One thing many people admire about President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha Buhari, is her boldness to speak out on any national issue that interests her without minding whose ox is gored. Often such action had incurred the wrath of some people in government towards her, who believe that, as the president’s wife, she ought not to hold contrary opinion to those of the government or the ruling party. But she has remained resolute and unruffled.
Not long ago, she uttered what could be considered as the mind of many Nigerians on the federal government’s Social Investment Programmes (SIP). She fiercely criticized the programme, saying it has failed, as there was little or no evidence to show that a good chunk of its budget was judiciously utilized. She reechoed many peoples’ opinions that the SIP, particularly the tradermoni and school feeding programmes are more of a political gimmick aimed at convincing the populace that the government in power is working to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor masses, when in reality, little or no evidence of such is seen.
I recall how in 2017, she raised alarm over the lack of facilities at the State House Clinic, Abuja. She revealed that the clinic lacked syringes, drugs and equipment needed for saving lives, despite the huge annual budgetary allocation for the clinic and demanded for a probe into the running of the clinic. Mrs Buhari also alerted the nation about the existence of a cabal which she said was frustrating the President’s efforts to function as expected.
Where I’m I going with all these? Just trying to establish that Mrs Buhari is fearless, outspoken and wants the right thing to be done at all times. In view of that, one will, therefore, wonder how thoughtful was the recent pronouncement of the First Lady. At an event at the Presidential Villa last week, she announced her decision to be addressed as the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria instead of Wife of the President that has been her title since her husband assumed office in 2015.
Hear her, “When my husband was elected newly I personally chose to be called the wife of the President.
“But, I realised that it causes confusion from the state as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the first ladies or wives of the governors.
“So, forgive me for confusing you from the beginning, but now I choose to be called the First Lady,” she said.
Though there ought to be no big deal about the change in nomenclature, the First Lady’s decision and the reason for that came as a surprise to some people, particularly as there is no record of any state where there is confusion as to the title of the governor’s wife. Besides, during the 2015 election campaign, Mrs Buhari’s husband promised to abolish the Office of the First Lady. He said the office was unconstitutional and that the Ministry of Women Affairs should be allowed to play its role unhindered.
The questions then are, has there been any law legalizing the Office of the First Lady? Is the position now recognized by Nigeria’s Constitution? President Buhari is a man seen by many as a man of impeccable integrity. Is the First Lady now telling us that such belief must change because her husband cannot even keep his campaign promises? Apparently, this is the main confusion. The First Lady is confusing us on what to believe about her husband and his ability to keep his words.
So, in as much as one agrees that Mrs Buhari has the right to bear whatever title she chooses, it will be proper that, in her usual way of doing things, she should work towards the legalization of the office.
As a new National Assembly has just come on board, she should sponsor a bill seeking for the legalization of the office so as to lay to rest all the legal issues surrounded the enviable, prestigious and privileged position. No doubt, such bill will be given speedy hearing and express passage into law, coming from Buhari’s wife.
Alternatively, she can convince her husband to make a pronouncement on the matter, stating that though the office is not known by our constitution, if a president’s wife prefers to go by the title, as is the case in many other countries, she is free to do so.
But be that as it may, it is hoped that the First Lady and the ones coming after her should really use that position to better the lots of the masses as is being done in other climes. She should faithfully and dutifully carry out her function as a wife and mother not only to her immediate family, Adamawa and Katsina but to the entire nation.
She should spread her humanitarian activities to other parts of the country. There are poor people in every part of the country, both North and South; they all should feel her impact equally.
In the past, some First Ladies, like late Miriam Babangida, through her pet-project, Better Life for Rural Women, made a great impact in the lives of both urban and rural women across the nation. The project was a household name that has not been forgotten by many women till date.
That is what is expected of Mrs Buhari’s pet-project, Future Assured. Let the citizens know about this project and what it stands for. Let the handlers of this project reach out to the target beneficiaries, which should have a national spread and let the project come alive. As it is today, only a handful of persons who are most likely from one section of the country can boast of knowing about Future Assured.
So, although the position of the first lady is not elected or constitutional but seen as an appendage of her husband in most jurisdictions, many of these women perform invaluable and indispensable social functions. Our President’s wife and governors’ wives should not slack in performing these duties which will better our society irrespective of their titles, be it First Ladies, Wife of the President/Governors or whatever.
The Restructuring Nigeria Needs
Each time the mention of restructuring of Nigeria is made, what comes to the minds of many Nigerians is ‘ Nigeria’s federalism’; how it has failed to engender development, national integration and solve burning issues of minority question, marginalisation, ethno-religious crises, etc. For these reasons, they get hell-bent on restructuring the country.
Yes, the political space has been bastardised that it seems everything must be wrong with our government system. An advocate of restructuring will say that Nigeria fared better when we operated as Northern, Eastern and Western regions than now.
Surprisingly, amidst various calls for restructuring, reasons why this same federal system which benefits countries like Ethiopia, USA and India, is counter-productive in Nigeria, appear yet to be given thought to.
Speaking on this during a public debate recently, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, Bayo Okunade, noted that unless some fundamental issues are addressed, the problems would persist with or without restructuring.
Nevertheless, Vincent Aluu (2018), in his work, ‘True Federalism and Restructuring in Nigeria’, wrote that Nigeria is operating a federal system in an awkward manner that does not reflect true federalism as enunciated by Professor K.C Wheare.
Wrong application of the tenets of federalism, high level political instability, ethno/religious crisis, etc, Aluu alluded, have culminated into frictions and clashes posing serious threat to Nigeria’s political and economic development, and national integration.
If Aluu’s allusion is anything to go by, it means the baton obviously falls back at the players themselves, making it imperative to restructure ourselves first before the system. In line with this understanding, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while urging Nigerians to learn from the Brexit experience and prevent similar occurrence, said, “If anything needs restructuring, it must start with us as a people.”
This is because, for a system to work, there has to be consistency with the construed norms and supportive ethos that will make it work. if we have those things that do not want the current system to work, especially the nature of the political class, corruption, all these tendencies like nepotism and others, they will consistently remain cogs in the wheel of the country’s progress.
In a keynote address he gave at Island Club’s 76th anniversary lecture on Lagos Island, Friday, Fashola emphasized the need to put up a positive attitude as a people, instead of erroneously clamouring for institutional change or restructuring, stating that a new territory doesn’t necessarily translate to a better life.
In his words, “A good document not backed by the right attitude does not take a people far. If anything really needs restructuring, it must start with us as a people, with our attitude and with our mindset”. He advocated that Nigerian youth, who are considered leaders of tomorrow, should be given political education to make them understand the issue of restructuring to avoid replicating the Brexit experience.
Fashola’s words reminded me of the effort made by late Prof. Dora Akunyili, a former minister for information and communications, in this regard, while she lived. The late minister whose understanding of restructuring falls in alignment with Fashola’s, floated the idea of “Re-branding Nigeria Project”.
The whole essence of Akunyili’s endeavour, was to encourage Nigerians to consciously “work on themselves” so as to change the pervading negative perception of the country in the comity of nations. Her courage, no doubt, may have been spurred by the words of late Chief Anthony Enahoro, an elder statesman and one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria.
The late national hero was quoted thus: “I am about the only one left of my generation that fought for Independence. I would be very sad if I die leaving Nigeria behind the way she is now. My goal is to help… see Nigeria better governed; then, one might leave”.
Enahoro’s goal of seeing Nigeria better governed appears to have been scuttled by greed and selfishness of leaders which has metamorphosed into all shades of corruption. His feeling should apply to all patriotic Nigerians of uprightness to rise to the challenge of quitting the beaten track of institutionalised corruption as a way of life, and re-orientating the citizenry towards playing meaningful roles as responsible members of the global community.
We might be toeing the line of failure if we continue to fault existing institutions without seeing the need to purge or sanitise the operators of the system or institution. Little wonder, our elders say that it is a bad workman that quarrels with his tools. Nigeria needs men of proven integrity to propel its developmental wheel and land it safely.
Nation-building may well be hard to achieve, but it needs not be as difficult as we make it in Nigeria. Nation-building is also intentional. It doesn’t happen by accident. The real test is in the leadership and the actions that create a real spirit of nationhood, and the willingness of every stakeholder to build a united, stable and cohesive nation. It is unfortunate that 59 years after Independence, we are still confronted with the imperative of defining a future for Nigeria.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
Beware Of Fake Palm Oil
Palm oil, a product of palm fruits predominant in the eastern part of Nigeria serves both domestic and industrial uses. Domestically, every household in the country largely consumes palm oil as it is so significant in almost every cooking. It’s nutritious, medicinal and rich in vitamin A, etc.
It’s also a good antidote and antibiotic in the treatment of wounds, and a fine physiotherapy material in handling bone dislocation. When combined with some herbs, it provides wonderful solutions for some health challenges.
It has high viscosity and reacts to temperature. It mixes and colours foods properly and gives it background taste and quality; and does not wash easily in water without soap due to the viscosity. In spite of daily consumption, it has no side effect.
Palm oil is also a good industrial material. It is used in the production of soap, cosmetics, etc. The above stated values and characteristics of palm oil, just to mention a few, result only when it is in good or pure original state. A good quality palm oil is produced from mature and ripe palm fruits; unfortunately, a reasonable percentage of palm oil available in the country’s markets today is far from pure original palm oil. And this is ignorantly consumed by the public.
When the writer first stumbled on this fake product, he thought it was incidental as no right thinking person would toy with such significant and massively consumed product in the name of making money, but was stunned when his findings in many markets in some states revealed that the fake palm oil has been in circulation for a long time now.
This product is a bit difficult to differentiate from the original palm oil as it has almost the same colour but slightly different in taste and scent, and lacks all the values/characteristics of pure palm oil stated above. It does not mix properly in liquid foods either hot or cold as it is found floating and gives no palm oil flavor or quality even as it appears so oil-red concentrated.
On intense inquiry, the writer learned that the fake product is produced by mixing a pigment of oil-red material with a little quantity of palm oil to multiply. The quantity of palm oil in the mixture determines the grade of the product. Thus, you find ‘first original’ and ‘second original’, all circulating as pure original palm oil in the country’s markets. And that which started at a very obscure angle has now blossomed to an alarming rate and seriously threatens the palm oil market.
With this product in existence and the alarming rate of its circulation, it holds that almost every inhabitant of this country who uses palm oil might have ignorantly consumed it, especially during the period of acute palm oil scarcity. The extent of damages to health in consuming this fake product cannot be over-emphasised. Perhaps the advent of stubborn ailments, in recent time, that defy known diagnosis and treatments, creating poor health conditions leading to loss of lives and, conjectural, blamed on modern food condiments may not be far from the consumption of this fake product.
What is the cause of inadequate palm oil supply impelling the incidence of adulteration? Before the civil war, palm oil was the major revenue earner for the country’s economy. This prompted the massive production of palm fruits and location of the relative oil mill facilities mostly in the eastern part of the country. This provided enough quality palm oil for both local consumption and export. The issue of fake palm oil then was undreamt of.
But shortly after the civil war, quickly followed by the crude oil boom, the palm oil sector of the economy was inadvertently and sadly ignored by the federal authorities that paid premium attention to crude oil production as it overtook palm oil in revenue generation for the economy.
Consequently, the large scale production of palm oil slumped. As the federal authorities no longer showed any meaningful interest in palm fruit production, palm plantation owners and other relevant stakeholders reviewed their interests and abandoned the business to the mercy of few local palm oil subsistent producers who felt not opportuned for the easy and fast paying office jobs occasioned by the crude oil boom. The unfortunate effect of this is that a virile and vast window of job employment and wealth creation in the country was ignorantly closed, giving rise to the unfortunate and numerous vices, including palm oil adulteration today.
As it is now, government at all levels should, as a matter of great concern, investigate, identify, track and eliminate as quickly as possible, the continued existence and circulation of this fake palm oil in the nation’s markets. The general public should be officially alerted and sensitized on this product.
The federal, state and local governments should, as of necessity, review their policies on agriculture with a view to revamping the moribund palm fruit production by setting up and encouraging, as before, palm plantations where possible. Palm oil mills should also be located at strategic areas in the palm fruit zones of the respective local government areas in the country to ensure standard and quality palm oil production. The local palm oil producers should be mobilized and encouraged with financial assistance and modern equipment in palm oil production. This would go a long way in tackling palm oil adulteration and reopen the vast and potent window of job/wealth creation while also boosting the nation’s economy.
By: Ukutumoren Uktumoren PH
Recognising Symbolic Atonements
Events and personal experiences which we encounter daily convey more meanings than the explanations that we generally attach to them. A number of people who look quite healthy, normal and highly esteemed in society often have some illnesses and other burdens which are asymptomatic; meaning that the inside rarely shows on the outside. Events occur which can be quite inexplicable, just as individuals can have encounters which can be perplexing. Truly, there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face.
We are being instructed and educated daily by the numerous events and personal experiences which we encounter. But obtuse humanity attaches little or no deeper significance to symbiotic nature of the subtle messages of events and experiences. We do not need prophets to tell us that we pay debts and make atonements daily without knowing that we are doing so. Atonement is defined as something you do to show that you are sorry for having done something wrong. Penance is a more familiar word.
Obviously, no one is free from some wrong doing of different nature and degrees, despite superficial sanctimony. Happily, everyone is endowed with the means of recognizing when and where we err, as well as an inner longing to atone for such errors.
Left alone, every man is a judge for himself, even though some people are more recalcitrant than others. Events and experiences play the roles of forcing every one to be awake and learn lessons daily.
Hard and difficult times which everybody is passing through currently, a situation which is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, provide numerous opportunities for positive changes to take place.
Left alone, human beings have the tendency and proclivity to remain docile and avoid costs, but cherish the easy comfort of lethargy. Thus, hard times and suffering have the possibility of bringing some people to embrace a change by force. Despite the complaints and grumblings that people make daily, there is currently a wind of change blowing across the globe. It brings a loosening effect.
Therefore, one of the symbolic meanings of what Nigerians are passing through currently is presence of a stimulating pressure for a forced awakening. Religious pundits who talk about the “sound of trumpet” actually mean the stimulating pressure that can awaken those in a state of lethargy and slumber. In our myopia and conceit we have come to regard money changing hands in dark deals as what constitutes corruption.
Truly, corruption is a symbolic name for an advanced stage of inner decay of human beings, whereby values and perceptions become narrowed and circumscribed. It is a human condition that is rightly captured by Oliver Smith as follows: “I ll fares that land, to a hastening ill, a prey, where wealth accumulates but men decay”.
Let myopic people see corruption from the superficial angle, but let those with advanced consciousness see it as symbolized in events and experience that we encounter daily. Wise people do not sit and talk about their agonies but rise up and do what is needful, there are individual Nigerians making such efforts in their private life, in spite of the stifling and suffocating global experiences.
There are those who may think that coming out of self-created difficulties, debts and burdens is an easy task. Hard times force us to recognize that there is a principle of personal responsibility whereby everyone bears the task of atoning for personal lapses and wrongs. Those who make such efforts with diligence discover that there is an opportunity or a grace which can make light the heavy burdens which individuals bear.
In serious studies of psychology there is what is known as the law of Reversed Effort which stipulates that things done with ill motives, with underlying fear and a troubled conscience, usually turn out ill. Similarly, there is an invincible power in human volition capable of turning conditions around for the better, via the grace and opportunity which atonement can provide.
Therefore, for an individual applying the power of volition toward the erasure of personal blemish, there is hardly any debt or burden too hard to atone for. However, the initiative must come from the individual, possibly facilitated by hard and bitter experiences.
Atonement or penance comes about when an individual makes conscious and diligent efforts towards personal ennoblement, which derives more from accurate knowledge of the laws governing life.
Superficial sanctimony or piety would not be of any value in such a project, rather, a deeply-felt change manifests in deep inner feeling or empathy towards others. The more such state of awareness grows in an individual, the more such a person is protected from the currents of evil effects.
Obviously, pending past wrongs hanging on the individual would not be obliterated, there would be some amelioration of the results arising there from. This is where the mechanism of symbolic atonement comes into play. Ordinarily in human experience, a debtor who is diligent and seen to be engaged in humanitarian activities would draw greater sympathy from his creditor than the one who is recalcitrant and profligate.
The voluntary donation of blood to save the life of the child of poor parents can be a symbolic atonement for an imminent penalty that would have hit the blood donor. Thus, voluntary humanitarian activities and services rendered out of love for suffering persons can be pre-emptive shields that can knock out pending debts and guilts. On the other hand, those who add more loads to already over-burdened humanity, do greater harms to themselves.
Wise people see the need to be simple, inwardly alert towards the plight of others and make efforts to rid themselves of excess luggage.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
By: Bright Amirize
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