Eight Republicans who could challenge Trump in 2024

The possibility of a crowded GOP presidential primary in 2024 has grown likelier in recent days following reports that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is gearing up to officially announce a White House bid later this month.

Former President Trump is the only high-profile Republican who has formally announced a presidential campaign, but he’s ramped up rhetoric in recent days against several widely floated 2024 contenders, including Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — both of whom who could be formidable challengers to the former president.

Here’s a look at eight Republicans likely to challenge Trump in 2024:

Nikki Haley

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is set to announce her 2024 presidential bid Feb. 15 after months of speculation that she would throw her hat in the ring. (AP Photo/Ryan Collerd)

Haley, a former two-term South Carolina governor and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., is expected to formally announce on Feb. 15 that she’ll be running for president, The Hill confirmed this week.

Haley has long teased speculation that she might throw her hat in the ring, including during an interview with Fox News last month in which she said that “when you are looking at the future of America, I think it’s time for new generational change.”

Trump responded to the news by taunting his former administration official.

“Nikki has to follow her heart, not her honor. She should definitely run!” he wrote on Truth Social, including an older clip of her saying she would not run in 2024 if Trump did.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been quiet so far about his plans for 2024, though the governor’s advisers are reportedly looking into possible campaign staff picks should he launch a presidential bid. (Associated Press)

The Florida governor has been coy about his possible 2024 presidential plans, though he notably refused to commit to serving out a full four-year term as governor when asked about it during a debate in the lead-up to the Florida gubernatorial race.

Behind the scenes, though, advisers for DeSantis are reportedly in the process of contacting  possible staff picks should he go forward with a bid of his own.

While DeSantis has avoided trading barbs with Trump, who has stepped up his attacks on the governor, he made a point to emphasize his resounding reelection when asked by a reporter about the former president’s recent criticism of him.

“I’m happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection. We won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” the Florida Republican said. “We won by the largest raw vote margin — over 1.5 million votes — than any governor candidate has ever had in Florida history.”

Mike Pence

Mike Pence

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Pence has been increasing public appearances in recent months while promoting his memoir and backing candidates leading up to the November midterms. (Associated Press)

Trump’s former vice president is also weighing a possible presidential run, telling The Hill in an exclusive interview last month that he would continue traveling across the country and make a decision “in the months ahead.”

Pence has been traveling around the U.S. to promote his memoir, “So Help Me God,” and book tours often serve as a prelude to announcing larger political aspirations. He also noticeably waded into the November midterms, backing more centrist and establishment-leaning Republicans like Arizona gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, though both lost to Trump’s picks.

More recently, Pence has been embroiled in recent news that the FBI is reportedly searching his residence in Indiana again in addition to his Washington, D.C., office after his team alerted federal officials previously that they had found some classified documents at his home.

Mike Pompeo

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has teased that he will make his plans for 2024 known this spring. (Getty)

The former secretary of State said in December that he’ll announce his possible presidential plans in the spring, but he’s already made moves suggesting he’s signaling a White House bid.

In recent months, Pompeo has spoken at the presidential campaign mainstay “Politics & Eggs” series in New Hampshire; released his own memoir, “Never Give an Inch”; and taken a few shots at the former president.

“We were told we’d get tired of winning. But I’m tired of losing. And so are most Republicans,” Pompeo tweeted in November, mocking Trump’s “tired of winning” phrase after the GOP performed worse than expected during the November midterms.

Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) announced that he will launch a listening tour that will take him to South Carolina and Iowa, two early presidential primary and caucus states. (Associated Press)

Scott, a senator from South Carolina, is rolling out a “Faith in America” listening tour, which will include stops and speaking arrangements in South Carolina and Iowa — both early presidential primary and caucus states. The tour will only add to rising speculation that he’s considering launching a bid of his own.

The chamber’s only Black GOP senator, Scott often points to his personal story as someone who was raised by a single parent living in poverty who now serves in the halls of Congress. Among the issues that Scott has worked on, he’s most notably been the negotiator of police reform legislation from the Senate GOP side; a possible police reform bill being negotiated between him, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), however, fell through last year.

Larry Hogan

Larry Hogan, the former Maryland governor who has been one of former President Trump’s most vocal critics, has recently leaned into speculation that he will run for president in 2024. (Greg Nash)

Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland, told Fox News in an interview this week that he’s giving “very serious consideration” to the thought of jumping into the 2024 White House race. He has previously said that he’s considering a bid of his own and has been one of Trump’s most fervent critics.

Hogan taunted Trump during an interview following the November midterms, telling CBS News “My side of the party had a really good night. Trump’s side did not” — a reference to centrist Republicans who performed better than more far-right candidates during the elections.

During an interview on conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt’s show this week, he initially said he would support whoever the presidential nominee turned out to be on the Republican side, suggesting he would support Trump if he ended up in that position but later clarified those comments to say he wouldn’t back the former president.

Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R) victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in the state’s 2021 gubernatorial race sparked excitement about the governor’s future plans within the Republican party. (Associated Press)

Republicans saw Youngkin’s upset victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race as a bright spot for the party in a state that has trended blue in recent years. Youngkin made education — including concerns over critical race theory and parent’s rights in school — a key component of his campaign and one that some candidates like Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) sought to replicate during their own campaigns.

Youngkin campaigned with GOP gubernatorial candidates like Lombardo, former Oregon state Sen. Christine Drazan in the Beaver State’s governor’s race and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, raising speculation that the Virginia governor might have higher aspirations past the governor’s mansion.

Asa Hutchinson 

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) confirmed late last year that he is seriously considering a 2024 presidential run. (Getty)

The former Arkansas governor said in November that he was looking “very seriously” at a possible White House bid during an interview with  “CNN This Morning” host Kaitlan Collins and told her that he was aiming to make his decision in January.

A Trump critic, he said in December that it would be the GOP’s “worst scenario” if the former president ran again and said last month that “Jan. 6 really disqualifies him for the future.” Last year, he delivered remarks at the presidential campaign mainstay “Politics & Eggs” New Hampshire Event.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

#usnews

Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday.

Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed.

He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s monthslong siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Russian defense officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some “special category” prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

A statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defense Ministry did not provide details about these “special category” captives.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

#usnews

Pope Francis in South Sudan: The Catholic pilgrims who walked nine days to Juba

The pilgrims were joined by a group of supporters to celebrate their arrival in Juba

A group of about 60 Catholic pilgrims are recovering after spending nine days trekking through war-torn South Sudan to see Pope Francis in the capital, Juba.

“My feet are sore, but I am not so tired. When the spirit is with you, you do not get tired,” NightRose Falea said as she licked her cracked, dry lips.

“I would not have missed coming to Juba for anything. We are here to get the Pope’s blessings. I am confident that with his blessings things will change for this country,” she told the BBC.

Driven by faith and a sense of patriotism, the women had set off from Rumbek – some 300km (190 miles) north-west of Juba.

Their mission: to join the Pope in prayer for the world’s youngest nation, which has been beset by conflict since its independence in 2011 – a situation that has brought untold misery to millions of its people.

“We walked for a couple of hours each day and then we would spend the night in the parishes at the centres where we were. It was tiring but worth it,” said Faith Biel.

As they walked for the last few miles, dust and joyful songs filled the air as a caravan of people sang and stamped their feet.

The spectacle attracted crowds of onlookers. Some joined in as the dancing became more vigorous. Others, unsure, stood at a safe distance to make way for the group of women dressed in white and wearing headscarves with a print of Pope Francis’s face.

Their besmirched clothes, blistered feet and cracked lips attested to the ordeal of the nine-day trek, but they still danced and jumped to celebrate their accomplishment.

Refreshments awaited them at Juba’s St Theresa’s Catholic Church, where a welcoming party had also started singing and dancing.

One pilgrim, who was shedding tears as she arrived, hinted at the trauma the years of fighting have brought to this country.

“When you have smelled and seen death and hopelessness, then you will search for peace with all the might that you have,” said the woman, who did not want to give her name.

“I have lost enough, but along the way I saw love and we all spoke one language – that of peace. I really pray that even after the Pope leaves, we will still be like that,” she continued.

“He is a prophet and whatever he prays in the next few days, while on our soil, will come to pass. Things will be different. We are going to be one people.”

Pilgrims arriving in Juba

A banner marking the 300km walk was unveiled to welcome the pilgrims

The church is seen as a symbol of hope for many in South Sudan. It is where many displaced by the country’s conflicts seek refuge.

It has also continued to take a leading role in the social welfare of the people and given most of them a sense of belonging.

Pope Francis is spending three days in the country and will hold a Mass on Sunday.

In a historic first, he travelled with two other Christian leaders – Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Rev Iain Greenshields.

In 2019 Pope Francis kissed the feet of South Sudan’s bitter political rivals, President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, when they met at the Vatican.

This was an act that shocked many, even if it did not immediately end the fighting.

Although that conflict has now subsided, many local disputes still turn deadly on a regular basis – on the eve of the Pope’s arrival, more than 20 people were killed in a cattle raid.

Millions of South Sudanese will be hoping – and praying – that the visit of the three religious leaders will mark a new beginning for this troubled country.

Map

Map

The Pope and Africa:

#usnews

Sudan demands United Nations immediately lift arms embargo

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Sudan is demanding the U.N. Security Council immediately lift an arms embargo and other sanctions imposed during violence in the western Darfur region in 2005, saying the punishment did not include conditions or require the military government to meet U.N. benchmarks.

Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Al-Harith Idriss Mohamed, said in a letter to the council circulated Friday that the sanctions “are no longer relevant to the magnificent reality on the ground in Darfur today compared to the situation in 2005.”

“Darfur has, for the most part, overcome the state of war, as well as previous security and political challenges,” he said.

Mohamed said Sudan’s transitional government is committed to addressing the remaining social and security issues in Darfur, including sporadic tribal clashes. He added that efforts are being made to form and deploy a Joint Security-Keeping Force to protect civilians.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly urged the Security Council to lift sanctions but this letter was much stronger. It said that “Sudan will accept nothing less than the immediate lifting of these sanctions without conditions or benchmarks.”

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the authoritarian government in Khartoum then led by Omar al-Bashir, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. previously estimated 00,000 people died in the conflict and 2.7 million fled their homes.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for him in 2009 for crimes against humanity and war crimes and added genocide to the charges in 2010.

In April 2019, Al-Bashir was ousted after three decades in power. He is incarcerated in Khartoum, where he is facing corruption charges and charges related to the overthrow of the former elected government.

In October 2021, Sudan was plunged into turmoil following a coup led by the country’s leading military figure, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, that derailed the short-run democratic transition following al-Bashir’s ouster.

Sudan’s ambassador told the Security Council that the contined sanctions have had “a detrimental impact and negative consequences that extend beyond the arms embargo in Darfur and the targeted sanctions on some individuals,” including asset freezes and travel bans.

Sanctions discourage investors and “encourage the rogue armed transboundary bands to disrupt peace and order in Darfur, owing to the imbalance of hard power,” Mohamed said. Lifting sanctions would enable Sudan “to further play an active regional role,” he said.

In July 2021, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended four benchmarks to guide the Security Council in reviewing sanctions: progress on political and economic governance issues; transitional security arrangements in Darfur; the National Plan for Civilian Protection; and transitional justice and accountability.

Mohamed said some of the benchmarks and targets “are completely unrealistic and cannot be met, neither in the Sudan nor elsewhere in the majority of developing nations.” He not not single out any of the benchmarks.

The ambassador aslo accused some council members of refraining from engaging with Sudan’s government “to achieve realistic, applicable and measurable benchmarks.”

#usnews

‘It has started’: Russia prepares new Ukraine offensive as Western allies approve more weapons

President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony commemorating the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad, in Volgograd, Russia, Feb. 2. (Getty Images)

“We are again being threatened by German Leopard tanks,” Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Thursday on a visit to Volgograd, where he commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Red Army’s World War II victory over Nazi forces in Stalingrad.

As he so often has in the past year, Putin made a direct comparison between his attempted conquest of Ukraine and what Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War. “Again and again we are forced to repel the aggression of the collective West,” he said.

Also in characteristic fashion, Putin got his facts wrong. The Nazis never operated a tank named after the leopard during World War II. As for the “collective West,” no mention was made of Joseph Stalin’s invasion of Poland 16 days after Adolf Hitler’s, as per their mutually agreed carve-up of Eastern Europe, which culminated in a joint victory parade between German and Soviet armies in Brest-Litovsk on Sept. 22, 1939.

Putin’s revisionist history comes as Russia is said to be prepping for a massive offensive in Ukraine, possibly to coincide with the one-year anniversary of its Feb. 24 invasion.

“I think that Russia really wants some kind of big revanche. I think it has started it. And I think that they will not be able to provide their society with any convincing positive result in the offensive,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at a Friday press conference in Odesa with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has suggested that the Kremlin may be deploying as many as half a million soldiers for the effort, more than twice the original number fielded a year ago to mount the initial invasion. One unnamed source in the Russian military interviewed by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta confirmed that a massive push is in the offing, although the source seemed skeptical that it would be successful. Russian generals, the source said, had no compunction about turning tens of thousands of their own men into “mincemeat.” The Ukrainians, moreover, “get absolutely accurate information about all of our movements from Western intelligence agencies.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday. (Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Last month, Russia reshuffled its war leadership, appointing Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, the overall commander of forces in Ukraine, and demoting his predecessor, Gen. Sergey Surovikin to one of three deputies. The British Defense Ministry called this move “an indicator of the increasing seriousness of the situation Russia is facing, and a clear acknowledgement that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals.” Gerasimov, along with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, has been serially assailed by Russian hawks and ultra-nationalists for the military’s poor performance in Ukraine so far. He is therefore thought to be under enormous political pressure to deliver some kind of tangible victory for Putin in the short term.

But for all the talk of an impending massive attack, there’s little visual evidence of one. Recent satellite footage does not show any new major buildup of Russians soldiers and materiel along either the Russian or Belarusian borders. What this suggests is that Moscow may simply be funneling newly mobilized soldiers into existing fronts, with no provision of the additional armor and artillery necessary for combined arms warfare. In other words, raw meat for the grinder.

One Estonian military analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, told Yahoo News this week that the rumored Russian offensive is likely already underway. “I am moderately confident that Russia itself already thinks it is conducting it,” the source said, adding that Putin is probably reluctant to announce another major mobilization effort so long as Russian losses do not approach those experienced during the hasty and humiliating withdrawal from Kharkiv last September. “I am doubtful how good a picture Putin has about the status and readiness of [his] units.”

A Ukrainian serviceman holds a portrait of his brother-in-arms Volodymyr Androshchuk

A Ukrainian serviceman holds a portrait of his brother-in-arms who was recently killed in a fight against Russian troops near Bakhmut. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

The epicenter of the fighting in the country right now is Bakhmut, a city of less strategic importance than symbolic value for both Kyiv and Moscow. Bakhmut currently remains in Ukrainian hands but is under increasingly heavy assault from a Russian force buoyed by tens of thousands of newly mobilized Russian conscripts and unknown numbers of mercenaries, many of them recently released convicts. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former convict himself and a Russian catering magnate, finances the Wagner Group, Russia’s infamous private military company which has just been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as a transnational criminal organization.

One U.S. official told Yahoo News that Prigozhin sets enormous stock in taking Bakhmut, and that the oligarch appears to be parlaying gains on a foreign battlefield into an aspirational political role reminiscent of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani before his assassination by the United States in Baghdad in 2020. Along with Ramzan Kadyrov, the ruler of the semi-autonomous republic of Chechnya, Prigozhin has been outspoken on Telegram in his attacks on Gerasimov and Shoigu for their handling of the war. He routinely depicts Wagner as the only fit and courageous cadre of warriors on Russia’s side, an assessment many Russian military bloggers agree with. As a billionaire patron of guns-for-hire with no military background, Prigozhin evinces no concern for Wagner’s catastrophic losses in Bakhmut. Indeed, Prigozhin has only disdain for mercenaries who don’t fall in battle but get captured, having celebrated the retaliatory murder with a sledgehammer of one of his own employees, a returned prisoner of war, by the man’s comrades.

Still, Wagner and the Russian army are slowly making headway. They captured the salt mining city of Soledar, directly north of Bakhmut, on Jan. 16 and are making inroads to the south in an attempt to sever the Ukrainian supply lines keeping the city’s defenders fighting.

Russian forces have also been looking to gain ground around Vuhledar, in southern Donetsk, using the multiple-launch rocket system TOS-1A to bombard the city still solidly in Kyiv’s hands. Yet Ukrainian and Russian military sources have said that the push for Vuhledar only led to heavy casualties for the Russian army, a claim that appeared to be confirmed by images posted on social media of dead bodies and destroyed equipment. As noted by the Estonian military analyst, the last time the Russians made a serious play for Vuhledar was several months ago. That too was a rout. They lost two naval battalions in three days. Ukraine, meanwhile, has been slowly advancing in Kreminna, north of Bakhmut.

In Luhansk, the only local cellphone provider informed subscribers that all mobile internet services would be suspended as of Feb. 11, a move widely believed to be intended to stop local Ukrainians from sharing pictures of Russian forces assembled in the area. Luhansk, along with its neighboring oblast Donetsk, are the two regions of Ukraine that were first occupied by a hodgepodge of Russian warlords, mercenaries, spies and regulars in 2014, not long after the takeover of Crimea. The pretext for Putin’s “special military operation” in February was a series of invented Ukrainian provocations — known about and leaked in advance by U.S. intelligence — in the Donbas, as the two oblasts are collectively known.

“Putin wants to take all of the Donbas by March 2023,” one Western diplomat told Yahoo News. “And he doesn’t care at what cost.”

The war’s price tag, however, is rising all the time.

President Biden arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport on Friday.

President Biden at the Philadelphia International Airport on Friday. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Part of the new American weapons package for Ukraine announced by the Pentagon Friday is a consignment of ground-launched small-diameter bombs, a ground version of the air-launched GBU-39 small-diameter bomb, which first entered service in the U.S. Air Force in 2006 and has since been used successfully in numerous wars. Guided by the Global Positioning System, the bombs operate in all conditions and is exceptionally accurate, hitting within a yard of its designated target.

Ukraine’s lack of a long-range firing capability over and above that of previously supplied artillery rockets has been a capability gap long bemoaned by the Ukrainian military. The U.S., the U.K., France and Germany have sent the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) or M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to Kyiv, but the ammunition for either has so far been limited to around 50 miles. This has forced the Russians to move their fuel and ammunition depots out of range, complicating already strained Russian logistics, but also rendering Ukraine’s ability to corrode their supply lines more difficult.

The introduction of the ground-launched small-diameter bombs will give the Russians fewer areas to fall back to. They have a maximum range of 94 miles, nearly double that of the longest-range munition known to be in Ukraine’s arsenal. All of Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, the vast majority of Russian-occupied Donbas, and the northern third of Russian-occupied Crimea, will be in range once the ground-launched bombs arrive sometime in the spring.

One U.S. official explained to Yahoo News that an early problem besetting artillery resupplies to Ukraine was that Ukrainians were using their ammunition stocks too quickly and firing pricey payloads at low- or mid-value targets. Inventory and logistics now predominate in ongoing discussions of security assistance over fears of escalating against Russia. This is now the main reason, the official said, that the Biden administration has yet to agree to send the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which have a range of 190 miles and would put all Russian military positions in Ukraine within striking distance. Each ATACMS costs $1 million. It’s also no longer manufactured by Lockheed Martin and is in dwindling international supply.

The ground-launched small-diameter bomb, on the other hand, is “off-the-shelf,” currently mass produced by Boeing and Saab. Moreover, according to the manufacturers, it is or will eventually be compatible with the HIMARS or an M270 MLRS, even if the U.S. is reportedly sending a separate ground launcher to fire them.



#usnews

CIA chief says Ukraine needs to puncture ‘Putin’s hubris’ in the next 6 months

  • CIA chief William Burns said the Ukraine war is entering a “critical” phase in the next six months.
  • Burns said it will be crucial for Ukraine to puncture “Putin’s hubris” on the battlefield. 
  • Russia is expected to launch a major offensive in the near future.

CIA Director William Burns on Thursday warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “betting right now that he can make time work for him” and “grind down Ukrainians” as the West’s support for Ukraine fades. 

The CIA assesses that the next six months of the war in Ukraine will be “critical,” Burns, a former US ambassador to Russia who makes frequent trips to Kyiv, said during an event at Georgetown University.

During this “crucial” period, it will be vital for Ukrainian forces to puncture “Putin’s hubris” on the battlefield, Burns went on to say, underscoring that Ukraine needs to make it clear to the Russian leader “that he’s not only not going to be able to advance further in Ukraine, but as every month goes by, he runs a greater and greater risk of losing the territory that he’s illegally seized from Ukraine so far.”

Burns’ assessment echoed comments from NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in mid-January, when he said the war was entering a “decisive phase.” 

The fight in Ukraine has morphed into a grinding war of attrition, with heavy losses on both sides and incremental gains. But Russia is expected to launch a major offensive in the near future, as Ukraine ramps up its requests for more advanced weapons from the West to help it defend against the Russian invaders and push to reclaim occupied territory. The US, Germany, and the UK recently announced they would provide battle tanks to Ukraine, fulfilling a major request. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Wednesday suggested that the expected Russian offensive is likely to occur close to the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion — February 24.

“We think that, given they live in symbolism, they are going to try to attempt something around February 24,” Reznikov told French TV station BFMTV.

Meanwhile, there are evolving discussions in Kyiv and Western capitals over the potential for Ukrainian forces to push Russia out of Crimea and regain control of the crucial Black Sea peninsula.

“We must do everything to ensure that Crimea returns home by summer,” Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, recently told the Washington Post. “Crimea will be returned to us. I’ll tell you more: It all started in Crimea in 2014, and it will all end there,” he added. 

Russia invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, prompting outcry across the world. In many ways, this provocative action laid the foundations for Russia’s full-scale invasion of its next-door neighbor last February.

Crimea, home to a number of Russian military bases and Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was used as a staging ground for Russia’s invasion last year. Russian aircraft and warships continue to use Crimea as a base of attack for striking Ukraine. Top military analysts have made the case that regaining control of Crimea is key to Ukraine’s long-term survival.

“The decisive terrain for this war is Crimea. The Ukrainian government knows that they cannot settle for Russia retaining control of Crimea,” retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of US Army Europe, told Insider in late January. “The next few months will see Ukraine setting the conditions for the eventual liberation of Crimea,” he added.



#usnews

UPDATE 1-South Korea Foreign Minister Park touts U.S. ‘extended deterrence’ after Blinken talks

(Adds quotes, details)

WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) – South Korea Foreign Minister Park Jin said after meeting U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken on Friday that Seoul and Washington were committed to strengthening “extended deterrence” in relation to North Korea.

South Korea has sought assurances over extended deterrence, referring to the ability of the U.S. military to deter attacks on U.S. allies, amid concerns over Pyongyang’s increasing missile and nuclear capabilities.

“The ROK (Republic of Korea) and the U.S. will continue our watertight coordination to achieve genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Park said during a joint news conference following the meeting at the State Department in Washington.

“We are committed to strengthening extended deterrence while maintaining a robust combined defense posture. Any provocations by North Korea will be met with a firm and united response.”

Park and Blinken’s meeting followed a visit to Seoul this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who vowed to expand military drills and boost nuclear deterrence planning to counter North Korea’s weapons development and prevent a war.

Major car producer South Korea has sought talks with the United States over the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which excludes electric vehicles assembled outside of North America from tax credits in the United States.

“We will also work together to ensure that the inflation Reduction Act is implemented in ways that address Korean companies’ concerns and benefit both our businesses and industries,” Park said.

Park said Seoul would also explore the potential for cooperation with Washington under the CHIPS and Science Act, a law designed to boost U.S. semiconductor production and research with a view to competition with China. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Eric Beech and Simon Lewis; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)

#usnews

Putin’s Men Fear ‘Minced Meat’ Fate in New Offensive

Sputnik/Evgeniy Paulin/Kremlin

Russia’s military is preparing for heavy losses ahead in a new offensive, according to a source apparently stationed at a Russian military headquarters in Ukraine, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to send tends of thousands of men to war in Ukraine knowing very well that he will is going to make them into “minced meat,” the source said.

The source accused the Russian military of not taking any dangers of the offensive into account and predicted that the offensive would come at a massive cost.

The warning coincides with U.S. and other western officials warning that Russia is preparing to launch a new onslaught of offensive operations in the new year. Ukrainian intelligence has assessed that Putin has ordered the Russian commander of troops in Ukraine to seize all of Donbas by the end of this month.

Already, there are indications that Russia is in dire straits in its attempts to regroup and launch a new offensive, and aware that there may be some resistance to mobilization. British intelligence assessed last month that Putin is struggling to come up with new ways to mobilize more personnel to the front without causing domestic dissent over the war to grow. Putin ordered a mobilization of 300,000 last year, and may be relying on more call-ups under those orders soon, the British intelligence assessment stated.

The goal of minimizing dissent appears to be bumping up against battlefield planning, though. The window of opportunity for Russia to make any gains in Ukraine is closing soon, the Commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupshis, warned, adding that “even a blind man can see that they are preparing for the next wave of offensive” in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.

Russia will be less able to secure battlefield wins the longer it waits to launch its offensive, especially as more western nations work to crank up their military aid to Ukraine, Rupshis said in an interview with Guildhall published Friday.

Intel Reveals Putin’s First Order for a Big War Rebound This Year

“The Russians understand that if they do not launch an offensive now, it will be too late by the end of spring,” Rupshis said, warning that all signs point to Russia preparing for a new offensive.

Satellite imagery analysis shared exclusively with The Daily Beast in recent days shows Russia has been building up a layered network of fortifications in order to try to hold onto the eastern Ukrainian territory it has already gained in Donetsk and Luhansk. Some of the imagery suggests Russia might be trying to go on the offensive to gain more territory as well, analysts said.

Andriy Chernyak, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said this week that Ukrainian intelligence continues to assess that Russia wants to take all of the Donbas by March.

“We’ve observed that the Russian occupation forces are redeploying additional assault groups, units, weapons, and military equipment to the east,” Cherniak told The Kyiv Post. In some ways Russia has already begun offensive campaigns in eastern Ukraine to that effect, Cherniak warned.

“Even today, we are already seeing such actions in the Luhansk and Donetsk directions,” Cherniak said. “That is, the offensive is underway.”

Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces warned that Russia was continuing to conduct attacks throughout Ukraine Friday.

“There is a great danger of further Russian aviation and missile strikes across Ukraine,” Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces spokesperson said.

Already, Russia’s military operations on the ground are not going well, though, according to Ukraine’s military. Russia is running “offensive actions” in the Limansky, Bakhmutsky, Avdiiv, and Novopavlivsky directions, but “suffering major losses in personnel and military equipment,” the spokesperson said Friday in a brief. “The opponent continues to suffer losses.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast’s biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast’s unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.

#usnews

How comedian called out Raab on TV for mistaking him for ‘another brown guy’

This is the moment comedian Nish Kumar publicly called out Dominic Raab on TV after the deputy prime minister apparently mixed him up with another “brown guy” on the set of a BBC show.

Mr Kumar said Mr Raab confused him with Gary Marlowe, the brother of anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, when the trio were backstage at a Question Time in north London in 2018.

He has since told The Independent that he had “no confidence” Mr Raab could “differentiate between different Asians”.

Speaking on BBC 2’s satirical news show The Mash Report about the alleged incident, he said: “When I walked into the green room, and this is a true story, you were saying ‘Nice to meet you Nish!’ to a man who turned out to be Gina Miller’s brother.

“Even though the show tweeted photos of all of us the day before so we all know what each other looked like, you just ignored it and went up to the first brown guy you saw and assumed he was me. Even though he has no glasses and no beard!”

Ms Miller described the mix-up in an article for The Independent in which she also accused Mr Raab of being “aggressive and intimidating” when they were invited on the BBC Radio 4 Today show to debate Brexit in 2016.

She said that Mr Raab made the mix-up years later, when she appeared on the BBC panel show and took her brother along for support.

She wrote that Mr Raab arrived “and made a beeline to my brother – a serious looking, bespectacled, very short haired doctor – and said, “I am Dominic Raab, look forward to being on the panel with you tonight” with that grin he does. I looked up from the papers I was reviewing in preparation. My brother was taken aback and said, “do you think I’m Nish Kumar? We’re not all the same, you know?”

Mr Kumar said Mr Raab “did not even acknowledge that the infraction happened”.

“What annoyed me was that he had no contrition afterwards,” he said. “He just went up to the first brown guy he saw, was immediately corrected but did not even acknowledge that the infraction happened.

“I have to say I felt no confidence that he can differentiate between different Asians. But it left us both feeling a sense of disrespect and disregard for our identity.”

Mr Marlowe added: “He came up to me and said “Hi Nish” – even though I don’t look anything like him. I thought what an idiot. Just because we are both brown does not mean we’re interchangeable.

“I have a thick skin I have been beaten up by National Front thugs so this is small beer in comparison”.

Also appearing on the panel that night were journalist Piers Morgan and Labour MP Dawn Butler.

Meanwhile, describing the “abusive attack” in 2016, Ms Miller said Mr Raab “was aggressive and intimidating, and I was bullied and demeaned.”

“I can’t make up my mind if you’re naive, got too much money or just stupid,” she claimed he told her, in the first on-the-record claims against the former justice secretary.

Mr Raab was also “furious” when she was told by a young man that a car was ready to pick her up, Ms Miller said, adding that he shouted at the man: “Go get me a f****** car.”

Mr Marlowe added: “He owes my sister an apology for what he said to her which was bullying and misogynistic. He’s a powerful personality and we felt the full brunt.”

A spokesperson for Mr Raab said: “Dominic firmly rejects the description and characterisation of him portrayed by Gina Miller. He always treats people with the utmost respect and has never sworn at staff.”

#usnews

Nigeria election 2023: Who are the presidential candidates?

A worker holds an election poster to be displayed at a polling station in Nigeria – archive shot 2019

Nigeria is holding general elections on 25 February. Here is a list of all 18 presidential candidates:

Kola Abiola (PRP)

Kola Abiola is the son of the late Nigerian business tycoon and politician Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 elections which were cancelled by the country’s military rulers.

A businessman like his father, his vice-presidential candidate is Zego Haruna, running for the People’s Redemption Party (PRP).

Atiku Abubakar (PDP)

A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, 75, is running for the presidency for the sixth time. His first attempt was in 1992.

The business tycoon served two terms as deputy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and was credited with making reforms to key sectors that helped kickstart economic growth.

However, he has been accused of various charges of corruption, all of which he denies.

He is representing the country’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), alongside his running mate, Delta state governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

Adebayo Adewole (SDP)

Adebayo Adewole is a lawyer, politician and businessman from western Ondo state. He is representing the Social Democratic Party (SDP), with his running mate Buhari Yusuf.

They promise:

  • A restructured, balanced, equitable and functional Nigerian Federation

  • A dynamic, productive, transformed and sustainable economy

  • A just, fair, egalitarian and peaceful nation

  • A conscious effort to open the political space for greater inclusion of youth and women in governance.

Malik Ado-Ibrahim (YPP)

Malik Ado-Ibrahim is a prince from the central state of Kogi state and the owner of energy company Bicenergy. He is also the founder of Formula One team Arrows A20.

In 2020, he was in the news for his marriage to Indimi Adama, daughter of billionaire oil businessman and philanthropist Mohammed Indimi.

He is representing the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and his vice-presidential candidate is Enyinna Kasarachi.

They promise to:

  • Harness the huge resources and talents in Nigeria’s human capital wealth

  • Provide sufficient funds to supply various types of weapons for defence, deterrence and retaliation

  • Diversify the national economy by promoting solid minerals development

  • Promote national consciousness and Nigerian cultures.

Okwudili Anyajike (NRM)

Okwudili Anyadike won the ticket of the National Rescue Mission (NRM), defeating closest rival Bendicta Egbo.

He is contesting with Kyabo Muhammad as his vice-presidential candidate.

Ojei Chichi (APM)

Ojei Chichi is the only female presidential candidate in this year’s election and will represent the Allied People’s Movement (APM).

An administrator and politician from the southern state of Delta, her running mate is Ibrahim Mohammed.

Christopher Imumolen (AP)

Christopher Imumolen is a professor of engineering.

At 39, he is the youngest candidate on the ballot. He holds a PhD in engineering research and educational management. He is standing for the Accord Party (AP), with Bello Maru as his running mate.

Dumebi Kachikwu (ADC)

Dumebi Kachikwu is a businessman who owns local Roots Television.

He is running on behalf of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), with Buhari Ahmed as his vice-presidential candidate.

They promise to:

  • Invest heavily in infrastructural development

  • Grow Nigeria’s capacity to refine its resources before exporting

  • Improve teachers’ pay and educational infrastructure

  • Create a $30bn power-generating opportunity with 23,220 MW of power in the first two years

  • Tackle insecurity with modern technologies and by recruiting an additional one million soldiers into the Nigerian Army.

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (NNPP)

Rabiu Kwankwaso is a former governor of the north-western Kano state, where he introduced free education for local residents during his two terms.

He served as minister of defence from 2003-7 and vows to tackle the country’s various security crises by recruiting an extra 750,000 soldiers, taking the army’s size to one million.

A two-term governor, he was a senator between 2015 and 2019.

The 66-year-old, known for his trademark red cap, has previously been in both of Nigeria’s biggest parties – the PDP and APC – before joining the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) last year

This is the third time he is seeking the country’s highest office. His first two attempts failed in the party primaries.

His running mate is Odiri Idahosa.

Hamza al-Mustapha (AA)

Hamza al-Mustapha is a former chief security officer to former military leader General Sani Abacha.

After Abacha’s death, he was jailed for more than 10 years over the killing of Moshood Abiola’s wife, Kudirat.

He defeated one other candidate to emerge as flag-bearer for the Action Alliance (AA).

His vice-presidential candidate is Johnson Chukwuka.

They promise to:

  • Stabilise the economy and promote agriculture

  • Re-enforce the National Security Council to handle all matters of national security

  • Give priority to the security and welfare of the people

  • Tackle corruption by holding corrupt official accountable.

Daniel Nwanyanwu (ZLP)

Daniel Nwanyanwu is both presidential flag-bearer and national chairman of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

He is contesting with Abubakar Ramalan as his vice-presidential candidate.

Peter Obi (LP)

A former governor of south-eastern Anambra state, where he has a strong track record, Peter Obi has an active support base on social media.

The 61-year-old portrays himself as “Mr Clean”, in contrast to many Nigerian politicians who are accused of using public office to steal money.

However, he has been accused of tax avoidance and was mentioned in the Pandora Papers although he says he has done nothing wrong.

He was the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP alongside Atiku Abubakar in 2019 but last year switched to the Labour Party (LP).

His running mate is Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, a former senator from Kaduna State.

Adenuga Oluwafemi (BP)

Adenuga Oluwafemi is running on behalf of the Boot Party (BP), alongside Mustapha Turaki as his vice-presidential candidate.

They promise to:

  • Revive the economy to work for everyone by investing massively in infrastructural development

  • Prioritise use of “Made in Nigeria” products

  • Increase security in the north-east region and concentrate investment in solar energy in the part of the country

  • Declare a state of emergency on health.

Nnadi Osita (APP)

Nnadi Osita is contesting with Hamisu Isah for vice-president on behalf of the Action Peoples Party (APP).

Omoyele Sowore (AAC)

Omoyele Sowore is the founder and publisher of US-based news site, Sahara Reporters.

He is running for a second time after his previous attempt in 2019.

The publisher was arrested later that year for his “Revolution Now” protest which he intended to take across the country. He was later released and the detention declared illegal.

He shares the African Action Congress (AAC) ticket with Magashi Garba as the vice-presidential candidate.

They promise to:

  • Build a strong and productive economy that works for all

  • Set up an inter-agency “special & violent crimes task force” to respond to kidnappings and other security emergencies as they arise

  • Transform the country into a truly just and open democratic nation

  • Show commitment to the struggle for the total liberation of the Nigerian people.

Bola Tinubu (APC)

Bola Tinubu is a former two-term governor of the Lagos state, where he is credited with attracting foreign investment and improving public transport.

Briefly a senator in the early 1990s, he is contesting the presidential election for the first time, on the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

He faces various accusations of corruption and has even been linked to allegations of drug trafficking in the US, all of which he denies.

The 70-year-old has also released a video of him using an exercise bicycle to counter reports of his ill health.

Kashim Shettima, former governor of the north-eastern state of Borno, is his running mate.

Peter Umeadi (APGA)

Former chief judge of Anambra state, Peter Umeadi is also a professor of law.

He is representing the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), with Mohammed Koli as his running mate.

They promise to:

  • Employ every means – diplomatic, political, economic, social and cultural – to advance the image of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the spiritual home of the black peoples of the world

  • To raise the quality of life of the common people and to ensure that all Nigerians have access to the prosperity and increased human scope of the 21st Century

  • Ensure that the Nigerian Armed Force is professionally trained, disciplined, equipped with every modern engine of war

  • Immediately upgrade the salaries, barracks, uniforms and personal welfare of both the Armed Forces and the Police.

Sani Yusuf (ADP)

A politician and businessman from the north-western Kano state, Sani Yusuf plans to end “systemic corruption” in Nigeria.

He is standing for the Action Democratic Party (ADP), alongside his vice-presidential candidate Udo Okoro.

They promise to:

  • Spend up to 15% of the annual budget on the education sector while making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system

  • Diversify the economy through innovation, industrialisation and technological development in agriculture

  • Proactively support transparency and accountability by government institutions and officials.

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic

#usnews

Shlomo Perel, Holocaust survivor, film subject, dies at 98

JERUSALEM (AP) — Shlomo Perel, who survived the Holocaust through surreal subterfuge and an extraordinary odyssey that inspired his own writing and an internationally renowned film, died on Thursday in central Israel. He was 98.

Perel was born in 1925 to a Jewish family in Brunswick, Germany, just several years before the Nazis came to power. He and his family fled to Lodz, Poland, after his father’s store was destroyed and he was kicked out of school. But when the Nazis marched into Poland, he and his brother, Isaac, left their parents and fled further east. Landing in the Soviet Union, Perel and Isaac took refuge at children’s home in what is now Belarus.

When the Germans invaded in 1941, Perel found himself trapped again by World War II’s shifting front lines — this time, captured by the German army. To avoid execution, Perel disguised his Jewish identity, assumed a new name and posed as an ethnic German born in Russia.

He successfully passed, becoming the German army unit’s translator for prisoners of war, including for Stalin’s son. As the war wound down, Perel returned to Germany to join the paramilitary ranks of Hitler Youth and was drafted into the Nazi armed forces.

After Germany’s surrender and the liberation of the concentration camps, Perel and Isaac, who survived the Dachau camp in southern Germany, were reunited. Perel became a translator for the Soviet military before immigrating to what is now Israel and joining the war surrounding its creation in 1948. His life regained some semblance of normalcy as he settled down in a suburb of Tel Aviv with his Polish-born wife and became a zipper-maker.

“Perel remained silent for many years,” Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, said in a statement, “mainly because he felt that his was not a Holocaust story.”

But in the late 1980s, Perel couldn’t keep silent about the tale of his wild gambit anymore. He wrote an autobiography that later inspired the 1991 Oscar-nominated film “Europa Europa.”

As the film captivated audiences, Perel became a public speaker. He traveled to tell the world what he witnessed throughout the tumult of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis, and to reflect on the painful paradoxes of his identity.

“Shlomo Perel’s desire to live life to the fullest and tell his story to the world was an inspiration to all who met him and had the opportunity to work with him,” said Simmy Allen, spokesperson for Yad Vashem.

Perel died surrounded by family at his home in Givatayim, Israel.

#usnews

Nigeria election 2023: Who is Peter Obi of the Labour Party?

Peter Obi

A wealthy businessman with a reputation for being frugal, Peter Obi has emerged as a powerful force ahead of February’s Nigeria’s presidential election, energising voters with messages of prudence and accountability that are amplified by an army of social media users.

In a country that seems to always be on the lookout for a messiah to solve its myriad problems, young social media-savvy supporters have elevated Mr Obi to sainthood and are backing his largely unknown Labour Party against two septuagenarian political heavyweights.

The way he has attracted supporters seems to border on populism – a tag he and his supporters would denounce, but some of his rhetoric might be encouraging that.

“It’s time to take your country back,” he often says.

“[This election] is the old against the new,” he told the BBC.

His name is often trending on social media on the back of numerous conversations sparked by his supporters, instantly recognisable from their display picture of his image or the white, red and green logo of his party.

These are mostly urban under-30s who refer to themselves as the “Coconut-head generation”, because they are strong-willed, independent-minded and contemptuous of older politicians who, they say, have done little for them.

Many of them, like Dayo Ekundayo from the eastern city of Owerri, were involved in the EndSars protests that forced the disbandment of a notorious police department two years ago and also morphed into calls for better government.

Now, they are deploying the same strategies that mobilised hundreds of thousands of young Nigerians and raised millions of naira within weeks for the 61-year-old who they consider an alternative to the two parties that have dominated politics since the end of military rule in 1999.

“Which Nigerian politician has ever held office and has his integrity intact? I do not see any other logical option for young people in Nigeria,” said Mr Ekundayo.

EndSars protesters

Many of those supporting Mr Obi were involved in anti-police brutality protests in 2020

He has already been involved in a march for Mr Obi, and is providing logistics and mobilising students for the campaign as he did during the EndSars protests.

But opponents say Mr Obi is a political impostor, one of many who spring up at election time with delusions of being a third force that will wrestle power from the traditional parties.

Many supporters of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and neutral observers agree he is head and shoulders above the other candidates, but say he lacks the nationwide popularity to win the election and have warned his supporters that they risk wasting their votes.

They believe he is a distraction from the common goal of removing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from office, and could split the opposition vote.

A devout Catholic from eastern Nigeria, they point to his lack of popularity in the Muslim-dominated north, whose votes are considered critical in winning presidential elections.

But Mr Obi and his running-mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed have had strong showings at party rallies in the north, attracting large crowds in states where the popularity of the Labour Party was doubted – although such crowds can be hired by politicians.

His critics also question whether he truly represents a break from the corruption he routinely lambasts, pointing out that his name popped up in the leaked Pandora Papers which exposed the hidden wealth of the rich and powerful in 2021.

While he was not accused of stealing money, he failed to declare offshore accounts and assets held by family members, citing ignorance.

He was also accused of investing state funds, as governor, into a company he had dealings with. He denied any wrongdoing and points out that the value of the investment has since grown.

Mr Obi repeatedly says he is not desperate to be president, which is ironic for a man who has changed parties four times since 2002.

He dumped the PDP just days before its presidential primary in May and the party went on to choose the 75-year-old former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential flagbearer.

Peter Obi and Yusuf Ahmed

Mr Obi’s running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, is a former federal lawmaker from Kaduna state

Critics say he pulled out of the contest because he knew his chances of winning were slim but he cited wrangling within the PDP, where he was a vice-presidential candidate in 2019, for deciding to cross over to the Labour Party.

His supporters are also convinced that he was pushed out of the PDP because he refused to bribe delegates at the party primary and have coined the phrase: “We don’t give shishi (money)” as a buzzword for his famed frugality and his prudence in managing government funds in a country with a history of wasteful expenditure by public officers.

They regard him as an unconventional politician prepared to take on the APC and PDP behemoths seen as different sides of the same coin, who they accuse of dipping their fingers into the public purse.

There is also a religious and ethnic twist to his candidacy.

In a country where roughly half the population is Christian, his supporters hope that this will bolster his chances of winning, as after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari they would not want another Muslim – the APC’s Bola Tinubu, 70, or the PDP’s Mr Abubakar – to take office.

And while he has downplayed his religion, Mr Obi has become a constant face at the large auditoriums of Nigeria’s Pentecostal churches, to rapturous receptions, and he has also singled out Christian communities in the north for visits.

This has drawn criticism from opponents who accuse him of bigotry and trying to create divisions through religion, accusations he has denied.

Some also support Mr Obi because of his ethnic background. Igbos make up the country’s third largest ethnic group, but Nigeria has had only one Igbo president, largely ceremonial, since it freed itself from British colonial rule in 1960.

Many Igbos accuse successive Nigerian governments of marginalising them and hope that Mr Obi will rise to power so that the south-east, where most of them live, would see greater development and so counter the pull of secession groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob).

Critics say he is a supporter of Ipob, a group designated as a terror organisation by Nigeria, but he told the BBC that he is a firm believer in Nigeria and that his position on the different “agitations across the country” is to dialogue and reach a consensus.

He said Nigeria’s number one priority is the issue of insecurity because it has become an existential one “that must be dealt head-one decisively”.

“If you deal with it [security] today, you deal with inflation because farmers would go back to farms and that would reduce food inflation,” he said.

A philosophy graduate, he worked in his family’s retail businesses before going on to make his own money, importing everything from salad cream to beauty products, and baked beans to champagne, while also owning a brewery and holding major shares in three commercial banks.

You can normally recognise a Nigerian billionaire from a mile off but Mr Obi is thrifty and wears it as a mark of pride.

He is quick to point out that he owns just two pairs of black shoes from midmarket British chain Marks and Spencer, prefers a $200 suit from Stein Mart to a $4,000 Tom Ford suit, and always insists on carrying his own luggage, rather than paying someone else to do it for him.

Even his children are not spared his frugality. His 30-year-old son was denied a car, he said, while his other child is a happy primary school teacher – a rarity in a country where a politician’s name often opens doors to more lucrative jobs.

The OBIdients

Despite the financial controversy, his tenure as governor of Anambra state has become a reference point for his presidential campaign.

His supporters point out that he invested heavily in education and paid salaries on time – the simple things that most Nigerian state governors tend to neglect.

He also left huge savings in state coffers at the end of his two four-year tenures, another rarity.

Labour Party supporters

Mr Obi’s supporters are mostly young Nigerians in urban areas

But Frances Ogbonnaya, a university student in Anambra state when Mr Obi was governor, is surprised by the praises being sung in his name, describing his tenure as unremarkable.

“Who saves money in the face of hunger? Who saves money in the face of a lack of facilities?” she asked rhetorically.

But it is his reputation for frugality and sound management that has attracted a horde of supporters, known as OBIdients.

Some have been accused of cyberbullying and labelling anyone who does not vote for him in next year’s election an enemy of the state.

He responded with a tweet calling on his supporters to “imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship”, but it has done little to calm them down.

They are quick to remind anyone who tells them that elections aren’t won on Twitter, that data from the electoral body shows a jump in new registered voters, most of them young people.

But this is not the same as actually turning out to vote on election day.

With weeks to the election, there is no denying the momentum behind Mr Obi but cynics also point to the lack of a nationwide party structure to support the view that, while possible, an Obi presidency remains highly improbable.

“The structure that has kept us where we are, the structure that has produced the highest number of people in poverty in any country, the structure that has produced the highest number of out of school children, that is the structure we want to remove,” he said.

He retorted that his structure is “the 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty [and] the 35 million Nigerians who don’t know where their next meal will come from”.

If half of those turn out to vote him on election day, it might very well be all that he needs.

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic

Nigeria election graphic



#usnews

Global Social Gathering We would like to show you notifications for the latest news and updates.
Dismiss
Allow Notifications