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Rising Anger in Muslim Africa Over Offending Cartoons

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Special to the NNPA from Global Information Network

While the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, marched in a Paris rally to support the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, anger was rising at home among the country’s majority Muslim population over cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.

Over the weekend, anger exploded on the streets when approximately 1,000 young men turned on the institutions of the Catholic community, burning 45 churches. Ten people were reported killed in the violence.

Security forces in the capital, Niamey, used tear gas Sunday against a banned demonstration. Violence was also reported in Zinder, the country’s second largest city, as churches burned, and Christian homes and a French cultural center were looted by mobs.

“The French flag was burned,” said Adily Toro, a national police spokesman, adding that 189 people, including two minors, were arrested by police.

Demonstrators also pillaged and burned numerous premises, including five hotels and 36 bars.

French news agency AFP reported that a Muslim elder, Yaou Sonna, urged people to stop attacking Christians. “Don’t forget that Islam is against violence,” he said on state television. “I urge men and women, boys and girls, to calm down.”

The cartoons, defended as an exercise in freedom of speech, also set off riots in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Algeria and Gaza.

French President Francois Hollande refused to reconsider his support of the magazine, saying people did not understand France’s commitment to freedom of speech, even in the case of the controversial cartoons of Mohammed.

However, a growing movement has appeared among journalists and others who refuse to join the “I am Charlie Hebdo” supporters. One such journalist is New York Times opinion page writer David Brooks.

“Let’s face it,” Brooks wrote in a recent column. “If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the past two decades, it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.”

Brooks criticized the crowds that jumped to the defense of the cartoonists for their controversial attacks on the Muslim prophet. A lot of them would be a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home, he said.

He continued, “The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the National Rifle Association. Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.

“So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.”

With 'No More Campaigns to Run,' Obama Refuses to Back Down

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The strongest line in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was adlibbed. When he said toward the end of his one-hour speech, “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans laughed. He quickly shot back, “I know because I won both of them.”

That brief exchange tells us what we can expect in Obama’s final two years in office and reflects two different realities. A confident and relaxed Obama, making it very clear that he is not going to curl up in a corner and concede the next two years to Republicans, outlined his bold vision for the future, a vision that does not abandon his key policy positions.

Though Obama did indeed win both times his name was on the ballot, Democrats suffered major losses in the 2014 mid-term elections. Consequently, Republicans hold a 247-188 edge in the House. In the Senate, there are 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two Independents who usually vote with Democrats.

On Tuesday night, President Obama seemed to be setting the stage for 2016 when in addition to the White House, there will be a major battle for control of the Senate, where 25 Republicans will be up re-election, compared to only 10 Democrats.

Though it will be difficult to get many of the proposals President Obama said will be in his budget when it is delivered to Capitol Hill in two weeks, he argued forcefully that his polices had worked, despite strident Republican opposition over the past six years.

“We are 15 years into this new century,” he began in his address to a joint session of Congress. “Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

“But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

“Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.

“America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”

As has become customary during State of the Union speeches, Democrats stood and applauded when Obama made a point that appealed to them while dour-faced Republicans remained seated. Unlike 2009 when Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, violated congressional decorum by shouting, “You, Lie,” Republicans were mostly polite, while making it clear they were not endorsing Obama’s vision for his final two years in office.

Noticeably absent from Tuesday’s State of the Union were three of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Thomas has called the event so partisan that it makes him feel uncomfortable. Scalia has dismissed it as a “childish spectacle” and Roberts has likened it to “a political pep rally.” In modern years, regardless of a court member’s personal views, the robbed justices have attended the yearly event, most of the time displaying no emotions.

Reviewing his accomplishments over the past six years, Obama boasted, “We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shores. And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

With Democrats applauding, Obama continued, “We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. More Americans finish college than ever before.

“We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.”

Like most politicians, Obama cherry-picked some numbers, according to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.

For example, it noted, “It’s true that nearly 8.2 million private sector jobs have been added since February 2010, which was the low point of the great job slump that began a year before Obama took office and continued through his first year. But total employment has risen less – by 7.6 million – held back by layoffs of state and local government workers. Obama was technically correct, as he was careful to speak of jobs “’our businesses have created.’”

It also explained, “The president said that ‘because of the Affordable Care Act … more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.’ But that total includes Medicaid renewals, not just new recipients that gained Medicaid coverage because of the health care law.

“The 9 million figure includes 3 million Americans who have chosen insurance plans on the federal or state marketplaces and 6.3 million who were determined eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An estimated 3.1 million young adults under age 26 also joined their parents’ plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.”

There is a growing consensus that the economy has largely recovered under Obama’s stewardship – with little help from Republicans.

“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people,” he said to laughter and applause.

“So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.”

Exercising the veto is one of the few tools Obama has except for issuing executive order in a Republican-controlled Congress. Until recently he has been reluctant to sign executive orders or veto bills that crossed his desk.

Obama has issued only two vetoes in six years. By contrast, George W. Bush issued 12; Bill Clinton, 37; George H.W. Bush, 44; Ronald Reagan, 78; Jimmy Carter, 31; Gerald R. Ford, 66; Richard Nixon, 43 and Lyndon B. Johnson, 30, according to Senate records. The last two-term president to approach Obama’s rate was James Monroe, who vetoed only one bill from 1817 to 1825.

There was a similar pattern with executive orders.

Despite Republican charges that Obama is a “socialist dictator” and operates an “imperial presidency,” he has issued the fewest executive orders since Grover Cleveland, who was in the White House from 1885 to 1889.

But Obama promised to be more combative his last two years, if necessary.

He outlined a broad agenda that, among other things, offers two years of free community college, shifts $320 billion in new taxes on the wealthy largely to the middle class, vetoes any legislation that would undermine his executive order on immigration or sanction Iran over its nuclear program while negotiations are underway, and mocks Republicans denials of climate change.

On the latter, he said, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and at NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] , and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

Before Obama delivered his State of the Union speech, new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear that it didn’t matter what goals Obama articulates.

At a news conference before the speech, McConnell, who once said his goal was to make Obama a one-term president, said, “With all due respect to him, he doesn’t set the agenda in the Senate”

In his speech, Obama said he realizes Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on major issues, but urged cooperation where possible.

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”

HBCUs Divided over Free Community College Plan

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNNPA) – Black college educators and supporters are sharply split over whether President Obama’s proposal to offer a free two-year community college education to students making progress toward earning an associate or bachelor’s degree would hurt are harm Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Lezli Baskerville, president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), a nonprofit network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), including community colleges, said that for students who have a gap in funding or choose to go to a two-year institution and don’t have adequate funding, America’s College Promise would create another opportunity for them.

“We are trying to make sure that students that want to go and get a technical certification or some training to get their foot in the door, can do that,” said Baskerville. “We also want to incentivize and facilitate students who want to get a four-year degree doing that, especially low-income students for whom options are very, very limited.”

Baskerville said that the jury is still out on whether a student would opt to go to a two-year college for free instead of going to an HBCU.

“If they’re going to a two-year institution, they’re going to get a certificate or a two-year degree, something to get them market-ready or entrepreneurship-ready,” explained Baskerville. “If they’re going to a four-year HBCU they’re going because they appreciate the ethos of historic Black colleges that are built on the traditions of the African American community of family, faith, fellowship, service and social justice.”

However, Lester C. Newman, president of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, believes HBCUs will pay a price.

“They are going to suffer,” he said. “Not too many schools can operate with just the third and fourth level, especially four-year institutions that don’t have graduate programs. You don’t get the research dollars that can help sustain you. You rely on students being there from their freshman to their senior year. But if you are going to lose a great portion of those students for the first two years, you really will have to change your model, your business plan.”

Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an education advocacy group that represents about 300,000 students and 47 member colleges and universities, agrees.

“My fear is a real one and that this is going to significantly, negatively impact private HBCUs and I think it’s going to have some negative impact on public HBCUs,” he said. “Mama and Daddy are going to say, ‘If you can go to community college for free, that’s where you are going the first two years.’ So, what you have essentially done is cut in half the revenue for private HBCUs. Private HBCUs are going to feel this in a way you can’t even imagine.”

Taylor said he supports President Obama’s overall goal of providing free college assistance, but thinks it should be done in a manner that would be less harmful to HBCUs.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which represents private HBCUs, has not issued a statement on the community college proposal.

As educators and HBCU advocates debate whether the program will have a disparate impact on Black schools, Toldson argued that enrollment at HBCUs has already taken a hit, because of state-level policy choices.

Toldson used Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., as an example. Toldson said that when he taught at the school in 2005, there were 10,000 students enrolled and over the last decade that number has dwindled to 6,000. Over the same period, Toldson said that community college attendance increased to about 9,000 students.

But Toldson said that the fall in enrollment at Southern University had more to do with changes in admission requirements that affected all state universities in Louisiana than direct competition from community colleges in the region. Toldson said that new guidelines barred Southern University from admitting students that scored less than 20 on their ACT exams.

“The average ACT score is 16 in Louisiana, so you could imagine how many Black students could not go to Southern because of that change,” said Toldson. “So, they had to go to a community college or whatever college would accept them.”

According to data collected by the ACT program, Black graduating high school seniors scored an average of 17 on the exam in 2014, compared to White students who scored 22.3 on average.

“By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree,” White House officials said. “Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations.”

Seventy-five percent of the funding for the proposal, called “America’s College Promise” will come from the federal government with participating states contributing the rest of the money needed to cover tuition costs. White House officials estimate that the program will cost the federal government $60 billion over 10 years, if all states participate.

Nearly all of the HBCUs are in states where Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s mansion. Getting them – or the Republican majority in the House and Senate – to buy into President Obama’s vision will likely be an uphill battle.

As President Newman noted, spending on higher education is already being cut by most states.

“Of course, you support any opportunity where people can go to school for free,” he said. “The details are what I am concerned about. I don’t see them adding any money to higher education, just redirecting funds. This program will take away funds from private schools. Any proposal that does that is going to hurt us tremendously.”

Baskerville also noted that going to a two-year institution is not the most direct route for anyone who wants to get a four-year bachelor’s degree.

According to federal statistics, only 7.5 percent of Black students who pursue a two-year associate degree full-time finish within three years and about 40 percent of Black students who earn bachelor’s degrees finish in six years. Those rates plummet when a student is only able to attend part-time, often burdened by work or family obligations.

Ivory Toldson, the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said that community colleges currently educate more Black students than any other single sector, partly because of limited financial resources.

“Having a program that allows them to cut that financial barrier altogether to go into an institution that can help prepare them for an associate’s degree or to transfer to a four-year college, I think is a worthwhile program,” said Toldson.

The Journal for Blacks in Higher Education reported that, “Only 34 percent of Black students who took the ACT test were deemed ready for college-level English courses. This is less than half the rate for White students who took the ACT. Only 14 percent of Black ACT test takers were deemed college ready in mathematics compared to 52 percent of White ACT test takers.”

Whether community college students will be less likely to enroll in an HBCU after the first two years in another setting is being hotly debated. Regardless of the outcome, Black colleges are looking at a new reality.

Newman said that even before President Obama’s announcement, Jarvis was studying whether to award students associate degrees upon satisfactory completion of the first two years. Now that examination will be accelerated.

“We’re going to have to change our model,” he explained. “I don’t know if we have to play the associate degree game. We will have a need for greater articulation agreements with those community colleges that get those students.”

Other approaches will also be needed.

Baskerville said NAFEO is already working with The Links Inc., an international professional women’s group, to pair HBCUs with two-year community colleges in their service area in an effort to provide students with the experience of attending a four-year institution as they earn college credits at the local community college.

White House officials hope that taking the costs of tuition off the table for two-years will help to ease some of those burdens, possibly improving graduation rates in the process.

If the president’s plan results in fewer students attending HBCUs, that could have a ripple effect. For example, physicians, dentists and other professionals who attend HBCUs are much more likely to return to Black communities to practice than graduates of non-Black colleges.

Referring to the Obama community college proposal, Newman said, “It’s going to change how we operate in higher education. Whether that’s good or bad, we don’t know yet.”

GM Highlights Diversity at Detroit Auto Show

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By Freddie Allen
Senior Washington Correspondent

DETROIT (NNPA) – During the media week leading up to the 2015 North American International Auto Show, General Motors (GM) not only revealed new models and concept cars like other automakers, they also showcased the importance of diversity in the company’s ranks.

At “Design by Detroit,” an event hosted by GM that featured local artists, industry insiders and a custom-painted Stingray, three young, minority designers shared their experiences working for the embattled, century-old auto company.

Ven Lai, the lead creative designer for the Chevrolet Color and Trim Studio, said that after joining GM in 2007, she learned that the company appreciated passion for design and that when artists from different cultures and backgrounds lend their input to the process, the car, the customer and the brand benefit.

Crystal Windham, the first African American female design director at GM, currently leads the Chevrolet Passenger Car & Small Crossover Interiors department. Windham’s work was featured in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala and the all-new electric hybrid Chevrolet Volt.

“As designers, we’ve been empowered,” said Windham in her official press bio. “There is an exciting renaissance at GM and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

Martin Davis, the design manager for the Exterior lighting and North American exterior Design, said that Windham has already left her mark on the interior design of Chevrolet passenger cars and that consumers will see even more of her influence on that segment very shortly as new products are rolled out.

Davis, who led the team that redesigned the exterior lighting for the new Cadillac Escalade said that working on the iconic sports utility vehicle was humbling and surreal.

“But you quickly get past that and embrace the challenge,” said Davis, who started his career with GM when he was 22 years old. “Working with new technologies like [light emitting diodes] enables us to do a number of things we haven’t done before.”

Davis continued: “There’s always that risk of being able to deliver on a design that you have sold to senior leadership and they are expecting your design to work.”

Ed Welburn, vice president of Global Design and General Motors, said that he still loves the look on a designer’s face when their concept is selected for a new project.

“I don’t care if they’re right out of school or if they’ve been with the company 40 years,” Welburn smiled. “They have that look on their face like they’re 8 years old.”

Welburn, who studied sculpture and design at Howard University and joined the automaker when President Richard Nixon was still in the White House, is the first executive to lead all of the company’s Global Design Centers in the United States, Germany, Korea, China, Australia, Brazil and India. The GM veteran said that he enjoyed knitting together a global team of studios, where everyone really knows and supports one another.

“It helps us understand our customers a whole lot better. Everyone brings some creative thought to the process that may be a bit unique in one way or another,” said Welburn. “I think we really benefit from that.”

Like cultural diversity overseas, Welburn said gender and ethnic diversity in the United States is extremely important to GM and considers his involvement in the evolving diversity mission at GM a part of his legacy. He admitted that there are not nearly as many Blacks and other minorities in the company as he would like.

Welburn met with the president of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Mich., and learned that the school was also having a tough time enrolling African American students.

Recruiting Blacks for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers isn’t just a GM problem, it’s an American one.

A 2014 study on STEM workers by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan think tank focused on racial equity, reported that Blacks account for less than 4 percent of workers in science and engineering jobs. Meanwhile, industries that are more dependent on STEM-related workers are expected to grow at nearly twice the rate as sectors that are less dependent on STEM workers.

That’s why the decorated auto exec is working with Detroit-area middle school and high school students, mostly African American, to identify the ones who want to attend CCS and offers them scholarships.

Anita Burke, the chief engineer of the GMC Canyon, a mid-sized truck, said that when she was younger, women didn’t go into design or engineering. That was considered men’s work. Burke thought about going into nursing or teaching, because that is what people expected her to do.

A chance conversation with a chemistry teacher who noticed her aptitude for math and science during her junior year in high school and encouragement from an older brother steered her away from nursing and into engineering.

“One of the things I’ve taken most from my career at General Motors is my best experiences have come when I stepped out of my comfort zone,” said Burke.

Burke took on two international assignments during her tenure at GM. She spent about three years in Toluca, Mexico and three and half years in Sao Paulo Brazil managing engineering groups and directing aftersales engineering.

“It was something I never would have imagined that I was going to do with my career coming out of college,” said Burke, a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology. “That was my first step out of my comfort zone and I learned from that, ‘Wow, the best things come from those [experiences].’”

Burke added: “If I didn’t step out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t be chief engineer of this truck and it’s been my dream job.”

Burke said that it’s not only important that young women and minorities feel empowered to pursue STEM degrees, but that they also feel welcomed to pursue STEM careers. That’s the only way that the auto industry and many others will start viewing their presence in science and math fields as the norm.

“Many kids these days have zero understanding of what the auto industry is and depth of the things that you can do,” said Burke.

She explained, “You don’t have to be a CEO of a company, if that’s really not your passion, you just gotta love what you do.”

Welburn agreed.

“You can have a wonderful very fulfilling career in design,” said Welburn. “But the most important thing for me – I think it’s true for every young person – you need to go into a field that you’re passionate about whether its design or music or journalism. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t do it.”

Calls for a Stronger Pan-African Movement to Deal with Boko Haram

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By Saeed Shabazz
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been quoted as saying that the rebel organization Boko Haram killed 13,000 people in 2014. On Jan. 13, the United Nations called on his administration to bring the five-year rebellion to an end.

At press time, a draft resolution that would develop the legal framework is being circulated at U.N. headquarters that would authorize a military task force for 12 months. The group would consist of troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and South Africa under African Union control. The U.N. secretary-general would be authorized under the resolution to establish a trust fund to sustain the force’s operations.

The talk in the corridors of the U.N. makes note of Nigeria’s seeming resistance to any such task force until recently, when Nigeria, a U.N. Security Council member, became involved in diplomatic discussions with the permanent five members of the council (United Kingdom, China, Russia, U.S. and France). A French defense minister said his nation would help coordinate efforts to launch the task force.

“I think that the current Nigerian government lacks the political will to deal with the larger crisis,” said author and activist Bill Fletcher Jr. in an email to the AmNews. “It is not simply putting down the clerical fascists that must be undertaken. It is about the need for a political engagement with the leaders and organizations of northern Nigeria at the same time that grievances in other parts of the country are addressed. There is a need for a national dialogue about the future of Nigeria.”

Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum, a senior scholar with the Institute of Policy Studies and an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com.

Jonathan is reportedly facing a tough re-election battle in February.

“In my opinion, I don’t think Jonathan has the passion to resolve this crisis at this time,” Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University, explained to the AmNews. “It is better for him to have a destabilized north eastern region, which works for him politically, added Asante. “Jonathan seems to be saying let the Muslims kill each other, not my problem.”

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, with nearly 180 million people divided into 250 ethnic groupings. Muslims make up 50 percent of the population while Christians make up 40 percent. Nigeria also boasts of having Africa’s largest economy, with a GDP of $502 billion. However, according to the CIA World Fact Book on the west African nation, unemployment is high at 23 percent. The Jonathan administration also faces an external debt of $15.73 billion.

There are calls for the African Union to address the situation with Boko Haram at their next summit, Jan. 21 to 31. Calls to the African Union’s office in Manhattan were not returned by press time.

“I attended a recent meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on peace and security on the continent,” said Asante. “I witnessed the presidents of Chad and Senegal tell the French delegation to mind their own business, and that Africans could and would handle their problems.

“The problem is the lack of strong Pan-African voices such as those of the past. Yes, I support the idea of an international military force being sent to Nigeria to deal with Boko Haram.”

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BVN National News Wire