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Of Nomenclature And Omenclature

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The principle of poetic licence allows the acceptance of Omenclature as the attachment of meanings to events, the same way that nomenclature is a system of naming of things on the basis of correspondence or affinity. Surely, names have symbolic meanings and significance, even though some people would say that there is nothing in a name, since rose remains rose, no matter what name it may bear. Nature of events suggest the names and meanings attached to them.
A British lady, Flora Shaw, a mistress to Frederick Lugard, was said to have coined the name Nigeria in an article she wrote in The Times newspaper in 1897. The name, depicting Royal Niger Company’s territories, was compressed to Nigeria, or Niger area. So it came to be a nomenclature we have borne and cherished as a nation, even though the Royal Niger Company is no more. It remains a tag!
While we may not blame our enslavers and colonisers for all the ills we have borne in the past and present, it is pertinent that we bear certain issues in mind. Among such issues is the fact that colonialism had a deliberate propensity as well as an audacity to denigrate the people of colonised territories. Such denigration manifested in the changes of local and traditional names and places. A proud Kunta Kinte was forced to bear the name Toby and Port Harcourt named after an alleged rapist, as an image laundering therapy.
Recent suggestion about changing the name of Nigeria deserves some fair hearing, with no bias or bitterness. Rather, such a change is a deeply-felt need because, the name evokes unpleasant memories. Not many historians emphasise the truth that serious atrocities were committed against the communities in West Africa before and after the abolition of slave trade. Colonialism and evangelism which followed thereafter were not only image-laundering activities, but also another phase of an old propensity. There was a picture of savage tribes!
While a change of name may not obliterate the inhumanity and hypocrisy associated with colonialism and imperialism, it may have some symbolic or psychological effect. The fore-fathers of the people bearing the name Nigeria were not consulted when the name was coined, neither did they associate any pride or meaning with the name. Expeditionary forces by the Royal Niger Company resulting in the “capturing” of various communities were associated with acts of brigandage and brutality. The memory remains!
There is a need to re-examine some past bonds, practices and inheritances which lie as burdens on our memories and mindset. True development includes liberation from forced impositions such as names and alien practice. Let it not be forgotten that enslavement of the Black race by alien groups arose from a long-held belief that inferior races should be “liberated by force from state of savagery”.
Such-forced liberation of “inferior people” from their pathetic state of savagery and docility was seen as a civilizing or missionary activity. The stereotype or mindset arising from such belief system still persists in the modern time under the common name of racial bias, and in various guises. During the American War of Independence, a courgeous Black soldier took over command of a battalion from a cowardly White commander, and achieved greater success. That marked the beginning of change of attitude towards the Black race. It is a slow process!
Othello, the Moor of Venice was hired by the Venetian state to command its army in Cyprus. It was based on the same colour prejudice that Iago, a crafty mercenary, plotted to ruin Othello after he married Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian senator. The Moors of olden days were semi-black people of Arab origin and very courageous and strong.
It is obvious that drastic changes are taking place in the affairs of men and nations, demanding the re-visiting of possible lapses and beliefs of past eras. Thus, nations that continue to be rigid and insensitive to the imperative of embracing necessary changes get jolted by sudden events. The fact that the current president of the United States of America was booed recently should remind everybody that the “collective” is greater than the individual.
Collective Nigerians would have expected that leaders of the nation would recognise the enormity of the plight of the masses and then take visible steps to bring succour and confidence. Rather, the news about the president travelling from one country to another for medical check-up blurs the patriotism of Nigerians. Rather than spend public funds on foreign medical vacation, Nigerians would be better impressed if medical facilities here would be improved.
Like the change from Bristish sterling to Naira in 1973, Nigerian monetary system may not have witnessed any improvement; there was a satisfaction of dropping an alien name. There may be no harm in bearing an English or Arabic names as a result of what we had inherited, a number of national leaders, including late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had changed their first or surnames. Such changes are meant to reflect the pride of having indigenous names whose meanings and significance are closer to be bearers.
Therefore, the suggestion about changing the name of the country to reflect indigenous meaning and reality is proper, deserving attention. Ghana which used to be called Gold Coast bore a name reminiscent of exploitation and commercialism. Without casting aspersion on the Royal Niger Company of old and its activities, any name reminiscent of the old colonial ideology deserves to be considered for a change. A name may not be jinxed, but the memory which a name evokes can bias the mind. Nigerian leaders rarely recognise the antics of their old predators and enslavers.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Nigeria Under The General’s Command

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When the PUNCH Newspaper chose to address the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, as a Major General, the newspaper’s decision generated a variety of mixed comments and reactions across the country and abroad particularly on the social media with a significant majority backing the newspaper while a minority criticised it.
To those who saw it as a figure of speech, depicting the president’s acts as one not in tandem with democratic norms, it is a subtle way of telling the president that he runs a government which does not observe the rule of law.
Definitely, that may not have been intended as a compliment no matter the spin, but without any untoward suggestion, the decision to prefix Buhari’s name with Major General, the writer suspects, could as well have been adopted to awaken the president’s consciousness to the fact that the nation whose leadership he presides at the moment, acknowledges and recognises him in that regard.
It also expects him to live out such position in the nation’s fight against insurgency. Afterall, the Armed Forces Act and other military conventions state that “once a General is always a General even when no longer in active service.” This goes to explain that Generals are, by experience and training, men of courage. They are hardy perennials; men who have distinguished themselves over the years in the field of battle.
They are military tacticians who devise the ways and means for defeating the enemy. Great Generals fear no foe, even those battle-ready and well-equipped. Suffice it to say that Nigeria is blessed to have a retird ‘General’ presiding over its affairs at such a time as this. The country is thus inexcuseable should it fail to profer solution to this lingering menace of insurgency.
Femi Aribisala of Premìum Times, writing on “ The National And The Government Interest” , September 11, 2018, said “ It is always necessary to remember that, before Buhari became president, he was a general. “As a matter of fact, our dear president has been, for the major part of his life, more general than president.
Therefore, if the popular Nigerian axiom would say that : “once a senator, always a senator;” it becomes even more appropriate to say: “once a General, always a General. President Buhari was, is, and always shall be, a General”, he concluded.
Let us not forget that the ex-army general was propelled to Nigeria’s top job five years ago with promises of fixing pervasive insecurity, his confidence was basically premised on his military background especially having attained the highest echelon of his career as a General.
When he ran for president the fourth time in 2015, he was sold as the experienced war commander who had the magic wand to make Boko Haram terrorists disappear. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and their supporters confidently said that he would end the terrorist attacks in the North -East in three months.
Given his military track record, only very few people could doubt his ability. On this premise, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians thronged the streets of Nigeria to celebrate Muhammadu Buhari’s historic win in the presidential election of 2015, hoping the country’s problems would end soon.
His words few days in office, “Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will, we shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism,” were signets of war lords, like his title indicated, who had gone, seen and conquered. His initial exhibitions on assumption of office, such as the relocation of the country’s military command from Abuja to Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, highlighted him as a General with a sense of direction.
With some gains recorded by the military within a short period, such as the recovery of lost territories, there were high hopes of a timely end to the menace of insurgency. Unfortunately, the honeymoon seemed shortlived, as Boko Haram regrouped, carried out vicious attacks, over ran military bases and killing security operatives.
All these are in addition to herders-farmers clashes erupting across states, leading to the killing of hundreds and displacement of thousands. Till date, a replay of the words of a renowned writer, Nosa Igiebor, reveals that the statistics of innocent Nigerians who suffer violent death, horrible injuries, and mass dislocation and displacement daily are quite numbing.
Yet, the government’s impotence, incoherence and self-inflicted confusion in dealing with the scourge appear damning. This is in spite of an earlier move by the federal government to rev up the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, in which it procured 30 aircraft and six helicopters for the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
We were also informed that the federal government has deployed drones to the nation’s borders in the north-east to combat the Boko Haram insurgency. Unfortunately, the Air Force says it could not open fire during the Boko Haram attack in Garkida, a town in Gombi Local Government Area of Adamawa State, for fear of killing innocent people.
The lawmaker representing Gombi constituency in Adamawa State House Of Assembly, Japhet Kefas, has said, “It is true people are fleeing Garkida because they are afraid government is weak and has failed to protect the lives and property of the people. Only five soldiers were stationed in the area used by the insurgents and they killed three of the soldiers.
Like the proverbial unprofitable barber, is it that the scissors is not sharp or the barber not proficient in his job? If with all the weapons of war at our disposal, we still lack the courage to advance in a battle led by a ‘General’, is it under the control of an idle civilian that we can strike?

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Checking Indiscriminate Waste Disposal

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Since the beginning of time, people have needed to find a way of disposing their trash. It is imperative to note that proper waste disposal is important to ensure safety of life and avoid possible health hazards.
Indiscriminate waste disposal is an improper way or manner by which individuals and organizations get rid of their trash. These practices include dumping refuse by the roadside, along streets, on major roads, as well as in various rivers. Solid waste generation has greatly improved to an uncontrollable rate in the society, this happens due to human daily activities and economic activities.
Due to inadequate waste disposal methods, dumping of refuse in unauthorized places is now the order of the day. Overpopulation, industrial revolution and urbanization have become major causes of waste generation as well as improper waste disposal.
Lack of appropriate storage facilities , unavailability of proper waste management and planning ,wrong perception by residents and nonchalant attitude toward the environmental cleaning and sanitation, is also a cause of this indiscriminate waste disposal.
The problem of indiscriminate waste disposal has brought so much pain and ills to the environment and society at large. We can point fingers at the outbreak of various epidemics, infectious diseases, and other human environmental degradation such as flooding, drainage obstruction and waterway blockages in most parts of the country like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Aba, etc. It has been noted that heaps of littering trash are in virtually all market areas, on the streets and even on the roadside and these wastes remain there for many weeks without devising any means of waste collection, either by private individuals or the government.
Some areas have also been abandoned when inspections are going on by the government, or even during environmental sanitation. I assume such attitude is an act of negligence on the part of waste disposal agencies or the environment ministry.
Waste management and indiscriminate waste disposal is one menace that has to be curbed with immediate effect, and checkmating the activities of persons who dispose waste products in an improper way, must be done from the grassroots level. It is a joint effort from both the government and citizens of the nation and this must start from the family.
Government should focus on collection of waste products from households. They should encourage homes and individuals to bag their wastes in plastic bags as this would help to avoid littering.
Most people drop biscuit wrappers, cans, bottles and water sachets by the roadside in cars and on highways, which is why the government should move and foster for a cleaner and healthier environment.
There should be adequate financing for each state to support and help them in waste disposal projects. Waste bins must be placed in strategic areas on streets and communities for effective monitoring.
Illiteracy and low level of education is another factor that can constrain the thinking of most citizens. For instance, in places such as GRA, Victoria Island, and other known places where the supposed educated elite reside, and do daily business, inadequate waste disposal or improper refuse dumping is barely seen or is at the lowest because they know the dangers of the act and how littered their environment can be. But in these places where the average or low class citizens live, it is on a high range, therefore, proper sensitization and advocacy programs should be done to educate the general public as to why they should disease from dumping waste indiscriminately.
The government should also encourage individuals who set up private waste collection agencies by reducing taxes paid and also workers of the ministry of environment. They should clean these wastes from the roadside from time to time, and be encouraged by increasing their take home pay. This would enable them see the work as a responsibility and thereby curb nonchalance.
Laws and sanctions should be made to discourage persons who engage indiscriminate waste disposal. Persons could be arrested and persecuted by a court if they flaunt orders. Fines can also be issued depending on the level of offence by anyone who is caught.
Apart from all these measures mentioned above, the government should also encourage practice such as recycling of industrial waste products such as cans, bottles, papers, clothes, etc. Also, biowaste products which include those materials that can decay such as food items, leaves, banana peels should be biologically turned into manure and fertilizers.
This is why the government should set up recycling agencies and also monitor the collection of this waste to avoid improper disposal.
Unlawful solid waste dumping in the society must be checkmated. There is an urgent need for government and private stakeholders to implement policies that can prevent the littering of waste in the environment. Human health and the environment need to be safe guarded from unsustainable conditions which are caused by indiscriminate waste disposal in our society.
The government alone does not have the responsibility of checking indiscriminate waste disposal also it is the duty of every organization and individual to take it upon themselves to keep the environment healthy and clean.
Dennar is a student of Abia State University, Uturu.

 

Ngozi Dennar

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Opinion

Promoting Our Mother Tongue

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It’s that time of the year when attention is paid to the importance of mother tongue and the need to promote, protect and preserve the languages of people of the world. Following the killing of some students of Bangladesh on February 21, 1952, during a protest for the recognition of their language, Bangla, as a national language, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at its 30th General Assembly on 17th November, 1999, resolved that their death day be commemorated globally as International Mother Language Day.
The United Nations recognizes that languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing the people’s tangible and intangible heritage. It encourages all moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues as that will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multi-language education, but also help to develop further awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
Events like this should be used to assess how we have promoted indigenous languages in Nigeria. What measures are being taken to promote the study of Nigeria’s local languages which are fast going into extinction?
At an event recently, the President of the Institute of Project Managers of Nigeria, Dr Victoria Okoronkwo, raised alarm over what she called an emerging trend which might lead to loss of local language and dialects, if urgent measures were not taken to check it.
Okoronkwo disclosed that studies showed that 60% of most Nigerian profound dialect speakers are above 50. Quoting a United Nations report, she said the percentage of children that speak local dialects is thinning down. “This may result in loss of our identity, our culture, our moral values and heritage. Hence, preserving our dialects is an important national challenge that requires our urgent and collective responsibility”.
Similarly, other experts had revealed that most Nigerian indigenous languages would be extinct in the next three decades, while about 90 per cent of them were projected to be replaced by dominant languages.
Observations show that many people no longer speak their dialects. Many parents, especially the educated ones, do not communicate with their children in their dialect and really don’t care if their children speak their language or not. All they want is for their children to speak English and other foreign languages.
Beyond this is the worrisome attitude of some people making a person who speaks his or her language feel inferior. A young woman recently narrated how her friends who are all from the same ethnic group with her, mocked her whenever she spoke her native language in their midst. For being proud of her language they nicknamed her, “bushmo” indicating that she is a primitive, local girl.
Language is defined as arbitrary oral symbols by which a social group interacts, communicates and self, expressed. It enshrines the culture, customs and secrets of the people. So, instead of looking down on people who speak their language, and making them feel their language is something to be ashamed of, we should try to instill pride in them and emulate them.
Countries like China, India, Brazil, and Japan have used their indigenous languages to excel, why can’t Nigeria do the same? Three years ago, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, announced the Federal Government’s plan to promote pupils’ interest in Mathematics and science subjects through the teaching of these subjects in indigenous languages. He said that lack of economic growth and development will continue to stare the country in the face if science, technology and innovation are not given serious attention.
He observed that prior to enrollment in schools where they are taught in foreign languages, pupils grow up with their indigenous languages at home. As a result, there is usually a challenge to understand the foreign language first before they could even start understanding what they are being taught. He attributed pupils’ low interest in Mathematics and science subjects to this challenge and posited that teaching these subjects in indigenous languages will help students to understand Mathematics and science subjects and also promote the application of science and technology. Three years down the road, we are still waiting for materialization of the well cheered plan.
Prior to that there was the 2004 National Policy on Education which stated that government would ensure that the medium of instruction in pre-primary and primary would be principally the mother tongue. According to the policy, the medium of instruction for primary education shall be the language of the environment and same for junior secondary where it has orthography and literature.
The big question then is, what effort has federal, state and local governments made to implement this and other similar policies? How far have they gone with the development of orthography for many more Nigerian languages as well as protection and promotion of our indigenous languages?
There is need for conscious and concerted efforts by all levels of government to promote the teaching of our languages and inclusion of same in the school curricular. Other States should toe the steps of Rivers State which recently inaugurated a technical committee on modalities for the teaching of indigenous languages in public schools in the state. This initiative, if followed through, will no doubt see to the revival and promotion of indigenous languages in Nigeria.
However, the policy should not be restricted to only public schools. It should be extended to private schools with thorough monitoring to ensure compliance as many of them are very good at promoting foreign languages, cultures and ideas at the expense of our own.
In addition to these, national dialect essay competitions should be organized regularly both at all levels of government, to promote the use of our dialects in the best grammatical way possible. This will ensure sustenance and preservation of the dialects. Most importantly, we need reorientation of our minds in order to take pride in our languages and preserve them. If we as owners of these languages do not stand up to ensure that they do not die, who will?

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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