french news

Shedding the stain of joblessness

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. April 29, 2011

By Maura Kelly

Recently, one of my closest friends – let's call him Franz – left a frustrating job. After five months with the company, his nerves were shot. His boss – the kind of monomaniacal entrepreneur who favours frenetic midnight phone calls to discuss matters of minor importance – had hired him for a management job, but Franz was consistently undercut by the head honcho's dictatorial machinations. He was having trouble keeping his cool but I repeated advice a friend had given to me once, long ago: finding a job is always easier when you have a job. Franz griped that he was working such long hours he wouldn't have the time or energy to look for a new position until he quit – and eventually, fed up beyond the point of patience, he gave a month's notice.

A new study out of UCLA has found that, unfortunately, sticking it out would have been wise: When making hiring decisions, prospective employers discriminate against the unemployed, even when they are essentially identical to employed applicants – and even when they've been out of work for only a few days. The UCLA researchers analysed three different studies in which participants were asked to rate jobseekers according to their resumes: half the participants were told an applicant was still employed, while the other half was told he or she had been unemployed for a few days. George Ho, lead researcher, told ABCNews.com:

"We were surprised to find that, all things being equal, unemployed applicants were viewed as less competent, warm and hirable than employed individuals. We were also surprised to see how little the terms of departure mattered. Job candidates who said they voluntarily left a position faced the same stigma as job candidates who said they had been laid off or terminated."

Does this mean we should start talking about affirmative action programmes for the unemployed? Not necessarily, but it does mean that employers should be aware of their propensity to make biased judgments – which could have serious consequences for the people they so easily dismiss. Prolonged joblessness is a vicious cycle, leading to increased melancholy and loss of confidence, which make it tougher to find work; and, of course, the longer one is unemployed, the less appealing one looks to people making hiring decisions. There are also real physical repercussions to unemployment: a wide-ranging McGill University study, for example, found that unemployment increased the risk of premature death by 63%. (It had nothing to do with no longer being able to afford adequate healthcare.)

You could argue – and I'm sure many employers do – that someone who's been unemployed for a long time has lost job skills that might be necessary, or hasn't, say, become proficient using newly-developed computer programs that are popular in the industry. But why assume the worst? Someone who's been unemployed for a while is likely to be very grateful for his or her new gig; to work harder than a peer who might be coming straight from another job; and even to accept a lower starting salary. It's also possible he or she has used the unpaid time to acquire new skills. In other words, there are plenty of reasons that an unemployed job applicant might actually be a better hire than an employed equivalent.

There are also things that the unemployed can do to make themselves more appealing: namely, get involved in a meaningful activity that willteach you new things, and feature it prominently on your cv. When I asked Ho, via email, if he thought that was good advice, he agreed with me.

"I would recommend that the unemployed fill the gaps on their resumes with activities such as volunteering, part-time or contract work, school, entrepreneurship, and so on because our research shows that even the most minimal gap (one month or less) can lead to devaluation. If a gap exists, and there is no activity to fill in the gap, our research findings suggest that providing a reason indicating the cause of unemployment was in no way attributable to them (eg, employer went out of business) would alleviate unemployment stigma."

Or, I suppose, you could do what Franz did.

Before he quit, he'd been steadily employed since graduating from college – and except for the most recent case, he'd always found a subsequent job before leaving the previous one. During the first few days of unemployment, he applied for three gigs. An outfit he was very interested in working for put him through a series of tests and interviews over the course of five weeks, including a day-long meeting with some of his potential co-workers. When the desirable company said, "No thanks", he was crushed; he'd put all of his eggs in that basket. Then leads that had seemed plentiful during his first few days of unemployment dried up.

So, he teamed up with a few friends, and went into business for himself.

Posted on www.guardian.co.uk

In France, US advocacy for Muslim rights raises more than a few hackles

Posted February 17, 2011 By Anita Elash

Paris

After two years of trying, human rights activist Abdelaziz Dahhassi realized his dream late last year of setting up a think tank to find new ways to fight ethnic and religious discrimination in France. But it was the US State Department, and not the French government, that helped Mr. Dahhassi’s Lyon-based Association for the Convergence of Respect and Diversity finally get off the ground.

“I’m not saying we couldn’t have done it without them, but their support is very important,” he says. “The Americans have a very interesting vision which can be very enriching for France.”

Dahhasi sees that vision as a pragmatic one that has done much to promote minorities and erase barriers between ethnic groups. He says he especially admires American affirmative-action programs and wants to study whether they would work in France.

But the project has also ignited controversy on French editorial pages and on political websites. Critics say that US diplomats are interfering in French domestic policy and trying to impose views on minorities and integration that are at odds with the French Constitution.

"They are criticizing us because we are not the United States, or more precisely, because we do not resemble them,” blogger Christine Tasin wrote on a website for The Republican Resistance, a nonpartisan group established last year to defend what it sees as French values. “[It] is a strategic plan to get France to do whatever the US wants.”

US seeks support among Europe's Muslims

American support for Dahhasi’s association is part of a broader program of public diplomacy created across Europe after the 9/11 attacks on the US to diffuse the threat of terrorism. A US embassy official in Paris says it was designed to “create mutual understanding” and to “show people there’s no good reason to fly airplanes into skyscrapers."

It has focused on seeking out and building relationships with potential leaders in Muslim and other minority groups. A key component has been the International Visitor Leadership Program, which for decades has sent members of the French elite on educational visits to the US. Its pre-2001 French alumni are nearly exclusively white. Last year, about a third of French participants belonged to minority groups, mostly Muslims.

Wafa Dahman, a French journalist of Tunisian background and founder of the French and Arabic broadcaster Radio Salam, spent three weeks with the program traveling across the US in 2008. She says she saw “America as it was, with all its strengths and faults,” learning about such things as high infant mortality rates in some poor US neighborhoods and affirmative-action programs implemented by police in Seattle trying to deal with tensions between Muslims and Sikhs.

"I discovered a very open society, one that is very different from France. At the same time, I saw there are many difficulties, but that the Americans are trying to find a solution,” she says.

'Moderate voices of tolerance'

A series of diplomatic cables revealed by the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks show that the current US ambassador in France, Charles Rivkin, has adopted an even more ambitious agenda meant to “amplify France's efforts to realize its own egalitarian ideals, thereby advancing US national interests.”

"While France is justifiably proud of its leading role in conceiving democratic ideals and championing human rights and the rule of law, French institutions have not proven themselves flexible enough to adjust to an increasingly heterodox demography,” Mr. Rivkin wrote in January 2010. “We believe that if France, over the long run, does not successfully increase opportunity and provide genuine political representation for its minority populations, France could become a weaker, more divided country, perhaps more crisis-prone and inward-looking, and consequently a less capable ally.”

In the cable, Rivkin says the embassy’s “Minority Engagement Strategy” should expand its youth outreach, encourage “moderate voices of tolerance” by training and supporting media and political activists who share US values, and work to reform the history curriculum taught in French schools to include the perspectives of minorities in French history.

Under Rivkin’s watch, US diplomats have made regular forays into troubled immigrant suburbs and invite immigrant youths to US embassy events. In 2009, embassy funding helped pay for a mural project in the Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, the scene of violent riots by immigrant youth two years earlier. Last year, Rivkin arranged for Hollywood superstar Samuel L. Jackson to visit impoverished teenagers in Bondy, an immigrant suburb just north of Paris.

Vincent Geisser, a sociologist who specializes in Islamist extremism and who participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2009, says that by implementing such a strategy, the US is betting the French power structure will change profoundly over the next 20 years and that more and more of its leaders will come from minority groups.

“It won’t transform these people into an American army in France, but what the US can do is give confidence to certain elites,” he says. “It can also create good relations so in that sense this is a very forward-looking policy. They’re saying that if, in 20 years we have a new elite, we must have an elite that recognizes us and that is ready to work together.”

Is the US going too far in France?

But critics say Rivkin’s cable and US embassy support for initiatives such as Dahhassi’s Association for the Convergence of Respect and Diversity takes US outreach program in a new and unwelcome direction.

Over the next several months, US embassy staff will work with Dahhassi to secure funds and expertise from public and private US sources to help establish the think tank’s program. Dahhassi says the focus will be to “find another approach” to addressing racism directed at all minority groups in France, and that it will likely include a debate over the divisive issue of whether France could benefit from an affirmative-action program.

The question is widely considered taboo in France, because the Constitution enshrines equality by stating that race and ethnicity do not exist. By extension, affirmation action programs cannot exist without violating the Constitution.

Ivan Rioufol, a member of the editorial board of the conservative daily newspaper Le Figaro, says he believes the US program is both hypocritical and based on a poor understanding of how the French system works. He says the US has enough trouble with racial tensions at home without telling other countries how to handle their minorities.

"The American analysis, which seems to say that the France of the future will be the France of the immigrant suburbs, is very disparaging to native French people," he says. "They don’t seem to understand that foreigners are very comfortable here if they accept that our culture is one of assimilation."

Posted on www.csmonitor.com

Ackermann under fire for remarks on women executives

Posted February 8, 2011 By Deanne Corbett

The gaffe-prone CEO of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, has done it again.

Despite treading carefully around the media in the years that followed his infamous flashing of the victory sign as he entered a courthouse to face corruption charges in 2004, Ackermann is now taking flak over a chauvinist remark he made at the bank's annual press conference last week.

Asked about the current debate on whether Germany should set quotas for the number of women on company boards - as Norway, Spain, and France have done - Ackermann admitted that there are no women on Deutsche Bank's executive committee. "But I hope that it will one day be more colorful - and prettier, too," he added.

As expected, reactions from powerful women in German politics were quick to follow. "Those who want things to be prettier and more colorful should go to a flower meadow or a museum," Ilse Aigner, minister for consumer affairs, told the business daily Handelsblatt.

"If Mr Ackermann wants more color on the board, he should hang some paintings on the wall," Silvana Koch-Mehrin (FDP), a member of the European parliament, told the newspaper. "Women in leadership positions don't see themselves as decorative objects, and that certainly goes for female managers at Deutsche Bank."

A leading FDP politician in Hamburg, Katja Suding, also commented on Ackermann's "embarrassing faux pas," saying it was an insult to women who have worked hard to advance themselves in their careers.

Remarks taken out of context, bank says

But at least one woman at Deutsche Bank feels such reactions are overblown. Eileen Taylor, who oversees diversity issues for the group globally, told Reuters that she was surprised at the public reaction to Ackermann's spontaneous remarks on women in leadership positions.

Taylor said that while Ackermann spoke out against mandatory quotas for female employees at the press conference, he also said he felt it was important to bring more women into management positions. "Here at Deutsche Bank, we have women who aren't in need of a quota," Ackermann said. According to Taylor, those statements represent the CEO's true position.

Ackermann's spokesman also defended his boss, saying his remarks were taken out of context and describing the 63-year-old Swiss banker as "a gentleman of the old school."

Yet the fact remains that Deutsche Bank is lagging behind other German financial groups when it comes to promoting women executives. Women make up 44.3 percent of all Deutsche Bank staff, but only 16.1 percent of senior managers. In contrast, data from 2009 revealed that 23 percent of senior management at rival bank Commerzbank was female, while insurance giants Munich Re and Allianz tallied 23.2 and 32 percent respectively.

Germany at pains to improve poor track record

The debate over affirmative action in German industry is heating up as the country seeks to improve its track record when it comes to female representation in senior management. Despite having many women in positions of political leadership – including Chancellor Angela Merkel - the corporate world has lagged behind.

Of the 30 companies that make up the country's blue-chip DAX stock index, which includes Deutsche Bank, only three currently have a female management board member.

Other European countries are turning to quotas to redress the gender imbalance. Spain, France, and the Netherlands have all started or finished the process of mandating female quotas by law. Norway, which passed such a law in 2002, now has 44.2 percent of seats on management boards occupied by women.

*Posted on www. dw-world.de

Engstrom: Hateful speech is inexcusable

Posted on February 2, 2011By Heidi Groover

Racist posters hung around The University of Montana Music Building last week have prompted calls for more acceptance of diversity on campus.

Music professors spoke to classes about diversity and President Royce Engstrom sent out a campus-wide e-mail Monday calling for tolerance.

"We're still trying to figure out what was behind this," Engstrom said Tuesday. "We are trying to focus at this point on continuing to educate our campus community about nurturing diversity of thought."

The notes contained hateful statements and encouraged viewers to visit a related website, said Dean of Students Charles Couture, but he refused to give any specifics.

Engstrom sent a campus-wide e-mail Monday calling the messages "hateful" and "racially derogatory," but neither he nor Couture would specify what the posters said or toward what group they were directed.

Director of UM Public Safety Jim Lemcke said his office has no official report, but hateful messages spread on campus targeting a certain group or threatening violence could violate the student conduct code.

"If someone is posting offensive things that interfere with the learning environment then that's a problem," Lemcke said. "We would take steps to remedy that and correct that behavior if we find out who the offender is."

Couture said the messages violated multiple sections of the conduct code. He encouraged witnesses to contact his office or the Office of Public Safety. The messages were outside the bounds of free speech because they were "meant to instill fear in members of (a) particular group," he said.

In the e-mail, Engstrom said students and faculty should remember that some of their peers have been underrepresented throughout history and might face "special challenges."

Lucy France, director of UM's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office and co-chair of the Diversity Advisory Council, said incidents like this should be used as teaching opportunities.

"A lot of people here are working really hard make sure these things don't happen and make sure they are kept as isolated incidents," France said. "It's good that they're not swept under the rug, and nobody's trying to hide it."

Engstrom said he hopes people will focus on encouraging diversity rather than on an isolated event.

"Unfortunately these occasional incidents tend to color all the good progress we have made as a society and as a campus," Engstrom said. "What's important is the ongoing reminder to ourselves to be considerate of others."

*Posted on www.montanakaimin.com

Gypsies use education to rise to middle class

Posted January 30, 2011 By Karel Janiecek and Vanessa Gera

The Balazova family lived on nothing but potatoes and rice one month as they struggled to pull together the money to buy an electric typewriter for their teenage daughter.

It was one of many sacrifices that paid off. Today, 31-year-old Zuzana Balazova teaches at a university in Slovakia while finishing a doctorate in sociology.

She’s among a small but growing number of Gypsies who are rising into the ranks of an educated middle class across Europe — offering some hope that the minority may one day be able to use schooling to break through walls of prejudice that have kept them in misery for centuries.

The issue flared this past summer and fall when France stepped up an aggressive deportation program against Gypsies, or Roma, casting them as ignorant beggars who were a strain on society.

“It was always clear to me that I didn’t want to do ordinary work somewhere in a factory, getting up early in the morning, doing the same thing over and over,” said Ms. Balazova, who also has founded a nonprofit group that helps disadvantaged Gypsy children in Skalica, a small town in western Slovakia. “My parents sacrificed a lot,” Ms. Balazova said, slipping out of the office she shares with two other instructors at the University of Central Europe to share her story in a quiet room nearby. “I appreciate it and am trying to return something to them now.”

Such success comes against many odds: deeply rooted anti-Gypsy stigma, segregated schooling in some countries that often condemns Roma to an inferior education, stifling social codes in their own traditions that discourage contact with the non-Gypsy world.

Many of Europe’s roughly 8 million Roma still live in extreme poverty and are reviled by mainstream society. In the French expulsions, the government rounded up hundreds of Eastern European Roma and deported them to Romania and Bulgaria, in a program that attracted worldwide condemnation.

But for some, new opportunities are opening up, thanks to affirmative action programs in countries like Hungary, private scholarships, the determination of people like Ms. Balazova — and the sacrifices of parents who are themselves sometimes illiterate.

There are no hard statistics on how many Roma across Europe make it to university because most countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where most Roma live, do not gather statistics on ethnicity — still a potentially disruptive force across much of the region. The Roma Education Fund says about 25 percent of Roma are still illiterate, and the United Nations says as much as 50 percent of Roma do not complete primary school.

However, Judit Szira, a senior adviser at the Roma Education Fund in Budapest, Hungary, said the number of university-educated Roma is “absolutely growing.”

It’s an observation echoed by many who work on Roma issues.

“We’re facing a new phenomenon,” said Lucia Nicholsonova, Slovakia‘s deputy minister for labor, social affairs and family. “In the past, we had to deal mostly with poorly educated Roma. Now, there’s a new generation of them with a decent education.”

But a decent education doesn’t protect Europe’s Roma from prejudice, which is based largely on a belief that many steal or don’t want to work. Activists acknowledge that some Roma — who often stand out because of darker complexions — do steal, but they stress it is generally only a visible minority. Many, they say, do want to work and are desperate because they can’t find jobs.

Ms. Balazova said she didn’t feel discriminated against by her teachers because she was always an excellent student, but that shop assistants sometimes watch her with suspicion, as if she wants to steal.

More devastating is the discrimination that many face in the job market.

Viera Samkova, a 27-year-old from Lubenik, in eastern Slovakia, graduated from university in 2006 and had hoped to start working right away as a teacher. But four years later, she still can’t find a school that will hire her.

“No employer directly said that my Roma origin is a problem, but they always come up with other reasons to reject me,” said Ms. Samkova.

To make ends meet, she has a temporary job advising the government on the education of Roma children and is pursuing a second university degree that would qualify her to teach disabled children. Anti-Gypsy sentiment explains why so many Roma in the past have tried to pass as “white” once they make it.

Emese Balogh, a 29-year-old Hungarian Gypsy, once tried to hide her heritage. She applied for a job as a customs officer a couple of years ago and was asked during her interview if she was a Gypsy. She decided to lie, worried the truth would kill her chances, and her light skin helped her deception. But her boss eventually found out and fired her.

Furious, she grew determined to channel her energies to help other Roma and now directs an organization in Demecser, Hungary, that promotes education among young Gypsies, called the “Charitable Association For a Happy Life.” She also dreams of going to college.

“When I was fired, I decided to fight,” Ms. Balogh said.

The Roma are originally from India and began migrating to Europe about 1,000 years ago, as they fled Islamic raids into northern India. They still speak their own language, Romani, which is related to Hindi, and keep a number of cultural practices that set them apart from mainstream Europe.

“We are a square peg in a round hole,” said Ian Hancock, a British Gypsy who is the director of the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at the University of Texas at Austin and a professor of linguistics. “Roma today still have no voice and no power and are distinctively different.”

*Posted on www.washingtontimes.com

The Supreme Court Revisits Personal Jurisdiction in Goodyear Case

Posted on January 14, 2011 By Cory L. Andrews

To see how Washington Legal Foundation’s arguments would fare (we filed an amicus brief in support of Goodyear), I attended Tuesday’s Supreme Court oral argument in Goodyear Luxembourg Tires SA v. Brown.  The question before the Court was:

Whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction, on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products initially placed in the stream of commerce by the corporation.

In other words, is a foreign company subject to suit in the United States solely because another entity sells that foreign company’s products in the United States?

The lawsuit centers on an allegedly defective tire manufactured in Turkey and involved in an auto accident in France.  None of the events giving rise to the accident occurred in the United States, and none of the defendants–three tire manufacturers operating in Luxembourg, Turkey, and France–are citizens or residents of the United States.  These tire manufacturers took no affirmative action to cause their tires to be distributed in North America, and the type of tire involved in the accident is not distributed in the United States.  Yet, despite the absence of any meaningful connection between the three foreign tire companies and the United States, plaintiffs sought to hale each of them into a North Carolina state court.

The case raises important issues about the continued viability of the Supreme Court’s longstanding protections against the exercise of personal jurisdiction by U.S. courts over foreign corporations.

As detailed in WLF’s brief, the foreseeability that a product placed in the stream of commerce might end up in the United States, standing alone, has never been the legal threshold for satisfying personal jurisdiction under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence.  Instead, the Supreme Court has inquired whether the defendant’s conduct and connection with the forum State are such that it should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.  This inquiry is only satisfied when the defendant “purposefully avails” itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state.

Judging from the reaction of the justices at oral argument, I think we can expect to see a unanimous reversal of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  The plaintiffs’ attorney emphasized the “integrated distribution scheme” of the Goodyear subsidiaries and their American parent.  But Justice Scalia pointed out that the mere fact that an American distributor coordinates with its subsidiary does not mean that the subsidiary is an agent of the parent.  And when asked by Justice Ginsburg to cite any case law that would support the suggestion that wherever a parent is subject to general jurisdiction, the subsidiary must be as well, the plaintiffs’ attorney had nothing to offer.

*Posted on www.blogs.forbes.com

How ruling PDP ruled in 2010

December 30, 2010 By Henry Umoru

During the first half of this year, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was in the hands of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor. The Abia-born Prince came on board on March 8, 2008 with other members of the National Working Committee, NWC put up by the Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led Convention electoral panel at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Other Members of the NWC are Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as deputy national chairman; Abubakar Kawu Baraje, national secretary; Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali, national publicity secretary; Dr. Musa Babayo, deputy national secretary; Chief Olusola Oke, national legal adviser and William Makinde, national treasurer.

Tukur Mani, national financial secretary; Prince Uche Secondus, national organising secretary; Dr. Samuel Ortom, national auditor; Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma, national women leader and Otunba Muyiwa Collins, national youth leader also emerged on March 8..

Following some political intrigues and irreconcilable differences in the party ahead the 2011 Presidential elections, Ogbulafor resigned under duress. Pressured by ‘unseen political forces’, he had to throw in the towel through a letter of resignation he wrote on Wednesday May 14, 2010 following a case with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC.

Ogbulafor said that, quitting would allow him the opportunity to prepare and face his case in court following his prosecution at an Abuja High Court along side three others by the ICPC over a 16-count criminal charge involving N2.3 billion fraud.

Five days after Ogbulafor resigned, another big fish, the Board of Trustees, BoT Secretary, Abdullahi Adamu followed. He quit to face the pending case against him by the EFCC.

“In view of my recent meetings and discussions with Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the Governors of the Peoples Democratic Party extraction; I hereby give 30 days notice of my intention to resign as the National Chairman of the PDP.

Ogbulafor said his resignation was  “in strict compliance with the provision of Article 14.4 of the Constitution of the PDP, 2009 (as amended) as follows: “Any officer elected into the Executive Committee of the Party at any level may resign his or her office by giving 30 days notice in writing to the appropriate Executive Committee, except in the case of resignation for the purpose of vying for an elective office which shall be effective within the period stipulated in the guideline issued for such elective office by the National Executive Committee of the Party,” he wrote.

Before this letter, his opponents made things stormy for Ogbulafor in the PDP especially prior to the Anambra State election where the party was almost scattered with the emergence offFormer Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the party’s candidate. The NWC had to settle for Soludo when there was no successful primary to choose among the well over48 aspirants from the state, after series of attempts, including a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.

For daring to dump the party, members like Andy Uba, Nicholas Ukachukwu and Uche Ekwunife were sacked from the PDP. The order was contained in a letter with reference number PDP/NS/NVC/SE/001-2010 and titled: “De-registering Dr. Andy Uba, Nicholas Ukachukwu from PDP.”

The letter was directed to the Chairman, Caretaker Committee, Anambra PDP, Prof. Osita Ogbu. All is now history, the PDP was defeated at the end of the day by Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.

Ogbulafor was also faced with the challenge of not having access to the then ailing President, late President Umaru Yar’Adua. He was in Saudi Arabia for over 90 days, and the leadership of the party could not see Yar’Adua.

The Party was also in a dilemma on where to pitch its tent. During this trying period in the nation’s chequed history, the PDP sat on the fence, no affirmative action, the slogan, God gives power became very popular at Wadata Plaza, the PDP national Secretariat. There was the problem of making President Goodluck Jonathan, then Vice President acting president until the National Assembly saved Nigeria by applying political solution to the very serious constitutional matter.

When Yar’Adua returned to the country, the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali on Wednesday February 24, 2010, said God answered the prayers of the party and that of Nigerians.

Before his exit as chairman, Ogbulafor was faced with the problem of the governors who became very strong and hijacked the party. During the campaigns for his successor from the array of politicians from the South_East, the governors also showed how powerful they were. Their choice for the post carried the day.

But one good thing about Ogbulafor’s tenure before it was terminated was the review and implementation of Dr. Alex Ekwueme -led committee’s report and the take off of the construction of the party’s permanent headquarters in Abuja. President Jonathan headed the fund raising Committee.

However, the PDP under Ogbulafor could not review the report of Senator Ike Nwachukwu’s Elders Reconciliation Committee, before he was sacked. Members of the Committee had travelled to some of the PDP warring states like Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Edo, Kaduna, Adamawa, among others. The problems are still there for Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo who became the national Chairman on June 17, 2010 after the ratification of his name at the end of the 51st National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the party, to inherit.

But before Ogbulafor’s ‘sack’ the PDP Reform Forum came into being in April 2010. It was led by former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari, ex-governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, former Senate President Adolphus Wabara. There were also Professor Alphonsus Nwosu, past Presidential aspirant, Rochas Okorocha, former Minister of Commerce and Industry, Achike Udenwa, the PDP Abia governorship candidate in the 2007 governorship election, Onyema Ugochukwu, former transport Minister, Abiye Sekibo, and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume among others.

The forum decried the absence of internal democracy in the party and ineffectiveness of the PDP NWC, which it said was neither imaginative nor creative in generating ideas to reinforce founding ideals of the party. It said that the party must review its activities and take full advantage of the yearnings of Nigerians for a true and sustaining democratic culture.

Thereafter, the party became a war zone. It was a battle for the survival of the fittest and Ogbulafor became the first and only casualty in the NWC.

Members of the forum were described as rebelsnd rascals. They were suspended after an emergency meeting of the NWC held on April 22, 2010 through a letter by the PDP National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje. The group then went to court, but after all the hullabaloo and spitting of fire by both groups, there came light at the end of the tunnel on Tuesday, June 1, 2010 when the presidency had to intervene, to say enough was enough. Though President Goodluck Jonathan was in far away Nice, France, his Vice, Namadi Sambo called both the NWC and the reformers to a meeting at the Presidential villa.

At the end of the day, members of the PDP Reform Forum became frustrated against the backdrop that their requests were thrown out by the PDP NEC. They had withdrawn the case from the court as part of the agreement. Little wonder most of the reformers refused to be in President Goodluck Jonathan’s camp. They are the likes of Nnamani, Raymond Dokpesi, Professor Osita Ogbu, Professor Alphonsus Nwosu, among others. Masari dumped the PDP for the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.

Following the exit of Ogbulafor, former Secretary of the Party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo became the national Chairman on June 17, 2010 after the ratification of his name at the end of the 51st National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the party and he inherited some of the problems especially from the states.

Delegations from Delta led by Chief Edwin Clark met with him as well as those from  Plateau, Kano, Adamawa, Oyo, Kwara, Enugu among others. Nwodo promised to bring all factions together in one room where there would be no entertainment. It is now history as some state chapters of the party are still enveloped in crisis even as the PDP prepares for its congresses and the Special National Convention.

Nwodo faced with the major challenge of granting former Vice President Atiku Abubakar a waiver to enable him contest the presidential election on the platform of the PDP, the problem he inherited from his predecessor. Ogbulafor had said that he must go to his Yeli Ward in Kojoli, Jada, Adamawa State to register if he must return to the party. Atiku had a running battle with his governor, Adm. Murtala Nyako who never wanted him back in the party.

It became very serious but at the end of the day, he was granted a waiver by the party. Nwodo and Atiku have one thing in common: they both left the PDP for the Action Congress, AC, now Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Nwodo got his through a combination of forces put together by the Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, the state Chairman, Vita Abba and the National Vice Chairman, South East, Chief Olisa Metuh, among others.

In the year under review, the PDP had its governors in Ekiti (Segun Oni), Osun, Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun) sacked and its main rival candidates of the ACN, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola came on board .There was a judgment for a re_run election in Delta State. Governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamako won his case.

The party is still wading through the tide of picking a presidential candidate. President Goodluck Jonathan is in the race with Atiku Abubakar and Mrs Sarah Jubril. Prior to the emergence of Abubakar as a consensus candidate of the Northern Leaders Political Forum, NPLF, we had former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, ex-National Security Adviser, Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki aspiring. But the Adamu Ciroma – led Consensus Committee reduced the Northern aspirants to one.

All things being equal, with the party’s guidelines approved at the 55th NEC meeting, the Presidential candidate of the party will emerge next year, January 13, 2011, governorship candidate will emerge January 9.

At present, political activities have kicked off with the screening Committees set up, we watch as events unfold and close this year, 2010 in the family of the self acclaimed largest party in Africa.

*Posted on www.vanguardngr.com/