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Tribute To Bernard Graham-Douglas

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Tuesday, August 16, 1977 was one of those days in the United States of America (USA) that everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when news of Elvis Presley‘s death broke; the bit about his funeral being billed for two days later was part of the norms of American society. Given the superstar social status of Elvis, it was obvious that Memphis, Tennessee will be a circus in the next two days and more.
With pockets full of dollars (God bless Diete-Spiff forever), Emmanuel “Iyo” Dokubo and I took off early the next morning in his aerodynamic Chevrolet Camaro from Murray, Kentucky to Memphis on the eastern banks of the Great Mississippi River; we needed to arrive early in the city of Stax Studios and Isaac Hayes prelude to the funeral procession the next day. Elvis was one of those who influenced us as young lads into venturing into music, albeit briefly. So, in our mind, it would be a great personal tragedy if we did not partake in bidding the King of Pop Bye Bye from this dimension of planet earth.
Expectedly, on August 18, 1977, the funeral was attended by music legends: Chet Atkins; Ann-Margret  with her husband, Roger Smith; James Brown; Charlie Hodges; George Hamilton; Ginger Alden; Linda Thompson; and Sammy Davis Jr.  Other mourners ranged from pre-teens to middle-aged and older men and women. The crowd outside the Graceland Gates was estimated at one hundred thousand despite the sweltering heat. A virtually endless motorcade of fourteen white Cadillacs along with the hearse bearing the King’s remains lined the streets from Graceland to Forrest Hill Cemetery where he was laid to rest.
The next morning, Iyo and I took the privilege of the outing to have Dream Breakfast at Lorraine Motel and walk past the historic Room 306 on the corridor where the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr was fatally shot at 6.01pm on Thursday, April 4, 1968. In wide-eyed youthful exuberance, we went to Singing Trees Avenue to meet Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs but only met his estranged wife who politely directed us to Ardent Studios. From there, we went to the renowned McLemure Avenue, where the MGs did their mimicry of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. We also visited the eastern banks of the magnificent Mississippi River, which is the second longest river in the US; it draws its headwaters from Lake Itasca in Minnesota, flows 2,320 miles south, connects Ohio River and Missouri River and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
At the end of the escapade, we decided to swing into Nashville, Tennessee to watch Dolly Parton perform at Grand Ole Opry and on to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to hang out briefly with Eben Dokubo (Iyo’s younger brother), Bernard Graham-Douglas and his wife, Caroline, and other Rivers fellows at Middle Tennessee University. Can my generation ever stop praying for Alfred Diete-Spiff?
It was a rousing welcome at Murfreesboro. We reminisced over our days in Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Radio Nigeria, Port Harcourt and relived the day Stella Amachree and I chanced in on Governor Diete-Spiff on the street beside Government House, Port Harcourt which has now been incorporated into Government House. How Spiff recognized Stella and I by our programmes and casually said “we should establish Rivers State Radio,” how everyone in NBC, Port Harcourt that day jubilated at the news and how that casual statement morphed into public policy and many of us were the first set of beneficiaries by way of scholarship; incidentally, I was the numero uno. Mike Oku and Pat Ketebu went to Aberdeen, Scotland while many of us came to America to study Broadcasting/RadioTV, preparatory for the establishment of what is now known as Radio Rivers.
Radio Nigeria, Port Harcourt was home away from home where every artiste rushed to daily even if s/he did not have a programme. The level of camaraderie was palpable and incomparable and it was singlehandedly inspired by the producer, Seniboye Itiye. Ernest Ogbanga and the management team were a safe distance away from us and it was convenient for us to keep it that way and work with Itiye. A pipe-smoking and guitar-strumming consummate motivator of persons, Itiye remains the best boss I have had throughout my life. The bubbly Family of Talkers “sired” by Itiye was made up of the gentle and soft-spoken Mike Oku, the witty Bob Bikefe, Ifiemi Ombu, the beautiful and brainy Stella Amachree, the energetic and highly creative Cornelia Omoniabipi, Chituru Wachuku, Peter Brown and Pat Ketebu, my colleagues from The Blackstones Band, Florence Olali – a strict lady who got married to a medical doctor in Germany and happily left, Boma Erekosima who turned out a great comedian, Steve Bubagba, Matthew Mieyesiegha, Emmanuel Dokubo and Tony Alabraba who joined me at Murray State University, Monima Kelly Briggs, Sunny Meshach-Hart, Chima Oko who joined much later and, of course, Bernard Opubo Graham-Douglas.
Bernard was a Duty Continuity Announcer (DCA); he had the structure, carriage and voice of an ace broadcaster and carried himself with the dignity that befits his physique and attributes. While most of us carried on like foot-loose-and-fancy-free members of the entertainment industry, Bernard displayed a persona that exuded confidence and culture bordering on conservatism. As DCA, he demanded that things should be done the way they were meant to and promptly too. Being part of the generation that Diete-Spiff psyched up and sent overseas to acquire the desired knowledge and come home to develop the state, Bernard did just that. He wasted no time in coming home after his education; he returned with the resolve to give back to the system that was kind and very generous to his generation; a generation that takes pride in its Rivers heritage.
Sadly for Bernard’s generation, the Rivers State they travelled from was robbed of its patriotic essence by years of governance by soldiers of fortune and, most painfully, the psychology of the average Riversman had departed from the firm foundation of patriotism laid by Diete-Spiff. “I, me, mine” had become the ethos and mantra of the society, which Harold Dappa-Biriye, Obi Wali, C.D. Orike, Wenike Tienabeso, Nabo Graham-Douglas, Souza-Okpofabri, Lawrence Ekpebu, Boma G.E. Charles and other well-meaning Riversmen assiduously built from the debris of a bitter civil war that devastated the land and traumatized the people.
Bernard’s generation of Rivers graduates is a product of that team of patriots whose unalloyed patriotism reflected on the beneficiaries of their public policies. Bernard epitomized the essence of a generation that was given a veritable opportunity to build its sense of self-worth through privileged education and travel resulting in so much self-confidence, contentment and the consequent commitment to give back to the system. Sadly, that generation was either politically retired prematurely or sidelined in the scheme of things thereby creating disconnect that is still haunting the state.
Bernard determinedly stood firmly against systemic foibles during a meritorious career in which he rose to the positions of General Manager, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) and Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC) and Honourable Commissioner, Rivers State Ministry of Information and Culture.
As preparations are underway to commit the remains of Bernard Opubo Graham-Douglas to mother earth, it is my sincere hope and fervent prayer that his case will be revisited by the current administration of the state and let justice be done; that way, those still in service will be encouraged knowing that they are working for a system that takes care of those that serve it meritoriously.
Adieu Bernard, Rest in the Bosom of the Lord.
Dr. Osai is an Associate Professor in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the quest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power bloc boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphasis on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Citizen And Government Reciprocity

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Simply speaking, reciprocity refers to rewarding kind actions and punishing unkind actions. It is the practice of exchanging values with others for mutual benefits.
There is Government-citizen reciprocity. Mutual exchange of privileges between the people or the governed and the government is predicated on the principle of social contract. First the people vote for a government to assume the mantle of leadership while the government is expected to reciprocate this gesture of mandate by fulfilling their electioneering promises.
In a second perspective social psychologists see reciprocity as a “Social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind action”.
How can the citizens and residents of Rivers State demonstrate reciprocity with the Government of the State over the dividends of democracy delivered to them in the last six years?
Surely Rivers State Government through its New Rivers Vision blue print has delivered the needed development and general good.
It is interesting to recall that when Rivers State Government began its Urban Renewal Programme and building of road infrastructure, it called on Rivers people to make the necessary sacrifice to enable government complete the projects on record time.
The projects indeed are expected to add great values to the people and the city of Port Harcourt in terms of aesthetics and improved urban logistics.
Only those with village mentality can wish away the beauty, glamour and convenience which the modern fly over in Port Harcourt has provided.
It is also important to observe that Rivers State Government took the right steps when it contracted the services of the Civil Engineering giants Julius Berger. The German firm has reputation of delivering solid and functional projects in Nigeria.
It was on the bases of this reputation that Rivers State Government pleaded with host communities of the ongoing construction of fly overs to observe restraint in their expectations and demands.
Government has also encouraged Julius Berger to exercise full corporate Social responsibility to the benefits of host communities.
These communities were expected to organize their unemployed youth population to engage in lower grade labour and supplies peacefully.
The recent grandstanding by some members of these host communities in the State capital is therefore worrisome.
These restive youths were expected to reciprocate the gesture of State Government in hosting and protecting these infrastructures in their communities.
The government had appealed to them through their community leaders to observe the necessary restraint and allow the company to complete the projects to avoid the uncompleted project syndrome in the state.
The government/citizen reciprocity was expected to play out here in the positive sense. The positive gesture by the people should be by owning and protecting these projects from any form of sabotage.
Sabotage on public infrastructure has become serious threat in the state and some, as in the case of the Julius Berger Community boys brouhaha could be politically motivated. It will be unfair for any group of persons or community to instigate any form of crisis to abort the plans and programmes of Government to the people, for any negative reason. When the right hand washes the left hand, the left hand in return washes the right hand. Road infrastructure is a venture that adds social and economic values to the beneficiaries. It opens and expands the space of a given community, saving it from suffocating grid lock which affects social and economic activities of communities in close proximity.
According to Carrol Ouigley “The basis of social relationship is reciprocity: if you cooperate with others, other will cooperate with you”.
Government of Rivers State has shown good will to all the people of the state. Governor Nyesom Wike has demonstrated enough concern for the welfare and wellbeing of the state. He has brought development to every part of the State, irrespective of their political and ethnic inclinations.
The Trans Kalabari High way project conundrum had lingered too long. One would have thought that the rescue plan of Government in prosecuting it would bring Joy to the people of the area and elicit support of all segments of that society.
Unfortunately, those who do not want any good for themselves and government have begun criminal activities, aimed at crippling the project.
There was an era in this state when government projects were grounded because of criminal activities by few citizens.
The recent kidnapping of staff of the firm working on that project is a sad commentary which brings back sad memories of the past. Insecurity is anathema to development. The Trans Kalabari High way project is expected to open up the area which is in the heart of Creeks, and Rivers. Community leaders should rise up to the occasion and call their people to order. A difficult terrain such as this makes the penetration of development very difficult.
The one city status of Rivers State will continue to subsist if communities are not opened up for social infrastructure and economic investment.
The security operatives in Rivers State should protect development projects from the activities of men of the underworld. It is on record that Rivers State Government has been supporting and providing for all security Operatives in the State. It is therefore incumbent on the Police and the Armed Forces to reciprocate by showing capacity in protecting lives and property in the State. The Federal Government must reciprocate the gesture of Rivers State Government and motivate functional security architecture in the State.

By: Bon Woke

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the guest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power block boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphases on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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