doctor-protestA Few days ago, Nigerian polling organisation, NOIPolls, released the results of a survey which they conducted in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch. The research revealed that about 8 out of every 10 (88 per cent) of medical doctors in Nigeria are currently seeking work opportunities abroad. In other words, not counting those who have already left, among the very inadequate number we have, 88 percent have their eyes set on leaving at the earliest opportunity.

And this is not just among young doctors. The findings, according to media reports, cuts across junior, mid and senior level doctors in both public and private medical institutions — house officers, corps members, medical and senior medical officers, residents, registrars, consultants and medical directors.

No surprises here. The survey has only brought what has been a long known fact to the front burner of national discourse, albeit for as long as our fleeting attention span on important matters such as these can accommodate. You know we have this national habit of discussing our problems seasonally in piece meals and before we as much as arrive at a consensus or a clear path forward, we leave that issue and jump to the next one. For example, how often do you see headlines or public forums on recession these days? It used to be the order. Yet, we are still in recession. Same applies to Boko Haram, herdsmen killings, the Forex challenges, the President’s health and restructuring — the more recent craze.

But I digress. The result of the survey is a reminder of how bad things are. Indeed some will be surprised that there is actually a 12% who are happy to stay. Is this loyalty to Nigeria, lack of ambition or simply a case of ‘I really cannot be bothered anymore’? which ever it is, the real tragedy, as I had written here in the past, is that a lot of Nigerians are in a hurry to quit their country and this is not only evident in the medical profession. If the same survey were administered to everyone else, perhaps the only group who will express majority desire to remain will be our politicians and those who this rent-seeking economy has helped to have their mouths positioned very close to our revenue nozzle.

The challenge with doctors and health workers generally is particularly alarming though. Health they say is wealth. This statement holds even more value for a country where the large majority of the people live in poverty with attendant poor nutrition and hygiene, which leaves them susceptible to a wide range of communicable and incommunicable diseases. Millions of Nigerians die yearly from what has come to be known as “brief illness” — mostly a cocktail of easily treatable and avoidable diseases. A lot of our people simply cannot get to a hospital to access medical care because there is none within reach or when one exists there is no doctor or the doctor really has nothing to work with. This explains the scandalously high infant and maternal mortality rates and low life expectancy in these parts.

It should be a national tragedy that we have just 72,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria given our population, but it gets even worse when you find that only approximately 35,000 of them are practising in Nigeria. And of this number, 88% are eager to leave.

So why are they leaving?

The simple answer is that the country is not in good shape. The economy is bad, the security is horrible, infrastructure is non-existent and the system generally discourages merit, innovation and hard work. This is in line with the findings of the NOIPolls study. The reasons respondents cited for the looming brain drain in the health sector included challenges such as high taxes and deductions from salary (98 per cent), low work satisfaction (92 per cent), poor salaries and emoluments (91 per cent) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice in the country (47 per cent), among others.

It is one thing to simply want a better life for yourself and thus aspire to be where the grass is greener. It is, however, something else when you are willing to work but the tools are simply not there. Nothing could be more frustrating. And by tools, I don’t even refer to sophisticated diagnostic equipment. We are talking about everyday hospital supplies. And as if that’s not enough, you are most of the time embroiled in an argument with your employer and the government over your pay and allowances. Nobody wants to live in such a circumstance, the Hippocratic Oath and human conscience notwithstanding.

What to do? Clearly, we cannot force them to stay as long as there are other climes ready and happy to welcome them with open arms and offer them a far better condition of practice. We also cannot afford to just fold our arms and lament while the situation gets worse. We must do something.

The NOIPolls result should be the conversation starter for government and other stakeholders in the country’s health sector to begin to seriously discuss and fashion out the much-needed reforms in the sector and redesign the health system to make it one in which our people can have a fulfilling career in and to which our poor citizens can look up to for help when they are ill.

Above all, we need to fix this economy and the structure of the country as a whole, otherwise, regardless of what else we do, we will just be kicking a can down the road.


First published here on olisa.tv on Aug 9, 2017.

My new ebook, My Mind is no longer here is available here on amazon and on the okadabooks app.


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A lil over a year ago, I informed you  that i had signed a deal with Bahati Books to publish my novel ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’ on digital platforms. Read all about it here. So today they unveiled the cover design  and released a snippet about the book. Yaaaaaay!


See screenshot below of the announcement by Bahati Books earlier today:


So what do you think about the cover design?

Tweet me at @nzesylva or drop a comment on my Instagram page @nzesylva and tell me what you think. You may just win some goodies.

Details on the release date and platforms where the ebook will be available will be released soon. Watch this space.

Print version in the pipeline…

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abu-aliThe Nigerian Army has been engaged in serious operations against the Boko Haram insurgents for almost a decade. The destruction to lives and property has been unquantifiable but very little is still known about the war itself. Nigerians know more about the War against ISIS or the even the shenanigans of the dictator in North Korea than they know of the war being fought for so long in their own country. The very little information that trickle in, come as reports from international organisations like the Human Right Watch while for the most part the rest is stepped in propaganda and falsehood with the army itself being known to have at various times, issued information that was later found to be false.

The consequence of the dearth of information about the war is that there has not been any detailed human angle to it. So we hear of communities wiped out and statistics of the number killed and that is all. We hear of soldiers ambushed and missing and afterwards of ‘sizable numbers’ being found. Hardly any names attached to victims, who they are and what their stories are. But for the celebrated Chibok Girls, not much is known about human victims of this war and ironically, because they are the only one whose case have been so publicized it sometime begins to sound like they are the only set of girls and women who have been victims of the war.

Equally, we know very little of the heroes of this war. The gallant officers who are daily paying the price so that the rest of us can live, do our businesses and sleep peacefully at night in this country. On several occasions I have written on this column, how shameful it was that we report the news about our military casualties just as figures, sometimes even grossly underreported just to perhaps save some top dogs some embarrassment. Nigerian soldiers fighting this war are buried un-acknowledged and uncelebrated. We do not even know their names. It is like they never existed.

I have argued that this is an opportunity being missed by the army. Wars are won on many front and one of the fronts is being able to control the narrative and inspire your people to support the war efforts. Being able to document and tell the stories of your war heroes both alive and dead instills bride in the army itself and fires up the spirit of patriotism in the people and a knowledge among a huge section of the populace that indeed if they die serving their fatherland in the army, they will be celebrated and their efforts would not have been in vain.

It is thus cheering, on a very sad note though, that finally, one such gallant officer and hero of the war is being celebrated. Prior to November 4, 2016, the name Lt Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali aka Slim rang no bells and very few Nigerians outside of his army colleagues knew about him or his exploits. For those who are yet to read about him, a brief introduction will suffice. He was the commanding officer of the 272 Task Force Tank Battalion who became popular among his peers for his heroics in the battle field, killing boko haram insurgents which earned him an accelerated promotion to the rank of Lt Colonel in the army. He was killed during an ambush on 4th November while he was preparing for another raid on Sambisa.

It is painful that we only got to know about Abu Ali in death. It is sad that we can now only celebrate in past tense this unique officer who has been described by his peers as uncommon leader, a patriotic Nigerian and a fine gentleman. When he was given accelerated promotion for his heroics especially during the recapture of Baga, why did we know hear of it, why did the army not celebrate him and let Nigerians know of his story. This is such a huge missed opportunity. It was not enough to have added a new rank on his shoulders, he should have been sold as the face of the army, a live evidence of the heroic army which has been so battered by poor press for being cowardly in the face of battle.

Though he is getting the commendations he deserves in death, he would, I am sure have been happier to see a nation appreciate him while alive. Now, one hopes that beyond the praises, the Nigerian government will do what is necessary to immortalize him and importantly, take care of the very young family he left behind.

But there are many more Abu Ali’s in the Nigerian Army alive today. There are many more officers and soldiers who have shown extraordinary courage, innovation and leadership in the battle front who we should now begin to celebrate and whose stories should be told. One of our problems as a nation today is that we lack role models to look up to. The lot of our past leaders have very little for anyone to admire. There are too few stories to inspire the next generation and instill in them a sense of national pride and patriotism. We need to talk more about the best among us, those who are doing the kind of things that is worthy of celebration in every field of endeavor. The heroes of the war on terrorism presents very good characters for this tale and Abu Ali is a good first chapter.


First published here on Nov 10, 2016

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His Royal Highness King Kgosi Molotlegi

For very obvious reasons, His Majesty, the handsome young King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation of South Africa, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, received a rousing applause, after his presentation at the recently held Nigeria Mining Week organized by the Miners Association of Nigeria in partnership with iPAD Nigeria and PwC. His presentation was on the example of a local community participating and benefiting thereof from Mining activity on their land. And what an example the Bafokeng Nation is and one from which Nigeria has a lot of lessons to learn as we continue to struggle with issues around resource control, revenue derivation and the resource curse especially in the oil rich Niger Delta.


The Bafokeng Nation might not ring a bell to many Nigerians but it should. This community which has one of the world’s largest deposits of Platinum first got the attention of the world during the world cup in South Africa when it hosted world cup matches in a 39,000-seat stadium built by the community as part of its infrastructural development – a move by the visionary young king who is noted to have said of the stadium project, “Let’s build this thing for the future”. Also built along with the stadium is a sophisticated sports complex that was the base for English team during that World Cup.

The sports facilities are just one in a long list of infrastructure and other forward thinking initiatives of this community which stands as an example to the rest of the whole world. The community is of just about 150,000 on a land area of 1200km2 in the North West Province of South Africa. Under the young and very visionary King, the Bafokeng is utilizing proceeds from the resources in its land to reverse the resource curse or ‘lottery effect’ that has brought corruption and hardship to many African nations rich in gold, diamonds, oil, platinum and other natural resources but with not much to show for it.

In the last decade, the Royal Bafokeng Nation has gathered a financial asset value of USD 4 billion. This includes a 13% shareholding in Impala Platinum, the major company operating in the area, a majority shareholding in the community owned platinum mining and refining company, The Royal Bafokeng Platinum, and a shareholding in various other sectors including financial services, telecoms, property and transport sectors.

The community believes that the key to enabling sustainable and productive social change lies in long-term and evidence-based planning. They have developed a strategic blue-print for their overall economic and social development including PLAN 35, and a Masterplan for the built environment which extends beyond the Bafokeng Nation to the wider Platinum Belt.

Central to the community’s success is transparency and a proper governance structure. All Royal Bafokeng Nation resources are held in a Trust on behalf of the Nation as a whole and their investments are managed through a wholly owned investment company, Royal Bafokeng Holdings, possibly the most successful community-owned investment company in the world. This means that no individual has decision-making power in how the Nations collective resources are used. The Royal Bafokeng Administration has spent over USD 700 million on roads, utilities, schools, clinics and other public amenities in the last decade and employs around 400 people.

King Leruo says he wants to preserve that fortune against the day when the platinum is depleted, so he relies mainly on interest and dividends to finance development.

In his talk at the Nigeria Mining Week, King Leruo advocated for among others, community ownership of their land, ownership of equity stakes by mining communities, in the companies operating in their land and the need for enabling legislation to make this possible. In addition, institutions and governance structures that promote transparency must be instituted in such communities to manage the earnings, invest in other sectors and ensure that the people from whose land such resources are earned continue to benefit from it long after mining activity might have ended.

The Bafokeng Nation’s success story is one that stands out as a shining example from Africa on what is possible with the right leadership even at a community level. Very often, the Sheiks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are cited as examples of visionary leadership. Here we have ours, and one that relates more to our current circumstances.

Communities in the oil rich Niger Delta of Nigeria are among the poorest in the country with severe environmental degradation which has seen to continuous agitation and unrest in the region. Communities with rich solid mineral deposits (even when serious mining is yet to take off) are already suffering for outbreaks of poisoning and environmental degradation from the activities of illegal miners and there are reasons to worry that not being a nation that learns from past mistakes, we are set to repeat the same mistakes we made with oil in this sector.

For the most past we see a complete disconnect (and absence of trust) between the communities, their traditional leadership and the state. The people appear not to have any stake whatsoever in the value chain. Then there is the Land Use Act to also contend with. The 13% derivation  and the NDDC has hardly changed the fortunes of the oil producing communities and the entire nation continues to be the brunt of decreased oil production even in challenging times almost like a classic case of “the child that says his mother will not sleep, will also not know sleep”

It is time to try something new. Where laws have to be reviewed they should. Where new laws should be enacted, we should enact them. Overall we need a paradigm shift from what clearly hasn’t worked to something more effective which ensures that the people from whose lands these resources are gotten benefit immensely from it and that the entire nation as a whole is better for it. We should be sending teams to the Bafokeng Nation to learn how they did it.


First published here on Nov 1, 2016

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Nigerians are now unshockable what with the kind of absurdities they are treated to every passing day. Some of these issues which would have generated quite an uproar in time past are greeted with not more than sighs and inaudible grumbles – the sign of a people who have seemingly resigned to their fate and have assumed a siddon look approach to life. Imo State is a clear example

How does one explain a state government declaring boldly – and I dare say, with impunity- that it has failed to clear mountain-high refuse from a major road in the state capital as punishment to its citizens for their opposition to the government. What on earth could be more absurd and unintelligent?

Anyone who knows Owerri the Imo state capital will know that Douglas Road is right at the heart of the city, one of the main roads that runs through the state capital. When images of the abandoned refuse first emerged, it was quite shocking. But it was nothing compared to the shock when the state government owned the refuse and even attempted a justification for clearly abdicating its duties and leaving the refuse there.

One wonders what the sins of the citizens of Owerri are for their government to visit such wickedness on them. Opposition, was what the government listed. Of what kind you may wish to ask. Is somebody forgetting that this is a democracy, thus ‘opposition’ is sanctioned and protected by the constitution?

Their real sin one must observe was voting in such simpletons as their government and tolerating their many failures for this long. Indeed their sin is lack of opposition to such government. For it is years of letting their leadership get away with inefficiency and bad governance, and even rewarding it with second terms that has given the Imo state leadership the audacity to do what it did.

But the motives and logic of the Imo state government must also be questioned. An Igbo rochas adage goes that he who holds someone to the ground is himself also held to the ground. You leave refuse on the street in the name of punishing the citizens, do you not realise you are shooting yourself in the foot. I will assume that there are doctors that work with the state government. They should in the least know the public health implication of that action, the least of which is air pollution. There are countless diseases and their pathogens that will find conducive breeding grounds in such a place. We are looking at the possibility of an epidemic of varying kinds which will in turn further stretch the state’s health care system. Lassa fever remains a reoccurring decimal nationwide, yet a government establishes a breeding ground for rodents right in the centre of the city, and has the guts to brag about it. Something has to be wrong with us as a people.

This is just another episode in what has become a series coming out of Imo state. It is the same state where the governor has declared unashamedly that the work week is now cut to three days and that its workers should use the remaining days to go fend for themselves because government cannot cater for them anymore. In other words, government was throwing in the towel. Such examples make it seem like good governance is not possible at all. But the now famous speech by Peter Obi, former governor of neighbouring Anambra state on October 1, at The Platform tells us otherwise. I happen to be from Anambra state and unlike many, I didn’t need the speech to become aware of the exploits of Obi in office. I am a witness and beneficiary of his efforts to cut down cost, and engender good governance, the effects of which are being felt even today. Here are two states that exist side by side, one is relatively working because the past leadership planned and saved, the other not only can no longer meet its obligations, it now also abandons refuse on the streets to punish her people.

Therein lies some food for thought for Imolites (Imo state indigenes) and Nigerians in general as we stumble on towards 2019.

And two other things…

Arrest of Judges by the DSS

When one calls attention to an obvious abuse of human rights and the rule of law these days, you get the response “do you know what they did?” So is the case with the recent Gestapo style arrest of judges across the country by the Nigeria secret police. People must realise that societies survive not on good intentions but on laws and precedence. There is no way the Federal government paints this that it does not look like an attack on the judiciary. And we must realise that in our system of government, those three arms, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are equal with provisions made in the law to enable each checkmate the powers of the other. When one begins to act superior to the others, it begins to look no longer like a democracy but something else.

Attack on Shiites

Shiites have sustained their push for the release of their leader who has been held for so many months without charges or any information really about his state of health. This is within their rights, to march and to protest in a democracy. The continued use of security agencies against them – including the recent request for the arrest of their spokesperson by the Kaduna State Governor is quite worrying. It amounts to beating a child and at the same time denying him the right to cry. The El-Zakzaky situation is already a messy one. Government should be seeking ways to resolve this amicably, not create a situation that could turn into an inferno of its own.

Do have a good week.


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pdpThe call by the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Bola Tinubu demanding the resignation of the party chairman, Chief John Oyegun, is no doubt one of the biggest political news in a long while. In case this is the first time you are learning of this, the veteran politician and former governor of Lagos state, who undoubtedly led the process for the formation of the party and was critical to its victory in the 2015 elections, in a statement released on Sunday, accused Oyegun of sabotaging the will of democracy in Ondo state by overriding the decision of the appeal panel that asked for a fresh governorship primary following investigations that showed that the delegates’ list used had been tampered with. And having done the ‘irredeemable’, Senator Tinubu called on Oyegun to resign.

This development did not come as a surprise to many close political watchers who had long observed that all was not well with the party which has had a series of internal wrangling since it took over power from the PDP in May 2015. A few others had predicted this even before the electoral victory, when the merger to form APC was still on-going given how the party opened its arms wide to accept (and is still accepting) into its fold, persons of all character including political renegades seeking a new platform to remain relevant.

No doubt, the very foundations of the house had serious issues. It was going to take quite a miracle to marry politicians of all kinds of backgrounds viz the now defunct CPC, ANPP, AC and what was called newPDP, into a new fold without cracks, given the sharp differences in their ideologies, histories, ambitions and makeup. It was clear that the oneness of purpose (at least of the majority) which is critical to the success of national political parties was lacking. What we had was a union of forces all opposed to the continued reign of Goodluck Jonathan as President and after he was ousted, there didn’t seem to be any clue how to manage the victory. Certainly, this was not the time to start cultivating a party ideology and having the different blocks within the party align with it. The next mission was a scramble for the spoils of victory, with an eye on the next elections.

This situation raises once again the question around ideology politics in Nigeria. Ideally, political parties are founded on certain ideologies which guide their manifesto and informs their approach to governance. It also defines the goals and aspirations of the party which the members can key into. Ideology represents a crucial element of political parties and their activities.

The closest we have come to having parties with defined ideologies remains the First Republic, with parties like the NPC, NCNC and AG which though were largely ethnic-based, showed certain ideological uniqueness. Ideologically, the NPC was an essentially conservative and elitist party, while the AG and NCNC appeared to be progressive and welfarist, predicated upon socialist ideology. Since then, the parties we’ve had have just been aggregations of persons for the purpose of capturing power. In the 3rd republic, there was an effort by the government to experiment with a 2 party system (which like you have in the US) represents 2 varying ideological camps. However, the SDP and the NRC, as we had then, besides being described as ‘a little to the left’ and ‘a little to the right’ respectively, had nothing much to differentiate them in terms of ideological dispositions.

The story continues today. Perhaps the APC presented the best opportunity for the founding of a party deeply rooted in progressive thinking but the hurry to win power and enjoy the spoils of same derailed such lofty ambitions. It must be stated (and as we have seen) that ideologies are not about what is written on paper or the slogans voiced at campaign rallies. They are shaped and refined over time and it helps if such a party spends some time in the opposition during which such ideology becomes rooted and through some kind of ‘natural selection’ the genuine members of such a party are defined.

The dearth of ideology party politics manifests in governance. Parties claim one thing in their manifestos and once they are in power, they are doing something else. From Lagos to Borno, Sokoto, to Bayelsa, there is no difference in the policies of state governments despite the fact that there are up to 3 parties in power across these states. These governments seem to be drifting about (with their subjects in tow) like a rudderless ship simply because there is no principle guiding their movement. This is one of the reasons why we are where we are as a country.

Today more than ever before there is a need for us to go back to the basics. Young people of like minds must begin to converge and define ideologies that can shape the makeup of new political groups. This should be done not with the view to capturing power in 2019 — which is not realistic — but for building a solid group strong enough ideologically to challenge for power and make a difference in governance in the future. We must now free ourselves from the failures of the past and the present and define for ourselves, the future we want to see. The time to begin congregating is now.


First published Here on 29 September, 2016

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Schools are about to resume, many parents will be unable to pay the fees. Many are right now not sleeping well at night. There is perhaps an increase in the sale and consumption of blood pressure tablets. Same as the rate of disagreement between spouses. The frustration is palpable. Suicide notes are already making headlines. Long-suffering parents trying to give their children the best suddenly feeling inadequate and unable to meet up with all the pressure. The monthly shopping budget now buys less than half of what it normally does. Yet the demand is rising. It doesn’t matter your social class, it’s an experience that cuts across board.

A child somewhere is about to drop out of school. Many more will not resume along with others or will have to be sent home sometime before the exams. Nothing can be more damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Even more, some are being withdrawn from schools abroad and planted in schools in Nigeria. And some others have been withdrawn from schools in-country and moved to ‘more affordable’ ones. For some others still, the dreams of starting school this October has just been deferred. The uncertainty looms large.

The slices of bread at breakfast has been reducing. For some, it has disappeared. Butter, jam and mayonnaise are long forgone. Rice. Did you say rice? It has for some, gone from a Sunday, Sunday delicacy to a once in a long while menu item. Who can afford rice these days? Millions are not sure of their next meal. Children are on the verge of becoming malnourished. No, I don’t mean those in IDP camps. That one is already a disaster. Immunity levels are dropping. Hitherto quiet diseases are awakening, aided by dropping hygiene levels. Brief illness, that known killer, is staging a comeback. It’s time to display its prowess.

We are cutting down and cutting down and cutting down. Start-ups are closing shop. Big companies are closing down. Multinationals are packing and leaving. It’s not even a joke. Go to the malls and see empty shops. No one is coming to rent. Old tenants can no longer pay. Entrepreneurs are watching their dreams turn into nightmare. Investors watch as years of built up value turn to ashes in their hands. It is not a pleasant taste. No. It is the kind that forces on you certain actions you will rather not think about as a business owner. Actions like debt renegotiation and unpalatable cost cutting measures. Like downsizing, right-sizing and bankruptcy declaration.

Jobs. Oh, those precious things that were hard to find even in the best of times. Now they are being lost like it is going out of fashion. Some of those who still have theirs are just turning up with their staff IDs around their shrinking necks for the pleasure of it. Many months of salaries already being owed. Many more months to be owed. Some others have accepted a ‘short sleeving’ of their take home. A pay that can no longer take them home. The labour market remains saturated. Skilled. Semi-Skilled. Unskilled. Nobody is employing. What do we do?

Consciences are being remade. Deadened. Otherwise good guys are pushed to become what they are not. Against the wall, not sure of what to do, the wrong ideas are taking over, building tents where bright ideas used to reside. The smart ones are signing up for Yahoo plus. The strong ones are picking the guns and becoming nocturnal. The gritty are breaking oil pipes and claiming to be freedom fighters. Others still are boarding flights for a career in Italy or Portugal, selling sex. Anything to bring some change into the pocket and food on the table. Something to make it feel easier. To make this nightmare pass quickly.

Checking out is becoming the anthem again. The privileged, many who only braved it back home in the last five years, with all colours of passports and Visas to their name are sneaking back out. Those with plans to return are cancelling it. There goes all the hymns and sermons by our leaders to the Diaspora about returning home, all these years. But not everyone has the luxury of bouncing out through the airports. Many more are taking their destinies in their hands and braving it through the deserts with nothing but the dreams of a better life across the Mediterranean. Many end up as food for fishes. Others in unmarked graves. Those who succeed have their faith renewed in the ‘miracle working God’

So please don’t tell me recession is just a word madam. No. It is not. The above is what recession is in black and white. Not fiction. Not economic jargon. Not politics. This is what it really means for a majority of the people. So stop trying to apply makeup to it or deodorise dog poop. It is nauseating really. Now is the time to sit up and get to work. It’s not so difficult for a recession to become a depression.


First published here on 6 Sept 2016

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