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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

Teach Boys Home Economics In School

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Before now, Home Economics was only about cooking food, making clothes and sanitation. It was seen as a subject for only girls and women.  Boys were given little thought about it. It has gone beyond housekeeping and dress making.
Home Economics in the present school curriculum includes family relations, human relations, consumer education, child development, hotel management, event management, in-door and out-door services.
Some scholars say the subject has become more important than vocational training that can help people live intelligent and normal life in their future endeavours.
One of the goals of acquiring education generally by younger persons is to fulfill life’s aspirations comfortably in future and to give back to the society the assistance received earlier in life. Since boys and girls will live together in future, teaching the boy-child Home Economics will give both equal opportunity to care for their families.
A school of thought has argued that if only the girl is taught the subject, it means it is just for one half of the family. In future, a boy and a girl will definitely get married and establish their own home.
According to an educator, Schepman, when both boys and girls have training in family relationships, they will have a similarity of ideas of the life that will be smooth over many necessary adjustments.
In fact, the importance of teaching the boy-child Home Economics in secondary school cannot be over-emphasised.   Since people are developed in other aspects of education to succeed in life, this is also important.
When the boy-child is taught Home Economics which introduces him to child-rearing, decision-making and handling of finance, some of the disagreements that arise in homes will reduce.
Of course, we are aware that when some of these home issues are not handled properly, they lead to disagreement which may lead to divorce of man and wife.
For us to have successful homes which can be satisfying, a lot has to be done by education authorities.  Home Economics curriculum has to be revised and updated to suit the present-day home.  Specialists in Home Economics should develop types of classes that can assist boys and girls to attain good family life.
Serious efforts should be made by educators to train the boys on how to improve themselves as it concerns family life
Days are gone when mothers nursed their babies alone. Nowadays,  greater percentage of women are either of working class or engage in their private businesses, thereby contributing meaningfully to the family income. This calls for the importance of including the boys who will eventually become fathers tomorrow.  When a wife is at work, the man who may be on paternity leave should be able to take care of his kids and change baby nappies when necessary.
Awareness on this issue should be created for parents by relevant authorities telling them how important it has become training the boys in Home Economics.
High school boys of today who will become fathers in future should be given home training so as to understand how to manage home responsibilities as well as help their children develop normally. They should be knowledgeable about the kind of meals kids need when their mother is away from home.
Some years ago, it was only the girl-child that was mandated to get close to the mother as it concerns house chores.  The boys would go to play football with the belief that house work was meant for girls alone. That mentality should be put right. The need to train them as well has become necessary so that when they get married, while their wives are at work, they can prepare meals for the family. This will help reduce the stress on the woman. In the absence of the mother, a boy can sew a button on his shirt, wash and iron his and his siblings’ clothes.
In our local setting, when our parents retire and cannot be independent, it is the female folks that take their parents to their matrimonial homes to cater for them.  The boy who will become man in future can also do it properly if given the opportunity to study it.
I suggest that boys should be trained in Home  Economics so that the issue of “children rearing children” in society can be put to stop.  This results from teenagers ignorantly impregnating and marrying themselves. Of course, you see this because they may not have been properly taught.
When our boys are trained in that field, they will realise that maturity guides people in everything they engage in life, especially when it comes to marriage.
Home Economics educators should not educate only girls on food preparation.  Educating the boys has become imperative considering the fact that boys are hungrier than girls. Boys need to have some ideas of good principles of nutrition.
We are not unaware that boys are more interested in the mechanics of the home.  They are always interested to operate equipment to know how they work, study home plans, room arrangement, furniture and more.
We are aware that Home Economics is taught in schools but it is high time government at all levels through the ministry of education and curriculum developers placed more emphasis in providing the necessary teaching and learning facilities in schools to encourage the development of these abilities in acquiring knowledge in areas of their interests.  Incentives can also be provided to encourage them.
The male tailors we see on our streets today learnt it when they were young, they earn a lot of money and cater for their families from that.
Even when we were in school, Home Economics was seen as an inferior subject or course of study designed for only women. A young man who studied Home Economics, catering and hotel management can work in a hotel either as a waiter, attendant and may become hotel manager in future.
The young men should be taught to keep homes so that they will appreciate the roles their girls and women play. This will make them understand that the difference between men’s and women’s roles are not much any longer.
After all, women’s education does not end in the kitchen any more.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Media And #EndSARS Saga

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For about two weeks, last month, thousands of young people across Nigeria and abroad took to the streets to call for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an infamous police unit accused of extortion, extrajudicial killings, rape and torture.
This was the first time Nigerians had made such a demand. It was, however, by far, the first time their calls garnered such widespread support and international media coverage, thanks largely to the prominent role of social media in spreading the word.
The peaceful protests against police brutality began on October 8th after a video showing a suspected SARS operative killing a man, was widely shared online. The EndSARS hash tag swiftly started trending, boosted in part by Nigerian celebrities and high-profile personalities with large followings. As the hashtag also spread beyond the country’s borders, a number of Nigerian Twitter users announced they would help cover the phone bills of others. So they could afford to keep tweeting and maintain momentum.
Encouraged by the first protest held in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, Uloma Nwoke and her friends decided to also organize one in the Lekki area of the City. They shared a flyer detailing the time and location of the protest on various social media. By October 10, they were surprised to see that nearly 1,000 persons had descended on the site. “A lot of celebrities and influential people showed up”, Nwoke said.
Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers away, Omolare Oriye, a human rights lawyer, was organizing a protest via WhatsApp in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. A video of Nigerian Police officers manhandling demonstrators circulating on Twitter, prompted her to act.
“I contacted the Nigerian Students Association in Pretoria who put me in touch with Nigerian students”, said 32-year old Oriye. “We met at the (Nigerian) embassy in mid-October, the protest movement got an extra push from Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, who used the EndSARS hashtag as he posted a donation link associated with the feminist coalition, one of the most prominent groups supporting protesters on the ground while the amplification of the protest by celebrities and social media influencers bridged the information gap left by local news outlets, protesters resisted attempts by government officials to single out influential personalities as spokespeople via invitations to join newly instituted panels on Police reforms. Having witnessed other movements fizzle out following closed-door meetings and government representatives, many activists cautioned against such appointments. Nwoke, 25, described the tendency of celebrities to monopolise the microphone at protest venues, depriving those most affected by SARS the opportunity to share their experiences.
“It was one of the biggest challenges for me, of celebrity worship and narcissism. “Most of them just want to always be in front. We had to start profiling (speakers)”. It’s a sentiment also shared by Oriye. Celebrities are great for amplification, but they are not movement leaders, arguing that many are ill-informed and had, in the past, diverted attention away from knowledgeable activists. Apart from raising awareness about police brutality and coordinating protests on the ground, various EndSARS organizers used social media to connect with volunteers, accept donations from different parts of the world and publish accounts of disbursed funds through frequent updates.
Information about emergency helplines and ways to circumvent a potential Internet shutdown also spread freely and widely. Essentially, observers say, social media democratized the EndSARS movement, allowing users with varying numbers of followers to pitch, improve or reject ideas, solicit donations or start food banks to feed protesters.
This entire movement was born, bred and salvaged online communications lead for not-too-young Nigerians into public office. There was a constant reminder that there was no leader (which) strengthen people’s voices and close any avenue for compromise.
On the news front, web-based publications, largely geared towards millennials, kept the protest in the fore alongside witnesses armed with smartphones, as most traditional media outlets ostensibly wary of running foul of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation’s directive to be cautious with user generated content and to not embarrass the government, kept off.
It hurt me personally that people were dropping dead on the street and news channels were talking about some irrelevant subjects, as the peaceful protest grew in size after. Entering their second week, hoodlums in Lagos and the capital, Abuja also vandalized public buildings, burned private businesses and stormed prison facilities to help inmates escape, prompting state governors to impose curfews to curb the escalating unrest.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a belated nationwide broadcast said, 51 civilians were killed and 31 injured since demonstrations began, blaming the violence on hooliganism. He added that 11 police men and seven soldiers had been killed by rioters.
Buhari’s statement came two days after Amnesty International put the death toll at 56, with about 38 killed on October 20, the same day security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators in Lekki, in an attack that was livestreamed on instagram by a witness and caused widespread outrage. Amnesty said it’s on the ground investigation by Amnesty. International media confirmed that the army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters in Lekki and Alausa, another area of Lagos where EndSARS protesters were being held. The army has denied involvement of their men in the shooting.
The Nigerian press refused to cover the issue initially, so it forced us to rely on social media to record information to preserve the truth and possible evidence, some Nigerians remain unconvinced by the video evidence, in a now-deleted tweet, an actress with more than one million followers seemingly cast doubt on the Lekki shooting, requesting the bereaved to speak out. Others, however, are urging those with proof to store it in the cloud, away from potential government interference.
In conclusion, I think 2023 will be interesting for the future of the country because there is rage. But there is also the realization that if we come together and plan towards something, we can achieve it.
Achugo wrote from Eastern Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Still On 2020 US Election

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The November 3, 2020, Presidential Election was arguably the most important election in United States post-war history. In these elections, therefore, the participation of American voters was the largest since 1900, demonstrating the resurgence of their political interest and the strongly polarizing climate that prevailed in the country. Át the same time the Democratic Party candidate, Joe Biden, may have won the popular vote (4.5 million more votes than President Donald Trump) and the necessary electors, but Trump has shown great resilience, having in fact against him almost all the media, the vast majority of Hollywood.
These elections showed the deep division in the United States, which in many places led to extremely marginal election results. The intense confrontation between the two sides and the extreme rhetoric and practice is not an isolated event and may deepen even further, having a negative impact on the country.
The reasons for Trump’s electoral resilience are due to the fact that the US President had adopted an anti-systemic rhetoric of complaint of the elites, to which he however belongs, as well as an aggressive tactic against the forces of globalisation, aspects that touched strongly large sections of the middle class and, of course, the working class.
So, to the unemployed, to the people who feel they have no voice, to the provincials who are ridiculed for their manners and customs by arrogant metropolitan residents, even to citizens belonging to minorities but also to all large communities, such as African Americans and Latinos, Trump’s speech has found and continues to find great resonance. And this is despite the fact that all the movements for the protection of rights (black lives matter, etc.) were clearly against him.
And if the coronavirus pandemic had not occurred and the second wave had not broken out, which is hitting the United States as violently as the first, Trump would have easily won the elections. Thus, after the first three years of positive economic performances of the Trump administration, the March lockdown caused the closure of many small and medium-size enterprises, while more than 20 million Americans were suddenly left without a job.
And Trump would certainly have won the presidential election without the health crisis as Biden, who expresses the neo-liberal internationalism, the related globalization process and the “open society” of NGOs and the very powerful economic institutions such as George Soros and Bill Gates Foundations etc., clearly seemed to have run out of forces, proposals and slogans before he even crossed the finish line.
Trump’s political opponents and most analysts and pollsters had focused on the arrogant and selfish traits of his personality, an eccentric and highly impulsive no doubt billionaire, and of course they were wrong in believing that he would be defeated with a big difference. Trumpism, as an ideological and social phenomenon, is certain, therefore, that it has not left, is present and will continue to exist. Trump is not just a parenthesis in US political history but expresses specific distinct trends in American society and among the bourgeoisie.
The American citizens want to prosper economically in a country where social peace, order and security will prevail. Due to globalisation, many industrial units have left for poor countries where there is a cheap labour force. So, the US working class was greatly hurt. Trump was the one who demanded the return of the factories to his country, putting the USA and the American people first, in the context of the ideological tendency of ethnocentric conservatism.
Other countries, especially the powerful ones, may not like the politics of “America First”, but the same is not the case with the average American citizen, notably in deep America and the central states.
On January 20, Joe Biden will sit in his chair at the Oval Office with Kamala Harris as Vice President, for the first time in office, a woman of African, Jamaican and Indian descent. During his term and based on what he said the United States will return to the Paris Climate Treaty, according to which the minimum goal of the states is to keep the temperature at plus 2 degrees Celsius (+2 C), and that will be a positive development, as the climate change is not a “myth”. And this can be easily seen if one takes a look at the extreme weather phenomena that occur on the planet. Let us not forget that the United States is the second largest polluter in the world after China.
Also, multilateral organisms such as NATO, the UN and its offshoots, which have been strongly challenged by outgoing President Trump, will likely be treated differently by Biden’s administration, but US relations with its European allies may move in other directions.
It should be noted at this point that Trump had repeatedly threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO and reduce its contribution if other members showed no willingness to increase their spending on the organisation. Germany-US relations have also been strained for the past four years, with Trump threatening the German car industry and the European Union as a whole several times with duties. Washington’s relations with Brussels were also frozen after its decision to withdraw the United States from international climate agreements and Iran over its nuclear programme.
However, if the Republicans eventually win control of the Senate, it will cause many deep problems for the new President Biden, as they will block most of his legislative agenda.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that the predominance of Joe Biden, who has also starred in all the pathogenic characteristics that led America to its current decline – that is, widespread social inequalities, the problematic welfare state, the favour to the strong economic elites, international lawlessness etc.-is not going to lead the US on bright paths. Besides, he did not present an inspiring, comprehensive and convincing programme plan for the social, economic and political reorganisation of the society and the country.
Karderinis, an economist and novelist, wrote from Geece.

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