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Ex-IAEA chief ElBaradei: I may run for Egypt presidency

April 29th, 2010
04:47 PM ET

(CNN) - Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has said he would run for the presidency of his native Egypt next year as long as he could be assured that the elections would be free and fair.

ElBaradei, who recently stepped down as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he would seek to change the Egyptian constitution to allow international supervision of elections, an independent election commission and equal access to media.

It is the constitution, democracy activists say, that has allowed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to govern the country under emergency decree for nearly three decades, since the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat.

"This is not my primary goal," ElBaradei said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, "to run for the presidency. My primary goal is to see my country, Egypt, a country where I grew up, making a genuine shift toward democracy."

The 81-year-old Mubarak has not announced whether he would stand again for the presidency in 2011, but a succession of health challenges, including recent gall bladder surgery in Germany, have led Egyptians to discuss an issue that had long been off limits in the tightly controlled Egyptian press.

// // "We have a president who has been in power for 30 years," ElBaradei said. "We have martial law for almost 30 years. This speaks volumes for the lack of democracy in Egypt."

ElBaradei, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with the IAEA, said he was organizing a grassroots movement across Egypt's political spectrum, using Facebook to petition to change the constitution in a manner that would open Egypt's political system to real pluralism.

"That current situation has to change, because the way it is crafted right now, it's only handful of people who have the right even to run for presidency. So democracy is no longer part of the Egyptian lifestyle for over 50 years. And it's an idea that its time has come."

ElBaradei does not have a political party, a factor that presents a substantive obstacle to his candidacy, but he vows to send a message of democratic change to the government.

"This is a peaceful, nonviolent movement, but it's a popular grassroots movement. And everywhere I go, everywhere I travel, there's massive support for change in Egypt."

"For the people, I'm a real agent for change. For the regime, I'm a virtual person," ElBaradei said. "I can't even have a headquarters. I can't raise funds. But we have a lot of volunteers. We have a lot of young volunteers everywhere in the country right now canvassing for change, explaining the people how change will impact on their economic and social life."

But Ahmed Ezz, a businessman and leading parliamentary member of the ruling National Democratic Party, said that ElBaradei was exaggerating the difficulty of competing in the upcoming elections.

"My party, the NDP, has made it clear it welcomes Dr. ElBaradei to join the political fray," Ezz said. "Our constitution anchors politics and political parties with clear political platforms. There are 24 parties in Egypt. Any of these parties can field candidates in 2011. Half of these parties, for example, have asked Dr. ElBaradei to be their candidate of choice. Dr. ElBaradei hesitates, preferring instead to run as an independent."

But Egyptian-American academic Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who spent three years in prison before being acquitted of charges of defaming the Egyptian state, said that ElBaradei was a charismatic candidate facing an enormous logistical challenge to organize a grassroots campaign.

"Mr. ElBaradei will have a good chance, and I think millions of Egyptians are willing to rally behind him," he said. "And if external powers could also demand that election, next election be free and fair and transparent, under international supervision, I think we have a very good chance of changing Egypt."

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Making gas from garbage

April 28th, 2010
01:18 PM ET
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For Germans: War and conscience

April 27th, 2010
05:45 PM ET

By Frederik Pleitgen; Berlin Correspondent for CNN

Public appearances by top German officials at mourning ceremonies for slain soldiers have become a sad new phenomenon in the country. Last weekend both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg were on hand as the military and public bid farewell to four men killed in battle in Northern Afghanistan a little over a week ago. In his eulogy Guttenberg said, “it is in these times that we must ask you, the relatives of those who were killed, for forgiveness.”

It is the second time this month that Merkel and Guttenberg have had to attend such a ceremony. On April 2nd three German soldiers were killed in small arms fire in Kunduz province, then on April 15th four more died when their vehicle was attacked in Baghlan province during a patrol. The attacks came at a time when public support for Germany’s mission in Afghanistan are at an all time low, with up 70 per cent calling for a fast withdrawal from the country.

Researchers like Jan Techau from Germany’s Council on Foreign Relations believe politicians have long tried to avoid a debate on the use of military force in the country and now those lapses are catching up with them.

“The fact that we have a military but don't really like it, the fact that we send soldiers abroad to do horrible things but don't really appreciate it. This is a psychological predisposition of this country."

Techau and many others believe that psychological predisposition stems from Germany’s past, starting World War II, the crimes committed during the holocaust, and finally the total defeat. It has led Germans to become staunch pacifists, Techau says, who like their military but have never been prepared for the reverberations of the army’s actions in war zones.

Thus many of the German soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan feel a distinct lack of support from their population.

"The lack of support really worried me in the beginning, but now I have decided I want to go to Afghanistan, I don't need anyone's support, I don't care what other people say." That is what Norman, a German soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan, whose full name we cannot print because of the army’s security policy told me shortly before deploying to Kunduz, the most dangerous area in Northern Afghanistan where Germany is leading NATO’s efforts. In the face of waning public support, Germany only pledged some 500 additional soldiers, as well as a reserve of some 350, late last year when the U.S. asked countries participating to increase their troops levels in support of ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s new partnering strategy, which saw America commit some 30 thousand additional soldiers.

Germany’s Defense Minister zu Guttenberg told CNN he knows he needs to do a better job of selling the mission to the public.

"We are trying to explain to our population what they are doing there, why they are doing it and what the key elements in Afghanistan are. It's quite important to be frank and clear and blunt."

According to Jan Techau from the Council on Foreign relations, German politicians need to start being more honest with their population now, otherwise the debate on German military power will come to them as casualties mount. Defense Minister Guttenberg made a start at the ceremony for the killed soldiers last weekend.

“In this day and wage we need to understand that more Germans will be killed abroad in Afghanistan and elsewhere,” he said speaking in a church in Ingolstadt in Bavaria.

The week before German Chancellor Merkel held a speech in parliament where she acknowledged the lapses of the best but also made a commitment not to leave Afghanistan unilaterally.

“The international community went into Afghanistan together and we will leave together. We won’t stay longer than necessary but we also won’t stay any shorter.”

German politicians have said the new strategy in Afghanistan which sees NATO soldiers partnering with Afghan units to conduct military operations and will see the expansion of foot patrols rather than riding in safer mine proof vehicle will mean more German soldiers will be harmed. At the same time the country is now realizing that for years it hasn’t adequately supplied its forces in Afghanistan with the gear they need to survive. In all of Afghanistan the German military has only eight transport helicopters and no gun ships. Meaning the troops have to rely on the U.S. army in case they get involved in heavy fighting.

This was the case on April 2nd when German soldiers were pinned down by insurgents in Kunduz and several wounded were medevaced out of the area by American helicopters as the Germans did not have adequate capacities of their own.

Last week the German Defense Minister presented Gen. McChrystal with medals of honor for the U.S. soldiers who risked their lives to save the Germans. Guttenberg acknowledged the Germans need to upgrade their soldiers’ capabilities. A difficult task at a time when most Germans want to see their soldiers leave the country as soon as possibly.

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Thai PM says he is seeking political resolution to opposition standoff

April 27th, 2010
01:44 PM ET

(CNN) - Thailand's prime minister said Monday that his government is working to achieve normalcy in the country amid massive opposition protests, but warned it will take "time, patience and cooperation" from all parties involved.

"We recognize that as every day passes by, the people of Thailand suffer, the country suffers, but we want to make sure that there is rule of law," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview set to air Tuesday.

"We will try to enforce the law with minimum losses and we will try to find a political resolution, but it takes time, patience and cooperation," he said, speaking from Bangkok. "We will do the best we can and try to move the country forward as soon as possible."

Thousands of anti-government protesters have brought Thailand's capital to a standstill this month as they seek to unseat Abhisit's government, which they say is illegitimate and undemocratic - accusations that Abhisit on Monday called "unfounded."

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The demonstrators - known as "Red Shirts" because of their clothing - support Thaksin Shinawatra, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, before he was ousted in a bloodless coup.

Explainer: What are the protests in Thailand about?

Addressing allegations that his government is illegitimate, Abhisit said Monday, "We assumed office under the same means, under the same rules, by the same vote of parliament as the two previous administrations" elected after the coup.

Abhisit emphasized what he described as his government's willingness to find a political solution to the crisis, but said resolution "must come at the right time for the country and serve the interests of everybody."

"We recognize the differences of opinions and we think we should take them forward, but they should be conducted under conditions where there's peace, where people are allowed to express their opinions, and not under force or intimidation by a small group of people," he said.

Abhisit has rejected a call from anti-government protesters to dissolve the country's parliament in 30 days.

iReport: Are you there? Share your story, images

"It just doesn't make sense," he said Monday of the deadline, adding other groups' political opinions must be taken into consideration before any such action is taken.

Some media and analysts in Thailand say civil war may be looming, with another group emerging called the "multi-colored shirts" who are urging the government to take tougher action against the Red Shirts.

Abhisit told Amanpour on Monday that he is concerned about possible civil strife and said "we have been at pains to point out to people who disagree with protesters that they should exercise restraint, and we will do all we can to make sure that no clashes occur between the two groups of people."

More than two dozen civilians and military personnel have died since protesters began occupying key tourism and shopping areas in Thailand's capital.

The deadliest clashes occurred April 10, and Abhisit said Monday that his government would cooperate with investigations into those deaths, "particularly as carried out by the Human Rights Commission, which is a neutral body."

He said the April 10 deaths appear to be caused by a group of people who call themselves "the Men in Black."

"We have a number of clips and evidence to suggest that the Men in Black were operating among the Red Shirt people," Abhisit said. "We have to get to the bottom of that."

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And now your feedback

April 26th, 2010
07:20 PM ET
Christiane - all ears for the feedback.
Christiane – all ears for the feedback.

Amanpour viewers felt that the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K. did the world “more harm than good.”  Others said the U.K. was not concerned about the U.S. as a whole although they thought these nations had to coexist amicably because of their very “deep political roots.” 

What are your thoughts? Please share your thoughts with us! In addition, if you missed the show go to http://amanpour.com  for more information.

Below, you will see some opinions from viewers like yourself. We would love to hear what you think.

 

Facebook comments

Charles Bauer

I only say Poodle !!!!!, in economy and social welfare : "Small" Britain is trying to stop the integration progress of Europe in the name of the USA and there allies in Israel. See what happens in Ireland by a billionaires advertising campaign, certainly paid with CIA money and stopped by an European Parliament delegation! Britains chance to survive as a great nation is to integrate into the EU !!!

Sanousi Sesay

We have seen how this “so called special relationship” has caused the world more harm than good. When US invaded Iraq on the false pretext of WMD, the UK was quick to blindly jump on US bandwagon and support the illegal invasion of Iraq because of the “so called special relation” Tony Blair even became US Foreign minister and travelled around the world rallying support from world leaders.

Pm Menon

I am not sure whether US really do care of UK -or- UK really do care about US. There is no doubt that there are deep cultural and political roots; but i have seen Brits not like the way Americans do. In daily life; there is so much negative thoughts about Americans in Europe; atleast Brits feel so !

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And now your feedback

April 22nd, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Christiane - all ears for the feedback.
Christiane – all ears for the feedback.

Amanpour viewers’ felt that Berlusconi was undermining the Italian democracy thorough his concentration of power and alleged use of his position to nullify corruption probes.  In addition, Berlusconi’s style of governing was thought to be “very complex.”  The viewers that emailed commented on how important was to highlight Education as it was “the key to any crisis.”

Email Comments:

Dear Amanpour,

You have chosen a topic that is close to my heart.  Education is the key to the crises. Overpopulation leads to consumption, which in time will not be able to support the large population.  In India, we have seen high food inflation. Imagine if this happens all over the world. We are staring at a catastrophe. This reminds of Jim Rogers who is bullish on commodities.  Would also suggest a plan of action where either poor countries can put their children up for adoption or better still support a child in the third world. The Developed world's population is declining why not adopt from the third world or better still get people from the third world educate them and let them have a good livelihood. In an ideal world, no one should go hungry and in order to reach that state the developed countries can help the third world. The UN, IMF, WB and the IFC should tackle this problem head on.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully

D. Chawla

Facebook comments

Okwesili Ndubisi

Since the inception of his administration,Berlusconi has been expriencing series of attacks from the opposition.The purple peoples' protest on his allegation of curruption should be traded with caution.They should know that the activities of 'red shirts' in thailand not only affect the economy of the cnuntry but led to wantom destruction of life and property.The italian electrotes should be given chance to decide on who should lead them.

Suela Thanasi

My fear is that the true opponents to Berlusconi's government are either silent or indifferent. Berlusconi's style of governing is also very complex, he supports the rich, but acts as populist. So, despite his inappropriate type of leadership, I believe he will continue enjoying voter's support for a long time.


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India: The pressure to have children

April 22nd, 2010
06:38 PM ET

by Sara Sidner

(CNN) New Delhi – Nineteen-year-old Kalawati Kumari stares at her 11-month-old baby boy filled with both love and regret.

She wishes her life could be different.

“I did not want to have children now. I want to study.”

Kumari didn’t want to get married either. But when she was 11, her parents arranged her marriage. In keeping with family tradition, she stayed at home until she reached puberty and then had to move in with the family of the village boy she was promised to.

She says she did her best to continue her studies. But when she moved in with her in-laws, they told her there was no need anymore. They wanted something else: babies.

“I tried to explain to my husband and in-laws,” Kumari said, “My husband understood it was too early and started using contraceptives, but my in-laws starting taunting me about having a child, so my husband said we had to stop using contraceptives.”

Kumari lives in rural Bihar, India where tradition calls for early marriage and childbirth at a young age, and doing otherwise is often frowned upon.

“These are very deep rooted [in the] culture of the family especially in the deprived section and poor illiterate section,” Binod Bihari Singh said. He works for a non-profit organization called Pathfinder International. Its mission is to educate villagers about reproductive health in order to improve overall health in families and communities. Pathfinder operates in 26 countries, with private and government funding, and has been operating in Bihar for more than nine years.

Government statistics show Bihar has the highest fertility rate in India. On average women in Bihar have four children compared to India’s fertility rate of 2.7 children. Bihar is also one of the poorest states in the country.
Villagers and government officials credit Pathfinder with improving health and lives there, and opening minds to the choices and economic opportunities created by having children later in life.

Rekha Kumari attends Pathfinder classes on reproductive health. In separate rooms, both boys and girls get an education about their reproductive organs, contraceptives and the effects of early marriage and child bearing. With her new-found knowledge, Rekha made a decision.

“My thought is that let me study first and become economically self independent then I can help my self in marriage,” Rekha said.

Her mother was married by 10 years old and had seven children. Her sisters were all married off at young ages and are having children. Rehka was an oddity, to say the least.

“We get lots of comments and pressure from the neighborhood and distant relatives asking, 'why am I not getting married though I have become matured?'” Rekha said. “They say I am being stubborn and not obeying even my parents.”

At first her family didn’t like the idea either.

“Marriage is important to off load your burden to someone who will take care of your daughter.” Rekha’s mom Pulmati Devi said. “Once she goes her in-law’s house she will be happy over there and we parents will be anxiety free.”

In many villages and towns across India girls are often thought of as a burden because to marry them off, a dowry must be paid to her new husband’s family. Often families keep having babies until they have a boy

So far Rekha has avoided marriage. Two big actors worked in her favour: First, she convinced her parents she could become financially independent and lead a better life. And second, the family didn’t have the money to pay her dowry, about 50-thousand rupees, or more than a thousand US dollars. That's a fortune for families living on incomes of less than two dollars a day.

This year the Indian government said there are 100 million more people living below the poverty line in India than previously thought. The United Nations and nonprofit groups like Pathfinder say that reproductive education and family planning can help stop the cycle of poverty. The country has long tired to get families to limit the number of children a couple has to two.

“When you look at the rapid growth in population and combine it with the levels of poverty you’re going see environmental degradation, your going to see increasing poverty because the economic opportunity is not growing as rapidly as population is, and you are going to see an increase in women’s mortality.” Pathfinder International’s Rema Nanda said.

Rekha Kumari may be the one who stops the cycle of poverty in her family. She is already dreaming of a different kind of future.

“I am collecting courage for my self development and I would like to teach the same thing to the village children to make their life prosperous.”

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Poem: The Synchronicity of Longitude and Latitude

April 21st, 2010
05:20 PM ET
Writer Laurence Bass
Writer Laurence Bass

EDITORS NOTE: Laurence Bass, a 28 year old writer from New York, wrote The Synchronicity of Longitude and Latitude during the summer of 2003. The idea came to him while flipping through an array of 24 hour televised news network coverage one night. Everything from comedy to conflict was displayed and Bass was compelled to recreate it all on paper. Laurence Bass, 28, has written for The Baltimore City Paper, The Green Magazine and currently freelances for Creme Magazine.

The Synchronicity of Longitude and Latitude

While I try to write a poem with effortless precision, a man in Virginia contemplates suicide for making the wrong decision, a nine year old girl in Sao Paulo solves her first equation of long division, two doctors in Calgary attempt brain surgery by making the first incision, and a ridiculed teen in Kingston starts to love the sight of his vision.

The moment I inhale for air, a child in New Zealand sees his mom in a casket and realizes that life is not fair, three white teens in Oakland fearlessly return a police officer’s racially charged glare, a former paraplegic in Romania takes her first step from her wheelchair, and a father tells his son the story of the deadly protest in Tiananmen Square.

Seconds spent revaluating my major, Parliament listens to the speech from the leader of the party of Labour, two Louisville women are arrested for asking an undercover cop for a paid sexual favor, a convicted rapist is released from a Melbourne jail for good behavior, and a seven year old girl in Marseille refuses to eat liver due to the nasty flavor.

The same minutes I watch the 1983 highlights of Orioles Magic, 100 children in Manila are working 15-hour days for the production of a synthetic fabric, a joyful conversation in New Delhi is cut short due to cell phone static, a college student in Krakow gets a glimpse of inner-city life in America by listening to the fourth song of Illmatic, and sons of the slain in Cape Town see that apartheid was indeed tragic.

As I hear the news from another state, a wedding in Salonica is celebrated with the smashing of a plate, tension between rebel groups in Liberia begin to violently escalate, a mother in Philadelphia cries when a judge seals her daughter’s fate, a 17 year old boy in Aomori tries to play like Pele in 1958, and a Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland try to end the circle of hate.

Instances that I get lost in this collection of sound, a wife in Madrid sees that her depressed husband cannot put the bottle down, a man in Somalia finally plants a seed in fertile ground, and a pitcher in Santo Domingo carries his family’s hopes and dreams as he walks to the mound.

While I think of those thoughts of summer that remind me of beaches and sand, a teacher in Bombay analyzes James Joyce so the students can fully understand, Chile’s political actions make citizens rebel with rock in hand, a 27 year old women in Ghana sees that drugs have made her life something she can no longer command, and Israel and Palestine still smear blood all over the Holy Land.

During my small sips of this glass of water, drug trafficking in Houston sends another casualty off to the incalculable slaughter, a teen mother in San Juan regrets the birth of her daughter, and an old zealot in Vietnam praises Ho Chi Mien and still wants to be a martyr.

Hours that I sit back and let life take its course, two 29 year old virgins in Montreal joyfully experience sexual intercourse, an abused 14 year old boy in Boise silently shouts out loud until he is mentally hoarse, a drug addict in Venice steals from his mother with no remorse, and kamikaze missions in Iraq are taking lives with truculent force.

When I think about how my college days will soon be gone, a family in Liverpool finally purchased a house with a manicured lawn, grandparents in Cairo read spiritual text in the Coptic language at the break of dawn, a good police officer in Los Angeles has her emotions pushed like a pawn, and two siblings in Pyongyang fathom and discuss the peaceful verse of 3:103 in The Qur’an.

The small chores around the house that need to be done with the lemon scent of ammonia, film students in Guyana attempt to decipher the ending of Magnolia, an AIDS patient in Manhattan is painfully dying of pneumonia, and newlyweds in Puerto Carreno celebrated the birth of their child by giving her the name Sonia.

Life is so beautiful in every small way that it is presented.

Still, here I sit wondering how to start this poem.

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Nigerian Acting President gives first interview to CNN

April 14th, 2010
09:39 PM ET

By Tom Evans; Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.

(CNN) – Acting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has told CNN he has not seen the country’s ailing leader Umaru Yar’Adua since he returned from Saudi Arabia in February after medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Jonathan also said he does not know the nature of Yar’Adua’s condition. President Yar’Adua has not been seen in public since last November.

“The thinking of the family is that they should insulate him from most of the key actors in government”, Jonathan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in his first interview with international or local media since he assumed office as acting president two months ago.

Asked if he would like to visit Yar’Adua, Jonathan said, “Yes, of course, but I will not want to force (it).”

He also dismissed suggestions that supporters of Yar’Adua are working against him. “I wouldn’t say they are trying to undermine me, because the laws of the land are very clear.”

Jonathan refused to say whether or not he is planning to run in Nigeria’s next presidential election in 2011.

FULL POST

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Dear leaders of Nigeria

April 14th, 2010
08:20 PM ET
Nosarieme Garrick
Nosarieme Garrick

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog post was written by Nosarieme Garrick, 25 year old daughter of Nigerian government employees. She left Nigeria at a young age, and now seeks to promote activism within the Nigerian diaspora. This letter to Nigeria’s leaders is a personal appeal by her, and is not endorsed by CNN or its affiliates. “Amanpour” will pass this letter along to the Nigerian president’s office and we will post the government’s response as soon as we receive one.

Dear leaders of Nigeria,

I am a citizen of Nigeria holding a green card in the US. I left in 1998, after the death of Nigerian Dictator Sani Abacha, along with several others. After growing up in Nigeria, and watching others leave to pursue an education, it just seemed like the thing to do if you could afford it.  Some entire families relocated to the UK, the US and other countries, other families sent their kids alone to foreign school, for a chance at a better education.  Its now 2010, and some of us are itching to come back. I don’t think any of us were ever comfortable with the idea of abandoning our country.

I'm not sure how much longer I want to live abroad. After all, I would like my future kids to know where their mother's from, even possibly go to school there.   However, all the brouhaha that has been stirred up in the news these past few months makes the country seem even more unappealing, than it was when it sent us in droves to foreign lands. I've kept in contact with some of the children in the Diaspora, and we've all discussed coming back home, but you keep giving us reasons to stay where we are. I hear you would like us to come back, but you've lost our faith, we don't believe in our government. Fear not, we are willing to work it out, it is our home, and so we’re ready to help you help us come back. Here are some suggestions of ways for you to make us consider the idea.

Our obvious reason for leaving was to get a better education, which is unfortunate because at Nigeria's independence we had the highest number of university graduates in Africa. The crumbling education system has contributed to the increased crime rate; being that our brothers and sisters back home, have very limited options. Maybe you could reconsider the budget cuts you made on education, and look into the proper training for teachers, in order for them to provide proper education for your children. This could be prepare them for a university education, or vocational training, not everyone needs or wants to go to university. Overseas we're taught that you can't get anywhere without a bachelor's degree, a lot of people have been the exception to the rule, but I'm glad I had the option to get a bachelor’s. Maybe we could provide that option for people back home by putting more money into the university system. Once we start to believe in our education in Nigeria, I doubt that people will feel the need to send their kids to the UK or the US for school.

You should think about consulting once more with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Remember, she used to be your former Minister of Finance? She’s now the Managing Director of the World Bank. According to The Punch Nigeria, she made this statement at the Institute of Directors conference in Lagos: ”One of the untapped growth drivers is Nigeria‘s youth. The time has come for us to focus on them and reap enormous development benefits or ignore them to the nation‘s peril.” See, she believes in our potential, don't let another country make use of us. Even Canada has been trying to lure us to their schools, they value our billions of dollars that we are ready to pay for a proper education. That money could go to Nigeria.

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