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Sir Mervyn King the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England has had a really tough time battling with a slew of financial scandals and audit failures. Regardless, his professional integrity and personal reputation have remained intact. His achilles heels are the dodgy economy of the UK and most of Europe (with even Germany having to struggle).

According to a business survey released yesterday, business activity in Germany fell in April for the first time since November 2012. The long and short of it is that the global economy is faltering and Britain has been caught in its slipstream. This morning, Fitch Ratings became the second (Standard and Poor’s was the first) rating agency to strip the UK of its triple-A credit rating.

However, according to Vatican Radio yesterday, Britain only narrowly avoided slipping into its third recession in five years during the first quarter of this year (January/March).

Sir Mervyn still has three more months at the Bank of England hence a recession at this time would have cast a dark shadow over his tenure even though his worst critics concede that it is the politicians who are to blame – they lost the plot and took their eyes off the ball. When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, he took a huge gamble by launching a bold slashing of government expenditure. It was a massive austerity programme packaged as “re-engineering”. The pointsman was none other than the UK Treasury Chief (Chancellor the Exchequer) George Osborne. He insists that Britain’s economy is on the mend.

On CNN, he declared:
“We all know there are no easy answers to problems built up over many years, and I can’t promise the road ahead will always be smooth, but by continuing to confront our problems head on, Britain is recovering and we are building an economy fit for the future.”

This was followed by a joint press conference by the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Governor of the Bank of England was conspicuously absent. David Cameron was unrepentant.

“We shall stick to our strategy which is essential in our determination to keep Britain from the fate that has befallen Greece and forced other euro-zone governments into painful rescues after economic collapse. Our recovery plan is taking longer than we hoped but there are signs that it is working.”

Mr. Ed Balls, the spokesman for opposition Labour Party was sufficiently provoked and alarmed. He immediately launched a furious counter attack:

“The stagnating economy is proof the government’s strategy is not working. Unemployment is rising. We need an urgent boost for the economy – including bank overhauls (not excluding getting rid of the Governor of the Bank of England); a plan for jobs and growth; and building affordable homes. We insist on immediate action to kick-start our economy and strengthen it for the long term.”

On Al Jazeera, Mrs. Christine Largade, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held up two signals – one read “DANGER” and the other read “CAUTION”. When pressed, she tactfully confined herself to the official line:

“Owing to Britain’s weak economy, the government should consider slowing the pace of spending cuts (and sack the Governor of the Bank of England).”

At a special service to mark Workers’ Day on Wednesday 1st May 2013, the brand new Holy Father, Pope Francis 1 chose St Peter’s Basilica to deliver a special message of hope not only to workers but also to the unemployed particularly those chartered accountants who have been protesting in St Peter’s Square against being deprived of their means of livelihood by the four major accounting firms.

The Pontiff urged them – one and all – not to lose hope.

Instead, they should consider themselves exceptionally lucky to have had a narrow escape from even worse tribulation and humiliation.

The Holy Father urged them to remain optimistic and steadfast in their faith amidst record joblessness in the euro area as hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated across Europe against austerity and in favour of workers’ rights – in addition to the right of small audit firms to carry out a robust audit without the fear of being removed from office while the four largest accounting firms are only too ready to take over their clients. According to the marauders, there is nowhere in the Ten Commandments poaching, snatching or enticement of clients are forbidden. You kill what you eat and eat what kill is the unwritten law.

The Pope’s message was straight to the point:

“I think about those who are unemployed (and auditors who have been replaced by the Big Four) often because of an economic conception of society that seeks egoistic profit regardless of social justice.”

Vatican Radio devoted a whole hour to interviewing youths all over Europe and it would appear that the economic downturn has forced young people to reconsider the value of going to university and half of them think a degree is no longer worthwhile. The Future of Europe Project found the confidence of young people (particularly Catholics) has been badly hit. The majority aged between 16 to 24 do not expect to have a job for life.

The Vatican media can barely keep up with the vigour and freshness of the Pope. Indeed, Vatican Radio and TV have been feasting on the editorial of

“The Nation” newspaper of March 23, 2013.

Headline: “POPE OF HOPE”
“New Catholic Pontiff starts on a good note”

“The formal inauguration the new Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis 1, on Tuesday, signaled the commencement of a new era in the history of the church at a most critical period. The galaxy of world leaders who graced the occasion as well as the global attraction it elicited indicate that so much is expected of the new spiritual head of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, both within and beyond the Catholic communion. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit priest to become Pope.

An Argentine, he is the first Pope from outside Europe. He is the first Pope in living memory to occupy the seat when his predecessor is still alive as Pope Emeritus. He assumes office at a time of grave moral crisis in the church and critical socio-economic challenges confronting humanity. The new Pope’s early gestures indicate that he has the spiritual grace, humility and wisdom to help guide the church to a higher moral pedestal. Francis is in many ways a Pope of hope.

It is significant that the Pope has assumed the name of St Francis of Assisi, a monk whose commitment to the poor was demonstrated by a life-long vow of chastity, humility and poverty. This is an indication of his identification with the wretched of the earth’ that still constitute the vast majority of humanity in a world that has, ironically, evolved the technology and expertise to make poverty history. As it is well known, poverty is at the root of many of the problems – religious extremism, terrorism, rampant criminality and gross moral degeneration – that threaten the very existence of humanity today. The current economic crisis that afflicts most parts of the world today also underscores the gulf of inequality that separates a microscopic proportion of the opulent from the less fortunate rest of mankind.

Pope Francis was thus right on target in emphasizing the need to protest the poor and the environment in his inaugural homily. He called on Christians “to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person especially the poorest, to protect ourselves” saying further that “This is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called ….. The vocation of being a protector, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting the people, showing concern for people, showing concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

These words of compassion have a special resonance for us in Nigeria, where society worships at the altar of crass materialism and man is no longer his brother’s keeper. Pope Francis is showing a worthy example to the Nigerian church, where the size of a person’s bank account has become the measure of the salvation of his soul and men of God fly private jets in the name of God, even as millions of their members wallow in hunger and deprivation.

Pope Francis has shown signs that his will not be an imperial, distant papacy. He reached out beyond the shield of security to touch and empathize with the ordinary people who came to witness his inauguration. He asked the people to reach out their hands and pray for him first before he pronounced his papal blessings on them. This truly is an exemplar of the humble Nazarene whose vicar he is on earth – at least to Catholics.

We pray that the Pope meets the great expectations his elevation has engendered, especially now that the church is beset by a lot of challenges that require tact and divine wisdom to address.”

As confirmation that even in the midst of hope, there is no escape from despair and frustration, Italian politicians were the beneficiaries of a narrow escape from a crazy gunman on April 27, 2013. Here is an eye witness account by Elizabeth Povoledo:

“Two military police officers and a passer-by were shot and wounded on Sunday in a crowded square outside the office of Prime Minister Enrico Letta and near the presidential palace, where his new government was being sworn in.

The shooting was shown live by the state broadcaster RAI, which had a television crew in the square in front of Mr. Letta’s office, Palazzo Chigi, where the new ministers were to go after the swearing-in ceremony.

What was supposed to be a day of celebration, marking a government that took nine weeks after the elections to assemble, quickly turned into a national drama. The square in front of Palazzo Chigi was cordoned off, and ambulances and police cars blocked traffic in one of Rome’s busiest downtown areas. Inside the palace, the ceremony continued undisturbed, and most of the ministers were not told of the shooting, which occurred about half a mile away, until after the ceremony.

A man, identified as Luigi Preiti, who is unemployed and is from the Calabria region, was detained and accused of the shooting, the authorities said.

“I heard seven or eight shots,” said Enrica Agostini, a RAI reporter. “I was pushed back into Palazzo Chigi. The police was screaming. ‘It’s an attack, it’s an attack.’ ”

Doctors at Rome’s Umberto I Polyclinic said Sunday evening that one of the military police officers, Giuseppe Giangrande, was shot in the neck and was in critical condition after undergoing an operation. The bullet injured his spinal column, causing “important damage,” doctors said in a televised news conference, adding that they would not be able to discuss his prognosis for 72 hours.

The other officer, Francesco Negris, was shot in the leg, but his injuries were not life-threatening, officials said. A woman who was passing by was also hit but was not seriously injured, according to news reports.

At a news conference, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said an investigation would be conducted, but that the shooting appeared to be an “isolated gesture.”

Mr. Alfano said it also appeared that Mr. Preiti had intended to commit suicide, but told officers that he had run out of bullets.

A prosecutor working on the investigation said that Mr. Preiti had intended to target politicians. “He’s a man full of problems who has lost his job, he’d lost everything, he’d had to move back home, he was desperate,” the prosecutor, Pierfilippo Laviani, told the news agency ANSA. Mr. Preiti had planned the attack 20 days ago, according to news media reports.

“He wanted to strike politicians, but when he couldn’t reach them, he shot the police,” Mr. Laviani said.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Letta met with his ministers for a cabinet meeting that had been scheduled beforehand. The new government will face a confidence vote in Parliament this week.

The former interior minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, who was sworn in on Sunday as justice minister, told reporters that the shooting had been carried out “by someone who is unbalanced.”

The shooting rattled Italy, already unsettled by a period of instability after the inconclusive national elections, which hobbled efforts to form a government. It also brought back memories of the “years of lead,” the period of social and political turmoil in the 1970s and early 1980s marked by dozens of acts of terrorism that were carried out by left-wing and right-wing radicals.

In recent years, groups that modeled themselves after the Red Brigade terrorists of that time have carried out sporadic attacks and have killed two Italian labour reform specialists. And tax agency offices have been bombed, a protest against a fiscal system that many consider to be onerous. But there has been little social tension.”

As for the Seventy “Senior Elders from Nigeria” who have for almost six months kept vigil in St. Peter’s Square in fervent prayers for our beloved country – that it may not go the same way as Rwanda; Sierra Leone; Liberia; Egypt; Libya; and especially Somalia, the Italians and the Holy Father have proved to be generous hosts. We are being provided with free biscotti and coffee. Besides, our visas have been extended “indefinitely”. The message is clear – we are welcome to pray for as long as we like.

In addition, the Vatican surprised us by availing us of unrestricted access to its files and documents on our beloved Zimboda. It is an amazing treasure trove!!

Time and space will not permit us to download it all straightaway. Here is a snippet of Zimbodia’s narrow escape.

For obvious reasons the full story of the sudden death of the military dictator on June 8, 1998 followed a week later by the equally sudden death of the choice of the people on July 7, 1998 after drinking a cup of tea in the presence of Ms. Susan Rice and Ambassador Thomas Pickering from the United States of America must remain a secret. The politician who had won the Presidential election on June 12, 1993 had been denied his mandate by the military and it was the Military dictator who clamped him into detention for almost five years. He remained steadfast. Under no circumstances would he surrender his mandate.

It is alleged that the General died after a tryst with three “oriental ladies” and the consumption of an apple (heavily dragged). Several newspapers reported that Viagra was invited to the party.

Anyway what is relevant is that the military dictator died in the early hours of the morning but his Chief Security Officer kept it as a closely guarded secret. All the top military guys were summoned to the Presidential Villa at Aso Rock, Abuja – “for an urgent meeting with the Head of State and Commander-In-Chief”!! The big boss was dead but his lieutenants were sold a dummy. Once they were all assembled, Major Mustapha could easily have declared himself the new Head of State and that would have been the end of the matter – unless they were ready for a shoot out. The major had them covered – with guns and the security cameras.

The Major would have pulled off the coup d’etat but he confided in the former military governor (of the former capital of Zimboda). It was the latter who gave the game away. The dead General’s predecessor in office got wind of what was afoot. He moved quickly and with the support of his loyalists he was able to lure the unsavvy major out of his secure enclave at the Villa. The major has spent almost two decades in jail – one trial after another. At one point he faced military style execution (or assassination) according to his supporters. He too had a narrow escape!!

Written By Bashorun J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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