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A Trophy Beyond Atrophy

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Trophies, in whatever form or substance, signify exploits in service to the community and advancement of human endeavour towards pushing the boundaries of knowledge, development or human enterprise; they are obtained at various levels and stages of life: at school, village, community, local government, state, national or international level, in public office, private sector, etc. Irrespective of what level or where they are obtained, trophies attest to human commitment to and achievement in development in every field and they are rarely hidden in chests or closets; rather, they are conspicuously displayed on walls of hallowed halls for passersby to see, appreciate and thereby be inspired and emulate. Generically speaking, trophies come in form of statuettes, shields, cups, etc, awarded as a mark of success in competition or for meritorious service to mark special achievements; these become keepsake, souvenir, mementos to proudly show off during one’s lifetime and even beyond by family.
A typology of trophies indicates that it is those that come in form of plaque imbedded in the concrete wall of the entrance of a building or cenotaph at some point of a social infrastructure that get the most exposure and attention. Largely, it is those that relate to the provision of basic infrastructure, especially those areas that affect the generality of the public in their everyday lives that are most relevant, most visible, most endearing to the public and, therefore, most memorable. For instance, Point Block, the tallest building in old Rivers State (Rivers and Bayelsa States), is the most conspicuous trophy of the Diete-Spiff administration; it is a memorabilia to be proud of. In this vein, September 2019 will go down the history of Rivers State as a month during which Rivers people witnessed the commissioning of an unprecedented number of completed projects in one fell swoop. Between September 9 and 27, 2019, Governor Wike commissioned fifteen projects that touch virtually every segment of the society from the educational sector through markets, entertainment, labour union, student union, housing to roads; it was really a bountiful harvest of completed projects.
Departing from the tangible ones, trophies can also be invisible, intangible and intrinsic. For instance, the generation of this author can never ever forget the robust scholarship programme of the Diete-Spiff administration. It is on record that in response to the acute dearth of manpower in the state in the immediate post-civil war period when Indians, Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos and people from neighbouring states manned the state’s Civil Service and taught in the schools, Diete-Spiff embarked on a liberal educational policy given which virtually every Rivers indigene with the requisition qualification and admission to study whatever and wherever on earth was given scholarship.
On Monday, November 18, 2019, the executive members of the Rivers State Government Committee on Accreditation and Approval of Private Schools (CAAPS), led by Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, submitted the final report of the 46-member Committee to Secretary to the State Government, Hon Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the Rivers State Government Secretariat, Port Harcourt. Established by Governor Nyesom Wike and inaugurated on July 8, 2019 to evaluate the functionality of private nursery, primary and secondary schools in the State, CAAPS, which was made up of professors, bureaucrats and seasoned technocrats, physically visited, reviewed and evaluated the facilities, equipment, personnel and operations of 2,586 institutions. The Committee devolved into several subcommittees and visited schools across the state from Ndoni at the northern fringes of the state to Andoni at the Atlantic seaboard. Between these two geographical extremes, they visited schools in Aseasaga, Aggah, Utu, Uju, Omoku, Rukpokwu, Obrikom, Rumueprikom, Ebocha, Igweocha, Mgbede, Ede, Egbada, Egbeda, Elibrada, Egbema, Degema, Igwuruta, Rumuokwuta, Abuloma, Ogoloma, Bodo, Mgbodo and other communities imbued with commonalities that run deeper than the superficialities of poetic rhymes and rhythms. At the end of the exercise, 1,405 were fully accredited, 754 earned interim accreditation while 427 were denied accreditation; this reflects 54 per cent accredited, 29.2 per cent interim accreditation and 16.5 per cent denied. Further analysis of these figures belongs in a forthcoming academic endeavour and another narrative.
It has been said that a major barometer for measuring the health of a nation is through the pulse of its educational system; also, at the gate of a major university in Africa, it is written inter alia that to destroy a nation does not require utilizing nuclear bombs and long-range missiles; rather, it requires lowering the standards in its educational institutions, allowing students to cheat during examinations and letting the teachers get away with underhand practices. Setting up CAAPS was, therefore, a product of a combination of factors: (1) the patriotic fervor of Governor Wike (2) his experience as Minister of Education and (3) the realisation that decadence in the educational system spells doom for any society. The point remains that while the work of the Committee left no physical structure or edifice to behold now and in times to come, its product is the establishment of a solid foundation with unquestionable integrity on which the superstructure of education in the state will stand firm, soar and produce educationally well-rounded citizens for Rivers State and Nigeria. This constitutes an invisible edifice that will outlive physical structures, which could be brought down like the Olympia Hotel, Port Harcourt; a fate the majestic Point Block narrowly escaped.
Obviously, if the standards set and recommendations made by CAAPS are maintained and sustained by subsequent administrations in the continuum of governance in the State then that would be Governor Wike’s intangible legacy; a bequest that will outlive every superstructure and continue to impact positively on the lives and standard of living of the people of Rivers State ad infinitum. It will be Wike’s invisible plaque that would defy display on walls, halls and cenotaphs. Undoubtedly, it is a trophy beyond atrophy.
Dr Osai lectures at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

By: Jason Osai

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Opinion

Covid-19 And Political Rallies

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It is no longer news that as Covid-19 became a known global pandemic, governments of the various countries of the world took to measures they considered potent enough to help curb the spread of the deadly virus. The Federal Government of Nigeria was not left out of this scheme.
Prominent of all the measures adopted by our own government was a restriction on social gathering as well as a prescription for social distancing which culminated into the closure of schools, organizations and businesses. Some states of the federation experienced outright ban on religious gatherings.
At first, many people saw the trumpeted threat of the Coronavirus as a wilful overestimation by the government, for which they condemned COVID-19 measures as it partains to social gathering. Their condemnation of the anti-gathering measure was based on grounds that it negates the freedom of assembly which is supposedly enshrined in the constitution.
However, some social analysts have argued that so long as the government’s intention is geared towards protecting public safety, it overides the former and so such policy should be obeyed hook, line and sinker.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international relations and affected the political systems of multiple countries, causing suspensions of legislative activities, isolation and deaths of multiple politicians, rescheduling of elections due to fears of spreading the virus. Yet, constitutionally, there is no gainsaying the fact that we need to have elections.
Here in Nigeria, electioneering has always been done in a certain way over the years. Nevertheless, in the light of COVID-19 challenges, striking a balance between political exigencies and our public health reality, remains a task before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, in order to control the spread of this virus.
Recall that in the wake of the 2020 political activities in some states of the federation, precisely before the various political parties held their primaries, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, charged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to set necessary guidelines to regulate the conduct of political rallies and elections in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravaging the country.
His submission, luckily, received immediate attention as the electoral umpire ab initio set criteria that must be met by political parties before holding public rallies. The criteria, it was gathered, were aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the rallies. Thus, with this feat, no registered political party would feign ignorance of the global pandemic and how it can be curbed even amid political indispensabilities.
Surprisingly, in spite of this effort to check wanton relaxation of the Covid-19 measures in the spirit of political exigencies, emerging developments seem to steer up worries from the people as to whether the regulations on public gathering no longer hold. The political rallies in Edo State as well as Comrade Adams Oshiomole’s home-coming have raked up a new debate about the boundaries between the right to assemble and the protection of public health.
According to the Vanguard newspaper, footages of campaign rallies by leading candidates in the September 19 governorship poll showed poor level of compliance with COVID-19 guidelines as supporters trooped out with little or no regard for physical distancing, facemasks and other safety protocols.
With emphasis on conscious and strict adherance to the Covid-19 measures in recent times, the appearance of such mammoth crowd not wearing face masks or sticking to social distancing guidelines, leaves much to be desired among our political leaders.
Could it thus be concluded that it is only at schools, worship centers and market/work places that people are at risk of contracting this virus? Americans believe that mass protests and political rallies are likely to increase COVID-19 cases and so does every sane mind who understands the working of the dreaded virus.
According to reports, large rallies have been President Donald Trump’s favorite way of campaigning, but the COVID-19 pandemic kept him from using them to his advantage. This is because Americans worry about the safety of people. Why is our own case different?
Yes, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has expressed dissatisfaction over the non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols by political party leaders and their supporters in the Edo State governorship electioneering, that is fine.
It is deeply worried about some infractions to the COVID-19 guidelines by parties at the rallies, that is also welcome. But, it is obviously not clear why the commission considers itself incapable of exploring the authority at its disposal to make parties and their supporters do the right thing.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, had said that such gatherings could lead to a further spike in COVID-19 cases.
Considering the danger in crowded rallies, the writer suggests that INEC should be more proactive now than ever in making sure this reckless “body-to-body” campaign is stopped.

 

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Chief Eze’s Gutter Language In Defence Of The Indefensible

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We read the rambling vituperations of Chief Chumwuemeka Eze, the self styled APC Chieftain and former National Publicity Secretary, PDP, titled: “Apologise to UPTH CMD for your misleading, unruly comments, Eze tells Nsirim…” and we will never cease to be amazed, not only by the bogus title, but by the unfortunate penchant of the obnoxious old man to continually debase himself in the publice space with the gutter language he deploys in response to straight forward issues.
We however sympathise with him for the simple reason that senility, which is a common condition with old age, often manifests in mental infirmity, disorientation  and the dislocations that attend the onset of deteriorating cognitive faculties and optical disillusionment.
One is not quite sure if the frail old man has visited Port Harcourt township since his paymaster left Government House. Otherwise, how does a man like Chief Chumwuemeka Eze feel, and even begin to explain the ugly monstrosity that defaces the landscape from Lagos Bus-Stop to UTC Junction, snaking like a desolate administrative imprimatur, as it stretches like a crooked exclamation mark of utter disbelief at the mind boggling waste of Rivers resources which defies logical and infrastructural reasoning.
It is even utterly laughable for an inconsequential, totally irrelevant and completely infinitesimal nincompoop in the collective Rivers equation like Chief Eze Chumwuemeka Eze, to go to the public space and shamelessly demand for an apology as his response in defence of the atrocious behaviour, incorrigible excesses and unacceptable provocations of a man who has since overstepped his medical responsibility boundaries to areas he has little or no knowledge and expertise over.
For the avoidance of doubt, and in direct response to Chief Eze and his cohorts, we wish to state categorically once again, that the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, has no apologies whatsoever to anyone, for calling out Professor Henry Ugbomah, the Chief Medical Director, CMD, of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, over his continued meddlesomeness and deliberately covert efforts to sabotage the courageous, comprehensive and pro-active, life-saving initiatives of His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, to contain and curtail the ravaging outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in the State.
Rivers lives matter and are top priority to Governor Nyesom Wike, so when anyone at all, no matter who you are, tries to play petty politics with the lives of Rivers people, then you will certainly have the Governor to contend with and we are satisfied that those involved have heeded  the Governor’s warning.
We are not surprised that Prof. Ugboma has carried this pugnacious attitude into his professional calling and attracted the opprobrium of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, who have called for his sack for what the Association describes as the “Administrative Rascality and Abuse of Power of the Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH”, contained in a communique issued at the end of NARD’s emergency NEC meeting in Gombe from July 20 -25, 2020.
The communique, read by the National President of NARD, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, was very clear in its castigation of Henry Ugboma thus: “NEC notes with dismay the continued administrative rascality and victimisation of its members by the Chief Medical Director of (UPTH), Prof. Henry Ugboma.
“We frown at the suspension of resident doctors, who also double as the legitimate executive council officers of the Association of Resident Doctors in UPTH.”
NARD, which called for immediate removal of Professor Henry Ugboma as CMD of UPTH for alleged fraud, administrative rascality, unnecessary onslaught, victimisation and abuse of office, also demanded an immediate and unconditional reinstatement of suspended executives of the Association at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), led by Dr Solomon Amadi.
Such damaging recommendation by your own professional colleagues which has even been trending virally on social media under the hashtag: #UgboMustGo, is not only a damning vote of no confidence in the reputation and administrative ineptitude of the man, but an unfortunate dent on the image of Rivers State.
As for the endless rantings and verbal diarrhea over the state of Government owned assets in Rivers State, wisdom demands that while it’s advisable to let sleeping dogs lie peacefully, there’s the need to remind the likes of Chief Chumwuemeka Eze, that the Rivers State Government, in line with Governor Nyesom Wike’s philosophy that government is a continuum had concluded arrangements for the economically viable concessioning of these state-owned farms and assets to willing and capable investors to partner the Rivers State Government for their optimal utilisation in the interest of Rivers people. A programme which had already commenced with the Rivers State cassava processing plant in Afam, Oyigbo and would have been fully on stream if not for the Coronavirus outbreak.
Suffice it to say that this was also how these government owned facilities were concessioned with plenty of fanfare and razzmatazz previously, until faced with a plethora of relentless litigations and other operational challenges, some of the investors had to withdraw long before Governor Nyesom Wike even assumed the mantle of leadership in the State.
Yet, the likes of Chief Chumwuemeka Eze, will not tell Rivers people the truth, but would rather twist the narrative to suit their warped mindsets and massage their bruised and battered egos.
As a penultimate word on this matter, we urge the likes of Chief Chumwuemeka Eze and his bandwagon of diehards and refuseniks, to stop living in the past, open their eyes and see the amazing infrastructural legacy projects which Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration is delivering to Rivers people to sustain the present, secure the future and position Rivers State for the developmental challenges of a post modern global community.
Indeed, we want to, as an act of goodwill, advise Chief Eze Chumwuemeka Eze to be more circumspect with the kind of gutter language he deploys in his usually un-coordinated and verbose ramblings, tainted with misplaced tenses and shameful grammatical lacunas.
The elevation of mediocrity, which propelled him to the amorphous positon of ‘former National Publicity Secretary, nPDP’ may have concocted visions of hyped flamboyant literary prowess in his febrile imagination, after reading his own writings, even he will accept the fact that he is a horrible role model for young people who wish to embrace creative writing as a calling.
Finally, it is important to assure the likes of Chief Eze Chumwuemeka Eze that this response is an act of charity in recognition of his senility and that Governor Nyesom Wike is not at all perturbed and will definitely not be deterred or distracted in his committed and firm leadership resolve to protect and secure Rivers lives, even as he continues to justify the excellent sobriquet as “Mr. Projects” by delivering quality and enduring legacy projects in the steady transformation of Rivers State into a modern state.
Max-Alalibo is the Special Assistant on Media to Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications.

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Opinion

Women’s Empowerment: A Necessity

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Empowerment is the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy and training. Women’s empowerment is all about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions through different problems in society.
Women empowerment is the process by which women elaborate and recreate what they can be, accomplish and do in circumstances they were denied previously.  Empowerment, however, can be seen in many ways when talking about women’s empowerment.
People are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, profession and lifestyle. Feeling entitled to make one’s own decisions creates a sense of empowerment. This is a way for women to redefine gender roles that allow them to acquire the ability to choose between known alternatives.
There are principles defining women’s empowerment such as, for one to be empowered they must first come from a position of disempowerment which is relative to others at a time. Empowerment can also be seen as a process, not a product.
Empowering women and girls to achieve gender equality is crucial to creating inclusive, open and prosperous societies. Gender inequalities, however, persist in many countries, so it is important that new ways are fashioned to address the issue: Contributing to this agenda by creating opportunities for dialogue to influence policies that benefit women and girls; and having more influence over decisions that affect their lives are certainly the way to go.
In some societies, women are still discriminated against because of their gender. They are not given the same rights as men. For instance, they are expected to cook and clean. Some women are excessively controlled by their parents or husbands. They are still not allowed to work or study far away from their homes because they believe that women are weaker than men and some husbands get jealous.
Women married at young ages are usually forced into marriage by their parents. That is why their empowerment is really needed in society. This is important for their self-esteem and also for society. Empowering a woman is to give her the right to participate in education, society, economy and politics.
A woman can be involved in society if she is allowed to choose her religion, language, work and other activities. Therefore, women’s empowerment is a way to encourage them to feel strong by telling them that they can do everything they desire. A woman can work outside her home and have the opportunity to make up her mind on issues. They shouldn’t be made to depend on men. Rather, they should be allowed to earn money to support their families. It is sad that some women are not confident to work in hard conditions or high positions because they still think that such tasks are not meant for them.
Empowerment helps to reduce domestic violence, promotes and gives value to women. Women are not to be abused sexually, emotionally and physically. They should aim at achieving high-level jobs just as their male counterparts. I believe that women can be presidents just as they have always been ministers and also occupy other high-level positions.
Economic empowerment is an important factor in empowering women because women’s economic empowerment is central to realising their rights and gender equality. Through economic empowerment, women can participate equally with men in all spheres. They can exercise control over productive resources, access decent work, control their own time, lives and bodies.
They can increase their voice and participate meaningfully in economic decision-making at all levels, including international institutions. Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work is key to achieving sustainable development and development goals, gender equality as well as the promotion of full productive empowerment, decent jobs, food security, enduring health and equality.
When more women work, the economy grows because their economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. Increasing women’s and girls’ educational attainment contributes to their economic empowerment and more inclusive economic growth.
Education will enable them to keep pace with rapid technological and digital transformation. Their income generation opportunities and participation in the formal labour market will be enhanced. Increased educational attainment accounts for about 50 per cent of the economic growth in countries; but for the majority of women, significant gains in education have not translated into better labour market outcomes.
Women have long suffered stigmatization and marginalization in reaching their full potential due to an uneven playing field. Therefore, an enabling environment has to be created at every level of society, starting from households.
The home is where attitudes, ideas, values and benefits are shaped and it is important that parents and guardians instill the right values and beliefs as they work as enablers and catalysts for their children’s success. A child’s formative years take place when cultures and norms are molded. It is important for parents to invest their time in positively influencing and encouraging their daughters.
Government economic policies shape women’s lives and could be a force for equality, yet too often this potential is not realised. The government must play a central role in achieving women’s economic empowerment. Their priority should be to tackle the underlying barriers to economic empowerment, particularly those faced by marginalised women. It is in the area of economic policy that government action will have the most transformational impact.
Harry wrote from Port Harcourt.

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