We live in an age of parliamentary democracy. This means every law must be decided in parliament after a thorough or exhaustive discussion. As decisions are taken by a majority of votes it is also necessary to persuade as many members of parliament as possible to vote on a side. Although such persuasion is always not fruitful because most members come to the house with minds made up for them by their various political parties or godfathers, attempts have to be made.
Hence our future politicians (students) must learn how to explain a point of view convincingly and with detailed reasons and how to win over members by an appeal to their personal feelings or to their sense of passion. This is an act which can be learnt in debating societies in schools and colleges. Debating is acquired by practice and the object of debating societies is to provide the student with necessary practice.
In my days in secondary school, there were debating clubs or societies at virtually all the schools. Debating competitions among secondary schools both at the state and national levels were organized and encouraged. Indeed such debates helped students to acquire mastery over the English language and the literary arts. Many science students acquired literary skills as a result of their participation in debate activities. In fact, debating in those days was a feature of college life.
On a due date of a debate competition, classes were suspended before the debate commenced, and the students filed into the school hall and took their seats. It was apparent that a great deal of lobbying had taken place. The pro-mergers and anti-mergers occupied opposite sections of the hall grouped in compact bodies. The neutrals -who were usually few – took their seats as they were attracted by either convenience or friendship. Curiously enough the conservative-minded were mostly pro-mergers; the progressives were almost all against the scheme. That was how it looked in my days.
But today, that has changed. It is hardly possible for debates to be organized at our schools. Even in private schools where the academic standard is considerably higher, debate activities are elusive while debating societies are practically non-existent. The reason is that the routine of most private schools is lecture-packed. There is no room for extracurricular activities.
Government-owned schools are worse. Learning hardly takes place there. The teachers seldom show interest or commitment to the basic activities of the schools. This is usually attributed to the fallen standard of education and, in such situation, there is bound to be little enthusiasm for holding debates. Where such enthusiasm exists, the unwillingness of teachers to join in the debates kills the inspiration.
Since Nigeria operates a constitution which establishes a National Assembly as well as the state legislature, where arguments precede the passage of bills, it has become necessary for debates to be held at schools to prepare students for the task, especially those of them that may end up in politics.
If debate culture can be introduced and strengthened in our primary and secondary schools, it may enhance the quality of arguments and the kind of English language spoken on the floor of our legislative houses in the country.
In view of this, the Rivers State Ministry of Education has to make it mandatory for all primary and secondary schools in the state to establish literary and debating societies. Two or three periods should be set aside every week for these debates and it should be considered a part of the timetable.
A debate is as much a part of education as learning mathematics or physics. Besides, these debates help put our book learning to test; what is learnt in class can be used in supportive or opposing arguments. For instance, a student of physics will have much to say if the subject of a debate is on the usefulness of hydro-electric power. This will be a healthy adjunct to academic work.
It is a good idea to have debates on real problems, preferably on real or contemporary issues. Everyone is interested in such issues and would want to have additional knowledge about them. Such issues may include the fallen standard of education, cultism, militancy, resource control, Boko Haram, abortion, the state of the economy and insecurity etc. To the average Nigerian, all these are of profound interest, and a debate on any of them will assist in clarifying or correcting our notion. It will enliven thought, stimulate interest and develop understanding.
The reintroduction of debating societies and debate competitions in schools will be a hopeful sign of improvement in our education sector. Given the fallen standard of education in our country, universities should also encourage debating competitions. There should be inter-university debating tournaments where selected debaters from universities will pit their talents against one another.
Every effort should be made to encourage students to get some practice in debates and discussions. Academic life will be better for it. And students will learn to be better citizens.
By: Arnold Alalibo.
Where ‘Enough Is Enough’ Truly Belongs
During the era of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), under the Presidency of Army General Ibrahim Babangida, the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Nigeria (ASUU) raised some alarm, pointing out the shape of things to come. Despite every clandestine effort to weaken and destroy the solidarity among lecturers then, Nigerians were given some hints that military regime was putting the future of the country in jeopardy, perhaps unwittingly, by installing a system of an oligopoly.
Without going into details of what transpired then or the hostility shown towards radical members of the academic community, the following hints were given: (1) A monopolistic or gangsteristic allocation or sale of oil and gas resources and other national assets going on then, secretly. (2) Declining value of the Nigerian currency and the precarious state of the economy and reasons or activities behind such trends (3) Structural imbalances being put in place, deliberately, for some political and economic purposes. (4) Systematic but gradual destruction of the middle class, which is usually a nation’s stabilising group. These antics were revealed by the lecturers.
Reactions of the military regime towards the alarm raised by university lecturers included an admonition that “undue radicalism” would not be tolerated from lecturers, and that they should focus on teaching what they were being paid to teach. As at that time, monthly salary of a professor was less than N20,000 whereas military officers were building 5-star hotels and other structures. “Nosy” lecturers were targets for witch hunt.
It became obvious to members of the ASUU that military regime was not interested in strengthening, but rather in weakening, the culture of higher education in Nigeria. It was not a surprise that most frequent and lingering strikes by university lecturers took place during the military era. It also became obvious to a large number of Nigerians, as late Captain Elechi Amadi said, that the society does not place any value or emphasis on naked honesty, hard work or sacrifices of individual Nigerians. What resulted from the series of anomalies created by the military regime, which included an unfair reward system, reflected in a lukewarm attitude of public servants towards labour. Patriotism declined also!
Who would want to labour throughout life and then die in penury when others can become millionaires in a few months’ time by selling oil block allocation papers? The periods of military regime characterised by frequent closures of the universities, enabled some lecturers to veer into various business ventures, including becoming taxi drivers. Despite threats of “no work, no pay”, lecturers took such threats as mere jokes, all resulting in a diminution of the zeal to serve or labour to build up the nation. Thus began the rot we know today.
When President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted recently as telling striking university lecturers that “enough is enough”, as an appeal to make them go back to the classrooms, that was not considered as anything new. Lecturers have discovered much to their chagrin that they have been wasting their energy and brain resources talking in classrooms.
If former military officers can afford to own private universities, airlines, build several houses including 5-star hotels, before the age of 60, then what would move striking lecturers about enough being enough? With the current value of the naira falling drastically as it has, is there any public servant who depends solely on salary, who is not complaining now? Since we operate a system which does not care about productivity or probity, it takes very little for any public servant to join the system or club of social parasites. But for the fact that there are still a few Nigerians who place value on probity and integrity, the country would have been worse than it is now. Who’s fooling who?
Therefore, the “‘enough is enough” slogan from the President of Nigeria to striking lecturers, can be said to have missed the most appropriate target. Yes, to stay away from the classroom for close to six months, forcing students to be home and idle, is long enough a period to resolve the issues which resulted in the strike. For striking lecturers to be so unyielding and unmoved by threat or cajole, is quite vexatious enough. But can any impartial arbiter in the matter say that the attitude of the federal government is ideal enough? Are lecturers the sole problems?
Nigerians were introduced many years ago to the legal concept of “Imperfect Obligation” arising from the federal government’s inability to fulfil its own side of agreement reached with university lecturers. The style and attitude of the current government is not different from a re-introduction of the theory of imperfect obligation, attributable to a learned Professor, Ben Nwabueze. Today it is Dr Chris Ngige.
“Enough is enough”, like “no work, no pay” or resort to the theory of imperfect obligation, may not be a threat; but more likely the use of a hackeyed strategy of evading rather than confronting an issue in a transparent manner. To resort to the old argument that the country does not have enough money to meet the demands of ASUU, is to remind the lecturers to dig out the claims of profligacy and mis-placed priority pointed out long ago as accounting for the nation’s current plight. Was ASUU’s allegation that Nigerian senators earn about four times the wage of the President of the United States of America, wrong?
Was Senator Shehu Sani wrong when he disclosed that “every Nigerian Senator gets N13.5 million monthly as running costs, about N200 million as constituency, while the salary is about N750,000”. Are there not several other allowances paid to political office holders, running to millions of naira monthly, all of which make striking lecturers say that education is being deliberately undermined? Certainly lecturers know a lot more than what they say in the open!
Rather than President Muhammadu Buhari telling any labour union that “enough is enough”; or any-one make a joke of some people labouring till they die, with nothing to show for their efforts, Nigerians can also tell their leaders that the masses have endured enough jolts. Nigeria may not be Sri Lanka, but the plight of a family in Kandy is not different from a family in Kano. Nigerian masses may be cowardly and security agents unfriendly, but surely a wind of change is currently blowing across the globe. There is a strong need for positive changes and less of parasitism! Enough is enough!
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
That Report On Insecurity In Nigeria
The Eleventh Annual Report on Lethal Violence in Nigeria by Nigeria Watch, that violence claimed 13,537 human lives between January 1 and December 31, 2021, though conservative leaves much to be desired. The Nigeria Watch project, according to media reports, is hosted by the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nigeria) at the University of Ibadan’s Institute of African Studies. It is supported by IRD (Institute Derechereche pour le development, Paris), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and British Council’s Programme Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN).
According to the report, Borno State accounted for the highest number of fatalities with 1,853, followed by Zamfara State with 1,516 losses, Kaduna 1,342, Niger 935, and Benue 625 while Gombe, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Adamawa and Cross River states recorded the lowest. These statistics are not only repugnant to development, they reveal the level of man’s inhumanity to man, and gross disrespect to the sanctity of human lives. Above all, they speak volumes of the ineffectiveness of the present Federal Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari in discharging its primary obligation.
The primary duty of government as enshrined in the grand norm ( the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), is to protect the lives and property of its citizens. Government owes it a duty to ensure that security of lives and property of the citizenry are guaranteed for, that is the essence we have government in place. The implication is that when a government fails in this fundamental responsibility, it should cease to exist because it has lost its relevance. The trend, if not checked, can snowball to a major national catastrophe. That is why the National Assembly’s resolve to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari over the alarming and unacceptable state of insecurity in Nigeria, though coming too late, is a bold and welcome initiative.
The resolution which media reports say was supported by members of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the National Assembly reveals the loss of confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration by Nigerians even by conscientious and dispassionate members of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Insecurity is an ill-wind that does no person any good except the callous and those who feed fat from it. For every moralist and God-fearing person, the mere mention of violence sends a cold shudder down the spine. It should not be mentioned at all. A coalition of over eighty human rights organisations under the aegis of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to act fast and resign over the spate of incessant insecurity in the country.
The group is convinced that the resignation of the President is the only panacea for the nation’s insecurity. Beyond threats of impeachment which the National Assembly has warmed the president about, they have vowed to remove him from office, if he continued to assault the sensibilities of Nigerians on his mute disposition and complacent attitude towards the insecurity situation in the country. No doubt, the insecurity situation has overwhelmed the Federal Government and President Muhammadu Buhari and to say he is not in control, is to say the least.
As part of their oversight functions, the senators and House of Representatives members should at least for once, show that they are representatives of the people. They are stewards and that they are there by the people, so should rise to defend the people, no matter whose ox is gored. Insecurity knows no party cleavage. It does not know All Progressives Congress or Peoples Democratic Party membership. That is why the impeachment threat on and the advice to President Muhammadu Buhari to resign should transcend party, ethnic and religious sentiments. The National Assembly should be proactive.
The collective interest of Nigerians should supersede sectional, religious, ethnic interests, if the country will be saved from the quagmire of violence. The National Assembly should not use the precarious security situation that has occasioned the resolve to impeach the President as a smokescreen to add to the wealth they have already acquired. They should resist attempt to break their ranks by the “buy over” syndrome. No amount of money is worth integrity which someone has said is so priceless that it is not found among mean people
Selected or elected, the National Assembly members should see themselves as representatives of the about 200 million people in the country, therefore should not do what will further dent their credibility. They should remember that responsibility and accountability go hand-in-globe. They are inseparable. Little wonder Daniel Webster said that the greatest truth that has crossed his mind is his “accountability to God”. We must collectively fight insecurity and all the elements that make insecurity possible in the country. Security operatives and governments at all levels should recommit to end violence and criminality in their domains.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Max Webber Doctrine
Far from being a doctrinaire affair, the Max Webber doctrine is a summary of the cream and global best practices in management science. An organisation or a nation succeeds or fails in its goals and objectives, based on the application or non-application of the Webber doctrine of resources management. In the words of Max Webber: “It is God’s will that only industry, not relaxation and pleasure, can magnify His glory. Wasting time is thus the first and fundamentally most serious of all sins”. Available manpower rarely utilised!
A doctrine, prescription or formula, becomes doctrinaire, if it is full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, with regard to addressing the challenges and problems of every-day living. The philosophy of management, summarised in the Webber doctrine, places emphasis on prudent use of resources, of which time counts as vital. To spend time effectively demands not relaxation and pleasure, but industry or self-exertion. Self exertion also demands vigilance and the ability to know what demands priority attention.
A sad flaw in Nigeria’s public sector manifests visibly in what a common man describes as “lack of a maintenance culture”. Do we make timely repaires of ailing or decrepit public facilities or draw up a regular maintenance schedule? Webber doctrine prescribes that managers of public affairs should be co-ordinators rather than dictators; consultants rather than confrontationists. Rather than civility, public servants become pugilists and macho-men.
A sound management and maintenance economy would prescribe taste for good quality and durable standards. What we find common in Nigerian project execution is usually cosmetic adornment which rarely stands the test of time. No one is clever enough to bamboozle everybody all the time, even as a miracle performer. What Webber doctrine calls emotional maintenance prescribes that humans give their best when they are in a state of emotional stability. This comes about when there is justice in public affairs, demonstrated by transparency and accountability.
Sad practice of monopoly and hoarding of power is sharply detested in the Webber doctrine, but rightly recommends the cultivation of team spirit and power sharing. Where the masses have a stake and commitment towards public affairs, available resources can be used judiciously and responsibly. Through voluntary, cost-saving and direct labour strategies, management of public affairs would become a mass movement. Priority attention should be given to security and safety of the masses, rather than a situation where security and safety facilities become the shield and succour of delinquent political elite and power merchants.
Where there are partnership, cooperation and commitment of the masses with regard to security and safety of the nation, criminality would bear the tag of a common enemy of the masses. The public would collaborate with state agencies to see that terrorists and bandits do not take over the country. Neither security nor politics must be allowed to become an all-comers’ affair, hence there must be serious screening and selectiveness of intending candidates.
Webber doctrine warns that in the development of a nation, there comes a critical moment when dabblers and fraudsters seek to take over the polity. Where such project succeeds, a nation so doomed finds it difficult to get out of such plight. The seriousness and sanctity of the management of public affairs, demand that only people of highest integrity should handle a nation’s political offices. Mismanagement of public facilities and abandonment of public projects demand that serious penalties be visited upon those who aid and abet such malfeasance.
Use of local resources and expertise must not only be implemented as a policy, but it must also be applied with strict selectiveness, whereby “quota system” must never over-ride competence and merit. Nigeria cannot move forward where the polity can be over-run by baboons. Undue interferences in professional matters by political influences, or putting square pegs in round holes, are not compatible with the ideals of bureaucracy. Things must be done according to guidelines provided for them, rather than a situation where there are abuses of due process and the rule of law.
Max Webber doctrine encourages use of personal initiatives and discretion, provided there is a process of transparency, accountability and personal responsibility attached thereto. Public officials who frustrate planned projects and programmes arbitrarily should be penalised, while those who make thing work better through personal discretion should be commended and rewarded. What we find common in Nigerian public sector is the killing of personal initiatives and discretion because of envy.
Committed and competent professionals do not become slaves to rules, especially when rules are seen as impediments to efficiency and effectiveness. They would break the rule, get things done better and then stand tall to take responsibility and be accountable. Webber doctrine detests buck-passing or evasion of responsibility, but demands strict monitoring and self-evaluation as regular practices. Rigidity in management is not the same thing as firmness. Rigidity can arise from incompetence and fear, while firmness means sticking to the rules of justice, without fear or favour.
Any nation where incompetence, mediocrity and serious official lapses and misconducts can be condoned, ignored and covered up, is a nation that would install corrupt practices. Part of corrupt practices include the implementation of flamboyant or “white elephant” projects whose priority or value is merely cosmetic, meant to line up private pockets. In reality, politics is a contractual affair which demands public office holders to perform according to public mandate, but also conserve rather than waste and squander public resources, including public confidence.
To procure irrelevant, flamboyant, expensive facilities solely for the comfort and pleasure of public office holders, while the masses languish in hunger and penury, is a gross abuse of public trust. Rather, good political culture encourages self-reliance, industry, effective use of time, resources and leisure, through exemplary leadership that would not pander to ignoble propensities. Nigerian politicians must acquaint themselves with Max Webber doctrine.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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