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Democracy As A Catalyst For National Unity

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As Nigeria marks another year in the annals of her democracy, every Nigerian has a sacred duty in the spirit of patriotism to apply oneself to the utmost in advancing the course of building a better society in which one would be judged by character and not by religion or tribe.We must endeavor to build a country in which the breeze of nationalism and unity will always tame the storm of disunity, a country in which all men and women are brothers and sisters; above all, a country where no man or women is brutalized.

As our nation transits into another administration that has preached the gospel of“CHANGE” as its watch word, our hopes have been totally invested in the new form of government with the expectations that it would wipe away the tears in our eyes, the sorrow in our heart and whatever harm or wrong inflicted on us by the past administrations.

The challenges of democracy and nation building we face today are as critical as those the heroes of our independence faced. They were not daunted, a united, fair and just nation cannot be wished for. It must be built with the bricks of honesty. Though our immediate historical experience compels us to view democracy as something much more than“government of the people, by the people and for the people”. We see it as the ultimate solution to all the problems confronting our nation.

When Democracy came into play, it opened our eyes to a new vista of opportunities and challenges that face us as individuals or as a nation. These challenges however invested our hopes in the new form of government haven been ushered into a participatory or representative form of government. We expect it to be the government for the people, capable of taking us to either the promised land by the time one could say Jack Robinson. We also expect it to patch up the tears in the fabrics of our national unity.

These expectations are not entirely borne out of a naive appreciation of how far democracy can go to be all things to all people. Our expectations are anchored in the confident belief that the future of our country, its unity and development rest on the survival of democracy.

However, as democracy takes a sturdy root in the land each passing day, we are learning to moderate our expectations and make them more realistic. One may sense the unexpressed fear among Nigerians that if we blow it this time around, the fate of our country would make the heroes of our independence all of whom are of blessed memory turn in their graves. It is easy to overestimate the capacity of democracy. Though; it is not a magic wand, It cannot turn the ugly frog into prince charming. Although democracy perhaps offers us the best opportunity for national unity and cohesion, it is only a system of government which its principles can still be sabotaged or even breached by the custodians of the holy shrine (OUR LEADERS).

In other words, democracy is as good and as powerful as the people want it to be. Conversely, it is as weak and as unfaithful to its tenets as the people want. The success or failure of our democracy lies on the people not on democracy itself. Therefore, in examining the capacity of democracy to do both the possible and the impossible, we should take into consideration the support system of our democracy.

Democracy have acquired attitudinal and cultural colorations as a consequence of the political and social problems of a nation. The principles of democracy such as freedom of expression and association, one man one vote etc are basically universal principles in which the absence of any gives democracy a hollow ring. Adaptability is the strength of democracy, for therein lies its capacity to respond to the social and political needs of each country. A country’s form of democracy is the sum of its history and of its experiences in the management of its affairs. Tradition and culture play a major part in both the form and practice of democracy. They constitute in essence, the real foundations of democracy. Where this foundation is weak or poorly erected, democracy invariably becomes a victim of the whims and caprices of those in the temporal affairs of the nation or state. Obviously, we have not learnt all the lessons we ought to learn about democracy though we are committed to it. We will make our mistakes, learn from them and grow stronger by imbibing the ethos of democracy not by gulping it down but by sipping it.

The political history of our country even before independence shows that we have been pre-occupied with national unity or integration for as long as anyone can remember. Our efforts are a kaleidoscope of honest attempts and false steps. Before independence, the minorities agitated for states of their own because they feared their domination by a big three tribes would deny them opportunities for full participation in our constitutional democracy and ultimately weaken democracy itself. Whatever might have been their reasons, the military that struck on Jan 15, 1966 believed they were offering the country an alternative form of government with a greater capacity for integrating the country. Section 14 sub-section 3 of the 1999 constitution provides that “the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity. Also, constitutional administrative steps such as federal character commission were also created to give every Nigerian a stake in the Nigerian Nation. They are steps towards the very desirable goal of National integration. Given the plethora of these constitutional and administrative actions aimed at national integration, have they failed to achieve its objectives? If yes, their failure has condemned the nation to an endless search for more potent formula for national integration.

National integration is evolutionary process of giving life through culture, and political tradition. It is not expected that laws by themselves can force the evolution of a political tradition even if the laws are with immediate effect. We must have the patience and the right attitude towards these measures to achieve the objectives.

Pointing at the activities of ethnic militias in Nigeria, one would conclude that things are falling apart. The activities of these groups are committed to the defense and promotion of religious or ethnic interests though creating fears in the minds of the gullible. Their resort to violence and attempt to see themselves as alternative governments in the country should be condemned. The ostensible defense of racial, sectional, tribal and religious interests is no more than the normal pressure exerted on the system in a democracy. The superiority of democracy over the political systems is its ability to accommodate them within the bounds of civilized behavior and the rule of law.

We need to point out however, that inter-tribal problems are not unique to Nigeria but as a united nation, we have guarded the peace and unity of our nation jealously by proving wrong the American intelligence report of Nigeria disintegrating by 2015 that could have been given birth by the 2015 general elections. This doom-saying is a challenge to us as a people and we should take up the challenge and prove them wrong till thy kingdom come.

We have feathered much of the storm of our nascent democracy but we still have much work to do to educate our people not only on their right to demand for democracy dividends but on their responsibilities to democracy and their duty to the nation.

If we judge the level, of our unity or national integration solely on the basis of which tribe or geo-political zone that presides over the sharing of the national cake, we are bound to miss the point. There are other indices of National integration without which access to political power would even be meaningless in the long run. Our access to economic opportunities is as important as our access to political power because economic access has more opportunities for more people than political access.

Everyone has a role to play in removing the obstacles to our National integration because they are not insurmountable problems. National unity have been the sermon in every conference of our national discourse but this is the time for us to show that we are what we preach. Let the foreign nations and the legion of experts know that Nigeria’s unity can’t be reduced to a mathematical equation of 2+2 = unity or 2-1 = disintegration. If the government at all level and all Nigerians are committed by words and action to a strong indivisible nation, then our obstacles would be our stepping stone to the great nation of our dreams.

GOD BLESS FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA…

 

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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