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Let’s Avoid Needless Calamities

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Is there any death that is not painful? Certainly none.
The loss of any human being brings pain and agony, especially to loved ones. But the most painful is the death of young ones with all their talents, hopes and aspirations. Most agonizing is when their lives are cut short not out of natural disasters or ill health but due to the neglect and laxity of those whose duty it is to protect and care for them.
The nation woke up recently to the tragic news of the death of four students of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi, following a pedestrian bridge collapse. According to reports, the students (about twenty of them) were returning to their hostels after studies when the bridge, which links the classes to the hostels, collapsed leading to the unfortunate incident.
While one joins other well-meaning persons to commiserate with the families of the deceased and the university community over the great loss, it must be stated unequivocally that had the university authorities been proactive and prioritized the safety of the students, the dead students probably would have still been alive today. The students were seen narrating how they had made several appeals to the institution’s management to repair the dilapidating bridge which they say was even magnanimously constructed by an ex-student but nothing was done.
Even without the students demanding, wouldn’t a university management which is interested in the safety of their students under their care, know that the death trap called a bridge needed to be attended to?
Didn’t the university management know that such a rickety cut-and-weld rickshaw shouldn’t be found in such a prestigious university in this day and age? Obviously, it was all about priority. The authorities considered other issues more important than the welfare of the students.
Unfortunately, that is the sad story of many institutions, both higher and lower, in the country. The dearth of adequate facilities in our citadel of learning, particularly the public ones, has been a topic for national discourse for many years, without any significant improvement. Recently, a documentary on the poor state of hostels in University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), went viral on the social media.
It revealed the pitiable and unhabitable conditions the students live in. For instance, the once prestigious Franco complex has become a dungeon of a sort, with dilapidated buildings, poor toilet facilities and a general rot.
In some other universities, the students are compelled to either defecate in the bush or in cellophane bags and dispose them as their hostels either lack toilet facilities or the few available ones are an eye sore.
In the past, management of institutions took pride in the value they could add to such institutions. Regrettably, today the reverse is the case. Management of institutions now are more after value they can give to themselves from their positions. It is indeed a shame that rather thatn make progress, we regress.
Maintenance culture is in great lack both in our institutions and the nation in general and needs flogging and over-flogging. Many government facilities are in pitiable conditions. Many of our roads have become death traps due to lack of timely and solid maintenance. The other day, the Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Rivers State, Barr Philip Okparaji, was in the news, calling for urgent attention of both federal and state government, NDDC and other relevant agencies to the collapsing condition of Aleto Bridge. He appealed that something be done urgently to save the bridge so as to avert unnecessary sad occurrence.
Will the relevant authorities heed to the clarion call and put measures in place to save the dilapidating bridge or wait until it collapses then they start crying over spilt milk as we usually do in this country?  Instead of waiting to set up a high-powered committee to look into the remote and immediate causes of the incident should the bridge collapse, let committees be inaugurated now, look into the possible causes of the poor state of the bridge, nip it in the bud and put the all-important bridge in top shape to avoid any catastrophe.
Ndoroma and other companies operating in Eleme should also be concerned about the situation and provide urgent solutions. A lot of man-hour is lost daily as commuters spend several hours on the bad road and that is of no benefit to the nation.
I’m certain that had the management of ATBU taken such steps, the story would have been different today. The calamity that befell the institution and the nation would have been averted and the students would have been in school carrying on with their examination instead of being sent home.
It’s time for our leaders at all levels to be proactive. Let them take necessary steps to cut down on all avoidable deaths and calamities that occur in the nation every day. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.
Management of institutions can also consider Public Private Partnership (PPP) as a way of sorting out the rot with the hostels and other facilities in our institutions while at the same time putting the hostel fees, development fees and other numerous fees and levies collected from students into judicious use. Proper accountability should be their watchword.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

My Dressing, My Faith

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It will be reprehensible for a female corps member to embark on obstacle-crossing and other physical training activities on camp, including parade, in skirt or gown. Those will expose her indecently, thus, leaving little or nothing to imagination”
That was part of the explanations given by the Director-General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, following the expulsion of two female corps members, – Okafor Love Obianuju, and Odji Oritsetsolaye, from orientation camp in Ebonyi State last weekend for refusing to wear trousers or shorts for religious reasons.
Speaking through the Corps’ Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi,    Ibrahim noted that the NYSC camp, predicated on discipline and decency, is a training ground for corps members and ”any other dress code contrary to the officially-sanctioned one will not promote the course of decency.”
I think the DG just nailed it. The primary reason for insisting on corps members wearing trousers and shots is for their protection and decency. Many of us participated in the scheme and know how rigorous and tasking the Man O’ War drills and exercises were and can testify that there is no way someone can do most of them comfortably and effectively on skirts or gowns. Is it the jumping of fence, rope climbing, crawling under barb wires or karate fighting? You can imagine a female climbing rope on skirt in the presence of soldiers and other colleagues, both male and female.
Yes, the issue of religion is a personal thing and our constitution grants freedom of worship, so one will not be in a hurry to condemn the two corps members for insisting on not dressing in a way they said is against their faith, but shouldn’t we be sensible even in our religious practices? Shouldn’t we weigh the pros and cons of a policy before rejecting it or protesting against it in whatever form?
And then comes the issue of obedience.  Every establishment has rules and regulations guiding it which are expected to be obeyed by anyone that has dealings with it for efficiency and orderliness. If everybody decides to flout these rules and regulations, what will our society become? One will want to believe that Obianuju and Odji were aware of the orientation and NYSC rules and regulations yet they decided to participate in it. It then behoves them to obey those rules. Or since they are not comfortable with some of the guidelines, they would have probably tabled their objections before the NYSC director or other appropriate quarters before going to camp. But as some analysts have said, obedience to the rules should be for all and sundry and not for some people. The moment the leadership of any organization compromises in the enforcement of the rules and regulations or in punishing offenders, there will no longer be total compliance by the people.
In Nigeria, we have two major religions, Christianity and Islam, and it is expected that the same consideration should be given to these two groups in formulating any policy that concerns them. If members of one of them are allowed to dress in certain way, contrary to the rules of an organization, it will be just and fair to consider members of the other group when they make certain demands in that direction as well.
Let us look at further explanations of the NYSC director-general on the scheme’s dressing code. He said that the organisation did not issue hijab, worn by Muslim women, as part of its dress code,
“Rather, the scheme permits the use of white hijab, which must not be more than shoulder length and must be tucked into the uniform.
“The policy of allowing hijab, which does not deface the NYSC uniform, is not new, as it has been there.”
Will it then be out of place to suggest that the leadership of the scheme should consider the position of some Christians who feel that putting on trousers and shots is against their faith and address the matter amicably instead of expulsion as was the case in Ebonyi State?
As I stated earlier, Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution grants freedom of religion to the citizens which must be respected. Yes, we can appeal to the corps members to see reasons why they should dress in accordance with the NYSC code, but it is their right to practice their religion the way they deem fit. Recall the case of Firdausa Al Jannah Amasa versus the Nigerian Law School. The law graduate was denied entry into the International Conference Center, Abuja, venue of the call to bar in 2017 because she refused to remove her hijab. She took the matter to court, won and the institution is said to have since retraced its steps.
So, as the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Adebayo Oladeji, appealed, the NYSC leadership should be more tolerant and revisit the matter with a view to addressing it better. It will amount to double standard to dismiss Christian corps members for dressing inappropriately while their Muslim counterparts in the same shoes are allowed to wear hijad, going by the position of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and other concerned individuals and groups, who also noted that wearing hijab on NYSC uniform cannot be said to be promoting the course of decency as posited by Mrs Adeyemi.
It will, therefore, be wise if the two rusticated corps members can heed Oladeji’s advice and head to court to challenge their expulsion. Who knows, they might get a similar judgment like Firdausa and then the matter will be permanently settled.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Using The Mirror

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There was an old book with the above title, quite rare to find now, whose author was a Jewish Rabbi, a Hasidic master. The book has nothing to do with fortune telling or séance, but it gave very useful suggestions about self-examination, introspection and how to find meaning and satisfaction in life.
The author wanted to give humanity the secrets of the success story associated with the Jews, which accounted for their persecution, including their sad experiences with the Nazi regime.
After several decades of the publication of that book, another Jewish Rabbi, Levi Brackman , gave another version of Jewish Wisdom with specific reference to business success. There must be some wisdom that Nigerians can learn from the Jews by using the mirror, in a figurative sense. Without being acquainted with the Torah, the Talmud, the Midrash or the Kabbalah, we can use the mirror of the wisdom provided by these sources.
Jewish wisdom tells us that life is a journey and that the whole world that we must pass through is a narrow bridge: we must have no fear but journey forth. Fear usually arises from ignorance and wrong actions whose consequences haunt the conscience. Self-sabotage comes about when our consciousness is clouded by fear, and fighting in such a circumstance is a backward motion. We are reminded of a Law of Reversed Effort by which we work against ourselves if we don’t resolve what we fear.
By using the mirror, we can see where there is a need to mend fences, and we are reminded that nothing stands before the will if the volition is earnest. However, because humans usually have an inner will as well as an outer will, the spirit can be willing while the body can be dull. Jewish wisdom recommends that we use the mirror to identify and come to terms with our authentic self. Success in life demands that the inner will must always be the focus of our attention. It generates passion, goodwill.
The Torah admonishes us to fight against any urge to place ourselves above the others. Some falls arise from unfounded pride but, on the other hand, having an unassuming life-style can be an asset. However, we are warned against making ourselves a door-mat for others to walk over. The Talmud admonishes that he who talks too much commits a sin. Along with unassuming life-style is the need to create loyalty. A man must have some deep personal conviction based on values that one is passionately committed to uphold. Loyalty is created through commitment to principles and values.
Since no man is an island sufficient unto himself, life demands cooperation rather than a do-or-die competition with others. There is a need for a balance between looking out for self and caring for others. Despite ups and downs, we must learn to adapt quickly to new situations and challenges. If you cannot look into the Torah to learn that life is all about negotiations, you can look at the mirror to learn such vital lesson; if you laugh, the mirror laughs back too. You can rarely win negotiations without trying to understand the feelings and needs of the other person(s).
If we can be honest with ourselves, we would agree that morality, zeal and motivation among average Nigerians are on the decline. Failed expectations, among other conditions, account for such stats of langnour. But if we use the mirror it would be obvious that the causes lie within us. We are rarely our own friends, with widespread mutual distrust and acrimony. Zoroaster would tell us that human thought-forms take shapes and contain energy that return their contents to their originators, via their invisible radiations and links.
Failure is not failure, neither is a loss a calamity if we learn lessons from them and mend our footsteps. Jewish cosmogony recommends giving back to society through charity, titles, donations, etc as a means of making the earth a better place by purging ourselves of burdens and excesses. Like former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, did with his disengagement booty, let all Nigerian politicians give 10% of their monthly booties to bring some smiles and ease the agonies of a large number of Nigerians. If they cannot use the mirror, they can go physically to the slums and see things.
Wisdom from the mirror suggests that the strong man is the one who conguers himself – his impulses, vanities, pride and long-throat. In the state that Nigeria is currently, a few people that are permitted to see the unseen plead that those who take on the task of leadership should act fast and with sincerity to reduce tension, frustration, hunger and anger too. We don’t need a mirror to see a picture of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
The example of Venezuela as a developing country demonstrates the kind of problem which Nigeria is facing currently, namely maldistribution of national resources. A situation where 80% of a nation’s resources is in the hands of a small elite cannot fail to breed conflicts and insecurity. Venezuela transited into a democracy in 1958, but without any empowerment at the grassroots level. Corrupt politics, patronage, network and conflict persisted as instruments of sustaining the economic structure. Nigeria goes that way.
Chavez was a strong despot whom the masses believed was strong enough to stand up to the established elite of Venezuela . Nations fail when they have extractive institutions, supported by corrupt practices which impede and block economic growth. A picture of Hugo Chavez is a picture of a country held hostage by despotic and extractive institutions which make it difficult for the masses to contrite meaningfully in nation-building. It is a valid view that humans function at their best if they are in a state of happiness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Why Alpha Students Serve Average Students

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Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid – Albert Einstein
Many have the belief that the rich are crooks, but there are far more people who are honest, hard working and are not crooks.
A child’s most important teachers are his parents who provide the foundational building blocks of education. Parents celebrate a child’s first words, also teach them to count, walk and read and ride bicycle. Parents always prepare their children for the worst. Parents interact with their children every day and consciously or unconsciously, they have a huge and powerful impact in shaping their lives. Every child is a genius but unfortunately, their ingenuity may not be recognised by the education system. Most parents know that a child’s true genius is found in his dreams. We see a glimpse of it in early age.
The business of education is seen as a big industry in the world, impacting the lives of people. The step in making changes in our lives starts with a change, a shift in context, change in our perspectives and the filters we use to process information.
Good grades and academic success can be a double-edged sword. Being lauded as an A-student on the track to corporate success may only open a few doors and help what colleges and universities anoint as the best and brightest graduates. There is more to a rich and wonderful life than the white-collar job you leave school well qualified to do. The real world is not about your grades because there are existing games where different rules apply.
The future belongs to those who can strongly embrace change, see the future and anticipate what it needs and respond to different opportunities, challenges and passions. I believe that a child’s genius is his dreams. Creating a conducive environment in which your child can discuss his or her dreams is an important exercise. Be patient to listen to all he has to say. Bring down yourself to be friends with him as to make him trust you enough to open up to you. How well you understand him will enable you guide him more appropriately.
Rich people also go broke because, all over the world, there are millions of retirees many of whom were once rich but now live in fear of outliving their retirement savings. It is insane to say to your child “Go to school and get a job” when jobs are being shipped overseas or replaced by advancements in technology. It is insane to say your house is an asset when it is really a liability. It is insane to invest for long term in the stock market when professional investment firms are using multi-million naira computers to invest in the short term.
Education focuses on content which includes reading, writing and arithmetic. But rather be based on context. The reason why many persons are poor and remain poor is because they have poor context which includes thoughts, beliefs, values, choices, etc. It is also the reason why many lottery winners are soon broke. People with a middle-class context don’t get rich because, instead of investing, they just consume more. They buy expensive houses, take nice vacations, drive expensive cars and spend money on higher education.
Greatness is often a reflection of a person with high emotional intelligence. Emotional is equated with success intelligence because successful people are successful at managing their emotions, especially in stressful situations. Many people grow up physically but fail to grow up emotionally. Most adults are still little kids on the inside. They go to school, get a job and the little kid inside them shows up. Years pass and a day comes when they wonder what happened to their lives. They’ve worked for years with nothing to show for it; lack of emotional development that often hinders adults in the real world. They spend their lives doing what they want to do rather than doing what they need to do. Nothing they do would seem to work. Things that would ordinarily work for every other person hardly works for them. Even if such person takes first in a job interview, he is never taken; rather the next person or even the least performer gets picked.
Generosity is the key to success; most successful entrepreneurs are generous because they plan to create job opportunities for people. The real issue between the rich, the middle class and the poor is focus. The poor and middle class focus on their incomes, how much they earn.
Education is not about equality, it is also not about being fair. The reason parents attach importance to their children’s education is because they know that it has the power to give their child advantages in life. Financial education should be seen as an important part of that and teaching your child that money gives unfair advantage. Explain the different types of income and why understanding the differences among them is important.
In creating an active learning environment in your home, you are giving your child a huge and unfair advantage. With a strong financial education, your child will have the freedom to pursue his dreams.
Harry is with the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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