From inception in 1960 through to the 1990s, except for the years of the civil war, October 1, in Nigeria was largely celebrated as a national carnival. It was arguably the biggest event on the calendar of national event, in the country. The National Day was usually observed much like a religious festival that commanded enthusiastic participation from its adherents. Nigerian was the deity and Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or tongue, religious, political or sectional learning, were the devotees.
In those days, Nigeria’s call to obey the dictates of self determination and national cohesion through allegiance to the corporate entity was acceded by all and sundry in jubilant participation in the activities of October 1 at all levels of our national life. Spearheaded by the Federal Government, governments at other cadres, ethnic nationalities, socio-cultural groups, religious organizations, corporate entities, institutions and even individuals struggled to outperform one another in rolling out the drums to celebrate our nationhood.
Regrettably, the times have since changed. The drums don’t sound as loud anymore. The echoes of the lowering of the union jack and the hoisting of the Green-White-Green 59 years ago have since receded. And all, including to Central administration in the country, have progressively relegated October 1 to just one of the dates of commemorative activities to fulfill all righteousness.
Exchanging views with The Tide in Port Harcourt on the changing face of the celebration of National Day, a senior citizen of Rivers State, Amaopuseribo BoboSofiri Brown went down memory lane to give a perspective of the situation.
According to him, at the heart of the general mood of the country towards October 1 at any given time was largely the prevalent economic fortune of the country. He said while Nigerians were united by a common fate in economic circumstances at the beginning, they have since been torn apart by inequities and inequality introduced by successive governments that have made some super rich and others desperately poor.
“In the 1960 environment, Nigeria meant a lot of hope to Nigerians; it meant possibilities of progress; it meant a challenge to be the best we could be”, Amaopusenibo Brown said, adding that the competition among the regional governments at independence was dictated by their desire to achieve economic prosperity for their people.
In the 1970s, he said “Independence meant a national day of significance to Nigerians because after the war the new states that were created focused on growing their economies. Children went to school without delay and those who wanted jobs queued up jobs while those who wanted skills development had opportunity to do so”.
Brown who is a managing consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Grain Consulting regretted that “Today, Nigeria has become a country where we’re creating a few millionaires and hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken population. Such divide did not exist in the sixties and the seventies.
“Today, the divide is so sharp, those Nigeria works for, you could count them by the number of private aircraft at the airport. Those Nigeria doesn’t work for; you could count them by the number of human beings stranded by the road whose faces portray the agony of a country without an economy. That is what is affecting the celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day”.
He emphasized that “Nigeria needs to work for everybody, not for a few which has been the case since 1999 (and) it is the economy that gives prosperity and happiness to people”.
On whether we have made sufficient effort at attaining nationhood, the veteran journalist expressed the view that the most important element of political independence was economic freedom and that political self determination would probably be meaningless if it does-not translate into economic wellbeing for the generality of the people.
“Different groups have different understanding of what Nigeria’s political independence means. For instance, those who are becoming millionaires, the cabal that manufacturing millionaires from our sufferings by taking away public resources and appropriating it for their own self benefit will say to you our nation is fantastic, Nigeria is great. But those of us who have been emasculated as a result of the blood taken out of us to make a few millionaires will say to you ‘Nigeria is not working’ “political independence doesn’t make the same sense to us because every year we see our quality of life diminishing”.
On how to change the narrative, Amaopusenibo Brown said “first and foremost, we have to come to an understanding that we the dispossessed, we the deprived, we the cheated must begin to assert ourselves and to say government must work for all of us and not for a few who have power.
“We must no longer be deceived by the issue of fake party identity. This matter is not about APC or PDP or ACC or whatever party name. The political elite recycle themselves. We the deprived must also rise and see through their cover. So we must begin to demand that whatever government we have, there are needs that must be placed as priorities.
“In terms of public agenda: first is for the deprived people to assert themselves by making their demands known. Second is that demand must draw public attention to the need to build an economy that will create jobs; that will create business opportunities. We must invest in industry in the economy and then education will fall into place.
“Our people must refuse to be hoodwinked by the differentiation of party labels. All the parties are the same political elite. They have kept us in poverty since 1999. That is why all of us must join hands to say any party must give us an economic agenda which we must enforce; that it places the Nigerian citizen first.
The critical thing for Nigerians today at this Independence, and in the future, is to demand from every state government, from every federal government that we have five years of fundamental investments in the industries in our economy to give our people life, to give our people meaning and to give them freedom which was what 1960, October 1 meant to our people”.
In his own response, Dr Emmanuel Iruayenama, a Chattered Arbitrator and Management Consultant in the Rivers State capital opined that the warning glory of the October 1 celebration may not be unconnected to successive governments ‘inability to deliver good governance and an-enhanced standard of living to the people.
According to DrIruayenama, the dwindling emphasis on the National Day celebration is not only an indication of the widening gap between government and the people but also a sign of the breaking of the bond between them.
He said even though he could not understand why the usual elaborate celebration has shrunk, “one thing I can get from it is an attempt by government to continuously run away from the people”, adding that the development has adversely affected the patriotic level of the people.
“It has reduced patriotism to a large extent. The looking up to October 1 was a stimulant to patriotism”, he said, adding that the opportunity for a robust demonstration of attachment to the nation by citizens should not be allowed to slide and urged the federal government to quickly bring back the days of elaborate celebration of the independence day.
He said for a country that has incrementally been divided along ethnic, religious and political lives, “an opportunity like October 1 celebration is one of such strong ties that gave people the opportunity to show their attachment to the nation, and except we do something about it, we will keep moving away from being together”.
DrIruayenama urged the government to give priority to the National Day of Independence over such other later day events as Democracy Day and Inauguration Day because of the centrality of the former to the very foundation and unity of the country.
October 1 is more central to all of us”, he declared while commending Pastor Chris Oyakhulome and his congregation for their effort at maintaining a robust celebration each year.
In his own view, a university don and acting Director of the Prof Claude Ake School of Governance, University of Port Harcourt, Dr. SofiriPeterside said the lull in celebration does have some implication for the country, especially for the younger generation; even as he went down memory lane.
“In our time it was the liberation stadium, then you go to where you have the Isaac Boro Park. And it is something that every pupil look forward to.
“I attended St John’s State School at Bishop Johnson Street, Port Harcourt. You know carrying that kind of flag and every person looking forward to go into the stadium. So there is that enthusiasm in the minds of the young people and we watch military parade and all that.
“But now there is this argument that you know there is so much economic crisis and security issues too. So why do we spend that kind of money? No! We need to celebrate it because in that kind of celebration it creates the spirit of oneness.
Peterside, who is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology at the University of Port Harcourt told The Tide that the celebration is key to accentuate the spirit of solidarity, nay inculcate in the minds of her citizens, especially the younger generation the spirit of patriotism.
Dr. Peterside says, “It creates the spirit of solidarity and patriotism and young people now know that yes this is our country and the need to love her. And a lot of people who paid some sacrifice, some of them supreme sacrifice to get us to where we are.
“So that kind of celebration with pump and pageantry is very necessary because it has to do with nationhood, celebration of nationhood and of course government also charting a direction and a part to where we are going.”
Taking it all round therefore, for a country still grappling with a myriad of problems and challenges chiefly of which are security and the economy, yet peering into the future with high hopes of achieving greatness, slowing down an independence celebration is not the way to go.
Dr. Peterside insisted that for nothing else that the country is still together despite contending with several glitches over the years, her 59th Independence Anniversary is worthy of celebration; noting that coming up with excuses over time for not celebrating is in itself a major problem.
“But when you slow down all those, it is a fundamental problem sociologically speaking. I think that there is no excuse for government for not celebrating. For one thing, particularly for our country that we are still one irrespective of our very fundamental challenges that we have.
“That we have not gone our separate ways. I think that is worth celebrating,” the senior university lecturer explained.
For Mr. Adeola Ikuomola, bad governance, poor economy, insecurity among others are responsible for the waning patriotism and lukewarm attitude towards the celebration of Independence Day by Nigerians.
He made the assertion in a chat with The Tide in Port Harcourt.
MrIkuomola noted that many Nigerians had even forgotten about the Independence Day celebrations, arguing that the celebration has been reduced to mere frivolity by the perceived government insensitivity to the plight of the people and have consequently lost its importance.
He said people prefer to fight for their daily livelihood than attend to Nigeria’s affairs. “Those to celebrate Independence have no clothes to put on, no food to eat and are generally hopeless about the state of the nation, how do you expect them to celebrate?” Ikuomola queried.
Describing the situation as unfortunate, the poet stated that hunger, poverty, unemployment and infrastructural problems should be tackled by the government, saying that when the citizens have job and food security, they would serve the nation. They would also have the sense of patriotism to take part in national celebrations.
“Independence Day celebration has lost its relevance due to bad governance “,he said.
The Ondo State born writer posited that the Independence Day is like the birth day of the country and insisted that efforts should be made by relevant authorities to revive the celebrations, saying it is part of national identity and heritage.
“Nigerian independence day celebrations must be organized regularly with the funfares it requires despite our predicament”, he added.
He equally noted that he grew up and saw Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, status, creed, religion and political affiliations embraces one another and celebrated Independence Day.
According to him,” the independence day used to be a memorable day that united Nigerians, fostering love and togetherness “.
The prolific writer of poems alerted that the dreams of the founding fathers have been betrayed by successive governments for not doing things right.
He called on the leaders of the country to always put the people first in all they are doing.” They should reinvigorate the spirit of the NigerianIndependence especially in our schools and show commitment of purpose in all governmentbusinesses,” Mr. Ikuomola reiterated.
Opaka Dokubo, Dennis Nakus & Tamunoiminabo Fynaface
31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.
One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”
Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.
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