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It is Time To Redeem Nigeria – Ilagha

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Only in Nigeria, I suppose, do we hear of a prize money so widely advertised and so orchestrated as having been set aside for literary productivity, only to be denied in the long run on truly fallacious grounds.

Here’s what I think about the NLNG non-event. A poet is a man of feeling, and if I don’t express my feelings on this matter, I will be failing in my duty. The fact of the matter is that the Nigeria Academy of Letters, NAL, was not listed among the nine frontline poets contesting for the prize. And therefore, the Academy should not be in a hurry to spend one dime of the 50,000 dollars in question. The Academy should do the right, proper and honourable thing by rejecting the prize money.

Let’s face it. My name is Nengi Josef Ilagha. I am the author of January Gestures. It is the first chapter of a 12-part diary of poems running through the entire calendar. The book was published in 2007 alongside February Fabrics. March Marbles through December Decibels are all awaiting publication. I dare say no poet, living or dead, has ever embarked upon such a grand and elaborate odyssey. I stand to be corrected. Mark you, I was not disqualified for the 2009 Nigeria Prize for Literature. I made the shortlist of nine out of 163 poets, and if anybody says I didn’t win, they should prove it.

As things stand, I will do well to invoke a court injunction against spending the money, and I believe the spirit of Gani Fawehinmi would see reason with me. There must be lawyers out there who will take up this case with great pride and readiness. Yes, I will go so far as to sue the NLNG for attempting to bring my father’s honourable name to public disrepute.

I will not stand back and fold my hands. I shall not suffer fools gladly. I will crow like a noon-day cock. I will sound my gong like a distressed town-crier. I hereby lay claim to the sum of 50,000 US dollars, being the amount advertised and orchestrated by the NLNG as having been set aside for the 2009 Nigeria Prize for Literature. Ogaga Ifowodo is a well-known Nigerian poet and lawyer. I hereby contract him to prosecute the case, in his own interest. I am in earnest. Enough is enough.

In fact, I am embarking on an international campaign against the entire event. I read on the internet that Ahmed Maiwada was the only poet that was present at the venue. That is not correct. I shudder to recall that I was stopped at the entrance to the event, and ordered by bouncers to turn back even after I had identified myself as one of the contestants, touting my book. I stood to my full royal height, and insisted on witnessing the event all the way. It took the intervention of Emeka Agbayi to let me and my well-meaning guests in. I feel truly wounded. Frankly, I feel bloodied. 

Maiwada may have been the only poet with a formal invitation card, but I was there in person. Ask Maiwada. He came to my table, we shook hands, and he wished me well. Ask Emman Usman Shehu. Ask Chiedu Ezeanah. Ask Ike Okonta. Even Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu may jolly well be my witness. I am not an invisible man. In point of fact, I was very visible because I turned out in national colours suitable for an event of that magnitude. It is the first time in recorded Nigerian history when a poet would appear in patriotic green, white, green colours befitting of a king, and there are pictures to prove it. NLNG should check their photo file. Nigeria, I say, cannot afford to deny her own colours. 

I insist that it is outrageous for a beneficiary to be decided upon, outside the ring of contestants. I never heard of a fight between boxers slugging it out on the mart and then, in the end, it was the referee who went home with the golden belt. The entire event was a charade, and it brings the Nigeria Prize for Literature to great ridicule. We are faced with a classic example of a lopsided value system with no regard for merit. In the end, Nigeria as a nation would be the worse for it. It is time to redeem Nigeria. It is time for worship.

If NLNG is not prepared to part with the prize money, and hand it over nicely to me, they should stop parading themselves as the foremost literary sponsor in Nigeria. Come to that, if the multi-national agency felt obliged to lend a helping hand to the Nigeria Academy of Letters, it could have done so under a different platform, and the world would applaud. This prize was specifically for the winner, or joint-winners of the 2009 Nigerian Prize for Literature, as the case may be.

The professors who constitute the panel of judges (four of whom are confirmed members of the Academy) parade sterling credentials. Perhaps they should write poetry as one man and enter for the prize as well, instead of practically awarding the prize to themselves. It is a great shame that, after all that rhapsody by Professor Ayo Banjo about the newfound maturity in content and style as evident in the works of the nine Nigerian poets, the panel of judges could not decide a winner, to say nothing of joint winners. Evidently, it puts the credibility of the judges to question.

The worst case scenario, in my opinion, should be that all nine poets should share the prize money, since the distinguished panel of judges even failed to announce the shortlist of three that was promised at the World Press Conference staged at Eko Le Meridian in Lagos much earlier. What’s the point selecting nine out of 163 poets, and failing to decide the best three, if not a clear winner? I need my money. I live by the words from my pen. All those who say a labourer is not deserving of his wages have read the Bible upside down.

After this, NLNG should be more comfortable sponsoring the next beauty pageant or the next Face of Africa event. I can see them readily parting with the said amount in support of football, for instance. They may jolly well sponsor anything but intellectual endeavour. For how long do we continue to despise the fruits of our own labour? As I see it, the primary purpose of the award has been defeated, but NLNG will not get away with this pointless jamboree.

Only in Nigeria, I suppose, do we hear of a prize money so widely advertised and so orchestrated as having been set aside for literary productivity, only to be denied in the long run on truly fallacious grounds. Even if a composite anthology, a selection from the books of the nine poets was conceived, or even a promotional tour around the West African sub-region was proposed, it would have made more sense than this precipitate slap on the face of Nigerian literature.

I feel particularly scandalized by NLNG. They did this to my wife at the maiden edition in 2004. Bina Nengi-Ilagha clearly won the 20,000 dollar prize with her first novel, Condolences, a novel that remains acclaimed for its originality. Yet they brought in two other novelists to share the prize money, and even at that it was 5,000 dollars apiece. NLNG went back to Bonny with 5,000 dollars. Can you beat that? No, you can’t. I have every reason to be grateful to Wole Soyinka for his timely intervention at that event. Alas, there was no Soyinka at the 2009 edition, but that is not to say NLNG should go scot-free. Enough is enough.

I suggest that an independent arbitration panel constituted by international critics of poetry revisit the works of the nine poets in question and come up with the winner, since the task is evidently too much for the panel of judges set up by NLNG. Please ask me another question.

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Discovering Your Life’s Purpose

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What is Purpose?
Discovering one’s purpose is discovering what one needs in life. Discovering what you are meant to be in life. Not what you want to be but what God wants you to be in life. You can never discover your purpose without the help of God.
Ask Yourself Some Questions
You can discover your purpose when you start asking yourself some questions and give answers to such as “what do I need in life?” (Your purpose in life) by finding your purpose, you will know what you need in life and life will be easy for you. Sometimes, we want every good thing in life but what really matters is not what you want but what you need in life. People respect you when you discover your purpose and start making serious decisions. God is your creator and what he needs from you is your purpose. Discovering your purpose on time makes you more successful in life, you need to focus on the present, look forward, think big, do what you love, stay positive, be persistent, get the job done, fight for something you believe in. To be a successful being in life, you also need to manage your time effectively.
Sometimes, people find themselves doing or studying what they don’t need. Your potentials determine your purpose in life, don’t feel bad on yourself because, with the right information, your purpose is sure. You will get to a place in life and these things will be very useful to you.
Nothing happens as a mistake; they all have their purpose to fulfill in life. Spend at least one hour or thirty minutes every day to do what you have passion for.
Time Management
Time management has a very big role to play in discovering one’s purpose in life. Why most people suffer a lot in life is because they waste too much of their time doing nothing. We sleep too much; we rest too much; let’s make every moment to be useful. Sleeping too much won’t do us any good. Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. The fact that you are not where you want to be should be enough motivation.
Life without purpose is time without meaning. It is useless to keep ample time if there is no end towards which we are moving. God calls you in this world for you to discover your purpose and work towards it. Your plans cannot change God’s purpose. What God calls for, he provides for.
Sometimes people will say I want to be rich in life. If you said so, fine, then learn how to manage your time and discover your purpose in life. Most times, our parents do destroy our destiny by forcing us to study what we are not meant to just because they had a dream of studying it but were not opportuned to. Parents should ask knowledge from God so as to know what their children need in life.
Procrastination can damage you from going far in life. To be successful and fulfill your purpose in life, you need not to postpone what should be done now. Procrastination is a grave in which opportunities are buried. In life, many people have missed their chance of success because of postponement.
All the pain of yesterday can be forgotten tomorrow if we know how to manage our time effectively and discover our purpose in life. For your management of time not to be in vain, you need to concentrate on one thing such as what you love to do, because it is no good to do everything at the same time (he who is everywhere is nowhere).
Everybody wants to go to school, have their certificates, and be a hard worker in life. But is that all there is in life? Imagine if everyone in the universe goes to school, have their good certificates and work in very good places in life, then who will be the cleaner? Who will be the security guard? Who will be the house maid? How you see life is much more than you think. Purpose is only found in the mind of the creator. Only God knows the purpose for your life.
Now you can see why everybody cannot be rich in this life; neither will everyone be poor in life. The term rich would not exist if there are not poor people existing in this world. The terms rich and poor are given because people have and people lack.
You can never change how you have been created and what you have been created for no matter what. You being a cleaner is because there must always be someone dusting up the place. If there is a man to dust, there will always be a man to clean up also. If your purpose is to be a cleaner, be the best cleaner ever. Cleaning is not just ordinary, you can achieve excellence in cleaning. Excellence in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Every product is produced by purpose, for a purpose, and all things begin and end with purpose. Your existence is an evidence that this generation needs something that your life contains.
The reason why you exist in your family is because there is something that has to be done in your family and it’s only you that can do it; no one else. If you are born into a poor family it’s not your fault, but it will only be your fault if you remain there, because you have been born in to a family to make great things happen by managing your time and discovering your purpose in life.
You can start by having a time table in your house such as time to study, time to do what you love, what you have passion for. And in the process of studying, anything you seem not to understand, you do well to ask someone that knows it more than you. Don’t feel shy to ask because no one knows everything but everyone knows something.
You can also help others to discover their purpose by changing your mindset, especially with the way you think and the way you communicate with them. Let people see you as a person that really knows your purpose in life. Let people see your good lifestyle and try to build theirs also.
Always do things at the right time. Or better do something even if it is late than not to do it at all. Conclusively, a man can’t exist without having a purpose in life, your existence is an evidence that God has a purpose in you and this purpose can be discovered with the help of God, and also by management of time. I know we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. We can change the world by fulfilling our purpose in life. Nothing is impossible.

By: Endurance Osadebe
Osadebe wrote in from Eastern Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.

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Re: Wike, Combat And Cant: Negative Criticism Taken Too Far

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Our attention has been drawn to the article published in the “Hardball” column of The Nation Newspaper on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, titled: “Wike, Combat and Cant” and we cannot help but laugh once again at the manic obsessiveness, which the author of this particular ‘Hardball’ segment, has with everything that has to do with Governor Nyesom Wike.
However, what is rather very disturbing in this constant display of professional mercantilism and the unrestrained effort to mislead the people and misinterpret every action and comment of Governor Wike.
One must say, it is rather shameful for a journalist to resort to the penchant of subtle, yet crude and dangerous slander, to attack anybody who dares to challenge the status quo.
Governor Wike’s remarks at the Interdenominational Thanksgiving Service in commemoration of the Nation’s 61st Independence Anniversary, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Diobu, Port Harcourt, on Sunday, September 26, 2021, represents the heart cry of every patriotic Nigerian.
Those who listened to his comments, will also agree that the summary of what Governor Wike said was that enemity, hatred, division have become the definining indices of Nigeria today at 61 years.
He said Nigeria is a dysfunctional nation, where the judiciary has been intimidated, children are not in schools and doctors not in hospitals as a result of endless strikes. According to him, credible elections cannot be conducted and the National Assembly has become a place where anything goes in favour of the government in power, even if it is not in the interest of the people.
Sadly, only Nigerians who are feeding fat from such a country and indeed journalists like the author with his obvious anti-libertarian counter progressive propaganda, which promote and protect the interest of these individuals, will disagree with Governor Wike’s observations and even go ahead to cast puerile aspersion with pedestrian examples on his comments.
Suffice it to say that at a time when majority of Nigerians have been numbed into a development hiatus by the overwhelming suffocation of poverty, censorship, insecurity, nepotism, administrative ineptitude and a certain form of political autocracy which have all been elevated dangerously to statecraft and existential norm, a journalist who should professionally serve as the voice and conscience of the people has become the very instrument to justify these anti-development onslaught on the people.
What is even more worrisome is the realization that the author, rather than raise alarm over the deliberate polarization of the country along all the major incendiary fault lines of ethnicity, religion, partisan seclusion, intimidation and persecution, selective inquisitions and all the divisive tendencies which have sadly reversed all the gains made over 61 years, has now embraced the fifth column business of hounding those who speak up against these ills.
To even describe Governor Wike’s comments during that interdenominational church service, as “combat and cant’ as the writer did with misplaced elitist authority, is so unfortunate that it shamelessly exposed the real hypocrisy of a journalist and his sponsors, who are not only living in regrettable, unpardonable denial, but are the very dangerous ilk who are constantly and deliberately subverting national consciousness and turning the glaring truth of what Nigeria has become, on its head.
It is indeed a crying shame that we have in the last six years, transformed quite pathetically, into a nation where for example, state Governors, whose voices ought to be resonating loudly against the impunity that undermines our democratic federalism, have been brow-beaten into a complicit silence, as we watch in helpless horror, the systematic regression and overhaul of a nation’s development garnered painstakingly over 61 years.
Nigeria has never been more divided at any time in its 61 years history than it is today. The country is presently in a dangerous connundrum of identity crises stoked and fuelled by the continued endorsement and justification of leadership impunity and docility by the likes of the writer. Is it any wonder therefore that Governor Wike’s voice is the only one resonating loudly, clearly and independently against these manifestation, as we celebrate the auspicious occasion of our independence as a country that is 61 years old?
Ironically, even many of the leaders who have chosen to couch these desperate times in hopeful platitudes, celebrate the reversal of national essence with choice phrases and pretend with motivational innuendos that a nation which totters precariously on the brink of self implosion and immolation, is making progress, know deep down in their hearts that they are lying to their people.
Governor Wike has proven time and again that he is a courageous, bold, focused and determined leader, who will say a thing like it is and not address it by any other name, just to sound politically correct and please some people.
By the way, at the end of his exhortation, Governor Wike called on the congregation, with the permission of the Church, to join him and the choir to sing the first and last stanzas of the Hymn, SSS 577: “I need Thee Every Hour”. This was indeed quite apt and poignant, to capture the mood and state of affairs in our country today.
There’s definitely no doubt whatsoever that Nigeria needs help at this time in our nation’s evolution, as we celebrate 61 years of Independence.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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Soot: Can N’Delta Escape Doomsday?

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A popular saying in Nigeria’s ‘Pidgin’ English states: ‘Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. It simply means that while the monkey (which is usually smaller in size than the baboon) is working very hard to eke out a living for itself, the baboon uses its larger figure to intimidate the monkey and survive from the proceeds of the monkey’s efforts. This, in a nutshell, explains the plight of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The import of this popular saying in the context of this discourse is that while the Niger Delta Region produces the crude oil, which has been the mainstay of the country for over sixty years, and also bears the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation activities, the northern part of the country, which views leadership of the country as its birthright, enjoys more from the proceeds of crude oil.
Much have been said and written by different people, including scholars, about the plight of the people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, such that at some point, one may easily feel saturated, and possibly irritated, out of a feeling of over-information that now sounds hackneyed.
But the truth is that, from the point at which crude oil was first found in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, in present-day Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, till today, the life of the people in the Niger Delta region has never been the same. Rather than be a source of development to the people in all spheres as it is with the advanced climes, some of which do not have the quality of crude oil the region has, it has been a source of clear dehumanisation of the people.
The apparent euphoria that greeted the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country in anticipation of its implication in terms of what the people stand to benefit as host communities, at inception, soon gave way to nostalgic chronic acrimonious feelings as the days turned to weeks, months, years and now decades.
Perhaps what would amount to an inkling of what is now the fate of the people of the region today was the February 23, 1966 declaration of the Niger Delta Republic in what has become known as The Twelve-Day Revolution’ by the late Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, nicknamed Boro.
Boro’s grouse was the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefited mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and, at the time, the Eastern Region with capital in Enugu, while nothing was given to the Niger Delta people. He believed that the people of the Niger Delta deserved a larger share of proceeds from the oil wealth.
Consequently, he formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on that day and fought with Federal forces for twelve days before being defeated. Boro and his comrades were jailed for treason.
They were, however, granted amnesty by the Federal regime of General Yakubu Gowon on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in May 1967 on the condition that they fight for the Federal Government against the Biafrans. Boro, and some of his comrades, most prominently Owunaro, his second in command in the NDVF, subsequently enlisted in the Nigerian Army.
Boro was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian Army. He fought on the side of the Federal Government, but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (Okrika) in Rivers State.
But the struggle Boro started has taken different dimensions in the Niger Delta ever since, with seemingly less impact as far as the Federal Government’s response to the demands of the region is concerned. It’s such that after over sixty years of oil exploration and exploitation in the region, all the people have to show is what amounts to deliberate and planned, but gradual destruction of their sources of livelihood, leading to a life of penury, underdevelopment, and currently a possible end to their lives through endemic illnesses such as cancer and like ailments warranted by their exposure to the ravaging soot in the region.
Soot is a mixture of very fine black or brown particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. It is different from charcoal and other by-products of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles.
Beyond artisanal refining, possible causes of the soot also include emissions from asphalt factories, indiscriminate burning of mixed waste, burning of tyres and vehicular emissions, according to a Report by a technical team set up by the Rivers State Government in 2019, to generate preliminary air quality data in Port Harcourt. However, none of these has so infested the region’s cloud with soot as illegal oil bunkering.
Experts say that the small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets, because it can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs, which is why repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Soot is, therefore, more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home or environment.
In 2017, a reporter, Yomi Kazeem, wrote, “Across Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger-Delta region, environmental pollution has long been a part of daily lives. But while residents have become used to multiple oil spills which have damaged livelihoods and farmlands, they currently face a new kind of danger: rising black soot particles in the air. Since November, residents of oil industry hub city, Port Harcourt, are complaining about increased soot residue on surfaces in and out of their homes”.
Back then, Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment declared an air pollution emergency in the affected areas. The Ministry claimed that preliminary test samples of the soot indicated it was caused by incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing and illegal artisanal refinery operations.
In a bid to curb the pollution, Kazeem stated, the Ministry shut down an asphalt processing plant operating in the area. The State Government has also sealed off a Chinese company in the city for what it tagged ‘aggravated air pollution, and breach of environmental laws’.
On their part, residents petitioned the United Nations Environment Programme to intervene by investigating the problem while they subtly protested the increased pollution on social media, through the “#StopTheSoothashtag”.
Since then, the best that has been heard about addressing the issue of soot in the Niger Delta had been what can be easily dismissed as subtle complaints on social media by few concerned individuals and organisations involved in environmental health pursuits. Thus, the quantity of particles forming soot that is emitted into the air on a daily basis has increased almost unabated.
For the Federal and State Governments, their efforts so far had been at best mere media hypes in a make-belief establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, which the Federal Government also wants established in the north that does not produce oil, like it did in building refinery in Kaduna State, an act widely viewed as misplacement of priority as far as establishment of modular refineries as a solution to soot is concerned.
In 2013, scientists found out that dirty air caused more premature deaths than unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, and malnutrition in Africa. The obvious implication is that if the Niger Delta is increasingly infested with soot and genuine necessary steps are not taken to check it, the region will most likely go extinct in years to come. The form this will take, and how soon it will manifest are the questions that currently prop up in critical analyses.
During one of such analyses, an environmental toxicologist with the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Dr. Emmanuel Oriakpona, hinted that the most likely consequence of unchecked increase in soot infestation in the Niger Delta is loss of the region’s ecosystem and human health.
“We shall experience loss of our ecosystem and loss of our health. This is the summary of what will happen to us: major loss in our ecosystem. If you go to the mangroves and see the devastation by crude oil, and you also go and see what the people actually carrying out the refining process are going through, you’ll appreciate this better,” he said.
According to Dr. Oriakpona, the situation is worsened by the fact that there is an obvious collaboration between those involved in artisanal refining of crude oil and authorities vested with the responsibility of stopping it. The reason is that such authorities are rewarded with huge financial benefits accruable from the business. This is further buttressed by some key players in the illegal oil refining business whose locally made boats and products were at some points burnt by security agents who felt that their exploitation of the people involved in the illegal trade was challenged.

By: Soibi Max-Alalibo

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