Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Strength of the Nigerian Women: 50 Nigerian Women Celebrated as The Nation Turn’s 50

Under the Women for Change Initiative, The 50@50 Project was launched in grand style in Abuja, Nigeria August 25, 2010. The goal: As the nation turn’s 50, The Project celebrated 50 incredible Nigerian women who have had an impact on this dynamic nation of 150 million strong. The First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan, is the Grand Patron of the Project, and I served as the Goodwill Ambassador bringing a global touch to a wonderful event. The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Iyom Josephine Anenih oversees the First Lady's Women for Change Initiative. Nigerian women past and present – trailblazers in finance, the private sector, government, the arts, agriculture, education, and development - were all honored for their indelible mark on the nation that plays host today to nearly 75 million women – half of the country’s population, the 9th largest female population in the world (see population figures at All 50 women have left their mark on Nigeria and the women in Nigeria today stand on their shoulders as they continue to push for equality in all sectors of Nigerian life, particularly in government. The 50@50 Project will begin a global tour to 4 continents showcasing the Nigerian woman through a documentary, coffee table book, exhibition, Green Ribbon Youth Movement -- all with the 50@50 logo unveiled August 25 by Nigeria's First Lady. The global tour will end where it began in Abuja just before the eve of the country's 50 birthday,which is October 1. It was such a powerful event attended by not just Nigerian women, but women from all over the globe. The import of this event was clear and I dedicate the following Ode to the incredible talent, integrity, commitment, and love of country which are the hallmarks of the Nigerian woman:

Ode to the Nigerian Woman
Written By Dr. Robin Renee Sanders - U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria

“The Heritage Within”
Walk with me today, together down the ancestral path to see who we are as women

There is a spirit we cannot touch but always know is there – It is the "Heritage Within"

Our role is the foundation of life; our role is the foundation of change

We see our strength in the eyes of our mothers as they too have journeyed down the same ancestral path

The journey is about traditions, like 3-legged wedding pots, Uli signs, adire and ashoke cloth, henna designs, life, and certainly about long talks into the night as deep as indigo blue.

But, just like us, their lives made a difference, their contributions made an impact; their dedication to their nation allows you to stand on their shoulders today

Thus as Women for Change you will continue your journey down the ancestral path to your future, to Nigeria’s future

Remember you have a responsibility to the next generation to make a difference, to leave a mark, to make a change …just as your mothers did before you …and your grandmothers before…

Life is a journey and you have come so far, let’s walk the rest of the way together, hand-in-hand, spirit-connected-to-spirit, so that the changes we all seek come from….
The Heritage Within!

First published August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Tribute to Dr. Sanders (The Nation)

Tick, Tick…The Clock is Running On Nigeria’s 2011 Elections

This blogspot is part of the series “The Road to Nigeria’s 2011 Elections”

Tick, Tick… What is that sound? Nigeria’s election clock ticking toward a January 2011 election, but much work still needs to be done so that everyone, particularly friends of Nigeria, can begin to exhale that things are on the right track, and moving in the right direction. There has been a mixture of news that shows some progress, but the loudest sound coming from the election clock is the need for a date certain to be set for the election itself by the country’s Independent National Election Commission – more commonly known as INEC. From that point - from that election date - everything else will be determined: how long voter registration can go on, and when the voter registry must be finished.

The last week has had a lot of interesting aspects that are worth noting. First, INEC got most of the money that it requested to conduct the elections, nearly $480 million, which will be used for direct capture machines of voter information in the registration process, voter education, setting up the nearly 120,000-140,000 or more polling places, and deploying both people and resources. Reportedly 360,000 staff are needed to conduct the elections.

Secondly, President Jonathan signed the new 2010 Nigerian Electoral Act on August 20, 2010, ending a fair amount of uncertainty on whether the election will be in January 2011 or April 2011, and finally setting the stage for INEC to decide when in the next 150 days there will be a turning point election for Nigeria. I have been calling this a "Must-Do" election because of the rallying cry of the nation to hold credible and transparent polls. If you are counting both fingers and toes that means the election date should be set before the end of August – only a few days away. There is still a debate out there (and a few legal suits) as to whether President Jonathan has to assent to the constitutional amendment (see blog-itrrs: The Africa Post on constitutional debate) passed in late July 2010, before they are enforce. Despite these suits things appear to be progressing in the direction that the amendments are in force, which call for an election to be held no later than 150 days from Nigeria Democracy Day – May 29, 2011. So this mean, January 2011. INEC’s new Chairman, who all agree is a committed and dedicated Nigerian with integrity and skills, has a lot on his plate, most notably the eyes of the nation and the international community.

However, we must not forget the politics of the day as political parties decide on their next moves. The ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) seems to have figured out how it is going to handle it north-south zoning issues; there is the new Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) - a merger of two parties; and, other political groups are holding meetings to build coalitions.

We all look forward to an election date being announced in the coming days and we continue to encourage the new INEC Chairman as he puts in motion people, resources, manages the politics, and determines the next election steps for this dynamic country of 150 million people as the clock looks like it is ticking toward a January 2011 election. The U.S.-Nigerian Binational Commission will meet this week to have informational meetings on the U.S. Government-UK funded election technical assistance.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Food Security Challenges in West Africa: Let’s Pay Attention!

A FEEEDS™blogspot

There have been few reports noting the growing food security issue that has arisen over the last few months in the West Africa Region. We all need to pay more attention to this so that it doesn’t turn into a regional crisis. Affected countries in West Africa are doing their best to manage the ever-growing food security issues related to staple commodities, particularly grains. U.S. Agency for International Development has called this the “Hunger Gap,” as many of the regions poor have already exhausted not only available food stores but also having access to affordable and adequate food (nutritional food), (see the FEEEDS™ blog-itrrs page, defining the elements of food security) . The next harvest is still months away. For many countries in the West Africa Region that is October. The affected countries in West Africa that are potential affected by this “Hunger Gap,” are Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and parts of Chad. Although for many of the Sahel countries food security is always a challenge, the rains have come late and not in abundance (or too erratic) in many places, exacerbating the already difficult food situation for many of the regions’ populations. The erratic nature of the rains have produced drought in some areas, negatively impacted planting seasons, and delaying the replenishment of water sources.

In Nigeria, the drought and food shortages are affecting the northern area of the country in states that are on the front lines of the Sahel such as Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano. The Government of Nigeria has not only responded to the needs of its people with releasing key stables from its National Strategic Food Reserve (NSFR) of some 80,000 metric tons of assorted food survival grains (sorghum, maize, millet, cow peas, etc.) to help its people, but it is also assisting neighboring states such as Chad and Niger Republic. All commodities from the NSFR are to be sold at 30 per cent subsidy – but these subsidized commodities still may not reach those most in need, particularly already malnourished children. Thus the potential effect of this “Hunger Gap” in Nigeria could be close to 15 million people. In recent weeks planting has been accomplished in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi states, but other states are still challenged by the erratic rainfall affecting both planting and harvest seasons. The U.S. Government is very much focused on food security world-wide, but particularly in Africa through its $48 million “Feed the Future Initiative” for the Region. “Feed the Future Initiative,” also includes non-Africa countries such as Haiti, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. It is projected that Nigeria will get approximately $51 million to address the fundamentals of food security including developing markets and hybrid sees. I have seen first-hand the success of the USG-funded MARKETS program ( in these areas, but the international donor community needs to keep the food security situation of the affected West Africa countries front and center on its radar screen over the next few months so that all vulnerable people (particularly children) have in their reach the fundamentals of food security: accessibility, availability, affordability, and adequate (nutritional) commodities in order to avoid a crisis later in 2010.

Outlook: Let’s Pay Attention! Current early warning assessments note that things have improved somewhat for replenishing some water sources and the physical condition of some livestock. Watch the food security situation in northern Nigeria and the other affected West African States. The next couple of months will give us a better idea of the food security challenges for the remainder of 2010.