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Abia’s Burden Of Prejudice

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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

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Opinion

Of Quota System And Rise Of Mediocrity

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Each time the thought of restructuring of the country is conceived, people are usually quick to think along the lines of regional divide, vis-a-vis enthroning true federalism where fiscal federalism is prioritized. An advocate of restructuring once said that Nigeria fared better when we operated as Northern, Eastern and Western regions than now.
Luckily, the likes of Bayo Okunade, a professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, would always think differently. For such, unless some fundamental issues are addressed, the problems would persist with or without restructuring.
It is education, it’s girl-child education, it’s women’s right, it’s child begging, it is parental irresponsibility, demographic growth, it’s managing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and bringing them into one community where they are all first and foremost, citizens before anything else.
As I carefully read through the speech of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, on the occasion of Governor El-Rufai’s birthday, held in Kaduna recently, I needed no interpreter to help me figure out a diagnosis of Nigeria’s problem, using the north as his sample population.
Without mincing words, the former central bank boss has only exploited the platform provided by the Kaduna State governor’s birthday to highlight the indices for restructuring Nigeria, using the mathematical formula of substituting the north for Nigeria as a whole.
Although his emphasis was glaringly on the north, Sanusi was unequivocal on the eminence of destruction, should leaders fail to address the myriad challenges facing their subjects, which solution he insists does not rest on quota provision, but hinges on education.
His position on the quota system and federal character policies as a catalyst for the upsurge of mediocrity in the system as well as the relapsing into outright illiteracy by the citizens today, could not be hidden. He blamed the north for resting on their oars because of the quota system in place by which they hope to gain placement in the scheme of things
In his words, “we need to get northern youths to a point where they don’t need to come from a part of the country to get a job. The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its children, producing graduates and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong state, when we have not invested in the future of our own children”.
While the quota system came into being prior to Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, the federal character principle became officially recognised in the 1979 constitution. The implication of this was that issues of admission, recruitment, promotion and appointment became based on these principles.
Bearing in mind that the entity called Nigeria is an output of an amalgamated process, whose constituents can hardly jettison in a hurry, their individual differences in culture, tongue, belief, etc, the federal character and quota system as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria was designed to ensure equitable distributions of bureaucratic and political roles in the public service at federal, states and local government levels with pre-determined and inflexible result.
Of course, by design, the “federal character” principle seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country. It is purely to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.
The main idea is to create conditions where no tribe is favored above another, thus cementing in concrete term, the unity of the entire there would be no room for greed, avarice and jealousy For this reason, Section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution provided for a commission (Federal Character Commission), charged with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of rules and principles proclaimed in federal character.
Regrettably, the federal character has become a euphemism for recruiting unqualified people into the public service. Probably, proponents of this policy did not put into consideration, what becomes of the slots of a particular locality or region in the event of no capable hand to fill in the blank spaces.
This I believe is the reason why Sanusi berated the north over continuous reliance on quota system and federal character to get jobs for its children at the expense of the other parts of the country who, he said are “ busy educating their own children and turning out graduates”.
Like every derailed course that is tantamount to review, Sanusi believes that an expiry date awaits this well-intended but abused privilege. And for him, “a day is coming when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of quota system and federal character.
“The country is moving on, the quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause”. He advocates emphasis on merit against religion or tribe.
, “You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna State or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job, you come with your credentials, you go with your competence, you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere. He maintained.
If I could read the lips of the traditional ruler, I should summarise his thought by stating that the days of potential did not help us so now is the era of credential.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

The Police As Society’s Mirror

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There is an academic theory with regards to the study of human societies. Among serious-minded scholars who undertook detailed studies in this project are Emile Durkeim, Jean Floud, S. Covey, Professor F. Sorokin, among several others. The London School of Economics also threw some light on this matter, with more emphasis on economic and self-preservation factors. Joseph Stalin of Russia brought in some radical slant in the theory of society, saying that “the basic law of life is that of self-survival and the protection of self-interest”. The strong survive!
Before the current mass expression of dissatisfaction with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had said long ago that he was surprised why Nigerians had not shown enough rage over the plight of corruption in Nigeria. Even a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had challenged Nigerians to bring forward any genuine complaint about corruption, with a condition that such allegation must be presented in “chapters and verses”, then the rest should be left for him to handle!
One of the basic theories in the study of social institutions is that the people involved in a social system and its operations rarely recognize fully the setting in of social aberrations. This is to say that people recognize more easily the faults in others than more serious flaws in themselves. If, for example, you ask any member of the Nigeria Police Force about corruption or brutality in that establishment, the answer you are likely to get would be more of rationalization, protection of self image and excuses about poor remuneration, etc.
To say that the image and body language of the Nigeria Police reflect the wider image and perception of Nigeria as a nation, would mean that every part of a body represents the status and substance of that body as a whole. Complaints which various members of the public make about the Police, are complaints that are widespread, which can be observed anywhere else. There can be no smoke without fire, and in a similar manner, the faults which anyone can find among the personnel of the Police, are faults that are indigenous in the society. Same faults can be found anywhere else, except that they can manifest in various guises.
Sociologists would tell us that every citizen of a country and every institution therein, mirror and reflect the larger image and status of the society. What do we refer to as culture if not the totality of the ideas, beliefs, customs, worldview etc, which people share and accept as distinct heritage. Behavioural patterns and attitudes are formed based on prevailing values widespread in the society which individuals would obviously imbibe and express to some degrees. What we call corruption includes the infectious nature of social mores and action patterns, which people absorb and express because of their survival value.
Foremost among aberrant behavioural patterns that have taken root among Nigerians since 1960, include intellectual cleverness which combines brashness and braggadocio as strategies for personal survival. In line with Stalin’s postulation about self-survival and self-interest being a basic law of life, who would blame Nigerians for developing some personal culture that enhance survival in a hostile environment?
William Shakespeare would tell us that people are as the time is. This means that people’s attitudes, values and behavioural patterns change according to the nature of threats, hostilities and opportunities prevailing in the society. One factor which no honest person would deny is that the Nigerian environment has continued to pose threats and hostilities to the average Nigerians. These threats and hostilities manifest most clearly in the access to the good things of life; from job opportunities, promotions, to other “dividends of democracy”. You must scramble and fight to get what you want!
No honest Nigerian would deny the fact that the Nigerian political economy has tended towards exclusiveness and parasitism since 1960. Are strategic and sensitive positions occupied in every sphere of the nation’s life based on merit, transparency and justice? Nigerians know the true answers to this and other issues which constitute the basis for the demand for a restructuring of the nation. But mischief mongers would side-track these issues in their efforts to defend and protect the status-quo. Would any honest Nigerian deny that there is more of corruption in nepotism than in hustling through bribery?
With regards to the Nigeria Police Force, those who had served in that establishment prior to 1977, would testify that what we have currently is a national shame. What has brought about the drastic fall in the pride and reputation of the Nigeria Police? Frankly, those who truly know the background of the decline of the Police would rarely want to get involved in any discussion about restructuring of that establishment. A lot of injustices and shenanigans have brought us to what we have now!
One would not shy away from pointing fingers at the military for playing vital and significant roles in placing the Police in its current unenviable position. The genesis of the declining status can be traced to the second military coup of July 1966, during which the Police presented damning reports on the security situation and organized hostilities glossed over by the military. That such reports were ignored resulted in senseless reprisals visited on certain groups accused of being ambitious, like Julius Caesar who must die for being ambitious.
Today, a few discerning people know what accounts for why nothing works in Nigeria. With regards to the Police, the best intelligence professionals were weeded out from that establishment without any transition or replacement based on personal merit. Consequently, both the police and the military lost core professionalism and unity of purpose. The pity is that truth would not be allowed to be told, so as not to open old wounds. Moreover, no one was put on trial for war crimes, inspite of atrocities and cruelties of 1966, up to January 1970. War and politics!
Do we wonder why every police officer takes his destiny in his own hands? Every other person in all walks of life does so because there is a loss of faith and confidence in the system. A study of the history of the “Arab Spring” would show that a key factor in spontaneous protests was the loss of confidence in a system where politics or rulership became a personalized and buccaneer affair.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Even This Pain Shall Pass Away

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We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday, Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.
The above gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the civil rights movement has been on my lips since Tuesday’s killing of innocent, defenseless Nigerian youth by the military at Lekki, Lagos State. There has been justifiable anger in the land since the mowing down of the gallant young citizens of the country, whose only crime was to protest and speak up against police brutality, injustice, corruption, impunity, inept and rudderless leadership in the country.
Many had hoped that considering the genuineness of the reasons for the over two weeks EndSARS protest, the peaceful and organised nature of the exercise, it would not go the way of many protests in recent times which were hijacked by either some selfish individuals or hoodlums. Some prayed that it would not be marred by ethnicity, religion and tribalism as were many previous similar exercises in the country, rather, that Nigerians of all ages would put our ethnic and religious biases behind, and support the youth to fight for the soul of our dear country.
Sadly, that was not to be as the fathers, grand fathers and uncles, who are responsible for the poor state of the nation and do not want it to move forward for their selfish interests, ordered the massacre of their children. They hired hoodlums to disrupt and discredit legitimate civil protests to justify their urging the deployment of troops. Unfortunately, the same overworked, ill-equipped, underpaid uniformed men and women the protest would benefit, were the same people used to maim and kill fellow citizens. Too bad! And why they decided to use live bullets on unarmed citizens who were clinching the national flag, singing the anthem of the nation is still a puzzle.
The so-called leaders (or rulers as some people now prefer to call them), spread false information that the EndSARS protest is a religious fight, thereby carrying on with their age-long practice of sowing seeds of discord among the citizens. Their wicked action is already bearing fruit as there are drums of ethnic war being beaten in many parts of the country – Hausas and Yoruba youths clashing in Lagos, thugs from one part of the country attacking people from another part. Earlier in the week, a paid thug, Yusuf Yunusa, led a group of supposedly Abuja indigenes to Police headquarters to deliver a letter giving the IGP 48hours ultimatum to stop the EndSARS protest failing which he and his group would “go after them”. Shortly after that, there was destruction of lives and properties in Apo, Abuja. The violence had since spread to other places including Kubwa, Dutse, Waru and others.
For a people just coming out from a six months lockdown occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic, the pain, sorrow and hardship is unimaginable. But in all these, my appeal is that we should calm down and believe truly that we shall overcome. Though President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen to remain silent despite the appeals from different quarters that he should address the nation and calm frayed nerves, we shall overcome. Though the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had warned broadcast stations and the general media against “embarrassing the Muhammadu Buhari administration with the use of User-Generated Content (UGC) in the coverage on the ongoing #EndSARS protest”, stopping us to vent the way we would have wished to, we shall overcome. The imposition of curfew in many states which makes movement difficult may be worsening our pains, just know that we shall certainly overcome someday.
It is said that he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. It is also a fact that no war was ever settled on the battlefield. It always ended on a round table. Our youth should, therefore, listen to various voices of reason and give peace a chance. The continued destruction of private and public properties is definitely not the way to go. Those public properties belong to all of us and there is no wisdom in going ahead destroying and looting them because we are enraged.
One indisputable fact is that the youths have succeeded in waking us up to our responsibilities through the protest. It has brought about the rejuvenation we need in the country. And as many people believe, Nigeria will never be the same again. But it’s time for the youth to think of the next line of action; which is, coming up with strategies to vote in their own candidates in the 2023 election. Sitting on the fence and allowing other people, especially the older, corrupt generation to determine their future is no longer an option. Let us hope the president will do the needful and sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law which will make room for a better conduct of elections in the country.
One hopes that the authorities and the citizens will capitalise on the auspicious moment presented by the season to change our value system so as to rebuild our fatherland for a better tomorrow. As a public officer, use your position to serve the people instead of exploiting and oppressing them. As a teacher, doctor, nurse or civil servant, treat your fellow citizens that need your service and your subordinates with respect and dignity. Let accountability and transparency be our watchword in this country. The continuous running of our states, local government councils and other government establishments as private belongings of those put in charge of them will only lead to more anger, frustration and protest.
Lastly and most importantly, our president should listen to the advice of well-meaning people both within and outside the country and address the issues raised by the protesting youth. Disbanding SARS and establishing SWAT in a most suspicious manner cannot be taken as granting their demands. Surely, some of their demands cannot be met overnight, but there must be immediate, medium and long-term plans of getting them done which must be communicated to the children in an open, transparent conversation with a high level of sincerity if the young ones must trust them. Conclusively, the government should always bear it in mind that the country will know no peace until there is justice everywhere and in all cases.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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