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Let Students Debate

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We live in an age of parliamentary democracy. This means every law must be decided in parliament after a thorough or exhaustive discussion. As decisions are taken by a majority of votes it is also necessary to persuade as many members of parliament as possible to vote on a side. Although such persuasion is always not fruitful because most members come to the house with minds made up for them by their various political parties or godfathers, attempts have to be made.
Hence our future politicians (students) must learn how to explain a point of view convincingly and with detailed reasons and how to win over members by an appeal to their personal feelings or to their sense of passion. This is an act which can be learnt in debating societies in schools and colleges. Debating is acquired by practice and the object of debating societies is to provide the student with necessary practice.
In my days in secondary school, there were debating clubs or societies at virtually all the schools. Debating competitions among secondary schools both at the state and national levels were organized and encouraged. Indeed such debates helped students to acquire mastery over the English language and the literary arts. Many science students acquired literary skills as a result of their participation in debate activities. In fact, debating in those days was a feature of college life.
On a due date of a debate competition, classes were suspended before the debate commenced, and the students filed into the school hall and took their seats. It was apparent that a great deal of lobbying had taken place. The pro-mergers and anti-mergers occupied opposite sections of the hall grouped in compact bodies. The neutrals -who were usually few – took their seats as they were attracted by either convenience or friendship. Curiously enough the conservative-minded were mostly pro-mergers; the progressives were almost all against the scheme. That was how it looked in my days.
But today, that has changed. It is hardly possible for debates to be organized at our schools. Even in private schools where the academic standard is considerably higher, debate activities are elusive while debating societies are practically non-existent. The reason is that the routine of most private schools is lecture-packed. There is no room for extracurricular activities.
Government-owned schools are worse. Learning hardly takes place there. The teachers seldom show interest or commitment to the basic activities of the schools. This is usually attributed to the fallen standard of education and, in such situation, there is bound to be little enthusiasm for holding debates. Where such enthusiasm exists, the unwillingness of teachers to join in the debates kills the inspiration.
Since Nigeria operates a constitution which establishes a National Assembly as well as the state legislature, where arguments precede the passage of bills, it has become necessary for debates to be held at schools to prepare students for the task, especially those of them that may end up in politics.
If debate culture can be introduced and strengthened in our primary and secondary schools, it may enhance the quality of arguments and the kind of English language spoken on the floor of our legislative houses in the country.
In view of this, the Rivers State Ministry of Education has to make it mandatory for all primary and secondary schools in the state to establish literary and debating societies. Two or three periods should be set aside every week for these debates and it should be considered a part of the timetable.
A debate is as much a part of education as learning mathematics or physics. Besides, these debates help put our book learning to test; what is learnt in class can be used in supportive or opposing arguments. For instance, a student of physics will have much to say if the subject of a debate is on the usefulness of hydro-electric power. This will be a healthy adjunct to academic work.
It is a good idea to have debates on real problems, preferably on real or contemporary issues. Everyone is interested in such issues and would want to have additional knowledge about them. Such issues may include the fallen standard of education, cultism, militancy, resource control, Boko Haram, abortion, the state of the economy and insecurity etc. To the average Nigerian, all these are of profound interest, and a debate on any of them will assist in clarifying or correcting our notion. It will enliven thought, stimulate interest and develop understanding.
The reintroduction of debating societies and debate competitions in schools will be a hopeful sign of improvement in our education sector. Given the fallen standard of education in our country, universities should also encourage debating competitions. There should be inter-university debating tournaments where selected debaters from universities will pit their talents against one another.
Every effort should be made to encourage students to get some practice in debates and discussions. Academic life will be better for it. And students will learn to be better citizens.

By: Arnold Alalibo.

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Opinion

Avoiding Brain-Drain In Medicare

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The industrial action embarked upon by resident doctors in Nigeria has lasted for several weeks. A few months ago, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was alleged to be demanding certain allowances, including that of COVID-19 inducement allowance.
The Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, the NMA and other stakeholders shifted grounds on the issues and came to a resolution which made them go back to work. This time around, the authorities concerned should also come together, sort out the problems concerning the medical practitioners so that the nation’s healthcare system is taken care of.
There is the fear that if they are not treated well, some of them may travel abroad for greener pastures. A situation where well-trained medical doctors will be leaving for other countries because the Nigerian system does not bother about them, should be avoided.  Not just the doctors, nurses too should be taken care of as more of their services are needed in our public hospitals.
Although other professions are affected but that of medicare is more important as it deals with health. Health, they say, is wealth. A situation where a senior doctor may want to leave the country with his former students who have grown on the job for several years, to other countries because of the system in Nigeria calls for concern.
Those who may be wishing to leave should be patriotic. We are aware that many countries of the world like Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa, to mention but a few, are seeking the services of Nigerian trained medical personnel. But it should be noted that their services are also needed in their country. As Nigerians, they need to be trusted to make some sacrifices as far as their services are concerned.
Some years back, when resident doctors embarked on strike in some of the states, there were threats of “No work, no pay”, their colleagues in other states voluntarily contributed and made funds available to them. 
They should not be poor, but such calibre of persons should not be as it will be degrading. If they lack money as a result of non-payment of salaries and allowances, as punishment for industrial action, they have families and loved ones to cater for. Those who are leaving Nigeria for other climes may not be unpatriotic but need the kind of wages that are commensurate with the jobs they perform.
Researches have shown that brain-drain in Nigeria started in the early ’90s. One worrisome issue is that there are persons who at one time or the other have belonged to these associations before being at the helm of affairs. You discover that there will still be series of industrial action under their watch. So you begin to wonder whether these anomalies cannot be corrected as they are in charge.
Some persons have argued that Nigeria’s education system is poor. How come the nation’s medical graduates are good to the extent that other countries seek their services? I know that Nigeria has well-trained medical personnel who studied at home and can compete favourably at the international level.
Recently, I had an experience with some of our medical doctors, specifically in a female ward in one of our public hospitals; I was amazed at the way they were analysing health issues about women and prescribing the right drugs for the various ailments.
I began to wonder why anybody will say that we are nowhere. The truth is that we have qualified medical doctors. I think the problem is how to attend to their needs. If medical practitioners are asking for, let’s say, COVID-19 hazard allowance, they should be given so they don’t contract the virus.
The stress of a medical personnel attending to so many patients may not be easy, even at nights. When you visit the hospitals, one will not be in doubt that those groups of people deserve better working condition.
Nigerian medical doctors should be patriotic no matter their grievances, bearing in mind that “home is home”. The understanding between the indigenous medical personnel may not be the same as that of foreign medical team. Although there are some whose expertise are higher and left their countries of origin to render one assistance or the other in Nigeria.
There are also Nigerian trained medical doctors based overseas who, after taking a look at the situation in Nigeria, once in a while come home to render healthcare services. That’s a show of patriotism. 
Education of a medical doctor in Nigeria is very expensive. In fact, securing admission to study medicine in the university does not come easy. So it’s like, “handle with care”.  
While the Federal Government may need to look into the demands of resident doctors, NMA as a way of being patriotic, should shift ground during negotiation.  
Brain-drain may not serve Nigeria well so they should not allow some of the best hands to leave.  More so, you cannot tell whether they will return or not.  All hands must be on deck because this is a period of pandemic.  
Here in Rivers State, hospitals have been equipped with facilities of international standard which our medical personnel are competent to handle. The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) have been equipped by both the federal and state governments. Spirited individuals and organisations have also donated facilities to those hospitals. The Military Hospital in Port Harcourt has also been equipped for anybody’s comfort.  
In fact, the gigantic Mother and Child Hospital built by the Nyesom Wike administration is a testimony that healthcare system has been boosted. I think it is for the right medical personnel to man those facilities.  
If our medical doctors are adequately taken care of, they will not leave the country for any reason. If you think any country is better than Nigeria, such place was not developed in a day. Whatever infrastructure you have overseas was developed over the years.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Abuses Of Indemnifying Provisions

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Like in insurance brokerage, indemnifying provisions are promises made to pay persons whose insured possessions get damaged, lost or stolen, some money covering the value of such property. There is also life insurance, especially for persons whose activities or occupations involve some risks. These are common practices meant to foster confidence and reduce security risks in the affairs of life.
There are situations where people who take such insurance policies abuse the provisions, with intent to cheat the insurance companies. People have been known to fake their own death or deliberately destroy insured possessions, with the intention to defraud and abuse provisions of the insurance policy. There is hardly any possession of value that cannot be insured neither are abuses of indemnifying provisions limited to insurance brokerage alone.
We have heard quite a lot about repentant and de-radicalised “bandits” surrendering to military authorities in some parts of the country. There have been several questions and mixed feelings among Nigerians concerning such turnaround gambits, especially in view of the harms already done to the nation. When and how such bandits took up arms against the society have remained controversial, neither are many Nigerians aware of their demands and causes of the brawl. More importantly are the questions of sponsorship and procurement of arms with which the bandits have pursued their aggression against the society.
Apart from the issue of nomenclature, activities of bandits in Nigeria have been quite terrifying and traumatic to many people and communities. Also, to compare activities of the bandits with those of the Niger Delta militants would be a faulty reasoning. The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) from unfair economic policies, with regards to the oil and gas politics, had definite and clear demands. That the Niger Delta militants were granted amnesty was because the Nigerian economy would collapse if such step was not taken.
The bandits and their various allies did not engage in banditry to protect the gold deposits in the soil of Zamfara State from unfair exploitation. Neither did activities of the bandits stop with hooliganism and brigandage, common with banditry. There are records about farming communities being terrorised and farmlands being destroyed by unknown bandits, as well as women being raped in their farms. Worshippers had been murdered in places of worship by marauding herdsmen that no one would identify or arrest.
The clamour for Sharia law across Nigeria took a clever guise which thinking Nigerians would not fail to recognise, of which cattle is playing the pioneering role. When a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, gave an alert about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda, not many Nigerians took him seriously. Similarly, Dr Obediah Mailafia raised same concern. Now add these concerns to the Federal Government’s preoccupation with current agenda of farm estates across Nigeria, then any one can see the shape of things to come. Is it not obvious that some groups have some hidden agenda?
The concept of indemnity includes the fact that individual human beings, groups as well as nations are usually given several opportunities to correct deficiencies, negligences and imbalances. This derives from the fact that life on Earth is a learning process, whereby imperfect humans strive continuously to learn and improve for the better. We find in the upbringing of children that parents do not destroy or maim children because of childish infractions. Rather, parents reprimand, penalise and spur erring children to do better, which also includes exemplary leadership.
Even when children, like any other individuals, become recalcitrant and obdurate, there is always the expectation that bitter experiences provide some opportunities for remedial outcomes. This is why it is said that experience is the best teacher. Individuals and nations have been known to be recalcitrant and obdurate, wanting to push issues beyond safe limits of tolerance. Unfortunately, humans not only abuse the opportunities available, but also make unreasonable demands, where they can intimidate others without facing serious challenges. If No to Ruga, then take farm estate!
Thus, there is this human peculiarity of giving in to personal weaknesses, whereby evil continues to grow because of continuous toleration of weaknesses. Personal weaknesses, both in the average individual and in leaders, constitute vital points through which any individual or leader can be destroyed. Not quite the weakness itself, but having to indulge in it without a determined effort to stop it, counts as the danger. Weakness is indeed a present danger.
From whatever perspectives that abuses can be defined, they include indulgence or tolerance of personal weaknesses, to the extent that they become present danger to others. Smoking of cigarettes, for example, is not only dangerous to the smoker, but also to other people who inhale the smoke. So, a problem posed by personal weakness goes beyond the victim whose indulgent lifestyle spreads a peculiar virus.
One of the challenges which we must contend with in Nigeria is the culture or habit of indulgence, or continuous toleration of what we consider minor wrongs. Great harms usually grow from minor beginnings, when they are not checked early or nipped on the bud. What accounts for current acts of banditry can be traced to the attitude taken towards previous acts of brigandage and lawlessness. Political officer seekers explored and also exploited existing weaknesses to enthrone a culture of tolerating and ignoring minor wrongs, through throwing their political weight to protect wrong doers, for self interest.
The message for Nigeria is that we are currently reaping the sad harvests of previous sowings. More so, we grossly abused indemnifying opportunities we had in the past. What we call Nemesis provides several indemnifying opportunities before it strikes. When a petty thief takes too much for the owner to know, what happens is that the long-suffering owner sets secret snares to catch the thief when he does not expect. There is always a day for the thief who abuses several indemnifying provisions. Dr Mailafia is right to warn that Nigeria may soon become ungovernable! Watch out!

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Texas Of Icy Trauma

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I had earlier stated in this column that even with all the hoopla about the United States of America being a very lovely dwelling place on Earth, her geography still comprises a tale of some deadly weather vagaries.
Depending on which part of the vast subcontinent one looks at, disaster can come from a severe snowstorm, tornado, hurricane, earthquake or wildfire. While snow and wildfire can be associated with particular seasons of the year, the rest are very likely to occur at any moment and on any day. The good thing, though, is that nearly all can be predicted by the relevant agencies of government with alerts posted in advance and emergency preparations made. Of course, things work pretty well over there – quite unlike they do here.
However, climate change seems to be testing the skills of geographers and their weather instruments. In the US, the government had since signed up to the Paris protocol on climate but that was until the outgone administration of President Donald Trump elected to pull the nation out of the deal. Luckily, his successor, President Joe Biden, is pushing to take God’s Own Country back to the comity of nations on global warming.
No doubt, Trump’s action must have angered the likes of Sen. Al Gore, a former vice president and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2000, who has garnered global acclaim on account of his effort to promote a sustainable green culture in the world.
It is already obvious that the erstwhile Republican president never reckoned with the fact that states in southern US which had hitherto served as hibernation grounds for people from the snowy northern and central regions are now beginning to experience blizzards of their own. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are among states in this region.
Until recently, snowfall in the region had reportedly been mostly mild and incident-free. Whereas the winter season became evident in the north from late November, its effect was rarely felt in these southern states until January. So also did it recede fast, sometimes beginning from late February. But last winter was of an entirely different species. Not only were there reports of strong winds and snowstorms, the ice also manifested an unprecedented staying strength. The case of Texas was made particularly more pathetic because of its energy systems collapse which left many families without electricity, gas or even coal to heat their homes.
Texas is said to operate about 15,000 wind turbines aimed at providing electricity while also promoting green energy; but at the onset of the cold snap, ice on the rotor blades had reduced the speed of more than half of them; thereby hampering their collective power generation capability. More than four million Texans were said to be without electricity for much of the period. And the state obtains a quarter of its electricity from these turbines.
Gas pipes and water supply lines were also reported to have been frozen by the extreme weather condition. Those who still had running taps were advised to boil their water before use as water treatment plants lacked electricity to function. Some of the unlucky ones simply collected snow from outside their homes to melt for water. Believe me, it was said to be that bad in America’s Lone Star State. Close friends and relatives living in Texas and Georgia called to confirm this to me.
The deadly storm which was said to have begun on February 13, had endured for five days. And while it lasted, temperatures plummeted to as low as zero degree Fahrenheit; resulting in the closure of schools and some hospitals. A number of popular roads were also closed due to the unprecedented build-up of snow. People, especially the more vulnerable children and the elderly, were mostly wrapped in layers of heavy clothing and restrained indoors for much of the day. Food became scarce as grocery stores quickly ran out of stock with anxiety over the arrival of any fresh supplies. Even the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines was hampered.
Residents who could not stand the frightening scenario and had the means reportedly left for nearby Central American countries; including Texas Republican senator and former presidential aspirant, Ted Cruz, who was berated by the American press for going on vacation at a sunny beach resort in Cancun, Mexico when his state’s voters were battling with freezing conditions made worse by food and utility shortages. As at July, the total tally of casualties across Texas was put at 210. I want to believe that Texans have now shaken off their trauma and are fully braced for the start of the next winter season this November.
The big lesson here is that while nations are making attempts to embrace renewable energy, they should not be in a haste to jettison fossil fuels. It would have been worse if not that Texas had a strategic reserve of refined petroleum products to serve as a stop-gap measure at the time the wind turbines packed up. It is even said that officials in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and some other Northeast US states have suddenly become sceptical of their ongoing development of wind turbines following the Texas experience.
For the people of Mexico, the events in Texas can only suggest one thing – severe winter is just a matter of years, if not months. Climate change is real. But rather than being checked by the increasing global heat, snowstorms are fast reaching for the tropics. For Nigeria, who said we’re unlikely to witness icy weather sooner than later?
Howbeit, some experts have opined that, considering its huge investment in wind turbines, Texas officials should have equipped such facilities with heaters and anti-freeze fluids as is the case in some parts of Alaska and Canada which experience equally harsh but longer winter seasons.
Much of Texas already lies in America’s Tornado Alley. Its major southern towns of Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont are often battered by tropical winds from the Gulf of Mexico. The oil-rich state is also known to be earthquake prone. And now it has joined the infamous club of deadly snowstorm states. Haba, Texas!

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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