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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chief Tom Ikimi Speaks To The Nation Newspapers

1. There appears already, what could be regarded as a bump in the way of the yet to be registered All Progressives Congress, APC with INEC claiming that a group has approached it for the registration of the African peoples Congress, APC. Would you say it is part of the PDP - led government to frustrate the take off of your new party, the APC?

The emergence of the APC on 6th February 2013 when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a major section of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) decided to merge to form a mega alternative party in Nigeria has created a major stir in the Nigerian Political firmament. The successful Merger of such large opposition Parties would instantly transform the country into a two major Party State as is the case in other major successful democracies in the world. This prospect, which serves notice of the end of tenure to the PDP, has shaken the very foundation of the PDP which over the past several years has operated across the country with reckless impunity. The option of a strong alternative party has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the generality of our people.
We are reliably informed of the roles of some highly placed persons in the establishment currently financing willing political jobbers and agents provocateurs whose assignment it is to cause mischief, precipitate chaos, mess up the democratic space in a manner reminiscent of the Arthur Nzeribe’s notorious Association for Better Nigeria ABN, which in 1993 succeeded to irredeemably truncate the IBB transition program.
Since 6th February 2013, when we addressed a World press Conference announcing the decision of our Parties to merge and adopted the name All Progressives Congress (APC), the name and acronym not only became our Intellectual Property but has since received very wide publicity in the print and electronic media. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has acknowledged this through her spokesperson several times in the press, received our correspondences on the matter long before some paid busy bodies approached them on the 28th February some twenty two days after we announced our name to seek the registration of the so called African Peoples Congress. I watched the shameful television display last Thursday evening 14th March, of a hired crowd, clearly recruited from nearby markets, streets and bushes, assembled in a first floor flat in a building in Apo Village - Abuja,  hurriedly provided by their handlers, purporting to be the promoters of this charade. Nigeria in my view has moved away from this kind of disgraceful gimmicks well known to be associated with some of the expired barons of PDP now surviving on emergency heavy doses of Abuja Oxygen. The revelations of the past couple of days provides irrefutable evidence that the series of fake APC's is a PDP official project. I certainly hope that Professor Jega's INEC would steer clear from this obvious mine field.
The process of Merger is quite different from the procedure of registration of new parties. Merging Parties being already registered political Parties do not need to obtain and fill any forms! We are therefore diligently proceeding with the merger process. I understand that the young lawyer, one Nwokorie Samuel Chinedu, deceived and recruited to make the application to INEC now bitterly regrets his role in the plot.
The so called African People's Congress has not scaled through the first basic hurdle for registration as a Political Party and has no place in the prevailing political atmosphere when more serious groups are being  deregistered. The show of shame they put up last Thursday brandishing forged INEC documents is serious enough for our Nations security agencies to descend on these criminals and save our country from further corruption of the democratic process.

2.For a Party that is yet to take off, is there anything about your new Party that the PDP may be afraid of and what could that be.

Since 1999 when the departing Military Government officially installed General Obasanjo and the PDP, OBJ who was the beneficiary, proceeded to decimate the opposition with the sole purpose of establishing a one party state over which he was to preside as life President.. I happened to have been a founding member of the APP and one of the main reasons I left the Party was because I could not understand how and why after the bitterly fought general election our National chairman the late Mahmoud Waziri would abandon his Party with 9 State Governors to take office as Political adviser in the Government that defeated him.  OBJ who successfully lured him in order to weaken the APP, went further to organize the registration of over sixty other Parties to be in the opposition most of them not worth more than their registration certificates. A good number of them were, for a small fee, always willing to play one role or the other for the PDP against the opposition. The role they played was always crucial in ensuring the perpetuation in power of the PDP.
For the past several years desperate efforts have been made by concerned members of the opposition to unify the opposition parties in order, not only to provide an alternative viable platform for Nigerians but to make the PDP more accountable. Those efforts failed for various reasons including personality interests, PDP's successful manipulations, the activities of moles and bad timing. It is now however clear to the PDP and the establishment that our current effort is well calculated, being systematically well pursued in the National interest and backed by the overwhelming people support, pointing towards the inevitable change of batten which many of them have difficulty in contemplating. That is their fear. The PDP has held the country hostage and plundered it since 1999. They have ruled with impunity, established massive corruption as a way of life and so the fear of stepping down is real. One of their recent National Chairmen openly boasted that the PDP was to rule Nigeria for one whole century. Those at the helm of affairs today believe that nonsense and so are operating recklessly. The day to account for their stewardship is knocking at the door!

3. The Party constituting the merging  party has been particular about ousting the PDP from power. But beyond that what is likely to change when you would have succeeded in chasing the PDP out of office.

In 2006 I was among twenty three leaders who broke away from the PDP on the same day to link up with some others from the AD to found the ACN. Some of my colleagues who left with me then included the late Abubakar Rimi, Chief Audu Ogbeh,  Gali Naaba, Alhaji Lawal Keita etc. I went down to Edo State in 2006 to link up with a number of others to establish the ACN there. I dare say we have been successful in uprooting the PDP, which ran that State aground from that state. Edo State happens to be the home of some of their most boastful leaders. We established there  an ACN government that has been highly successful. The first ACN government in the country was that of HE Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state whose brilliant performance has been a bench mark in the country. His colleagues of the ACN refer to him as class prefect. In summary the present Governors of the opposition are progressive Governors who are leading progressive governments with clearly distinctive achievements. A change of batten in the centre and the enthronement of a  therefore of liberal democracy with clear vision would ensure the positive refocusing of our Nation State.
The APC will be a totally new Party. The first draft of the Constitution and Manifesto has just been presented for our discussion and vetting. Among other things the Constitution will establish an acceptable level of Party Supremacy, will ensure the creation of a broad based political party whose membership will cut across all strata of our society permitting equality of membership of all Nigerians willing to join and who will enjoy the full measure of internal Party democracy. A transparent method of congresses and conventions will open up the democratic space for all to aspire to any level of their God's given personal ability. The enthronement of discipline in our society must commence from our party and so proper safeguards for discipline is being enshrined in our new constitution with a guarantee for adequate access to justice by all members without prejudice. Confidence in Politicians and the Political system needs to be urgently restored.
A detailed and robust manifesto will soon be published which will guide all our Governments from Local Government to the Federal Government. We will not entertain ridiculous jokes of personal point agendas by any head of Government at any level. They must all faithfully execute the Party manifesto which constitutes the solemn pact that we make with  with our people who vote us into power. Consequently the Party will subject its various Executives from the local Government to the Presidency to regular periodic open conferences to discuss their performance and compliance with our manifesto. In this regard our core commitments to Education, Eradication of Corruption, Uninterrupted Power Supply, Full and Gainful Employment, Affordable Local Fuel Price, Health Care Delivery, Abundant food supply, Industrial Growth, Efficient Transportation, Housing etc will be watched closely by the Party. This process does not exist in the PDP that has "captured" Nigeria for the past fourteen years!
Unfortunately what we have witnessed in these past fourteen years is the enthronement of monumental corruption at the very highest level of Government. Today people of questionable character are celebrated with National Awards while the few who are unfortunate to be convicted are granted State Pardon. That is the level to which Nigeria has descended.

4.Critics of the APC insist that there is nothing new in the convergence of those behind the party, maintaining that it is same of same, a conclave of desperate people hustling for power. How right are they?

Nothing can be farther from the truth. I already drew your attention to the sterling qualities of the Governors of the States controlled by the opposition Parties; I have also given an insight into the painstaking processes that have gone into the production of the Party Constitution and Manifesto. What we offer Nigerians is a blue print that is borne out of a clear vision with the will to drive the process by the enthronement of a focused  and well grounded government as against the clueless and vision-less apology now offered by the PDP.
Frankly, the situation in our country must not be allowed to get worse than it is today. National infrastructures have suffered a calamity of a colossal decay which includes  the disastrous condition of the roads, a demise of the railway system, virtually non existent power supply; the health care system has so deteriorated that plane loads of Nigerians depart every day to far away India and other similar destinations to seek basic health care. The issue of insecurity has gripped the country and thrown 155 million citizens into perpetual fear,  while unbridled corruption has brought the nation to its knees. The once pleasant environment enjoyed just before and after Independence has vanished!  Millions of Nigerian youths are jobless while the educational system where available is receding into Stone Age level forcing those who could afford it to send their children to Ghana and other neighboring countries or elsewhere to seek higher quality education. The  anxiety for change across the country is palpable to such an extent that everywhere one turns today there is an overwhelming yearning for a rescue mission. There has never been  a political party merger in any form in our country's history. This is the first of its kind. Apart from the four parties advertised as those now in the merger arrangement there are several other parties as well as groups, civil society organizations and individuals who have freely approached us to join the merger. We are definitely on an urgent rescue mission. So far I have heard not a whisper from any individual in the merger arrangement suggesting any personal interest for one position or the other. I am convinced that it will not be business as usual

5.There have been calls for the granting of amnesty for the violent Islamic sect, the Boko Haram,regarded as a faceless group. Would you say the call is misplaced? As former Foreign Affairs Minister should the Government negotiate with a terrorist group like the Boko Haram?

The activities of Boko Haram has turned out to be one of the most serious security problem in the Country today that has been responsible for the loss of hundreds of innocent lives in parts of the country including the Federal Capital Abuja and its environs.  One of my saddest days was the Christmas day bombing of a Catholic Church near Abuja. Apart from making some states in the northern part of Nigeria, particularly Bornu and Yobe States to become virtually no go areas, the Boko Haram insurgency  has portrayed our country to the world to be an unsafe destination for tourists and business people. Anyone fortunate to be the ultimate leader in the country must see it as a priority to find a lasting solution to this security situation. I have heard of the existence of some rather reckless individuals lurking in the corridor of power peddling careless comments to the effect that Boko Haram is a Northern problem which should be left to the Northerners to solve. The problem has not only advanced to the Federal Capital but is creeping southwards with vigor. Even if not,is the North not part of Nigeria ? It was indeed a welcome development that the President decided to pay a visit to Yobe and Bornu last week after the Progressive Governor's visit. His visit was the first since 2009 when the problem began. There are several examples of such insurgency problem that has occurred in other parts of the world from which those who advise Mr President can draw lessons.
I recall the RUF, Revolution United Front that reigned terror in Sierra Leone during my time as Foreign Minister. Its leader Foday Sankor took refuge with his faceless terrorists in the deep jungle of Sierra Leone. We approached the resolution of the menace by a method of the carrot and stick. Eventually we persuaded Foday Sankor to come out and we brought him to Abuja. Negotiations became more effective. I believe the Foreign Ministry has good records.
The Sultan of Sokoto's call for amnesty for Boko Haram should not be disregarded or taken lightly. The sultan's high standing in the country, particularly in Northern Nigeria and in Islam  supports this view. He must be in custody of information that could be helpful in the direction of his suggestion. The Security agencies have in their custody several individuals they have arrested over time as the sect members. Ample opportunity was so presented to obtain useful briefing. OBJ visited Bornu State sometime back and had discussions with persons reported to be leaders of the sect.  The press has published photographs of various individuals named as Boko Haram leaders. The immediate past Governor of Bornu State is well known to have had some long and sustained interactions with the sect during his tenure. I am therefore a bit concerned with the President's statement during his recent visit in Bornu State declaring he was not prepared to engage "Ghosts". As it was possible to send high level contacts to the creeks in the Niger Delta to engage the militants there I believe similar engagement with Boko Haram is possible and necessary.
As I make this response, the shocking news has arrived of the gruesome suicide bomb attack in a Kano motor park claiming dozens of innocent  lives and setting ablaze several luxurious buses preparing to ferry passengers down South. News papers carry reports that Northerners in Awka, Onitsha and environs are now escaping in fear of reprisal attacks. It should be recalled that the convoy of the  revered Monarch the Emir of Kano was recently attacked and suffered unfortunate fatalities. The peoples confidence in the Government to handle this obviously escalating crisis is badly shaken.
The Kola Nut, Cattle and other usually flourishing trade between the South West, South East and the North has in recent times suffered a terrible set back. These developments make it imperative for the Government to urgently engage Boko Haram.

6.What do you make of the recent statement by the the former Head Of State, General Ibrahim Babangida to the effect that Obasanjo's 1999 presidency saved Nigeria from break - up, given the fact that he was indeed the architect of the circumstances that  led to the break- up like the annulment of the 1993 presidential election which snowballed into a National crisis?

It is not unusual for leaders to sit down from time to time and in their quiet moments, reflect and look at matters with hind sight. Sometimes they may beat their chest with a satisfying smile of satisfaction for their past actions but it is not unusual for them to habor some regrets. It is a well known fact that General Ibrahim Babangida was one of the authors of Obasanjo's 1999 candidacy and ascendance to the Presidency. Only IBB can testify today whether or not his decision was the right one. It is also a fact that the poor handling of the events leading to the June 12 1993 Presidential elections as well as its aftermath are issues that should engage IBB's reflection for a long time to come. There are many things I dare say he should have done differently. The reaction of South West Nigeria to those events in the aftermath of June 12, particularly their various political wings including the very powerful NADECO needed an appropriate response. Following Devine intervention, IBB aided by a handful of others seized the moment and chose a former military colleague from the South West. Nigeria would not have broken up as the South West leaders know the history of "Biafra" but Nigeria would have been in continuous political stress. While General Obasanjo was not a South West choice, he lost his ward in the elections, being a Yoruba man the general temperature in that region was substantially brought down with his ascendancy to the Presidency. That high temperature has now shifted to another region!

7. Even though Nigeria did not break up then. Is the country not much worse and almost heading for a break up than the period IBB spoke about?

IBB and most of the core individuals who plotted and executed the coronation of OBJ lost control of the man almost as soon as he ascended the Presidency in1999. The Party PDP became more or less OBJ's private property and he was responsible for initiating the aberration that the President was the leader of the party. The independence of the political party has since been compromised. OBJ having failed to secure a third term Presidency, and being the anointed head of the ruling party, he proceeded to interfere with the internal party democratic process for selecting his successor which led to the emergence of the late President Umaru Yar Aduah and eventually President Goodluck Jonathan. Needless to say, the outcome of all that is the unbearable heat pervading the Nation today. All that might have taken a back burner if the Government now in power was performing well. But that is clearly not the case.  Consequently we are now in a situation in which the agitation for change has become Nationwide. The PDP has displayed a total lack of consistency in its affairs and seem to have no qualms in moving the goal post in serious decisions left right and centre all the time. The revelation by the Governor of Niger State which he holds tenaciously to,that an agreement exists  between the pdp Governors and President Jonathan to end his Presidency in 2015 is a case in point. That seems to re-enforce the Northern claim to the next Presidency within the PDP.

8.A lot of people have tended to blame the woes of the country on the challenge of leadership. How would you compare the leadership under the late head of state, General Sani Abacha and those that followed after.

I am not an apostle of military Governments but General Gowon, perhaps the longest serving military ruler is very well regarded in the country today. One can safely say that the regime of military rulers pervaded Africa in the 70's 80's and early 90's. Nigeria had its fair share. Military rule is no longer elegant. The entry of General Sani Abacha immediately after June 12 and the shaky regime of Chief Shonnekan was bound to face unprecedented  difficulties.  While I am  not discussing the Abacha Regime in this response I must state that the man was a courageous leader who addressed the Nation's problems astutely. Unfortunately the man is not around now like some others to answer for himself. There are many who have paraded themselves as democrats and held juicy positions over the past 14 years of PDP rule but were inside the engine room of Abacha administration.
The highest amount received per barrel for crude oil during Abacha's regime was $8 but our currency was strong and a lot of projects were executed around the country. The highly successful PTF - Petroleum Trust Fund - established by the retention of a few kobos per barrel of crude produced, carried out notable projects nationwide. During his tenure I know that not a kobo was borrowed from the IMF or World bank. Those institutions shut down their offices in Abuja.  However in 1999 General Obasanjo, a former military ruler, assumed the Presidency and preferred that his name be disguised as he was to be referred to as Chief Obasanjo.  He was a lucky President. The  price per barrel of crude oil soared from the paltry $8 per barrel only one year before his arrival to an unprecedented over $100 per barrel. That was the real windfall which was and is continually being fritted away. The PDP has since established a system of annual budgeting that grants nearly 80% of such colossal sums, now in trillions, of our annual budget to recurrent expenditures with virtually nothing left to capital development.
We have a staff of the "Brentton Woods" institution firmly in charge and supervising what is perhaps the worst scenario of corruption Nigeria has ever been subjected to; the same woman who lured Nigeria to pay up billions of dollars on questionable and unverified debts - agents made huge cuts - is now leading us back to incur even bigger debts without any visible development projects to show for it. Many people have wondered whose interest whose interest she will most serve; Nigeria's or the World Bank.
It is now commonplace for trillions of naira to be stollen. Recalling more than two trillions evaporated in the name of fuel subsidy, hundreds of billions stollen by a level 12 or 14 civil servant etc the scandal is mind bungling

9.The economy is said to have fared much better under Abacha as there was no borrowing or indebtedness throughout his five years in office. Is there really a basis for this assertion?

Yes I am aware that General Abacha turned down offers from the IMF who usually send young officers to developing countries who end up preparing all kinds of negative reports of the host countries thereby providing avenues for them to design loan structures that would hold developing countries hostage into long tenures of debt. As they themselves are to manage the loans, they get themselves entrenched in host Country's Finance and other Ministries, they end up with massive bureaucracies foisted in the receiving nation at great unrealistic extra costs. Weak leaders are attracted to these foreign currency loans which provides them opportunities for corrupt personal enrichment.   A substantial part of the so called loans they offer is utilized to maintain the donor's  personnel's lavish life style. Their offices and residence in choice areas of Abuja were closed down during Abacha's tenure and the properties put up for rent. General Abacha did not have need for such assistance. Apart from his preference to plan our Nation's needs within our own available resources he preferred to open up links with China and other similar Nations. I am aware, Nigeria's railway system, Peaceful Nuclear Energy development including power supply, River borne transportation, Massive Housing etc would have been destined to attain world standards in the line of his positive vision. The National Hospital in Abuja today was a Women Hospital project by the First Lady - Mariam Abacha. That in my view was a positive contribution to Health Care. Today I understand that billions of Naira will be invested in a luxury office complex to be the Head Quarters for African First Ladies. I just wonder what would happen when the First Lady of Cameroon assumes leadership of that group.. Or is Nigeria going to chair that group in perpetuity?
Apo legislative Quarters was conceived and built  by General Abacha to serve as the permanent abuja residence for legislators during their tenure. Similarly there  were institutional buildings to serve as residencies for key Ministries and some parastatals. Instead of positively increase the National Housing Stock as most world Governments are now doing, the OBJ government strangely ceded these Abacha properties to cronies at rock bottom, give away prices. Today huge sums are spent to cater for fresh legislators each time they come to take office in Abuja and civil servants receive big sums to face the rising cost of accommodation in Abuja. Why then should recurrent expenditures not hit the roof? The Foreign Affairs Minister today, for instance has no befitting residence anymore at which he could host diplomatic receptions as I and others did. The Minister during the tenure of OBJ bought the residence for pea nuts!

10.Edo State is today said to be experiencing what could be described as participatory democracy as a result of Governor Oshiomhole's one man one vote initiative. Could this be a final death knell on the coffin of the politics of godfatherism in the Edo State

It is my fervent hope that the choice of people to hold power in our country at all levels would be based on the will of the people. As National Chairman of the NRC in 1990 to 1992 our contest with the SDP was  based largely on the outcome of free and fair elections. Hence we ran neck to neck all the time. My quest for a Mega Party today is to create another Party that will contest with the PDP to ensure true competition and balance in the polity. Checks and Balance would then be assured. Between the NRC and SDP, of the thirty states in the country then we in the NRC won 16 Governorships and the SDP won 14. But the SDP secured   more seats in the National Assembly election. Both Parties accepted the outcome of the elections without quarrel and I do not recall any court cases. I can very well appreciate former head of State Gen Ibrahim Babangida recalling those good old days.  
The colossal investment of mind bungling cash utilized  in elections these days is a phenomenon introduced by the PDP and they have  succeeded in corrupting the Electoral Commission as well down the line. The General Elections in 2007 has been recorded  as the worst ever in our country's history. Prof Jega is trying to make a difference but he still has a number of hardened bad eggs in his system. Steps must be taken to rid the place of those characters ahead of the next General Elections. Today elections are no longer decided at the polling stations. Final decisions has shifted to the law courts which development has unleashed new and scary problems on the country with regards to our Nation's Judiciary. Lawyers have become as well so fabulously wealthy.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole's launch of the One Man One Vote concept was very timely. It brought back confidence to the ballot box and it was a relief to hear President Goodluck Jonathan mount the pdp campaign rostrum in Benin City and also proclaim one man one vote. The celebrated PDP baron in Edo State who was always bestowed unlimited cash, access to the Police and other security agencies, control of most electoral commission personnel  made absolute nonsense of the ballot box. Those who wanted office rather than campaign to the people for votes made nocturnal pilgrimages to the residence of the baron who became known as Godfather. Governors, legislators , LGA chairmen and councillors hold office at his behest and so their hands were usually tied when the time came to deliver to the people the much talked about dividends of democracy.
There must however  be leadership in Political Parties to give direction to elected personnel during their tenure in their operations without prejudice to them retaining reasonable level of free hand.In Edo State we have come to terms with Party Leadership clearly defined the difference between Leader and Godfather.
The people of Edo State have comprehensively rejected PDP since 2007 and from November 2009 when the ACN Government was inaugurated, the participatory democracy that you speak of has actually bred real and visible development in the State. This is largely because unlike under the PDP when recurrent expenditure gulped almost 90% of the total receipts leaving virtually nothing for development, the economy has been effectively restructured  to ensure that not less than 50% of total receipts is committed to capital development in a manner that is accountable and transparent. The end result is that Edo State has fully realized  value for money spent. This type of vision, focus, fiscal discipline and commitment is what we offer Nigerians when in 2015 they reject PDP and embrace the fresh air of change that APC represents.

11. You were the returning officer during the PDP presidential primary in 2003, which ushered in Obasanjo's second term. How would you reconcile your role then and where you are today as chieftain of the ACN.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, my Ahmadu Bello University, late sixties and very early seventies friend and colleague, who was the PDP National Chairman at the time,  was with the assistance of a number of young PDP Governor friends of mine able to persuade me to undertake the task. Those young Governors who have a lot of respect for me worked in one way or the other with me during my tenure as the NRC National Chairman 1990 - 1992 and knew my capacity to undertake difficult roles! My role was to introduce innovations to the Presidential Primary process and conduct the primary in a manner that would give it credibility inside and outside our country. The contest was sensitive for various reasons and the whole world was watching. I believe I did a good job and bore ultimate responsibility for that very highly successful exercise. Most people inside and outside Nigeria hold fond memories of the vote counting ... Obasanjo! Obasanjo! Obasanjo and Obasanjo with the occasional Rimi or Ekwueme. Many others have since attempted to imitate the process I created but have produced very poor versions.
However, I was not able to come to terms with the unfolding events during the OBJ second term tenure which came to a head by the plot to secure for himself a third term and life Presidency. Chief Audu Ogbeh was forced out in a very crude manner which he himself has explained on several occasions. Vice President Atiku Abubakar suffered unmitigated hostility from his boss and was also forced then to bow out from the PDP inspite of his well known role in founding the Party and facilitating General Obasanjo into the Presidency. In my case all these were made even more unacceptable by the roles and actions by one of the barons of the Party who hails from my State and who will go down in Nigeria's political history, particularly this stretch of PDP rule as the brain behind several  bizarre processes that has stunted democratic growth in Country. He had the ears then of OBJ, worked unsuccessfully to secure the third term for him and was able to initiate and implement the reckless project of the de-registration of Party members which finally destroyed the internal party democracy!  We who disagreed with all these things, all broke away from the PDP on grounds of principle to found the Action Congress AC in collaboration with a major group from the AD.
The PDP has since deteriorated to virtually unacceptable levels while we have built up the AC now ACN to the enviable heights that it has assumed today. I have no regrets whatsoever to be a Chieftain of the ACN as we logically now move on to unify the opposition under the banner of APC destined to carry out the urgently needed rescue mission for Nigeria.

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Item Reviewed: Chief Tom Ikimi Speaks To The Nation Newspapers Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: SEGA AWOSANYA
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