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Christianity In Africa: Fantasy Or Reality?

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The first part of this article was published last Friday.

From the East to the West and from North to South, the presence of the various Christian missions were seen and felt in Nigeria and even beyond. They embarked on invaluable projects that impacted positively on the lives of the people, rather than embarking on meaningless projects and infrastructure. They had the interest and welfare of the people at heart. To them, the salvation of the souls of men was paramount, not money nor the worldly mundane things that would fizzle out when He will appear in His majesty and glory, with ten thousand of His saints according to the book of Jude. In places where the Christian missionaries lived and worked, schools, colleges and tertiary institutions were voluntarily and benevolently established. The schools were there for the asking, if you ask me.
In Calabar main town and at Itu, now in Cross River State for example, schools and skills acquisition centres were established by Saint Mary Slessor and the charismatic Hope Waddell of blessed memory. At Abeokuta and Badagry in the west where Gollmer, Henry Townsend and Samuel Ajayi Crowther – one of the early converts worked, schools and colleges were also established. The renowned CMS Grammar school in Lagos which, of course, was the first secondary school founded in Nigeria is a living witness to this assertion.
In order parts of Nigeria and Africa as a whole, the different Christian missions through their missionaries built free, affordable and magnet schools and colleges. For instance, the first University in West Africa called the Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, established by the Anglican Church, served the whole of West Africa before the establishment of the premier University College, Ibadan in Nigeria. This gesture of goodwill by the Christian missionaries no doubt brought Western education and civilisation closer to the people and to other parts of Africa. So, anyone born between 1920 and 1960 whose alibi is that he never had the opportunity of going to school at this period should be asking himself a question and taken to the psychiatric hospital for autism and asperger’s syndrome, because Western civilization and education where made free and compulsory at this time. Essentially, this was the white man’s modus operandi in fulfilling their mission or vision in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Thanks to Michael Crowder for much of what we know today about the dividends of planting of schools and colleges in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. According to him, “It is clear, therefore, that in Nigeria – as in other West African countries, the foundations and the early edifice of western education were the work of the Christian missions. It was from the early converts that the first African elites emerged to compete with the Europeans on their terms, who became the leaders of the Nigerian nationalist movements and helped to gain Independence for their countries from the colonial masters.”
Such educated Africans like – Herbert Macaulay, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Dr. Caseley Hayford and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sir Dauda Jawara of Gambia and Leopold Senghor of Senegal. Others include, Sekou Toure of Guinea, Felix Houphouet Boigny of Ivory Coast, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela of South Africa respectively were produced.
Speaking further on the effect, Crowder wrote, “these revolutionary forces essentially had influence on the subsequent development of Nigeria, the emergence of the Nigerian nationalists who started with marked intensification to take the control of the government from the British administrators.”
The Christian missionaries continued to surge, soar and becoming complacent with the structure already put in place, charitable hospitals and clinics were built to cater for the sick and the wounded people. They prayerfully dedicated these hospitals to the service of God and humanity. In the Eastern parts of Nigeria and even in the North, leprosy colonies and units were built, which took care of lepers living pitiable and wretched lives, and living in misery and in isolation in areas where they may be found. Succinctly put, the missionaries took care of the disabled like the blind people, the cripple, the deaf and dumb and also built orphanage homes where fatherless and motherless babies were taken care of. Above all, scholarships were given to the early converts to study medicine and nursing overseas, since they needed able, capable and competent doctors and nurses to run the hospitals and clinics effectively.
Furthermore, the Christian missionaries helped to promote the study of Nigerian languages, especially the three major languages such as – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and gave encouragement to the writing of these languages in order to enhance and promote Christianity. A million thanks to the early Christians and missionaries because through them and their works of charity, love and care and preaching of the word of God undiluted, many bad practices like the killing of twin babies, human sacrifices to appease gods and goddesses, the killing of slaves to accompany important chiefs and kings in their journey to the next world, and the secret cult brouhaha were suppressed and reduced to the barest minimum), if not totally eradicated in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
At this juncture, therefore, a perturbing and nagging question readily comes to mind – where is the love of God and his dear son Jesus Christ in our churches today? When church founders and leaders display lack of love and care for their members but are rather preoccupied with thoughts of how to acquire large hectares of land in major cities and suburbs for building magnificent, picturesque and breathtaking church auditoriums to the detriment of the teeming number of people who are apparently living on the breadline, wallowing and wobbling in abject poverty, cannot pay their children’s school fees let alone pay their house rent whenever it expires.
The pulpit and the pew as well should be careful. Christianity is a reality not a fantasy as projected and being portrayed by Christians in Nigeria. By the time we come to this realization and knowledge and stop converting the church into a cybercafe and a ballroom and begin to extol the virtues of love and care for one another like the early believers and Christians in Acts of the Apostles, stop being selfish and greedy, stop the aggressive tendency for power and title, emulate or follow the examples laid down by Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith and the way, the truth and the life and also toe the lines of the Christian missionaries who toiled, laboured and planted Christianity in Nigeria as beacons and crusaders of the Christian faith, otherwise, heaven would be an illusion and a mirage to so many irrespective of their religious inclination or persuasion, church, position they occupy, title they bear, or whatever they profess to be. Remember, God is not a respecter of any person or persons as much as we know. Heaven is for believers and Christians who have diligently kept and practised this new and of course the greatest commandment given by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself before his ascension into heaven, which says, “that ye love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. Note the repetition and use of the intransitive verb ­Love, the object is you and I. Jesus did not say we should love money, prodigious church building or auditorium or transient worldly mundane things that would not stand the test of time at his appearing. This new and greatest Messianic injunction or message, therefore, calls for an immediate U-turn, spiritual rebirth and a spiritual check-up of all unbelievers and professing Christians in Nigeria and, by extension, in South Africa where at present there is a brute force and morbid fascination of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians before it is too late. Looking at Christianity more closely and critically, it is not a fantasy, but a reality, a way of life and the hope of eternal life for true believers when all about life here is over and our work on earth is perfectly done to be with Christ ad-infinitum.
Concluded.
Owhorji wrote in from Port Harcourt.

 

Christian Owhorji

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Opinion

Leakages In Nigeria’s Economy

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During his tenure as Nigeria’s head of state, retired General Ibrahim Babangida confessed that he was surprised why the Nigerian economy had not collapsed, with all the bashing and buffeting from various quarters. What the retired General did not tell us or express any surprise about was what roles the military played in the precarious state of the nation’s economy during his tenure. Anyone who has read Major-General Jibril Musa Sarki’s work: Born to Rule (1999), would appreciate the roles of the military in Nigeria’s current state of affairs.
While recriminations and pointing of fingers would not take us anywhere, it is needful that on-going leakages and profligacies in the Nigerian economy be examined with honesty. We should also remind ourselves of Oliver Goldsmith’s prophetic poem: “Ill fares the land, to hastening ill, a prey, where wealth accumulates but men decay”. Perhaps, it is too late to remind ourselves of our wrong doings and negligences of the past, because we are not predisposed to doing anything to correct them.
It would be unnecessary to remind ourselves that Nigeria has worn the sad tag of corruption, but what is needful would be to examine the subtle ways that it is practised. Corruption goes beyond taking and giving bribes to get things done or to escape justice. Rather, corruption would include taking undue advantage of the trust, confidence, ignorance, docility and loop-holes of the masses and the social system, to cheat by those who manage the affairs of the nation. Leadership is a trust and those who abuse such trust lack integrity necessary for leadership. Must leadership be synonymous with cunning?
It is corruption and failed leadership where those who lead the masses would grow pot-belly through gourmandism while the masses grow lean and die because of starvation and unemployment. Crime rate increases where the masses are impoverished, with no alternative means of earning a legitimate living.
So much had been said and heard about looting and plundering of the nation’s wealth by various clever people, which was why General Babangida expressed surprise at the resilience of the economy. Of all heads of state, it was late General Sani Abacha who was called a looter while others are innocent patriots. Even the loots said to have been recovered end up being relooted by some smart alecks and smooth operators. Surely, only a small fraction of the plunderers and looters of the nation’s wealth come to light or get penalised. There is also the politics of plea-bargaining and joining the party in power to have a clean slate.
The milk-cow providing the enormous wealth fit to be plundered and looted, oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta, also run into the lair of Ali Baba. Thanks to Land Use Act and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), the people of Niger Delta can be content with sharing 3% annual allocation of oil profit with other communities where oil pipelines pass through. Who would say that oil pipelines, as well as the oil and gas industry, are not clever sources of economic leakages in Nigeria? Are such leakages not facilitated by some technical and legal jargon and ambiguities too hard for other stakeholders to understand?
Leakages in Nigeria’s economy can be described as haemorhage with regards to profligate spending of public funds on non-profit-yielding foreign travels by state officials. From pilgrimages to medical tours, the ways that funds have been lavishly spent in the past have not been fair to the declining state of the nation’s economy. What can be quite annoying in this regard is the lip service we pay to the concept of patriotism and accountability, whereby those supposed to manage the affairs of the nation with utmost prudence become hypocritical.
Even more annoying is the attitude of political office holders in not showing genuine concern over the state of the nation’s economy, if we use the current exchange rate of the Naira as a measure. When Chrysler, a leading American company, was close to bankruptcy in 1980, chief executive of that company, Lee Iacoca, among other measures, reduced his salary and allowances by 90% as a sacrifice to save the company. Iacoca did not feed fat or engage in foreign travels when his company was in crisis.
Here in Nigeria, Babangida as a military President, introduced a similar sacrifice to save the Nigerian economy. He declared a 20% cut in his salary and those of state governors under his regime, but average Nigerians knew that the measure was a window-dressing. Today, there is Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBUL) in Lapai, Niger State, asking for increment of tuition fees. Neither is Babangida alone in the ownership of private universities. Yet, Nigeria ranks as second poorest in food affordability, according to UK-based Institute of Development Studies.
Next to profligate and unmerciful squandering of public funds is the scandalous and unjustifiable remunerations packaged for political office holders by the out-gone military regime (1999). According to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), a Nigerian senator earns four times the salary of the President of the United States of America. Senator Shehu Sani disclosed that each senator gets N13.5 million monthly as running cost and N700,000 as salary, while there are several other allowances, plus N200 million as constituency allowance.
Then comes tax evasion and frauds by which the Nigerian nation loses enormous revenue annually. There are available research documents in various university libraries and archives, revealing clever ways that corporate tax evasions and frauds take place, such that even forensic auditors can be hood winked and out-witted. If the above listed sources of leakages and several others that we know little about are blocked, Nigeria may not go borrowing money here and there, as if we are a poor nation.
Honest and patriotic Nigerians are alarmed and uncomfortable about current borrowings and rising debt profile which place the future of this nation in a precarious position. What have we done with loots said to have been recovered over the years and what are we doing with the money being borrowed here and there? Perhaps, building of rail lines and feeding of school children take huge chunk of borrowed money and recovered loots. Meanwhile, the image of Nigeria and the current regime demand serious attention, with reference to pensions for governors, etc.

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

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Opinion

Go Get Vaccinated

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As at this time last year, the world was still on the threshold of inventing a safe vaccine for the novel Coronavirus disease, otherwise known as COVID-19.
The Chinese virus, as the erstwhile United States President, Donald Trump, once called it, had, soon after its manifestation in late 2019, caused the imposition of lockdowns in several countries across the world such that nearly crippled the global economy.
In its bid to check the daily high infection and death figures even as medical scientists searched to identify what virus could attack humans on such scale, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had issued an advisory for people to avoid handshakes while observing frequent hand washing with soap and running water or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers. At that time, the apex global health institution had not become sure of the virus being airborne which explains its delay in recommending the wearing of face mask in public. Even social distancing and sneezing into one’s bent elbow came with this later discovery.
Today, no fewer than seven COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by the WHO and are being distributed for use across the world. The more popular ones among them are Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and Russia’s Sputnik brand.
Since early March, Nigeria has continued to take delivery of varying quantities of doses of these drugs, particularly the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson brands. Largely donated by friendly foreign governments and some international agencies, their rollout has been smooth in the main, regardless of observed vaccine hesitancy among the people.
This attitude may not be unconnected with any one of the following factors. First, there are those who still hold strongly to the belief that all the news on Coronavirus is a hoax being peddled by politicians who aim to profit from funds raised to fight the disease. Second, there are others who fear that the vaccines were hastily manufactured and not sufficiently tested for any long-term side effects before their emergency release by the WHO and NAFDAC. They had looked up to the nation’s political leaders and health authorities to first get openly inoculated to assure them on the safety of the new drugs.
But even as this has since happened with frontline medics, Mr. President, his Vice, most state governors, their deputies and other top politicians getting the intramuscular injections in front of national television cameras, the attitude seems to persist. Again, it is unfortunate that just about the time the vaccines were beginning to be rolled out globally a new variety of the virus, tagged the Delta variant, was identified — seriously undermining the efficacy and suitability of the new drugs in the people’s estimation.
Third, let us also consider those who will naturally try to avoid the nurse’s syringe or ‘long needle’. Sincerely, I want to bet that if these vaccines had come in the form of tablets or capsules, there would have been a better turnout of people at the various administration sites. And fourth is the fact that there already exist lots of alarming stories about serious reactions and deaths of COVID-19 vaccine recipients abroad. Some countries, including India and South Africa, had been reported to halt the administration of certain brands of the vaccine on their citizens. Related to this is the case of a few Nigerians who complained of dizziness, nausea, headache, fever or pain after being inoculated. But these always vanish after a few days and have been described by physicians as normal vaccine reactions.
Now wait for this! It has also been observed that people have started selecting where to take the jabs based on the brand of vaccines available at such centres, while some others have opted to tarry a bit in expectation of the arrival of a certain yet-to-be-imported brand into the country. And this is as medical experts have continued to assure that, despite their different names and recommended doses, none of these COVID-19 vaccines is superior to the other.
In fact, available information indicates that the vaccines already being used in Nigeria are administered in two separate shots, except the Johnson & Johnson product which is a single-shot vaccine. It is essentially for this reason that the health authorities reserved it mainly for the elderly and those living in areas that suffer movement difficulties — such as riverine, desert and security-compromised communities – as they may not easily travel from their homes for a second jab of the other vaccines. Surely, this is good thinking! Or, don’t you agree?
Reports also have it that Nigeria is targeting to inoculate, in two years, 109 million persons of 18 years and above, including pregnant women. It is believed that this is the nation’s strategy to achieve early herd immunity among her citizens. If true, then the authorities will have already planned to fail woefully. This is because 109 million persons out of about 200 million population only translates to 54.5 per cent; which falls way below the 70-80 per cent threshold recommended by scientists to be immunised or acquire natural immunity in order to end the global pandemic or, at least, bring it down to epidemic level.
So far, Nigeria has taken delivery of less than 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the two largest hauls of 4 million coming from the WHO co-led COVAX initiative and the US Government, respectively. If about 9.8 million of these doses are indeed of the two-shot brands, then it means that technically, provision has only been made for a little over 4.9 million Nigerians. At this pace, if just that number is provided for in the six months between March and now, then it will translate to 19.6 million persons in two years. And this is far below the target.
As stated earlier, it is already worrisome that there exists much scepticism among the citizens; but government will also share in the guilt if early volunteers are made to wait beyond the prescribed 3-4 weeks interval to get a second shot. While it may not be enough to blame lack of cold storage facilities, I think there is still the need for governments to step up their sensitisation of the people.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

Jumping The Gun

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It is a cheering news, to wit: “Nigeria Set To Begin Export Of Vehicle Parts, Heavy-Duty Metals” – ref. The Tide: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Zeetin, a Nigerian precision engineering company, whose Managing Director is Azibaola Robert, told Nigerians that his company signed an export Memorandum of Understanding with a Turkish-American Company, JMT Ltd, to export Zeetin’s products to other countries. Robert told us that: “this is the first time a Nigerian engineering and manufacturing company will start exporting heavy-duty metal products, spares to the international market”.
Any patriotic Nigerian would be glad to hear such news, rather than something saddening such as acts of banditry and brigandage. With the export of Zeetin vehicle parts and heavy-duty metals, “overall, Nigeria will be the ultimate beneficiary”. Hopefully, JMT Limited, while taking the responsibility of exporting and marketing Zeetin products, would have satisfied itself that the products are of international standards. It would not be enough for a precision engineering company to manufacture products, but there is also an additional responsibility of quality assurance.
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) would obviously have satisfied itself that Zeetin products are of international standards. Therefore, credit must go to an indigenous Zeetin precision engineering company for being the first to export heavy-duty metal products and we hope that it would be a proud beginning; not Ajaokuta Steel!
Common stages involved in every project, including precision engineering works, would cover risk analysis, project design, implementation and then monitoring and evaluation. Purposes of monitoring and evaluation include getting factual and comprehensive feedback with regards to the performance of products sent out into the market. For manufacturing companies, lots of resources are spent on the feedback process, to ensure customer satisfaction and product sustainability. Complaints from customers and users are taken seriously so that corrections and improvements can be made.
At a seminar in the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, a long time ago, some useful facts emerged with regards to the common reactions of developing countries, to criticisms. Monitoring and evaluation process would obviously involve pointing out lapses calling for correction and improved strengthening. The emphasis was that criticism should not be seen as acts of aggression or hostility, but as opportunity for corrections and improvements. It takes maturity and a big heart to learn from scathing criticism.
With regards to product quality, developing countries, including Nigeria, have been known to have some lingering lapses, despite improved diligence. When there were talks in the recent times about Nigeria going to manufacture cars and aircraft, a former Nigerian diplomat swore that he, nor any of his grand children, would travel by such vehicle. Be it a joke or reality, his remark represents the attitude of many Nigerians towards local products. It is not always a question of ability or absence of it, but something else, quality included.
At the aforementioned seminar in the London school, there was a comment about “jumping the gun”, being a reference to an attitude of setting out long before the dawn. There is usually a difference between having an ability, and having the readiness to apply it, at the most appropriate time. Jumping the gun would mean embarking on a mission before one is ready enough to do so. Such haste may arise from vanity or some other weakness. It may not be wrong to take some risks or announce some breakthrough, but let it not be for “show” purposes.
In the management of development process, what is known as felt-need theory includes the practice of addressing needs and necessities according to the order of priority. Priority rating of a need would include the level of threat posed and the number of people involved. Commonsense understanding and assessment of a priority would mean “doing first thing first”. As First-Aid instructors would say. If threat to life is involved, then life-saving measures would be more appropriate priority than spending time in arguments while situation gets worse. You don’t go after rats while a house is on fire!
There was a time, a few years ago, when products packaged and exported from Nigeria were rejected abroad on the ground of not meeting international standards. Such products were not vehicle parts or heavy-duty metals. A major complaint about Nigerian-made products has always pointed towards “finishing and packaging”, which carry the tag of “poorly done”. There have been complaints that Nigerians rarely take serious pains to give a “good finishing” to what they produce. Products carry signatures of their origins and producers!
The endeavours and exploits of Zeetin have been used in this article as a means to examine what real progress means. That there are differences among individuals, nations, cultures and races, count as blessings and assets, rather than liabilities. Real progress shows in the development and advancement of what is indigenous to a people, rather than in copying and adopting foreign things, including engineering technology. Such progress begins with development of a right sense of beauty, not as a caricature but as an infallible signpost for knowing what exhibits harmony and creates joy. Beauty, Harmony, Joy!
People often strive in vain, and motivated by vanity, to copy and adopt what is not indigenous to their culture. Much time and resources are spent on wanting to follow the train of fashion, while efforts are rarely made to identify and develop indigenous talents. Obviously, every distinct group of people have unique endowments, peculiar to them, serving as their contribution to collective humanity. Harmony arises where differences in kind give their best to build up the whole through complementarily. Wherever one endeavour complements another, harmony arises.
Rather than be rooted in our native soil, culture and peculiar endowments, we copy and reproduce what is alien and borrowed from those we consider better. Such lifestyle of imitation is a major drawback for Nigeria. We progress better by being rooted in what we truly are and then build up from the grassroots; not by borrowing, copying or imitating what others had developed. From engineering works, to governance and health issues, there are indigenous and local content components that can give added values, if we Don’t Jump the Gun.

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

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