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Nigeria: Can We Be Hopeful?

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Not a few times have we heard citizens express displeasure about how things are going on in the country. To many, there is no hope for a better Nigeria. Try all they can, with all the tales of how government in power has worked wonders and has surpassed all previous administrations, government functionaries cannot convince this set of people to think otherwise. And woe betide you if you hold a contrary opinion and want to persuade to believe that all hope is not lost.
A scene played out at a computer/phone repair centre otherwise called GSM village, in the nation’s capital. Some young men were lamenting how those in government (both past and present) had milked the nation dry and made life hellish for many Nigerians. One of them narrated how despite having graduated with Second Class Upper from the university nine years ago, he had been unable to secure a job.
Another recounted how terrible the nation’s roads were which makes road travels a nightmare in spite of the billions of naira budgeted annually for road construction and repairs.  “Since l was born, l have been hearing that Nigeria will be better, yet things keep getting worse every year. There are no good government hospitals, no water, no electricity, Nigerians are being killed by armed bandits daily yet our leaders are getting richer with the money meant to furnish these amenities, infrastructure and security. As far as l am concerned, there is no hope for this country”, he insisted.
Hearing all these tales of woes, a middle aged man in an opposite stall, who apparently was there to fix his device joined the discussion.  He told them that their line of thought was wrong, that Nigeria was a blessed country, which would be better in the nearest future through the joint effort of every citizen. Certainly, that man will not forget in a hurry the invectives and insults he got for saying that.
Indeed, it is very patriotic to think good of our beloved country and to believe that no matter how heavy the storm may be, the sun will rise one day; that the issues of corruption, bad governance, selfish leadership at all levels and many others, which have held the nation spellbound and stagnant for decades will one day be a thing of the past and Nigerians will have reasons to rejoice in the land that God has placed them. However, truth must be told that should the recklessness, embezzlement of public funds, seeming lack of direction, and other forms of impunity that have characterised governance across board in Nigeria are not checked, the better days hoped for might just be a mirage.
In the past few days, we watched the scandalous drama at the National Assembly during the probe into the alleged financial improprieties in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Those entrusted with the responsibility of developing the impoverished area couldn’t account for how about N40 billion was spent in a few years. Members of the commission were rather enriching themselves at the detriment of their fellow Niger Deltans who have suffered the devastating effects of oil explorations in the region for many years.
Painfully, that may be all we can hear about the case just as similar probes yielded little or no results. Already, the Senate has recommended that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC be made to refund the N4.923 billion alleged illegal payments made to staff of the commission and contractors in breach of the procurement process among other soft landing recommendations and that might be the end of the story. Nobody gets punished for the great crime.
Ours has become a country where the “connected”, those who can fake fainting , those who can mesmerize the lawmakers, the highly placed ones, are given a part on the back and told to go that their sins are forgiven while the poor and the less-privileged, people not in government, are punished for even the slightest offences. Consider the recent disclosure by the Defense Headquarters (DHQ) that 603 repentant former Boko Haram members would be re-integrated into society next month.
During a media briefing on the operations of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on Thursday, penultimate week, DHQ spokesperson, Major General John Enenche, said the 603 former combatants had completed the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration (DRR) programme of Operation Safe Corridor and would be pushed into the society.
Reports have it that the “repentant” terrorists would be provided with psyche-social supports and continued religious admonitions in order to make them good citizens of the country and of course starter packs to help them practice the skills they acquired in the camp.
Does one have issues with the authorities being magnanimous to forgive criminals who have killed over 30,000 people in the country, rendered thousands homeless and caused many people grievous pains?  Not at all.  But the worry is how will such a generous act aid the fight against insurgency and give hope that the nation will be victorious in her war against Boko Haram and other insurgents? What hope do we have that the senseless killings in southern Kaduna and other parts of the country, the kidnappings, banditry and other forms of criminalities going on across the land will abate when the culprits are not tried and punished in accordance with the law?
A great concern has also been raised about the consequences of such reintegration on those affected in one way or the other by the dastardly acts of the insurgents and what plans to ensure that such act does not lead to breakdown of fragile peace in the recovering communities and cities mostly in the North East.
What about the morale of the military men and women that have been risking their lives in the fight for many years? Again, what incentives are given to the law-abiding citizens to encourage them to remain on the right path? As Martin Luther King Jnr puts it, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice”. Again, in the words of the American Writer, Terry Goodkind, “Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent”.
It therefore behoves on those in authority to inspire hope in the millions of hopeless Nigerians through words and actions. Many of us have no other country but Nigeria and to make it better for us and the future generation, we must all resolve to play our roles efficaciously.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Era Of Satanic, Idiotic Jokers

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It is Satanic and idiotic to agitate for the dismemberment of Nigeria as a geographical entity; and those who hold meetings to demand that marauding cattle should not destroy farmlands are jokers. Once upon a time, a man called Salman Rushdie published a book titled Satanic Verses for which a death sentence was pronounced on him by some authorities that were vexed by the audacity and insolence of the writer. He escaped lynching by bandits, courtesy of British intelligence network.
Long before the publication of Satanic Verses, there was a vexatious book titled Maria Monk, causing a top clergyman to describe those who would be stupid to read it as idiotic. For the two books mentioned here, some task force and huge sums of money were devoted to buy up all the book everywhere and make bonfire of them. Those who had the chance and audacity to read these books would testify that they were not merely revelations of dark deeds, but also books of timely prophesies. Rushdie’s view that it was satanic to kill people in the name of religion was vexatious.
Deeds that are Satanic and idiotic are deeds that are reprehensible and ludicrous. In Nigeria, in recent times, some public notaries described agitators for a divided Nigeria as Satanic and idiotic. An abhorrent Satan is a clever dribbler who sets snares to lure unwary people into wrong paths through their own personal choice or volition. Without forcing anyone, people show their personal weaknesses via Satanic snares and antics.
Thus, the notorious tempter can be described as a quality control and assurance expert, whose clever antics are alluring and iridescent. You can neither outwit him nor buy him over with all the wealth on earth. To intimidate him with all the weapons of mass destruction is to be idiotic. Rather, the tempter, in a “Maradona”-fashion, uses a control of the human sensory faculty of discernment and analysis, to hold humans hostage. Control of that vital tool ensures optimal success.
On the other hand, the idiotic appellation applies to victims who fall easily to satanic antics by becoming slaves to myopic sensory perception. That faculty meant to serve as navigational rudder in the task of sensory perception became enthroned as a king which it is not. With that clever victory the tempter must be having a hilarious laughter that over 90% of humans have failed quality test. Yet, myopic humans in their state of mutual bondage can afford to describe others as Satanic and idiotic, when all of them are enslaved jokers.
One of Rushdie’s admirers revealed in 1983 that he witnessed a bonfire festival where several copies of Satanic Verses were set ablaze. He did talk about the supervisors of the festival dancing as they wielded swords while the book burned. For the book, Maria Monk, members of the Society of Jesus took on the task of buying off copies of the book and the mass burning thereof, as a book of sacrilege, written by an idiot. Yet one Akaluka was lynched somewhere in Nigeria for disrespecting a loose sheet of a holy book for toilet purpose in late 1994. Religious sentiments have no bounds.
During the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) there were numerous testimonies of how “vandals” made huge bonfire where “holy and academic” books provided the fuel. Celebrants of the festival of fire were said to be “drinking and cursing” those who allowed idiotic books to “scatter their brains”. A military commander was alleged to have ordered that no book should be spared, especially in university libraries.
The essence of this article, despite the foregoing digressions, is to point out some wrong attitude which portray Nigerians as a “bunch of idiotic jokers”. A Nigerian who nationalised in Germany actually used that appellation: bunch of idiotic jokers, in his bitterness towards the Twitter drama. If the honest opinions of Nigerians were to be obtained on the issue of the nation’s image worldwide, the result of such opinion-poll would be shocking. It would show that a typical idiot is the fool who does not know that he is a fool; dancing naked in public!
With regards to the issue of indivisibility of the Nigerian nation, there are issues that should be examined. Apart from how the nation was formed via amalgamation, there are issues which are of vital importance, ranging from justice to self-determination. Perhaps, since the opinions of the various groups which were amalgamated in 1914 were not sought, the culture of a forced union must become a norm. The chemical process of amalgamation demands that various elements can unite and blend only when their differences can be brought to a tolerable state of nearness. There can be no forced union of widely different elements.
Human shenanigans and selfishness seek to distort and prevent the Laws of Nature in such ways that forced and arbitrary blendings bring about artificialities which endanger human existence. From the experiments in grafting in the plant world, to human cloning, results have shown that human vanity tries to dethrone the wisdom of the creator. By that means, humans have brought about various calamities whose consequences affect us in many ways we rarely recognise immediately. Like-minds blend more easily!
To seek to distabilise a country is not the same thing as protests and agitations arising from perceived injustices and acts of marginalisation. A book titled A Spiral of Violence, not written by an idiot, neither is it full of sound an fury, tells us that injustice is the leading form of violence, and that wherever it exists, stability and security would flee. But Satanic and idiotic humanity would rarely recognise that simple logic that you cannot have peace, security and stability when you sow injustices.
Perhaps, the meaning and concept of justice can also be distorted and perverted by Satanic and idiotic minds, through Luciferian antics of calling white black and black white, via the instrumentality of money. Or, is it justice to run a democracy via the antics of oligarchy? Yes, it takes idiotic minds swayed by Satanic snares to describe those who ask for justice in governance as Satanic, idiotic or as jokers. It is justice to destroy farmers’ crops, while those who demand for such practice to stop are jokers; then welcome to a Satanic and idiotic social era!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Fighting Corruption In Nigeria

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Corruption in Nigeria is a major topic for discussion at different forums in the country. Everybody seems to know the devastating effect of this social malaise on every sector of the economy, yet not many are willing to resist corrupt practices for the good of the nation.
 Since the news of the sentencing of the former chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan, to seven years imprisonment over the $3 million bribery charges preferred against him by the federal government broke on Tuesday, many people have been pouring out their minds on the judgment and corruption in the country in general.
While a minute fraction claims that the case was pursued till the end because Lawan may not be in the good books of the government which would have shielded him or ensured that the matter was swept under the carpet — if the reverse was the case, quite a good number of people see the judgment as a plus in the nation’s fight against corruption even as they demand that the same seriousness should be seen in pursuing other-high profile corruption cases.
Indeed, the federal government must be commended for having come this far in this case. Not a few people thought the case had gone the way of other similar cases in the past where we only heard about the beginning but never heard about their end. But here we have it today, after nine years; “Mr. Integrity” has to pay for his fraudulent acts.  Of course, as it’s always the practice, he may decide to appeal the judgment if the case is appealable but for the fact that such a highly placed citizen is made to face the wrath of the law gives a glimmer of hope for a good country in the future.
Let us hope that this will serve as a deterrent to other public office holders who milk the country dry and make life hellish for a greater number of the population and development in the country almost stagnant. It’s no news that the numerous problems in the country – poverty, poor infrastructure, low standard of education, poor and inadequate health facilities, insecurity, high rate of unemployment and many more are traced to corruption. Money meant for all the development of the country and welfare of the citizens are syphoned by a few persons at the corridors of power and utilised in some foreign countries while the citizens suffer. A typical example is the case of the former Minister of Petroleum, Deziani Allison-Madueke, who allegedly embezzled billions of dollars from Nigerian government and used it to acquire expensive properties in different parts of the world.
So, we need governments at all levels to show more commitment both in words and action in the fight against corruption. There is no way the future of our children will be assured if the high rate of corruption in the land presently is not tackled.
 However, one erroneous attitude of many Nigerians is to always point accusing fingers at the leaders whenever the issue of corruption is mentioned. No, corruption is not restricted to only politicians or those in authority. It has permeated all facets of the society including the police, the judiciary, the business sector, the education and health sectors, and the civil service. Traders, artisans, housewives and many others cannot be exonerated. Imagine where our markets and shops are now filled up with adulterated edible products. A greater percentage of “palm oil” we have in our markets and shops today is highly adulterated. You add oil to your food and instead of the irresistible taste and aroma that the original palm oil is known for; it gives the food an offensive smell and awful taste.
 A plumber tells you that a part of your water pumping machine that went bad will cost N30,000 for the original one and N15,000 for the “Taiwan”. You give him money for the original one and he buys the part and couples the machine. After a short while, the pumping machine parks up again, you call another plumber who finds out the first plumber bought neither the origin part you paid for nor the “Taiwan”. What he bought was a refurbished engine part which did not cost more than N5000, 00. 
Your house help cries to you that she just got a call that her grandmother has kicked the bucket, and that she needs to travel to her village for the burial. You take pity on her and give her money for transportation and some burial expenses. Later you find out that she was not bereaved and that she instead spent the time and money with her boyfriend in another part of the town.
 The list is endless. We recall how some people in a viral video on social media were allegedly vandalising the newly rehabilitated rail track of the Nigeria Railway Corporation along its Warri-Itakpe axis.
 In all these cases, did we see President Muhammadu Buhari or Governor Nyesom Wike, a lawmaker, a minister or any top politician or government official perpetrating the fraudulent act? No. They were all ordinary citizens engaging in dishonest, fraudulent acts which they feel will benefit them, not minding the consequences of such actions on their fellow human beings and the nation. On the story of the adulterated palm oil for instance, the substance(s) or chemical used in the adulteration at various levels of the value chain until it finally gets to the consumer, might be more harmful to human life than the effect of sum amount stolen by a politician. 
Therefore, the sooner we begin to look inward and think of how we can fight this cankerworm starting from ourselves, the better. In 2016, Buhari launched the national reorientation campaign tagged, “Change Begins with Me” which was geared towards reorienting Nigerians on whose responsibility it is to bring on the positive changes they crave for, pointing out that if Nigerians want “change”, they should be the change themselves. Is it not time this campaign was revived?
 My point is that to stem corruption in Nigeria, the government has a huge role to play by being deliberate about the fight, showing more commitment and particularly through exemplary leadership. But without the citizens saying no to corruption and living corrupt free lives, the government’s efforts might yield little or no fruit.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Consequences Of High Bride Price

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Bride price is payment made by a groom or his kin to the family of the bride in order to ratify a marriage.  It is paid by the family of the groom to their future in-laws at the start of the marriage usually in cash and materials.
Bride price in Nigeria varies from one ethnic group to another.  What obtains as bride price in Rivers State may be different from Kogi State in terms of cash and materials required by the bride’s family. Although there are a few similarities in the list of items to be provided by the groom in Nigeria. 
It also varies from family to family. Some families collect as low as N5,000 while others collect as high as N1,000,000.
There are criticisms that this African tradition of paying bride price to the bride’s family before marriage degrades a woman by putting a required monetary value on a wife.But those who support the tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage.
Some families see bride price as symbolic, hence they ask for less. I have seen a situation where the mother of the bride collected N30,000 and later gave it back to the couple, asking them to put it in their bank account so that it will serve as a “starter pack”. This shows that she wasn’t really giving her out for money.
In our local setting, a marriage is recognised only when bride price and gift items have been presented to the bride’s family.  It is important because it validates marriage to give a woman respectable status in the society as a wife.
The importance of bride price can never be over-emphasised. It is one of the highest honours confirming a bride’s value and womanhood, giving a husband the full rights to the economic and reproductive powers of his wife. It is an honour bestowed on the parents that their daughter is getting married.
I see nothing wrong in payment of bride price but in recent time, the issue of high bride price seems to be competitive among families whose daughters are ripe for marriage.It is alarming and heart-breaking how newly-wedded couples end up paying debts years after marriage. When demanding for high bride price, some parents do not realise the fact that the yet-to-be couple will plan for church and court (Registry). The Registry requires little token. Although, the clergy will not ask, but the couple need to settle one or two things in church. 
More worrisome is the fact that some parents demand a live cow from an in-law as if the lady is to be exchanged. I know of a culture where cow must be provided to her kinsmen by the surviving husband or children before a late woman must be buried. The claim is that the man didn’t complete the marriage rites before the death if the woman. This is just to extort money from the late woman’s children.
A young man was mandated to pay about N2million to the wife’s kins after losing her during child birth, simply because he never completed marriage rites. What about the welfare of the surviving child?
A situation where a basin of fish that costs over N200,000 must be presented in the name of bride price for a traditional marriage to be contracted gave me concern. 
A father also demanded about N1million as dowry for his daughter. For Christ’s sake, no amount of money collected as bride price can pay all the expenses from birth to University level of a lady as this is the dream of greater percentage of our parents nowadays. No amount of money can buy a woman. “Her value is inestimable”.
High bride price can cause disharmony between husband and his in-laws. A young man was lamenting that after his marriage, his in-laws can never be allowed into his family. This is as a result of whatever high bride price they would have charged.
High bride price can cause a man to exhibit violent behaviours when he remembers how much he paid. He gets angry at every little thing the wife does which can lead to domestic violence. The implication is that the woman will suffer in silence with the fear that the man may demand for the high bride price if she leaves the marriage.
Income from her job or personal business is seen by the man as his. She is being denied freedom on using her income and often leads to a situation where the husband must be consulted before any monetary transaction in the family. This leads to hostile marital environment and can destabilise the marriage.
Man dominates the woman in terms of decision-making. The woman has little say or nothing when issues come up in the home. He can say: “Don’t talk, I paid heavily”.
One of the consequences of high bride price is that if perhaps divorce occurs, the bride and the family, according to customary norms, have to return the dowry. If the dowry were very expensive to the tune of N1million, they may not be able to pay back.
High bride price encourages gender inequality. It reduces the power and prestige of the woman with the perception that she was paid for.
High bride price leads to poverty. A couple may have been forced to incur debts in the course of marriage. These are young men and women who are starting life perhaps after graduation and have not made enough savings. Paying back debts incurred during weddings for two to three years should be discouraged.
For many young men, withdrawal syndrome sets in when they remember that they have to provide as much as N1million to marry a wife. You see someone going to marry at the age 50 because he didn’t have enough.  Even the ladies are also affected here. Some men get scared of going into such families or ethnic groups for marriage.  When will they train their children? 
No matter the status of the groom, minimal amount should be fixed for dowry to avoid certain consequences in future. Family of the bride should take cognizance of the fact that their daughter deserves some comfort in her new home.
It is high time the traditional institutions worked through their subjects in the various communities to create awareness on the dangers of high bride price in our society. 
Community heads who are saddled with the responsibility of marriage functions and rites should be advised to cut down some of the items and reduce the costs of available ones.
I call on local government councils to work with traditional rulers, community and family heads as well as women leaders to come out with minimum and maximum amount of money and other items needed as bride price and dowry. 
It should be domesticated in the by-laws of the local councils across Nigeria.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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