Power, business and politics By Dayo Sobowale

The  influential  and well known Forbes  Magazine has released  its annual list of the rich and mighty  of the world  and as a Nigerian I am proud  that Nigeria’s Business  mogul,  Alhaji  Dangote at No 41 on the list,  is the most powerful  man in Africa . I  am sure that  the self – effacing  Nigerian business man who  made Dangote Sugar and Dangote Cement household  consumer  products in Nigeria  will be very amused by the categorization  which puts his assets at $16.1  bn .This   really should have made him the richest man in Africa and not the most, as even in Nigeria he himself will  be the first to admit that  he is not the most powerful, not to talk  of Africa.

The list  has the first four most powerful persons  in the world as Russia’s President Vladmir Putin who  displaced US President Barak Obama to second place, with China’s President Xi Ping in third and Pope Francis, leader  of the Catholic Church,  as fourth. It  is my contention today that Forbes  erred in categorizing our Dangote as the most powerful man in Africa and should have categorized him as the richest and most socially responsible African,  given his public spirited philantrophy which  marks him out as a rare fish  in the murky waters of African politics and business; not to talk  of the corrupt cesspool in Nigeria from where somehow and some what, Dangote  has been successful to raise his head and those of  his many businesses above water  and  shine  globally like a million stars. I go  on to tell the publishers of Forbes Magazine that in Nigeria the most powerful man is the occupant of Aso Rock,  our presidential palace  and  it does not matter whether  he comes from Sokoto or Kano or from the creeks of the Niger Delta  or even Abeokuta or Minna  the two  towns  to have produced two former heads of state in this nation to date. The  incumbent at Aso Rock wields enormous power in Nigeria and that is what the 2015 elections is about to confirm and that does not mean the situation is right or wrong . It is plain reality  and political pragmatism which the highly influential Forbes magazine has ignored  to put  extravagant search light  instead  on a hard working Nigerian providing jobs and opportunites  for millions  of Nigerians regardless of their race, tribe or religion  by  assessing him on the wrong criterion of political power.

Today  however  I comment on the first four most  powerful men in the world  and show why and how they deserve such honor, and my reservations, if any, on the categorization. I then sneak in some observations on the announcement by the President  Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that he has opened a web site for Kenyans to  send information directly to him on corruption and corrupt officials in Kenya. Of course I  will  attempt a comparison with Nigeria in the light of Oduah gate  and the  Nigerian government’s approach  to the fight against corruption.

On  the honor of being the most powerful man in the world,  let me first of  all congratulate the Russian president, especially for displacing the American president from the No1 slot. I say  this with all seriousness because no one has worked harder than the judo black belt Russian to hold on to power by all and any means and restore Soviet pride now ably replaced by Russian diplomatic power and now acknowledged globally by this Forbes Magazine recognition. In similar vein, no one  has been more assiduous than  the current US president and administration in ensuring that the US loses its premiere position or that of its president as the most powerful man in the world and the reasons are there to see even though they appear  lost in plain sight in Washington. To  me the Syrian  crisis and Obama’s handling of it after blowing hot and cold, torpedoed the US president from  the most powerful man in the world and ceded it to Russia, the nation that held the US by the balls and backed the butcher of Damascus to the hilt in spite of the use of chemical weapons which the US said several times it had evidence of its use, but could not muster  the will  topunish the culprit nation-Syria. Instead,  Russia under Putin put its feet down behind Syria and outsmarted US  foreign policy by floating a bait of  chemical weapons destruction which the US swallowed  blindly and forgot its pursuit of limited strike for the use of  chemical weapons on its own people by  the Assad Regime holed up in Damascus.

The US diplomatic blunder in Syria has given a global boost  of recognition  to President Putin which can only magnify his hold on power and boost his popularity  at home, while making life more difficult for opposition Russian leaders who  have been encouraged to challenge Putin’s leadership in the last parliamentary and presidential elections  at US instigation and  offer to provide local support and international monitoring of violations of human rights by the Putin  regime. This categorization of Putin  as the most powerful man in the world makes his position in Russia unassailable as  this  has boosted the ego,  pride and patriotism of Russians that  now  has returned to its  pre eminent position as a rival to the US as in the Cold War  era  of the Soviet Union. Certainly  the US loss  of prestige in this Forbes categorization is Russia  and Putin’s gain indeed.

With regard  to China’s President occupying the position of the third most powerful man in the world  I  see that as a very temporary situation indeed. In  a couple of years I see the Chinese leader occupying the No 1  slot as the most powerful  man in the world. I see him overtaking the US  president  who in a year’s time would have become a lame duck president and who right now is battling with even his allies to explain why the US National Security Authority has been bugging the leaders of friendly sovereign states –  especially Germany as revealed by the Snowden files being published at random by the European press. Again, as  if adding salt to injury the US

Treasury Department in its latest report  this week queried the manner  and  direction of  economic growth of Germany based on exports and said that it is not good for EU growth which really was in bad taste at least in terms of timing.  On its own, in terms of global diplomacy China has been a consistent ally of Russia in foiling US attempts to act on Syria  and  is  also  the largest buyer of US treasuries. Given new Snowden files revelation that the US  asked Japan  to help it spy on China and Japan refused,  there is no limit to how low US prestige will plummet over the Snowden spy revelations especially with China. For  now China is busy making new friends with low interest infrastructure loans in Africa  especially Nigeria at a time when developing nations are shying away from IMF  loans and its never ending repayment arrangements and    socially destructive conditionalities. Yet  China  is a communist nation de facto and de jure,  with one million Communist Party of China card carrying members, lording it over a billion Chinese people. For now China holds five year party conferences to review party and government programs and changes its leaders once in 10 years  and that creates stability according to Chinese leaders. Which really is contentious but it depends on the type of democracy you want or hanker after  and its objectives and values.

With regard to the fourth most powerful man in the world, Pope Francis, there is not much to say other than that he is certainly very different from his predecessor Pope Benedict xvi  the first Pope in 600  years  to abdicate. Benedict  XVI  fought cultural wars against gays and lesbians, abortion and insisted that the Catholic church must resist such’ fashions of the times‘ and remain  loyal  to its dogmas. But  the church  under him was plagued with the stigma of charges of child abuse  by priests and massive compensation  by the church  to avert embarrassing  trials. Pope  Francis has come in to highlight the plight of the poor and the care of prisoners like

Francis of Assisi before him. In  addition Pope  Francis  seems to be asking for reprieve for gays and a need for married priests which may roughen some nerves in Africa  on cultural grounds. Yet  the Pope commands a lot of respect and love as his first act on being  made pope was to ask  the multitude to pray  for him. I have no doubt that he has the intellectual fibre to carry  the  millions  of the world’s Catholics with him but he certainly needs prayers  on gay rights and same sex marriage in Africa where the Catholic Church is growing fastest,  globally.

Lastly  President Uhuru Kenyatta’s web site on corruption is a step in the right direction but Kenya should learn to respect cctv footage first to combat crime, terrorism  and corruption. This week two security operatives were  sacked  and jailed for looting during the West gate Mall nightmare in Nairobi. But  instead of Kenyan authorities acting swiftly on the clear cctv footage, they first asked the press  how it got the information and ominously  on  the use of unauthorized information. That certainly will deter people from visiting the Kenyan president’s web site to give information on corruption as no one wants to enter a  powerful security booby trap.

It  is similar to the situation on our own Oduahgate when government‘s  first reaction was to find out  who  the whistle blower  was instead  of swooping  on the  NCAA  with security operatives. In the interim in spite of the daily revelations the Minister travelled to Israel to meet the president on pilgrimage and to sign an aviation treaty. Meanwhile  the National Assembly Committee on the matter was quarelling that the Minster had refused to meet it as requested for over 10  times which really is a grave charge if true. On  my part I

think the Minister  should be given her day in the National Assembly when she returns from her Israeli  trip. Who  knows what spiritual transformation she could have undergone to make her explain  the reasons for the armored car purchases. Certainly if Saul  could be transformed on the way to Damascus a similar thing could happen to our besieged Minister as Israel is not far from Syria. The danger however is that modern Damascus  is under fire and going to Abuja may seem the same  to this Minister. Which  really, under the circumstances is a  great  pity indeed.

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In the beginning...Let there be Light http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japheth_J._Omojuwa

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