My former boss, and one of the most disciplined and practically-unassuming General Managers I’ve had the privilege of working with, Mr. Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart, once said that, as a journalist, the most important thing required of you is to ensure that you do your bit by submitting your stories when due.
“Even if you have to die, submit the story first, then you can die”, he would often emphasise.
Anyone who chooses to take his words by its surface meaning would waste no time in declaring him a sadist, one who doesn’t care about the life of his staff. But to those who understand the demands of journalism, it is easy to understand where he was coming from.
The truth is that it was Mr. Ezekiel-Hart’s way of saying that journalism, like every other profession, has its own hazards, and this has to do with the fact that no matter what happens, the readers want to see your newspaper on the newsstand when it should be there. They don’t want to know what the staff went through to ensure that the newspaper makes the newsstand early.
Essentially, if the newspaper is not on the newsstand when it should, it has failed in the business of newspapering. Same thing goes for other media of mass communication. Interestingly, these hazards may differ according to country in terms of application, but they are, to a reasonable extent, standard globally.
Indeed, every profession has its hazard, which is why for anyone to succeed in it, he/she has to accept the hazard(s) for what they are. If not, the person will most likely end up giving excuses for failures, or incapability.
The police, for instance, have their own hazards. One of such is to operate with a consciousness that an accused is innocent until proven guilty, especially in a democracy. In keeping to this, they often face the possibility of losing their lives if they apply the same consciousness to a criminal pretending to be innocent, which is common.
So, for the Nigerian Police, it’s safety first; he has to guide himself by first deciding that his suspect is guilty immediately he (the policeman) decides so.
The result is that an accused, or suspect, is usually given the guilty treatment until proven innocent, usually not without parting with money, if for nothing, to ensure that the matter for which the person is accused is thoroughly looked into, or given attention.
Of course, this does not mean that the Nigerian Police cannot work when it really wants to. Take the case of Ifeanyi Dike, the ritualist who murdered a five-year old girl in Port Harcourt, only to escape from police custody. The then Police Commissioner took it as a challenge, and soon, Ifeanyi was caught in Jos, Plateau State.
Meanwhile, there are so many unresolved murder cases in Nigeria, for which investigation is still being carried out to bring the culprits to book.
In the same vein, the major hazard inherent in Nigerian politics is the supremacy of the chief executive, or whatever name he goes by, and at whatever level. It is such that whatever is the will of the chief executive, whether it is self-imposed or not, can be given reason to exist.
This, to a large extent, is the reason something can be right at one time, and be wrong at other times, depending on who is involved. It’s also why all and sundry seek the office of the chief executive at whatever cost. For, in addition to the power which the office confers, it’s the only position that guarantees impunity in its entirety.
In fact, when you’re the chief executive, you cannot be wrong. No matter how glaring your wrong may be, it can be explained away in the same way you blow off a candle. The worst that can happen is rantings from those who see the wrongness of the issue.
And, anyone who takes the rantings too far will most likely be visited with any other hazard(s), which will also be explained away, and so on. The only time it can be different is if the person involved is also a chief executive in his/her own right.
This seems to explain why somebody can be declared guilty of corruption, for instance, when the person belongs to another party, and the matter dies naturally immediately the person decamps to the party of the chief executive.
In the same way, as long as the one is in the party of the chief executive, no harm can come to him. But if he chooses to cross-carpet, the perceived skeletons in his cupboard must find their way out.
Almost every week, particularly as the February 2019 elections draw closer, Nigerians are exposed to one form of political hazard or the other. The most recent ones that have raised a lot of eyebrows being Mr. President’s refusal to assent to the amended Electoral Act, with the explanation that it is capable of disrupting the electoral system that is already on, and, hence, the peace in the country.
The other one is the call for the arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged non-declaration of assets, as a public servant. In the eyes of the powers that be, the disturbance this is causing is normal for the fight against corruption. On the other hand, the disturbance supposedly likely to be caused by a change in the porousness of the Electoral Act which will relatively further institute free and fair elections in Nigeria, is not good for the polity, because the Chief Executive feels so. Who did this to Nigeria?
Agric Literacy In Secondary Schools
All over the world, educational institutions are known mainly as a platform used directly or indirectly to influence the general life of a person. The government, in most cases, through the school, plans and leads the study of experience, and also contributes to the continuous growth of an individual through the systematic reconstruction of knowledge and experience.
Haven known knowledge as a dynamic and functional element, there is every need to have it constantly reconstructed, especially in accordance with the change of time.
This is why in various spheres of life, interested parties always prefer using education to solve issues that limit social orientation and thinking. Harry Smorenberg, the founder and chairman of the World Summit on the Fight Against Corruption, realized this for which he said that “teaching financial literacy as a subject in schools helped other countries increase access to financial products and services.”
With the place of financial literacy in promoting financial participation, consumer protection and financial stability, Smorenberg advised Nigeria to teach financial literacy in schools. He believed that such idea would allow students to better understand financial planning, the importance of preparing household budget, managing cash flows and distributing assets to achieve financial goals.
However, Smorenberg is not alone in his thought. Tanner and Tanner (Tanner and Tanner, 1980) in their “curriculum” Development: Theory and Practice”, also recognized the role of the school in systematically building knowledge and experience, unlike the role of other institutions.
If the thought postulated by these educators and others like them is anything to go by, then it is enough to say that education is very useful to the society, and therefore, should be accepted and embraced by Nigerian leaders as a platform through which a faster sensitisation of the theory and practice of agriculture among the Nigerian citizenry could be achieved.
Therefore, if Nigeria is really interested in the development of agriculture as an alternative source of income, it follows that from the junior secondary level, emphasis should be placed on driving programmes aimed at promoting the understanding and knowledge necessary for the synthesis, analysis and transmission of basic information about agriculture to students, producers, consumers and the general public.
It is expected that such programmes will focus on helping teachers and other stakeholders to effectively incorporate agricultural information into subjects taught or studied for public and private purposes in order to better understand the impact of agriculture on society.
The writer is thus concerned about the aspect of agricultural literacy that acquaints and farmiliarises students or individuals with the knowledge and understanding of not only the concepts of health and the environment, but also their history, current economic and social significance for the people of Nigeria.
In this case, the knowledge of the production, processing and domestication of food and fiber, as well as international marketing through the school will ultimately lead to informed citizens of our great country who, in turn, will play an important role in the development and implementation of policies able to maintain competitive agro-industrial enterprises.
By this, young people with knowledge and understanding of nutrition system and fibers will naturally be able to synthesize, analyze and communicate basic information about agriculture, such as the production of plants and animal products, its processing, economic effect, social significance, marketing and distribution, etc.
Therefore, making agricultural literacy compulsory from the level of primary education through secondary education, regardless of the intended course of study, undoubtedly will have a significant impact on the rehabilitation and development of Nigeria’s difficult economy.
That is why Gbamanga (2000) advised students to plan the programme as necessary, to examine and interpret the nature of the society in relation to its basic stable values and the areas in which it changes, when choosing content.
While Nigeria is currently talking, preaching and dreaming about agriculture, individuals must be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the prevailing economic crisis in the country to get involved in agriculture. It is advisable that every child be subjected to compulsory agricultural knowledge in school.
The recovery of Nigeria from the impact of fallen crude oil prices will certainly not be sudden. In fact, there is a need for an orderly organization of a series of courses and support activities aimed at helping young Nigerians to rediscover themselves in the field of agriculture.
Nigeria, Not Ripe For Democracy
The word ‘democracy’ which has been mostly used, misused, confused and abused by many people for centuries and, in recent times, also badly maimed by most Nigerians in their understanding and application of it, especially since our return to it in 1999, is a concept whose understanding, as universally accepted, should ordinarily not herald any controversy.
Most people, particularly our leaders in Nigeria, and I dare say in Africa, use it in some ways only to fit their idiosyncracies selfish, parochial end they imagined it can be achieved through its practice. They push it down the throats of their people as if to say ‘you asked for it and here it is’ discountenancing the fact that it takes preparation and information massaged by quality institutions to make democracy and its practice possible and seamless in any country.
Democracy is not an orphaned child or a toddler that was born yesterday. As with most other concepts and human reality, it has its own history and parentage etched in known and universally acceptable minimum standards. Even though still evolving, some of these standards are sacrosanct and characteristic of what constitutes a democracy.
Democracy originated over 2,400 years ago in ancient Greece. The word “democracy” comes from two separate Greek words (‘Demos’: people and ‘Kratia’: rule); meaning ‘Rule by the people’, leadership that takes authority and legitimacy from the people.
Citizens of a democracy govern their nations through a proxy selected or chosen by them in the presence of information and working institutions to lead them.
Democracy is simply people’s power to make a choice and determine who should lead or govern them for the attainment of certain fundamentals like the protection and promotion of their rights, as well as the protection of their interests and provision of welfare for them.
Democracy is about the people and for democracy to function properly in any country, it must ask and answer the following questions in the affirmative. The proper answering of these questions would determine whether indeed such country can or should practice democracy or choose other forms of government that would best suit their peculiarities:
Are the people ‘educated’ enough to make informed decisions without prevarications that are devoid of sentiments and biases such as religion, ethnicity, colour, tribe, sex and other intangibles not necessary for making informed decisions?
Are the institutions through which choices are made calibrated to be free, fair and incorruptible enough to only reflect the choices of the people at all times in Nigeria? Ask INEC and the process of nominating its chairman.
Are the people equally motivated to come out in their number to make their choices about who would govern them without being driven by unnecessary enticements provided them to so do? Reflect on what happened in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even in the 2019 general election.
Are the people able to make choices without poverty as the chief consideration that influences such choices?
Are the people able to collectively share or have expectations from the candidates they wish to choose or have others choose from or simply have expectations of the process? Reflect on the standard of education in Nigeria and the unwillingness of people from where majority of the votes came from to go to school.
Is there a guarantee that the process of the people making their choices would not be thwarted by the activities of state actors like the military, the police and other law enforcement agencies, and even cult groups and gangs whose only interest is to sabotage the will of the people? This we have continuously seen in the various and several elections that we have had in Nigeria since our return to democracy.
Does everyone who is ‘qualified’ to make this choice of who should govern them have similar or near similar levels of information, intelligence, exposures and awareness that would enable him/her rationally assess the candidates for competency to lead and administer our common wealth?
Should the court as an institution be used to usurp the people’s choice and will by always deciding for the people who to govern them through their very suspicious, frivolous and, in most cases, anti-people rulings that are based on technicalities to determine leadership for the people? It should be the people’s choice and not the choice of the court as it were in democracy. Judges must not be allowed to, as a result of political recklessness and rascality, always determine who should lead the people. Today in Nigeria, politicians no longer care about the people’s choice but bother most about judges’ choice and do all what is necessary and possible, including but not limited to giving of bribes, to secure judgements in their favour to become the people’s choice.
What really is the importance of ‘structure’ and ‘godfatherism’ in how the will and choice of the people are allowed to be?
Do all the candidates have similar levels of playing field that make it possible for them to be heard and seen so that choices can be said to be truly rational?
When you most rationally and critically answer these questions in Nigeria and in most African countries, placing them side-by-side our recent statistics in the world as poverty capital, a country with the highest illiteracy rate and out-of-school children, uneducated youths and adults, etc, you would, just like me, come to the conclusion that democracy cannot work in Nigeria today and that we should immediately seek an alternative form of government that would appeal to our peculiarities until, maybe, we mature and evolve enough for democracy tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is far yet near. Therefore, leadership now has a huge responsibility to bring the tomorrow that would make for the conditions precedent to good democratic practices guaranteeing good democracy, even closer today.
Akpotive is a Port Harcourt-based social reformer and activist.
Open Letter To Nigerian Politicians
Dear Honorable Politicians of Nigeria, events taking place in the country in the recent times demand that you hear how those that you represent feel about you hear how those that you represent feel about you and your activities. In the first place, Nigeria is larger and greater than a few powerful individuals who represent the masses. Secondly the task of political leadership is a serious responsibility meant to be undertaken with patriotism and a volition to serve.
Money and power rarely on their own make a good and responsible leader, but personal integrity comes in as a strong factor. Politics as a calling is obviously being debased and distorted considering the way it is being practised in Nigeria. If you would be perceptive enough to look into the souls of those that you lead, you would see disillusionment, disappointment and hunger. There is a longing for a change for the better. There is a need to bring down the level of anxiety and frustration in the land.
One of the key responsibilities of national leadership is to manage the economy in such a way that the masses can be motivated to strive diligently and honestly to earn a living and contribute positively towards an up-building of the nation. To beg or steal in order to live would not be an ideal situation in a well-managed economy, for any citizen.
Unfortunately, Nigerian citizens have the impression that politics is a means of personal and sectional aggrandizement rather than opportunity to serve and make personal sacrifices for the sake of the well-being of the masses. Ordinary Nigerians feel that politicians constitute a part of the problems which they have. Money and power cannot be the key issues of life, but those who possess them can utilize them, with maturity, for the well-being of the struggling masses.
There is the story of Timon of Athens whose misapplication of his wealth through over-generosity resulted in his fall and banishment. In his dying statement he wondered: “What a god is gold, that he is worshipped in a baser temple than where swine feed!” There is also the story of Macbeth whose ambition for power led to a personal and national disaster. One of his dying statements was that “There’s nothing serious in mortality, all is but toys: renown and grace is dead …”
The purpose of the two examples cited above is to remind those who possess wealth and power that material possessions and positions are transcient. One great man who had tasted wealth and power left or will which contained the following statement: “There are two things to aim at in life; first, to get what you want, and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.”
The nature of Nigerian politics was portrayed in an unguarded statement as a “do-or-die affair,” by an ex-president. Majority of Nigerians would have wished that politics should be about service to the nation rather than a gangsterist affair or “dirty game”. Through monetization it has become a “cut-throat business” whereby huge financial investments must be recouped in a gansterist manner. There must be some good politicians who have the interest of the masses at heart.
There is a general impression that politicians are oppressors rather than friends of the masses. This perception should be altered through patriotic and exemplary service which would not be difficult for the people to observe and appreciate. It is obvious that the task of nation-building is enormous and demanding, but there would be a focus on providing an enabling environment wherein the masses can put in their best willingly.
Perhaps, unknown to many people, there is a global cleansing process, meant to correct past imbalances brought about by human greed and ignorance, largely. A few people who are permitted to perceive the trend of this global phenomenon, see that Nigeria is a flash point where there must be diligent care with regard to the practice of politics. Politics should not degenerate into conspiracies and gangsterism.
Without being specific, it is necessary to advise Nigerian politicians generally to bridle personal ego, vanity and vaulting ambitions. To plunge a community into anxiety and instability cannot be described as good politics. There is an old prophecy that those that the gods would destroy, they first make mad. A “do-or-die” system of politics can be described as politics of madness. May be time will unfold what cunning intrigues hide away now. The military and police should stay away from the growing madness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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