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Opinion

On COVID-19 Compliance

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Has government done well in its efforts to contain the ravaging global Coronavirus in Nigeria? The answer is yes and no. No, because of the obvious poor state of our health facilities, inadequate number of testing and isolation centres, lack of adequate training of our health officials and others in the area of disease control, lack of commitment of some health workers in carrying out the demanding, risky job, failure of the authorities to take prompt actions sometimes and many more.
Yes, because some government agencies like the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Federal Ministry of Health and other health authorities have put measures in place to safeguard the lives of the citizens and have constantly reviewed them as the need arises. Various state governments have been commendably proactive in ensuring the COVID-19 cases in their domains, making the entire nation remain as minimal as possible.
However, the disturbing attitude of some Nigerians who blatantly refuse to obey the laid down rules and adhere to the measures, is dashing these efforts and putting the lives of the citizens and all the people who dwell in the country at risk. For instance, the NCDC’s advisory on COVID-19 of 18th March, 2020 states thus: “All returning travellers from foreign countries are required to self-isolate for 14 days whether symptomatic or not…Additionally, travellers returning from high-risk countries (China, Italy, Germany, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Spain, etc.),will be actively followed-up for 14 days by the NCDC and Port Health Services; avoid contact with people; travellers from high-risk countries must undergo secondary screening at the point of entry.
Disappointedly, some federal lawmakers were reported to have refused to submit themselves for check upon their return from foreign trips, leading to a leaked confidential memo said to have been written by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on the subject matter.
Again, going by the NCDC’s directive earlier quoted, all travellers returning from high-risk countries must self-isolate for 14 days and avoid contact with people. Yet the Chief of Staff, who had tested positive for the dreaded virus, returned to the country from Germany on March 14, did not self-isolate, and attended a couple of events, both personal and official, until he displayed some symptoms of the disease and surrendered himself for testing. The panic and tension the current state of his health has created in the country in view of the wide range of people that had direct contact with him is indescribable.
The same goes for Mr. Mo Atiku Abubakar, who, upon arrival from UK and France, was said to have a suspicious temperature but refused self-isolation and test. He rather went about his normal life in Abuja until he was whisked to the isolation center in Gwagwalada. Of course, he had since tested positive to the pandemic virus.
The questions then are, was the Abba Kyari not checked at the airport? Why did he not obey the directive of self-isolation for 14 days when he returned? Why did he mingle with people contrary to the advice of the NCDC shortly after he returned to the country? What was on the mind of Mr. Abubakar when he defied all NCDC directives? What happened to the follow-up claim by NCDC?
I think a proper investigation should be carried out to ascertain what actually happened? But without being preemptive, it may not be far from the usual attitude of some of our ruling elite, politicians and influential people, feeling they are above the law and some members of the public, including those at the airports, treating them as sacred cows. I once wrote an article on how this set of people defy all known protocol at the airport, thereby compounding the chaotic situations we have there most times.
So, it’s high time our leaders started leading by example. According to Albert Einstein, “setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means”. Similarly, the words of Alessandro Berselli, “Great leaders don’t tell you what to do. They show you how it’s done”. NCDC boss, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, exemplified this type of leadership when he self-isolated himself for two weeks when he returned from China on an official trip early in the month, despite testing negative for the virus.
It is, therefore, expected that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, governors, religious and political leaders that had contact with the chief of staff, should demonstrate leadership by going into self-isolation for their good and that of others. Anybody that had contact with any confirmed case shouldn’t wait to be persuaded to do the right thing. That is the only way the virus can be contained in the country. After all, the disease is not a death sentence. The death rate, we are told, is just 2%; meaning that majority of the infected persons have pulled through.
All and sundry should also play their roles in checking the spread of the virus, by abiding by the laid down guidelines. When the Catholic Arch diocese of Abuja directed all Catholic faithful in the Arch diocese to stay at home on Sundays and follow the mass online, a friend screamed, “how will I receive Holy Communion online?! Mass I must attend, if I perish, I perish. One will surely die one day”, she asserted. This, unfortunately, is the mindset of many who would not adhere to the guideline, thereby endangering themselves and others. This must change.
It is also imperative that the authorities should do more towards the preemptive and containment measures, especially in taking the message down to the grassroots. This is the time for the Federal and State Ministries of Information, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), to intensify the important role of disseminating the proper information about the disease to the masses.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

FG, ASUU Have Done Well

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It was cheering news last December, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended the strike it embarked upon for over 8 months.
Their grievances ranging from Federal Government’s non-implementation of 2009 agreement which bothers on issues of earned allowances, payment system and revitalisation of the universities.
At the end of the day, no victor, no vanquished. Both ASUU and FG shifted grounds and came to an agreement which led to the call off of the strike that almost took one academic session.
Although the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the number of months University teachers and students spent at home.
Late last year, the Federal Government had announced the closure of all schools on the 18th of December 2020 and that schools’ resumption at every level should be on the 18th of January, 2021. Some states who were proactive had already resumed earlier than that date. While other states, including their universities have reopened, a lot more after deliberations with their university Senate have decided to resume  later this month and early February.
While ASUU and their universities authorities were taking their time to review their academic calendars, last week, issue  of how to cope with COVID-19 pandemic while at work came up by ASUU.
Yes every normal person will think of that especially with the crowd in our universities. A situation where you have a lecture hall of about 200 to 300 students.
This should not be another subject to be discussed that will make teachers and students to go home again. COVID-19 was there while ASUU and FG were deliberating on the issues of 2009 agreement. Issue of how to cope with the disease should have come up and be trashed while others were being handled.
While ASUU was on strike, private universities had academic activities going on, although some of them have been operating online. Those who had physical lecture have been coping like the universities that never joined the industrial action.
Even public primary and secondary schools in Rivers State here, had been running staggered programmes since resumption. While some and their teachers come in the morning session, others engage in afternoon session according to government’s directive.
If pupils at Kindergarten, secondary classes and their teachers could cope with all the measures put in place, university teachers and their undergraduates can equally cope.
Every university has a Health Bay, the staff and relevant faculties and departments on campus should set up those required equipment and materials beginning from the university gates.  Use of face masks made compulsory and ensure that every building -classrooms, hostels, cafeteria, banks, name them, have their own equipment where members of the university community can wash hands regularly.
In fact, we are looking upto our universities in search of prevention and cure for this deadly disease. Departments like bio/chem, medical laboratory science, college of medicine and the likes  can produce hand sanitizers which can be distributed to the university community for use. At least, let’s practise non-pharmaceutical measures before relevant authorities come up with the vaccines.
Universities where we have Home Economics Departments should get fabrics, construct and sew various shapes of face masks and should be sold at lower rates to generate funds in campus.
Members of ASUU can also provide for their members because many labour unions provided for their members.
Some of the tertiary institutions that never joined the ASUU strike were able to cope with the COVID-19 protocols.
Sometime in August last year, Basic 9 and Senior Secondary School (SSS3) students and their tutors were allowed to sit for their BECE and SSCE  complying with the protocols.
In September and October last year, primary and secondary schools nationwide reopened and completed 3rd term of 2019/2020 academic session, started and concluded 1st term of 2020/2021 academic year observing all COVID-19 protocols.
Universities should ensure that all necessary COVID-19 protocols and orders are strictly adhered to.  Adequate precautions should be maintained so that the lives of the students and lecturers will be saved.
Since there were already strategies and protocols as well as orders in place in primary and secondary schools since last year when ASUU was on strike, let ASUU and their universities resume and all those protocols and orders be observed with utmost strictness.
Staggered resumption can also be practised in the universities as is practised in the primary and secondary schools.
A lot of time has been spent on argument of 2009 agreement while private universities have been running their academic calendars without stress.
It is so worisome to note that 2019/2020 academic session has suffered setback, 2020/2021 admission is still being withheld. What is the hope of Nigerian public universities? Will these incessant strike actions help our undergraduates?
It is more than 10 years now this issue of 2009 agreement between FG and ASUU began. Almost every year, it comes up as if it has never been tackled before. It is high time the two parties had concluded because it is not helping our university system.
Every year, while their counterparts in private schools are moving on, undergraduates in public universities are sitting at home while parents have already paid school fees. The of-campus students who paid rent last year have lost that to their landlords. Most parents with the harsh economy cannot send their wards to private universities. Of course, it is the right of the children to acquire education.
It is also annoying that a budget made for a child for a course of study for four to five years will run for six or seven years while other children are waiting.
I call on ASUU to accept whatever the FG has offered so as to go back to work. It can also be reviewed from time to time if they are not satisfied. Rome, they say was not built in a day.
Apart from the fund ASUU is asking from the FG, universities can also make up from internally generated revenue, after all University education is not free. Money is raised from school fees annually so university authorities should ensure proper use so that some of the issues they are asking for can be settled.
While we commend FG for paying withheld salaries of some of them, we equally urge the government to clear the backlog of those remaining so that ASUU can concentrate on academic matters.

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Opinion

Limits Of Sanctimony

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The Tide Editorial Comment of Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, contained the following statement: “We have been encumbered with irresponsible leadership and governments down the ages till date; people who have neither the capacity, will, nor passion to give Nigerians good governance …”
In situations of “carry-go”, privatized or buccaneer governance, resort to mendacity, cryptocracy and bamboozlement feature prominently. This is also coupled with brazen intimidation and use of hired agents to cause mayhem and get away unpunished.
There were public protests across the country over acts of intimidation and unprofessional conducts of personnel of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Police, which were justifiable reactions of the Nigerian public. One of the responses to the protests was to inject hired agents to engage in counter protests of solidarity with the establishment. Thus, peaceful and legitimate protests turned hostile and violent, resulting in calling our armed troops to bring peace and stability.
In the first place, members of the profession of violence denied being at the scene of violence in Lagos, then followed by a public testimony that “live-bullets were never used and soldiers fired into the air only.” Then anyone talking about “massacre” is given the challenge of producing dead bodies, to prove that any one was killed. This is similar to a head of government asking any citizen with complaints about corruption to present such cases in “chapters and verses” before such complaints can be considered credible. He who alleges, must prove beyond all doubts!!
Damage-control antics of issuing threats to those who make complaints that tarnish the good image of the establishment should, at least, wear the cloak of credibility. Apart from such threat of sanction to the CNN on its report of what happened in Lagos during EndSARS protests, damage-control antics also include diverting attention away from the key issue at stake. Let us not make an ass of ourselves as a nation in our dealing with the international community. We have already been known as wearing the cloak of sanctimony or resorting to aggression when confronted with our real image. We rarely go wrong!
There are many examples of how we stand logic or credibility on its head, when defending the integrity of the government in power. Taking the defection of Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State, from PDP to APC, as one such examples, there is the obvious truth that such defection bears neither patriotism nor service as ultimate goal. Past cases of similar actions indicate the search for greener pastures as a political culture without personal conviction, or an artful means of dodging possible corruption allegations. Governors of southern parts of Nigeria appear to be fruitful targets!
Attitude of the establishment towards national security provides us another example, with special reference to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) being given the tag of a terrorist group while Boko Haram is free from such label. The same attitude, depictive of double standards, also plays out in Zamfara gold being private mineral resource, while the oil and gas of the Niger Delta zone are public resources. Political interpretations and implications of these and other issues have far-reaching consequences.
Fears arising from intimidation and tolerance of social injustices may have very wide elasticity, but they also have some safe limits which should not be abused or glossed over. Abuse of power through intimidation and suppression come in the range of political obtuseness and insensitiveness. Experiences of the Nazi regime and the defunct Soviet Union provide ample learning opportunity with regards to how abuses of power and the wearing of the cloak of sanctimony end in ignominy. Individuals and humanity generally grow wiser through experiences, especially very painful ones.
Another example of the use of damage-control antics to maintain the air of sanctimony, is the hide-and-seek politics of the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The Federal Government used the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as a trump card in a 2009 agreement or pact which went far beyond payroll matters. In place of IPPIS, ASUU designed a home-grown University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), but the strategy of chasing shadow rather than confront substance came to an end, thanks to ASUU’s stubbornness.
The real issue that kept university lecturers on strike since March 23, 2020, was a 2009 pact with the Federal Government which had not been implemented fully. A similar failure on the part government in the past gave rise to a legal theory of Imperfect Obligation, but this time around IPPIS provided an excuse for failure to fulfill an obligation. The real issue is sustainability of public universities in Nigeria through adequate funding so that tertiary education is not debased in Nigeria.
Nigerian university lecturers had raised alarm long ago that paying Nigerian senators four times the remuneration of the US President would run this nation aground eventually. ASUU had warned long ago that the political structure foisted on Nigerians by the military was a time-bomb that should be redressed. Nigeria’s political economy took its present turn because of clandestine arrangements to turn oil and gas mineral resources into a game of monopoly. Non-sustainability of the prevailing arrangements can be recognized easily by anyone who is not compromised or bamboozled.
Another looming danger is the growing national debts facilitated by borrowing and lavish spending. Anybody who is perceptive enough would know that the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta zone provide collateral for current borrowings. Is the future of some geo-political zones not being mortgaged indirectly? What is the pattern of utilization of the loans being taken now, vis-a-vis the transparency of benefits to various sectors of the nation? What has made it so hard for Nigerian refineries to be functional. No accountability?
A study of nations that mismanaged their resources, the goodwill and confidence of their citizens and then resorted to sanctimony rather than penitence, would show that sustainability dwindles gradually. The limits of sanctimony become clearly visible as the masses groan in silence and hunger, in the midst of obscene opulence. It is not too late yet to put things in order, if the sincere will to do so is there. Mafia managers don’t get off the tiger’s back!
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Securing Our Artefacts

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Culture consists of the beliefs, way of life, art and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society; the attitudes and beliefs about things that are shared by a particular group of people.
In another definition, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the living dictionary, defines culture as activities that are related to art, music, literature and a society that existed at a particular time in history. Culture is as old as history. History cannot be complete without the culture of a people.
The African continent was known to be the home of culture. So many ancient art works in Africa had illicitly been taken away to other continents of the world. Illicit trafficking of cultural materials from Africa is because of non-documentation of art works produced by Africans. So many artifacts were illegally taken away by the colonial masters who colonised the African continent. Some artifacts of cultural value were forcefully transported out of Africa without the consent of the sculptors, artists or even the native communities.
Museum setting and management is a major problem in preserving the ancient art works produced some centuries ago. According to Binkat Manji Jennifer, a well-documented collection can never be achieved without important activities such as numberings. Since the aim of any museum documentation system is to attain a standardised format that would assist in safe-guarding and tracing collections then the aspect of numbering is inevitable.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments should step up to its functions in protecting and preserving cultural materials or artifacts by Nigerian artists. There were so many art works in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country without documentation and this has caused extinction of cultural materials in some well-known cultures in the country.
Cultural materials, in some cases, are not preserved by the people who use them. Today, the orientation and preservation of cultural materials are given prompt attention. And that is why many Nigerian artists are not celebrated in the country.
It is important for museums to know where the objects are at every given point in time as well as who has them. Cultural materials are trafficked to every part of the world without control. It is sad. There is no proper control or preservation of cultural materials in Nigeria.
The illicit trafficking of artifacts from Africa to the Western world has been on the increase, especially in this 21st Century. One of the reasons for trafficking of cultural materials to other parts of the world without traces is because the materials have no historical ownership.
For instance, the Last Supper Painting of Jesus Christ and his disciples is credited to a world class painter, Leonard Da Vinci, because of documentation carried out at that time. It is obvious that most of the sculptural pieces and paintings in Africa were not assigned or credited to certain artists.
The works of the Nok Culture, Ife Art, Benin Art and Igbo Ukwu did not have specific artists attached to them. Rather, they are seen as general art works of particular groups. But in Europe, most of the artifacts can be traced to the artists who did them. This is the problem of historical non-documentation in African society.
Examples of bad conditions on objects indeed, missing art objects appear incomplete due to areas that have been broken off, probably in the course of excavation of pottery items or broken while in transit. Some parts of objects that have broken off must not be thrown away in the course of exhibition; these parts can equally be displayed. Every part of an art work is important to the artist.
In 2019, the Last Supper Painting of Da Vinci was auctioned in Europe for millions of dollars.
The federal, state and the local governments in Nigeria should protect and promote artworks made in the country. A situation where cultural materials are illegally taken away at the mercy of the artists should be discouraged.
Most countries in the world preserve their ancient relics in their national museums. Museums in France can boast of artifacts that have existed for more than one thousand years. Nigerian artists should be empowered by government to give them a sense of belonging.
Indeed, there is no ethnic group without cultural materials. But today, some ethic groups cannot identify or see their cultural materials in real life. Some had been taken to foreign lands where their origin cannot be traced. Say no to illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts.
Ogwuonuonu wrote from Port Harcourt.

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