Editor’s Choice

Ginther poured cold water on charter reform plan

By , August 11, 2012 | 4:48 pm | 1 Comments

Ginther poured cold water on charter reform plan

ONUMBA.COM – Initially, Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther was taciturn over the raging debate concerning the proposal to amend the City charter and swap the current ‘at-large’ method of electing members of the City Council with a blended system that would incorporate elements of ‘at-large and ward’ systems.

But recently, he weighed in with a bray and caviling posture about the simmering hubbub. 

Simply put, there would be no changes to the charter, he declared.

The “petition” is “over.”

But the bad news for the leaders of Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, the cabal rabidly seeking to reform the city charter, is not really that Ginther is fiercely opposed to their plan.

Rather, their official waterloo is that not enough petitions were submitted to advance their cause, meaning that they failed to meet a cardinal requirement for amending the city charter.

Ginther, whose opposition to the plan certainly doesn’t help, elaborated further in a letter he sent to the citizens of Columbus last week.

“In short, the petition failed to meet the minimum requirements for a charter amendment to be placed on the ballot, which is 19,164 valid signatures, representing 10 percent of the electors in the last preceding municipal election,” said Ginther, adding, “Upon review, the Franklin County Board of Elections determined the petitions contained only 8,471 valid signatures.  Therefore, City Council concluded the process by voting unanimously not to place the proposed charter amendment on the November ballot.”

The cabal of reformists is seeking to place the issue on the November ballot for residents to decide. In a June 16th letter to Ginther, the group proposed a radical overhaul to the process of electing members of the city council, decrying the status quo as startlingly “archaic” and staggeringly “inadequate.”

Currently, the city maintains an at-large system where council members are elected to serve, represent and be accountable to the entire city. The coalition is pushing to change a system it describes as antediluvian that doesn’t serve the city well. It argues that the current system, which was crafted in 1914 when the city had a population of 181,000, is no longer adequate for a sprawling metropolis of 787,000 ethnically-diverse populations.

In their eyes, it all sum up to a need for change.

And their clarion call for reform embraces an approach that would combine the current at-large method and ward/district system for the city. That plan would expand the council membership from seven to eleven, to consist of four at large members and seven ward/district members.

But it is plan that would be implemented over the dead body of another group ferociously opposing it.  That group, ‘Keep Columbus Strong,’ was recently formed for the sole purpose of undermining and ultimately kiboshing this plan.

Leaders of ‘Keep Columbus Strong’ simply like things the way they are, meaning they favor retaining the current at-large system of electing city council members, arguing that it works because they represent the entire city of Columbus and are accountable to all residents.

Opponents of the plan argue that the coalition’s proposal would create a bifurcated city and encourage a detrimental culture of “horse-trading” pitting one section of the city against another.  They fear it could lead to dangerous intra-city tiff over resources and city projects. They also maintain that the current system has served the city well, and therefore see absolutely no reason to mess with it.

Ginther agreed.

In his view, the coalition’s plan will be bad for the city on a number of fronts, including, his argument that the “proposed charter amendment would limit the power of our citizens, disenfranchise our diverse community, and create a dysfunctional form of local government while pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.”

He concluded: “If enacted, it simply would devastate our collective ability as a community to keep Columbus moving forward.”

Ginther lauded the city’s economic growth, affordable living, and safe, strong and healthy communities, and credited the current government, its charter and structure for the exemplary status and ranking it now enjoys among other major cities in the country.

He said that “Columbus works because we work together.”

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Community , Editor's Choice , News

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

By , July 14, 2012 | 3:37 pm | 0 Comment

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

ONUMBA.COM – In the fast moving investigations into whether Columbus City Schools tinkered with student attendance record to improve its report card, School Chief Gene Harris was recently ordered to turn over documents involving the case to the State Department of Education, one of a trifecta of entities now looking into the possible skullduggery. 

Accordingly, Harris was notified of the state’s investigation of the potential tinderbox a couple of weeks ago in a letter from Stan W. Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction.

“ODE will continue to expect that you and your staff, including your internal auditor, will be readily available to provide any necessary information or access to permit this special audit to occur,” wrote Heffner. 

Heffner’s agency has the authority to conduct the investigation to see if there was academic finagling involved.  Documents being requested include district policies for recording student attendance, email and handwritten correspondences by district officials involved in the matter as well as policies describing how and why students are removed and re-enrolled into the system. 

Harris, in response to Heffner, agreed to make all documents available to him and his staff.

But those documents would also be turned over to the Auditor of States’s office where David Yost is preparing to plunge into the allegations of euchre with his own investigation.  Spokeswoman for Yost’s office Carrie Bartunek said that her office is now assembling a cabal of investigators, attorneys and accountants for the project, for a gavel to gavel look into the labyrinth of matter.

Apparently, both investigations would run parallel with the one currently being conducted internally by the district’s audit office under Carolyn Smith.

So, with up to three separate investigations looking into the incident, it remains unclear how it all plays out. 

Apparently, Harris, in a heads-up June 15 letter, had notified Heffner of a potential problem with the district’s attendance record.  At the same time, when the story broke last week, she noted that she was not quite sure how serious the matter was and whether there was an intention to “cheat.”

“We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

Seemingly, the big question for the investigating teams, and the nexus of the matter, is whether district officials often intentionally fudged attendance records of students for the purpose of boosting the district’s state report card. 

Several current and former district employees, some of them data analysts and principals have expressed the view that some data manipulations and calculated Kafkaesque occurred in the district, with some recalling having wondered for years why a dizzying shoal of students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and then later reappear.

But, who could be doing that, and for what? 

They explained that the purpose of doing that would be to erase the records of students with poor attendance record from the system, that way they would be excluded from score tabulation for state report, which ultimately improves the district’s total student attendance score.  The students would then be re-enrolled later. 

Obviously, that’s their story and they are seemingly sticking to it.  But the ongoing investigations will ultimately determine exactly what happened, and why. 

Data submitted by school districts to the state are used for scoring district performances, especially student attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these reports of shuck and data manipulation are true, it certainly casts a scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Editor's Choice , Featured , News

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

By , July 1, 2012 | 7:00 am | 0 Comment

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

ONUMBA.COM For those in the Nigerian Community in Columbus, it was a great visit by a government minister from their homeland. 

But sadly, reminiscences of that June 2 jaunt were drowned out by a deadly tragedy back home that left them reeling in a collective grief.

Recently, a cabal of Nigerians in the United States by the name ‘Nigerians in Diaspora Organization America’ (NIDOA) inaugurated its Ohio chapter in Columbus. The event played out at the Aladdin Shrine on Stelzter Road where festivities included music, food, speeches, panel discussion and a few tamed outbursts of weird tantrums.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communications Labaran Maku was at the clambake and participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘Nigeria: A New Frontier.’  He spoke at length and took questions from the audience. 

The minister, who was accompanied on the trip by the presidential consigliere on ethics and values Dr. Sarah Jibril, told Nigerians that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is focused on addressing the smorgasbord of problems bedeviling the oil rich West African country, battering the Nigerian society and ravaging lives. 

He conceded that Nigeria is indeed mired deep in a monumental mess, social squalor and apocalyptic economic morose, but he blamed most of it on eons of neglect going back to the military era, and then assured the community that candid efforts are being made by the current People Democratic Party government to pull the economically moribund country out of ravine of despair and into a path of prosperity. He said that the government is growing the economy, promoting technological advancement, working to provide electricity and to improve security.

Frustrated Nigerians have heard it all before and yet not much progress has really been achieved.  But while Maku left them with that nice package of reassuring and hopeful messages on his way back to Nigeria, it turned out it was a trip back with a heavy heart after the tragic news of a Nigerian plane crash in the bustling commercial city of Lagos located in western Nigeria. 

Apparently, the doomed Dana Air flight, which was traveling from the capital city of Abuja to Lagos, went down with “153” passengers on board. Reportedly, the American pilot radioed trouble with two engines of the aircraft just before its catastrophic rappel. It was reported in the media that the plane crashed in a densely populated district of Lagos, slamming into a two-story building that instantly erupted in an inferno.

Rescue workers rummaged through the mangled wreckage of humans and shards of what was left of the aircraft and found no survivor. A visibly lugubrious President Jonathan visited the glum site of the crash, calling the tragedy a “setback” for the country and vowed to improve aviation security. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).  

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

By , July 1, 2012 | 6:38 am | 0 Comment

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

ONUMBA.COM – Columbus School Chief Gene Harris, in response to the recent allegations involving falsified student’s attendance records in her district, wanted to make one thing abundantly clear about her integrity: 

“I will not tolerate a situation where there is anyone knowingly or willingly manipulating the data,” she said. “We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

But at the very least, we do know that it is an “issue” and that it potentially looks pretty bad for the district where almost all its schools maintain near sterling scores in attendance.  Now, some may start to question that record.

This mess bubbled up after media reports exposed disturbing instances over several years where attendance records of students were altered, usually in June, just before the data is sent to the State Department of Education for analysis, compilation and reporting. 

Harris explained that the allegations reached the media after several students who were documented in the system as truants were told by the courts that they were not.

Data submitted by school districts to the Ohio Department of Education are used for scoring district performances, especially attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these knavery reports of shuck and shenanigans are true, it certainly casts a combustible and scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Harris, limpidly grappling with an uncomfortable matter of a gossamer ilk, said she does not know if this was an error or whether there was an intention to “cheat.”  Well, that’s precisely what the district internal audit investigation will soon uncover and let everyone know.

The big question for the investigators is whether district officials often intentionally tinker with attendance records of students for the purpose of skewing the district overall scores.  It appears when more of students who maintain good attendance record and less of the truants are included in compiled test scores for statewide report, it improves the performance of school districts.  It then means that when the attendance records of students who are performing poorly are manipulated and excluded from data analysis and score tabulation, which is exactly the allegations facing the Columbus School district, it potentially could be for the purpose of skewing performance in state report. 

However, it is all speculation at this cusp.

At the same time, one former school official, among many who have known for years about problems involving the district’s attendance data, recalled instances of possible data Kafkaesque, having wondered for years why students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and before you knew it, they would re-appear there.

 At this cusp, everyone is embracing a “wait and see” posture not knowing the scope and gravity of this potential tinderbox until more is uncovered.

School board member Mike Wiles has nothing to say for now.

“As far as what exactly is going on, I don’t know.  There is an internal audit report imminent,” he said.

Apparently, he and the rest of Columbus are ardently awaiting that report to get to the bottom of a snowballing saga that could be a big mess for the district.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Columbus Talking , Editor's Choice , News

A conversation series: One-on-One with Ohio Black legislators debuts in the Call & Post, Onumba.com

By , June 9, 2011 | 12:21 am | 0 Comment

A conversation series:  One-on-One with Ohio Black legislators debuts in the Call & Post, Onumba.com

ONUMBA.COM – The protracted paucity of fresh postings on onumba.com is obvious, to say the very least.  We certainly regret it.  Over the last couple of weeks, it may have appeared as though we dropped everything and embarked on a fun-filled vacation.  But that wasn’t it.  Actually, the explanation for our rare taciturn is quite contrary to such perfectly understandable speculation. 

The thing is, because we pride ourselves in pursuing topical news to offer our readers quality product, not just chucking stuff out there just to fill up the space, we have been busy working to bring you a healthy mix of news reporting, political analysis and most recently, the best of interviews with newsmakers in Ohio, including our plan to offer a rare penetrating peep into the life, career and thinking of the men and women who represent the Ohio African-American community in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

We have been putting all of this together and the result is something that has never been done before, certainly not to our knowledge.  And that is, Ike Mgbatogu, the Call & Post and Onumba.com columnist will be sitting down with each member of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), in a wide-raging, meaty conversation over a gallimaufry of subjects including their background, politics, faith, future plans, their dreams and aspirations growing up.  The lawmakers will also discuss a miscellany of other issues including diversity and inclusion, their heroes, their views on Malcolm X, what they think about Africa; whether they have been there or even care to go.

The parley on politics and government will navigate the shoals of party partisanship as it interfaces with the anfractuosity of governance, where each member will tell us what they make of Gov. Kasich, his first 100 days in office, his policies, and his support for controversial Senate Bill 5, House Bill 1, and the $55.6 billion biannual budget.  They will tell us whether they have met the governor one-on-one and how that played out, obviously, mindful of the frosty and tumultuous nature of the relationship between Kasich and members of the caucus.

So, the next time you see Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, who recently had her one-on-one with Ike, fighting and defending programs for the poor, the middle-class and the minority communities, think of her as an intensely progressive politician who, believe it or not, never planned to be in politics, but rather, was earlier in her life on a confident trajectory to become a ballet dancer, an actress and a singer, the “next Lena Horne,” if you will. 

Also, think of her as a profoundly devoted public servant who was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., (not in Akron where she grew up) with a Godfather from Nigeria, friends in Ghana and a ferocious desire to travel the African continent she holds exceedingly dear as her beloved ancestral home.

The full interview of each member will appear each week in the Call & Post Newspaper, with intriguing excerpts posted here in Onumba.com that week, and then the full interview the week after.

All told, expect a landfill of information from this.

Rep. Heard’s ‘one-on-one with Ike Mgbatogu’ is on this week’s Call & Post issue.

Now, having said all that, it is quite possible there are some folks (and there’s no rosy way to say this) who may be totally oblivious to all of this, or may not even know who their representative are, or perhaps belong to a phalanx of the politically aloof crowd who take the work of these legislators for granted. 

But just so all of you know, the 15 members of the OLBC are collectively, without a doubt, the loudest and most effective voice of the Black community in Ohio government.  With a commendable mix of diligence and vigor, they form a plexus of relentless bulwark and cathead of minority vigilance fighting back a tide of legislative proposals they believe to be hostile and baneful to the interest of the Black community. 

In short, without this covey of folks, African-Americans could be the first to be “run over” by that proverbial “bus” that tough talking Kasich talked about shortly after he took office.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

 

Editor's Choice , Featured , Politics , State of Ohio

Apotheosis of a bad father

By , March 18, 2011 | 1:12 am | 1 Comments

Apotheosis of a bad father

Man who fatally slammed son to pavement pleaded guilty

Quindell Sherman

Quindell Sherman

ONUMBA.COM – Quindell Sherman, the man who fatally slammed his 3-month old son to the pavement several months ago during a fight with the boy’s mother, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder last week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Sherman, 20, agreed to plead guilty to the murder of little Jayden Mitchell in exchange for the prosecutors agreeing not to seek the death penalty.

The plea deal kind of worked out because the little boy’s family is opposed to the death penalty.  But Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien noted that Sherman’s “terrible childhood” was also a factor in crafting the plea deal.

It means that the baby killer could be spared of the ultimate penalty when he is sentenced May 3.  But that doesn’t mean the little boy’s mother, Sonia Mitchell, has a modicum of sympathy for her crummy ex-boyfriend.

“I hate you. You took so much away from me. You should have to rot the rest of your life,” said Mitchell, as she emotionally sobbed in court.  “He needs to be put away for life so that he spends his days suffering the way we have to suffer.”

He most likely will.

O’Brien is requesting life without parole for Sherman.  But Common Pleas Judge John P. Bessey could sentence him to life with the possibility of parole after serving multiple decades in prison.

Obviously, putting Sherman away will officially bring to a close the ghastly incident that played out on Nov. 16, at about 9:45 p.m., outside of 1121 E. 16th Ave. in the Linden community on Columbus’ Northeast side.  But it will hardly bring closure to the family of Jayden left reeling from a tragedy that happened after a melee between Sherman and Sonia got out of control.

It was an atrocious rage unleashed on a little boy by his father. 

“I’m going to take my (expletive) son,” barked Sherman, in the maelstrom of  bickering with the baby’s mother, who did not live with him. 

Sure enough, he took the child after assaulting the baby’s great-grandmother Carolynne Holmes and Mitchell.  But no one anticipated what happened next.  The enraged Sherman slammed the child to the pavement, multiple times.

Holmes ’911′ call captured the gruesome incident.

“He threw him on the ground.  He threw him out on the street.  He threw him like he was throwing a piece of trash.  He’s killed his baby.”

And that wasn’t even the end of Sherman’s rampage.

Still engulfed in a rage, he scooped up the baby from the street and scooted off to a nearby trash bin where he dumped the child and hid inside the bin.

Officers who arrived at the scene searched the area and found both Sherman and the battered, lifeless baby inside the trash bin.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

Editor's Choice , News

Onumba.com editor Ike Mgbatogu interviews House Dem leader Budish

By , March 4, 2011 | 8:53 am | 0 Comment

Onumba.com editor Ike Mgbatogu interviews House Dem leader Budish

 ONUMBA.COM –  On February 24, Onumba.com and Call & Post Political and Community Reporter Ike Mgbatogu interviewed Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish at his Riffe Tower office Downtown Columbus, focusing on a wide panoply of issues that has him at odds with Republican Governor John Kasich. 

Here are excerpts of the interview.  A full story of the conversation will appear in the Call & Post newspaper next week.

On House Bill 1, The HB 1 calls for, ‘JobsOhio’ to usurp the job creation role of the Department of Development to be managed by a small cabal of folks assembled from the business community.  Mark Kvamme, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist The bill passed on straight party line, with all Republicans voting for it while all Democrats opposed it.  Gov. Kasich has called the Department of Development stale and unproductive in terms of job creation, he believes his new ‘Jobs Ohio’ Initiative is the way to go.

“HB1 takes a billion dollar of tax payer money, turns it over to a group of private individuals led by the governor” for economic development.

“The problem is those funds can now be expended in secret.”  Budish said that JobsOhio is “exempted from Ohio Sunshine laws, accountability laws and from Ohio’s ethics laws.  Why in the world would you ever exempt the expenditure of our tax dollars from Ohio’s ethics laws.” 

On Senate Bill 5, “It is extremely unfair.”  “Collective bargaining levels the playing field.  SB 5 is trying to turn back the clock.”

On $400 high speed rail grant: It was ‘no thank you.’  Gov. Kasich turned down the money, returned it back to the Obama administration.  “The money would have benefited freight in the state of Ohio.”

On diversity and cabinet makeup:  “All people in Ohio should be concerned about the makeup of the cabinet.  The strength of Ohio is our diversity.  We are a diverse state and that’s a strong plus.  That is the best way to come up with the best decisions.”

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

Editor's Choice , Featured , Politics

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

By , December 5, 2010 | 2:29 am | 0 Comment

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

ONUMBA.COM – Mahatma Ghandi’s words that we should be the “change we want to see in the world,” is probably no more than just a lofty cliché for a lot of people.

But for one Columbus resident, it has become much more than that. 

It’s also a call to action.

Abdulkadir “Fish” Ali said that it’s time to rescue his war-battered homeland from the mean-spirited grip of politicians he characterized as “inhumane, unwise and heartless.”  These folks, he said, have for years fanned the flame of a vicious conflict that has brought Somalia to its knees. 

Yet, through it all, Ali, like other Somalis, paced the sideline with hands folded as their troubled homeland ravaged in deepening squalor.

But that was then.

In an interview last week, the 52-year old Ali told the Call & Post that he has seen enough.

“I came to the conclusion that I can no more be an indifferent spectator of the calamity that has befallen on my beloved country of Somalia,” said Ali.  That conflict has shredded Somalia into rubbles of despair, leaving its hapless citizens dangling in endless brutal hostilities, which started in 1991 after the collapse of Siad Barre’s government. 

Ali, who was the Chairman of the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, announced last week that he is a candidate for president of Somalia in the upcoming 2011 election under the mantra:  “2011 New Hope for Somalia.”   

He described the existing political arrangements and behavior of current crop of Somali politicians as “unacceptable.”

Most Somalis would certainly agree with that assessment.  The East African nation is currently ripping itself apart in a conflict that has robbed it of an effective government for nearly 20 years. 

What’s worse, there appears to be no end to the anarchy in sight.

In the Diaspora, war-fatigued Somalis residing in the United States and elsewhere pray for a leader capable of rescuing their torn-up homeland from lawlessness to make room for peace and stability. 

But they are clinging on to very little hope that it would happen.

Ali, though frustrated, remains optimistic.

 ”I am not one of those who gave up hope on Somalia, because I love my people and I love my country,” he said.  “I believe our good days are ahead of us, all we need is to make the right choice this time around.”

That right choice is his candidacy.  “I have a plan,” he said.

The linchpin of that plan is to “restore our statehood and rebuild our country,” he said, promising “to build a strong Somali army” to rid the nation of meddlesome foreign forces. 

Ali vowed to “stop and eliminate the senseless bloodshed.”

“It is very painful,” he said, decrying the mindless destruction playing out in Somalia today.

A major part of the country’s woes, said Ali, is caused by the current Somali leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.  In his eyes, Ahmed is simply not up to the job of delivering peace and stability to the country.

However, Ali wasn’t always against Ahmed. 

When Ahmed visited Columbus in 2009, Ali wholeheartedly supported him.  He even gave an inspiring speech at Ahmed’s welcoming clambake held at Villa Milano where he expressed the view that “he is our best chance to lead Somalia to peace and stability.”

Well, Ahmed is yet to do that, and Ali now doesn’t think he is going to.

“It’s time for a new leadership,” he said, promising to run a government rooted in “honesty, integrity and accountability.”

“We cannot wait for another 20 years for something to happen,” he said.  “We want to take back our country from corrupt politicians.”

Asked why he turned against President Ahmed, Ali replied, “Reality.  The president had enough time to show leadership, but he has not.”

As for why he supported Ahmed before, Ali said it was largely because of his background, alluding to the fact that Ahmed was part of the Islamic Court regime that was generally lauded for ruling Mogadishu “peacefully.”

“We thought he would show leadership,” said Ali.

But Ali’s candidacy may run into a hurdle from the fact that the United States and the international community are reportedly rooting for Somalia’s current regime to succeed.  It remains unclear whether such support will translate into a policy to have Ahmed remain as president. 

Either way, Ali is forging ahead believing that, “The U.S. is supporting the wrong leadership in Mogadishu.”  Despite all that support, the government is still unable to fend off its formidable foe, al-Shabaab, which reportedly has ties to al-Qaeda.

Currently, Somalia is ungovernable.  A mix of sustained hostilities and sporadic flare-ups has engulfed the impoverished Muslim nation, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring countries, the United States and elsewhere.

At the height of Somali conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community , People , Politics

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

By , August 25, 2010 | 1:53 am | 2 Comments

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

Onumba.com — Pouting, whining, caterwauling, kvetching and scowling all over the place with long faces isn’t the solution.  It won’t help non-Somali African immigrants in Columbus get through the doors of government opportunities.

Understand one thing, please:  ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease.’   And that’s pretty much what’s playing out here.

Of course, it is abundantly clear, unless one has been camping out in a cave, that the Somalis, for what it is worth, are soaking up all the oxygen of attention from governments and community groups compared to other African immigrant communities?

But why?

For one thing, a stampede of them arrived here as hapless refugees needing a smorgasbord of government assistance to settle in a strange land.

But let’s be clear, that’s hardly the only reason.  Part of it, I think, is also that Somali groups have for years labored in the trenches of social activism capitalizing on a plethora of issues in their community as a springboard to engage the political process and chummy up with local politicians.  Many of them have been able to articulate their once scattered orb into viable, focused and visible pockets of communal advocacy now being championed by a rash of pushy cabals constantly dangling their pain before swooning government officials.

But in contrast, other African communities, especially West African communities, have not been able to match the Somalis in this fundamental regard.  Yet, many refugees also arrived from Sierra Leone, Liberia and other places, and very much like the Somalis are also facing a catalogue of difficult challenges.

To be fair though, it is not as though West Africans are a bevy of clueless naifs wallowing in their lack of desire to form groups.  No – they form groups, too.

But the question is, to what ends?

Seemingly, the kind of associations emerging out of West African immigrant communities often take the form of esoteric social clubs, the kind we have back home, that cater only to the interests of their uppity members.  Far too often, the leaders of these groups are quite boffo at promoting dancehall shindigs than the interest of their community before government officials, which in a way, easily explains why they are blasé about the communal ululations tormenting the poor in their communities.

True, not all West African organizations are woeful culprits, but far too many of them suffer from this contagious prodrome.  Much of it, I think, is because some of these groups sprouted out of a restless and cavorting phalanx of elitist leaning folks united in their phalangeal seclusion from the concerns of the puisnes among them.

That’s why, these inchoate camarillas are inherently not agents of community mitzvah.

How often do you see a West African organization representative before a committee of the city council or the Franklin County Board of Commissioners trumpeting community issues?

The fact is, West African groups have a woeful track record regarding this.   But in contrast, Somalis do it all the time.

To be clear though, I’m not knocking non-activist groups.  It’s OK to form groups allowing restricted membership, by a swashing bunch craving uppity hobnobbing with no interest in social activism.  It is entirely OK.  But if that’s how you want it, then for heaven’s sake, get off the back of the Somalis if you are unwilling to get involved in community work. You just can’t have it both ways.

West African hoipolloi, many of them toiling in dual jobs as nursing aides, babysitters, store cashiers, factory workers, and restaurant factotums, constantly grumble about their plight being ignored by government leaders they say often cater to Somalis’ every tantrum.

Some have questioned the veracity of this claim.  But those making it uncompromisingly believe that the Somalis are lopsidedly being coshered with love while  they receive shabby treatment.

To resolve this indaba here would amount to a lofty orb, and I won’t even try.  Yet if there’s any dram of truth to this raging claim, then a hefty dose of the blame should be dumped right at the doorstep of those tone-deaf government officials who for some nutty reason just would not quit treating the Somalis as though they are non-Africans.  It only deepens the rift.

But having said all of that, constantly being on a rampage caviling, brickbating and begrudging the Somalis won’t help.  It is a copout.

What to do?

Quickly get off the dead horse and mount the farm cart of social advocacy, instead.  While on the wagon, swiftly purge the old, stale, lethargic order by organizing and pushing to reform and refocus these hedonistic and feckless West African cabals littered all over the city for a noble role in social activism.  That is essentially how the Somalis have been able to establish a noteworthy presence deep in central Ohio’s political scene.

One gallant effort to form an activist West African organization took place a couple of years ago, but the group, which was called African Women Empowerment Network (AWEN), despite the initial euphoria touting all the great things it wanted to do for the community, limped through a tide of debilitating hurdles before it ultimately died on the vine for lack of support from both the government and the community it was swooning to help.

But truth be told, that wasn’t really the only reason it collapsed.  It was also because its founders failed to sustain their initial gusto and commitment to the project.  And that’s not too far from the linchpin of all this, which is that folks in the West African communities often prefer to tackle their issues solo and outside of the integrated communal solutions.  Yet while communal spirit is also evident in these communities, the problem is that narcissistic socializing often trumps the noble idea of being ‘my brother’s keeper.’

Many of them regard being involved in community work as fundamentally counterproductive, a mindset rooted in the recognition that having superior college education, skills, experience, and deeper connectedness to the system are enough to assure them desired economic sufficiency.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.

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