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NIGERIA: Between National Conference and Good Governance

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nigeria-centenaryOn October 1, 2010, Nigeria celebrated the Golden Jubilee of her Independence Anniversary.  Three years afterwards, on October 1, 2013, it was another Golden Jubilee anniversary of her status as a Republic.

On January 1, 2014, Nigeria was 100 years as a corporate entity.

These are celebrations of monumental maturity coming in such an unblinking series, it is splendid, it is terrific.  In this maturity however, how the Nigerian nation has fared in her socio-political, economic and religious affairs has often presented a paradoxical impression which has continued to generate topical issues across the globe.

It is very clear that Nigerian peoples of both north and south were not introduced to one another by Lord Lugard.

Even long before the Europeans sailed down the interior, a lot of commercial interaction existed among the ethnic nationalities of northern and southern peoples of Nigeria.

In addition to the caravans and countless pedestrian traders moving in groups, the two great rivers of Niger and Benue had been there as famous routes of trade between the north and south.

There was commerce, there was social intermingling and there was cultural diffusion.  The Niger flowing down the North West and Benue down the North East appear to have naturally guided the ethnic nationalities of their plateau and banks into geographical union with the other nationalities that seemed readily positioned at their delta.

The confluence of the two rivers at Lokoja welded their diverse courses together into one current.  This provides them with the torrential vigour with which they make marks on the routes through which they gain channels into the bigger water mass of the Atlantic Ocean at the West African coast.

As the Nigerian nation came into being in 1914, the imprint of these two rivers on the national map appears more like a seal with which the national chater was made perfect.

The diversity in geographical distribution is that which rather provides potential completeness in our agro-economic needs.  From the Sahel vegetation area down the rain forest, we raise, assorted food items and find varied mineral resources.

It is true, that ab initio, the consensus for independence as one nation among the ethnic groups did not come in a single chorus.  Some segments hesitated while others hastened.

It was clear therefore that some sort of mutual suspicion over the emerging situation was rife.  Come to talk about the differences, it was Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian scholar, pacific activist and politician who said “it is not our differences that really matter; it is the meanness behind that is ugly”.

There is hardly any great nation in the world that is homogenous in peopling, religion and culture.  A few instances can be typical.  The United States of America, the colossus of our time has a very broad model of diversity which they rather harness into a formidable strength in unity.

India has many ethnic nationalities with many religious faiths prominent among which are Hinduism, Bhudaism, Islam and Christianity.  These present their challenges though, India has been able to contain such challenges and has risen to be counted among the Asian tigers.

Down home on the West African Coast, Ghana falls into the examples.  She has ethnic groups such as Ashante, Fante, Ga, Hausa etc practicing Christianity, Islam and traditional religion, yet Ghana is fast emerging.

It must therefore be highlighted that the diversity in our circumstance is rather manipulated into negativity as a cover for the unfair and unjust conscience of governments at all levels which has continually left the populace majority with frustration.

It is further imperative to remark that these differences that are moulded into a clog at the national level have their versions hanging stubbornly at the geo-political zones, states, local governments and even down the electoral wards.

Broad forms of such divides abound across the geo-political zones.  Zones like the South-South are so heterogeneous that in some cases you locate more than four ethnic groups and languages in one local government area.

The skirmishes are there like the Itsekiri and Urhobo. In the North-East you have the Christian and the Muslim, the Jukun and the Fulani etc.

In the North Central the divide cuts across religion and ethnicity, examples are the Zango/Kataf, the Fulani cattle rearer menace and Egun Militia etc.

The South-East is the only one of the six zones that is purely homogenous.  The Igbo is the only ethnic group speaking Igbo language with some dialectal variations.  The major religion is Christianity.

In this homogeneity yet clannish tendencies seem to surround the quest for political positions.

Imo State presents a typical example, where you have the Owerri Peoples Forum, Orlu Zuru Mee, Olu Okigwe etc.  Each of these groups is persistently raising a voice of dissent in pursuit of political power.  Down the senatorial zones, there is another divide, for instance, there are the Mbaise, Mbaike and Owerri groups in Owerri Senatorial zones.  At Orlu zone, there are the Orsu, Oru, Orlu etc., while Okigwe has Obowo, Mbano and Okigwe each group trying to out-smart the other.

The South-West is not as homogenous as the South-East because it has the ethnic Ijaw along the Lagos, Ogun and Ondo Creek.  Also the people spread between Islam and Christianity with some traditional religious adherents.

The people of this zone are more concerned about leadership and good governance than in their diversity.  Lagos State is a good example.  Since 1999, governor after governor of this state has been a Muslim but this does not constitute an electoral issue.  What they demand is good governance and they get it at least relatively.

I do not in any case object to a national conference, dialogue or discussion which ever it is branded.  I only want to observe that good governance would have saved us this agony of seeking to redefine our mutual acceptability and reassess our corporate togetherness after a whole century.

It is misleading that while we sit very docile and celebrate impunity from governance at all levels, we are hoodwinked through ethnic sentiments to exaggerate any sight mistake relating to our diversity.

Is it not crystal clear that the cost of governance in this country is rather too heavy in proportion to our economic realties?  In fact it is positively wasteful.  The cost of servicing the 36 state government machineries with presiding 36 Excellencies or are they emperors is very terrifying.  The 774 Executive Chairmen of the local governments in our model are lords with the attendant princely maintenance.

The 109 distinguished Senators and 360 Honourable members of the lower House are accordingly kings.

It is noteworthy to say that in between the hierarchy you have very huge funds as security votes and constituency project funds.  These swallow a chunk of budget provisions but are controlled by a few individuals as they wish.

The constituents are not informed of the amounts of their constituency projects neither do they make input into the design and application.  Indeed the fund is merely front pocket money for these representatives who handle it as such.

If we are serious about nation building, we will know that between the security votes and constituency project funds, the nation can reasonably provide industries that can absorb most of our idle youths.

No single state of the 36 states can boast of potable water even in the state capitals.  How do we want to be assessed as we enter the second century of our existence as a nation with cholera?

Everyday we hear of hundreds of illegal refineries uncovered and destroyed it cannot be understood how there could be such number of refineries functioning legally when we cannot have even one functioning illegally.  Consequently, we have to depend solely on imports for our domestic petroleum product needs.  The whole world is deeply concerned about the phenomenon of global warming and climate change yet our government would not care a bean seed as kerosene which should be sold at N50 per litre is selling at N150.  The populace resorts to felling every available tree and shrub as a source of firewood hence deforesting instead of afforesting.

Does it require a national conference to know that an individual should not for goodness sake waste a whooping sum of N255m on two official cars?  This is in a situation where the police has no kits, no weapons and no barracks.

Further to the national frustration is the signal of hopelessness being officially issued by government.

We have vast agricultural potentials, which we have refused to harness. We only focus on crude oil, yet at that, the government in recent times has continually alarmed the nation that oil theft is eroding the fragile strength of our economy.

It is hard to appreciate the reason behind such information or is it an alarm.? This is perhaps for the market women to come and fight the oil thieves.

It does not raise any hope either to learn that we cannot precisely say how much crude the nation produces; we cannot quantify the stolen, neither can we boast of the accurate statistics of the quantity sold.

We have lost the determination to build the nation to the fanaticism of next election.  ‘Next election’ is the only visible programme our governments at all levels prepare for.

If we invest just 26 percent of the energy, efforts and resources we lavish on ‘next election’ into the cotton fields of the North-West or the cocoa plantations of South-West or the rubber estates of the South-South or the palm fields of the South-East etc., we shall advance to the affordable application of these raw materials to industrial outfit, which will provide vast job opportunities and make us producers of fabrics we can wear, tyres for our vehicles and beverages for our health.

Finally, I want to advise that we must be prepared to confess, our ethnic groups one to another that we have moved into our union without the required sense of patriotism and faithfulness.  This should be a preamble to the all healing conference we clamour for, so that as we leave the conference hall we will be determined to start building our battered nation with mutual trust.

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Onukwugha Chidi
08036679861

 

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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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