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Who Speaks For Indigent Nigerians?

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The pattern of public communication in Nigeria has over the years been deplorable. Public policy is hardly ever well publicised. The people are always in the dark about a policy, especially the roles they are to play to ensure its success. Indeed, the apparent disconnect between the government and the citizenry is due largely to poor public communication flow. Sometimes, it takes the form of no communication at all while at other times, it is occasioned by inaccurate or inadequate communication. Interestingly, because the real target of any policy is the people, the general public ought to be conversant with any matter of public interest. That is what is referred to as public enlightenment – a veritable prerequisite for national development.
The solution to the problems of development in a nation does not necessarily lie in massive construction of physical structures alone. In fact, the people may, due to ignorance, not appreciate such projects and could misuse them. There is, therefore, the urgent need to place greater emphasis on public enlightenment to prevent devastating mob actions like the burning of public buildings or the disruption of public power supply cables, among others.
A cursory look at the handling of the topical issue of fuel subsidy would show that in reality no one spoke for the indigent Nigerians. Recently, some ministers made a point that majority of protesters against the removal of fuel subsidy did not know why they were on the streets. That observation is, no doubt, correct because there is no way the down-trodden and uneducated indigent persons whom the ministers had in mind, would have known the issues at stake when they were not educated on the subject.
Government as usual takes for granted that people knew or ought to have known, without making effort to ascertain whether or not the issues at stake were known to them or whether those who were supposedly informed understood the message. In other words, the ministers were right that more often than not, people are instigated into protests. This is because the so-cal1ed instigators – the opposition political parties, are no 1ess contemptuous of our neglected indigent Nigerians. Indeed, the diction of the alleged instigators is the same as that of the government, a language which the poor masses do not understand. What, for example, would the uneducated have made out of the address on political mandarins by our dear ministers?
The question why then were the indigents on the streets should not be difficult to answer because they got there through what is called intra-personal communication. Some of them woke up on the first day of a new year to discover that the same amount of money which catered for certain needs the day before suddenly became greatly insufficient for the same needs as was the case with the January 1, 2012 fuel subsidy protest. They did not need to be educated to appreciate their deprivation as well as its suddenness. Thus, no one needed to instigate such persons to get into the streets. While some other persons who are unemployed and thus idle found good company in the streets, other idle hands seized an obviously conducive environment for looting. It was a classical case of people talking to themselves in the absence of communication.
There is, however, the argument that the fuel subsidy matter has, for a while, been the subject of debates here and there and as such it is wrong to say that no one speaks for the uneducated and indigent masses of this country. Here, we need to note that sectoral consolations and public enlightenment are two different issues. Whereas a few things may be said to douse tension or to discourage protest, they are of little relevance because those would essentially pass for what is known as panicky rejoinders. In addition, they are usually directed at the elite and not the indigent Nigerians.
Apart from the fact that the messages are neither timely nor easy to understand by the uneducated, the channels employed are usually inappropriate. Advanced technology has, no doubt, established that the best way to reach mass audience across distances is to use the mass media particularly radio, newspaper and television. But in Nigeria, the problems which indigent Nigerians have with the media are too many.
Firstly, no many people have access to the media or can afford the channels. Secondly, the country’s erratic public power supply makes it difficult for people to listen to radio or watch television. The indigent masses cannot afford batteries for their radios let alone generators for television.
Thirdly, media practice in Nigeria is not only urban-based but exceedingly elitist. It is not grassroots-oriented. To start with the use of local languages which the people hear and understand is unfortunately uncommon. Consequently, media contents which are designed to inform, educate and entertain the people are not understood by them.
Therefore, there exists in Nigeria a visible disconnect between the media and a large percentage of their target audience. This is a major challenge yet to be met because the ideal thing is that people do not need to understand a foreign language to be able to know what is actually happening either in their country or elsewhere.
Sadly, community-based and community-owned radio and television stations, as well as newspapers, are rare in Nigeria. The decision of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) to use its national stations to transmit over 12 Nigerian languages is commendable, but the corporation is yet to operate from all state capitals let alone in local communities. As for television, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) is supposed to have a total of 200 stations with no less than 80 in local communities, but there is doubt if the expansion project would be completed considering the trend of irregular capital grants to the Authority.
In the case of the print media, it is strange that a nation which had a newspaper, Iwe-Irohin, that was published in a local language as far back as 1859 is yet to come to grips with how to sustain community and local language newspapers. Consequently, to use any of these modern organs to communicate with the indigent Nigerians amounts to nothing.
Traditional institutions would probably have been useful but there is doubt if they are sufficiently committed to public policy to become its advocates.
What is more, modernity has overtaken the traditional channel, which is the town crier. One framework which would have been helpful is the use of cine rovers at the village square. Unfortunately, this has gone into disuse since 1993 when government merged the proscribed MAMSER with the Public Enlightenment Division of the Federal Ministry of Information and Communication which had metamorphosed into National Orientation Agency (NOA).
The great dream of the founding fathers of NOA, which was to use it as a grassroots channel to mobilise public support for government projects and policies has been abandoned, as the agency is now more often used to propagate culture. Who then speaks for indigent Nigerians on public policy?
Toby writes from Port Harcourt.

 

Bethel Toby

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Opinion

Gleaning From Akashic Record

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Issues raised and discussed during World Sickle Cell Day (June 19) would not be adequate to throw open deeper knowledge into the phenomenon of Sickle Cell Anemia. It is necessary that we take some gleaning from other quarters too. There is nothing abracadabra about so-called Akashic Record, because it is all about Natural History; namely, the evolution, development, pilgrimage and the travails of the human species over a very long time. Nothing is erased or arbitrary therein.
Sickle cell anaemia is a serious genetic illness which affects mainly the black race, in which the blood cell changes shape, causing weakness and fever. The normal cell has a circular shape while the sickle one has a hook-like shape. The anaemia associated with sickle cell is the lower level of red blood, whereby a child becomes more prone to illness.
Some Ill-disposed persons took the prevalence of sickle cell anemia among the black people to say that the Blacks are an inferior or cursed race. Because Sickle Cell Anaemia is known as “Undine’s curse” and is hereditary in nature, there are lots of superstitions associated with it. However, there is a need to delve into the reason why sickle cell anaemia is associated with the “Undine”.
There is a widespread ignorance, superstition and misconceptions about this matter and a lot of people look in the wrong directions or make unfounded claims over the phenomenon. In many cases more guilts are incurred in the process of seeking solutions to personal problems, especially with individuals and organizations that take delight in exorcism.
Definitely there are hereditary diseases and other afflictions, some of which arise from curses and imprecations whose origins are decades or even centuries old. Undines which can also be called Nixies are one generic species of innumerable Nature beings. However, the Undines as Nature beings, do not place a curse upon any human being, rather, the activities of all Nature beings have to do with working and serving in various elements, such as air, water, fire, soil and all that constitute Nature.
There are other species of beings whose activities have to do with the weaving of the fate of humans, referred to in the Scriptures as “Watchers”. Therefore, there is a need to make a distinction between various Nature and Elemental Beings serving in different spheres of creation in line with the Will of the creator, and artificial entities created by human thoughts and emotions. What human beings create through their activities would continue to haunt them.
Because of human misconceptions about the mechanism, weavings and laws in creation, there is the tendency for individuals to judge events and experiences from grossly myopic perspectives. For example, the phenomenon of sickle, cell anaemia or Undines curse, has nothing to do with Nature beings. Rather, human beings may not remember the origin and starting points of what they experience in life, neither is the issue of continuity of life considered as a reality by many people.
The striving to find meaning in life is a vital motivating force in man, and the experiences and challenges which we encounter are some of the means of finding deeper meanings. Unfortunately a good number of people would dodge rather than face life’s experiences and challenges boldly and seek to learn what lessons they mean to convey. Thus, the escapist syndrome expresses inability of man to stand up to the demands and responsibilities of life. Dodgers and weaklings can hardly have a glimpse into the Akashic Record!
To run to prayer houses, occult and witch doctors for the removal of personal afflictions for a fee, would be to refuse to dig deep into the perplexities of life. Truly, there is no mystery in creation but ignorance, fear and indolence, but those who seek diligently and earnestly can always find the truth, hidden from the majority of humans. Would anyone deny the fact that we reap what we sow, in spite of our clever scheming?
All hereditary diseases and afflictions which may appear inexplicable or unjust can be explained from the light of the operations of the law which demands that those who sow singly or jointly must also reap what originated from them. The “Watchers”, not the “Undines”, weave, knot together and connect the threads and radiations of fate so that at the right time, those who are bound together by the threads of fate can experience mutually what they had set in motion long ago.
There are a number of people allegedly tormented by evil spirits, mamy-water, etc, but whose plight can be traced to some personal negligence or wrongdoing of a distant past. Nature beings cannot be held culpable for such woes, but what torments humans are artificially created thought-forms which can also be called demons, which are products of human volition and emotions. The links between such evil centres of energy and those connected with them do not take place arbitrarily; rather, the contents and blood cells of individuals serve as microchips. The storage tank or bank of all human activities is what is referred to here as Akashic Record! Blood is an identity fluid, like finger print! DNA technology is a valid science.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Nigerian Languages Must Not Die

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Before me is a letter from a school in Enugu State, stating that for my nephew who intends to continue his seminary training in the state to be admitted into the Senior Seminary, he must have credit in Igbo language.
The letter further states that despite the boy’s brilliant results from a junior seminary in Rivers State, he must sit for an external examination in Igbo language and excel before he could be qualified to continue his training for the priesthood.
The poor boy has been sad and devastated since he got the information. He seems confused as to what next to do since he did not study Igbo or any Nigerian language both in primary and secondary schools.
He sees the seminary’s insistence on credit in Igbo language as unfair and a setback in his ambition of being a priest. I, however, consider the decision laudable. I see it as a measure that will promote the study of Nigeria’s indigenous languages which is fast going into extinction.
At an event, one Dr Victoria Okoronkwo, raised alarm over what she called an emerging trend, which might lead to loss of local languages and dialects, if urgent measures were not taken to check it. Okoronkwo disclosed how studies showed that 60% of most Nigerian profound dialect speakers are above 50.
Quoting a United Nations report, she said the percentage of children that speak local dialects is thinning down. “This may result in loss of our identity, our culture, our moral values and heritage. Hence, preserving our dialects is an important national challenge that requires our urgent and collective responsibility”.
Similarly, other experts had revealed that most Nigerian indigenous languages would be extinct in the next three decades, while about 90 per cent of them were projected to be replaced by dominant languages.
Observations show that many people no longer speak their dialects. Many parents, especially the educated ones, do not communicate with their children in their dialects and really don’t care if their children speak their language or not.
All they want is for their children to speak English and other foreign languages. Parents of different ethnic groups most times also decide to speak a neutral language, especially to their children, thereby denying them the identities of their parents.
Beyond this is the worrisome attitude of some people making a person who speaks his or her language feel inferior. A young woman recently narrated to me how her friends who are all of the same ethnic group with her, mock-her whenever she speaks her native language in their midst. For being proud of her language they nicknamed her, “bushmo” indicating that she is a primitive, local girl.
Language is defined as arbitrary oral symbols by which a social group interacts, communicates and self expressed. It enshrines the culture, customs and secrets of the people. So, instead of looking down on people who speak their language, and making them feel their language is something to be ashamed of, we should try to instil pride in them and emulate them.
The truth is that the English and other foreign languages we promote can never be our language. No matter how proficient you are in English and speak it with the English accent, you are not an English man or woman. You remain a Nigerian. Many of us spend thousands of naira to hire English and French teachers for our children, (which is not bad), how much do we spend to teach them their native languages which is their identity?
Countries like China, India, Brazil, and Japan have used their indigenous languages to excel; why can’t Nigeria do the same? A professor of Yoruba, Oluyemisi Adebowale of the Department of Linguistics and languages, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, at a public lecture said that for Nigeria to be relevant in the globalised world, it must emphasise the rejuvenation and sustenance of its indigenous languages.
The Federal Government’s National Policy on Culture emphasises the need for conscious and concerted efforts by all levels of government to promote the teaching of our languages and inclusion of the same in the school curriculum.
This policy, if fully implemented, will no doubt see to the revival and promotion of indigenous languages in Nigeria. Schools, particularly private schools, should be thoroughly monitored to see that they implement the policy as many of them are very good at promoting foreign languages, cultures and ideas at the expense of our own.
Universities and other higher institutions should tow the line of the Enugu State Seminary and obtaining of the credit in a Nigerian language a prerequisite for admission into the institutions. National dialect essay competitions should be organized regularly to promote the use of our dialects in the best grammatical way possible. This will ensure sustenance and preservation of the dialects.
Some time ago, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) commenced a one-month intensive indigenous language programme in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Fulfulde, Gbagyi, Izon, Nupe and Tiv.
According to the then Executive Secretary of the Institute, Dr Barclays Ayakoroma, the programme tagged, “Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme”, was initiated by the institute in response to the disheartening state of indigenous languages in Nigeria. This move is most commendable and should be imitated by other relevant government agencies.
We all have to promote and preserve our indigenous languages as that is our identity and pride. Until we start speaking our languages, particularly the small dialects, we may not be able to make an impact.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Helping Farmers Eradicate Hunger

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In 2016, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, made public the CBN’s and commercial bank’s initiative to grant N300 billion loan to the agricultural sector of the economy.
Good news, isn’t it? His explanation suggested that the commercial banks were to use some of their liquidity to grant new loans to the agricultural sector and its value chain.
The bankers committee, no doubt, had done this to demonstrate their support for the effort of the federal government to create employment and diversify the economy.
Almost three years down the line, the required impact of the very initiative of the federal government, is, to say the least, far from being felt. Reason being that portfolio and political farmers are at it again.
This set of farmers is known to always emerge from the blues whenever agricultural incentives are trumpeted. Their emergence had, at different times in history, frustrated many loan schemes.
Loans were never repaid because they were given to the wrong persons who never invested them. This had always futilised efforts in this direction as real farmers are not captured in the scheme.
Come to think of it, before the announcement of the release of the N300 billion loan scheme by the CBN, Nigerian farmers had at various seasons and regimes, come to terms with exciting headlines and news highlights. These ranged from tax incentives for farmers, to USDA grant for new farmers and ranchers, agricultural incentive programmes etc.
In all of these, while some farmers tell their stories of how they were financially stabilised through one agricultural programme or the other, others simply describe same as mere channels which administrators and their cohorts pass through to loot government’s treasury.
The differing views about the administration of agricultural incentive schemes do not contradict the fact that at various times in governance, there were programmes and initiatives orchestrated by the government, neither does it highlight the farmers’ ingratitude towards the government’s efforts at alleviating their plight.
No doubt, such were intended to assist local farmers to break even as well as contribute to the country’s gross national product (GNP).
The intervention of the world through the introduction of the eight (8) Millennium Development goals (MDGs), broken down into eighteen quantifiable targets, measured by forty eight (48) indicators is enough pointer to the fact that a responsible government is never at ease while its citizenry groans in abject poverty.
The aspect of the millennium development goals which is about the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, is such that can primarily be met through agriculture. And as the foremost of the basic human needs, this can only be actualized if all the actors work together and play well their parts.
Apart from being seen to be helping farmers who happen to be major actors in the play, the burden of poverty alleviation and eradication of extreme hunger is enormous to be left in the care of the farmers alone.
From drought, extreme heat, to sea level rise and flood, the farmer, especially the small scale farmer, is on the frontline of climate change which every extreme case drastically affects livelihood and yields.
As weather patterns become obviously the more unpredictable, the farmers must not be abandoned to their fate, else the undesirable would be their portion.
Thus, to help farmers source for viable crops and adapt to climate changes, interventionary measures must not be compromised. Efforts of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, ( IFAD), Food Agricultural Development and Management Agency (FADAMA), and series of agricultural development programmes, must be felt by rural farmers in the South-South geopolitical region of the country.
What this implies is that the agricultural mileage in Nigeria should no longer be evaluated on the basis of the number of interventionist schemes so far flown, but on the impact so made.
Hence, of great importance is the interest placed on who manages what funds and initiatives. May I re-echo that those who can meet up with bank’s requirements for agricultural loans in the South-South geopolitical region are more of the portfolio/ political farmers.
While Emefiele calls on all hands to be on deck to boost power and transportation so that banks would achieve the goal of improving the economy, the writer is of the view that corruption in the agricultural sector can be checked by setting aside bogus and stringent requirements for securing loans.
Of greater importance is the emphasis on farm site visitation, so as to see what the farmer has on the ground with a view to seeing how he can be helped. Adequate monitoring of the farm to ensure a realisation of the intention of the scheme cannot be overlooked.
If agriculture in Nigeria must be taken to the next level, then now is the time to visit the real farmers’ farms and not cataloguing unattainable paper requirements that can hardly be decoded by the local farmers.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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