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Leadership And Governancea

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Being a lecture delivered at the Home
Coming Event of the University of Port Harcourt Alumni Association at the
Ebitimi Bamgo Hall, recently.

This lecture may well be the most difficult
I have ever delivered. Speaking before one’s alma mater, one’s teachers, and
one’s classmates is harder than you can imagine. There are former professors
here who might withdraw my degree certificate if I misbehave. There are ex-classmates
who might kiss me goodbye if I fall short of their expectations. There are also
those who have come to see this man who they say graduated with a first class
honours degree in economics in 1984, but who is no better than those who
graduated with third class honors this year. My least concern is with this
third group. They are right and I have been praying for the past 28 years for
them to be right. There is an African saying that the children, the latter
generations, must be better than the adults of earlier generations.

Aha! I have just realised that I don’t have
any problem with the first two groups either. My former teachers will be
cheering for me even if I am not making sense. Their own reputations are on the
line; I am a product of their collective judgment. My classmates know that the
worth of their own certificates depends on not only one individual, but also on
the joint impact of the whole 1984 graduating class, and indeed all alumni of
this great University. My success is their success and their successes are also
mine. Their credibility is on the line and they must be praying for me to
deliver a good lecture today. Now I can exhale!

About 35 years ago, this unique
institution, unique Uniport, started something new: to forge a new kind of
renaissance human being for Africa. When I first came here in 1980 I knew
immediately that I was part of an experiment, part of a programme to raise
intellectual giants, activist intellectuals, and intellectual activists who
would focus on developing Africa and putting it on the map of global
respectability. We were made to understand that the University of Port Harcourt
was educating us and not just training us; educating us to draw out our
potentialities for scientific, technological, economic, and political
development of Nigeria and Africa. It was drummed into us that the paramount
goal of our education was the preservation, promotion, and progress of our
community, which transcends our personal and ethnic boundaries. Now you
understand why I am not concerned with what my professors and classmates think.
I am because they are!

Those of you who are familiar with the work
of Kenyan theologian John Mbiti might have guessed that I have implicitly
quoted him in the last sentence to pepper my talk. You are wrong. It is not
because this is a common saying in Nigeria, but because it was, and still is,
at the foundation of how we understood community and living together on campus.
From the classroom, to the lecture halls, to the sites of community work in the
forests of Choba, we were animated by how Nigerian groups can live together and
live well, and how we can use human intelligence to support this goal. As we
learned from our ancestors and Aristotle, the key task of all political and
ethical thought is how to enable everyone in the community to live well in the
appropriate human ways.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are already
talking about leadership and governance. The Greek word for leader, arkhon,
comes from the verb arkhein, which means to begin, to rule, to command. The
leader begins something new and he or she commands, governs. In the mid-1970s,
Nigerian men and women—supported by a few well-meaning foreign
scholars—gathered here to begin something new in Nigerian education. They
embarked upon the experiment of helping young men and women acquire the most
important human capabilities of thinking, feeling, and desiring in order to
bring Nigeria into the conditions of economic and political eudaimonia. They
set up the institutional framework, ideas, rules, and practices that not only
sustained that new beginning, but made room for the new to emerge. This is
leadership and governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have not come
here to hear the history of Uniport. But it is important for me to begin there.
Leadership involves taking a person, group, or institution along a path or
journey. The leader may not know the final destination, but must assuredly know
the starting point. There is little wonder then, that as I prepare to lead you
on an intellectual journey we start from my Uniport roots. It is from this site
of my existential engagement with the world that I must endeavor to make sense
of the topic that has been assigned to me by the Vice Chancellor (Professor
Joseph Ajienka) and the Alumni Association.

By the way, I will know that you have
understood me well if at the end of this lecture you are able to relate my
intellectual musings to my unique roots. Now put on your thinking bowler hats
if you intend to keep pace with me as I decipher the title of the lecture. Just
kidding, relax and enjoy yourself! But please note that as I playfully
deconstruct the title I am also seriously characterising the nature of
leadership and governance in Nigeria.

Definition of Key Terms in the Title

(1) Seven faces of “And”

The invitation to give this lecture was
signed by the Honourable (Chief) Ike Chinwo and Professor Ajienka, the VC of
the University. It says: “we have the honour and pleasure to request that you
present a Paper on Leadership and Governance . . . .” The whole phrase first
struck me as if they were asking me to sit for the horrific comprehensive exam
again. They put “Leadership and Governance” in bold letters and “paper” was
spelled with a capital P. Then I laughed. I asked myself: you mean Nigerians
still set tough exam questions like this? Leadership and Governance, discuss!
Since I know that it is almost impossible to get an “A” in Uniport, especially
when the question is set by Ike and the VC, I decided to turn the tables on
them and to offer them seven meditations on “and.” You think I’m kidding? I
hope some of you still remember the joke that when you enter an exam hall and
you can’t answer a single question, you make up one for yourself in the hope
that the lecturer will give you a “let-my-people-go” grade.

Let us start in a very simple way, by
examining the title of the lecture, one that the Association and the VC have
given me as a measure of their reading of the pulse of this country. I will
start from the middle term of the title. What does “and” mean in the
combination of leadership and governance? Does “and” represent an illegal and
adulterous relationship when we look at Nigerian history? Do people just govern
and not lead? Is Nigerian leadership raping the concept of governance of all
its meaning as it is understood beyond our shores? Your answer will depend on
what we mean by leadership and governance. Some of you may be thinking:
Professor, there are children or holy men here and you should not be talking
about adultery or rape. I hear you! But what does “and” mean?

Maybe “and” does not signify adultery or
rape, but a marriage of convenience. There is no longer any passion in the
matrimony of leadership and governance; both parties are just keeping up with
appearances. But was there a time our national leaders took the
interconnectedness between leadership and governance seriously? The fact that
they were called leaders and governors does not mean that the meanings of
leadership and governance co-mingled in their hearts and minds. When I survey
the darkling cross on which the glory of this nation died, what I see from the
hands, the heads, the feet of the people are sorrow and pain mingled together.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast in the leadership and governance of
Nigeria. May the good Lord help us to resurrect and raise the glory of this
nation.

As an economist when I see “and” between
leadership and governance at least two things immediately spring to mind:
transaction cost and profit/loss. Anytime we bring two entities together in a
(trade) relationship there is a cost of friction to the exchange goods between
them. Is the cost going to be offset by gains of interaction or is the cost
going to increase?

What is the economics of leadership and
governance in Nigeria? The economics of leadership and governance has been
vitiated by the absence of trust between leaders and the governed, between
oligarchy of power and polyarchy of disorganised citizenry. The “and” between
leadership and governance is a loss center, representing the abyss into which
our resources disappear. Men and women are elected, selected, or appointed to
lead and . . . they steal us blind. “And” is the recurring nightmare inflicted
by our leaders on the governed, subjected, dominated, hoodwinked, bamboozled,
raped, and exploited people who are bedazzled by the razzmatazz of democratic
penkella-messi (peculiar mess).

In the Uniport of the early 1980s, no one
was just trained as an economist, but as a Marxian economist. All the students
in the School of Social Sciences were drilled in Marxian analysis, and since
many of you are here today I will do a Marxian analysis of the title especially
for you. The “and” in the title is indexed to class, to the hegemonic bourgeois
class. Ask yourself, why not “leadership and revolution”? Your answer will
depend upon the correct class analysis of the power structure in the country,
the university, and the Alumni Association.

There is another angle by which to examine
the meaning of “and” that will also be instructive. The three-letter word is
not there for the historical factualness or coherent logic of the social
practice of leadership and governance in Nigeria. “And” in the joining together
of leadership and governance has only emotional and psychological appeals. In
Nigeria we co-join the two words because it creates a passion in which our
feelings of greatness are aroused. There is a certain resonance we feel in our
breasts when we hear both words in one breath. “And” here taps into a
sympathetic vibration and invokes emotions of rhetorical familiarity harkening
back to the independence struggles that preceded the birth of this country on
October 1, 1960. But we have since lost the active sense of life that such
times promised and we are only left with a mythologized sense of how we used to
imagine the desired condition of our country. It is futile to dwell on this
nostalgic meaning of “and.”

Let us now proceed to our sixth meditation
on “and.” I wonder why they did not write, “Leadership is Governance,”
“Leadership for Governance,” “Leadership of Governance,” or Leadership with
Governance”? But they boldly wrote “Leadership and Governance.” For instance,
if they had written “Leadership with Governance” I would have thought of those
books with two or more authors where the senior author, to emphasize his
superiority or to indicate that his partner did not really do the heavy
lifting, will not use “and,” but “with.” The lead author shows all this by
putting his or her name first and attaching the demeaning “with” to the name of
the poor junior scholar. “Leadership with Governance” will not satisfy the ego
of Nigerian leaders who want to show that they are equally invested in both
leadership and governance, and that they govern by leading. This is why my
lecture is not titled “Leadership with Governance” or “Governance and
Leadership.”

Those who invited me to speak have read
their tea leaves well, so they wrote “Leadership and Governance.” The “and”
here means equality, “equals to.” It is a mathematical “and.” This is what our
so-called leaders want us to believe. Do not believe them. There is no
correspondence between leadership and governance. It is an ideological “and.”
The social practices of Nigerian leaders lack the necessary norms and values
that ensure that leadership is a democratic way of life for the common good of
the governed. Their regnant ideas of leadership and governance are not founded
on the premise that everyone is both a leader and a governed, every citizen has
the right to rule and be ruled, and that citizens are to take turns in the public
offices. This rejected premise is the only viable base for the mathematical
“and” and it is only this understanding that can help us to unfold, actualize
the latent human potentials of the country in the context of an emancipatory,
liberatory, and deliberative democracy.

If the authorities that invited me had
written, “leadership is governance,” then we would be put on a different
trajectory of inquiry. But they did not; instead they wrote “Leadership and
Governance.” In a sense, “leadership and governance” implicitly asks: what is
the relation between leadership and governance? This question presupposes that
the meaning and commitment to leadership can be assessed apart from governance
or impact on the governed. For the couplant that is the “and” between the two
terms gestures to an afterthought, not as an identity or sympathetic
identification. But “leadership is governance,” at least, suggests that the
significance and truth of leadership is explicable only in terms of governance.
In my next meditation on “and” as participation I will attempt to bridge the
gap between “leadership and governance” and “leadership is governance.” In that
meditation or philosophical analysis of “and” I will argue that any theory of
leadership that does not properly link it to governance is both incomplete and
deficient. Any theory of leadership is inadequate if it fails to suggest how
genuine leadership provides and requires that leaders have the skills,
competence, capability, and values to govern and to govern well in the name of
the common good.

What do you think the VC and the Alumni
Association had in mind when they coupled together leadership and governance
with the glue of the all-powerful “and”? You say: “You are the economist,
ethicist, and philosopher, figure that out.” With that permission, let me
venture a guess. You better pray that I get it right. If I don’t, then the
press will say our great VC and the Alumni Association cannot formulate a good
topic for discourse. If they did not get it right, my coming here is useless,
and so is your gathering. More than that, we are found to be false witnesses
about Uniport, for we have testified about this University that it has raised
great men and women.

The “and” between leadership and governance
points to participation. “And” here symbolises the intimacy and unity that are
meant to exist between leadership and governance. Participation is the thread
that weaves not only the texture of sociality, but also the logic and dynamics
of leadership and governance. It is through participation that products,
objects, ideas spread out, influence (in-fluent, flow in) one another and
combine into a general product, object, or idea. (In our case, the development
and flourishing of Nigeria.) This unity can provoke or attract reactions to
itself—further producing new fusions. When leadership and governance are made
to participate in one another in the social practice of democracy, they lead to
formation of large-scale structures, systems, or complexities. The combination
of leadership and governance enables the citizens of a polity to participate in
the life of one another and in so doing build and sustain great civilizations.

What is participation? One participates
when one draws (gives) resources, energy from another being. This relation can
take three forms. First, one participant is active at the expense of the other.
The Kalabari say, buko pa agala fififi, agala buko ye fifiyaa (the monkey
always eats the mangrove tree and the mangrove never eats anything of the
monkey). The monkey is the active participant here, actively exacting itself at
the expense of the mangrove tree. If we turn this relationship around and
examine it from the vantage point of the tree we get the second type of
participation. The tree is participating but it is mainly passive, contributing
its resources, but not necessarily getting something in return and essentially
not taking any action. The monkey is doing all the eating and the tree is not
eating from the monkey. Do these forms of false participation remind you of the
relationship between the leaders and governed in Nigeria?

Third, participation can also be
conceptualized as a form of relation that leads to mutual exchange of
properties such that both parties are transformed and become a new being. When
the female egg relates to the male sperm, they are both changed and by the
change become a new whole. Here the two par-take, “take a part of” each other
to create an organized whole, a higher structure. They both give something of
themselves and simultaneously take on something of the whole.

The Kalabari word for participation is
ye-mie gboloma. This encompasses the meaning of participation in English but
goes further, deeper. There is the idea of giving, receiving, possessing,
incorporating, and fellowship. When we do things together (yeye) we are not
only both giving and receiving properties (energy, materials, ideas, etc.) from
each other, we incorporate (fi, “eat”) them into our being; ye-mie gboloma is
constitutive of our very act of interaction and also creates a communion,
community.

When we view participation from the wide
angle provided by the Kalabari word, ye-mie-gboloma, from the perspective of
the sperm and ovum forming the zygote, participants in the process of
participation create a unity (not merely an interaction field) and identity. To
the extent that the communion formed is something that was not there before is
something achieved which was not possible without the sustained interaction.
This “something” has new identity, a new identification. Something new has been
created from the unity—even if not ex nihilo.

If every new participation is a new
creation, or the positing of a new possible world, then it is an invention of a
possible set of new possibilities. Possibility is built into the “being” of
participation. So what the VC and Alumni Association have in mind is for me to
examine how leadership and governance can be understood or reconceptualised so
as to create new possibilities for Nigeria’s development. But we are getting
ahead of ourselves. First of all, we must define (de-fine, limit) what we mean
by governance or leadership.

(2) Governance

Governance refers to the practices of
command (coordination or control) in an organization or polity. It is the set
of institutional forms of control for maintaining and destabilizing order
necessary for human flourishing in an organisation or polity. Why have I
combined maintenance and destabilization? Claude Ake taught us that the problem
of Western social science is that it is too enamored with maintaining order. I
took my lessons very well. So I believe a governance process must construct and
deconstruct, for as Ake once told us, reality is full of contradictions and to
grasp it we must think dialectically. At any rate, no institution can survive for
long if its practices of command make destabilizing forces or internal creative
destruction impossible.

Control can be unilateral or multilateral,
democratic or non-democratic, or monocentric or polycentric. By control I have
in mind the regulatory structures and norms that produce, function, and
reproduce the mechanisms of management and accountability in an organization
(state). These could operate without an overarching political authority (an
open process of negotiation and decision making) or with one that limits
collaboration between the hegemonic top and plebian bottom of the organization.
The question that usually suggests itself with this understanding of governance
is this: is all authority deriving from a single center of power or from
heterogeneous decision-making networks? Historically, this question is decided
on a predetermined measure of effectiveness in governance. Do the functions and
structures of authority facilitate the organisational goals? This is a question
that has to wait until we define the telos of “leadership and governance” in
Nigeria. At that point we will also come to the understanding that good
governance is the institutionalisation of leadership in the polis or
organisation.

Wariboko is the Katherine B. Stuart Professor
of Christian Ethics, Andover Newton Theological School, United States.

To Be Cont’d

 

Nimi Wariboko

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HIV/AIDS: As 2030 Draws Near…

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Years ago, the immediate past National Coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS In Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Victor Omoshehin, expressed fear over the ability of Nigeria to meet the United Nations’ “Vision 2030” of eliminating HIV in the country.
His fear stemmed first from the fact that Nigeria relies more on international donor agencies in terms of finance for HIV/AIDS-related programmes, and also the seeming inability of the Federal and State Governments to take up the responsibility of fully financing HIV/AIDS programmes. 
There was also the gradual withdrawal of their finances by such international donor agencies that were of the belief that, given the length of period they had spearheaded HIV/AIDS preventive programmes in the country, government at various levels should have been in position to own-up the processes.
Omoshehin summed up his fear thus: “If the Government of Change will not increase the domestic funding for HIV, then Nigeria cannot own up to the responsibility of achieving the Vision 90:90:90 by 2030 and we cannot end AIDS by 2030”.
During a visit to Nigeria from 7th to 10th of February, 2016, the then Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé, met with Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and urged the Federal Government to increase its support for the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Week, with the aim that all pregnant women are tested for HIV by the end of 2016, and all women who test HIV-positive have immediate access to antiretroviral therapy.
The Vice President told Sidibé, during the meeting, that Nigeria was making huge budget allocations for social investment programmes, in part, to increase access to health care and help end the AIDS epidemic. 
How much this amounts to, and to what extent such budget was truly executed on the purpose it is meant for was not clearly stated. This was in the face of widespread allegations of non-accountability of funds allocated to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
One question that readily comes to mind at this juncture is if anything else has been done towards changing the narrative for the better, especially in the light of the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic which many believe has distracted attention from HIV.  
In a recent interview with newsmen, the Director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Mr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu, stated that the focus on Covid-19 has not affected the mandate of NACA in its quest to check the HIV/AIDS trend in Nigeria.  
According to him, “NACA has been up and doing in the fight against HIV/AIDS by implementing our mandate. We have done extremely well during the pandemic and have recorded huge results we had never recorded before. We are passionate and optimistic to achieve our mission to the letter”.    
While noting that HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is largely funded by international donor agencies, Aliyu explained that “Nigeria is contributing less than 10 per cent at the moment, and this contribution is what we are increasing on an incremental basis every year.    
“We have this agreement with them (donor agencies) that, every year, we shall take an additional 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS from the total number they are treating to add to our number,” he said. 
On June 8, 2021, the United Nations’ General Assembly held a high-level meeting on AIDS in which United Nations member-states adopted a set of new and ambitious targets with a pledge to end all inequalities faced by communities and people affected by HIV towards ending AIDS.
Towards this end, they agreed to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to under 370, 000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250, 000, eliminate new HIV infections among children, end paediatric AIDS and eliminate all forms of HIV-related discrimination by 2025. They also committed to providing life-saving HIV treatment to 34 million people by 2025.
It is believed that if the international community reaches the targets, 3.6 million new HIV-infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths will be prevented by 2030. To achieve this, the political declaration calls on countries to provide 95% of all people at risk of acquiring HIV within all epidemiologically relevant groups, age groups and geographic settings with access to people-centered and effective HIV combination prevention options. 
It also calls on countries to ensure that 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 95% of people who know their status to be on HIV treatment, and 95% of people on HIV treatment to be virally suppressed. 
This target, 95:95:95, is an improvement from the previous ambitious target of 90:90:90, but has the same goal of either eliminating HIV, or reducing its spread to the barest minimum.
The question is what does this mean for Nigeria, knowing that towards the previous target of 90:90:90 the country’s efforts at meeting the target took a nosedive at some point in terms of funding, especially after international donor agencies started reducing their funding, leading to gradual pulling out.
Already, several HIV/AIDS programmes aimed at checking its trend have either gone moribund, or ignored because donor agencies no longer sponsor them. This is in the face of rampant allegations of deep-rooted fraud by way of diversion of monies meant for HIV/AIDS interventionist activities amounting to billions of Naira.
Meanwhile, the NACA DG last October stated that Nigeria needed the sum of $2.4 billion to control the spread of HIV in the country for the next three years. He explained that the amount is an estimation needed “to reach where we have targeted to be”.
According to him, the amount will enable Nigeria “to achieve the 95-95-95 initiative of the United Nations, where 95 per cent of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 95 per cent of people who know their status are on treatment; while 95 per cent of people are on treatment with suppressed viral loads, and we are on track”. 
He noted that “United States Government alone is investing, this year, over $400,000,000, global fund is investing over a $100,000,000 this year and the government of Nigeria is contributing its part”. 
Explaining Nigeria’s contributions further, Aliyu said “over the last one year, the Nigerian government invested about a $100,000,000, and 50, 000,000 persons are needed to be tested annually, but now the figure has been reduced because, when we did the estimation, we never knew we would identify such a huge number over the last 20 months. 
“So, with that projection, we may need to reduce the number and test below 50,000,000 persons to reach the range of 1,800,000 to 1,900,000; because, right now, we have 1,500,000. 
“Remember the annual incremental number is 50,000 to 60,000 every year. In the last two years, we identified 350,000, which is more than five times the number we identified every year”, he said.
With this, the NACA boss says the Agency is on its way to attaining its target to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
“It is very feasible”, he said, adding that “We are not mincing words. In 18 months we have identified an additional 350,000 on treatment. In another 18 months, if we identify another 350,000 persons, we are done: we have reached the control level. 
“Once you reach the level, that is the first step. You have to reach the control level first, that is the condition. We have to control HIV first before we can end it. So, the control level is supposed to happen in 2025, but here in Nigeria we are very hopeful that this control level target will happen in 2022”, he said.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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Planting Trees To Save The Earth

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As an annual event, World Earth Day is celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection from degradation and experts say if the Earth has to be restored, humans must begin to plant as many trees as possible.
Until quite recently, it was common for people to plant trees as symbols of events; for instance, planting of orange or coconut trees in the name of a child, after its birth.
Marking the 2021 Earth Day celebration recently, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Prince Mmom, said efforts at saving the trees is a race for the survival of the human race. With the theme: “Save The Trees, Save Humanity” organised by the Junior Chamber International (JCI), the varsity don said the Earth’s trees and forests are critical components of the world’s biodiversity as many forests are more biodiverse than others.
He pointed out that forests cover 31 per cent of the global land area and added that the total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares, which is approximately 50 x 100m per person.
Mmom explained that since 1990, it is estimated that 420 million hectares of forests have been lost through conversion to other land uses even though the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. According to him, between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million in the ‘90s and he said inhabitants on Earth risked losing basic life support systems rapidly on a daily basis.
The don maintained that the Global Tree Search database reports the existence of 60,082 tree species but that more than 1400 trees were assessed as critically endangered and in urgent need of conservation action. As at December 2019, he said, a total of 20,334 tree species had been included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species of which 8056 were assessed as globally threatened and, therefore, became vulnerable.
Emphasising the values of trees, he said from the existence of man on Earth, trees have furnished human beings with two of life’s essentials such as food and oxygen. As human beings evolved, he insisted that trees have provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine and tools. His words: “Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles”.
Mmom averred that trees are form an important part of every community as it concerns aesthetics and as he puts it: “we gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends”. He said that spiritually, they are beautiful and majestic, pleasant, relaxed, comfortable-feeling, inspirational, provide mental health and emphasised that many people plant trees as living memories of life-changing events.
The former Director, Centre for Disaster Risk Management, pointed out that trees are source of raw materials for industrial uses which generate income and eco-tourism potentials and added that they provide livelihoods that are essential for sustainable food production and medicines.
“Trees and forests are homes for the earth’s terrestrial bio-diversity”, he opined and said that the values of trees cannot be overemphasised as they contribute to their environment by providing oxygen and improving air quality.
He stated that Earth’s function of conserving water, preserving soil cannot be overlooked as shade from trees slows water evaporation and added that as trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
“They support wildlife, conserve soil and prevent erosion and nutrient loss; they are storehouses of large amounts of carbon, absorb carbon dioxide (Co2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air”, he explained.
In continental United States, the professor pointed out that non-federal forests store an estimated 38.6 billion metric tons of carbon which makes the climate to ameliorate. He regretted that rapid decimation of trees and forests is a threat to the survival of humanity even as he advised that human beings must take bold steps to reverse the trend for the benefit of present and future generations. As he puts it: “We must reduce the rate of deforestation.  We must plant more trees, cut one, plant ten and plant at least 100 trees a year”.
 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are doing more to create awareness on the need for people to plant more trees since one of the reasons is to secure the Earth especially with the soot all over the environment as a result of illegal refining of petroleum products.
Recently in Port Harcourt, Journalists for Sustainable Development in Nigeria (JSDN) flagged- off ceremony of the 2021 Tree Planting Campaign exercise with the theme: “Tree Planting Awareness Campaign: Combating Climate Change Through Sustainable Tree Planting Exercise”.
At the event, the Executive Director of JSDN, Pastor Parry Benson, appealed to those who felled trees in the name of harvest without replacement to stop as that was responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, which is currently causing a serious threat to the health of humans on Earth.
He appealed to the Rivers State Government and other relevant authorities to set up taskforce that will be responsible for prohibition of felling of trees in order to tackle reckless cutting down of trees.
The Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State chapter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, during this year’s flag-off of the 2021 tree planting exercise, urged people to plant trees in their surroundings if they wish to live longer on Earth.
An environmental engineer, Monday Amos, said, the Earth is for man and therefore human beings have to explore and exploit the earth and its resources to survive. He said that the result of exploitation on the Earth currently is the climate change, pollution and extinction of biodiversity that are due to the activities of man.
The activities of man on Earth, he said, are affecting humanity and this has given rise to how to solve the threat posed by the activities.
“But the Earth cannot remain the way it was created. As long as man dwells on Earth, activities carried out for man’s survival cannot be ignored. When people occupy a particular space definitely there will be a change in that environment”, he maintained. 
In the olden days as well as present day, man needed certain things to survive on Earth. Humans need firewood which is got from trees for cooking. Charcoal got from fire is used for ironing when used with charcoal iron. The smoke from burning firewood changes the atmosphere.  
So, because of these, experts say there is the need to explore sustainably instead of getting to the point of exploitation. Exploitation may take the Earth beyond its caring capacity to the extent that cannot replenish itself. The issue of climate change is due to extreme exploitation of the Earth, changes in activities in Earth – changes in period of rainfall, a little from the exact period as well as dry season and harmattan not taking place when they should.
Carbon dioxide is produced from activities of man, such as burning of petroleum products, gas and firewood. This, in the long-run, can affect the human system. In the Niger Delta area, according to experts, refining of petroleum products by throwing a lot of Co2 into the air and gas flaring heat up the system.  Economic activities by man contribute in damaging the Earth, environment and the eco-system. Yes, the activities are necessary for life to be sustained but the resources got from the Earth must be explored to achieve economic growth. 
So, sustainable development advocates that humans can achieve and explore the resources of the environment to achieve the economic growth without damaging the environment. This is the reason for advocating for renewable energies by many countries of the world to put a stop to the exploitation of the Earth.
For us to restore the Earth as much as we can, humans must plant trees to stop deforestation.  When trees grow, they form shade that stops Co2 in the atmosphere from eating the Earth.
Agricultural practises such as farming, hunting and fishing help man to survive in life but they have to be done sustainably. If humans have to restore the Earth, the locally operated refineries must be put to a stop because of black soot. Black soot is the implication of human activity on Earth. Since World Earth Day is an international activity; it is high time international best practices were put in place in refining. 
A chemical engineer, Titus Nbah, said modular refineries must be established in the Niger Delta region since locally operated refineries part of the problems affecting the Earth. Gas can be injected into the soil using the available technologies instead of flaring.  
He said Nigeria should domesticate some of the enabling laws which have been signed. Pupils should be educated from the kindergarten on laws guiding the rules on restoring the Earth. Since the essence of World Earth Day is to re-echo man’s commitment to the environment, the end product should be change of behaviour and policies that will restore the Earth.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Challenges Of Reporting Nigeria’s Electoral Process

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The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in conjunction with the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria, Component 4A (Support to Media), recently organised a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on “Trends And Challenges In Fair, Accurate and Ethical Coverage Of the Electoral Process In Nigeria” in a bid to strengthen the media houses. Here, our reporter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, attempts an analysis of the main discourses at the one-day event held in Port Harcourt. 

Speaking during his open
ing address, the Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Mr. Akin Akingbulu, stated that the mandate of his Institute was to see that the Media provides fair, accurate and ethical coverage of the electoral process in Nigeria, adding that since the project started they have been working on this mandate and have recorded tremendous results.
He explained that the Nigeria Component, which is also called Support to Media, has four components, namely: To enhance professionalism of the media; To help to strengthen institutions to deepen and diversify the delivery of voter and civic education; To help strengthen the capacity of the regulators, especially the broadcast sector regulator, as to enable it do better on its mandate; and To drive the focus and attention of the media on marginalised groups in society such as women, youths, persons with disabilities for input participation of these particular groups in the electoral and broader democratic processes in Nigeria.
Akingbulu noted that, so far, there has been tremendous progress, adding that they have recorded these tremendous results through forums such as this over the past few years.
He further explained that the media is a critical stakeholder in the Nigeria Component for which reason they have come to Port Harcourt to engage in this activity, which falls under the sub Component, and is working on strengthening media platforms for improved delivery of voter and civic education in the electoral process.   
“We have brought together conscious and strategically important stakeholders to be part of this discussion as we believe that focus group discussion should be small, but qualitative; hence our choice of selection, noting that it is expected that those selected for the focused discussion will do a step-down at their various media houses.
“We trust that we will get the best out of the conversation that we are going to have here. To ensure that activities run well, we have put in place a timber-and-caliber facilitator, a Professor of Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Ifeoma Dunu,” Akingbulu announced.
In her presentation, the facilitator of the group discussion, Prof Dunu stated that it was expected that the discussions would suggest ways to move forward, adding that, for her, it was not just conversation and discussions, but the way forward.
Dunu emphasised that this year is the electoral period in Nigeria, using Anambra State as an example. Looking at democracy and governance in Nigeria, she wondered where Nigeria’s Democracy is today. Is it progressing, retrogressing or stagnated?     
She added that IMS was in Port Harcourt to ensure that all the institutions responsible to the smooth running of the electoral process in Nigeria get it right, remarking that the discussion must find lasting solutions to some of the problems confronting the electoral process in the country.
The varsity don also noted that journalism challenges are part of the core challenges confronting the electoral process as journalists working in both the private and public media houses are faced with poor remunerations which forces them to give biased reportage.
In her contribution, the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, drew attention to the meaning of democracy as a system of government in which power is vested with the people and exercised by them directly.
She, however, pointed out that in Nigeria the reverse is the case as this power is vested in the legislature, noting that democracy is not being practised in the country.
A staff of Radio Nigeria, Purity FM Awka, Dr Adaora Arah, who also spoke at the event, stated that there were many young broadcasters who engaged in broadcasting without possessing the requisite qualifications to do so. She, therefore, urged the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to beam its searchlight on television and radio stations, especially those operating in remote areas.
Arah stressed that many of them have not gone to communication schools, nor acquired the needed training on what broadcasting is all about before embarking on full broadcast activities, thereby bringing embarrassment to their stations, NBC and the general public.
In his speech, a member of the International Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), Charles Maraizu, stated that the only way forward for the electoral process in Nigeria is for it to be centralised as there were many incidences that bedeviled Nigeria’s democracy.
He stressed that there were also voters’ apathy, in which the people were no longer interested to go out and vote as many of them have continued to express fear that their votes no longer count in elections. 
 Maraizu commended IMS for organising the programme and for always being gender sensitive as well as bringing serious-minded people on board for the focus group discussions saying, ‘whenever they do things, they always do it well’.
He advised everyone to generate ideas on the trends and challenges of the media “because, to me, it is not enough to produce gender sensitive media lens glass without representing it by putting it to action”, adding that IMS was always walking the talk and not just talking.
In his turn, the Director of Broadcast Monitoring at NBC, Dr Tony Anigala, informed that his Commission does not deal with an individual when a broadcast station violates the ethics of broadcasting.
He commended the IMS, which has been there over the years, helping NBC a lot during elections, adding that recommendations gotten from IMS platforms help the Commission to do better.
Anigala charged participants to produce positive results from some of the materials which NBC had given out to them and their organisations, while also adding that at any point in time people should tell NBC whatever it needs to do to improve, especially during the electoral process.
Chief Constance Meju, in her goodwill message, stated that marginalisation has been one of the challenges women go through, adding that her group has been pushing for more women to be included in all spheres as long as politics was concerned.
She was of the opinion that, as a way forward, both the private and public media, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC), among other institutions should be financially autonomous so that they can independently operate under the ambit of the law without fear or favour.
Meju also appealed that the training be extended to politicians and Nigeria leaders as they have allowed the security system to be too tight to the politics, remarking that governance is not about party. She advocated the retention of the multi-party system in Nigeria.
In summary, the main resolutions reached at the event include:

  • The institutions responsible to drive the electoral process in Nigeria are not strong. 
  • Structures needed for such drive, not in place. 
  • Individuals, journalists in both private and public media houses and relevant institutions should be financially well equipped, so that they can operate independently and within the ambit of the law, among others.
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