A Former National Secretary Of The Peoples Democratic Party And The Immediate Past Chairman, Board Of Trustees Of The Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Dr. Musa Babayo’s Interview with Newsmen .
Press: DO YOU STILL HAVE POLITICS FLOWING IN YOUR VEIN?
GUEST: of course, yes
Press: BECAUSE SOME OF US ARE THINKING THAT YOUR TIME IN TETFUND MIGHT HAVE LIMITED YOUR POLITICAL MOTIVATION.
GUEST: No it didn’t, really. It rather enhanced it. Every calling, every position of trust, of responsibility that a person occupies creates an enabling environment for him to connect; to connect with critical stakeholders within that operating environment. Politics is about connection with critical stakeholders in different segments of the society. For you to do what you are required to do and do it well, you have to put people first because people are the recipient of your own individual efforts and by extension the efforts of all others that you are saddled with the responsibility of managing.
Press: CAN I SAY YOU CONNECTED MORE WITH THOSE IN THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR THAN YOU CONNECTED WITHIN THE POLITICAL CLASS WHILE YOU WERE IN TETFUND?
GUEST: Exactly! I will say yes. I connected more with those in the educational sector because that was my immediate constituency. I had the responsibility of servicing them, identifying their needs and segmenting those needs and developing specific products. In this case, projects that will not only meet their expectations, but exceed them. That is the challenge of pursuing actions, policies, strategies, strengthening your internal systems and procedures that will help significantly in your effort to restore, to consolidate and rehabilitate educational infrastructure in all the tertiary education segment. Not only the educational infrastructure but also the most important resource in any set-up in any organization and that is the human resource. At the fund, we had a rare privilege and honour to do those things that in our own judgment and opinion had and is still impacting significantly on the human resource.
Press= WE WILL COME TO THOSE CRITICAL ACHIEVEMENTS OF DR. BABAAYO AS A CHAIRMAN OF THE TETFUND, BUT THERE IS SOMETHING AM REALLY DRIVING AT HERE. BECAUSE YOU GOT VERY CLOSE TO THE EDUCATION SECTOR, PERHAPS YOU LEFT SO MANY THINGS UNDONE IN THE POLITICAL SECTOR, THEREFORE YOUR POLITICAL INFLUENCE WANED WITH TIME. IS THIS TRUE?
GUEST: Well, I don’t think it’s true, rather I will say it was enhanced. Enhanced because you have values that you have added and you have impacted significantly in helping government connect with its important constituents because governance is about people, governance is about getting things done and adding value to peoples lives. If those in government fail to connect with the people that they are entrusted with the responsibility of managing, then one will safely conclude that the government is not doing well.
Press: SO ONE WILL SAY, IF BABAYO HAD CONTRIBUTED TO HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN SUCH A BIG WAY, THEN HE THEREFORE SHOULD HAVE COMMANDED A POLITICAL POSITION BY NOW EITHER IN BAUCHI OR AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.
GUEST: Well you know politics is a management of interest. People come from different tendencies and like bureaucracies, not the best sometimes rise to the top.
Press: YOU JUST TALKED OF TENDENCY, WHERE DO YOU BELONG?
GUEST: well, I belong to a tendency that has at its central pivot the development of the human factor. When you take that central position and your concerns at all times are to do those things that will impact on lives, the chances are that your tendency will be people centric.
Press: ARE YOU TALKING OF A TYPICAL NIGERIAN POLITICIAN?
GUEST: Well, yes am talking like a typical Nigerian politician but when you pursue those tendencies, because in politics the right way to go for me is to enhance the level of morality and ethical values. Politics of morality in my judgment is what will lead to economic prosperity for citizens of Nigeria.
Press: ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE FORMER NATIONAL SECRETARY OF THE PDP?
GUEST: I am talking about the former National Secretary of the PDP
Press: DOES THE PDP ENHANCE THE GOODNESS OF THE PEOPLE?
GUEST: Well it does to a point, but there were disconnects.
Press: TELL US MORE
GUEST: Disconnects basically with its core values. The values of integrity,equity, justice and transparency.These were the values on which the PDP was built. And when you have a disconnect between what happened in our very recent history , with what it ought to be, then you begin to see a process of decay and failures on the part of the people that had the responsibility or were charged with the responsibility of managing this enterprise, that political platform.
Press: COULD THAT BE THE REASON YOU CAME OUT WITH THE THREE R AGENDA?
Press: YOU WANTED TO RECONNECT?
GUEST: I wanted to reconnect, I wanted to rebuild and I wanted to redirect because unless you move the political party back to those founding principles, the chances are that you may not be able to achieve your vision.
Press: WHY DID YOU NOT GET IT?THE PRESIDENT DIDNT WANT YOU?
GUEST: I wouldn’t say the President; rather the party…Like I mentioned earlier, politics is an aggregation of interests. Probably quite a number of other tendencies were of the opinion that those three R principles will distance them away from achieving their own personal political objectives. Those were not their interest and they felt this gentleman, shall he have his way, chances are that we may be far away from the realization of our own political philosophy, political goals and aspirations and therefore those tendencies may have come together to stop us.
Press: WHERE YOU NOT THE CANDIDATE OF THE CORE NORTH AND JONATHAN FEARED THE CORE NORTH?
GUEST: Well, I was a candidate from the North East. The chairmanship of the party was zoned to the North- East which is part of the core north and I vied for the position together with eleven others and I emerged. The closest rival to me had two votes. Unfortunately still, like the bureaucracy I mentioned earlier, the best doesn’t always get to the top. In this case the winner of the primaries was stopped.
Press: WHAT DID JONATHAN TELL YOU? DID HE CALL YOU TO STEP DOWN?
GUEST: Well that was basically what it was. Yes to step down, other interest, groups and tendencies within the party had probably the same opinion. But one thing with electoral democracy is not about the face of the candidate, your likeness or dislike for him/her that matters, once there is a contest and someone emerges, everybody has a sacrosanct duty to respect that particular electoral outcome. That is democracy.
Press: SO AFTER THAT DISAPPOINTMENT YOU WERE HAPPY TO MOVE ON?
GUEST: I was happy to move on because of my belief that I have a responsibility to add value to the Nigerian project and that to me, is more important than any other thing. Every other thing is secondary and I was just concerned about looking at the big picture and the big picture is my country Nigeria which I had the opportunity to serve and I said I should do it well. With PDP or no PDP, politics or no politics. Every Nigerian has a civil responsibility to do those things that will add value to his fellow men and women.
Press DID YOU SEE THE 2015 ELECTION DEFEAT COMING?
GUEST: I will say yes because you need not be a soothsayer to make political predictions. I knew the contest would be tough because we were approaching the elections from a position of significant weakness.
Press: SIGNIFICANT WEAKNESS? HOW DO YOU MEAN?
GUEST: What I mean basically, coming down from the convention of 2012, you need a vehicle, in this context, a political party that is strong, focused and vibrant to promote those values that I mentioned earlier on to drive the process forward. Unfortunately we had a disconnect, from day one. You know all that happened, the expulsion of critical stakeholders from the party, their movement into a new party and so on and so forth. Most importantly Nigeria and Nigerians were ready for a paradigm shift, ready for change.
In Politics unlike business, the most critical resource is the human person not money. When we are dealing in elections, money facilitates in terms of logistics, but if you disconnect your platform from the people, it often leads to tragedy.
Press: BUT NIGERIANS WILL SAY THAT THE PRESIDENT LOST THE ELECTION BECAUSE HE DISCONNECTED WITH THE PEOPLE NOT WITH THE POLITICIANS
GUEST: Yes, with the people, this is the primary responsibility of a political party. A political party in any organized political set up is to collate ideas, aggregate those ideas, develop specific key action plans and you do that not in a vacuum. You generate ideas from the market place; you need to go to Wuse market, for example, and listen to the butchers what is of interest to them. It is a power bloc within that particular market setup. If you fail to carry them along you may most likely loose their votes and of course the elections.
Press: THE PDP WAS FULL OF ITSELF THEN
GUEST: Probably arrogance.
Press: ARE YOU BEGINNING TO RESTRATEGIZE IN BAUCHI POLITICS?
GUEST: Unquestionably yes, from the day the other contest ended, the new one commenced. At the group level, I will say no, we have not, basically because 2019 is a long way to go. It is a long way to go because the responsibility of each and every one of us is to help those that God has entrusted with the responsibility of managing our societies to manage well.
Press: SO YOU ARE SUPPORTING THE GOVERNOR OF BAUCHI NOW?
GUEST: We must support the governor in Bauchi now to succeed. His success is our collective success; the time for politics will come but it is not the time now.
Press: I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO BE GOVERNOR
GUEST: People thought I wanted to become a governor, but I was never part of the process that leads to that, but desire to become one does not preclude my responsibility to help those who are in charge now to do it well.
Press: DO YOU STILL WANT TO BE GOVERNOR?
GUEST: That is for God to decide. I want to have a steady growth in my political and professional career, where it lands me, I leave it to God. Like I mentioned in passing earlier, what it takes to become whatever I am capable of becoming I will do. I am a professional in politics. I am doing whatever is required within my own small corner to add value to my society, to my community and to my nation. The time will come when it will be up to everyone around you to morally encourage you to move and then you move in a particular desired direction. Quite a number of tendencies and personalities in this country, we have known in our political history, that wanted to be senator but ended up being president, others wanted to be president, they ended up being members of the House of Representatives so it is not what you want to become that is important but what is important is what you can do to help in changing people’s lives…So should I have someone who believes in those core values of integrity, the value of service, the value of building and moving the society forward, the values of strengthening our institutions so that this country can begin to dance, I also have a responsibility to support that person.
Press: IS THAT THE MAN BUHARI?
GUEST: Of course yes, because that is what he symbolizes.
Press: YOU ARE HOPEFUL?
GUEST: I am hopeful, I am extremely hopeful that this society will change under his leadership.
Press: A PDP MAN IS TALKING SIR
GUEST: Yeah, yeah.
Press: A PDP MAN HAILING THE PRESIDENT?
GUEST: Exactly, the president is the president of Nigeria, he is not the president of the APC, he is the president of each and every one. The president took an oath of office and also of allegiance and it is our responsibility based on his antecedents; based on his track record, to support him and I have no shred of doubt in my mind that he will deliver.
Press: BUT YOUR PARTY KEEP ON RELEASING PRESS STATEMENTS THAT THE PRESIDENT IS TOO SLOW
Basically, you know, when people talk of being slow or being too fast, I laugh. Whenever you take up an assignment, the first thing you do is to conduct a detailed internal diagnostics study of your own internal environment because you have to know basically the depth of your problem. You don’t begin to prescribe solution; you don’t begin the treatment of health when the diagnoses are not complete. You may not get it right, if you do that.
Press: SOME NIGERIANS ARE SAYINGTHAT THE PRESIDENT SHOULD HAVE DONE HIS HOMEWORK BEFORE ASSUMING OFFICE
GUEST: There are works that you simply cannot do from outside, you need to be inside before you can do that. If a patient goes to see his doctor, the doctor will first attempt to know the patient’s medical history. He will not prescribe Panadol for you simply because you say you have headache or will he give you Buscopan simply because you have stomach pain, he will want to do something much more, to diagnose, inorder to give you the right treatment.
Press: DURING THE UNVEILING OF YOUR BOOK, ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AND NIGERIA’S FOREIGN POLICY, YOU CALLED ON PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI TO TACKLE CORRUPTION
HOST: DO YOU STILL STAND ON THIS?
Of course, I do because as I mentioned in the concluding part of my remarks, I said corruption is an evil. A corrupt person cannot provide leadership at any level. Be it at the family level, at the community level, and at governmental level. A corrupt person is a disgrace to himself, to his family, to his community and indeed to his nation. I use the metaphor because corruption is like a cancer that must be excised. Corruption deprives people from economic prosperity. Where you have leakages, an example is when you have 2 or 3 leakages on top of your room and it rains heavily, the chances are that not 3 or 4 or 5 buckets will be enough to contain the inflow. In real financial terms, that is significant; something is lost. The responsibility of strengthening internal institutions requires a focused and purposeful leadership. No matter how hard you try to reduce or completely eliminate some level of unethical conduct at whatever level, if the leadership is defective, the chances are that you might not be able to achieve much. It is only a leadership that is focused in fighting corruption and other forms of unethical conducts that will insist that institutions must be strong.
Press: DO YOU REALISE THAT YOUR CALL WILL AFFECT MOSTLY MEMBERS OF THE PDP?
GUEST: I wouldn’t like to say it will affect members of any political tendency. Corruption is a problem; it is a national problem, it is not a PDP problem, it is not an APC problem, it’s an issue which all of us must support the president to fight for the benefit of the nation.
Press: BUT IT IS SAID THAT THE PDP SYMBOLIZES CORRUPTION
GUEST: In politics, you say whatever you need to say to help you sell a brand. In local parlance they say if you want to know who your father is, simply be a politician because someone else will come from nowhere and give you your genealogical history, where your grandparents were born.
So merely simply saying A is this or B is that are not sufficient grounds to conclusively pass judgment. I would not want to be judgmental, I only want to give you an example, when you are stopped at the traffic light and there are beggars knocking on your door begging for alms, maybe a group of 3 or 4 looking for small change from you to eat and then you bring a piece of note maybe N20 or N50 or N100, depending on what you can afford, wind down your glass and ask the 4 or 5 of them to come together and tell them to share among themselves, the chances are that the guy who receives it will run away, that is corruption. When things have degenerated to a level where the moral fabric of the nation is compromised, it requires a fundamental change of attitude and in every change situation, the most difficult change is the change of attitude. When people are required to be morally upright, you need a dual combination of moral suasion and in stubborn cases a stick to cause a change.
Press: DOES BUHARI HAVE THE STRENGHT?
GUEST: I believe he has the strength, his moral focus and postures have sent strong positive signals not only to those who are undermining the institutions but have sent strong signals to every sector that the new sheriff in town is only not corrupt but incorruptible. Even without his express directive, key sectors were going into auto-correct on his emergence and eventual swearing in. What was responsible for that to happen? Trust, confidence and belief by the Nigerian people and Hunan operated systems that under President Buhari, a new way of doing things, in line with best practices will be the new order.
Press: SO THINGS ARE HAPPENNING ALREADY
GUEST: Things are happening already, and in the positive direction. I believe strongly, politics aside, that this is the right way to go. The change has begun and the change of attitude in itself. If you are able to stop every person who undermines institutions from undermining it and then do nothing, that is a monumental achievement.
If a teller in a banking hall can simply refuse to allow his customers to defraud his bank and does not do anything else like not attracting new businesses to the bank, not doing any other thing that will add to the gross earnings of that bank, the bank is on the right track because if you have a shop and you are unlucky that your shop keeper is a thief then the chances are that one day you will open the shop and you will not find a single item on the shelves.
Press: SO THE FEAR OF BUHARI SHOULD BE THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM?
GUEST: Yes, it should be the beginning of wisdom but that fear should be in the positive sense because the fear is providing leadership and he has started providing good leadership from what we have seen. Fear can be negative; fear can be positive, so I am emphasizing on the positive aspect of the fear and that is what the people should be concerned about and that is keying in to the anti-corruption crusade of the president. Being partners in the developmental agenda; so that together, himself and ourselves, helping him, will be able to place this nation on the path of sustained growth and development and that is the key to economic prosperity.
Press: WE TALK ABOUT CHANGE; DO YOU THINK THAT THE SARAKI LED SENATE WILL BE ABLE TO SUPPORT THE BUHARI’S AGENDA FOR CHANGE?
GUEST: My answer is yes, it is too early for me a do a detailed critical analysis of the leadership in the National Assembly because it is still at its infancy stage… Nothing much has happened in the implementation of the legislative agenda of the 8th National Assembly to suggest otherwise. This aspect of the question definitely I will want us to revisit it at a future date when we are able, based on objective criteria to make a valid judgment.
Press: YOU TALK SO GLOWINGLY ABOUT THE PRESIDENT, SOME WOULD THINK THAT DR MUSA BABAYO SHOULD BE ANGRY THAT THE PRESIDENT JUST DISSOLVED MANY BOARDS INCLUDING THE BOARD OF TRUSTEE OF TETFUND. YOU SHOULD NOT BE HAPPY WITH THAT DECISION OF THE PRESIDENT.
GUEST: Incidentally, anything that will promote good governance; anything that is done with the best interest of the Nigerian nation and its people is something that I am always comfortable with and I am always aware that there is time for everything. There is time to start and there is time to end. Life, says Shakespeare, is one big arena where everyone must play a part. Once it is time for you to move, you move. I finished my first tenure as chairman of ETF, I superintended over the metamorphosis of the fund from ETF to TETFund. I midwifed the new law, we gave the new name, and we changed the focus and I came back again when the tenure ended. I had the honor of being recalled back to lead the new board. The only person so honored and privileged amongst my other colleagues, so we continued. So if it pleases God that tomorrow the tenure I started will be completed, we will complete it. If it is in another calling, not necessarily within the governmental sphere of influence, it will still happen. The future belongs to God
Press: NOW TELL ME SIR, ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AS THE CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF TETFUND?
GUEST: I want to say yes am satisfied. I would have wanted to do more, but what we have achieved so far I will say significant. Significant because our interventions were very impactful. In the last 6years, I will talk about my tenure like you mentioned. From 2009 to 2015, I had the singular honour and privilege to manage the fund. Within that period, we have delivered more than 30,000 infrastructure based projects across the six geo-political zones. Prior to June, July 2011, we were everything to everyone. We were servicing all the three tiers. The basic, secondary and the tertiary. At the basic level, we impacted in virtually every public primary school in this country. We intervened in every secondary school in this country. In 2011 and prior to that, we decided to change focus. We decided to change focus because there are other funding agencies in this country and the responsibilities placed by the constitution of the federal republic on the states because education is on the concurrent list. We feel there is a need for us to have a paradigm shift so that we will pursue interventions and projects that are much more impactful at the tertiary education segment and therefore we went to the National Assembly to recommend because it was an executive bill and eventually the tax act of 1998 was repealed and tertiary education trust fund was born on the 13th of July, 2011. I had the singular privilege and honour to be the first chairman of the board.
Press: HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT THE IDEA OF HELPING INTELLECTUALS TO DEVELOP PUBLICATIONS THAT WILL ENHANCE EDUCATION IN OUR UNIVERSITY?
GUEST: Well, we said to ourselves, myself and my other colleagues, on the Board that there was need for us to move significantly to areas of capacity building, to research and book development, because these are integral part of learning which helps in the promotion of research and other core academic activities within tertiary institution. The book development fund is a 2billion naira fund which was approved by government and warehoused in the fund. The primary objective of that particular intervention is essentially to help the revitalization of academic publishing. Prior to that period, we discovered that there were no new journals and books in our universities and libraries. We had first class thesis at PhD levels, especially scattered around all the tertiary institutions in this country. And we felt that some things need to be done to harvest these ideas and convert them into books for the benefit of our citizens.
Press: COULD THAT BE THE REASON THE BOARD YOU LED DECIDED TO POUR MONEY INTO RESEARCH AND TRAINING?
GUEST: Definitely, that was the reason and to that we set up a special fund. A 3billion naira fund warehoused in TETfund. We call it National Research Fund. Essentially to help researchers conduct researches in three thematic areas. In Sciences, Technology & Innovation, in Humanities & Social Sciences and in Cross-Cutting. To date, as at the time I left the fund, we have funded such thirty eight research proposals in three thematic areas. Our total investment or intervention at that particular time i.e the 14th of July, 2015 is about 783million. The National Research Fund is under the leadership of Prof. Bamiro, he is a renowned scientist, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. He is charged with the responsibility of driving the process. The book development fund is under another committee, initially under Prof. Jega, then Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and later his successor Prof. Abubakar Rashid. Seven PhD thesiswere converted into books. Several volumes of such books were published on behalf of University of Ibadan Press and are currently being distributed free of charge to all the tertiary educational institutions in this country. One of the deliverables of that particular intervention is with the revitalization of professional academic Journals publication. We have funded one hundred professional academic journals currently servicing our students and our academic communities.
Press: SO CAN I SAY THAT AT THIS JUNCTURE THAT POSTERITY WILL JUDGE YOUR TENURE AS CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE TETFUND?
GUEST: Yes, by the grace of God.
Press: BEFORE WE ROUND OFF, YOU WROTE THE BOOK “ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AND NIGERIA’S FOREIGN POLICY, WHO SHOULD BE READING THIS BOOK?
GUEST: Well, foreign policy experts, foreign affairs officers, foreign policy students, public affairs commentators and every other person who wants to learn about the mechanism of foreign policy and how domestic economic, social, or political agenda are externalized because that is basically what foreign policy is all about. That is the target, but much more importantly those in government because there is no way you can re-invent the wheel especially in the areas of social sciences and humanities. Social Sciences as I mentioned earlier are not exact sciences, so you have to keep on reading, keep on learning new ideas, so that they can open your bosom and expand your horizon to help you develop specific policy prescriptions that will help the nation strengthen its external relations. External policies or foreign policy are important in helping and accelerating the rate of economic growth and development. Foreign policy is about perception. A nation that is perceived to be fighting some of the major fundamentals that are anti-growth, anti-development, a nation that is fighting the issue of climate change, issues of corruption, illicit financial flowsetc, that nation will be sending strong positive signals to the rest of the world that this is an investment destination of choice.
Press: IN THIS BOOK, YOU CLEARLY STATED THAT NIGERIA’S ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY IS YET TO BE VIBRANT ENOUGH?
Press: SO IF WE GET ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY RIGHT, WHAT HAPPENS?
GUEST: If we got economic diplomacy right, a lot of things will begin to happen. One of the primary objectives ofgovernment apart from those that are defined in our constitution is to accelerate the rate of economic growth because at the end of the day that is the bottom-line. People won’t find jobs to do, families won’t have food on their tables in the absence of economic growth. You know the most critical developmental variables in any nation are good and stable electricity, good and portable drinking water, good and quality medical care that is cheap, competitive, accessible and many more. No nation of the world has the resources to meet promptly this developmental challenges without strong economic base. Then, what do you do? You have to put your policy prescription in place that will attract FDI that investing in Nigeria is a nice and the wisest thing to do. A robust and well activated economic diplomacy can support this vision.
Press: BUT MUST WE THINK OF PROTECTING THE COMMANDING HEIGHT OF OUR ECONOMY FROM FOREIGN PREDATORS NOW?
GUEST: Definitely, it is important we do that because this is our national interest. Every nation must develop its foreign policy around the concept of national interest. There are no go areas. Some critical national infrastructure must be protected from foreign control.
Press: BECAUSE WHILE YOU WERE UNVEILING THIS WROK, YOU TALKED ABOUT A ONE DOLLAR THAT COMES INTO THE ECONOMY WHILE ONE POINT SOMETHING DOLLARS GO OUT OF THE ECONOMY. SO WHO IS BENEFITTING HERE?
GUEST: Those who are benefitting like I mentioned of course are the trans-national and multi-national corporations. A separate and detailed policy option must be developed to address this menace because there is a net in-flow of foreign capital into the country. That is what it means. If 1 USD comes in and 1.1 goes out, you are worst-off. Some have said in this circumstance, won’t it be better to shut your doors and do nothing and maybe preserve what you have at home. But, the nation and the world itself does not operate like a hermit, there is usually strong collaboration, strong relationships among nations. So what do you need to do? What you need to do is to look for areas of leakages and block them. So that those illicit financial flows are curbed .Funds that can only move out of the country are funds that are legitimately earned and funds are legitimately repatriated because when people perform a service, a multinational company for example can establish a viable economic unit in Nigeria, should have the leverage to repatriate legitimate profits. These corporations are adding value to our lives, creating jobs, helping the growth of our GDP and so on and so forth. The source of investment capital could be from foreign banks. So repatriation must be done but it should not be done through mis-invoicing and other forms of transfer pricing manipulations. That is what is objectionable. When you block these illicit doors, then you are home and dry. If you are supposed to remit a naira equivalent in USD, it is the responsibility of authorities, the tax authorities, the monetary authorities to ensure that only one naira in USD equivalent is transmitted out of this country and it goes through the normal channels.
Press: SO WILL YOU BE HAPPY IF I CALL YOU AN INTELLECTUAL IN POLITICS?
GUEST: If you say so.
Press: Thanks for talking to us.
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