Between the devil and the deep blue sea – Newstrends
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Between the devil and the deep blue sea

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By Tunde Odesola

(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, December 7, 2020)

The molue is a bizarre bus. It’s a bucket of bolts with the loud noise of a helicopter. Indeed, the 49-sitting-99-standing-passenger bus is renowned in Lagos, Africa’s largest capital city, as a mobile coffin.

With the clanking sound of an engine about to knock, this particular molue,  painted in green-white-green colours, jangled to a jerky stop as the driver squished the failing brake pedal to the floorboard, causing a collision of passengers against the unblunted metal edges of the shabby interior body work.

In a three-part choreographic sequence, human noise erupted from inside the molue after the deafening engine noise died down and a thick smoke enveloped the jagged metal contraption.

Cursing and coughing, Lucky, the driver of the molue, and his conductor, Sambi, were the first to emerge from the eye-peppering smoke of the bus. Swearing and sweating,  passengers of the fully loaded bus emerged from within the smoke like displaced cockroaches, coughing and furious.

Purchased since 1960, this molue had not been serviced by subsequent drivers who only fed fuel to the grumpy bus despite ceaseless complaints by passengers calling for a total overhaul of the vehicle.

At different times in the accident-ridden life of this molue, subsequent negligent drivers had ignored the demand for a turnaround maintenance by passengers whose flesh, clothes and goods were daily ripped by the sharp metal edges inside the bus.

After the cloud of smoke had cleared and the black oil dripping from under the vehicle had stopped, Lucky pinched a dripping hole in a sachet of ‘Sledgehammer’ with his teeth, and in one belching gulp, drained the alcoholic content.

However, all hell broke loose when Lucky implored the passengers to  go back into the bus to commence their journey to Abuja.

Lucky: Let’s go inside the bus and pray so that we can commence our journey in earnest.

Passenger 1: What kind of stupid and clueless driver is this? So, you can call for prayer after drinking ogogoro, abi? Are you supposed to call for prayer or fix your cursed bus?

Passenger 2: You kari bus komot for house, you no gauge oil, you no gauge tyre, brake no good, no whipper, no horn, no pointer, yet you collect money from us, and your motor come pafuka on top Third Mainland Bridge. Me, I no sabi swim o. I don warn you o, ehn-ehn!

Lucky: Don’t come and insult me here o. I’m not an ordinary driver, I am a graduate and I have my degrees, including a PhD. I’m here to serve the masses. So, don’t talk to me anyhow.

Sambi: (Appealing to the passengers) I’m also a graduate but I’ll speak pidgin so that everyone can understand.  Na because make we no delay una for road here, das why my oga say make we pray and manage the bus to Abuja. Na small thing dey worry the bus o; na just to change the crankshaft, gearbox and carburetor, then we go make it to Abuja in 24 hours; we can still manage the brake to Abuja, my oga sabi pump failing brake well, well.

Passenger 2: You must be mad, you this stupid conductor! You want to manage faulty brakes from Lagos to Abuja, abi? It’s you that will not see 2021, you murderer!

Just then, a sparkly bus parked in front of Lucky’s shambly molue. Written boldly on it was, “Integrity Airbus.” The bus owner, Eko, came out with his garage mob, and together, they poached passengers from Lucky’s bus. A tired old man called Baba Integrity was the driver of the bus.

Eko: (Appealing to the stranded passengers on Lucky’s bus) Abuja straight! Abuja straaaaight!! No stopping for road o. Fully air-conditioned bus at affordable price. Free wi-fi, free food, maximum security of life and property, peace and enjoyment guaranteed during the journey. Abuja sttraaaaaightt! You guys know I won’t lead you astray, this bus is heading to the Promised Land straight!

(The ensuing surge for space on the bus almost led to a stampede. All the passengers, except one, abandoned Lucky’s bus and went on to board Baba’s ‘Integrity Bus’. Three passengers, Johnbull, Paine and Iya Aburo spoke freely on Integrity Bus)

Paine: Ha, see Chief Eko himself vouchsafing for this bus, it must be reliable.

Other Passengers: It must surely be.

Baba: (Speaking over the intercom) Trust me, I’m a tested and trusted driver. You know I’ve done it before. I’ll give you a trip you will live to remember for the rest of your lives.

Passengers: (Roar in applause)

Eko: You guys are very lucky Baba graciously agreed to drive you to Abuja by himself. No force in the world can stop this bus.

Paine: (Effusing joy) Yes, we sabi. Na God say make Baba show up to rescue us from the dangers on the Third Mainland Bridge and the sea under. For my life, I no go ever enter any motor driven by Lucky and his PindiPi company.

Johnbull: Na true, we all dey very lucky.

(Everyone was in amazement of the Integrity Bus – its sheen and perfect body work. But as Baba attempted to start the engine, the paints began to peel off. The engine failed to crank.)

Passengers: Haaaaa!

Paine: Wetin bi dis? Lucky’s bus still dey move small-small, dis one no even move at all. Na from frying pan to fire be dis o.

Johnbull: But why dem come build special cabin for Baba for driver seat nah? I mean, why we no fit see Baba face nah?

Eko: To drive the Integrity Bus no easy. All of us sabi Abuja road very well – armed robbers full everywhere, Boko Haram dey yanfu-yanfu, kidnappers dey berekete. So, Baba need concentration to drive and crush all the robbers, Boko Haram and kidnappers on the road.

Paine: Drive and crush Boko Haram, robbers and kidnappers at the same time? Baba na James Bond or Formula 1 driver, uhmm?

Johnbull: Abeg, wetin be di bus wi-fi password?

Garage boy: It’s not advisable to use wi-fi now because Boko Haram can use wi-fi signal to locate and blow up this bus.

Paine: Ha?! But we never even comot Third Mainland Bridge nah?

Garage boy: Yes, I know, but Boko Haram dey everywhere o.

(A baby lets out a shriek)

Garage girl: Make im mama give am breastmilk nah. Abi you no want make Baba concentrate ni?

Iya Aburo: It’s the hotness here that’s making my baby cry, not hunger. Please, switch on your full air-conditioner.

Eko: Iya Aburo, so you no sabi say air-conditioner no dey good for small pikin? Air-conditioner is a very dangerous thing o.

Johnbull: Wey the food una promise passengers?

Eko: When embarking on this type of dangerous journey, you need fasting and prayers.

Iya Aburo: Please, come and help me open the window by my seat so that my baby can get some fresh air.

Garage boy: Dat na very big security risk o; you want to expose other passengers to danger?  Passengers mustn’t even touch the window blinds. Everybody should just put their trust in Baba, he’s doing a fantastic job, we are moving so fast.

Iya Aburo: But I can’t hear the sound of the engine.

Paine: I can’t hear any engine sound, too. Is this bus flying or are we not riding on Nigerian roads full of potholes?

Eko: Baba is trained to dodge potholes.

A passenger angrily yanked off the blind from the window, alas!, the vehicle hadn’t moved from the same spot it picked the passengers.

Passengers: Whaaaaat!!! Why haven’t we moved from the same spot since?

Baba: You lazy passengers can’t understand. I’m trying to make a choice between staying with the devil, that is, the Third Mainland Bridge, or plunging you into the deep blue sea below!

Passengers: Haaaaaaa!

ENDS

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @tunde odesola

Twitter: @tunde_odesola

Opinion

Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

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Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

Kano’s Muhammad Sanusi II has been rethroned the exact way he was initially enthroned and dethroned: in the melting pot of the politics of vengeance and recrimination.

And he just might be dethroned yet again by this, or another subsequent partisan government, given Sanusi’s infamous incapacity to rein in his tongue and to understand the wisdom in restraint and tact, which his position requires of him—and, of course, the juddering, hypocritical contradictions between what he says and what he does.

Recall that when he worked at the UBA, Sanusi had derided then Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as a scorn-worthy “rural aristocrat” who “surrounds himself with provincials and places key posts in the hands of rural elite.” He characterized the Kwankwaso administration as “the classic comedy of the Village Headmaster in a village council.”

Kwankwaso was so incensed by Sanusi’s boorishness and Kano urban condescension that he threatened to pull out the Kano State Government’s money in UBA if Sanusi wasn’t fired from his job. Yet it was the same Kwankwaso who, for partisan, anti-Goodluck Jonathan political considerations, enthroned Sanusi as the emir of Kano even when he wasn’t the choice of the kingmakers.

And let’s not forget that Sanusi is a vicious, unashamed enemy of common people. His entire economic philosophy revolves around sheepishly advancing the annihilating policies of the IMF/World Bank, such as removal of every kind of subsidy for the poor while leaving intact the subsidies that sustain the sybaritic extravagance of indolent but overprotected elites like him.

Well, after destroying properties worth billions of naira and restoring Sanusi as emir all in the bid to get even with Ganduje, I hope the government will now get down to actually governing and improving the lives of the people who elected it.

The sense I get from people in Kano (many of whom are supporters of the government) is that governance has been on hold in Kano in the last one year in the service of retaliation.

There is also no doubt that Sanusi’s unrelenting public censures of the rotten, if time-honored, cultural quiddities of the Muslim North discomfited many people who are invested in the status quo, and this became one of the convenient bases for his ouster.

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But Sanusi isn’t nearly the victim he has been cracked up to be by his admirers and defenders. First, he rode to the Kano emirship in 2014 on the crest of a wave of emotions stirred by partisan politics and came down from it the same way.

Even though he wasn’t initially on the shortlist of Kano’s kingmakers, APC’s Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso (who is now in PDP) made Sanusi emir in 2014 to spite PDP’s President Goodluck Jonathan and shield Sanusi from the consequences of his [false] unmasking of multi-billion-dollar corruption at the NNPC. Apart from his unceremonious removal as CBN governor for his [false] whistle blowing, he was going to face other untoward retributions from the Jonathan administration, but his appointment as emir put paid to it.

Now, Sanusi lost his emirship to the same partisan politics that got it for him in the first place. In an ironic twist, he was made emir by an APC government for making privileged [if false] revelations that disadvantaged a PDP government and was removed as an emir by an APC government for his overt and covert acts that could have benefited the PDP in 2019.

In other words, Sanusi’s emirship was molded in the crucible of partisan politics and was dissolved in it.

Nonetheless, Sanusi, given his intellectual sophistication and pretenses to being an advocate of egalitarianism, had no business being an emir. Monarchy is way past its sell-by date not just in Nigeria but everywhere. It’s an anachronistic, vestigial remnant of a primitive past that invests authority on people by mere accident of heredity. Any authority that is inherited and not earned, in my opinion, is beneath contempt.

Emirship isn’t only a primeval anomaly in a modern world, it is, in fact, un-Islamic. In Islam, leadership is derived from knowledge and the consensus of consultative assemblies of communities called the Shura, not from heredity.

Monarchies in the Muslim North, which have constituted themselves into parasitic, decadent drains on society, but which pretend to be Islamic, are grotesque perversions of the religion they purport to represent. Anyone, not least one who makes pious noises about equality, that is denied the unfair privileges of monarchy is no victim.

Most importantly, though, Sanusi embodies a jarring disconnect between high-minded ideals and lived reality. He rails against child marriage in public but married a teenager upon becoming an emir. When the late Pius Adesanmi called him out, he told him to “grow a brain.” He suddenly became the patron saint of conservative Muslim cultural values.

He expended considerable intellectual energies critiquing polygamy among poor Muslim men, but he is married to four wives. His defense, of course, would be that he can afford it, and poor Muslim men can’t. Fair enough. But transaction-oriented reformists lead by example.

Fidel Castro, for example, stopped smoking when he campaigned against it. It would be nice to say to poor, polygamous Muslim men, “Why are you, a poor man, married to four wives when Sanusi, a wealthy man and an emir, is married to just one wife?”

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That would have had a much higher impact than his preachments. In spite of their moral failings, Buhari, Abba Kyari, and Mamman Daura would be much more effective campaigners against disabling polygamy by poor Muslim men than Sanusi can ever be because they are monogamists even when they can afford to marry four wives.

This is a legitimate critique since Sanusi has a choice to not call out poor Muslim men who marry more wives than they can afford since polygamy is animated by libidinal greed, which is insensitive to financial means.

Sanusi habitually fulminates against the enormous and inexorably escalating poverty in the north, but even though he is an immensely affluent person, he has not instituted any systematic mechanism to tackle the scourge of poverty in the region in his own little way.

Instead, he spends hundreds of billions of naira to decorate the emir’s palace, buy exotic horses, and luxuriate in opulent sartorial regality.

And, although, he exposed [what he thought was] humongous corruption during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and dollar racketeering during Buhari’s regime, he is himself an indefensibly corrupt and profligate person. In two well-researched investigative pieces in 2017, Daily Nigeria’s Jaafar Jaafar chronicled Sanusi’s mind-boggling corruption as emir of Kano, which apparently didn’t abate until he was dethroned.

Sanusi was ostensibly a Marxist when he studied economics at ABU, which explains why he exhibits flashes of radicalism in his public oratory, but he is, in reality, an out-of-touch, unfeeling, feudal, neoliberal elitist who is contemptuous, and insensitive to the suffering, of poor people.

He supported Jonathan’s petrol price hike in 2012 and even wondered why poor people were protesting since they had no cars, and generators, according to him, were powered by diesel, not petrol!

When his attention was brought to the fact that only “subsidized” and privileged “big men” like him use diesel-powered generators, he backed down and apologized. But I found it remarkably telling that until 2012 Sanusi had no clue that the majority of Nigerians used petrol-powered generators to get electricity.

In a September 1, 2012, column titled, “Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Unwanted 5000 Naira Notes,” I noted that Sanusi was “one of the most insensitive, out-of-touch bureaucrats to ever walk Nigeria’s corridors of power.”

Again, in my December 10, 2016, article titled, “Dangerous Fine Print in Emir Sanusi’s Prescription for Buhari,” I wrote: “If you are a poor or economically insecure middle-class person who is writhing in pain amid this economic downturn, don’t be deceived into thinking that Emir Sanusi is on your side. He is not. His disagreements with Buhari have nothing to do with you or your plight. If he has his way, you would be dead by now because the IMF/World Bank neoliberal theology he evangelizes has no care for poor, vulnerable people.”

Sanusi Lamido and Kano’s royal ding-dong – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States-based Professor of Journalism.

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Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

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Farooq Kperogi

Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

I am writing this week’s column from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I have come to deliver a talk on media theory. But this column isn’t about the talk or about South Africa. It’s about the enduring problems of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria, which I have brooded over for quite some time.

It’s ironic that I am writing about Nigeria’s new economic apartheid in electricity consumption from the previous land of apartheid where electricity is a human right, where even the poorest of the poor “have a public law right to receive electricity” even before the abolishment of apartheid, according to F. Dube and C.G. Moyo in their 2022 article titled “The Right to Electricity in South Africa.”

I’m not sure there’s any modern country on earth where electricity is as precarious, as insufficient, as unreliable, and as socially stratified as it is in Nigeria. The hierarchization of electricity distribution into “bands” in which people classified as “band A” (read: the wealthy) get the most electricity and people classified as “Band E” (read: the most economically disinherited) get the least electricity is the most starkly state-sanctioned economic discrimination I have ever seen anywhere in the world. President Bola Tinubu should order that the bands be disbanded forthwith. This is embarrassing official idiocy.

The point isn’t even that so-called Band A electricity consumers don’t actually get the amount of electricity that their socio-economic status should guarantee them, according to the new state-sponsored economic apartheid that imposes discrimination on electricity consumers. The outrage is that the government would conceive of a program where a resource as indispensable to modern life as electricity is rationed on the basis of economic status.

Electricity is the cornerstone of development. It isn’t a privilege. It should be a human right. It should be accessible to everyone. It’s the driver of economic development, is indispensable to healthcare, is the backbone of education, supports modern agricultural practices, is fundamental to technological progress, powers social development, and enhances quality of life.

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The government’s goal should be to generate and distribute “Band A” electricity for all consumers in Nigeria—like is done in other countries, including countries much less endowed than Nigeria.

As I pointed out in a previous column, the depth of Nigeria’s electricity problems didn’t become magnified in my consciousness until July 2009 when I visited my mother’s maternal relatives in the city of Parakou, the capital of Borgou State (or, as states are called there, “Department”) in Benin Republic. Throughout the one week I stayed in Parakou, Benin Republic’s third largest city with a little over a quarter of a million people, electricity didn’t blink for even a split second.

Except for the distinctive sights, sounds, and smells of the city, it felt like I was still in the United States.

To be sure that the impressively continuous electricity we enjoyed wasn’t a fluke, I asked my mother’s first cousin (that would be my “first cousin once removed” in Standard English and my “uncle” in Nigerian English) in whose house we stayed to tell me the last time they lost power in the city or in the neighborhood.

He started to jog his memory and even enlisted the help of his wife because he thought I needed to know the exact day for record purposes. I told him not to bother, but I later learned from him that although power outages occur, often for maintenance, they are infrequent, relatively brief, and often announced ahead of time in the broadcast media.

This is particularly interesting because Benin Republic buys most of its electricity from Nigeria, although my cousin said that wasn’t true of Parakou. Most importantly, though, there was no invidious social differentiation of electricity consumers into “bands.” If there was, my relative in Parakou would be in “Band E” because he retired from the Beninese civil service on a modest rank.

Almost every Nigerian I know who has traveled outside Nigeria shares the same experience as mine. A former colleague of mine at the Presidential Villa in Abuja who traveled to Iran for weeks returned and told us he didn’t witness power outage for even a fraction of a second throughout his stay in the country, which caused him to insist that if Iran was a “Third World” country, Nigeria must be a “10th World” country.

And that leads me to the question: why has it been impossible to power Nigeria? Why does every other country on earth seem to be doing better than Nigeria in electricity generation and distribution? I think it’s because we have never had anyone with a clue to manage Nigeria’s power sector. Let’s look at some of the ministers of power we’ve had since 1999.

In 1999, the late Chief Bola Ige, who became the minister of power, promised to “turn stone to bread.” He was deploying a biblical metaphor to imply that he would make the seemingly impossible possible. Well, he didn’t have a stone to start with, so there was no bread. His legacy was darkness.

On November 28, 2012, the then Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi, told South African investors that “evil spirits” were to blame for Nigeria’s interminable electricity troubles. “We must resolve to jointly exorcise the evil spirit behind this darkness and allow this nation take its pride of peace [sic] in the comity of nations [sic],” she said.

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About two months later, her metaphysical explanation for Nigeria’s electricity difficulties got a professorial endorsement when, on January 23, 2013, Chinedu Nebo, a professor of engineering and former university vice chancellor, told the Nigerian senate that power outages were caused by “witches and demons” and that “If the President deploys me in the power sector, I believe that given my performance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I drove out the witches and demons, God will also give me the power to drive out the demons in the power sector.”

He got the job. But neither he nor Kuchi were able to exorcise the “evil spirits,” “demons,” and “witches” that they believed sucked the megawatts out of Nigeria’s power plants. Their legacy was more darkness.

Then on July 11, 2014, Babatunde Fashola said Nigeria’s electricity problems were political, even electoral. “The only way you and I will have electricity in this country,” he said, “is to vote out the PDP.”

Again, at the 7th Annual Bola Tinubu Colloquium on March 25, 2015, Fashola blamed “amateurs” for Nigeria’s power generation problems. He infamously said, “Power generation is not rocket science; it is just a generator. So just remember and imagine that your ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbour’ in one million times—its capacity but in one place. So, if you can make that size of one kilowatt, you can make a power turbine of one thousand megawatts…

“So, with all the billions of dollars that have been spent, the story is that we still live in darkness. Our government lies about it, but it is not because power is impossible. But to tell you very confidently that we do not have power because power is difficult to generate; we have darkness because we have incompetent people managing our economy. As one of my friends fondly calls them, our economy is being managed by amateurs.”

He was appointed the minister in charge of power a few months after this overconfident political diagnosis of Nigeria’s unending electricity woes. Within a few months of being in power, disappointed Nigerians nicknamed him the “minister of darkness,” and Buhari didn’t reappoint him to the ministry for a second term.

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He was replaced by a man who didn’t know what his job was supposed to entail, who didn’t know he was the minister of power, who was so colorless and so uninspiring that no one knew him when he held sway, much less remember him after his tenure expired.

So, from 1999, we went from treating our electricity problem as one that could be resolved through Ige’s poetic and theological flourishes to thinking that Nebo’s and Kuchi’s metaphysical delusions provided the keys to unlocking it, to imagining that Fashola’s two-bit, evidence-free, exaggeratedly partisan outbursts were any good, to the unpretentious shallowness of Fashola’s successor.

Now we have an Adebayo Adelabu, a completely clueless, unfeeling buffoon who is clearly out of his depth, as the minister of power. Here is a minister of power who is so hopelessly ignorant about power that he thought keeping freezers connected to electricity continuously was a waste of power that was peculiar to Nigeria and has championed the idiotic social stratification of electricity consumers.

Now he says if Nigerians are not prepared to pay an arm and a leg for electricity, they should come to terms with perpetual darkness. What kind of responsible government official says that?

This is especially tragic because everyone knows that electricity is the driving force of technology and innovation, not to mention basic creative comforts. Any country that can’t fix its electricity can’t participate in the increasingly digital economy of the 21st century and will be stuck in permanent developmental infancy.

Yet, in spite of the drag that poor electricity exerts on creativity and innovation, Nigeria’s youth have been some of the world’s most high-flying digital creators and drivers. Imagine what Nigeria would be if it had a leadership that cared and knew how to fix its electricity crisis.

Nigeria’s economic apartheid in electricity consumption – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned Nigerian newspaper columnist and United States-based Professor of Journalism.

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Who has bewitched our beloved America? – Femi Fani-Kayode

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Femi Fani-Kayode

Who has bewitched our beloved America? – Femi Fani-Kayode

I really do wonder whether those great patriots that fought a long and bloody war against

British colonial rule and founded the United States of America (US) in 1776 like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and so many others envisaged what has happened to their beloved country today?

I wonder whether the Pilgrim Fathers and great and wise men of old who, by faith in the Living God, left the Old World, crossed the Atlantic ocean in hazardous conditions and went to the New to establish a new beginning and build a new nation founded on freedom, equality, the fear of God and solid good old fashioned Christian virtues and values, would believe what the beloved nation they toiled, prayed for, established and worked so hard to build has turned into today?

Would they not all be turning in their graves?

A nation that was once referred to by both friend and foe as the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is now neither free nor brave.

A mighty nation that delivered itself from its own internal prejudices, contradictions and demons by fighting a brutal civil war to free the slaves and that presented a great hope for those that dreamt of a world where all men and women could have equal opportunities, regardless of class, history, color, race or creed, has now lost its sense of decency, equity, honor and morality and turned into a corrupt, power drunk, morally bankrupt, blood-lusting, war-loving, terror-funding, egocentric and idiosyncratic collection of self-serving, self-seeking, cowardly and deluded individuals who serve the interests of not their own people but that of AIPAC, the Jewish lobby and the State of Israel.

A rich and powerful nation of over 300 million people that delivered the world from evil in both the First and Second World Wars, that defeated and dismantled the curse of Soviet Communism, that entrenched democracy throughout much of the world and that literally rules the waves today as the greatest super power in the history of humanity in a unipolar world, is now nothing but the lap dog of little Israel?

It seems so hard to believe. Yet true it is!

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Like Lucifer fell from heaven, so you, O mighty America, has fallen from grace!

I weep for you.

Apart from your internal decay where the family system has been destroyed and traditional religious beliefs have been replaced by humanism and a godless philosophy in which the Lord is no longer revered, where men marry men, where abortions are encouraged, where homosexuality is adored, where Satanism is practised, where money is worshipped, where God has been banned from the schools and indeed every sphere of human endeavour and where the establishment of a New World Order is your ultimate objective, you have also, with the help of your servile and fawning vassals like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland and others, debased and destroyed the fortunes and vision of many countries with your reckless and self-serving foreign policy and your insatiable thirst for power and world domination.

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