combined with Mr. Trump’s unorthodox instincts and the views of his senior Asia advisers. The administration now has growing bipartisan support in Washington to widen an emerging global conflict with China and build diplomacy with North Korea.

This week, American negotiators are pressing forward with the policy transformations.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, spoke to Chinese counterparts on Tuesday by telephone to continue tough trade negotiations. Meanwhile, Stephen E. Biegun, the special representative for North Korea, was in Brussels and Berlin to discuss diplomatic approaches to North Korea.

The meetings follow Mr. Trump’s June trip to East Asia, where he met separately with President Xi Jinping of China and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

“The administration has changed the nature of U.S. government interaction in many ways with both North Korea and China,” said James Green, the former senior trade official in the United States Embassy in Beijing. “In both cases the traditional mechanics of diplomacy have been upended.”

More important, Mr. Trump has smashed the very foundations of longstanding policy.

That has alarmed some experts. More than 150 former officials and scholars signed an open letter that the writers posted last week, denouncing the administration’s combative China policy as “fundamentally counterproductive.”

“We do not believe Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere,” said the letter, which was organized by scholar Michael D. Swaine.

Yet the aggressive approach to China has drawn many supporters, including some Obama administration officials and Democratic leaders like Senator Chuck Schumer. “Hang tough on China, @realDonaldTrump. Don’t back down,” Mr. Schumer tweeted in May. “Strength is the only way to win with China.”

Since the 1970s, when presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter re-established relationswith Beijing, American officials and experts have contended that economic ties between the United States and China would anchor the relationship between the two nations and, perhaps, coax Communist Party leaders toward Western liberalism.

But Mr. Xi, who took power in 2012, has exercised expansive authoritarian controls. He has detained more than one million Muslims in camps, reinforced the party’s role across strategic industries and expanded the military’s footprint in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

One economist who advised Chinese leaders in the 1980s, Janos Korani, wrote this weekthat Western experts like himself had been Dr. Frankensteins, helping build up China without realizing the eventual consequences for the West. “Now, the fearsome monster is here,” he wrote.

Trump administration officials argue that economic engagement without appropriate guardrails created a tyrannical behemoth that could supplant American supremacy. Some call for long-term tariffs to “decouple” the economies of China and the United States by breaking supply chains and other business ties.

”We seem to be at a unique confluence of Xi and Trump,” said Bill Bishop, an analyst in Washington who publishes Sinocism, a China briefing. “And Make China Great Again meets Make American Great Again is a recipe for friction.”

But Mr. Trump rarely if ever talks about strategic concerns and speaks admiringly of Mr. Xi, leading China hawks to fear a trade deal with Beijing that relents on national security issues like Huawei.

On North Korea, the general policy since the George W. Bush administration has been to avoid bilateral diplomacy and impose economic isolation to force Pyongyang to end its nuclear program.

But Mr. Trump upended that by doing face-to-face diplomacy with Mr. Kim, most recently when the two strolled for a minute in North Korea — the first time a sitting American president had entered the country. It was their third meeting, after a failed Hanoi summit in February and initial talks in Singapore in June 2018.

Former officials and analysts increasingly say diplomacy is the only way forward with North Korea, given that it already has an estimated 30 to 60 nuclear warheads. Longtime advocates of rapprochement point optimistically to the shifting consensus in Washington.

“My impression is that they are certainly singing in a new key, and it’s a good thing however or why ever they are doing so,” said Robert L. Carlin, a former North Korea analyst at the C.I.A. and State Department.

He added that if the foreign policy establishment was “reconsidering the situation, what’s possible, what’s pragmatic and realistic after nearly two decades of feckless policy, that’s all to the good, and maybe just in time. “

A notable figure now preaching diplomacy is Michael Morell, the former acting C.I.A. director and host of the “Intelligence Matters” podcast.

“A negotiated solution is the only solution to this problem,” he said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on June 30. “There isn’t a military option. There’s not a covert action option. So getting back to talks with the North Koreans is important, and I think that’s a good thing.”

He also said the United States would have to live with a nuclear North Korea because Mr. Kim would not give up his nuclear weapons program — an assessment reached by the intelligence community. “We should push for the whole thing, but the best we can hope for is limits,” he said.

“Containment?” asked Margaret Brennan, the host.

“Containment,” Mr. Morell agreed.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Morell said the administration’s ability to shift consensus thinking is only possible because of Mr. Trump “being the Republican president that he is.”

“So political Washington in its entirety has come around to the opinion that talking to North Korea is good,” he said.

Trump administration officials stress that the goal of negotiations is to get Mr. Kim to give up all of his nuclear weapons. But senior State Department officials are now contemplating intermediate steps — including reaching a freeze of nuclear activity — rather than going for a grand deal, as Mr. Trump tried to do in Hanoi.

Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that a freeze would be the “beginning of the process.”

Mr. Trump could shift the consensus further, if he decides the United States can tacitly accept a nuclear North Korea. Beyond Mr. Morell, other analysts are coming to that conclusion — one that would have drawn outrage if mentioned aloud during the Obama administration.

“I can’t see Kim giving up his nuclear weapons entirely,” said Jean H. Lee, a Korea expert at the Wilson Center in Washington. “They are his ‘treasured sword’ and all that he has to give him leverage. But he is willing to barter some dismantling of his nuclear program in exchange for concessions.”

Under former President Barack Obama, the United States reached a nuclear freeze deal with North Korea in 2012 but quickly backed out when Pyongyang announced a satellite launch.

Obama officials stuck to a strategy of pressuring North Korea through sanctions, which the Trump administration is also doing. But Mr. Obama did not try face-to-face diplomacy with Mr. Kim — something that one senior Obama official, Daniel Russel, called “diplotainment” when done by Mr. Trump.

“It was something the North Koreans repeatedly requested,” said Mr. Russel, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

He said Obama officials considered it, “but immediately recognized that it would be worse than foolish to legitimize Kim with a summit before the groundwork had been laid for a denuclearization deal.”

Posted On Thursday, 11 July 2019 23:59 Written by

The move left Ms. Pelosi’s natural allies in the House’s Hispanic and progressive caucuses stunned and feeling betrayed. “Since when did the Problem Solvers Caucus become the Child Abuse Caucus?” Mr. Pocan said on Twitter. Representatives Max Rose, Democrat of New York, and Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota, were later seen angrily confronting him on the House floor.

Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona and a former co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the episode left him “very resentful,” and feeling as if the moderates had essentially forced the House to silence its natural inclinations.

“I just hope that in forcing us to do nothing, they don’t feel like they’ve actually accomplished anything,” Mr. Grijalva said. “I don’t know what the motivation was, to try to assert some power or what, but in the future, we shouldn’t hesitate bringing our agenda and our legislation forward because it might offend 23 or 24” centrists.

The episode also exposed divisions among the moderates themselves. On the House floor on Thursday, about 10 moderate freshman Democrats huddled near the marble dais, arguing about the way forward. One lawmaker said if they sided with the other party in a bid to force the House to consider the weaker Senate bill, “we might as well be Republicans,” according to one person familiar with the exchange who described it on the condition of anonymity.

Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, grew red-faced and emotional during the exchange, and stormed off the House floor, returning a short time later and accepting an embrace from Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California. Both ultimately supported the bill.

It was a version of a point that had been made, in much gentler fashion, during floor remarks by Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Rules Committee. He warned that the procedural move the moderates were threatening to join “is a vote to give control of the House floor to the Republicans.”

But the moderates said they had done the party a favor, getting the House to the only tenable position as quickly as possible.

Posted On Sunday, 30 June 2019 19:37 Written by

“The one lesson from Trump that Democrats may want to take to heart is the value of saying things clearly and unambiguously, not in nuanced shades of gray,” he said. “But it’s incumbent on any Democrat to appeal to a different set of values and completely avoid the clownishness.” He said that what a winning Democrat needs to project is the “return to the power of a good idea well expressed.”

Mr. Trump would not have to insert himself into the Democratic primary process for his presence to be felt in the air over two hot Miami nights. But it has at least been suggested that he could live-tweet the proceedings during his trip to Asia for a major international summit meeting with foreign leaders.

If he follows through, it would be a change from how Mr. Trump typically employs the medium — he more often reacts to coverage of events, rather than the events themselves. In 2016, he live-tweeted only one event, the vice-presidential debate, when he retweeted accounts that mocked Senator Tim Kaine’s appearance.

Ms. Dunn said that if Mr. Trump chose to weigh in, it would be a gift to the candidates he targeted. “I would think the candidates would think, Terrific,” she said. “Nothing could be better than walking out of the debate with the president tweeting at me.” In terms of appearing to present a real threat and contrast to Mr. Trump, she said, “you couldn’t make the point better.”

The Republican National Committee is not outsourcing all of its rapid response to the president. The committee’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, will be in Miami during the debates, talking about the “socialist policies” promoted by the Democratic field, according to an organization official. The committee, officials said, is also planning to put out a response to the debates in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

That piece of the Republican response is more similar to how incumbents have outsourced reaction in the past.

“We, as a campaign, monitored and commented on statements that were made during debates,” said David Axelrod, a former adviser to Mr. Obama. “Occasionally, the president may have inserted a comment in a speech based on something that was said. But he wasn’t live-tweeting the other side’s race. He was busy with his day job.”

Posted On Tuesday, 25 June 2019 23:52 Written by

It takes a lot for C-Span to get mad.

But an unusual move by the South Carolina Democratic Party to bar the network from putting on a live broadcast of its annual convention — which is doubling as a major showcase for 21 presidential candidates — has left executives at the strait-laced public affairs network fuming. CNN and Fox News aren’t thrilled about it, either.

The source of the friction is a deal struck between the state party and MSNBC, the liberal-leaning cable network, granting the channel exclusive rights to show the candidates’ speeches live on Saturday.

Under the party’s rules, which were abruptly announced this week, rival television networks will have to wait three hours after the event concludes before broadcasting their footage.

News organizations always scrap for exclusive interviews with prominent politicians. But the South Carolina convention, virtually a required stop for presidential hopefuls, is typically open to all journalistic comers. The decision to restrict coverage set off broader concerns that the state party was picking and choosing the news organization allowed to cover what is a crucial event in an early-voting state.

“This has never happened before, ever,” said Steve Scully, the C-Span political editor, who has overseen the channel’s campaign coverage since the early 1990s.

Mr. Scully, who also hosts C-Span’s popular call-in show, is perhaps best known for a stoic onscreen demeanor that remains in place even when callers rant and complain. On Wednesday, Mr. Scully sounded more animated.

“You have what is an open event, and a political party dictating who can and cannot carry it live,” he said in an interview. “It really is a very undemocratic move. If they’re trying to get access to the widest audience possible, why not let everyone in?”

C-Span lodged a formal complaint on Wednesday with the convention’s organizers, calling their move “the antithesis of openness” that “could set a precedent that would end up seriously limiting citizen access to key presidential electoral events.”

Fox News, which was also barred from broadcasting the event live, said it planned to sign the C-Span letter and had lodged its own complaint.

In an interview, a spokesman for the South Carolina Democratic Party, Tim Sullivan, disputed the notion that networks had been “barred” from covering the convention, though he conceded that MSNBC had indeed been granted the exclusive live rights.

Mr. Sullivan said the decision was part of a broader agreement with MSNBC that, he argued, would enhance the proceedings. Two MSNBC hosts, Joy-Ann Reid and the Rev. Al Sharpton, are set to interview each of the Democratic presidential candidates from a set constructed inside the convention hall.

“This is probably one of the first times that a major state convention is going to have a show broadcasting from inside of it,” Mr. Sullivan said, adding, “We wanted to put on this big show for our conventiongoers and for our viewers.”

MSNBC declined to comment.

Mr. Scully, of C-Span, said he went public with his objections in an effort to prevent a troubling precedent. C-Span, he noted, has generated a library of decades’ worth of unfiltered appearances by presidential candidates, useful for historians and citizens alike.

“I worry it could be the start of a slippery slope,” he said.

Posted On Thursday, 20 June 2019 04:56 Written by

Philip Hammond is set to warn that a no-deal Brexit would harm the British economy, devour a £26.6bn Brexit war chest, and risk the break-up of the UK.

The chancellor is expected to say that Conservative candidates who are vying to be the next prime minister that they must come up with a Brexit plan “B”.

If they do not, he will hint that a second referendum could be needed to break the Parliamentary deadlock.

He will also pour cold water on tax and spending pledges by the candidates.

Mr Hammond is set to say in a speech at the annual Mansion House dinner in the City of London on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit would soak up £26.6bn that has been set aside that could otherwise be spent by an incoming prime minister.

In a BBC debate on Tuesday, leadership candidates promised tax cuts and increased spending on public services.

However, a no-deal Brexit would mean that was not possible, and would also leave the UK economy “permanently smaller”, Mr Hammond will say.

In March, the chancellor pledged to spend the war chest to boost the economy, if MPs voted to leave the European Union with a deal.

Conservative candidates including Boris Johnson have pledged to leave the EU by 31 October, even if that means quitting without a deal.

But a no-deal Brexit would “risk the Union”, Mr Hammond is expected to say.

“I cannot imagine a Conservative and Unionist-led government, actively pursuing a no-deal Brexit; willing to risk the Union and our economic prosperity,” he will say.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson told party members on Tuesday to “take a long, hard look at themselves” after a YouGov survey suggested 63% would back Brexit even if it meant Scotland leaving the UK.

In April, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would push for a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country, which voted Remain, is taken out of the EU.

Posted On Thursday, 20 June 2019 04:48 Written by
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