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Water Of Mara

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In the ancient entrance and walls of the Temple of Apollo were numerous admonitions, one of which read: “Look back to where you had erred and take steps to put things right again”. Apollo was regarded by ancient Greek people as the god of archery, prophesy, music and sun, and there were temples and devotees dedicated to the honour of Apollo. The admonition to “take steps to put things right again” required having the courage and willingness to drink “the Water of Mara”, which is an idiom. The Water of Mara is usually bitter.
A Nigerian politician was quoted as saying that the bandits, kidnappers, hoodlums, etc., operating in the northern parts of Nigeria, copied their trades and activities from the militants of the Niger Delta zone who were agitating for resource control, with reference to oil and gas resources. That was the ground to ask for amnesty as the Niger Delta militants had enjoyed under the Presidency of UmaruYar’Adua. Such logic or reasoning cannot hold any water because it is obviously wrong to compare agitation for resource control and the situation in the North.
Wherever people are not ready to own up their deficiencies and weaknesses, they usually resort to prevarication and equivocation which are merely intellectual sophistry. Such mindset makes it more difficult to take steps to put things right; rather, the use of excuses and scapegoats feature as usual political gimmicks.
When a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, raised alarm not too long ago, about Fulanisation and Islamisation project, he was not joking or crying wolf, but informing Nigerians of the shape of things to come. Even before then, the hue-and-cry over Sharia law during Obasanjo’s presidency should have been a notice about the pursuit of some agenda. Let us not continue to pretend, because already Nigeria is classified in some quarters as an Islamic State. Frankly there is nothing wrong about that. Rather, there is something else more disturbing.
Those who know the mindset of the Fulani race would tell us that there is no separation between religion, politics and economics. Ray Ekpu, in Newswatch Magazine of March 20, 2000 said: “When Ahmad Sani, Zamfara State’s own Ayatolla Khomeini, announced with a freshly nursed beard decorating his face, that he was taking his state down the Taliban road, President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to downplay its impact by saying the matter would fizzle out… Instead, state after state in the north got infected by the Sharia epidemic”.
So there has always been the game plan of using religion not only as an opium of the poor and politicians but more as a means of pursuing economic as well as political ends. Many years ago, Professor Omo Omoruyi lamented that the nation’s military and security apparatus are skewed in favour of the Muslim North. There have been many subtle efforts to raise Islamic ideology as embodied in the Sharia law as vital national values in a supposedly secular and democratic country. We have a standing Sharia Police!
The time has come for Nigerians to bring the game of hide-and-seek to a halt and tell ourselves the truth, despite its bitterness. The nation is sliding towards dangers and steps much be taken to put things right again to avoid disasters. One of such steps is to separate religion from politics which should reflect in federal appointments. It has become clear to many Nigerians that religion is being used as a cover to pursue political and economic ends. The security situation in the country is a reflection of the shenanigans of toxic politics, with militant groups as bargaining chips.
The “Water of Mara”, as an idiom, has to do with taking the needful steps to put things right before the night comes. The starting point in such a project involves mindset. To live in the past under the illusion that present realities and challenges can be addressed with past prescription, is a wrong mindset. Earth-life is progressive and subject to changes, since nothing is perfect here. Rather, through learning experiences and the internalisation of the lessons contained therein, steps can be taken to fashion out what is realistic and needful for the present. This is the point which eludes conservative mindset.
For example, old injunctions to stone adulterers and witches to death cannot be a proper remedy for the present time. This is the line which advocates of Sharia law are prescribing and, even if that is acceptable to some people, ideals of democracy provide for individual freedom of choices. If Sharia law is good for some section of a nation, then that choice must not be imposed on others, especially when such imposition is being made in some clever ways, including violence.
One feature of human mindset is the ability of the mind to reverse itself as well as the stuff and contents deposited therein. The mind can reject and empty itself of unpleasant contents and replace them with new values, if there is such strongly felt new orientation. Therefore, whatever conditions that an individual finds himself, especially unpleasant ones, opportunities do exist for a change through a radical alteration in thought frequency. Being held back in the past is to hold the mind in bondage.
There are road maps in various forms to educate everyone that life on earth demands some duty, responsibility and obligations which may be bitter to take on. No one can climb higher when there are gaps and vacuums left unattended below. Unfortunately, indolence and pride cause many people to dodge some responsibilities, duties and obligations, neither would falsification and subterfuge provide an escape way. To drink of the Water of Mara is a part of the education which life imposes on everybody, especially when duties, obligations and responsibilities have been left undone.
The justice of life’s learning process involves penalties and personal atonements which no individual can evade or transfer to another. There is a system of justice and equity which human blusters, excuses and cleverness cannot sabotage. For us in Nigeria the time has come for the leaders of the nation to have the patriotism and courage to drink the Water of Mara rather than postpone issues that need to be addressed boldly. There is the need to work out a mutually acceptable road-map.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

By: Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Private Gains And Public Pains

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The issue of black soot and its effect on pollution of the environment, with specific reference to Rivers State, can no longer be treated with levity because the threat has reached an alarming point. There is hardly anyone living in the vicinity of Port Harcourt who would not have noticed the increasing density of soot emission and pollution in the environment. Great effects usually arise from little causes, and when they accumulate unchecked, irreparable harms usually follow.
It is over six years ago that the observation of black soots settling upon roof tops and living rooms became a sad phenomenon. Expectedly, illegal refining of petroleum products in forest locations, bunkering of crude oil and destruction of such products by law enforcement agents, were fingered as causal factors. In their zeal and macho temperament, law enforcement agents went into action, burning whatever petroleum products they could seize, including boats and vehicles associated with such illegal activities.
Concerned members of the public, particularly residents in the vicinity of the burning orgies, had raised alarm, complaining about the menace and crude manner of burning crude oil. The verdict was that crude oil business had brought about crude lifestyle as well as crude responses to complaints and demand for sanity in the whole business. Oil-bearing communities became the most callously abused and degraded environments in an oil-producing nation.
The time has come for local, national and international agencies and authorities to be informed, if they are not aware already, that soot emission and pollution are alarming threats to humans. Oil business, from the crude to refined chain-link, is a profit motivated activity. The trail of agonies and callousness left behind by the operators of the business are clear indicators that one man’s gain is another man’s pain. Oil-producing environments have borne enough of the pains of crude and refined oil.
The toxic and soporific effects of burnt crude oil products and the soots which have massed up in Rivers State, pose grave dangers, to say the least. If nobody wants to stick out his neck by speaking up on this issue, for fear of offending any authority, let this be a call that soot pollution can be more devastating than COVID-19 pandemic. The soot issue is like a slow poison, building up gradually and whose cumulative effects would jolt everybody up in no distant time. One does not need to be a medical or public health professional to be able to see the danger arising from massing of soots.
Illegal refining of crude oil in the coastal zones of Rivers State had been a jinxed business whose eradication is hard, because of complicity and duplicity. Without wanting to open the can of worms, it is enough to say that the black gold whose effect an Abacha could not resist, would have a similarly soporific effect on Alibaba’s serving men. What if the burnt crude oil products project is a ruse involving less than 5% of seized haul from illegal refiners and bunkerers!
The Nigerian political economy has in-built corrupting components which make it hard for a “clean” man to remain clean in the system. From the nation’s reward system of minimum wage of N30,000 and a maximum one of N30,000,000.00 per month, to the plight of unemployment; who would blame community youths for engaging in illegal crude oil activity. There is no doubt that just as the pollution arises from black soot via illegal refining activities, so also does worsening corrupt practices become intractable via loop-holes in the political economy. There are structural issues!
Apart from physical pollution of the environment via soots through illegal refining activities, there is also a worse aspect of pollution arising from psychological processes. Human psychological environment consists in products of the volition, thinking, attitude, actions and utterances of the people that populate the environment. In the case of Nigeria, it is obvious that there is an excess dose of crudity, callousness and attitude of meanness. It is a true statement that the environment reflects a mirror-image of the people who populate that society.
It is not possible for a corruption-ridden society to show-case integrity and honour, unless through cosmetic measures and pretences. Therefore, the computer programming slogan of “garbage-in-garbage-out” applies in the issue about human environments. Our environment is our image, such that what shows physically are products of what we brew internally through our volition, thoughts and activities. Soots polluting our environment arose from our activities.
Actions and responsibilities of state authorities towards the environmental challenges may not have been adequate enough, which accounts for the continued hazard arising from soot. Those responsible for the emission and spread of soots are a few people looking for gains, but the pains and dangers arising from soot pollution spread across a larger population. Human proclivity to avoid costs also includes the cleverness of passing on the hidden costs of personal gains to the wider public as collective pains. Clever business strategy!
The eternal laws of life operate in such ways that the fate of individuals and the larger public is so accurately woven that the distribution of guilts and pains are without any injustices. To make gains at the expense and pains of other people, would ensure that the gains would be enjoyed with pains at the end. There are many factors which account for how an individual fares in life, all of which ensure justice without prejudice.
Please, let those who know and are charged with the state responsibility of safe environmental and public health take appropriate actions over the issue of black soots. The dangers are glaring enough that it would be foolhardy to wait until the situation gets to the point of uncontrollable crises, before we take actions. To breathe in the soot daily is quite bad enough, but any individual can help himself in any sensible way one can, which would include knowing that there are black soots that are dangerous. Politics of environmental clean-up would not help. Action will!

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

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Opinion

Addressing High Food Prices In Nigeria

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I went to the market last weekend to buy some groceries and was shocked by the sharp rise in the prices of almost all the items.  When a tomato seller told me that a small basket I bought for N700 days ago had gone up to N1,700.00, I felt it was a slip of tongue or a joke as the man is famous for jokes. So, I asked again, “Customer, I mean the price of this small basket.” And he retorted,  “Madam, tomato i don cos. We no see am buy. The basket wey we dey buy for N7,000.00 before, they don dey sell am N17,000.00. No bi me do am, madam. Things cos”.
Of course, I wasn’t going to settle for that. I decided to check at other places, hoping to get a better price all to no avail. The prices of many food items and other commodities have doubled, some tripled just within one week.
Food as we know is one of the basic necessities of life. Some have even gone further to say that access to food is a basic human right, vital for good health and ultimately for life itself. It, therefore, stands to reason that whatever infrastructure or developmental project any government is embarking on without considering the welfare of the citizens may not mean much to the people who are hungry and who are not sure of their daily bread.
During the 2015 elections, many Nigerians trooped out to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari believing that he was the messiah needed to deliver the nation from poverty, corruption, hunger and bad government and take us to the Eldorado. Incidentally, rather than getting better, the situation keeps deteriorating by the day. Policies that seem to be aimed at deliberately impoverish the people keep springing up every now and then.
When in September last year the price of Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) and electricity tariff were increased right in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, many people kicked against it saying it would add to the excruciating hardship in the country, knowing how life in Nigeria revolves around these two key items, government said that the decision was in the interest of the citizens. According to the President, the COVID-19 pandemic, which had affected economies globally, compelled his administration to make some necessary far-reaching adjustments for long-term gains.
He said government’s fixing or subsidising PMS prices would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime with the potential return of fuel queues, adding that there was no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget and assured citizens of the government’s determination to remain alert to its responsibilities by preventing marketers from raising prices arbitrarily or exploiting them.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, on the other hand, explained that removal of subsidy was not a political decision but had become inevitable, especially with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the low crude oil prices and curtailing of Nigeria’s production output by OPEC, which had constrained government’s revenue. “We have cut production to 1.412 million barrels, which has halved our earnings,” he disclosed.
Today, great uncertainty still surrounds the issue of fuel subsidy. There is constant anticipation of increase in fuel price from the current N165.00 to maybe N200.00 or more. Some shylock independent petroleum marketers have cashed in on these irregularities to periodically hoard petroleum products thereby creating artificial scarcity which is one reason traders capitalise on to hike prices of the goods and commodities.
The need to urgently and sincerely address the problem of corruption, subsidy, local refineries and other issues around the petroleum industry in the country cannot be overstated. The same applies with the power sectors as experts have repeatedly warned that the abysmal 4,000 mw of electricity generated cannot take the economy nowhere. For a country of 200 people, they say a minimum of 100,000 mw is required to support the economy and increase the purchasing power of the naira.
In a recent article titled, “Nigeria Printing Money: The Road To Zimbabwe”, an economic expert, Nick Agule, observed that if the N60 billion printed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and shared among the three tiers of government as revealed by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, recently and subtly alluded to by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was  invested in the agricultural sector and to bail out the struggling production sector of the economy, it would have been of immense benefit to the nation’s economy.
He asserted that with the new cash, these industries would have been able to fund working capital to bounce back to business and boost production. A boost in production means more jobs will be created as more factories reopen and service centers return to life. The economy will then be jump-started back to life with increased output and jobs.
He, however, warned that continuing on the path of financial rascality will only worsen the already bad situation in the country as the naira will become almost worthless with scanty food to buy.
Should our leaders at both the federal and state levels harken to this and other abundant wise counsels and take necessary steps to address hunger, poverty and economic problems in the country? Can they begin to make investments that will benefit the citizens and make our states and nation at large better places to live rather than for their selfish gains?
Rivers State Government has taken a laudable step at alleviating poverty and hunger in the state through investment in the state-owned $12 million cassava processing project. It will generate massive employment, enhance the Gross domestic Product (GDP) of the state in particular and Nigeria in general and bring, to the barest minimum, uprising and insecurity.
Other states, particularly in the southern part of the country, should take a cue from Rivers State and invest in agriculture to save their people from extreme hunger and starvation.
However, without addressing the heightened insecurity in the country – banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen menace and the likes which hinder farmers from freely carrying out their farming activities, all these investments may not yield the desired results.

 

Byh: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Ensuring Food Safety In Nigeria

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When we talk about food safety, we are talking about safeguarding our food in order to avoid risks of being infected whenever we consume them. The way we prepare and handle our food goes a long way in affecting our lives.
Safety of our food lies in our hands. As some persons are careless in life, that is how careless they are when preparing and handling food.  Like drugs, we should not toy with food.We have to take precautions when storing our food so as to avoid food-borne diseases.
As a trader, the way you handle food stuff is very important because if the food were mishandled, you wouldn’t have met it in good condition to purchase. It will be unfortunate if after a particular food item has undergone several processes, it is on your table or custody that such will be declared poisonous.
From time to time, we may have either ignorantly or with negligence purchased and consumed spoilt food. The case of kpomo or kanda meat, that is cow skin, is the one that has given many persons concern in recent time. Many people have testified the experiences gotten from the use of kanda. Some say it looks as if vegetable oil is applied on it so that as you wash the meat, oil will surface on top of the water.
Although there are good ones but there is one particular type that appears thick but no matter the number of times you wash, there must be soapy substance in whitish form. If you don’t wash it well, it will change the colour and taste of the soup.
Severally, I had asked the sellers why that type is always foaming during washing. But they don’t seem to know. This problem may not be from the sellers but from the butchers who roasted and prepared the kpomo. Even if they used soap to wash it after roasting, it should be properly washed. A situation where you are washing kanda and the water used is soapy is worrisome.
There was a time when meat butchers were warned not to use tyres in roasting kanda meat.It was reported that Rivers State Government intercepted a truckload of kpomo meat in Onne Local Government Area.The suspected truck conveying the kpomo, according to report, was accompanied by two men who had been allegedly apprehended.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Fred Kpakol, who confirmed the incident to journalists in Port Harcourt, said that the import paper showed that the product came into the country from Madagascar. He said the containerised truck which conveyed the product came through the Onne Port and added that it was seized and taken to the Police Area Command in Eleme for investigation.
Kpakol explained that the arrest followed a tip-off and the ministry swung into action quickly with the help of the police and assured that the police command would conduct a full-scale investigation into the matter.
According to him, the ministry got a tip-off that the kanda meat was imported into the state and we went in and found out that it was coming from Onne port.His words: “It was a container full of kanda, we were able to intercept it, took it to the Area Command, when it was opened, it was discovered that it was adulterated and stinking. From the import paper, we found out that it came from Madagascar”.
The Area Command said it had begun investigation into the matter. The Police Area Command made clear that those arrested with the truck claimed that the consignment was owned by a man called Alhaji and contained raw materials for making shoes.
Look at the way such thing is brought in. The Police and other security agents who raised alarm about this must be commended as investigation is being carried out. The distance from where the adulterated kanda was coming is something else.
We need food but it should not be poisonous. The importance of good food to the human body can never be over-emphasised but a situation where evil-minded persons will distribute rotten food to be consumed by fellow humans should be condemned.
Who knows the market where it would have been taken to and the victims who would have consumed the meat? Think of a situation where a household prepares meal with such or even in an eatery where it is used in cooking for customers. Does it mean that the kanda meat we have been consuming is imported? And it has come to the extent of bringing in spoilt type?
With all the cows in Nigeria, can’t we have enough supply of kpomo? I may not be able to explain the nutritional value of kpomo but good ones are useful in preparing different delicacies.I don’t want to believe that the kanda meat produced in Nigeria is not enough, the persons involved in that business just want to make their money without minding the implications on humans. If you want to do business, should it be spoilt food? Alarm was raised sometime by meat vendors that unscrupulous elements were bringing in meat from outside. I don’t know how true that was and if relevant authorities did a follow-up.
The food we eat must be properly cooked because we don’t know where it is coming from and how it was preserved. Relevant authorities should ensure that Nigeria is not a dumping ground for food that cannot be consumed in other countries. If we have to import, they should ensure proper check before importation because anything consumed goes a long way to affect the body negatively or positively. At least, the ones prepared here can be consumed if they are declared safe for consumption. For the ones from outside the country, the preparation and chemical used are unknown.
I think the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment should use relevant personnel to carry out more findings on how kpomo meat is roasted and prepared locally. This will help to differentiate between locally produced ones and the allegedly imported ones.Who knows what would have happened had security agents not been given a tip-off to intercept such consignment which would have been deposited into the local markets?
Those who are concerned with preparation of food for households should devote extra time in ensuring that families are served well prepared meals. It is worrisome how kandameat can be imported from such far distance without getting bad. They should not be allowed to kill innocent people because they want to make money.
Those involved in this unwholesome act should be dealt with according to the law so as to serve as deterrent to others. This is food adulteration and the National Agency for Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) should do their work in this regard. The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) saddled with importation duties should intensify surveillance to ensure that adulterated food can never find its way into the country.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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