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U.S Election 2020: Trump and Validity of Controversy



Donald Trump

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Back in 2005, I read the sage underline that; an argument is one thing you will never win. If you win, you lose; if you lose, you lose.

If you win an argument but lose a good job, customer, friend, position or marriage, what kind of victory is it?

An argument is like fighting a foolish battle. Even if one wins, the cost may be more than the victory is worth. Emotional battles leave a residual ill will even if you win. The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.

Indeed, an admirable position, but, today, it is instructive to look at the difference as emphasis seems shifted.

To review a particular example of a personality in this new but strange class, Donald Trump, a man that succeeded Barack Obama on January 20, 2017, as the 45th President of the United States, fittingly comes to mind.

Like Robert Greene admonished in his famous book; the 48 Laws of Power, Trump has in the last three years of his administration demonstrated that everything is judged by its appearance; that what is unseen counts for nothing and one must never get lost in the crowd or buried in oblivion. But be conspicuous at all cost by assuming a magnate of attention; appearing larger, more colourful, and more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.

To add context to the discourse, aside from the recent controversial rejection of plans for a virtual debate initially scheduled for October 15, 2020, with Democratic rival, Joe Biden, which he (Trump) described as unnecessary, those that are familiar with his antecedents know that controversy and transformation trains are not alien to him.

In fact, he is controversy/transformation personified; a financial expert turned businessman, a businessman turned politician, and a politician turned president of the most powerful country in the world.

While his sojourn in the business world earned him a mixture of failures/failings, moral burden and very little dosage of success, the same fate of high voltage controversy heralded his election/ administration in the last three years.

His foreign relation policies were never devoid of controversy. Even the global community particularly the G-7 members do not think that what he is doing is the best way to solve global problems. This partly explains the stiff challenge the United States faced during the Coronavirus pandemic period when the G-7 foreign ministers failed to reach agreement on a joint statement because the U.S. delegation insisted on calling the novel coronavirus the “Wuhan virus.”

This and related concerns have brought about a divided opinion about his victory or otherwise in the forthcoming election.

To many, Trump’s erratic behaviour notwithstanding, he will validly win his arch-rival, Joe Biden, in the November 3, 2020, election. As he is not the first US president to make foreign-policy statements and decisions damaging to American interests. The information in the public domain reveals that George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq weakened America.

Within this space, they argued, he has greatly affected Americans through his actions and arguments, creating over 4 million jobs; more Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in history,  created more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the election, manufacturing jobs growing at the fastest rate in more than three decades, economic growth last quarter hit 4.2 per cent, women’s unemployment recently reached the lowest rate in 65 years, almost 3.9 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps since the election, helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

But contrary to this position, others are of the view that he should go as his extreme and chaotic personality has lowered American prestige and global influence by a notch or two, while deepening US domestic political divisions.

To this group, great doubt exists about president Trump’s inner motivations. There are doubts also about his capabilities to distinguish between right and wrong, and the capability to judiciously consider the strategic consequences of actions.

With the above highlighted, this piece will focus on his litany of controversies.

First is the reported account of Russian government interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the goals of harming the campaign of Hillary Clinton, boosting the candidacy of Donald Trump, and increasing political and social discord in the United States.

Dana H. Allin, Editor of Survival and IISS Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy and Transatlantic Affairs, while commenting on this issue recently noted that one way the Russians sought to damage America is by helping to elect a president who is incapable of conducting a coherent foreign policy. They may not have expected him to be elected, but they could have expected that the campaign’s damage to political civility would also impair President Hillary Clinton’s capacity to govern.

From this point flows another. The lengthy debate, sparked by a whistleblower complaint about Mr Trump’s 25 July phone call with Ukraine, in which the president was accused of demanding political investigations into one of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden.

During the investigation by the U.S House Committee, Fiona Hill – the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs while testifying noted thus; some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign – and that perhaps somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves … Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016.

Before the dust raised by this committee investigation could settle, came another form the Wall Street Journal, one of the most respected Journals in the United States (USA). It among other concerns reported that the president told associates that killing Soleimani was useful for solidifying support in the Senate trial among Senate Iran hawks.

Notedly, the most serious and most surprising failures were signposted in his economic misjudgement.

Fresh is reported global concern about Trump’s decision to draw battle lines without ‘provocateur from any quarter, and he’s going into ‘pointless renegotiation’ of the global trading system-a development that made foreign governments believe that the United States was willing to abandon the established norms of trade policy, supports this claim.

It was in the news that his administration was recently blamed for featuring a pitched battle between the so-called globalists (represented by Gary Cohn, the then Director of the National Economic Council), and the nationalists (represented by the Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro). And in the mid-2018, the leading globalists left the administration.

Besides, he was fundamentally described by a notable organization as a leader with a highly distorted view of international trade and international negotiation. Viewing trade as a zero-sum, win-lose game, he stresses one time deals over ongoing relationships, enjoys the leverage created by tariffs and release on brink man ships, and public threat over diplomacy.

The President had said that he likes tariffs (‘trade wars are good and easy to win) and that he wants more of them (I am a tariff man). Trump also went so far as to impose tariffs on steel aluminium imports from Canada, something that even the domestic industry and labour unions opposed. Over the last 30 years, the US steel and aluminium industry has transformed to become North American industries with raw steel and aluminium flowing freely back and front between Canadians and the US plants.

Very recently, Chad P. Bown and Douglas A. Irwin, reported how Trump threatened to leave the WTO, something previous administrations did not do. He says the agreement is rigid against the United States. The administration denounces the WTO when the organization finds US practice in violation of trade rules but largely ignores the equally many cases that it wins. Although the WTO’s dispute settlement system needs reforms; it has worked well to defuse trade conflicts since it was established over two decades ago.

His attack on the WTO, they argued, goes beyond rhetoric. The administration blocked appointments to the WTO appellate body which issue judgement on trade disputes. The dispute settlement system is not perfect.

But rather than make constructive proposals for how to improve it, something Canada and others are doing, The United States is disengaged. The Trump administration may end up destroying the old system without having drafted a blueprint for its successor.

Jerome-Mario Utomi wrote this from Lagos, Nigeria


Improving Business Growth With Data Analytics: Why it’s a Priority



data analytics

By Kehinde Ogundare

Running a business in Nigeria can be an arduous task. Business owners face fierce competition as they strive to secure market share, acquire new customers, and enhance their productivity and profitability.

The business environment is getting more competitive. According to World Bank data, 97,988 new businesses were registered in Nigeria in 2020 (the last year for which numbers are available). The country’s rapidly accelerating tech sector provides further evidence of that increased competitiveness.

A report from McKinsey found that the number of startups in Nigeria and other African companies grew threefold between 2020 and 2021.

The growth of a business, whether it offers a product or service, is closely linked to its customer base. In order to remain competitive and retain these customers, it is crucial to use data-driven insights to inform business decisions and facilitate a successful customer experience.

Understanding data analytics

In the simplest terms, data analytics is about making sense of all the data that a business gathers and using it to help the business improve its decision-making or to gain insights into a particular subject or problem.

It enables entrepreneurs to make profitable decisions, drive innovation, anticipate market trends, and manage budgets. However, a report by KPMG that analyzed the usage of data and analytics in Nigeria’s business environment reveals that 56% of organizations in Nigeria base their decision-making on intuition rather than data. This shows that businesses are yet to grasp the true potential that data can bring to decision-making.

Another report highlights that, on average, organizations plan to spend at least N50 million annually to develop data and analytics capabilities, indicating the potential for businesses seeking to integrate these practices. However, just 16% of organizations have a defined role for their Chief Data Officer, and many merge data analytics responsibilities with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), highlighting a talent gap.

Finding the right solution

A strong BI platform can gather data from across different software used by different departments, such as sales, marketing, finance, and inventory, to help the user make sense of the data through simple-to-understand charts, graphs, and other visual tools. This, in turn, facilitates strategic decision-making.

Zoho, for example, provides a robust BI solution that comes with self-service data preparation and augmented analytics. It has strong AI/ML capabilities, enabling users to use natural language commands such as “show me our revenue growth last quarter” to get charts showing just that. Zoho Analytics can also be embedded in any third-party software, so users do not have to log into a new app just to view reports.

In today’s world, where there is high competition for customer attention among businesses along with organizational operations driven by technology, data analytics enables a business to optimize performance and make data-driven decisions. Having real-time insights into how their business is performing and the current market trends can help business owners adapt to the fast-changing landscape and stay relevant.

Kehinde Ogundare is the Country Manager for Zoho Nigeria

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6 Ways Google is Working With AI in Africa



Google AI Africa

Lounging on Labadi Beach, browsing the shops on Osu’s Oxford Street, ending the day with a meal in a local chop bar: This is Accra, Ghana’s bustling capital city. It’s also where, in 2018, we opened our first AI research centre in Africa.

The centre houses research labs that explore how we can use AI to help solve pressing problems affecting millions of people both locally and globally, like mapping buildings in remote locations to provide better electricity. Our local researchers collaborate with research teams across the globe to work on AI-based tools to create change for communities worldwide, including in various countries across Africa.

Here are six AI projects we’re working on in our Accra research centre and beyond and how we’re hoping they’ll make a difference.

  1. Mapping buildings

Even with satellite imagery, it can be difficult to map buildings in remote locations. When these buildings go unmapped, it can make things like planning infrastructure difficult. Our Open Buildings dataset project, launched by a team in the Accra research centre, combines AI with satellite imagery to pinpoint the location of buildings. That helps governments and nonprofit organizations understand the needs of residents and offer assistance. In Uganda, for example, the nonprofit Sunbird AI is using the dataset and working with the Ministry of Energy in Lamwo district to study villages’ electrification needs and plan potential solutions, such as prioritizing electricity in important areas like commercial centres. And we’re continuing to expand our Open Buildings dataset to see how it can help communities in more areas. In addition to various countries in Africa, the dataset now covers 16 countries in Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh and Thailand.

  1. Forecasting floods

The United Nations has reported that half of the world’s least-developed countries lack adequate early warning systems for disasters, including floods. In West and Central Africa specifically, where flooding can be severe, early warning systems could enable better preparation and potential evacuation. Lifesaving technology, like our Flood Forecasting Initiative, can help residents stay safe and give governments time to prepare. We’re using AI models to predict when and where riverine floods will occur in 80 countries worldwide, including 23 in Africa. Our Flood Hub platform displays the forecasts up to seven days in advance, with detailed inundation maps — showing different water levels predicted in different areas — so people know what to expect where they live.

What is the Google FloodHub?

  1. Predicting locusts

Locust infestations can have a devastating effect on food crops. Through collaborations with AI-product-focused company InstaDeep and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, our team at the Google AI Center in Ghana is helping to better detect locust outbreaks and enable farmers to implement control measures. The AI Center team is working on building a model that forecasts locust breeding grounds using historical data from the FAO and environmental variables like rainfall and temperature.

  1. Improving maternal health outcomes with ultrasound

Ultrasounds can be crucial for identifying potential complications during pregnancy. In recent years, sensor technology has evolved to make ultrasound devices significantly more portable and affordable. Globally, we have been working on building AI models that can read ultrasound images and provide important information to healthcare workers. In Kenya, for instance, we are partnering with Jacaranda Health to help improve our ultrasound AI technology, with a focus on using handheld ultrasound devices that don’t need to be attached to larger machines. This can help people who aren’t trained to operate traditional ultrasound machines to acquire and interpret ultrasound images and triage high-risk patients simply by sweeping the handheld probe across the mother’s belly.

  1. Helping people with non-standard speech make their voices heard

We built Project Relate, an Android app that uses AI research, to help people with non-standard speech communicate more easily. After recording 500 phrases, users receive a personalized speech recognition model. Now available for user testing in Ghana, it can transcribe speech into the text; use a synthesized voice to repeat what the speaker has said; and engage Google Assistant to complete tasks, such as asking for directions, playing a song or turning on the lights.

  1. Teaching reading to children worldwide

Due in part to the effects of COVID-19, it’s estimated that about two-thirds of 10-year-olds globally are unable to read and understand a simple story. Read Along, Google’s AI-based reading tutor app and website is helping to increase child literacy. Diya, the in-app reading buddy, listens to the speaker reading aloud, offering support when they struggle and rewarding them when they do well.

Over the past three years, more than 30 million kids have read more than 120 million stories on Read Along. That progress helps the children, but it also affects their families. For example, one of our Lagos users, William, began using the app when he was 10 years old. He went from being able to read for three minutes at a stretch to reading for 90 minutes at a time. “I am more confident about William’s future because he can read well,” said William’s mom, Martha, “Not just reading well — he now loves to read.”

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May 27, Child Rights, Social Media and Child Development



May 27

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Every May 27, the global community celebrates one of its ‘annual rituals’ tagged Children’s Day, aimed at promoting mutual exchange and understanding among children and secondly to initiating action to promote the ideals of the United Nations Charter and the welfare of the world’s children.

Historically, the event has been celebrated since 1950; it is celebrated on June 1 in most Communist and post-Communist countries. World Children’s Day is celebrated on the 20th of November to commemorate the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1959. In some countries, it is Children’s Week and not Children’s Day.

While it defines a child as any person under the age of 18, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, in one of its Convention on the Rights of the Child, outlined specific rights for children, including the right to survival, a name, family life, private life, dignity, recreation, cultural activities, health services, and education.

To further explain these provisions, the world governing body added that all children have all these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, what their religion is, what they think, what they look like, if they are boy or girl, if they have a disability, if they are rich or poor, and no matter who their parents or families are or what their parents or families believe or do. No child should be treated unfairly for any reason.

UNICEF insisted that when adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. All adults should do what is best for children. Governments should ensure children are protected and looked after by their parents or other people when needed. Governments, the Covenant added, must do all they can to make sure that every child in their countries can enjoy all the rights.

Even as it argued that the government of every nation should let families and communities guide their children so that, as they grow up, they learn to use their rights in the best way, UNICEF submitted that every child has the right to be alive and Governments must therefore make sure that children survive and develop in the best possible way.

For me, UNICEF’s position is well understood and appreciated, particularly when one remembers that children are not only innocent but the most treasured possessions on earth that are loved by one and all and as grown-ups, we have the job of nurturing our kids to be strong and independent. And as parents and caregivers, we are doing the most important job here. We all have a role to play in treasuring our children. No one needs to do the big job of being a parent by themselves. Friends and family is the best people to lend a helping hand.

The above fact notwithstanding, another area of concern that is as important as the celebration itself is parents’ inability to regulate the activities of their children on social media and the government’s payment of reluctant respect to quality education to these children.

To shed more light on the above, there was a veiled agreement among participants in a focused group discussion held recently in lagos, Nigeria, that what users make out of social media depends largely on their ability to perform, and engage their minds on tasks such as learning, reasoning, understanding and other activities known for its far reaching positive impacts.

But in the present circumstance in Nigeria, the vast majority of parents have at different times and places, in their concern for values such as Work, success, prestige, and money, advocated that social media, like a free press, is an organic necessity in a society and if children are precluded from using social media to ventilate their sentiment on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind; their freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent they may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Undoubtedly, looking at the crowd of Nigerian children that fraternize with social media with ‘ ‘exiting progress’’, recorded in this direction, and instincts coming from the larger society, it is evident that social media has great power to educate, create new ideas and promote human relations. But just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, even so, uncontrolled use of social media serves but to destroy.

This is the reality confronting our nation.

If this line of reasoning is correct, it will necessitate the posers as to; how many of the children/youths in Nigeria would stand the test? Who will stop those that cannot apply the virtue of moderation in their use of social media? And who should be the judge? Or must we as a nation allow the useful and the useless, like good and evil go on together, allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes?

Again, aside from the fact that many who originally supported children’s unhindered access to social media have recently realised that such judgment was plagued with moral and ethical issues, there are questions of what the parents and government are doing to regulate access from within. Why have Nigerian children for the moment lost all fear of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of social media?

The solution to these problems, urgent as they are, must be constructive and rational.

First, parents must not fail to remember that the formation of a child is a delicate one. In fact, experts have described adolescence as a period of the storm, a stage in the child’s developmental growth that drives the youths to explore and express their psychosexual selves to possibly know more about the world around them. Once the point is missed, such ignorance and mistake by the parents cause the child an opening that many a time is voluntarily but wrongly filled by the social media posing as a friend.

In the opinion of this piece, what children desire most from their parents are love, solidarity, peace, faith and not unhindered or uncensored access to social media.

Beyond the above concern lies the question of how the government contributes to children’s social media abuse.

Certainly, the not-too-impressive educational system characterized by incessant industrial action, on the one hand, and the quality of materials youths are exposed to by teachers in the name of education should be a source of worry to all.

After all, it’s established that one can be extremely educated and, at the same time, be ill-informed or misinformed.

For example, between the ‘1930s and 1940s, many members of the Nazi party in Germany were extremely well educated but their knowledge of literature, mathematics, philosophy, and others simply empowered them to be effective Nazis. As no matter how educated they were, no matter how well they cultivated their intellect; they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilized for evil purposes’

From the foregoing, it is important to underscore that the menace posed by the activities of our youths was created by the youth, accelerated by parents and the government.

An effort, therefore, must be made by all to end its existence and erase the guilt.

Catalysing the process will require parents to become more religious in monitoring the activities of their wards.

Similarly, it will be rewarding in social and economic terms if the government pays more attention to the nation’s educational sector as a way of getting these youths gainfully engaged-this; this no doubt holds the possibility of ending the fake news scourge on our political geography.

Nigerian children/youths, on their part, must develop the Spartan discipline to reorganize and go for activities with high moral values.

Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via or 08032725374

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