Life is full of struggles, challenges and opportunities. No person who lived on earth had enjoyed any form of immunity from the challenges of life. Job in the Bible said: Man born of a woman has few days to live and the days are full of challenges. Job could audaciously formulate the theory of brevity of life interspersed by multi-dimensional challenges because he had his dose of life’s odds. He was not a stranger, neither was he averse to the reality of life. He was home to satan-induced suffering, pains, and poverty. He was an epitome of meekness in suffering, discipline in pain and self-control in provocation. Though his wife would want him to renounce his faith, curse God and die in the face of unprovoked attacks that culminated into his sordid health state until he got a vindication and reprieve from God, he declined such pressures, rebuked the wife and held tenaciously to his avowed commitment to remain faithful to his God, when he said without mincing words, “I know my Redeemer lives”.
The challenges of life are so real that even fatalism—denying the reality of challenges does not change the reality. Jesus, God the incarnate, also suffered and became model and example for Christian suffering. Saint Paul, the intrepid evangelist and premier missionary of the Early Church, chronicled his suffering for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he died for. Paul writing to the church at Corinth concerning his suffering said,”…more in labour abundant, in stripes above measure, in prison, more frequent in death. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered ship wreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeying often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own country men, in perils by the heathens, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among the false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness…(2 Corinthian 11: 23—27).
Furthermore, Paul admonished Timothy, his son in faith,.”Yes, if any person will live a godly life in Christ Jesus, he will suffer persecution”. He also instructs that our light affliction which is but for a moment, would work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4: 17). James, the leader of the early church and the half-brother of Jesus, writing to persecuted and suffering Christians the world over, said, “Blessed is the man that endures trials (persecution and temptation), for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord had promised to them that love him ( James 1: 12).
In these scriptures cited and several others and human experiences, it is pertinent to state that challenges are inevitable in life. In fact, someone has rightly said, “life has never been fair to any person but people get out of life what they want to”.In the light of the foregoing evaluation of realities through human experiences and Biblical references, it is delusional to approach life as devoid of challenges. The sooner adjustment in such narrow-minded perspective or world view, the safer and more mentally and emotionally equipped to face the challenges attendant on life.
Amidst such multi-dimensional challenges life throws at humans, some people ask if what people get out of life is worth the struggle? Of course, humans are not product of accident. God wants us to occupy until Jesus returns or we return to God who is our benefactor and to whom we owe our existence. Aside the universal and absolute purpose of worshipping Him, God created us to fulfil specific purposes, impact lives and live this world heroes and heroines.
But in the conscious effort to achieve set goals, care must be taken to ensure regard and respect to moral and societal values. Unfortunately, this is where very many people have failed. The utter disregard to standards and value system in the quest for pursuing the realisation of desires, has dealt so much pain on the generality of society. Ambition is inordinate when it does not take into cognisance the rights of others, ethos and values. When human rights are trampled upon with impunity by people who are driven by inordinate desires, society is worse for it. This explains the ugly scenario of the outright embezzlement, stealing and misappropriation of public funds, robbery, prostitution and several other vices in our society, with the attendant pains they foist on society.
No personal ambition is worth the denial of someone else’s right, let alone taking some one else’s life. The immediate past president of Nigeria, a world peace ambassador, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, once said: his political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. That is a man who has respect for sanctity of human life and believes that politics must be played by its rules and the acquisition of wealth must be guided by moral and ethical standards. Nigeria needs selfless and humane leaders like Dr Jonathan, while pursuing ambition. After all, of what use is materialistic life? With all his legitimately acquired wealth, wisdom and fame, Solomon decried life without God as “vanity”.
“I made me great works, I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards. I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit. I made me pools of water, to water there with the wood that bringeth forth trees. I got my servants and maidens..also I had great possessions….so I was great and I increased more than all that were before me. ..Then I looked on all that my hand hath done, and the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. So, I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter, and on the side of the oppressors, there was power, but they have no comforter….this also is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Ecclesiastes 2: 4-11; 4: 1, 4).
In a similar vein, Job said, “Naked we came into the world and naked shall we leave it”. In one of his prison letters to Timothy, Paul the Saint said: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out, (1 Tim. 6:7). Jesus asked rhetorically, “what shall it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul”. Life is vanity no doubt. Life is vanity without Jesus Christ. The struggles, oppressions and inordinate ambition are mere exercises in futility.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Tinubu Vs Oronsaye’s Report
Comparing President Bola Tinubu’s government and that of his predecessor, Mohammadu Buhari, some Tinubu protégés are quick to opine that unlike Buhari who was hardly aware of what was happening across the country and took no prompt action to address the problems, Tinubu listens to the complains of the people and takes action. They often cite the government’s response to the demands of organised labour and his recent agreement with state governors to establish state police in the country as part of measures to check the rising wave of insecurity in the country. The most recent addition to their claim is the federal executive council’s decision to implement the recommendations of the Steve Oronsaye panel on the restructuring and rationalisation of the federal agencies, parastatals and commissions as a way of reducing the cost of governance among others.
What some of these Tinubu’s supporters and beneficiaries of the current government will not point out is that the past nine months of this government has been the worst time in the country in decades past. They will not admit that the protest against hunger, poverty and insecurity across the country is a way of telling the government that enough is enough and that the government had better fix the country before it’s too late. Rather they hold onto the erroneous belief that the protests are politically sponsored. During his campaign, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now President, told Nigerians that he had a great and unbreakable team when he was the governor of Lagos State, including Cardoso (the headmaster), Wale Edun, Dele Alake and others. With the great team, he assured that the nation would be in good hands and the economy would thrive.
What has happened to the team now? Why has the nation’s currency been on a free fall, there’s hike in interest rate and Nigerians are dying of hunger under their watch? Have they lost steam and ran out of ideas?Leadership is more than being a great orator. It requires critical thinking and proper analysing of the challenges on ground and taking calculated and prompt action to address them. The problem of high cost of governance has been a big issue in the country long before Tinubu came on board with people from all walks of life and organisations constantly canvassing for reduction in the cost of governance. Before his inauguration on May 29, 2023, speculations were rife that Tinubu would merge or consolidate overlapping ministries, departments, and agencies to eliminate duplication of functions. There were expectations that government structures would be streamlined to make them more efficient as recommended in the famous Oronsaye’s report. In 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan, had set up the Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, Commission and Agencies under the leadership of the former Head of Service, Stephen Oronsaye. Part of the recommendations of the panel include: reduction of statutory agencies from 263 to 161, scrapping 38 agencies, merging 52, and reverting 14 to departments in different ministries. Unfortunately,not only did the Tinubu not act on the report promptly as expected, he rather created additional five ministeries, (Marine and Blue Economy, Tourism, Art, Culture and the Creative Economy, Gas Resources and Steel Development), bringing the total number of ministeries to 48, the highest in the history of the country. The question is, is the implementation of the Oronsaye’s report one of the knee-ferk policy formulations and inept implementations-mostly reactive and scapegoating that have characterised the current administration? If the president intended to implement the report, why did he create more ministeries?
Is the implementation of the Oronsaye’s report a right step? Yes it is. Reports have it that since 2012 when the report was submitted, the number of MDAs have risen to over 1300 with many of them performing basically the same function. Therefore, merging or scrapping some of the MDAs can lead to cost savings through the reduction of duplicated functions, elimination of overlapping roles, and streamlining of administrative processes. This can result in a more efficient allocation of resources.By eliminating redundancies and improving coordination, merged entities may be better equipped to provide more effective and timely services to the public. This can lead to improved overall service delivery and citizen satisfaction, among other benefits.However, as desirable and rationalisation of MDAs may be, one should hope it is thought through, far-reaching and crucial stakeholders involved.
Government should be wary of taking measures that will worsen the woes of the masses, particularly the civil servants instead of ameliorating it. Let us hope that the government will stick to its words of not allowing the move to lead to job losses and redundancies in the affected agencies. It is important to note that the success of any merger depends on careful planning, stakeholder engagement and effective implementation. The George Akume-led Committee, saddled with the responsibility to midwife the necessary restructuring and legislative amendments, needed to ensure full actualisation of the approvals granted ought to be diligent in carrying out their job. The committee should consider the potential challenges and downsides, such as resistance to change and disruptions in the short term. Having said that, one must also align with the views of the Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana and other well-meaning Nigerians, that the reduction of cost of governance goes beyond the scrapping or merging of MDAs.
Deeper cuts in the cost of governance are required from State House to Government Houses. Practical and relatable austere lifestyle for official and conduct of government businesses are desiderata. Having 38 delegates, including two Tinubu’s for a state visit to Qatar amid a nationwide protest against hardship and hunger in the land, does not indicate that the president is serious about cutting the cost of governance. What about reducing the salaries and allowances of public officials, including political officeholders, to align them with economic realities? What about spending less for the purchase of exotic cars for the first lady, governors’ wives, federal and state lawmakers and other people in the corridors of power? How about sincerely dealing with corruption and stopping stealing of the commonwealth which has long become the order of the day across all sectors of the economy?
During the last presidential election campaigns, one of the presidential candidates harped so much on moving the nation’s economy from consumption to production. Explaining that, economists said Nigeria should begin to produce what we consume locally and export to other countries. They say that investment in exchange competitive activities is the only sure way to strengthen the Naira and make life more meaningful for the citizens. Sincerely, that is what the nation needs now. Governments at all levels must deliberately invest in the manufacturing and production sectors. Revival of the dying textile industries in the country must be prioritised. Let us make maximum use of our huge population for the growth of the economy as China is enviably doing. To achieve this, one must emphasise the need for the state governors to get involved in the means of production
Often, attention is being focused on the federal government, while the state governors expenditures are left unscrutinised. Recently, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, revealed the huge sums of money the governors have so far received from the Federation Account to alleviate inflation and the high cost of food in their respective states. What have the governors done with this money? This and other allocations should be utilised for the states and their citizens. And to the widely known fact, without crushing insecurity across the country, especially in the large-food-growing belts to enable Nigerians carry on with the agricultural activities unhindered, no programme or reform will produce the desired result.
That Inflammatory Rhetoric Of Islamic Cleric
Nigerian history is replete with issues of religious intolerance. Perhaps, the metaphysical nature of religion makes it to be easily manipulated and dragged into other issues of our public life. To say that it has encumbered progressive change in our country, is an understatement. The issue of religious intolerance has indeed encumbered Nigeria s effort towards positive change and development in the areas of security and social stability, economic prosperity, democratic transformation and consolidation, integration of values and national unity. Of late, the dimension of this national enigma, by the so-called religious leaders, has grown in severity, leading to tragic occurrences of violence and acts of terrorism, and has become a challenge of concern to the international community as a whole. our country, Nigeria, is one known for its multicultural and multi-religious nature. Thus, religious diversity has long been its hallmark.
Regrettably, this diversity has not always translated into harmony, as instances of religious intolerance persist. Recall that in 2018, Kaduna State experienced a violent clash between Muslim and Christian communities, resulting in numerous casualties. The conflict was fueled by longstanding tensions, illustrating how religious differences can escalate into tragic confrontations. Also, on May 12, 2022, Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a second-year Christian college student, was stoned to death by a mob of Muslim students in Sokoto, Nigeria, after being accused of blasphemy against Islam. Perhaps the most notorious example, the Boko Haram insurgency has inflicted widespread suffering. While the group’s primary motivation is political, its actions have significant religious implications, as it targets both Muslims and Christians who oppose its extremist ideology.
This highlights the complex interplay between religious and political factors in the Nigerian context. Reports of religious discrimination in employment practices have also surfaced. In some cases, individuals have claimed to face discrimination based on their religious affiliations, hindering their career prospects and contributing to a sense of marginalisation. Recently, the troubling specter of religious intolerance has reared its ugly head once again in Nigeria as a prominent Muslim cleric has made a disturbing call for the killing of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Nigeria’s first lady, solely based on her Christian faith. This divisive rhetoric has understandably sparked off widespread concern and condemnation. The call by the Islamic cleric to take the life of Senator Oluremi Tinubu is not only morally reprehensible but also a stark violation of the principles of coexistence that Nigeria strives to uphold.
Its implication is far-reaching as religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and any call for violence based on one’s faith undermines the very fabric of our pluralistic society. It is however, imperative to recognise that such extreme views do not represent the stance of majority of muslims, who embrace values of peace and coexistence. The public’s response to this call for violence has been swift and robust. Most importantly, leaders of various religious and political backgrounds have condemned the cleric’s statement, emphasising the need for unity in the face of divisive rhetoric. Civil society organisations, religious leaders, and citizens alike have also called for a thorough investigation into the incident to ensure that justice was served. In a commendable display of leadership, Governor Nasir Elrufai’s son has come forward to denounce the call for violence against Senator Tinubu. His statement emphasises the importance of tolerance and understanding among Nigeria’s diverse religious communities.
This response serves as a reminder that responsible leaders have a crucial role in promoting unity and discouraging inflammatory rhetoric. The incident highlights the urgent need for efforts to foster religious harmony in Nigeria. Meanwhile, interfaith dialogue, educational initiatives, and community engagement can play a pivotal role in breaking down stereotypes and building bridges between different religious groups. Political leaders, religious figures, and citizens alike must work collaboratively to create an environment where diversity is celebrated, and intolerance has no place. The call for violence against Senator Oluremi Tinubu is a stark reminder of the challenges Nigeria faces in building a society that embraces its rich diversity. The reactions from various quarters, including the measured response from Governor Elrufai’s son, demonstrate that there is a collective will to stand against religious intolerance.
It is thus crucial for the nation to prioritise unity, understanding, and dialogue to ensure a peaceful coexistence for all its citizens. While religious intolerance in Nigeria remains a complex and deeply rooted issue, addressing this challenge requires not only legal measures to protect religious freedom but also a broader societal commitment to fostering understanding and tolerance. Initiatives promoting interfaith dialogue and education can play a pivotal role in breaking down stereotypes and promoting unity in a nation rich with diverse religious traditions. As Nigeria navigates these challenges, it is crucial for citizens, community leaders, and policymakers to work collaboratively toward a more inclusive and tolerant society, where individuals can practise their faith freely without fear of persecution.
Suffice it to say that, for Nigerians to experience progressive change in public life, religious adherents across religious divides must demonstrate genuine attitude of tolerance towards believers of other faith traditions in the country.
Dimensions To Nigeria’s Food Crisis
Going by statements credited to Nigeria’s Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, that “some people are working to undermine the efforts of the President Bola Tinubu administration”, especially with regard to the rapidly rising costs of food items across the country, one begins to worry if the trend of economic difficulties that began since 2015, will ever be reversed, or at least be halted. 2015 was the year the All Progressives Congress party took over governance in Nigeria, led by former President Muhammadu Buhari.According to national media reports, Vice President Shettima had used the opportunity at a conference on Public Wealth Management which held in Abuja, to reveal the discovery of “32 illegal routes,” in Illela Local Government Area (LGA) of Sokoto state, through which smugglers freight commodities out of the country. The VP also disclosed that “45 trucks loaded with maize were intercepted while making their way to neighbouring countries at midnight on Sunday.”
While the discovery of 32 smuggling routes in one Local Government Area, (LGA) of Sokoto state alone is startling, it is disheartening to realise that the state has five other border LGAs where similar things happen – Gudu, Tangaza, Gada, Sabon Birni and Isa – and worse still, considering that apart from Sokoto, states like Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno all lie along Nigeria’s porous 1,608km border with Niger. The interception of 45 trucks in just a night in one LGA, makes unimaginable the enormity of the number of truckloads of food items leaving this country daily.The unpatriotic priority of supplying Niger Republic, even at the risk of smuggling across terrorist-infested borders, against pressing domestic demands, is another reason for concern, and puts to scrutiny the efficiency and patriotism of our border control personnel towards implementing extant government policies. How long has this been going on, or was it a recent development?
Or was it the result of calculated distraction from political antagonists to frustrate the present administration, as the VP tried to paint it? His picture looks appealing when correlated with the recent spike in the price of cement, especially. But how come it was the vice president who stole the show of making the revelation public, instead of the intercepting agencies? It is expected that the federal agencies whose duty it is to secure borders should have been proud to parade and announce such achievements to showcase the essence of their establishment. And from Mr Vice President, who went short of naming the culprits, but rather alluded to “knowing the consequences of revealing the masquerade”, many would have preferred he damned those consequences by revealing particulars, otherwise many are tempted to perceive him as merely propagandising facts in the face of a national crisis.
However, while pondering the above worries, it would be worthwhile to review the changing political and economic landscapes inside and outside Nigeria since 2015, to find out factors that might have been at play. Hitherto, Nigeria had enjoyed free, cross-border movements of goods and persons with Cameroon, Chad and with its Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) neighbours up until May 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power. These movements supported transverse trades up to Mali, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic and as far as Lybia. By July of 2015 the Buhari’s administration, poised to enforce home-grown production, had imposed cross-border restrictions, a situation that became more stringent following the COVID-19 pandemic lock-downs of 2020.
On the other hand, nationalist uprising in eastern Cameroon from 2016 culminated to the 2019 Ambazonian separatist movement that ever since, pitched the ‘amba boys’ in gorilla warfare with Cameroonian authorities. Buhari’s government corresponded with Cameroon to tighten border restrictions on both sides. For every step of restriction, commodity prices responded in increase, both in Nigeria and across the borders, increasing the inducement for smuggling, no thanks to porous borders and the usual “pay and pass” atmosphere. Border bribes get higher with restrictions, reflecting on costs as goods flow across. Nigeria, being a huge source of farm products, and for a long time a source of subsidised petroleum products, fed scarcities that intensified many miles off its borders. Accompanying and aiding smuggling was heightened islamists influx into Nigeria from the Sahel.
Greater numbers of maraudering Islamist gangs from Mali, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic, acting either criminally on their own, or on brotherhood solidarities in the ethno-religious, farmers-herders or political conflicts in Nigeria, attack and plunder agricultural settlements. It has degenerated to current general insecurity, spate of kidnappings, and rapidly rising food prices. The spread of inflation across border was aided by the coup of August 18, 2020 in Mali, to which ECOWAS responded with economic sanctions. Mali with no direct border with Nigeria, has short connections through south-western Niger Republic. The overall game changer dawned since February 24, 2022 with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, followed by October last year’s out-break of Israel vs Hamas war in the Middle East. Ever since, global supply chains of grains, energy and raw materials have remained disrupted, shooting up everything from transportation costs to the value of foreign currencies.
Subsidy removal shocks on Nigeria’s poor transportation infrastructure, a sector daily threatened by insecurity, meant it was becoming more expensive to businesses in the north, compared to shorter cross-border routes which, in addition present prospects of higher gains. This becomes more obvious considering that the distance from Gboko in Benue to Bamenda in Cameroon is 443.7 Km, while from same Gboko to Lagos it is 795.9 Km, and 538.5 Km to Port Harcourt. Yola in Adamawa to Touruo in Cameroon is 229.5 Km, but it is 879.1 Km to Calabar and a staggering 1,327.4 Km to Lagos. Meanwhile, Illela in Sokoto can be crossed on bike or donkey into Birnin Konni, 5Km into Niger Republic, while the distance from Kano to Maradi in Niger is 268.2 Km, Kano to Abuja, 432 Km, and 992.2 Km to Lagos. Birnin Kebbi in Nigeria is 395.6 Km to Niger’s capital, Niamey, while being 658.4 Km off Nigeria’s, Abuja. In fact, smugglers utilise shorter segments, like in case of Illela to Konni, for higher round-trips.
According to reports, the amount of cross-border trades currently going-on across the Niger border is to the tune of N13 billion weekly, on items ranging from kusus, local flour, onions, tomatoes, pepper, potatoes, millet, maize, rice, jewelries to livestock, from which Nigeria losses revenues. The juntas in Niamey and Bamako, for all their militantness and recent pull-out from ECOWAS, let the illicit trades thrive. All these put together, it is easy to figure out the underlying factors to Nigeria’s economic woes, and to relate patterns with insecurity – Nigeria’s very porous borders have become more attractive in the face of rising haulage costs, as much as agro-production outputs are declining due to insecurity.The situation therefore calls for drastic measures to curb insecurity, transportation costs and smuggling, while massively investing in production. Even if it takes the tactics of ancient cities whose domains had to be walled-off with fortifications to achieve internal control and protection.
Yes, the flux across Nigeria’s 1,608 Km porous border with Niger Republic can, and should be checked with perimeter fortifications punctuated with approved access stations, and manned with surveillance technologies. Nigeria should also do same along its 809 Km border with Benin Republic and the 1,975 Km with Cameroon. With security concerns now gulping over N3.2 trillion in the 2024 national budget, a trillion Naira out of that bulk would fortify more than one flank of the borders to give our security personnel, beset by attack-and-withdrawal terrorists, a better chance at ending insecurity, and the border agencies, no excuses in discharging duties.
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