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Inspiring Lessons From Venice

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“You have too much respect upon the world; They lose it that do buy it with much care”.
– The Merchant of Venice (1:1:75)

Venice, located in Northern Italy, is a lively, inspiring and
neat city, housing the Headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The whole of Italy itself is a tourist centre, with tourism accounting as the most important source of foreign currencies. Right from ancient times Venice has been a notable commercial and sea-faring centre, with Shakespeares’ Merchant of Venice providing some inspiring history about the city of Venice.
We also have Senator Brabantio, a reluctant father-in-law of Othello, the Moor of Venice, whose daughter, Desdemona, was strangulated by her husband. Anyone who has been to Venice would give inspiring testimonies about human ingenuity and ability to transform the state of Nature, yet preserving its beauty. Challenges can be transformed!
Unfortunately, with a foreign news headline in The Tide newspaper of Friday, November 15, 2019; saying “Flood: Italy to Declare State of Emergency in Venice”, many people would feel quite sad. Those who have seen pictures of the reactions of individuals and authorities to the disaster which fell upon Venice, would be inspired by the indomitability of the human spirit.
It is quite sad enough for the ancient city of Venice to experience an unusual flood disaster, with bad weather said to have driven the high tides. There is an inspiring lesson to learn that during the disaster, there were “sirens warning of fresh flooding ringing through the canal city”. Despite the depressing occurrence, jolly good fellows did not allow their spirit to be broken or optimism be dampened. Beer and coffee drinkers did not abandon flooded bars. They drank their “espresso while standing in several inches of water”. Great and hilarious fellow!
We did not hear about “area-boys” or cultists or other criminal groups, taking advantage of the disaster to cause more agonies and disasters. We did not hear that members of the armed forces went to town with weapons of mass destruction, to cause panic in a situation that demands empathy and succor. We did not hear that some marabouts, prayer warriors and exorcists went to scenes of disaster to engage in “casting and binding” of evil forces.
International media covering of the flood in Venice obviously raises humanitarian concerns, with mixed emotions seeing Venice’s famous square half submerged by flood. Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country”. Much of Italy is geologically unstable, with four active volcanoes – namely Etna, Vestuvius, Stromboli etc.The Italians are endowed with a high and indomitable spirit, able to dare where other people may fear to go.
We have an example of the Italian daring spirit in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, where a rascally lachimo, using cunning, got into the bed room of Princess Imogen, and stole her bracelet. We learn from that play that “t is gold which makes the true man killed and saves the thief; what can it not do and undo?”
Ancient Venice is associated with Shylock, a rich Jew who must have “a pound of flesh” of Antonio for defaulting in payment of a debt. There was a lesson for shylock: “take thou thy pound of flesh, but in the cutting it, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods are, by the Laws of Venice, confisticated unto the state of Venice”. That lesson remains alive in the minds of merchants, money lenders and all people visiting or doing business in Venice.
With regards to the flood in Venice currently, we learn that the Italian government would pay 5,000 euros to residents whose houses got flooded, and 20,000 euros for restaurants and shop owners as aids. State authorities are also assessing the extent of the damage done to St. Marks’ Basilica, which is one of the highly valued cultural treasures of Venice. There are other architectural wonders in Venice such as aqueducts built a long time ago.
The fact that Venice is referred to as “UNESCO City” gives a testimony about the rich artifacts which are associated with Venice. The Phoenitians of old were great sea-farers, with the cities of Tyre, Sidon and Venice featuring in tales of great seamanship. The Vikings were more of plunderers and sea pirates.
Although Italy has other major cities such as Milan, Naples, Turin, Genoa, Polermo, Florence, etc, Venice stands out for its beauty and Rome for being the capital. The Vatican City, though within the territory of Rome, is an independent Roman Catholic State, with its own government.
The unusual flood in Venice, Italy, may be associated with unusual weather and climate changes, which are of global concern. Within the context of global warming and weather disasters, there are inspiring lessons which we in Nigeria can learn. Like the opening quotation taken from The Merchant of Venice, those who put too much value on what the world provides, stand at a loss. Disasters, whether caused by flood or fire, are meant to remind humans that those who hold materialistic world-view are myopic indeed.
The idiom or story of Job in the Scriptures is meant to convey some inspiring lessons for those who see the world and its glories as ultimate values. There is a book titled: Talks with a Devil, by a Russian philosopher, P.D. Ouspensky. Its vital message is that wars, disasters, loses etc, are meant to teach man to look beyond the sphere of matter for real values and meanings in life. Flood and disaster would come and go, but the illuminating lessons of Venice is that non-perishable values make life beautiful. Venice, like Vienna, are cities of grandeur. Take a holiday once!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

‘I Don’t Know What Came Over Me’

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Remorseful confessions such as “I don’t know what came over me”, have been quite many, coming after the commission of deeds of an impulsive nature. Human legal system recognises and also differentiates between crimes committed with “malice aforethought” or prior motive, and the ones committed on the spur of the moment. It is usually such deeds done on the spur of the moment that result in the remorseful outcry of “I don’t know what came over me”. But there is more to such statements that meets the eye. What is it that can come over anyone?
One Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) a Swedish mathematician and philosopher, was one of the early researchers who did detailed study on what lies behind impulse actions of men and what “remote-control” element that lies therein. The work of Swedenborg was so elaborate and penetrating that a religious sect known as Swedenborgianism emerged in Europe and became a global movement. Yet, there is more to the issue of “unseen forces” than are contained in Swedenborgian philosophy.
People get excited or alarmed when they hear about “unseen forces”, but such anxieties or fears arise largely because of prevailing ignorance about such issues. Even religious teachers mix up what is natural, with artificially created “unseen forces”, such that confusions and false speculations arise. The situation gets worse and much more complex when issues such as witchcraft, hallucination often called “speaking in longues”, etc, are added to the realm of the “unseen forces”.
To begin with, there are innumerable Nature beings which are invisible to humans, representing and serving in the four elements, namely: fire, water, air and earth. So, such invisible beings can also be called Elemental Forces, so named because they represent the various elements and possess radiations endowed with force. The Nature beings or Elemental Forces carry out their services by means of the radiations natural to them, over which nothing can interfere with. This means that such Nature beings are not subject to any arbitrary influence except the Will of Whom they serve, with absolute obedience.
Therefore, those who talk about “marine spirits” etc must do further research. Only human beings of flesh and blood can be referred to as “spirits”. The Nature or Elemental beings are NOT spirits, neither do they possess freewill or personal volition like humans do. All errors, derelictions, disorder, impurity and other aberrations in creation emanate or originate from human being, via personal volition. Through the misuse and misdirection of personal volition, humans have created a wide range of artificial “unseen forces”.
Artificially existing “unseen forces” emanating from abuses of human volition, coupled with human passions such as fears, envy, hate and other emotions, resulted in a vast world of Thought-forms or Phantoms. Over a long period, various artificially created ugly forms, energies and radiations emanating from human beings, gathered together according to their kinds and formed centres of energy. Such energy-centres grow in power and intensity as more and more human emotions flow in to reinforce the contents of the energy-centres, which are invisible by nature. They are sustained by man.
Like electronic radiations, various thought-forms and energy-centres occupy and operate on waves in the atmosphere, according to the types of emotions and deeds which they represent. The fact that each energy-centre coalesces by the force of attraction to form a homogeneous unit, means that each of the centres becomes an “unseen force”. Each of such energy-centres is endowed with or possesses magnetic force, giving it the power to infect or flow into any human source that provides a link or access to it.
An appeal to, link or access, connecting an individual with a particular unit of “unseen forces” arises through intense provocation, causing a burning impetus or desire to do a deed on the spur of the moment. Then there is a magnetic flow of energy, coupled with strength, energy and everything else necessary to carry out the deed, on the spur of the moment. The connection or link comes like a lightening flash, taking possession of the brain and body of the person who summoned the appeal to an invisible centre of energy or power. Truly, such centres of power exist.
However, it would be quite wrong and untrue to attribute the existence of innumerable “unseen forces” to the Creator whose activity bears purity only. Neither is the construction and brewing of such artificial sources of energy the work of the devil. Rather, human beings are the architects, growers and brewers of the realm of horrifying unseen forces. The devil only took an advantage of a mechanism by which means human beings gave evidence of their utter weaknesses and inability to stand aright in the light. The entire mechanism of human derailment is worth doing a serious research into.
The mechanism whereby the human mind or consciousness lets in external radiation, force or entity is quite easy to research into. Keeping the Nature or Elemental beings quite out of the matter, two sources of invasion of the mind are the centres of thought-energy and then discarnate human spirit. An individual, groups or a nation can let corrupting influences deprive them of natural immune system available freely to diligent persons. Discarnate human spirit in the unseen realm of existence can take possession of living persons, using their brains and bodies as instruments of manifestation.
Quite a number of persons, including some of those we regard as great are rarely themselves, but are victims of what psychiatrists call split-personality. Discarnate entities, apart from thought-energy centers, do not just take possession of the minds of living persons. Rather, people put themselves into such danger by dabbling into fetish and occult activities or through intake of addictive drugs and hallucinogenic substances. From students to senators the Nigerian environment can make people prone to attraction of deleterious radiations or earth-bound dark souls.
Strong human volition and vaulting ambition can and do ignite contacts with unseen energy centres. Individuals live and move in the thought-energy which they allow to form their psychological environment and thereby provide a link with similar radiations from distant spheres. To guard our thoughts with utmost diligence is a valid and great admonition. Now we know what can come over an individual when he strays from this admonition. Herein lies real corruption!

By: Bright Amirize

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

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Opinion

The Hypocrisy In Us

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Expectedly, since the news of the arrest of the Yoruba Nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho broke on Monday and the story about the federal government’s move to extradite him to Nigeria from Benin Republic keeps filtering in, many groups and individuals have questioned government’s recent hounding of separatist agitators while bandits, herdsmen and militias that have been terrorising the country keep getting away with their atrocities.
In a statement entitled ‘The reported arrest of Yoruba Nation crusader: Pursuing the shadow, not the substance’, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said “The same government that is suddenly effective in the cases of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho had never been able to capture kidnappers, bandits and Boko Haram that are daily ravaging us, turning Nigeria into a sprawling field of human carnage.
“They take ransom. Innocent school children are paid for. Where is the same government when kidnappers are demanding that the parents of kidnapped children should now be feeding them in their kidnap dens?”
Several Yoruba groups, the Middle Belt Forum, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, the Ohaneze Ndigbo and many others have also taken a swipe at the federal government over Igboho’s arrest and the apparent lopsidedness in the handling of insecurity challenges facing the country for decades now and other national issues.
Often, we have heard people in government assure and reassure the citizens that measures were being taken to address the security challenges which have claimed many lives and made many refugees in their own land. Yet, there is no evidence of such efforts.
At other times, they create the impression that the bandits, kidnappers and the insurgents in certain parts of the country are faceless even when some governors from that zone are seen taking pictures with them and Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, the self-appointed mediator between bandits and the federal government visits their abodes at will.
Meanwhile, the same government that seems helpless in tackling these problems in the North shows the stuff it is made of whenever a similar or even less severe situation arise in another part of the country. We are all witnesses to how the Nigerian security forces quelled the recent uprising in the South Eastern part of the country, killing and arresting battle-hardened members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the military wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
So, while some insurgents in one part of the country who have made the country a living hell for many people are handled with kids’ gloves, some other criminals and freedom fighters from other parts of the country are fished out both within and outside the country and dealt with. If that is not hypocrisy, I don’t know what else to term it.
However, while we oppose the hypocrisy and lopsidedness of the government in addressing security concerns in the country, we should not engage in the same hypocritical act by failing to condemn anti-constitutional deeds irrespective of whether we share the same faith, origin or political inclination with the perpetrators or not.
Some of these non-state actors apparently have spewed certain rhetoric that were capable of threatening the peace of their states, regions and the nation at large. They might be seen as freedom fighters by many people but in the eyes of the government they are a threat because some their words and actions were not in conformity with the law of the land. Is it within the rights of any citizen who feels marginalized or aggrieved to make any demand? Of course, the answer is right. But shouldn’t such demands be made in line with the constitution of the country?
The same way we want President Muhammadu Buhari and the security forces to uphold the constitution in addressing banditry and insurgency should be the same way we fight to ensure that the government prosecutes its job with the non-state actors who have employed non-constitutional means in pursuing their demands.
As alluded earlier, the reason why some people are demanding that Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and the likes should be set free is very clear. We have a government that has shown every form of nepotism, abuse of the rule of law and is not adequately upholding its mandate of welfare and the security of the Nigerian State but if we continue to allow everything go, then the nation will be doomed.
 It’s just like Sheikh Gumi and the likes demanding that the bandits, after all the disservice, mayhem and chaos wreacked on the Nigerian state and the citizenry should be handsomely rewarded by being incorporated into the country’s security system, and be placed on salaries as a way of ending kidnapping in the country; or granting amnesty to some criminals under the toga of Niger Delta Militants.
In my opinion, such a fence-mending attitude cannot bring the desired lasting solution to the problems. Crime should be treated as crime. It is tantamount to hypocrisy to say that someone who has acted against the dictates of the constitution under any guise should not have his day in court. What we should rather be canvassing for is that the court process should be free, fair, transparent and swift.
Some people have always maintained that Nigeria has capable hands in the military, the police and other security agencies to deal with the serious security situation that has been our lot in the country for decades now, if only the powers that be are ready, willing and determined to do so. And the arrest of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya and Igboho has indeed laid credence to such insinuation.
We hope to see the same energy put in also in getting those who are within the walls of the country terrorising the nation to face the music as well. Most importantly, we need to get to the root causes of the separatists’ agitations across the country and address them sincerely and objectively. Because if we think that by getting Kanu and Igboho out of the way, the agitations will end, we might be deceiving ourselves.

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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