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For Gains Of Amnesty To Endure

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At last we are beginning to see glimpses of a blue sky over the Niger Delta region. The stormy clouds have lifted: the blinding lightening has ceased and the clattering thunder has died down. This clement condition is possible largely because of the unconditional amnesty that President Umaru Musa Yar’;Adua granted repentant militants.

It came as a big relief when the likes of Henry Okah, Ebikabowei Ben ( alias Boyloaf ), Ateke Tom. Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo) and other militants accepted the amnesty programme. This development is a remarkable breakthrough for the government as sceptics never gave the pacification strategy any chance of success. 

Indeed. the success that the amnesty initiative has recorded so far marks a turning point in the effort of President Yar’Adua to translate one of his seven-point agenda into reality. This much was acknowledged by the Director General of the European Union. Mr. Stefano Manservisi. while disclosing that his organisation had set aside 90 million Euros to support the post-amnesty programme. He said: “’This is indeed a very important turning point and we welcome it very much. We at the EC will urge the government of Nigeria to continue the effort of sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration of the former militants”. One cannot but agree.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee also captured the essence when he said that the amnesty “should be a process and not a one-off thing.” The major task now is to change the mindset of the youths who have become accustomed to using violence to achieve their goals. They must be made to appreciate the virtues of dialogue in conflict resolution. In addition, they must also recognise that there is dignity in embracing decent means of livelihood.

This cannot be achieved by giving the repentant militants red carpet reception in Aso Rock. Flying them into Abuja with presidential jets gives the impression that the government is glamourising militancy. Yes. the militants need to be appeased but it is wrong to cast them in the mould of regional role models. According to a former oil minister. Prof. Tam David-West the entire process was too razzmatazzed’ and politicised to give the profound event a real soul.

Again, we must not lose sight of the fact that amnesty is only a prelude to finding satisfactory solutions to the main cause of the crisis in the region. which is lack of’ development. It must, therefore be followed with several programmes that would rapidly and significantly transform the oil-bearing communities. The needed massive development should go alongside a well organised re-orientation. training and re­training programmes for the youths. Their bursting energies and world view should be properly channelled towards productive ventures.

The steps taken so far towards addressing the anomalous situation in the oil-rich Niger Delta seem to focus only on repentant militants or those who claim to be the ‘“kings of the creeks.” Unfortunately, this approach is defective and in fact counter­productive, as the army of unemployed youths in the rogion may be tempted to enlist into militant camps just to attract attention. Of course. they would aspire to be accorded presidential attention and royal treatment as is currently being given to the ex-militant leaders. To guard against another resurgence of militancy, there should be an all-inclusive re-orientation and empowerment of the youths irrespective of whether they were former militants or those who have always embraced the peace alternative.

Indeed, the re-orientation should not be limited to seminars and workshops in high­brow venues such as Abuja, Lagos. or other cities in the Niger Delta. To reach the youths at the grass roots, the training and re-training programmes should  be taken to the schools, churches, town hall meetings and market squares in the villages and creeks. The recent post amnesty seminar organised by the Bayelsa State Government in Kaduna. though well-intentioned. took place in a wrong location. Obviously, that event was not meant for the youths of the Niger Delta. who should constitute the target audience of such a gathering. It can best be described as an ill-advised political jamboree, mainly for political heavy-weights. especially those of northern extraction. It nevertheless provided a platform for the Speaker of the  House of Representatives. Mr. Dimeji Bankole to take swipes at Niger Delta political leaders. whom he accused of conspiring to squander the resources entrusted to them.

What the Niger Delta youths need now are programmes that would reshape them and make them better human beings., They should not just be trained and left to grope in the dark alleys of the unemployment market. The should he mentored to fully imbibe the habits of managing their own businesses successfully. This is very important as the President of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria. Chief Lugard Airniuwu explains: “while training is just about knowledge, mentoring takes care of the total human being. It moulds and shapes the person’s beliefs and values. You use mentoring to lift the person to another level of confidence.”

The youths of the region should be made to see achievement-oriented and honest leaders of the region as their role models. Certainly not the militant leaders. some of who have used violent means to traumatise the nation. Yes, some of the ex-militant “generals” had good intentions when they started the struggle, which is to draw attention to the neglect of their region. Even then, they don’t have to spill the blood of fellow Niger Deltans to achieve their goal.

Credit must be given to the Non-Violence Training Programme for Youths initiated by the Niger Delta  Development Commission. NDDC. in 2008. The scheme. which was introduced as part of the strategies adopted by a Think Tank on the Niger Delta is aimed at reforming the youths who may have resorted to anti-social activities as a result of unemployment.

What has been gained through the non-violence training must be sustained to ensure that the youths do not relapse into another round of violent behaviour. This can be achieved by making sure that they arc gainfully employed. There is no fulfilling the adage that the devil finds work for the idle hand.

The post-amnesty era requires a change of strategy to make sure that the gains of the struggle are sustainable so as to benefit the people in the creeks. Blowing up of pipelines inflicts more pains on the ordinary people. destroys the ecosystem and renders Niger Delta farmers and fishermen jobless as well as increase the level of diseases and other environmental hazards. It is not the kind of struggle the people bargained for. We want a struggle that will enhance the living standard of our people. a struggle that is intellectually-driven as exemplified by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.

As has been generally acknowledged, the economic well-being of Nigeria rests squarely on the Niger Delta. President Yar’Adua puts it succinctly: “If government must succeed in its bid to secure the country, it must first secure the Niger Delta region”. And that is exactly what he has striven to do through the amnesty.

He was right when he said at a stakeholder’s forum last year that .” if the people can see that their leaders are honest they will understand,  but once they see that their leaders are in power to make money. then there will be a problem·. Now. where are these Niger Delta political leaders, who can confidently and honestly thump their chests and say “1 am in government not to make money but to serve my people?

Leaders of the Niger Delta should not only talk about selfless service but should be seen by all to truly render such. That way, the youths of the region will look up to them as leaders worthy of emulation instead of regarding ex-militant leaders as their role models in the light of the special treatment they are receiving from the President.

Mr Agbu wrotes from Port Harcourt.

 

Ifeatu Agbu

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Opinion

Underaged Voting: Going Beyond  Rhetorics

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It is always a delight listening to the popular and revered Kenyan orator, Prof. Patrice Loch Otieno Lumumba. He has a way of addressing the deep-rooted African problems including neocolonialism, corruption, poor leadership and others. A few days ago, for the umpteenth time, I listened to him on the radio talking about the greed and selfishness of African electorates who prefer crumbs from politicians’ tables to ideas that will guarantee a better future for their countries.  According to the professor of law who once headed Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, “The electorates have an insatiable thirst and hunger for things that they have not worked for.
They have been trained and they no longer listen to ideas. “…Many times, when you address the electorates and you are waxing eloquently telling them ‘When I am elected, I am going to ensure that we have good health services; we are going to ensure good schools; we are going to ensure that we create opportunity for innovation and invention and create opportunity for young men and women.” They are waiting for you to finish. They will tell you, “We hear you. We know you are going to do all those beautiful things but in the intervening period, I must eat. And therefore, no matter how beautiful your ideas are, if you don’t carry money on that day, your ideal like the elephant will never fly.”
Is that not the key problem with electorates in Nigeria? Nigerians are good at complaining about the numerous ills in our society, the age-long poor leadership, the failure of those in authority to handle the lingering insecurity in the country, our dwindling economy, lack of adequate attention to the education, health and other sectors of the economy and many others. We lampoon our elected leaders for their greed and selfishness and lack of interest in the affairs of the citizens, yet when it is time for us to elect those who will manage the affairs of the country, we put behind all reasonable consideration about a better Nigeria and prioritize our selfish interests. We stop thinking about Nigeria but rather focus on me, myself and I. The questions will become, who will butter my bread?  Through who shall I partake of the national cake. Hardly do people bother about what should be done to ensure that every Nigerian has a taste of the national cake .
Yes, Nigerian leaders, both past and present are largely responsible for the present sorry state of the nation but the led cannot be exonerated. Just look at the issue of underaged registered voters in the recently released preliminary voters register by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC). There have been allegations by some Nigerians, including members of some political parties and Civil Society Organisations that there are obvious pictures of underaged persons on the register among other irregularities. Even the electoral body acknowledged that there are children voters on the register.  “The essence of putting out this is for Nigerians to help the Commission further clean up the voter register. We want people to look at the register and assist the Commission to check whether their names have been properly spelt; whether their personal particulars have been properly captured; whether some pictures are not upside down; whether there are still names of deceased persons on the register; whether there are obviously underage persons on the register so that we can correct them,” said Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of voter education and publicity.
The problem of underaged voters is not novel to Nigeria’s politics. It rears its head during virtually all general elections in the country. During every election video clips and pictures of children below the approved voting age of 18, queuing up to cast their votes make the rounds in both social and traditional media. Initially, it was associated with the northern part of the country, today, like cancer, the menace has spread to other parts of the country. And a basic question that needs to be asked is, who are the parents of these children? Why should parents allow their underaged children to register as voters? Why should parents allow desperate, so-called selfish politicians who they despise for making life unbearable for them to use their children to achieve their ulterior motives and jeopardize the process of electing credible leaders that would take the country out of the woods? Is it possible that they were paid by some politicians for those children to be used to beef up the votes?
Early in the week, the Conference of United Political Parties of Nigeria (CUPP) raised an alarm over an alleged plan by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to rig the forthcoming election through digital vote-buying, tagged ‘Operation Wire-Wire’.  The alleged plan which has been denied by the APC is being perpetrated using various platforms and would see the party paying over 10 million voters electronically to purchase their votes.  This huge number of people are still the same Nigerians groaning because of bad leadership and intense suffering in the country. Some people are quick to tell you that poverty and hunger are the major reasons why people sell their votes. But we have seen both in Nigeria and other countries where poor people of high moral standard and integrity would reject money and other forms of inducements and choose the path of honour and national progress.
The truth is that many Nigerians have lost their values. We teach our children to tell lies, to cheat and do other bad things because of money without seeing anything wrong with that. Recently, during a school’s common entrance examination, pupils that were less than 10 years old were asked not to take part in the exam because they were underaged and would not be admitted in that school. Shockingly, some parents, mothers for that matter, drew their children aside and started telling them to claim they were 10 years and above when they were not. If we must get it right in this country, if we must have a country of our dreams where things work well and the citizens are happy,  we must begin to change our orientation and value system.  We cannot continue to place money over integrity, human dignity, national unity, patriotism and values of the national ethics and integrity policy and expect things to go well in the country. The 2023 general election is by the corner. Politicians are going round selling their ideas, their vision and plan for the nation. Is it not high time Nigerians weigh through these ideas and queue behind the candidates who have the best plans for the nation, states, local governments and our various constituencies instead of focusing on the immediate “stomach infrastructure” they are able to provide?
And for INEC, they should go beyond the usual rhetoric and find a lasting solution to the reoccurring issue of underaged voting so as to gain the trust of Nigerians. It is not enough for Mr. Okoye and other top staff of the Commission to promise Nigerians that no underaged person will be allowed to vote.  We heard such statements during previous elections but in the end, what happened? Nigerians will like to see INEC staff or whoever were responsible for the underaged registration punished for their illegal act.  Citizens want to see INEC tackle this problem using technology as they promised. Most importantly, political offices should be made less attractive in Nigeria. Politicians go to any length, spend millions to get into power because of the enormous gains and privileges attached to political offices in the country. There is no doubt that when these positions are made less attractive, the desperation to clinch elected offices will reduce and selfless leaders will begin to emerge across all levels.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Nigerians And  Robust Presidential Debates (11)

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Recently, during a campaign rally in Jos, Plateau State, the standard bearer of the APC said he was going to continue from where President Buhari stopped, a statement many have found not too easy to decode. One cardinal goal of President Buhari’s administration is to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, but even as his tenure enters the twilight zone, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) gave some damming numbers last week Thursday. According to the NBS, 133 million Nigerians are now classed as multi- dimensionally poor. It is a far cry from the 100 million Nigerians President Buhari promised to lift out of poverty. Currently, Nigeria’s inflation rate is at 21.09 percent according to the NBS, and the Naira is in a free fall struggling to stay away from exchanging N1000 for a dollar.
Boko Haram and its siblings, including the unknown gunmen still on rampage. To crown it all, most states in the corridor of Rivers Benue and Niger are still reeling from the devastation caused by the 2022 flood. Nigerians would like to know how the presidential candidates intend to pull us out of the current ditch we are in; and Bola Tinubu should face the nation to explain what he means by continuing where President Buhari stopped.

In  plain language, it is clear that these candidates are running away from televised national debates in order to avoid public scrutiny. If this is the case, how do they intend to face the international media, or handle foreign policy when they finally emerge? Or, are we being saddled for another four years of speaking out of tone, as in the case of President Buhari on many occasions? Imagine sending another president to discuss issues like climate change and globalisation in the current global mine field? God forbid that we send another inept leader, who lacks the presence of mind to navigate the murky waters of international politics
It is indeed an existential threat which Nigerians must come together now to put a stop to. Against this backdrop, this columnist aligns with the idea canvassed by Prof. Pat Utomi, that candidates who avoid debates should be disqualified. While making reference to what is obtainable in the Republic of South Korea since 1995 when debate was made mandatory by the Public Official Elections Act, he averred that the enshrinement of debates in the electoral process in the Asian country retired big money bags and charlatans. He said, “any politician that refuses to make this fundamental contribution to the democratic process should be considered unfit, unable and unwilling to participate in the democratic process.”

Last week, the Conference for Nigerian Political Parties took a major step in calling on the National Assembly to set up modalities for making it customary for candidates to engage in debates as part of Nigeria’s electioneering process, especially at the presidential and governorship levels. This call is apt, even though a little too late in this electoral cycle; however, organising debates for only presidential and governorship candidates may not do enough to solve the issue of poor representation at the legislature, or create leaders at the grassroot level where government is closest to the people. Such a commission should be created at the national level, but all states should be empowered, or compelled by law to establish same at the state level to cater for candidates vying for state house of assemblies, local government chairmen, and even councillors

A debate at this time in the life of our nation is imperative, because like it or not, all the presidential candidates are undefined quantities. Most of them have been dangling the millions of jobs they intend to create, but Nigerians are yet to hear the nuts and bolts of how they intend to perform this miracle.  The same has been said about the issue of insecurity, but no one knows for sure how they intend achieve this ideal goal. The way I see it, we are just coasting blindly to February 2023. Also, another head scratching issue is the fact that some of the candidates have had brushes with the law in foreign countries. Nigerians deserve  to witness a robust debate among the four major contenders. It might not be in black and white, but it is our right to hear from those who want to manage our common wealth.

This is the concluding part of our article on the above headline published in our last Monday edition.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Complementarity As Basis For Co-Existence

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The difference between complementary and complimentary goes beyond e and i, such that many users of the words rarely appreciate their real meanings. When two persons join in relationship such that the inherent quality in one brings out the best missing in the other, then there is complementarity. On the other hand when you commend or express admiration for someone or something, then it is a compliment. Relationships among humans are characterised by harmony or the opposite, largely on the basis of complementarity.
Factors which cause disharmony and bitterness in human relationships are quite many, one of which is the absence of matching qualities among the parties. In medical practice blood transfusion is usually preceded by a matching test, to ensure mutual compatibility in the blood chemistry. But it is in marital relationship that parties can bond together without prior matching tests. Arising from this folly many couples go through bitter experiences and needless pains, without knowing why. Matching qualities are not identical but complementary, in the sense that one party completes what is missing in the other, thereby bringing about a harmonious chord.
Apart from the issues of complementarity and matching tests in marital relationship, there is also another rarely known factor responsible for failures and bitter experiences in marriages. Known in medical circle as Turner’s Syndrome, this is a genetic disorder whereby a woman has male hormones in her blood system or vice versa. Cases of such sex distortions are many, arising from many factors.
Infertility, barrenness, frigidity and other abnormalities experienced in marital relationship can be traced to some wrong but persistent activities of a remote past. Various motives and reasons account for individuals coming together in various relationships, but it is in rare cases that the impetus remains the same to the end. Reasons commonly cited as accounting for failed marital relationship include infidelity, financial strains, lack of sexual satisfaction, childlessness, among several others. In all such cases, not all the remote or carry-over factors are known, because there are missing links in the natural history of every individual; neither is it necessary to know everything.
Matching qualities which account for complementarity in marital relationship are not made on earth or by parents, but individuals come into incarnation with them. Thus there is element of destiny or links fashioned or “made in heaven” in this matter. So far, there is no known means of ascertaining matching qualities in men and women going into wedlock. Personal choices coupled with wise observations and decisions based on genuine love, feature in this matter. But in spite of this, love alone cannot render matching qualities unnecessary!
In Shakespeares’ All’s Well That End Well, we are given the impression that happy and successful marriage comes by destiny, just as we are told that life is a shuttle. It is a pity that humans get so engrossed with mundane aspirations and pursuits that no time is invested in recognising what God has put together in the mechanism of life or human destiny. Couples suited for and complementing each other deserve to have their union preserved, respected and honoured.
Complementarity as the basis of human co-existence demands that emphasis should be focused on the basic unit of relationship, because harmonious and happy couples translate into an ideal society. An ideal marriage is not one that has the highest degree of material comfort, free from cares and worries, but one which bears complementarity as the basis of mutual loyalty and devotion. Mutual loyalty and satisfaction rarely place material comfort as principal goal, but some aspirations of higher and lasting values. Ideal relationships enhance mutual ennoblement and lasting values to life.
What the human body requires in ideal relationships include recreation, harmony, rest and nourishment, and not stress arising from incompatibility. What men detest most in female companions are such domineering attitude that combines nagging with disloyalty and a care-free home keeping lifestyle. The task of an ideal home rests more on the woman, which can be fostered by a man knowing that every woman longs for attention, admiration and affection. Give these to a woman and every other joy shall be added unto you.
A study of how Nature blends diversities to foster a healthy and sustainable up building should occupy the attention of every serious-minded person. Once a wrong foundation has been laid through human vanity, will fullness or indolence, the process of repairs of the harm done would involve tears and agonies. An ideal point to start such study is to explore what God has put or joined together, which goes beyond marriage. With regards to human relationships, including political groupings, it is vital to take the idiom of “uneven yoke” quite seriously.
There is no way that forced and arbitrary blending or putting together strange bed-fellows or unwilling partners can foster harmony or unity. On the contrary such myopic and arbitrary unions of incompatible parties perpetual instability in human society. Root causes of domestic and political challenges and predicaments arise from unbalanced, one-sided putting together of persons and groups who do not share common interests, identity and aspirations. The democratic principle of freedom of personal choices and decisions is rarely observed with honesty but often abused and corrupted.
Where imbalances, suppression of personal volition and in harmony remain unchecked for a long time, disintegration usually follows. Harmony expresses largely in people working joyfully together in up building and meaningful projects, including making personal sacrifices in loyal commitment towards such project. From the home circle to wider political arena, people perform better when they are happy and in a state of harmony. Such happiness and harmony arise from a wider environment which fosters free expression of personal abilities.
There is a Law of Reversed Efforts which stipulates that wherever there exists imbalance or conflict between the personal conviction of individuals and what they are compelled to do or accept, failure would arise. In every union or relationship this law operates because where there is no complementarity and compatibility, vital up building elements are lacking. Ideal co-existence demands respect for grassroots identity rather than desecrate it.

By: Bright Amirize
Amirize is a retired university lecturer

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