Fighting Boko Haram Is Tough – US Ambassador

TELL-cover-pageImagine a diplomat dressed in military fatigues, with the protective jungle boots and a Kalashnikov firing through the pages of this edition in your hand. Wait a minute, our guest in this week’s interview is not a military man, and he does not pretend to be one. What he shares with the men in uniform is that unapologetic mien to shoot straight, albeit with words based on conviction. He is a diplomat, a service into which he has put an enviable 34 years. In his tour of duty, he is spending his 15th month as the United States ambassador to Nigeria.

Yet this is not James Entwistle’s first time in Africa, even in the West African region. Prior to his posting to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where he was posted to Nigeria, he had served in Niger Republic and Cameroon, both neighbours to Nigeria. However, the service here appears to be a bigger assignment, not just for the size of the country but also for the complexities that come with it. Before he became ambassador, he had served in foreign missions in Thailand and Sri Lanka, aside from working back home on foreign desks for Kenya and Uganda.

So you could say that he is an authority on Africa affairs. But Entwistle does not take anything for granted and he is a man always in search of knowledge. That is why he does not restrict his interaction to the elite, an approach that gives him the rare opportunity to know some of the hidden truths about his environment; in this case, Nigeria. All this shows in his display of full understanding of the Nigerian situation in this interview.

And for a man Adejuwon Soyinka, deputy general editor, who interviewed him in Lagos, describes as “frank and forthright”, it is not surprising to see him shoot from the hip while fielding questions on democracy, the 2015 elections, corruption, the race issue in America and Nigeria’s military and the Boko Haram war. In this interview, Fighting Boko Haram Is Tough, we urge you to pay attention to the ‘bullets’ flying through the pages and across plates of ‘beans’.

Now, last week, some breeze of relief blew across the country. It was not fought for; rather it dropped on the laps of the citizenry. The federal government reduced the pump price of petroleum products because of the free fall in the price of crude oil. Away from arguments over the belatedness of the announcement or the tokenism of it, we looked at the gains for the man in the street and the economy; what we found is that what the people had always fought for, but which the authorities have been too reluctant to give, is coming home so effortlessly. Abiola Odutola, who has just been promoted senior writer, wrote the story, The Gains of Fuel Price Cut.

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