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Reflections On Christmas (I)

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Many people would be wondering what is so spe
cial about Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ that his birth is annually and highly celebrated among Christians unlike any other babies.
His birth was very unique in all history because he was not conceived in the biological way as other babies; and because He had a heavenly pre-existence, there was a serious threat to His life by King Herod which forced his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, to leave Jerusalem for Bethlehem of Judea, a place God saw that it was safer for Him to be born without being harmed by King Herod.  Matthew 2:1-12, John 1:1-3, 14.
Herod searched for Jesus but to no avail, he then made some evil pronouncements which made the people shout out to God and immediately an angel of the Lord struck King Herod down because he did not give God glory and was eaten by worms.  Acts 12:19-24.
Jesus’ birth was for a special purpose and that is to save humanity from their sins  -Romans 3: 23. It is God’s love for humanity that brought about the birth of Jesus Christ into this world to save humanity from satan’s bondage. John 3: 16.
Today, He is also known as God, the son – Creator of the universe. Philippians 2:5-11. This is why Christmas is called the incarnation, a word which means “in the flesh.” In the birth of Jesus, the eternal, all powerful and all-knowing Creator came to earth in the form of flesh. It is the celebration of His arrival that is known and called Christmas by Christians.
Some of the common questions asked are: Why would God do such a thing? Why would he come as a baby, instead of appearing in power and majesty? Why make himself a true man and live among us, when He knew full well how terrible He would be treated?
Jesus is an endowment and an embodiment of love.  It was necessary for you and me to be saved!  Luke 2:1-10; Roman 3:23 and John 3:16. Jesus commanded us to love sacrificially for our joy to remain and be full – John 15:11-17.
What actually is Christmas? This is the annual Christian festival commemorating Christ’s birth, held on every December 25 in the Western church. The divine arrival of Jesus Christ is the divine arrival of good tidings of great joy – Matt 1:18-25.
The birth of Jesus Christ represents God’s own way of showing His love to humanity by giving Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. Jesus gave out His time for humanity (through preaching God’s words) and caring for the sick and needy, suffer on the way to Calvary and was crucified on the cross for our sake on the cross just to save humanity from the prince of this world – the devil.  1 John 3:8 and Isaiah 9:6.
What Does Christ coming to the world represent? It represents the word of God sent to Jacob, and lighted upon Israel as the Bible tells us that darkness comprehended it not.  Isaiah 9:8.
It represents good tidings of great joy and peace. Luke 2:10-14
It is a day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the form of sharing of gifts which can be in kind, material, cash or those in need and above all, preaching repentance to unbelievers in our society by visiting them either in their homes, hospitals, orphanages, and in the prisons to show them love with whatever gifts we have for them.
Why should Christmas matter? By His fulfillment of prophecy, we are reminded that Jesus Christ is the center of God’s plan for the world. His resurrection from the dead is a further confirmation that He  is God’s Son who will deliver on every promise. Jesus in the stable is not a fable. And because the message of Christmas is true, the implications are enormous for you.
It means that God the Son, in love, came to fulfill the meaning of His name, which is “The Lord Saves.” in other words, He is “God to the Rescue,” By Jesus’ death on the cross He paid for your sins and mine. By His resurrection He has opened the way to heaven to all who receive him by faith.
What then is the essence of Christmas? The birth of Jesus Christ is the essence of Christmas celebration, because Jesus came to the world to save humanity from their sins and this is the reason for the season. It is a season for sinners to be born again according to Roman 3:23 – “For all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.” Also, in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Jesus was born for the sake of sinners into the holy family of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.
Today, many do not really understand the true meaning and the essence of celebrating Christmas and as a result, have represented Christmas with different symbols in their minds thus missing out on the true meaning of what Christmas actually represents. Symbols such as: Santa Clause, different decorations with Christmas trees, colour of bulbs, materials etc. which do not depict the essence and meaning of Christmas.
It is not a season to celebrate how much food stuff we have been able to store in our warehouses such as rice, yam, beans, chicken, goats, beef, and fishes, etc. complemented with different brands of drinks, whereas the poor are dying of hunger.
Young girls/boys think it is a season either to hang out with new lovers or search for husband/wife-to-be. As it is a season when those that live abroad believe that villagers converge at a point as a one geographical entity. They seize this opportunity to search for life partners and new friends thereby indulging in acts which do not glorify God. Remember what an angel of God did to King Herod for not glorifying God.
Additionally, some take it as a season to spend all they have on clothes and food stuff, cook all their best and eat and drink as much as they could without showing love to their neighbours, friends, the needy, orphanage homes, the sick in the hospitals and widows, the prisoners through act of giving  in our society.
To be contd

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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Opinion

When Did Journalists Become Police Enemies?

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The pathetic story of John Bibor, a credible Journalist with the Rivers State Government-owned The Tide Newspaper, on the sadistic  brutality meted to him by a detachment of the Nigerian Police from Umuebele Divisional Police Headquarters stationed  at Umuakoru road, Igbo-Etche on Thursday, March 4, 2024, leaves much to be desired.
According to John Bibor, the victim of the police brutality, “I closed from work, got to Igboh Junction and boarded Okada to go to my house at Umuchoko Igboh Etche.
“We got to C S S, Igboh Etche and the Okada man asked me to disembark as the police had cordoned off the road leading to Eze Nweke Palace.
“I stepped down, raised my hands as others were doing without knowing why.
On my way, one of the police officers accosted me, asking me who I was, I disclosed my identity, as a good Nigerian resident in the community.
“On further probing about my identity, I told him that I’m a Journalist but live there. He said journalist, so you are here to tell lies about us and started flogging me with the rubber pipe in his hands.
“He even threatened to shoot me and calling on thunder to fire my generations”.
It beats my imagination to hear that some police men see journalists as potential threats to  them and their duties. The question begging for answer is: Is it because they are not doing the right thing? Is it because the policemen are involved in shady deals, hence, the presence of journalists poses a discomfort to them? I ask because it is said that an innocent person fears no accusations. Journalists as members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, constitute the watchdog of society. They hold Government accountable to the people, and remain the conscience of healthy society. The services of the journalist are so sacrosanct that Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was one of the world’s earliest political leaders to declare his admiration and advocacy for media governance.
Writing from Paris to Edward Carrington who he sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786-1788, on the importance of Free Press to keep Government in check, the media-friendly Jefferson said quite clearly and with utmost sincerity, “If I had to choose between Government without Newspapers (Media) or Newspapers without Government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the latter”.
Rather than seeing the journalist as an enemy, a spoilsport and unwanted, the Nigerian Police should see the journalist as a veritable partner in building a society devoid of crime.
The police and the media are like the snail and its shell. They are inseparable pair, separate them they will languish for want of the other. In fact, the professionals the police needed most to collaborate with them to check the spate of crime and criminality in our society, highlight the exploits, achievements and challenges of the Nigerian police are the journalists. The Nigerian Police cannot fight crime and criminality in its complex and multi-dimensional operations, to the exclusion of the media. Journalists remain a strong voice for the police. They share in the pains and gains of the police. The media in a modern society driven by technology is the channel through which the police communicate its activities to the society. And more often than not, journalists have whipped up positive sentiments about the police. The upward review of remuneration of the rank and file of the Nigerian Police cannot be dissociated from the vociferous and resilient reportage of journalists on the plight, hazardous nature of the police encumbered by a peanut and paltry takehome which was a derogation of their essential and invaluable security services to the society.
Perhaps, why some police men hate journalists is because the latter had refused to give a blind eye or look the other way in reporting the excesses and acts of the police that are inconsistent and counter-productive to their service demands.
The Nigerian Police should know that when journalists write against anti-social behaviour, criminal activities and acts inimical to their duties, they are veritably discharging their constitutional and statutory mandate and obligation. It negates code of ethics for journalists to write in favour of the Police when there is a clear failure  of the men of the Nigerian Police to justify the confidence reposed on them. Truth is the pillar of journalism, to act otherwise is an unpardonable error.
John Bibor is a seasoned journalist of over 20 years in practice, who has always adhered strictly to the principle of objectivity and fairness. He is conscientious, and God-fearing. A diligent and hardworking, John Bibor was twice the “Best Reporter” awardee of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, printers of The Tide Newspapers. The annual Corporation’s Award scheme is designed to enhance productivity by recognising  and motivating hardwork.
So, it must certainly be a case of mistaken identity to identify patriotic and ethics-compliant journalists like John Bibor, to unethical and unprofessional practices.
No doubt, with fairness to my conscience the journalism profession like every  other profession, is fraught and replete with the challenge of quackery. Quacks or gate-crashers are on the prowl, their nefarious activities seem to have overwhelmed the quest for  sanity and respect for ethical conduct and professionalism.They are virtually everywhere like the octopus whose tentacles are spread beyond imagination. Their activities speak volumes of who they are: Sensationalism is their hallmark, their reportage lacks fairness, objectivity and balance. For  them, the end justifies the means; integrity and honesty are alien in their practice.
The presence of the quacks and counterfeit in any profession lends credibility to the fact that there are originals and patriots.
The Nigerian Police should know that the Judas Iscariot in Jesus’ team is not enough to make other apostles suspects or susceptible to insults. It will amount to a fallacy of generalisation when the Nigeria Police treat innocent members of the society on the basis of their haunt for criminal elements of the society.
Trained and professional journalists are good people, they are not criminals. They are help-mates to the Nigerian Police and other security outfits of government.
A synergy with journalists will enable the public appreciate the sacrificial roles of the police. But acts of antagonism, will inevitably strain a good relationship that had existed over time. And the Nigerian Police will suffer loss because “the pen is mightier than the sword”.
The Rivers State Police Command should prevail on the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Umuebele Police Division to call his men to order and render unreserved apology to John Bibor, The Tide Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the Rivers State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for dehumanising an innocent citizen and a patriotic journalist.
The Police Command should commit to build a sustainable synergy with  journalists, so much so that injury to one will be deemed injury to the other. Nation building, crime detection, crime prevention and crime fighting are a function of unalloyed synergy.

Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Being Nigerian And Its Contradictions

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On the average, Nigeria is good. Its people are a bunch of good bananas: only a few rotten ones give the whole bunch a bad look and that particular rotten smell. Nigeria ideally is one of the best places to live in. It is not a police State like so-called Western democracies. In Nigeria, you can urinate anywhere and not get fined or arrested, you can get a ladder and climb the power poles and effect a change of power phases. That is, if the problem is not from the nearby power transformer which anybody can repair with dry wood. In Nigeria, you can set traps inside your compound and catch birds and roast them to taste and not be afraid that you are at Piccadilly Square in the UK with some stern-looking cops harassing you for animal rights violation. We still beat kids with cane despite having parents that want to be more European than Europeans.
We as a nation need to restore national pride: a lot of us have lost hope in the system, the structure, the leadership. With each passing day, it is becoming obvious that Nigeria may be just an empty plastic cup, too light to hold a cup of coffee cold or hot.  There are enough solutions to Nigeria’s multi-dimensional and hydra-headed problems, enough to fill an American Congressional Library, well prepared by committees, panels, commissions and bodies of experts. Name the field or area and I will refer you to a paper, a report that should ordinarily have solved that problem a long time ago. For example, how many times have we removed subsidies without removing subsidies?
What happened to Vision 2010? I was writing this in 2008. By then we were working on a vision 2056 for constant electricity supply and it is 2024 now. Alas, we still lack vision of who we are and what we want to be in terms of electricity. A committee like that with a long name was supposed to provide palliative measures due to the rise in petroleum prices, till date it died a natural death. It is another 15 years and we are not only discussing palliatives but looting them with reckless abandon that our students die in stampedes for them. There have been reports upon reports that if properly handled would have made Nigeria number one in most things, if not everything.
In recent times, we have been reminded of the successes of Malaysia, a success that was championed and achieved simply because of purposeful leadership; leadership that had the confidence of the governed.
That leadership brought about economic prosperity, industrial strength, intellectual pride and dynamism. We have discussed Singapore and for us the only thing that has poured is how our best brains and not so best have become caregivers in the UK and pouring into Canada and other places that were nowhere in the map of economic discussion only two/three decades earlier. When a nation barely commits one percent of its GDP on education, it will have a poor university system. We all weep at the situation but no one really thinks about how we can have national competitiveness when the level of investment in human capital is abysmally low.
A new Nigeria cannot unfold, with fast paced infrastructural development, rapid push in human resource development, healthcare delivery, when the numerous universities and polytechnics enrol almost two million students yearly and graduate around 600,000 people, out of which 95 percent  are unemployable. Today’s Nigeria lacks education, health and development. With all the wealth, we are breeding terrorists, frustrated young men, sad mothers, senior citizens that daily curse the nation because we have refused to give them their dues. Is it not intriguing that this is Nigeria, the rich, poor, and everybody cry and laugh almost at the same time; the difference is the swing of the pendulum. Being a Nigerian requires a tricky trait, despite the Soyinkas, Achebes, Anyaokus, Maitamas, Balewas, Ziks, Awos, Sardaunas, and many, too numerous to call. There is a distinction between being a Nigerian and wanting to be a Nigerian. The Nigerian big man makes a law, those wanting to be Nigerian or already big men proceed immediately to look for a way to break the law, exploring loopholes and escape clauses like the Immunity clause used for stealing.  Ordinary citizens do it their own way; they jump queues with no excuse, they do u-turns on an expressway, stop in the middle of the road to say hello to a long-lost friend without parking. Correct them, and they will abuse your dog.  Who wants to be a Nigerian?  It takes a lot. You have to be noisy, music is not danceable if it is not loud; big is sweet and good.   How can one understand the Nigerian and want to be one, when in power he loves affluence and will do anything to stay-put. In religious matters, he will fake it; in business, his cheques will bounce. In the civil service forget the noise of ‘servicom’, your files will miss and only reappear at the right price. A Nigerian will ban the importation of lace fabrics, yet his wives, concubines and mistresses will die the day they cannot wear one.
In Nigeria, you need to understand how a complainant can suddenly become a suspect and in the end a witness, yet still land in jail for a crime that was committed against him.  The pain of this essay when it was originally written is that despite all the exhaustive bad traits that we battle every day, Nigerians abound in their millions that want to be Nigerians for the right reasons. And it still has not changed.
Those Nigerians are not easily understood because they will not give bribes, all their actions are in line with tradition, society’s good norms and rationality. They are old now and most times reside in rural areas, although a few still stay in urban areas. They are generally good and detribalised; they believe in the principle of live and let live. These Nigerians are neither the bottom power women nor the moneybag men. They strive daily to remain patriotic and committed to the Nigerian dream despite the reality, they are disciplined and are hardworking, and they battle the stark reality that as patient dogs they may never have any bone left.  These Nigerians suffer from the Nigerian experiment because of the larger majority’s inability to curb greed, and to be fair and rational towards other people’s perspectives, opinions, positions and interests. Our monetised society too has done  more harm than good to us. Do you now understand Nigeria, are you a Nigerian, do you want to be a Nigerian?.

Charles Dickson
Dickson, PhD, is Team Lead, The Tattaunawa Roundtable Initiative.

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Opinion

Culture Of Flattery And Encomium

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Recordings of inconsistent statements made by Late General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, in a state of delirium on his death-bed, far away from his country, were interpreted to be pieces of advice to the living, particularly African leaders. Also, are late American General Obregon, was quoted to have said, close to his death, that the enemy to fear is not the one that threatens you, but the one that flatters you. One of the best detectives the Nigeria Police ever had, who was buried recently, once said that he wept for the Nigeria Police.
Sadly, one clever form which mischief takes in any society is the flattery of rich, powerful and successful individuals. When Idi Amin said repeatedly: “Don’t listen to praise singers”, nurses attending to him feared that “the General was out of his mind”. But the message is valid and pertinent, especially for Nigerian political leaders. Flatterers may be full of venom and envy even when they heap praises and encomium on leaders, in expectation for some attention or favour. Sadly, Nigerian brand of politics has evolved this culture of flattery and encomium.
Studies in the art of successful leadership, show that self-effacement is a major distinguishing feature of good leadership. Self-effacement also goes along with a strong feeling of shame. Thus, praises and flatteries become unbearable injuries to reputable leaders. Like every form of slavish addiction, the misleading and deadening effects of flatteries soon drive those who succumb to them into self-destruction. Praise singers and flatterers rarely mean well, but their services are often sought and utilised by some leaders who long for the limelight, even when they have little to offer the masses.
Nigerian leaders should learn the lesson that a leader is at his best when people rarely know that he exists, because, successful leadership requires some privacy for the purposes of communion and reflections.
Next to privacy is self con troll or restraint as a powerful tool in leadership. These qualities are demonstrated through shunning publicity and the limelight or being addicted to praises and encomium even when he makes some spectacular achievements. It is usually those who have little to offer the masses while in office, who encourage the activities of professional praise singers, as a mean of diverting attention away from their deficiencies.
Governance is so demanding that the task requires utmost degree of privacy, so as to have the right condition for inner guidance. What time or inclination would a serious –minded leader have to carouse with money-bags and flatterers longing for recognition or favour? With the management principle of 20:80 or Pareto’s law, good leaders delegate 80 per cent of duties to capable subordinates, and then focus on 20 per cent of most critical functions or duties. The culture of adulation, fawning and encomium is deliberately fostered as a political gimmick to hoodwink the masses and as a narcotizing tool.
When General Yakubu Gown (rtd) became a student in a British University, those who interacted with him then would testify that he learned the lesson of avoiding flatterers and praise singers. He also absorbed the lesson of self-effacement.
Military regime introduced a culture of “settlement” in the nation’s politics as a means of perpetuation of power; but that culture took the form of fawning and sycophance by politicians. At the back of it lurked sinister goals and intents, usually clothed in cosmetic geniality. Do you trust politicians?
Some of the results of politics of intrigues and duplicity, include the fact that “father and son” could be armed with a dagger, hidden away in a cloak, even when having a chat or meal. A former head of state unwittingly revealed the culture of Nigerian politics, saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Thus a formidable power structure can be approached, via two strategies, namely: willing submission, or by treachery, via flatteries and fawning. Those who sell out their constituencies for private personal gains, remain prey to the fury of embittered masses, but often resort to creating factions and use of paid agents of flatteries.
The axiom that a chain is as strong as its weakest link would mean that the pride and power of any nation lie in the willing loyalty and commitment of the masses, without a minority segment haggling with power. Thus real political power lies with the often ignored and downtrodden masses who are made to become pawns in power politics. Difference between politics that focuses on the biting needs of the masses and one that caters for the flambuoyant lifestyle of a minority power holders, is always clear to know. Use of clever strategies to maintain a stability in a state of gross inequilibrium, usually end in failures.
Another form of use of adulation as a tool of governance, is the installation of a clever fraud or cult which caters for only loyalists and praise singers. This system of exclusion seeks to reduce the masses to the position of beggars, so that loyalty can be bought with “palliatives”. Thus those who refuse to be bought over into the camp of “caterpillars of the commonwealth”, would continue to suffer in poverty. This system of exclusion and fawning in the business of governance has been responsible for some of the lingering challenges in the country; neither would it end soon.
Sadly, elders of political parties, leaders of thought and even traditional rulers, have been known to join in the league of attention-seekers and praise singers, for the wrong reasons. The rate of endless commendations and encomiums showed on public figures should not continue, especially where issues of public concern and interest, make partisanship a wrong step to take. Those who do great deeds for the well-being of humanity rarely look for applause, acknowledgement or reward, because their works speak for them. Truly, he is well paid that is well satisfied; which is the quality of great leaders.
It is a great satisfaction to kindle some light where there is darkness, and do something to alleviate sufferings and then leave the scene unrecognised and unsung. But Nigerian philanthropists would require television coverage to record their deeds. How can a nation develop where people are obsessed with praises, the limelight and self-adulation? Nigeria should map out dignified directions that can inspire the citizens towards noble deeds, in silence, without looking for praises. Those who long for the limelight and count their worth, are beggars.
Going back to General Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, his last days and dying declarations carry some food for thought. Without disparaging him and his achievements, the fact that he warned leaders against praise singers when a leader is in power, would mean that the futility of such vanities dawned on him, even though late in his life. The praise singers he referred to in dying utterances included local and foreign advisers, consultants, contractors, witch-doctors and meddlers in the seat of power. Nigerian leaders should learn that power is an aphrodisiac; an equivocator!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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