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Off Violence And Global Food Insecurity

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On February 24, 2022, the ego of one man led Russia to war. Many in the West, never envisaged that such a day could come again in continental Europe, but Vladimir Putin’s lust for a place in infamy cannot be quenched. For him, Mother Russia must be resurrected, even if it means the senseless deaths of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, and millions of refugees. After four months of Putin’s so-called Special military operation, the ripples are now felt across the world. Global food security is now at risk due to millions of tons of Wheat trapped in  Ukraine, and countries across the world that depend on food aid from the world food programme are now at risk of starvation since 50 per cent of the programme’s wheat supply comes from the country. Ukraine also produces about 20 per cent of global high-grade wheat and the equivalent of 7 per cent of total global wheat production. The war is also affecting Russia’s production, which when combined with Ukraine supplies about 30 per cent of wheat and 24 per cent of global barley supply.
Benue State is to Nigeria, what Ukraine represents in the global food supply, and it has been the target of continuous attack from Fulani herdsmen and bandits. Even though these attacks did not begin in 2015, since the advent of President Buhari, they have increased in frequency, spread and sophistication. Nigerian farmers in most states in the country now have to contend with stranger criminal elements unheard of in the past. The term bandit is a synonym for terror; most of our food-producing communities are the ones bearing the full brunt of the attack.
In Benue State, about 70 per cent of those in IDP camps are farmers whose communities and farms have been sacked and livelihoods completely eviscerated. When the herdsmen and bandits descend on these communities, they destroy barns and seedlings for the next farming season. Our once celebrated food basket is almost empty, and the impact could be felt across the country on every kitchen table, and food inflation now stands at 18.8 per cent. The most troubling part of this issue is that little or nothing is being done to arrest the situation; and by not dealing decisively with this matter, President Buhari has given tacit support to his kinsmen as they continue to decimate farming communities in Benue since 2018. Unfortunately, the farming communities in Benue State are not the only ones suffering at the hands of Fulani herdsmen and bandits.
On a TV programme in January 2022, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Gani Adams, stated that the food crisis is imminent in the South-West region of Nigeria due to the onslaught on farmers by Fulani herdsmen. According to him, farmers in hotspots have stopped going to their farms for fear of being attacked by criminal herders. Another telling side of this herdsmen saga in South-West Nigeria is that they deliberately lead their herds into farms to graze, as a result, many farmers have incurred huge amounts of debt, leading to frustration.
In Rivers State, especially in Ogoni land and Etche, herdsmen with AK-47s have destroyed countless farms, raping women, destroying livelihoods, and dislocating local food supply in the process. They are undeterred because nobody wants to go to war; but how long shall we continue like this? They have removed the natural buffers and shock absorbers that offer us defence in times of food inflation and global food crises; and the monthly “Selected Food Prices Watch” of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in all parts of the country has been showing it.
According to the NBS’s data for May 2022, the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) rose on a year-on-year basis by 37.22 per cent from N382.37 in May 2021 to N524.70 in May 2022. Also, on a month-on-month basis, this increased by 1.09 per cent from N519.05 in April 2022. The average price of 1kg of a Yam tuber increased on a year-on-year basis by 37.87 per cent from N269.98 in May 2021 to N372.23 in May 2022.
According to the NBS’s data, on a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item increased by 3.05 per cent in May 2022. Similarly, the average price of 2kg of Wheat flour: pre-packed (golden penny) on a year-on-year basis, rose by 34.92 per cent from the value recorded in May 2021 (N785.87) to N1, 060.26 in May 2022. On a month-on-month basis, it increased from N1, 047.74 in April 2022 to N1, 060.26 in May 2022 indicating a 1.20 per cent rise.
From  the NBS’s data also, the average price of Palm oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) increased by 42.81 per cent from N593.36 in May 2021 to N847.39 in May 2022. It also rose by 0.55 per cent on a month-on-month basis. The average price of 1kg of beef (boneless) rose by 34.11 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N1, 513.43 in May 2021 to N 2,029.59 in May 2022. In addition, the average price of Groundnut oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) stood at N1, 040.88 in May 2022, showing an increase of 47.99 per cent from N703.36 in May 2021.
During the monetary policy committee meeting in March 2021, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, adduced that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen was a contributory factor to rising inflation, he said, “This persisting uptick in food inflation was the major driving factor to the uptick in headline inflation”. According to him, this was due to the worsening security situation in many parts of the country, particularly, the food-producing areas, where farmers face frequent attacks by herdsmen and bandits on their farms. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since 2021. Again, the committee further noted that the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the upward adjustment in electricity tariffs, and the depreciation of the naira are the key drivers of the increase in core inflation.  Where are we today in the above indices as compared to 2021? There is even a continuous micro increment on electricity tariff, but we dare not talk about the price of diesel, which is heading to N1000 per liter. However, going by the reasoning of the MPC in March 2021, the coming hike in the pump price of PMC might be the last nail that seals the coffin of most Nigerians for good.
But we know that most of these problems are self-inflicted. They are akin to the insane policy failures of President Joe Biden in the US. He has banqueted a thriving economy in January 2020, but in only 18 months the US economy is wrecked. It is so bad that the US is unable to produce its own baby formula, shelves are emptying fast across the county, and recession is already on the horizon. The saddest part is that he blames everyone but himself.
In all honesty, we cannot say that President Jonathan handed a fantastic economy to President Buhari, but whatever state the economy was in 2015 has been upended. Most of those in the cabinet of President Jonathan was indisputable technocrats, whereas, President Buhari’s incompetence and nepotistic disposition gave us one of the worst National Executive Council of all time.Thanks to Buhari, families who were able to eat two square meals are now struggling to eat one. It is sad because we thought that campaign promise meant anything, unfortunately, the repercussions of our votes in 2015 is felt every day on the kitchen table of our wives and our dining tables, and just like Joe Biden, President Buhari, through his spokesmen, Garba Shehu and Lie Muhammed have taken no responsibility for turning Nigeria into a living hell for most of us.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Breaking The Jinx 

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A jinx is a bringer of bad luck; an unlucky influence. Ancient Romans as well as ancient African communities had a brief system that a cleansing ritual becomes necessary when a community becomes overwhelmed by continued crises and evil influences. It was based on that belief system that Jonah in the Christian scriptures was thrown into the sea from a jinxed ship, with Jonah as a scapegoat, being swallowed by a big fish. Thus, human sacrifice became a means of communal cleansing; an animal would suffice for minor tragedies.
What we call tragedies in literature are associated with “tragus” or goat, as a symbol of the sacrificial ritual involved in a cleansing process, undertaken as an annual solemn festive occasion. It is usually a sad occasion, largely because those who bear the brunt and imprecations of the cleansing ritual, are meant to be penitent and turn a new leaf. The custom of fasting is also associated with the cleansing process. Comedy, on the other hand, is a light-hearted and merry annual festive occasion, to express gratitude.
Long ago, individuals, communities and nations learned of the principle of duality in human existence whereby there cannot be a continued state of comedy without some tragedy, or vice versa. Similarly, old order usually gives way to a new order, in the cycle of life; whereby the baby of yesteryears becomes a parent today. However, this relay or rotary movement in life’s cycles, also has some unique features, of which resistance is a common one. But old order must pass away, allowing the new to come up.
Passage of the old order rarely goes without some opposition or bloodshed, usually as a result of a peculiar human weakness. Those who recognise the purpose of the dual and alternating system in life’s cycles are meant to enrich life in a more comprehensive manner, through a process of complementarity. However, complementarity must go with compatibility, for harmony to reign.
The old idiom that you cannot eat your cake and have it, is a valid admonition which cannot be ignored. Humans create blockages and haemorrage in the scheme of arrangement in life through stubborn willfulness, thereby creating crises and instability. In return, humans are forced to make atonements or sacrifices for the tragedies created, including bloodshed via banditry, terrorism, criminality, etc. This scenario is brought about because of the dual and alternating system in life’s operations whereby you cannot eat your cake and have it.
Once this inescapable fact of life is recognised, then other huddles would be easier to cross as we get there. Unfortunately, among humans, this principle of dual and alternating current operates and manifests everywhere. While some people are striving towards what is good and noble, there are also ill-disposed persons striving in the opposite direction. Unfortunately there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. It is also sad that ill-disposed persons in society rarely know or admit that they are the jinx in human population. Thus the culture of sanctimony is another social jinx.
In The Merchant of Venice, we are told that “the world is still deceived with ornament”, which means that sanctimony is a deceptive ornament. Human institutions and agencies where such deceptive ornaments wear the face and mien of honour include politics, academia, ecclesia and leadership generally. Thus the possibility of detecting the jinxed position of any nation or organisation becomes quite difficult. Since it is difficult to differentiate between or separate the “tares” from the “wheat”, the world can always be deceived with ornament, where hypocrisy and sanctimony rule.
Like a wheat farm, human society also harbours various weeds including ones which look like wheat. Thus the principle of dual and alternating influences must also operate in every country, calling for the need for eternal vigilance which is the price we pay for freedom or liberty. It is certain that the section of humanity which strives for nobility must pay some price and also exert enough power to remain untainted by the virus of the jinxed group of humanity.
There are various ancient admonitions about a time when humans must experience some severe crises of confidence and integrity. Therefore, there should be no surprise about the existence of counterfeits, fakes and manipulators in every sphere of life and activity. They must always be there, for the purpose of quality control and as litmus test in a final process of assessment. Like a farmland or a school process, a time of harvest or cumulative assessment comes, with wheat and tares contending.
Breaking the jinx is therefore a reference to the enigma involved in understanding the current state of affairs on earth. This also entails calling attention to the operation of the principle of dual and alternating system in the affairs of life. Do we not say that what has a beginning must also have an end? Towards the end of any programme it is normal to have an acceleration of activities, whereby past negligences, stoppages and haemorrage would be brought forward for resolution. It is also common that there would be some stiff resistance to the exposures of past ugly and putrid agenda hitherto hidden away from the eyes of unsuspecting public.
We live in a world where the things we see visibly are the representations of another sphere of existence that is usually invisible. This is another form of the dual and alternating system in the cycles of life. While the majority of humans rarely see the unseen, it is possible to decode the unseen from what is visible. This situation of humanity currently is that we stand at a cross-road, whereby the old order must give way to a new order, inevitably. By compulsion!
This situation demands that drastic choices must be made: dump Jonah into the sea to save a ship in crisis, or, get on with business as usual. Sadly, the scapegoat ritual sacrifice will not be acceptable. Pilferers, sanctimonious pretenders to the throne, conjurers and confusionists have taken too much and done too much, for the owner to know. There comes a time when human shenanigans, antics and blusters suffer ignominous defeat. 2023 marks a cross-road for Nigeria! Locusts have done much harm. Enough is enough!

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

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Opinion

 As The Rains Intensify …

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As  the rain   gathers  momentum with every  day that passes, the ground wears a saturated posture. Needless to say that flooding, which had remained  a major challenge  to residents of Port Harcourt and its environs every year, precisely July to October, needs be checked.
For those who live in flood prone areas,  the rainy season is a  premonition of trouble because of the ugly experiences of past years. The essence of history is to prevent reinventing the ugly past, and to use the past experiences to reconstruct a better tomorrow. Unfortunately, history repeats itself because people are not willing to learn from the past or use the past to improve the future.
It is pertinent to state that  the rainy season is exclusively an act of God. But the havoc that the flood waters cause is more often than not, a response to hostile and uncomplementary human activities to the environment which God in his infinite wisdom has created to be the habitat of humans. Humans are the architect of the environment related hazards.
Going by the sequence of creation, on the third day God created the earth for humans and some animals though scientists postulate that animal life actually begins in the water.
The sovereign God who is omni benevolent (wholly good), created the day and night as well as dry and rainy seasons.
It is essential to state that even  the global warming with the attendant changes in times and seasons, atmospheric condition and cosmic radiations, the dry and rainy seasons are constant, though they may not come at the time that is usually known of them. Human activities, unfriendliness to the environment can only alter the timing of the occurrence of seasons but their certainty is tied to the laws of nature which function on the infallible word of God. Only God or his servant whom he chooses to vindicate, has the power to alter the course of nature, like Joshua declared that the “sun should stand still” and Elijah decreed that there should be no rain for “a season” in the then northern kingdom of Israel under the leadership of Ahab and there was no rain for three years. That is amazing.
The rains must come, even if it delays or by divine intervention it was interrupted . The earlier people live in anticipation of this stark reality, the better for them. Knowing that something is going to happen helps to prepare the wise person to grapple with the challenges that are associated with such expectations ahead of  the time. When people feign ignorance of the reality of negative events, it is a state of delusion and fatalism. Fatalism is denying what is real. It is a state of delusion and should not be misconstrued for faith because it has nothing to do with faith. Rather, it is a state of mental and psychological imbalance.
With the torrential rainfalls that are evident in the last few days in some parts of the State, it is a clear signal and a tell-tale sign that flood is imminent. No doubt, the rainy season is a blessing to mankind. God designed it to foster food production, growth of vegetation, stabilisation of weather and a balancing in the natural equation of creation according to the incomprehensible wisdom of God.
But the sordid experiences of previous years have shown that human antagonism to the environment has created avoidable mishaps, pains and sorrows for humanity.
For example, for six consecutive years, flood is common and endemic in some local government areas of the state despite the forewarning of meteorologists. These local government areas which are predominantly coastal in location have always been fraught with devastating flood which resulted in colossal loss of lives and property.
Some communities in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Abua/Odual, Andoni, Degema, Akuku Toru, Asari Toru, Local Government Areas, even the upland Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas have their tale of woes to tell as predicted by meteorologists.
Last year, the flood situation was so bad that even the Station Road, the Government House axis, down to Azikiwe Road were hit. SPAR, situated along that road was forced to close shop because of the invasion of rain water.
Residents of some communities were evacuated, some who heeded the warning relocated to other environment, while those who were not fortunate enough, were victims and counted their losses.
Even with such sordid experiences of the immediate past, that reduced those affected to a state of near less human, it is baffling that people forget in a hurry, that is why history repeats itself.
The narration of historical events is an intentional and conscious effort to enhance welfare of humans and the development of our society.
When people therefore fail to learn from the past, they wade dangerously into the future and ultimately meet a waterloo. The essence of the knowledge of the past is to secure the future.
It is pertinent to state that flooding does not happen by chance, neither is it a demonic architecture. Flooding is majorly caused by human acts that are repugnant to a decent society.
Environmentalists have time without number told what residents should or not do, to avoid flooding. Some of the things to avoid as recipe for a flooding-free environment, are blocking of water channels, dumping of refuse in gutters/drainage, building on water ways and construction of road without deep drainage system that links to a flowing rivers. It is necessary for residents of the state, especially the flood prone local government areas to cultivate and imbibe the culture of environmental cleanliness. The environment is one of God’s best gifts to humanity, so should not be treated with levity and degraded.
For some months running,  the Rivers State Waste Management Agency has not conducted monthly Sanitation Exercise, the non-conduct of sanitation exercise should not determine whether or not drainages and gutters in the Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and neighbouring Local Government Areas should be cleaned. Cleaning of our environment should be instinctive and inborn. No right thinking and level headed person should be tutored on the need to clean place of residence or their environment. Cleanliness, it is often said, is next to godliness . It saves the environment from mosquito and other rodents and reptiles infestation, and their negative consequences such as, malaria, snake bites, etc.
Monthly Sanitation Exercise should be a stimulant and a booster rather than a substitute to intentional commitment to personally clean our environment.
Now that the rain is here, the people of the State should ensure that drainages and water channels are cleared and cleaned and the refuse evacuated to approved dumpsites.
To guard against the repeat of the pains that flooding caused to numerous residents in the State.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Where ‘Enough Is Enough’ Truly Belongs

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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.

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