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Experts probe plastic bottles’ chemical link to ill-health

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There is growing concern over the use of plastics for food and water packaging following studies linking plastic container’s chemical, Bisphenol-A (BPA), to degenerative diseases. More worrisome is the call for a ban on the use of plastic containers containing the chemical. CHUKWUMA MUANYA reports.

IN recent times there have been several reports on the effect on health of a chemical used in making plastic bottles, especially baby feeding bottles.

The chemical, Bisphenol-A (BPA), shown to be a hormone disrupter has been linked to serious health problems like breast cancer, reproductive and neurological abnormalities.

Indeed, BPA is widely used to make polycarbonate plastics such as those in the baby bottles, water bottles and compact discs resistant to shattering, and is an ingredient in the resins used to line food cans. The chemical has been shown to leach into food or water, however, and a number of studies, mostly on rodents, have linked it to disruptions of the hormonal and nervous systems.

Research has shown, however, that the chemical mimics the hormone estrogens in the body, and studies have implicated it in reproductive and developmental defects, including abnormalities of the brain and prostate. The United States (U.S.) National Institutes of Health has also expressed concern BPA might lead to behavioural changes in children and infants.

A school of thought argues that most of the studies were conducted in animal models and trace amount of the chemical is not harmful, put recent researches suggest that the same effect is possible in humans even in trace quantity.

In the first direct evidence that BPA can be harmful to primates, the chemical was observed to produce neurological problems in monkeys. Researchers in a study conducted by researchers from Yale School of Medicine, United States, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences write: “Our findings suggest that exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function.”

These recent findings have put food regulatory agencies around the world on alert. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), when contacted by The Guardian said it is on alert and is monitoring the situation.

NAFDAC’s Director of Enforcement, Alhaji Hashim Ubale Yusuf told The Guardian: “We are working with the Federal Ministry of Environment at the moment and we are going to come out with a joint statement. We are on alert on BPA containing plastics and we are keeping a data base.”

According to the Associated Press report, the California State Senate has voted for the second year in a row to ban the manufacturing, sale or distribution of children’s food and drink containers that contain the chemical BPA.

Lawmakers voted 21-16 last Tuesday to approve a bill by Democratic Sens. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills and Carol Liu of Pasadena. A similar measure passed the Senate last year but died in the Assembly.

The proposal would prohibit the use of more than a trace amount of BPA in food and drink containers designed for children age three and under. BPA is commonly used in making plastics and resins.

Animal studies indicate it interferes with infant hormone levels. The FDA has found that trace amounts of the chemical are not dangerous.

Also, the U.S. state of Connecticut has signed into law a bill banning the use of BPA from baby bottles and infant food containers.

The law, passed late last week and due to go in to effect in October 2011, received bi-partisan support in the state legislature in the wake mounting concern over inclusion of the chemical in food packaging, particularly for babies and children. The legislation also outlawed BPA use in reusable food and beverage containers.

Opponents of BPA say it can act as an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to a range of illnesses including heart disease and cancer.

However, the move was condemned by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which said the ban was imposed in the face of what the body described as “worldwide consensus among regulatory agencies that BPA can be safely used in food contact products”.

The ACC said: “The law does not promote health or safety. It hurts Connecticut businesses that can no longer manufacture these highly valued products and Connecticut consumers who will no longer find them on store shelves.”

In the most current study, researchers exposed monkeys to BPA levels that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled safe for humans. “Our goal was to more closely mimic the slow and continuous conditions under which humans would normally be exposed to BPA,” researcher Csaba Leranth said.

The monkeys went on to develop mood disorders and irregular brain function. The U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Programme recently reaffirmed its findings that current research supports concerns over BPA’s effects on the developing brains and endocrine systems of infants and children.

The National Toxicology Programme has no ability to regulate the chemical, however, and can only make recommendations to the EPA and United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA continues to classify BPA as safe, basing its ruling only on the findings of two industry-funded studies.

“Unfortunately the regulatory agency charged with protecting the public health continues to rely on industry-based research to arrive at its conclusions, rather than examining the totality of scientific evidence,” said Rep. John D. Dingell, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the FDA’s treatment of the BPA issue.

The Washington Post reports that after years of insisting BPA posed no threat to the health of babies, six larger manufacturers of baby bottles have announced they will stop shipping new baby bottles made with the chemical. According to the report, no existing baby bottles are being recalled, however. Nor are they being taken off the shelves of retailers.

Critics insist that the baby bottles being purchased and used by babies right now still contain BPA. But the American Chemistry Council, an industry group representing the business interests of chemical companies, insists that BPA is perfectly safe for infants and babies.

According to another new study conducted by researchers from the University of Rochester and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, BPA remains in the body significantly longer than scientists had previously believed.

Scientists have known for some time that the chemical accumulates in the body, but had believed that it was water soluble and passed out quickly through the urine.

In the current study, researchers tested urine levels of bisphenol A among 1,469 adults after fasts of different lengths to determine if this was really the case.

The researchers found roughly similar levels of the chemical in the urine of those who had been fasting for 8.5 hours as in those who had been fasting for 24. This suggests that either the participant were ingesting bisphenol A from a non-dietary source or that the chemical remains in the body longer than previously thought, perhaps in the fat cells.

The findings raise significant new health concerns about the chemical, researcher Richard Stahlhut noted. “If it leaves the body quickly, then it reduces the amount of time when it can cause problems. If it does cause problems, obviously if it stays around much longer, then that changes the game,” he said.

Prior research has found a correlation between a high body burden of bisphenol A and a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver problems.

Researchers say prolonged exposure to BPA may affect the brain’s ability to create neurological connections needed for learning and memory. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that low doses of BPA impaired the creation of synapses in the brain, affecting neurons’ ability to communicate.

A biomedical professor at the University of Guelph, Neil MacLusky, said: “The ability of the brain to remain plastic and to respond to things by changing its connection is a critical part of brain function, it’s important for learning and memory, it’s important for mood swings, for depression. It dramatically impairs the formation of synapses in the regions of the brain where such processes take place.”

The use of bisphenol A in plastic bottles, baby bottles and plastic toys came under scrutiny a few months ago, after Health Canada found it to be dangerous to babies and the environment.

But this study focuses on the effect of bisphenol A on adults. The researchers exposed African green monkeys to a daily dose of 50 micrograms per kilogramme, an amount declared safe for humans by the FDA, over a month-long period.

“This is the very first study to look at a primate exposure over a long period of time,” said MacLusky. “One of the biggest surprises of the study is how powerful BPA is.”

In the study, synaptic activity was diminished when BPA was introduced in primates, who were also given estrogen, a hormone that normally boosts synaptic processes. Even at low levels, BPA reduced the density of synaptic activity taking place in the brain.

Although the actual exposure of humans in Canada is “much lower than the daily amount,” the study is a reminder of the implications of continuous exposure.

“What is the effect of having this around for your whole life? We don’t know that yet,” MacLusky said. “Governments should really be looking more carefully at what the safe daily limits are, and it is probably wise to not include BPA in things that people are going to eat from and drink from.”

Canada is reported to be the first country in the world to take action on BPA, thanks to their Chemicals Management Plan. This Plan was introduced in 2006 to review the safety of widely-used chemicals that have been in the marketplace for many years, and to update their knowledge and understanding of these chemicals.

A Fact Sheet on BPA by the Canadian government reads: “The current research tells us the general public need not be concerned. In general, most Canadians are exposed to very low levels of BPA, therefore, it does not pose a health risk.

“Our focus now is on the health of newborns and infants under 18 months. Science tells us that exposure levels are below those that could cause health effects; however, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of BPA, the Government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children.

“Studies have shown the main sources of exposure for newborns and infants are from bisphenol A migrating from the lining of cans into liquid infant formula and migrating from the polycarbonate baby bottles into the liquid inside following the addition of boiling water.

“Therefore, the Government of Canada will continue to ensure that levels of BPA in infant formula are kept at the lowest levels achievable by carefully reviewing pre-market submissions of infant formula and continuing to work with the food packaging industry to reduce levels of BPA in infant formula to the lowest levels possible. We will also evaluate alternatives to BPA for infant formula can linings on a priority basis. The Government of Canada is also moving forward with legislation to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles.”

On environmental concerns, the Fact Sheet reads: “Science shows that bisphenol A is entering the environment through wastewaters, washing residues and has been found in some leachate from landfills. It also breaks down slowly in the environment when there is a lack of oxygen. The combination of the slow break down of bisphenol A and its wide use in Canada means that over time, this chemical could build up in our waters and harm fish and other organisms.

“As a precautionary measure, Environment Canada is considering a regulation that would set a limit for the maximum concentration of bisphenol A that can be released in effluent to the environment. The regulation would also require facilities using bisphenol A to implement best management practices to ensure that it is handled and disposed of safely. These actions will keep the levels of bisphenol A being released to the environment at safe concentrations for fish and other aquatic life.”

The document noted that Bisphenol A does not pose a risk to the general population, including adults, teenagers and children.

“Consumers can continue to use polycarbonate water bottles and

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Why Rivers People Must Join Hands With  Gov Wike In 2021

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The year 2020 was defined by COVID-19. It was a year the entire world succumbed to the unexpected outbreak of a global pandemic that neither discriminated against colour nor creed.
The rich, middle class, poor, white, black, caucasian, aborigines; every segment of the human race felt the devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic that completely reprogrammed the normalcy that hitherto guided our existential norms and compelled us to embrace a new normal.
The year 2020 was a very challenging year for our country too. A centrally mismanaged national economy in recession made worse by a brutal Coronavirus pandemic, escalated insecurity, corruption and socio-political tensions which all made life, in a truly post-modern Hobbesian context, horrible for millions of struggling families and ordinary Nigerians.
Rivers State was right in the eye of the COVID-19 storm and as one of the leading oil producing states in the country, the necessary restrictions and mandated health and other operational guidelines and protocols stipulated by global health and medical authorities, created a fluid situation that  demanded rigid, unquestioning adaptability to, first protect citizens from contacting the infection and then, ultimately curb the spread of the virus in our communities.
But by an impressive combination of dedicated, firm, courageous, proactive and strategically administrative leadership regimen, which often demanded leading from the front and periodically ruffled the central authority feathers, Governor Nyesom Wike was able to contain, control and astutely adapt the COVID-19 situation to the accomplishment and delivery of some of the already laid down developmental initiatives promised Rivers people in the second tenure of his administration.
As a State, we strove and reasonably advanced our development agenda and to God be the glory, we survived 2020 and COVID-19.
As a responsive Government, committed to delivering on its promises to Rivers people, the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, already mindful of how high the infrastructural development bar has been raised and the outstanding sectoral pledges yet to be delivered, is definitely not resting on its oars.
Governor  Wike has repeatedly promised that there will be no abandoned or uncompleted project, when his tenure comes to an end in 2023.
It is against this quite challenging backdrop therefore, that the call for Rivers people to join hands with Governor  Wike to develop the State in 2021, resonates with clear and patriotic brotherhood.
Like Governor Wike  rightly espoused in his new year message to Rivers people, “Let us eschew the recriminations, turn a new page on the hatred that has kept us divided, forgive one another and together, work towards making our dear State the best place on earth to live, do business and bring up our children.”
To be sure, the statesmanship exhibited by Governor Wike in the new year address is a commendable gesture, especially in his clarion call to all well-meaning citizens to work together to overcome the road-blocks to the progress of Rivers State and the enthronement of a State that holds concrete promise of hope for the present and future generations.
The year 2020 shocked all of us into the realization that things can actually change from what we are used to, into a new normal that nobody ever anticipated and it is in recognition of this existential eye opener that we must acknowledge the call by Governor Wike for us to embrace a new chapter of cooperation, togetherness and solidarity that would unleash our potentials on the development of our State, with all seriousness and acceptance.
Governor Wike’s ultimate goal is to better the lots of our people in all sectors of the economy and his conviction that, “There’s no goal we cannot achieve if we remain united,” attest to the fact that his determination to implement the NEW Vision development blueprint in all the 23 Local Government Areas of the State, will not be compromised.
The very impressive realization that the State Government, inspite of COVID-19, initiated and completed a record number of development projects with tremendous socio-economic impact while several others, including the multi-billion naira epoch defining legacy flyovers, as well as the Mother and Child hospital, the Real Madrid Academy new buildings, the Okoro-Nu-Odo flyover, the Sakpenwa – Bori dual carriage way, the Abonnema Ring Road, the 10 kilometer Bolo internal roads, and the Eteo – Sime – Nonwa – Kira Road, are all due for inauguration from the 4th of January 2021, speaks volumes for the unwavering dedication of the administration.
This year which of course represents the midpoint of the second term, is therefore a year when the Wike admini-stration’s agenda for the State, which has been clear from the very inception and, contrary to the warped narratives of some diehard critics and refuseniks, will begin to crystalize.
The efforts already put in place to pragmatically address the critical concerns of Rivers people, which have yielded verifiable results, especially in the sustenance of peace and security, education and affordable healthcare, fixing our infrastructural deficit and driving better economic growth and social progress for our State, will be consolidated.
The achievements so far recorded have already formed the bedrock for the motivation towards greater levels of development, economic growth, better life and secured future for our people and special gratitude and appreciation must be offered to God and the teeming masses of Rivers people who not only gave us the opportunity to serve but have also reposed great faith and confidence in the ability and capacity of Governor Wike to always do what is in the best interest of the people, as exhibited in the near total compliance of our people to the sometimes stringent Executive orders, mandated health guidelines and other directives, which became necessary at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also quite important to stress here that a second wave of COVID-19 is already upon us and the appeal is for us as a people to brace ourselves with maximum cooperation to the protocols and regulations which will be rolled out as the situation determines and most importantly, to take personal responsibility in embracing and adhering to the already mandated guidelines and COVID-19 protocols, especially the wearing of face masks and maintaining of social distancing, in our individual and collective interactions.
The call for Rivers people to join hands with Governor Wike to expand the development of the State is thus a germane and genuine admission that, as we crest the home run curve of this administration, there’s still much more to be done to realize the Rivers State of our dreams: a progressive State with fabulous infrastructures, quality education, affordable healthcare and boundless economic opportunities for all who live in it.
This year will be dedicated to focusing on the fundamental task of creating a new Rivers State through prudent, efficient and transparent management of available resources and from the programme of events already reeled out for the first quarter, which will be kick-started with the marathon commissioning of projects across seven Local Government  Areas in the state, the message that echoes loud and clear is that the State Government shall continue to upgrade and expand welfare and infrastructural services across all sectors of the polity.
One incontrovertible fact in the delivery of the NEW Rivers Vision is that traditional rulers, elder statesmen, religious leaders, party chieftains and opinion leaders are strategic partners in the development of Rivers State and the need for them to break the barriers of partisanship to build the future that many Rivers people yearn for, which is the desire of all for our State, cannot be over-emphasised.
Governor Wike  captured it succinctly in his New Year message thus: “Those who demarket our State, remain our enemies and we must resist their antics. Let us therefore start a new chapter of cooperation, togetherness and solidarity and in one accord unleash our potentials on the development of our State and better the lots of our people, for there’s no goal we cannot achieve if we remain united.
“As we say farewell to 2020, let us also eschew the recriminations, turn a new page on the hatred that has kept us divided, forgive one another and together, work towards making our dear State the best place on earth to live, do business and bring up our children.
“As we step into the New Year, let us recommit ourselves to the NEW Rivers Vision by working together under God’s guidance to make 2021 truly remarkable and fulfilling for Rivers State,” Governor Wike admonished.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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A Nation In Search Of Vindication

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Being the 2020 Christmas Message to Nigerians by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah
1: Another Christmas with Dark Clouds of Death:
Let me paraphrase the
holy prophet Isaiah who said: “For Jerusalem (Nigeria’s sake), I will not be silent until her vindication shines forth like the dawn…..No more shall people call you forsaken, or your land desolate, but you shall be called my delight and your land espoused.” (Is. 62:1,4).
Against the backdrop of our endless woes, ours has become a nation wrapped in desolation. The prospects of a failed state stare us in the face: endless bloodletting, a collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings, armed robberies etc. Ours has become a house of horror with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and entire communities. The middle grounds of optimism have continued to shift and many genuinely ask, what have we done to the gods? Does Nigeria have a future? Where can we find hope? Like the Psalmist, we ask; from where shall come our help? (Ps.121:1).
Whatever the temptations to despair, we cannot to give up. When the Psalmist asked where help shall come from, he answered that it will come from the Lord. Therefore, like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, we Priests must stand before the mercy seat of God and plead the cause of our great country (Lk. 1:8). Like Abraham, we must plead for the Lord to save our nation because we have more than ten righteous men (Gen. 18: 16ff). Like Moses, we believe that as long as our hands are held up in prayer, the Lord will be on our side ( Ex. 17:11). These are trying but life changing moments in the history of our nation. Politics and Economics alone will not resolve our problems. There is enough hate and bitterness to go around. We need to pause, reflect, pray, be honest and courageous in facing tomorrow.
Yes, our dreams have been aborted. Yes, our commonwealth has been stolen. Yes, our cancer of corruption has metastasized. Yes, we have been guilty of patricide, fratricide and attempted even suicide. Yes, we are hungry, angry, thirsty and starving. Yet, we stand firmly with the unshaken belief that no matter the temptations, the world has known worst times. These may be the worst of times, but for men and women of faith, they could be the best of times. We must stand firm and resolute because, our redeemer liveth (Job 19:25).
2: Annus Mirabilis or Annus Horribilis?
The roads to the graveyards are busier than those to the farms. Amidst the wails and laments, I hear the congregants saying; the world is coming to an end, it has never been so bad. Yes, people are dying, but they are not dying more now than they did in recent years. It is the social media and its connectivity that has given us a sense of greater urgency and added to our seeming despair with the way things are. The social media is value neutral. It depends on what we make of it. Its instantaneous impact is often times dizzyingly traumatic, but the other benefits more than compensate. In a way, the choices we make will help us decide whether this year is our annus mirabilis or annus horribilis.
When Isaac Newton, at the age of 23, made the spectacular discoveries in the areas of Calculus, Motion, Optics, and Gravitation, the year of those discoveries, 1666, was referred to as, annus mirabilis, the year of joy. On the other hand, in 1992, when the marriages of three of her children collapsed, Queen Elizabeth in her Christmas address referred to that year as her annus horribilis, the year of horror. As such, notwithstanding all the earth shaking impact of the Covid-19, our own individual, communal and national tragedies, it is not just a choice between annus mirabilis and annus horribilis. At various levels, there have been grey areas of hope, flickers of light, achievement and so on. It to these flickers of hope that we must cling tenaciously. For our son, Anthony Joshua, the loss of his title to Andy Ruis on June 1, 2019 after 25 fights without a loss, that year was his annus horribilis. When he pummeled Kubrat Pulev, this year became his annus mirabilis. Things change and, joy or sorrow, we must know that nothing lasts forever. What matters is how we handle failure.
3: Another Christmas in Cloud of Doom:
Not unexpectedly, this Christmas is again coming against a backdrop of so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty in our land. We all seem to have become sedated and inured to pain. Tragedy has been standing as our gate keeper. For over ten years now, at almost each Christmas, a dark pall of horror, sorrow and death has consistently hung in our horizon threatening to eclipse the promises of the joy of Christmas. Recall the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla on Christmas day in 2011. In the wake of the Christmas day bombing, I issued a statement titled, An Appeal to Nigerians. In the statement which enjoyed a wide circulation, I stated: All of this should cause us to pause and ponder about the nature of the force of evil that is in our midst and appreciate the fact that contrary to popular thinking, we are not faced with a crisis or conflict between Christians and Muslims. Rather, like the friends of Job, we need to humbly appreciate the limits of our human understanding. Terror is a product of hate, but while hate tries to divide us, terror and death should pull us together.
4: Is Government in Suspended Animation?:
As our country drifts almost rudderless, we seem like people travelling without maps, without destination and with neither Captain nor Crew. Citizens have nowhere to turn to. After he assumed power, a delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference had audience with President Buhari. In the course of our discussion, the President shared with us his frustration over the state of decay and rut that he had met. In frustration, I vividly recalled him saying that, from the decay and neglect, it seemed as if preceding governments had been doing nothing but just eating and going to the toilet! Looking back, one might conclude that those were happy times because at least there was food to eat and people could go to the toilet. Now, a journey to the toilet is considered by the poor an extra luxury. Our country’s inability to feed itself is one of the most dangerous signs of state failure and a trigger to violence.
5: Breaking the Ice: From Chibok through Dapchi to Kankara:
The sleepy town of Kankara, just 130 kilometers outside Katsina, like Chibok and Dapchi before it, has leapt into prominence not because they now have potable water, electricity or any dramatic improvement in the quality of their lives. Rather, it is because of large footprints of the evil men who have passed through their terrain. As always, we were unsure of how many children were missing: 80, 820, 800, 500, 520, 333, 320,no one knew. The numbers kept changing between the government and Boko Haram. The story of Chibok and Dapchi was for some time, a metaphor that exposed the vulnerability of the girl child. Kankara has added to the mix and now we have to face the mortal dangers of the Nigerian child in northern Nigeria. The Almajiri is the poster child of the horrible and inhuman conditions of the northern child. It is a best kept secret that the region refuses to confront but it has now exposed its underbelly. Now, what next for the children of the north? In another ten or twenty years, these children will be leaders in their communities. What will they remember and how will they remember? Their fate and future are a dream deferred, a nightmare that will be ignited by the fire next time.
We thank God that the children have been returned safely. This is the easy part. The challenge now is how to deal with the scars inflicted by a derelict nation which is still unable or unwilling to protect its citizens. Yes, we commend the federal and state governments for the rescue operation. The larger issues now are whether the federal government understands the evil web of intrigues into which Boko Haram has tied it. Will the federal government continue to reward and fund Boko Haram by playing its game? How long can this circle of deceit last for given that every kidnap merely strengthens their arsenal? The men of darkness have shown far greater capacity to shock and awe a forlorn nation by constantly blindsiding us all. When will it all end?
6: A Nation in Search of Vindication:
This government owes the nation an explanation as to where it is headed as we seem to journey into darkness. The spilling of this blood must be related to a more sinister plot that is beyond our comprehension. Are we going to remain hogtied by these evil men or are they gradually becoming part of a larger plot to seal the fate of our country?
President Buhari deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him to what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern hegemony by reducing others in public life to second class status. He has pursued this self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion. Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it. There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war. The President may have concluded that Christians will do nothing and will live with these actions. He may be right and we Christians cannot feel sorry that we have no pool of violence to draw from or threaten our country. However, God does not sleep. We can see from the inexplicable dilemma of his North.
7: Nepotism and the Worship of False Gods:
It is curious that President Buhari’s partisanship and commitment to reinforcing the foundations of northern hegemony have had the opposite consequences. For a long time, beyond the pall of politics, very prominent northerners with a conscience have raised the red flag, pointing out the consequences of President Buhari’s nepotism on national cohesion and trust. With time, as hunger, poverty, insecurity engulfed the north, the President’s own supporters began to despair and lament about the state of their collective degradation. Was this not supposed to be their song? The north that the President sought to privilege has become a cauldron of pain and a valley of dry bones. Today, the north itself is crying the most and why not? No one has suffered as much as they have and continue to. The helplessness is palpable and the logic is incomprehensible.
One Northern Imam after the other have posted videos of lamentation on the social media asking why, with all the cards of power in the hands of northern Muslims, everything is bursting in the seams. How come our region has become a cesspool of blood and death? Why did President Buhari hand over a majority of the plum jobs to Northern Muslims? Was it for efficacy and efficiency? What was the logic? President Buhari must pause and turn around because his policy of nepotism has been rejected by the gods.
During the Endsars Protests, the north pretended that it was ensconced from the pain that was driving the protests and that they had nothing to complain about. The northern elites claimed that the protests were part of a plot by Christians to overthrow a northern, Muslim government. Their sentiments false, but understandable. However, it turned out to be the lull before the storm. The dam soon broke as the bandits tightened their grip on the region as the spiral of kidnappings, abductions and killings of innocent citizens intensified.
The North spurn into denouement: the idea of a united north seems to have ended. The northern Governors’ Forum has split into the three zones. With the killings, kidnappings and abductions of Emirs and other traditional rulers in the north, the signals have gone out that no one is safe and nothing is sacred. In the wake of the Endsars protests, the traditional rulers across the country assembled to express solidarity with the President. Then it all changed. The Emir of Katsina, the President’s home state, only recently said; We cannot continue to live like animals. I have not seen this type of country. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar said that the north has now become the worst part of the entire country. The Senate whose leadership is almost totally dominated by Northern Muslims has raised alarm. The Northern Elders’ Forum has called on the President to resign. Has the politics of nepotism run its course? Perhaps, the spirit of Christmas should offer us an answer.
8: A People that Walked in Darkness has Seen a Great Light.
The rut and decay in our country today is evidence of a people who have not yet seen the light. The experience of northern Nigeria is evidence that nepotism is a counterfeit currency. The nation must therefore now pull together. It is not enough to blame the military. After all, they neither run the economy or the bureaucracy. It is not enough to blame even the political class or even the President alone. We found our way here by the choices we have made as a nation over time.
Indeed, the colonialists claimed that they were bringing light to a dark continent. In a way, despite the cost, we could see ingredients of their light; good education, running water, relatively good roads, security, among others. We finally accepted Democracy as the platform for actualizing these. However, today, there is evidence that we have literally returned to the cave, those times when life was brutish, nasty and short. Each and every one of us has contributed to the darkness of our nation. The light of Christ which we all received at baptism calls on us to act in the mind of Christ. To be a follower of Christ is to be in his footsteps. This moment calls on us as Christians to celebrate the simplicity of Christ represented in Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord has come, the song says. Jesus has offered us a roadmap. We are challenged to bring light into the darkness of our society.
Darkness has its own logic. St Paul reminds us without Chris, our lives are characterised by; immorality, filthy and indecent actions, worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight, they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups, they are envious, get drunk and have orgies (Gal. 5: 19-21). When it is dark, we cannot see our way and we stumble. Nigeria has stumbled so much. It is time to for us to turn on the light of the torch. Each of us can make a change.
9: Wailers and Redeemers:
Finally, today, amidst the pains and the trials, we can say with the Psalmist: Our tears have become our bread (Ps. 43:2). We have no reason to doubt that at the fulfilment of time, in His own time, the Lord will dispense justice to our nation. It will come as day follows light.
Our brother Femi Adesina, a Pastor of the Four Square Gospel Church was right when he referred to those who were calling attention to our situation as Wailers. The wailing started quite early in the day. To the herdsmen across Nigeria whose cattle have been lost to rustlers, bandits, or lightening, the Prophet Zechariah said: There is a sound of a shepherd’s wail for their glory has been ruined (Zech 11:3). To the thousands of widows left to mourn their husbands or children across our country, the Prophet Jeremiah is saying; Send for the wailing women, that they may come! Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water (Jer. 9: 17). For our hapless nation overrun by bandits? Prophet Jeremiah still says; A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more (Jer. 31:15).
So, Pastor Adesina was right. On the sad situation in Nigeria, the United Nations has wailed. The Pope has wailed. Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Pastors have wailed. Emirs have wailed. Politicians have wailed. The Sultan has wailed. Surely, it is time for the Lord to hear the wailer as they have sung their redemption songs. With St. Paul, I say: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over the day is almost here, so let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Rom. 13:11-12). Let us unite and seek the Lord in sincerity because the Lord will vindicate the righteous.
Happy Christmas to you all.

 

By: Matthew Hassan Kukah

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John Bazia: Confessions Of A Debtor And Kleptomaniac

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Our attention has been drawn to the ranting of John Bazia, former Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs in Governor Nyesom Wike’s first tenure, published in some national Dailies.
In the said publications, Mr Bazia, who has started masquerading as a saint, was responding to the now confirmed accusation that he, Bazia, collected 80 percent of the “Kolanut” offered to traditional rulers during a Presidential campaign in 2015.
He tried so hard to convince Nigerians that he is not a thief and debtor. One of his points of defence was that Governor Wike appointed him Commissioner even when he knew he was appointing a thief as commissioner.
Well, the answer to that poser is succinctly captured in this famous quote by the writer and philosopher, C. JoyBell: “Don’t let a thief into your house three times. The first time was enough. The second time was a chance. The third time means you’re stupid.”
Simply put, John Bazia served as Member of the House of Assembly (the first time in the PDP House) and those who knew him at that time confirm that he had a frosty and hostile relationship with the then Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, which was one of the reasons, he, a two term legislator, did not return to the House and was disdainfully left in the political wilderness from 2007 – 2015, when his Speaker became Governor for two terms.
Governor Nyesom Wike rehabilitated John Bazia, gave him another chance in the PDP House in 2015, by appointing him as Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, even after his shameless and ignoble kleptocracy and ineptitude as head of the Presidential Campaign in his LGA.
His tenure as Commissioner was also largely uneventful, uninspiring and neither added any meaningful value to the Cabinet nor improved the fortunes of the PDP in any remarkable way.
So, when it was time to invite him a third time, Governor Wike wisely followed the advise of C. JoyBell and refused to reappoint Bazia as Commissioner in his cabinet. The reason for not reappointing him as Commissioner, was aptly and comprehensively explained by Governor Wike in an interview titled: “WIKE ON BAZIA: Who Would Reappoint Loafers As Commissioners?” published in the Vanguard Newspaper on December 22, 2020.
Governor Wike, in the interview spoke on the state of Rivers politics and described copiously and with verifiable instances, the characters and misdemeanours of the two former Commissioners; John Bazia of Chieftaincy and Community Affairs and his Transport counterpart, Ibinabo Michael West, who decamped from the PDP House to APC.
He said: “When we talk about defection, who and who defected? What are the qualities of those who defected? The two people who defected, who knew them in my cabinet? Have you ever seen them speak on behalf of the party one day? Have you heard them speak about my administration?
“There are people who defect and it will worry the government because these are internal members of the cabinet. Not everybody who is a Commissioner is a Commissioner. Chidi Lloyd defected to PDP, we knew who he was in APC. Who are these people who defected from the PDP?” Governor Wike asked rhetorically.
Indeed the thieving and debtor character of John Bazia was revealed and the records set straight by the very man he himself confessed of collecting a loan from, Mr. Lesi Maol, a Rivers Oil Magnate and Managing Director, Giolee Global Resources.
In an interview, published in the INSIDE NIGER DELTA Page of Sunday Vanguard, December 27, 2020, titled: “Euro Debt Controversy: HOW WIKE PAID LOAN TAKEN BY AMAECHI LOYALIST”, Mr. Maol simply took John Bazia to the cleaners, revealing how the former Commissioner and lawmaker, who was also his kinsman, begged him for a loan to settle a problem involving his son’s school abroad, and how after collecting the loan, he started playing a dubious game of delay tactics and even threatening him.
It was only when a counter threat to arrest the dubious former Commissioner with the Police eventually got to Governor Wike’s ears, that the Rivers Governor benevolently paid off the loan to avoid any further embarrassment to the State Government.
Indeed, the advise which Mr. Maol offered to John Bazia is priceless and actually explains perfectly, the kleptomaniac nature which may have prompted the stealing of “Kolanuts” meant for traditional rulers, by a former Commissioner and lawmaker. He advised Bazia thus: “People should cut their coat according to their cloth. Bring your children back from abroad and put them in a school here that you can afford. Do not borrow to feed family and pay school fees. Don’t borrow money for family use. You can borrow money for business,” the oil magnate cautioned the disgraced former commissioner.
It is also interesting and quite revealing that John Bazia, in the said publications confessed and pleaded guilty to all the accusations levelled against him. First, he confessed that the Traditional Rulers’ “Kolanut” was tampered with and after trying dubiously to put the blame on his driver and insisting that the money was eventually returned by the same driver, then went on to attempt to undermine the amount ‘stolen’ from the ‘Kolanut’ just like every serial thief would do.
It has been confirmed that the driver who has been a partner in crime was acting the script of his dubious master. He acted on specific instructions from him, to remove 80 percent of the ‘Kolanut’, no matter the value. How silly can one be?
John Bazia also confessed that he took a loan from Mr. Lesi Maol, even though he tried with his convoluted argument, like all typical debtors who do not intend to repay loans would do, to deny the amount collected. He instituted the diversionary court cases and litigation to attract public sympathy and cleverly get a reprieve, which he eventually did, when Governor Wike stepped in to offset his debt.
He equally confirmed that he did not pay back the loan after a very long time, which he attributed to a delay in payment of his salary as Commissioner, as though the repayment was tied to his appointment, and while admitting that it was actually Governor Wike who repayed the loan for him, went on like all ungrateful people, to insinuate that the involvement of the Governor may have been a set up by his political opponents to smear his name.
But then, he conveniently forgot too that he was a Commissioner and was also a debtor and that his imminent arrest by a citizen and businessman would have been a huge embarrassment to the State Government and Rivers people.
As for the flippant coinage of emptiness which Bazia alluded to Governor Wike’s administration, suffice it to note that the lies and deceit which surrounded most of those white elephant projects of the past he is celebrating, have already been exposed for the whole world to see.
One can only sympathise with the myopia and stagnated mindset of people like Bazia who deliberately refuse to acknowledge the amazing transformation going on in Rivers State, under the firm, astute, determined and unwavering leadership of Governor Wike.
We can only assure them that the marvellous infrastructural legacy projects, some of which have already been commissioned and the solid achievements and accomplishments in other sectors, which the Governor Wike administration is delivering across the length and breadth of Rivers State, will stand the test of time.
Referring to the obvious metamorphosis which has taken place in the PDP, since after the 2015 general elections, we need not remind the likes of Bazia, that this change was prompted by the actions of some persons who deliberately wanted to cripple and destroy the party to achieve their selfish interest in 2014.
It had to take the herculean courage, bravery and strategic political brilliance of Governor Wike to retain the identity of PDP, maintain the structure and sustain the existence and goodwill all of which have been the hallmarks of rebuilding the party in the last five years.
The fact that the likes of Bazia have found themselves on the periphery of a dynamic metamorphosis in the PDP and have gradually become irrelevant, redundant and valueless in the emerging structure, is clearly written for all to see and their decision to join a fractured, dismembered, confused and already crumbled political party, speaks volumes for their political calculations.
As far as the PDP is concerned, Bazia and his likes remain good riddance to bad rubbish.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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