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Imperative Of Agricultural Literacy

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Educational institutions all over the globe are known as a platform basically used directly or indirectly to influence the total life of an individual.
The government, through the schools, plans and guides learning experiences and promotes individuals’ continuous growth through a systematic reconstruction of knowledge and experience.
As a dynamic and functional element, knowledge needs to be continuously reconstructed, especially as dictated by the changing times. In various spheres of life, stakeholders always opt for the instrument of educational platform to address issues that border on the public’s orientation and mindset.
Harry Smorenberg, founder and Chairman of the World’s Pension Summit, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board of Banking and Finance in Europe, said teaching financial literacy as a subject in schools has helped other countries to widen access to financial products and services.
Considering Financial Literacy as an important adjunct for promoting financial inclusion, consumer protection and  financial stability, he advised Nigeria to teach financial literacy in schools. His reasons are supposedly to enable students have a better “understanding of financial planning, the importance of preparing household budget, cash-flow management and asset allocation to meet financial goals.”
Smorenberg is not alone in his thought. Tanner and Tanner (1980) in their Curriculum Development: “Theory into Practice” also recognised the role of the school in the systematic construction of knowledge and experience unlike the role played by other agencies.
Going by the usefulness of the educational institutions to the society, there is every need for Nigerian leaders to ramp up efforts aimed at driving agricultural literacy, especially at the base levels if the country is sincerely interested in the development of agriculture for the good of its economy.
Agricultural literacy is a phrase used to describe programmes to promote the understanding and knowledge necessary to synthesise, analyse and communicate basic information about agriculture with students, producers, consumers and the public at large.
Such programmes focus on assisting educators and others to effectively incorporate information about agriculture into subjects being taught or examined in public and private fora in order to better understand the impact of agriculture on society.
However, my interest is in tackling agricultural literacy from the classroom where the learner would be exposed to the knowledge and understanding of not just the concept of health and environment, but their history, current economic and social significance to the people of Nigeria.
It is expected that the knowledge of food and fibre production, processing and domesticating as well as international marketing, through the instrument of the school, will eventually produce informed citizens of Nigeria who will be instrumental to the formulation and implementation of policies that would support competitive agro-business ventures.
The youth with knowledge and understanding of food and fibre system would naturally be able to synthesize, analyse and communicate basic information about agriculture such as the production of plants and animal products, its processing, the economic impact of agriculture, its societal significance, the marketing/distribution of agricultural products etc.
Making agricultural literacy mandatory from primary educational level through secondary education, irrespective of choice of course of study, no doubt, will have significant impact in the restoration and development of Nigeria’s ailing economy. This is why Gbamanja (2000) noted that the school curriculum planner in selecting contents should survey and interprete the nature of the society – its basic stable values and the areas in which it is changing to.
Gbamanja views the school as a miniature society, thus what the school teaches depends a lot on the needs and aspirations of the society.
Nigeria at the moment, is talking, preaching and dreaming agriculture, while individuals are encouraged to avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the prevailing economic meltdown in the country to launch into agriculture.
I am of the opinion that all the talks about reverting to agriculture as the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy would amount to naught if no concrete effort is made to have every child that passes through primary and secondary education in Nigeria, know about agriculture.
Nigeria’s recovery from the impact of the fall of price of crude oil that had for decades, boosted its foreign reserve, will definitely not be sudden. It will really call for an orderly arrangement of series of courses and supporting activities designed to help young Nigerians rediscover themselves.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Swan’s Song As An Idiom

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Various ancient prophecies point towards the shape of things to come in the last days”. Swan’s song represents a longing for a cultivation of conditions which would usher in a new era of harmony. The longing for a state of bliss must also involve some personal responsibility, rather than a situation of expecting the best without also doing the best within one’s ability. Global events are not only symbolic, demanding correct interpretations, but they also constitute some hints about the shape of things to come. Louder sounds of trumpets!
Before his death, late Senator Francis Ellah made certain observations to those who were close to him. One of such observations was the sad awareness of the myopic and grossly narrow limits of human perceptive capacity. When this is coupled with hypocrisy and conceit, then the situation becomes more pathetic. He would also say that great surprises usually come from insignificant quarters where they are least expected.
Two of late Senator Francis Ellah’s works contain some far-reaching significance. Even though his unfinished motion was developed into a bigger book, with a different title, the message remains clear. That message is that vested interests or powerful groups have a way of blocking, killing or sabotaging a lone voice of truth.
Similar to the humble voice of a soothsayer who warned Julius Caesar to beware of the ides of March”, mighty voices of blusters usually have their way. But at the end of the day, history testifies to the fact that it is usually humility rather than pride that emerges victorious. In his book on the history of Ogbaland, Ellah traced the origin of the people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area to a triple heritage. That triple heritage include the Igbo, Benin and Yoruba, resulting from the different waves of migration of the different people that make up present-day ONELGA.
The people realize their common historical origin, hence ONELGA simply means ONE LGA. But there is more to Ogba history than meets the eye. Beyond the fact that they migrated from ancient Benin Kingdom, Yoruba names such as Okoya, Orosi-Ogun, Olori, Akogun, Olowu, Egba, Ede, Ake etc, are all found in Ogbaland. How come there is Ogba in Lagos State, in Edo State, Ogba market and Ogba in Rivers State? Maybe coincident!
It is a historical fact that some centuries ago the Ogba, journeying through the Niger, the Orashi and sombriero Rivers, settled in different places in present Rivers State. They traded with the Kalabaris, the Igbo and Abohs, using cowries, Ivory and Manila, in addition to trading by barter. What is significant about ONELGA is the huge deposits of oil and gas large volume in that part of Nigeria.
Three multinational oil giants, namely, Shell, Agip and TotalfinaElf, have operated in ONELGA for quite many years. There is hardly any significant difference between the living standard and conditions of the communities and the people in the past 60 years. NNPC Statistical Information Bulletin 1986 and 1989, shows that ONELGA alone accounts for more than 20.83% of the total production of 854, 2994, 540 barrels of oil for the old Rivers State.
Out of the proven reserve of 197 trillion standard/cubic meters of natural gas concentrated in the Niger Delta region, ONELGA alone is contributing more than 46.6% of the entire feedstock of the gas for the NLNG project in Bonny. ONELGA also supplies the entire gas feedstock to the Eleme Petrochemical Plant in Rivers State. Apart from revenue accruing from oil and gas, ONELGA also provides a great deal in tourism which can be developed and explored.
There is a need to rediscover those long forgotten routes taken by European explorers and merchants. Nigerians should learn to take some holidays, rest and give themselves some delightful funs and adventures, away from beer parlours. A weekend trip in the sandy banks of the Orashi River at Ndoni or the beautiful sights and sands of River Niger at Ogbogene can be quite exciting. An adventure by canoe from Ellah Lakes to Kreigani, an ancient trading post, or from Ikri to Abonnema, can be a pleasurable activity. A white man was said to have knelt and kissed the soil on landing at Ikiri.
Ogbogene, a border town close to Omoku, is an attractive tourist centre, connecting Delta and Rivers States. There are investment and tourist potentials in ONELGA as well as hotels and resorts waiting for patronage. Krisdera and Royal Fortress Hotels and Resorts are of international standard. There is also security.
The reader would wonder what Swan’s song and the story of Ogbaland have in common. Certain hints and information provided by late Senator Francis Ellah long ago, were explored, leading to having to delve into some achives, including the Hebrew Qaballah. Names are like deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) containing hidden root links. Ogba as a word has deep meaning and significance in what is known as Gematria in Jewish Qabbalah. Representing an apparently lost Hebrew code, and when combined with Swan’s Song, it is an idiom.
For non-students of the system, the significance of Swan’s Song and Ogba is that they represent the last straw capable of breaking the camel’s back. Without going too far in this matter, the bottom line is that the blessing of oil and gas should not be turned into a curse or an instrument of bestiality. Host oil producing communities deserve a better deal than ruthless exploitation. There is the idiom of a heroic Achilles with the heel as a vulnerable point, thanks to Homer. Readers interested in the wisdom of ancient Jews would find my book: The Kabbalah with a New Accent, instructive. Swan’s song is life’s elixir, giving energy to those who hear the song!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Who Speaks Ill Of The Dead?

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As I was thinking of the best way to convey the message in this piece, I stumbled upon a quote credited to St John’s United Methodist Church. It goes thus: “Live your life well so we don’t have to lie at your funeral”.
Death is inevitable. As it is often said, death is a price everybody must pay. We often wish that day wouldn’t come but sure it must. And when we finally close our eyes in death, we want all the beautiful things to be said about us – “he was a good man, he lived a good life, she was a loving, caring mother and all that”. I have attended many funerals and never had l heard the preacher or whoever was performing the funeral ceremony say anything negative about the deceased even when it was clear how horrible their life was.
We usually claim that our fathers in their wisdom said, “We should not speak ill of the dead. We should respect people who have died by not saying anything bad about them”. And so we publicly don the deceased in borrowed flowery garments even when in private, in our small groups, among friends, colleagues and family members we strip them and tell of all their sins. Anyone who fails to deviate from this pattern as the former President Olusegun Obasanjo did recently, is termed “bad, being unfair to the dead” and so on.
The elder statesman, in his condolence letter to the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, on the death of Senator Buruji Kashamu, had made an obvious statement about the life, history and death of the departed and wished that it would serve as a lesson for the living.
In his words, “Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashamu) in his lifetime used the manoeuvre of law and politics to escape from facing justice on the alleged criminal offence in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. But no legal, political, cultural, social or even medical manoeuvre could stop the cold hands of death when the Creator of all of us decides that the time is up.”
This remark caused a lot of ripples in the society with some describing it as a demonstration of disrespect for the dead. Some say his statement was “unstatesmanlike”.
If one may ask, which one would have been more “unstatesmanlike” – to join the crowd in singing praises of the deceased even when he was convinced he did not merit it? Or to call a spade a spade so that other people would learn from it and desist from wrongdoings in their own interest and that of the country? I think the second option is more honourable, dignifying and expected of not only a man of Obasanjo’s status but the entire populace. According to a writer, “a failure to correct the record of injustice out of loyalty to the dead perpetuates the injustice”.
We all know that Obasanjo is not a saint, that his hands might be tainted too and luckily he has granted everyone the liberty to say what they like about him when he goes to the great beyond. But there is practically nothing wrong with his comments on the life of the departed so that even as he is being mourned, people should draw lessons from it.
Was Kashamu a philanthropist, a good party man, a loyal friend and colleague as many people have pointed out? Maybe yes. We all know someone differently, no doubt. These good qualities of his, we should learn from. But it shouldn’t be a taboo to mention his nasty side which should also teach us some lessons.
As some analysts say, “it is high time people got shamed even in death, as that may help the living to reflect on how their epitaph will be written by society, rather than the deceitful post mortem adulation we write for people of bad characters.”
Our country is in its present regretful state because of the deliberate act of a few privileged individuals to embezzle what belongs to the generality of the people. Millions of our young ones are without a job because the funds meant for the establishment of industries and job creation found their way into some people’s pockets; our roads have turned to death traps, insecurity is on the rise, yet billions of naira are annually budgeted for those projects which are syphoned by our fellow citizens and some persons think we should continue to eulogise them when they are gone?
It is high time people were made to realise that the choices they make, the chances they take, follow them. There are consequences if as a civil servant, a public servant, a lecturer, a doctor, a nurse, a religious leader, a community leader, a trader, a journalist, a lawyer or whatever occupation you find yourself in you fail to see that as an opportunity to positively impact on the lives of others and better the society.
If what you do is to cheat, steal, pervert justice, oppress the poor, and enrich yourself at the expense of others, do you expect people to genuinely praise you at your demise? You might only be fortunate to receive the type of mourning we see in some communities in the south-east and some other parts of the country, where it is traditionally mandatory that members of the community, particularly women, must shed tears for the dead. They would use a hot ointment to induce tears, yell for a few minutes, wipe their faces and off they go. All righteousness fulfilled.
But seriously, we need value reorientation in this nation. The values around which we build our lives, our households, our communities and our country must change from materialism to inner character building. As Billy Graham states, “The inner character of a person …is the true measure of lasting greatness”.
Remember, all the wealth — houses, fleets of vehicles, several fat bank accounts no longer belong to us the moment we close our eyes in death. What lasts is the good name we create and this we must strive for so that when we are no more, there will be no feud over who says ill of us or not.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Covid-19 And Political Rallies

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It is no longer news that as Covid-19 became a known global pandemic, governments of the various countries of the world took to measures they considered potent enough to help curb the spread of the deadly virus. The Federal Government of Nigeria was not left out of this scheme.
Prominent of all the measures adopted by our own government was a restriction on social gathering as well as a prescription for social distancing which culminated into the closure of schools, organizations and businesses. Some states of the federation experienced outright ban on religious gatherings.
At first, many people saw the trumpeted threat of the Coronavirus as a wilful overestimation by the government, for which they condemned COVID-19 measures as it partains to social gathering. Their condemnation of the anti-gathering measure was based on grounds that it negates the freedom of assembly which is supposedly enshrined in the constitution.
However, some social analysts have argued that so long as the government’s intention is geared towards protecting public safety, it overides the former and so such policy should be obeyed hook, line and sinker.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international relations and affected the political systems of multiple countries, causing suspensions of legislative activities, isolation and deaths of multiple politicians, rescheduling of elections due to fears of spreading the virus. Yet, constitutionally, there is no gainsaying the fact that we need to have elections.
Here in Nigeria, electioneering has always been done in a certain way over the years. Nevertheless, in the light of COVID-19 challenges, striking a balance between political exigencies and our public health reality, remains a task before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, in order to control the spread of this virus.
Recall that in the wake of the 2020 political activities in some states of the federation, precisely before the various political parties held their primaries, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, charged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to set necessary guidelines to regulate the conduct of political rallies and elections in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravaging the country.
His submission, luckily, received immediate attention as the electoral umpire ab initio set criteria that must be met by political parties before holding public rallies. The criteria, it was gathered, were aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the rallies. Thus, with this feat, no registered political party would feign ignorance of the global pandemic and how it can be curbed even amid political indispensabilities.
Surprisingly, in spite of this effort to check wanton relaxation of the Covid-19 measures in the spirit of political exigencies, emerging developments seem to steer up worries from the people as to whether the regulations on public gathering no longer hold. The political rallies in Edo State as well as Comrade Adams Oshiomole’s home-coming have raked up a new debate about the boundaries between the right to assemble and the protection of public health.
According to the Vanguard newspaper, footages of campaign rallies by leading candidates in the September 19 governorship poll showed poor level of compliance with COVID-19 guidelines as supporters trooped out with little or no regard for physical distancing, facemasks and other safety protocols.
With emphasis on conscious and strict adherance to the Covid-19 measures in recent times, the appearance of such mammoth crowd not wearing face masks or sticking to social distancing guidelines, leaves much to be desired among our political leaders.
Could it thus be concluded that it is only at schools, worship centers and market/work places that people are at risk of contracting this virus? Americans believe that mass protests and political rallies are likely to increase COVID-19 cases and so does every sane mind who understands the working of the dreaded virus.
According to reports, large rallies have been President Donald Trump’s favorite way of campaigning, but the COVID-19 pandemic kept him from using them to his advantage. This is because Americans worry about the safety of people. Why is our own case different?
Yes, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has expressed dissatisfaction over the non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols by political party leaders and their supporters in the Edo State governorship electioneering, that is fine.
It is deeply worried about some infractions to the COVID-19 guidelines by parties at the rallies, that is also welcome. But, it is obviously not clear why the commission considers itself incapable of exploring the authority at its disposal to make parties and their supporters do the right thing.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, had said that such gatherings could lead to a further spike in COVID-19 cases.
Considering the danger in crowded rallies, the writer suggests that INEC should be more proactive now than ever in making sure this reckless “body-to-body” campaign is stopped.

 

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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