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.
Abia’s Burden Of Prejudice
Prejudice, defined as preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual evidence, like cynicism and pessimism, is weighty and burdensome. Prejudice is cancerous. It breeds discontentment and leaves one disconcerted. It also negates sound judgment and makes the victim forlorn.
Cyril, a real friend (though in pseudonym), has gone mad again!
Cyril reminds me of David’s outcry in Psalms 135:16-18: “They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusted in them.”
Prior to the 2015 and 2019 General Elections, respectively, Cyril would not hear anything good about the candidature of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. He loathed him with passion and wouldn’t give him a chance. When I engaged Cyril, then, he had his prejudiced views though laced with “they say…”
Cyril, like his kinds, has never met Ikpeazu and knows little or nothing about him. They read no positive news about Abia State; even when they do, they mock the success stories and hype the failures! Like the Man Friday that they are, they take in hook, line and sinker, every negative media propaganda in disfavour of Abia State.
On the expiration of Gov. Ikpeazu’s first term, I met Cyril to seek his appraisal of the four-year term… True to his type, Cyril was still bitter! Why? I asked him…even with the landmark road infrastructure…over 70 finished roads? Over 300 renovated schools? Manpower development? Cyril wouldn’t hear any of these achievements. He was adamant. “Ikpeazu has done nothing…” he thundered! He is not good enough to rule Abia State… I knew he will fail and he has failed…” He enthused, rather comically. Hmm! I pressed on to know his reasons for such hatred but my friend couldn’t explain to me. I concluded he had no reason other than sheer prejudice and an unmitigated urge for malfeasance!
I fast forward to last month…I called on my friend Cyril, once again, to know if his impressions about Gov. Ikpeazu has changed. I drew his attention to the Osikapa (Rice Mill) revolutions and the fact that we have our brand of rice everywhere in Abia State. I told him of the Poultry Clusters in Umuosu and the cheering 1000 CBN trainees already engaged. I informed him of the state -of – the -art, ongoing machinery installations at the Automated Shoe factory…and what I thought was a piece of good news …that the 30 China trainees will have a place to practise their skill. Even the fact that they are already involved in the installation activities, did not mean anything to Cyril!
I reminded Cyril of the attendant benefits of these low cost, pro-poor but landmark infrastructural provisions of the Ikpeazu government. I did tell him of the value chain benefits of these poultry clusters and the automated shoe factory, but Cyril wouldn’t budge. His reasons… Ikpeazu is a failure! Ikpeazu must fail …Ikpeazu is bound to fail!
Haba, Cyril! You mean there is nothing cheering in all that the Governor has achieved in less than one year of his second term?
Maybe I can heal Cyril’s maniacal disorders, I thought. I took Cyril to Osusu Road in Aba that was fixed recently and told him also that the government has asked Setraco to return to Faulks Road and complete the work for commissioning. I reminded him of the Umuene-Umuoba Road. I also informed him that Golden Guinea Breweries has begun full-scale production just as Arab Contractors is speedily working on the Umuahia-Ubakala-Aba Road.
Still, Cyril remained cynical!
Since Cyril is worried for health/social infrastructural deficit. I informed Cyril about the Telehealth Initiative…an amazing, ingenious innovation of Gov. Ikpeazu’s.
I lectured Cyril on the imports of the scheme: just dial a number and a doctor will attend to you! No need to take a bed in the hospital. No need struggling with the logistics of transportation and all that. Above all, it is powered by the renowned Globacom and the scheme has already kicked off!
I reminded Cyril that the social investment thrust of Gov Ikpeazu entails an equitable distribution of resources bottom up, through needful empowerment and skills acquisition programmes, and the consolidation of wealth through the provision of infrastructure and other enablers like security, etc.
I took Cyril to my village in Umunkwo Ikem Nvosi in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area and showed him our Village Hall built through the CSDP/World Bank intervention grants. I informed him that, for laudable feats as this, the World Bank just recently gave kudos to Abia State for their diligence in managing the World Bank-assisted projects in the state. I thought Cyril will change his mind but all he could do was to sigh, hiss and in acquisance murmured …and so what?
Thereafter, Cyril walked away!
Inukwa…! Is Cyril under a spell?
Although my list is longer, I couldn’t stand the inanity of Cyril’s cynicism.
Cyril is, therefore, a metaphor of Abians who see nothing good in the achievements made by Ikpeazu with the little resources at his disposal. Cyril captures the picture of the few Abians who are quick to celebrate mediocre projects in other states but lampoon excellence in their state.
Cyril is “Everyman” that is in enmity with everything progressive. Cyril represents “Everyman” whose actions or inactions are antithetical to the systematic, impactful, pro-poor projects of the Ikpeazu administration.
Cyril is you …ndi Abia cynics …ndi ekweghi ekwe Abia that see nothing good in Ikpeazu’s spirited efforts to transform Abia State.
Maybe I should reiterate it, once more; Abia State is work-in-progress. We are not near our destination but we have covered some milestones!
Given your encouragements, co-operation, albeit responsible criticisms, the trajectory will be nothing but progressive progressions; Onward ever, backward never!
Would you rather let go of that impedance called prejudice and embrace objectivity? Would you rather shift from that paradigm of darkness unto the sunny side of life?
If you can’t see, can’t you feel it?
The sign is everywhere… that Ikpeazu won’t leave us the way he met us!
Onyenma is Special Assistant to Abia State Governor on Strategic Development
By: Kennedy Onyenma
Buhari’s Foreign Loans: Matters Arising
President Muhammadu Buhari sought for legislative approval for external loans during the 8th Senate but was turned down. Amongst them was US$29.96 billion loan which, according to the object, was to fund critical infrastructure in the country. The Senate bawled that loans cannot be an option at all. Superficially, the Senate was right in a part on account of daily mega inflows to the economy. Inarguably, the country is sufficiently rich to be self-reliant for most capital projects, all things being equal.
On the other hand, the Senate stumbled knowing that the major drain pipe in the country is the Senate and its counterpart, the House of Representatives. The funds allocated to these two chambers are sufficient to fund robust infrastructure across the nation with ease. From record, Nigeria’s lawmakers are the highest paid in the world and with outrageous allowances. To review these anomalies and possibly scrap one of the chambers; either Senate or lower chamber remain a way forward.
On the foreign loans, first and foremost, it is imperative to distinguish between loans for recurrent expenditure or sustenance and that of infrastructure development. The former is an index of economic recession. On the other hand, most developed countries didn’t fund capital projects from money in the treasury but long-term infrastructure loans. To put the burden on funds in the treasury can slow down developments and negatively affect other operations.
Noticeably, President Buhari’s government has created secure revenue for the nation. Amongst them are the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Value Added Tax (VAT), other internally-generated revenues that are active. Above all, leakages in the economy have been substantially blocked which makes government to get more incomes unlike before.
Beyond doubt, Nigeria has low tax morale – apathy on payment of taxes due to high level of corruption among the ruling class. For example, it was revealed by the Research Director of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Tayo Oyedele at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Abuja recently that more than 81% of taxable adults and businesses in Nigeria do not pay their income tax. According to him, only 20 million out of nearly 200 million people do.
Suffice it to say that the ruling class must vitally restore peoples’ confidence by good leadership. For instance, during the tenure of Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as Lagos state governor, many residents enthusiastically paid taxes on account of visible transformations in the state. After his exit, perceptively, the narratives changed.
Hence, adequate revenue through taxes may not be a realistic option at the moment. The second option is concessionary technique whereby companies bid and execute projects with trade agreement; to manage infrastructure for a specified period for the purpose of recouping invested capital. Incidentally, concession of sensitive infrastructure may not augur well for the masses presently due to poverty level albeit a unique conventional template.
Back to the discourse, any government that has a secure revenue system; capacity to repay can comfortably opt for loans for infrastructural development. This is because the loans can be prudently tied to the secure inflows for settlements. There would be issues where a government has no secure means of reimbursement but liberally securing loans, which is indicative of bad governance as witnessed in the past when government relied only on crude oil.
From the record, the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan targeted 39 projects spread across the country which includes the East-West Road; Mambilla Hydro Power Station; Standard gauge Ibadan-Kano Rail line; Calabar-PH-Aba-Makurdi-Bauchi-Maiduguri Rail Line; 2,500 Km Power Transmission Lines and Power Transformers across Nigeria; total overhauling of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Dualization of Lokoja-Okene-Auchi-Benin Road. Thus, the loan apart from being secured is tied to infrastructure unlike the previous loan regimen.
President Buhari has presented the $29.96billion loan request to the 9th Senate for approval. Instructively, lawmakers must, above all, be guided by objectivity and public interests rather than unnecessary show of power. The sensible action is to evaluate the capacity of the government vis-à-vis repayment by its protected revenue machinery in place and not fear of being labelled rubberstamped legislature.
Economically, it is naïve to scream over loans without first considering the object and capacity of the borrower. Without making use of loan facility, the country will spend much time in planning without executions. Democracy is a time-frame system; therefore, if an administration must rely solely on available funds in the treasury, nothing substantial may be achieved in the four years an administration is billed to last.
In other words, it is immaterial the volume of loans as long as there is a secure repayment mechanism and the objects are germane. Such arrangement will equally reduce corruption as inflows will be directed to repayment schedules. Interestingly, the Constitution clothed the lawmakers with oversight functions which empowers them to supervise executive’s activities. Hence, there’s no cause for alarm. To decline loan request for infrastructural development simply for apprehension of misappropriation is gullible.
The grumble is comparable to a woman scared of pregnancy to avoid giving birth to a bad child when it is her duty as a mother to mould the child to become useful. An executive arm cannot misappropriate funds where the lawmakers that exercise oversight functions are active, awake and responsible. Besides, President Buhari, as the team leader, is arguably not characterized by such character of dishonesty, greed and imprudence.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.
By: Carl Umegboro
Toeing The Path Of Welfarism
In this era of globalization, market economy, hyper competition and rapid changing environment, every employer of labour expects an increase in productivity, a surge in quality service delivery as well as critical thinking in workplaces. Unfortunately, not all understand the Human Resource philosophy which states that “employees are an important business resource that must be managed carefully in order to maximize return on investment and achieve business objectives”.
Instead, many employers tend to portray their employees as a folk privileged to have a paltry sum on a regular basis. Of course, the unprecedented surge in the labour market has not helped matters, as workers are forced by their economic situation to see their employers as lords, in whose grace they have found solace. This mentality has not only led the country into serious brain-drain of its workforce, it has affected the overall attitude to work and, by extension, the overall productivity.
This is not different from what is being observed as the battle for the full implementation of the New National Minimum Wage for workers, moved to the various states of the federation.
Upon the Federal Government’s conclusion of negotiations on consequential adjustments of salaries of higher income earners with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000, expectations were that respective state governors would see reason to implement same immediately, considering the length of time it took for the negotiations to be concluded.
Ordinarily, 182 days after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new minimum wage bill into law, before the consequential adjustment was achieved, should have been time enough for a welfare-conscious leader to know that the concerned workers’ patience had been overstretched, and so, needed no further stretching.
No doubt, salivating Nigerian workers had been very anxious for the new salary which they hope would shore up their purchasing power, given the current economic realities. The more optimistic among them had already calculated the possible new earnings and had possibly started looking forward to when they would start enjoying the jumbo pay.
After all, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that ratified the deal, had directed “…that the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Ministry of Labour and Employment should send the consequential adjustments table down to the state and local governments as an advisory document for their information and guidance for their National Joint Public Service status in their respective states because the national minimum wage is a national law.”,
On the contrary, most state workers are yet to know their fate, a situation that isn’t palatable at all. Not even are the state governors moved by the directive to the ministries, agencies and departments to ensure that arrears of the new wage regime from April when the Act came into effect be cleared before the end of December.
This blattant display of reluctance towards the implementation of this federal law (minimum wage), with the required urgency, by the various state governors, does not only express the height of the latter’s insensitivity to the plight of their subjects, it is an indication of a lack of love for those whose wellbeing they swore to protect.
It is on this note that the action of the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at not only being the first state to pay the minimum wage, but also raising the bar by paying more than the N30, 000 agreement which organized labour reached with the Federal Government, is highly commendable.
According to Jeddy Omisore, a journalist, “with this singular action, Gov Sanwo-Olu has painted his self portrait as a welfarist leader. He has proved that it is possible to be in power and still remember the downtrodden. He has, no doubt, written his name in gold as a foremost civil servants-friendly governor”.
Right now, there are reports that pensioners are also getting a review on their earnings, just as the state continues to pay them as at when due. Lagos State is generally applauded as one of the few states that do not make pensioners groan, grumble or cry before they collect their pension.
Sanwo-Olu may have been able to achieve this feat due to his belief in collectivism and his understanding of the fact that the next person also has a right to fair treatment for a harmonious co-existence, especially when productivity is expected from the latter.
Nothing can be more reinforcing than this laudable action of the governor. It is now imperative on the public servants to reciprocate with more hard work, dedication and selfless service. As they say, unto whom much is given, much is required. The onus now lies on the public servants in the state to roll up their sleeves, with their hand to the till, their back to the wall and nose to the grindstone and work smarter and harder than before.
In both private and public sectors, while every other measure may count, employees’ performances remain an essential requirement for any organization to maintain its efforts towards the realization of predetermined goals. Those who have come to terms with this principle would affirm that regular welfare packages remain a known catalyst for this expected improved performance, and so, it is not optional.
Many employers have failed because they chose to undermine their workers’ welfare; the catalyst of improved performance in the workplace. In fact, in this age and era, it is almost impossible to operate an organization without offering basic benefits for employees’ welfare. This is due to the realization that a healthy and stress-free worker is a major asset.
Thus, regular upward review of workers’ remunerations is one welfare facility known to basically keep employees’ motivation levels high. Besides, it is merely a social responsibility on organizations for those who work for them. The very logic behind providing welfare schemes, apart from being the workers’ right, is to increase a healthy employer/employee relationship as well as the productivity of the organization. It is also to create an efficient and satisfied labour force, thereby maintaining industrial peace. It should not be seen as a grant given to some undeserving elements of the society.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi
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