Good morning to you. Distinguished leaders and office holders of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA). Trust this meets you well. Firstly,

I am sending you this link below to the full-page story in yesterday’s The Nation newspaper in Nigeria on my humble quest to fly the African flag to contest the CJA Presidency at the international conference coming up this Friday and Saturday – March 19 and 20 – with India as host.

IT IS BELIEVED IT IS AFRICA’S TURN – not CANADA’S TURN. It was after us in Africa after Mr Ray Ekpu, the first African and 2nd person to be CJA President after the founding president, the late Derek Ingram, stepped down as CJA President that his Vice President Murray Burt from Canada was supported by us and the rest to take over from Ray. SO WHY DO THEY NOW WANT TO GO OVER OUR HEADS IN AFRICA AND IMPOSE A CANADIAN WHO HAS NO MEMBERSHIP AND IMPOSE THE ONLY MEMBER CHRIS COBB ON US. I am sorry, but Africa is NOT a bystander in the Commonwealth!

The latest I have heard is that Mr Mahendra Ved, the outgoing CJA President, is bent on imposition his own rules on the conduct of elections, by asking each branch to select 15 members to cast votes on Saturday. I am afraid, THAT IS NOT WHAT THE 2009 CONSTITUTION OF THE CJA SAYS! And we can ONLY proceed with this election on the basis of the 2009 constitution because it is the ONLY ONE that is legal and adopted by the International Exco of the CJA.

The amended version of 2012 was NOT adopted so IT CANNOT BE USED. The 2009 constitution is therefore the ONLY CJA CONSTITUTION that is recognised by law. It appropriately allows each member-state ONLY ONE VOTE (not 15) like Mahendra is trying to impose on us so that they can get their preferred candidate Chris Cobb from Canada in.

IT IS NOT CANADA’S TURN!

We from Nigeria and Ghana are surely going to resist this on the floor of the conference. We have spoken among ourselves here. Nigeria and Ghana WILL NOT accept ILLEGALITY and UNDEMOCRATIC means of doing things. We consistently fight dictatorships and autocratic rules in our continent, and we will fight it if it shows its ugly face up in the CJA.

So, this morning, we are internationalising our campaign against illegality that Mahendra Ved wants to impose on the CJA in the election of the association’s next president. This, therefore, is a PRESS RELEASE that will be circulated in the media around the world today.

Chris Cobb is from CANADA. He has been nominated by Murry Burt and endorsed by Hassan Shahriar from Bangladesh and Mahendra Ved the outgoing president from India. To make matters worse and even more ridiculous, Mahendra has chosen Hassan Shahriar, a main sponsor of Chris Cobb, to president over the election – can you imagine? Whereas, if we go by the rotation principles of the Commonwealth, It is not yet the turn of CANADA to hold the presidency of the CJA. The first and so far last Canadian to hold this post is Murray Burt.

He was Vice President to Mr Ray Ekpu from Nigeria who was the first African Vice President and PRESIDENT of the CJA and is currently President Emeritus himself. The founder of the CJA, the late Derek Ingram, handed over to Ray Ekpu as president. Canadian Murray Burt served UNDER Mr Ekpu as Vice President before we all supported him then to take over from Mr Ekpu as president when his tenure ended. We from Africa campaigned for Murray then joyfully and willingly because he was a very loyal Vice to our illustrious African President Ekpu.

In his acceptance speech, Murray Burt was effusive in praise for Ray Ekpu. He said he did not think he could be a match to Ekpu in the art of public-speaking. So WHY DO THEY WANT TO GO OVER OUR AFRICAN HEADS NOW AND IMPOSE A CANADIAN PRESIDENT? What is going on in the CJA under Mahendra Ved is very unfortunate indeed. We did not think such undemocratic behaviour can come from India and Canada, countries that we in Africa respect because of their liberalism, non-alignment and rigid adherence to the principles of democracy and human rights. CANADA SHOULD THEREFORE WAIT FOR ITS TURN and can take over after Africa has done its turn.

As a matter of fact, Canada presently has no member apart from Chris Cobb himself. Murray Burt no longer practices. He is long retired and he’s presently not feeling well and cannot attend the conference this coming Friday and Saturday.

So, please we Africans should NOT allow Mahendra Ved (India) and Hassan Shahriar from Bangladesh and Murray Burt from Canada divide us so that Canadian Chris Cobb can get in as the next president over and above Africa. We as Africans supported all of them to attain the positions they attained in the CJA today without asking for the constitution to be changed in their favour. So no nation, no matter how big, can impose its rule on us. Africa is NOT A BYSTANDER in the Commonwealth.

MAHENDRA VED WANTS TO SPLIT THE CJA

If Mahendra wants to do the election in an ILLEGAL way, Africa will resist it. We won’t accept it. I don’t think he will want CJA to split and die and be buried in India under his tenure. WE MUST RESIST THIS IN AN AFRICAN WAY. In the Commonwealth and the United Nations each country no matter how big and powerful is only entitled to ONE VOTE.

You can be China or The Gambia – you are only allocated one vote. Same with the election, if consensus cannot be peached, of Commonwealth Heads of Government. Each member-state has one vote. And the Commonwealth is not like the United Nations where some five countries or so have veto powers. So why is Mahendra Ved trying to impose his own rule of 15 votes per branch on the CJA for this Saturday’s presidential election. It does not make sense. This is unacceptable because this is not what the 2009 CJA constitution says.

As president, Mahendra Ved is only first among equals. He derives his powers from the CJA Constitution and the International Executive Committee. Ray Ekpu and I are founding members of the CJA. Most of the people running the show now met us in the CJA. Some of them were not even members when we were there playing the key roles that we played as founding members. We attended the first real CJA Conference in Cyprus, and the following ones in India (1987), Barbados, Namibia, Hong Kong, Abuja. And Ray was the second CJA President in history – therefore the most senior presently among the surviving Presidents Emeritus. He knows the CJA more than anyone of them. So he must be accorded the respect that he deserves. His views must be respected. And I hope he will be allowed to speak and address the conference and speak against this illegality that Mahendra wants to impose on us on Saturday. This is unprecedented. AND I HOPE IT WILL NOT LEAD TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CJA-AFRICA!

THIS IS A SERIOUS MATTER. I WILL BE HAPPY IF THOSE IN CHARGE CAN CIRCULATE IT AMONG MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE CJA AND LET PRESIDENT MAHENDRA VED KNOW OUR FEELINGS IN AFRICA PRESENTLY BEFORE THE CONFERENCE BEGINS. HE STILL HAS TIME TO RECONSIDER HIS POSITION AND NOT IMPOSE ILLEGALITY OF THE CJA. OTHER COMMONWEALTH ASSOCIATIONS ARE WATCH.

I am circulating this my passionate call to our local media here in Nigeria, other African countries and even far afield, so that colleagues worldwide, whether they are CJA members or not, are fully aware of what is going on. AFRICA WILL NOT ACCEPT!!

Please my African Brothers and Sisters and colleagues. Don’t let them use us. STAND UP AND DEFEND DEMOCRACY. STAND UP AND OBJECT TO ILLEGALITY!!

Lastly, please let me make it clear that I did not personally put my name forward to contest the CJA Presidency. I am busy and have a lot in my plate already. I was invited by colleagues around the Commonwealth who have known me over the years and my contributions to the CJA and the Commonwealth in general, and who believe since it is Africa’s turn I am worthy of flying the African flag. I thank you all for this recognition. But, as we say in Nigeria – “I beg,” let us do it fairly, honestly, with honour and integrity, and in a democratic way! JOURNALISTS TOO MUST LEARN TO DO THINGS ABOVE BOARD AND NOT LIKE THE PUBLIC OFFICIALS WE WRITE ABOUT AND CASTIGATE EVERY DAY!

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