Metropole Magazine

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17 Feb

How Democratic is Turkey? Not as democratic as Washington thinks it is. Since the general election which held in Turkey on June 7, 2015, various happenings suggests that indeed Turkish democracy is on trial. It is thus becoming increasingly clear that Turkey is sliding into autocratic presidentialism since the announcement of the corruption allegations in December 2013 that implicated President Erdogan, his immediate and extended family, as well as the highest echelons of his party(AKP), all resources of the Turkish state have been mobilized to protect and increase the power base of President Erdogan and the ruling AKP.It is no longer news that the June 7, 2015 election ended in defeat for the President Recep Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) secured 13 percent of the vote in that election to deprive the AKP from forming the majority government. However, developments in Turkey since that election have confirmed that Kurds would pay a heavy price for not supporting PresidentErdoğan in the election.

The result has been the collective punishment of the Kurds as a result of the excessive show of lethal force, and non-discriminatory, round-the-clock curfews, severe human rights violations as noted and documented by many such organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.President Erdogan now labels any opponent as 'enemies of the national will' or ‘terrorists’. This calls for concern from all concerned, especially Turkey’s allies such as the United States and European Union.

Furthermore, there has been a rapidly deteriorating conditions for press freedom in the country with more than 50 leading international media editors, observing Turkey, wrote an open letter to President Erdoğan, raising profound concerns about the “deteriorating conditions for press freedom” in Turkey in the run up to the early/engineered elections held on Nov. 1, 2015. The Kozaİpek Media Group, which owns the Kanaltürk and Bugün TV channels and a number of newspapers critical of the government, were raided by the police on the eve of the election, despite a politically motivated court order not containing any evidence to legally seize Kozaİpek's companies. Apart from the media group, other companies belonging to Kozaİpekholding, members of the Hizmet movement have either being seized or clamped down by government.

It didn’t stop there; many journalists were arrested for no justifiable reason. Worthy of note is the case of  Can Dündar, editor-in-chief at the Cumhuriyet daily, who was arrested because of his paper's publication of secret documents revealing the Turkish government's secret arms transfer to Syria, which took place in January 2014. The gendarmes who stopped and searched the convoy and the prosecutor who ordered the search during its passage were discharged by the government and labelledtraitors. In a live broadcast on a state TV channel, President Erdogan was quoted to have said: “The person who wrote this story will pay a heavy price for it; I won't let him go unpunished.” He added that the footage was a “state secret,” and that publishing it was an act of “espionage.”

Then, more than 1,200 academics from 90 Turkish universities signed a petition criticizing the government's policies and activities in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish Southeast. In return, many of the academics were subjected to an ongoing campaign of abuse and violence that peaked with some of them being arrested by the state. The academics were accused by President Erdoğan of being “traitors,” and threatened by some criminal gang leaders supporting Erdoğan.

Among the many victims of the crackdown was Ahmet HakanCoşkun, a columnist for Hürriyet, who was assaulted in front of his house on Oct. 1, 2015. Coşkun has been receiving threats from pro-government outlets for expressing views critical of AKP.

All of these incidents have taken place in an internal environment, in which a collection of journalists and newspapers often referred to as the “pool media” seem to be working as propaganda machinery at the complete command of President Erdoğan. Through this propaganda machine, Erdoğan has succeeded in maintaining his and the AKP's support by scapegoating any critical voices that reveal his or the government's wrongdoings.

Having observed all these incidents, Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, argues that this is “dismantling of all checks on the power of its leaders.” Via oppressing, raiding and then seizing critical media, the regime is clearing space for the type of propaganda machine well described in George Orwell's novel “1984” in order to maintain a wave of popular support that can only facilitate the emergence of a “Hitler-style democracy.” Turkish democracy in indeed on trial.

*Mustafa Demir is co-director and Research Fellow of the London-based Turkey Institute and holds a Ph.D. in politics and international relations at Keele University in the United Kingdom.


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17 Feb

Before the ascension of President Muhammadu Buhari to power, oil prices had taken hits --currently hovering around $30 per barrel-- which sent oil-dependent nations into recessions. Nigeria unfortunately, happens to be one of these nations.

Nigeria’s foreign earnings will likely come from oil exports, commodities export and finished goods in the foreseeable future. So it is either we wait for oil prices to rebound or the reforms and IT upgrades in Fayemi’s Ministry of Solid Minerals to work real good, or we walk the talk of industrialisation in order to rake in more money, “charge up” and start ”balling once more.”

The last is our best choice to make. The commodities’ market is as volatile as the crude oil market though without possibilities of acute gradients like the oil market. Mere export of raw materials has often left the exporters more impoverished: the exported raw materials are often refined abroad and re-imported at exorbitant rates, leading to loss of foreign exchange and jobs for the commodities exporters.

The industrial age began in earnest in the 18th century culminating in the information age of today. However Nigeria has been left behind due to a dearth of visionary leaders. Since independence, we have repeatedly failed woefully at solving simple problems like manufacturing steel, stable electricity supply, transportation and many more. The governments of Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, and Olusegun Obasanjo will take the most knocks for those since they stayed longest in power and so had ample time to formulate sustainable policies for those sectors.

An Industrialisation policy  should be developed by the government and enacted into law through urgent legislative reforms by the National Assembly to focus on: steel development, stable electricity supply, railways, seaports, technical education and provision of capital to smart manufacturing entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at the sectors the policy should focus on.

STEEL: the European renaissance was predicated on the easy availability of steel purveyed by cost effective methods of producing steel like the Bessemer process and the later Open Hearth process, which we are still grappling with at Ajaokuta. Fellow countrymen, no matter the challenges, completing the Ajaokuta Steel Company, should be our first milestone on the road to industrialisation, our sole pass into the league of industrial nations. Industrialisation begins when a nation produces more steel than it consumes.

ELECTRICITY: while the steam engine heralded the first industrial revolution, steel making and the discovery of electricity by Michael Faraday were the purveyor of the second industrial revolution. No meaningful economic activity can occur without sustainable, fairly priced, and readily available electrical power; hence, fixing our power sector no matter the odds, is another must and another first on our journey to industrialisation. The flared gas in the Niger Delta, coal in Enugu and our water resources have enough potential to solve this quagmire.

RAILWAYS: another pre-requisite of industrialisation is cheap freight movement across long distances. Hence our railways have to be fixed. The administration of railways is under the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) -an inefficient monolith like former NITEL. The NRC should be reformed, unbundled and broken down into two: a railways corporation for construction and management; and a railways administration for inspection, safety and regulation. The railways corporation should then be further broken down into smaller bodies through legislative reforms to make it ready for and attractive to private sector investment.

SEAPORTS: for rapid industrialisation, our seaports must be tailored to easily import raw materials and export the finished goods to different parts of the world. Currently, only Lagos ports are functional, either by chance or design. This is unacceptable. The capacity and operational efficiency of Lagos ports must be optimized by digitizing clearance of goods. Eastern ports must be upgraded from mere jetties to western standard to serve the eastern neck of the country. The Nigerian Shippers’ Council must fully implement Cargo Tracking Number (CTN) to curb revenue losses due to under declaration of goods.

TECHNICAL EDUCATION: after NYSC, about 250,000 graduates each year enter the labour market, most of who fail to secure jobs.  A deeper probe reveals a lack of marketable skills among the graduates. Our graduates lack technical abilities, and they prefer file-pushing white collar jobs to technical ones. The government should establish properly equipped and manned (perhaps by Asians) technical colleges, at least, one per LGA to develop skilled manpower required to trigger industrialization. Also entrepreneurial education should be given eminence in our higher institutions. To buoy the economy we need more job creators than job seekers. The Tertiary tier of education should be reformed to be industry allied and oriented. Young engineering undergraduates and graduates have designed/replicated noble inventions recently. Those should be applied in the industry than sit idly in the school workshops. The Corn Sheller I, designed and fabricated in MOUA, Umudike has a real life need to meet at the SEEDS programmes of the National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike; yet it is sitting idly in the Mechanical Workshop like the others designed and fabricated by my peers.

MANUFACTURING GRANTS: a framework should be established for small and medium scale entrepreneurs with inclinations toward metallurgical manufacturing to be given grants and loans as is obtainable in Agriculture or the Youwin scheme of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. Contracts awarded by the different tiers of Nigerian government to foreign firms MUST have technology transfer clauses like the Indians recently did with the Rafale fighter jets contract with France, which will be built in India with the long term aim of the Indians acquiring and replicating the technology.

This might actually be the year but failure to address the above issues has effectively ensured Nigeria is actually existing in the 17th-century pre-industrial era, made all the more painful by the fact that the solutions if provided at all, will be provided by expatriates. 
Rome wasn’t built in a day so the planning must be long term and without tendencies to be disrupted by changes in governments. Hence, an industrialization policy must be holistically developed, legislated into law, and embraced as a national doctrine for escaping the valleys of underdevelopment. I don’t agree with Walter Rodney that Europe Underdeveloped Africa. We are our own problem.


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