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Hope Deferred And A Sick Nation

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The story of Nigeria is that of a hope deferred. And as the Holy Book says, when hope is deferred, heart sickness is inevitable. Even now, Nigeria now suffers from a decadence of the soul. A decadence and cankerous malady that eats deep in the heart of a once great nation. Even in the season of celebration, or at least what ought to be a celebration of our Independence from colonial and imperial rule, the nation mourns her great loss and stillborn hope that was not.
Nigeria is now 62 years since it was recognised as a sovereign nation; 62 years of controlling her own destiny and deciding  her fate. Yet, fate has frowned upon the heart of our land. At the inception of our nation, the country appeared promising and a great beacon of hope stood on the horizon. But what we thought to be a light at the end of our national tunnel turned out to be another train hitting us right on the face. This unforeseen, catastrophic train came with  its own malady and imbroglios such as succession of bloody coups after coup, the disenfranchisement of public trust and a dashing of a hope that once was.
Even the imperial empire that is the Great Britain which reluctantly handed over our country to us did not foresee the level of mischiefs and calamity we wished upon ourselves. Our supposed foreign enemy could not have imagined this heinous attempt to implode ourselves and bring upon each other a calamity of Herculean proportion. It was Abraham Lincoln who said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. For Nigeria, the merchants of mischief went right into its middle and broke it into little pieces. Till today, the remedy is still far-fetched. Giving his first Independence speech in October 1, 1960, the then prime minister, Tafawa Balewa said, “This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”
He further stated: “I shall not labour the point but it would be unrealistic not to draw attention first to the awe-inspiring task confronting us at the very start of our nationhood. When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our Independence it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage.   ”We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to the responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination.” Tafawa Balewa was right about the fact that for us to take our place in the world stage, the issue of nationhood must be strongly addressed. The prime minister was also right about the clarion call for responsible leadership in government in order to achieve this feat. However, perhaps it could be said that he overstated our willingness as a nation to accomplish the task bequeathed upon us. Or on the flip side, he underestimated the tenacity of mischief-makers to devise different ways to cause division, polarisation and disunity in the polity. Because of this oversight, Nigeria remains stagnant and even retrogressive in the course of taking its “place  on the world stage.”
Today, no one can deny the fact that our nation is suffering from an internal haemorrhage and it is bleeding from all sides. The once firm foundation now shakes and wobbles, threatening the whole building itself. It is a grim and frightening sight.  At 62, we have with us a nation riddled with corruption, mismanagement, impunity and multifaceted dissonance. A nation whereby more people want to get out from, rather than come into. In the medical and tech sector for instance, there are more qualified doctors, nurses and tech experts from Nigeria in Europe and America than from any other African country. Since the hope and promise of a great nation has been deferred, the best and the brightest are now fleeing the nation. Experts refer to this as brain drain. A befitting and dreadful metaphor! Think about it: if the heart is sick and the brain is damaged, what then is left of the body? What is left of the remains of this carcass called Nigeria?
Some say it is a failed state; others claim it is not yet a failed state but it is right at the edge, dancing recklessly on the precipice of failure. But no one can refer to it as a successful or succeeding state. Before 2015, it was a consoling and even heartfelt remark to refer to Nigeria as an emerging economy; but what seems to be emerging then has now recoiled itself back to its catacomb. The failure of leadership under this present administration has now made us the capital poverty of the world. This is a nation that was once richer than Brazil, South Korea and Thailand put together. It is a grim picture.  What makes our story more bewildering and heart-wrenching is not that we are stagnant or moving at a slower pace than our counterparts, but the fact that the hope that once was is now dashed and stillborn. And there seems not to be renaissance anywhere close. If one should mull over the state of our nation, not only will one’s heart get sick. One might die of a cardiac arrest. And that is the fact. The nation is sick. It is not dead, but it is on life support. And anyone who claims otherwise is living in a dream land. As we look back at what was lost, our task is to recover that hope in a nation that has enormous potential to be great. We should not sweet-talk our situation or romanticise our present state, but speak the bitter truth to diagnose the malady that beset us in all directions. This truth can make us mad as hell; but it also promises to heal us as well. It promises to wake us up from our slumber and revitalise us from the grave of our despair. The loss of our nation is great and the heart of our nation is bleeding. But this too can be a reminder that there is a lot of work needed to be done. Even in a sick nation such as ours, there can be a recovery of hope for the future to come.

By: Cyrus Ademola

Ademola, a journalist and columnist, writes in from Lagos.

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Opinion

Nigerians As Defeathered Chickens?

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In a graphic demonstration of the fickleness of the human mind, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), former leader of the defunct USSR, plucked off the feathers of a chicken and dropped bits of wheat towards it as he walked around his compound. The profusely haemorrhaging chicken followed Stalin everywhere, pecking on the wheat. Likening this coldhearted scenario to political engagement, Stalin said thus: “This is how easy it is to govern stupid people; they will follow you no matter how much pain you cause them as long as you throw them a little worthless treat once in a while”. This illustration speaks volubly to political leadership in Nigeria.
Chickens are easily frightened hence, in American parlance, lily-livered persons are referred to as “chickens”, and the act of withdrawing from a competition or likely brawl is referred to as “chickening out”. A defeathered chicken loses its bird essence; when bleeding, running becomes traumatic; with open pores, its susceptibility to disease is very high, thus accentuating its vulnerability. A defeathered chicken is therefore in a precarious state of being. For all intents and purposes, Nigerians have been defeathered since the abrogation of the Independence Constitution of 1960 and promulgation of Unification Decree of 1966. The Waterways Bill that is being surreptitiously pushed in the National Assembly will nail the coffin of Nigerians if it is passed into law.
Nigerians were “fully feathered flying fowls” under the Independence Constitution, which vested natural resources on the subnational governments; it was such that Nigeria recorded many “firsts” at the continental and global arenas. However, Nigerians were defeathered by the Unification Decree of 1966 and finally nailed by the Petroleum Decree of 1969, which divested the federating units and citizens of the right to their natural resources in favor of the Federal Government. These ill-informed acts of dictatorial lawgiving commenced Nigeria’s slip and slide down a slippery economic slope that slithered the nation into the current state of disarticulated private sector, consumer—nation status, dreadfully devalued currency, runaway inflation, ever-elongating unemployment line and the mocking moniker of poverty capital of the world—a scornful sobriquet that has erased the letters “g” and “i” from the erstwhile appellation “Giant” of Africa thereby turning Nigeria into “Ant” of Africa.
Recently, a sitting governor was quoted as saying that “Nigerians don’t have the capacity to unite because they are burdened by poverty. We have taken away from them their dignity, their self-esteem, their pride and self-worth so that they cannot even organise…We [the elite] unite; (the citizens are) already in hell”. This is a candid admission of elite class culpability regarding the deplorable economic state of affairs in Nigeria. In other words, this statement declares that it is the elite that have brought so much hardship in Nigerians. The truth remains that acrimonies amongst the elite are orchestrated to mislead the public. In reality, they are united in looting the nation’s wealth. They have weaponised poverty and kept the citizens weak, confused and, therefore, malleable.
Nigerians are profusely bleeding and perceptibly pained chickens; borrowing the words of Stalin, they have, arguably, become stupid people who have consistently followed their political leaders irrespective of how much pain is inflicted on them through public policies that serve only the purpose of the elites. A micro-minority lives in obscene opulence while the overwhelming majority languish in penury. The stupidity of Nigerians derives from their allowing themselves to be deceived into believing that ethnicity and religion are the dividing lines in the Nigerian socioeconomic space. Another strategy for defeathering Nigerians is the indigenisation/privatisation of government stake-holding in the economy, which was carefully crafted crookedly to benefit elites in the final analysis.
Given the above, Nigerians sadly continue to follow their Stalin-hearted leaders as they shamelessly shilly-shally across political party lines completely devoid of any philosophy or ideology other than the “I, me, mine” ethos that characterise political participation in Nigeria. Late Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), once lamented that the problem with Africans is that they complain about bad leadership but when the opportunity comes for election, they still elect the same group of people. Also, Madibo Keita (1915-1977) averred that “when the citizens of a nation deem their most accomplished thieves as the most electable…theft becomes their national creed”. The full weight of these statements is still with us in Nigeria.
The first quarter of 2023 is around the corner. Sadly, at every level of government, pardoned convicts, “idiots” and “tribesmen” (in the Greek tradition) are jostling for public office without patriotic vision or record of service to the community. Rather, they are drumming up primordial sentiments and the tragedy is that hungry and unemployed people blindly support a dumb, numb and reckless elite class that is responsible for the pillage and wastage of Nigeria’s wealth; an elite fixated with maintaining the status quo to sustain their flamboyance, profligacy and obscene opulence.
In a rather surprising twist, President Buhari advised Nigerians to be introspective in the choice they make in the forthcoming elections; he emphasised that Nigerians should choose wisely. This implies being conscious of the fact that to elect a dishonest person is to put the treasures, future and posterity of the nation in jeopardy.
Finally, a Tik Tok video clip credited to Jolaosho Olaitan Ake presents a rather interesting scenario that is relevant to our chicken metaphor. The clip shows a little boy holding a sack that contains grains being chased around an enclosed compound by about fifty chickens. Crying and holding fast to the sack, the boy tried very hard to outrun the chickens but the chickens persisted until the boy dropped the sack and they settled down to a feast. It is my fervent prayer that before February 25, 2023, the millions of defeathered but enfranchised Nigerians have regrown their feathers and that they are resolute enough to teach the Joseph Stalins of Nigeria a political lesson that will positively change the narrative of Nigerian history.

By: Jason Osai
Osai is a university lecturer.

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Opinion

Nigeria In Need Of Pragmatic Radicalism

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The development of any place results from the conscious and deliberate efforts of the citizenry. This definitely results from a number of conceived and sustained programmes of development that are well articulated which could lead to some form of economic, social, or cultural evolution that squares up with contemporary and rational ideals and settings. Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa at this stage of her life is in dire need of conspicuous positive growth. This being the case, the need to bring into focus the concept of pragmatic radicalism and egocentric rascality. Permit me to consider succinctly and appropriately each of the above concepts so as to bring out their bearings on national development positively or negatively.
Pragmatism: According to the New Lexicon Websters Dictionary, is a doctrine which tests truths by its practical consequences. While radicalism is the state or quality of being radical especially in politics, the doctrine or practices of radical, especially political radicals. Pragmatic radicalism, therefore, speaks in relation to public figures or political gladiators and the workability of ideals which will obviously have sane bearings tangentially on the contemporary realities as it relates to the standard of the citizenry while not being oblivious of the developments in the wider world. Series of actions, ideals and fundamental principles which promote the wellbeing of the country are adroitly and specifically considered. Such well adduced and contrived concepts must meet up with the world standard and acceptance. In the light of the above concepts, let me consider some seemingly pragmatic radicals who shaped the world.
Martin Luther; a notable radical in the 15th century protestant revolt carved a niche for himself. Precisely, in 1517 and unexpectedly, Martin Luther an Augustinian Monk and professor of sacred science worried and worked-up by some of the church’s fund-raising tactics poured forth his concern in 95 theses which he nailed to the door of court church at Wittenberg. Soon, these 95 theses were put in vernacular such that it floated around Europe and from soul to soul. Pretty soon, they were flaunting themselves in the farthermost reaches of Europe. What Luther had expected to be a conventional academic disputation surged over Europe in a torrential and far flung controversy. As it gathered force and momentum, it poured into the sea of an outright insurrection, sweeping with it not only the clergy but the laity as well and cleaving Christendom into a Protestant and Catholic spheres. Martin Luther championed the first massive movement in human accounts to have been fought with armament of the printed word. Again, it was Martin Luther who gave his followers the first satisfactory Bible. Prior to now, the Bible was only in the purview and the privilege of the so called ecclesiastical few who could interpret any how that suits them. Thanks to the radical stints of Martin Luther. What about Martin Luther King Junior, a black in USA who stood vehemently for equal rights for both whites and blacks? A pragmatic radical who fought and foresaw the day when one will not be judged by the colour of the skin but by the content of the mind. His action culminated into the first African-American President, Barack Obama, years later. Another port of call is the man Fidel Castro of Cuba. A real pragmatic radical who though the son of a high ranking man saw the need for growth of all especially the under privileged. He changed the status-quo and installed a system that promoted growth in the country along equal lines. Today, Cuba is noted for her multiplicity of medical doctors and technicians. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, the pragmatic radical that harnessed the world against the seemingly madness of Adolphus Hitler during the 2nd world war. Ordinarily, Britain was no match to Germany then but for the pragmatic dexterity of Winston Churchill. Napoleon Bonarparte of France, a man who nearly conquered the world but for the harsh winter in Russia that year. A man who propounded the philosophy that impossibility is only found in the dictionary of fools; also that there are no failures in the world, only men and women who do not know how to succeed.
Back home in Nigeria, let us consider some pragmatic radicals such as Pa Imoudu of Labour Movement, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Prof. Dora Akunyili etc. Pa Imoudu happened to be a serious indefatigable labour union leader who fought and stood firm for the Nigerian Labour Union Movement. Hence, evolved the modern labour movement in Nigeria.
Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, a radical politician who combined Journalism with politics to confront the colonial authority for the emancipation of Nigerian state. Zik as he was popularly called worked in concert with some others to wrestle Nigerian independence from Great Britain. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, another notable pragmatic radical of the Yoruba stalk can hardly be forgotten in the development of the western states and Nigeria. The pragmatic prowess of Awolowo brought the western states to the forefront of development in education and industry. Today, the western states are the most advanced in education. Thanks to the pragmatic resourcefulness of Pa Awolowo. Prof. Dora Akunyili, another notable pragmatic radical stamped her stand in the annals of time in Nigeria. As a Professor of Pharmacology, stood her ground in righting the wrongs in the pharmaceutical industry or sphere in the country during her time as NAFDAC boss. Not only that, she made sure that goods produced in the country and those imported into the country were subjected to serious quality control scrutiny to meet the required standard. With her stand for standard goods in Nigeria, there is serious improvement in goods produced in the country. Nigeria gradually ceases to be the dumping ground for sub-standard goods. Patriotism gradually becomes the household word in the country. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the senior advocate for the masses as he was fondly called, cannot be discountenanced when one is chroniclining pragmatic radicals in Nigeria. This was a man who stood firm against successive administrations in Nigeria be it Military or Civilian. His resoluteness against ill-conceived and unpopular policies of government often made their viability short-lived and driven into oblivion. Nigeria is in need of these sort of men. A man that did not fear any form of incarceration provided he achieved what he foresaw would benefit humanity. Chief Gani Fawehinmi shunned all forms of political bigotry and egocentricism. May his great soul rest in peace. Egocentricism and Rascality: These essentially are negative traits that will definitely impede and stultify general growth against personal growth.
Sadam Hussein, an eccentric and egocentric rascal who was obsessed with his delusive rascal views, almost plunged the entire world into the 3rd world war in 1991. The invasion of Kuwait by Irag, despite the UN contrary views on the action. The impunity and delusion of this leader brought untold hardship to the people and the entire world especially people within the vicinity of Iraq and Kuwait.

By: Tanen Celestine

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Opinion

16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

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November 25 marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which ends on International Human Rights Day, December 10.
As the U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a leader, and a woman, gender equality and women’s empowerment are causes that are near and dear to me. They are also priorities for the U.S. government at home and around the world.
President Joseph Biden has made gender equity and equality a cornerstone of his administration, with a first-ever national strategy to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
The Department of State has an office dedicated to Global Women’s Issues and the United States globally contributes over $200million annually towards gender equity and equality programming.
In Nigeria, the U.S. Mission works to promote environments that support women’s economic success, to address challenges that hold women back, and to empower Nigerian women to do the same. Nations that have gender parity have greater economic and developmental growth, less conflict, and higher rates of literacy than those that do not.
Fundamentally, we see it as our duty – and that of everyone who seeks a just and equitable society – to ensure women and girls have opportunities not just to participate but also to lead in all aspects of life.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said earlier this year at our International Women’s Day gala, “Women for so long have been excluded and now we are slowly righting the wrongs of history.” The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s five-year plan, initiated in 2020, highlights gender inclusion as a cross-cutting issue required to achieve Nigeria’s development objectives. The strategy prioritises narrowing gender gaps and equalising access to health care, agriculture, education, economic empowerment, political participation, and peacebuilding.
Equitable treatment of women is something we can all agree on, and it is the underlying requirement for addressing gender-based violence (GBV). Last year, USAID promoted an integrated, comprehensive package of community interventions, including health and counselling services, to prevent and respond to GBV.
To decrease social tolerance for GBV, our partner Breakthrough Action – Nigeria (BA-N) delivered integrated messaging on GBV through mass media, community structures, and religious channels. BA-N also strengthened community volunteers’ skills to identify and refer GBV survivors to USAID-supported services, such as primary health facilities.
Simultaneously, activities such as the Integrated Health Program supported the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to select national GBV indicators to increase GBV reporting across sectors. USAID supported the Federal Ministry of Health to adopt World Health Organization post-GBV clinical care guidelines.
United with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, we were able to simplify the most complex concepts of GBV, and thereby shape Nigeria’s National Strategic Health Development Plan II to better address this vital issue.
As Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria sets the tone for the rest of the continent. Nigeria has done so much to advance women’s issues, including the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the implementation of the National Gender Policy.
However, there are still many structural inequalities that impede women’s access to economic resources and opportunities and that hinder women’s full participation in society. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index, Nigeria ranks 78th out of 156 countries in terms of economic opportunities for women.
Nigerian women’s full participation in public life is fundamental both to reducing their vulnerability to GBV and to sustaining Nigeria’s vibrant democracy. Yet, women and girls often face high barriers in electoral politics, governance, and peacebuilding.
Nigeria’s representation of women in state and national government stands at only four percent in elective office and 16percent in appointed positions. Women not only lack a platform, but their viewpoints are also excluded from the decision-making process.
The upcoming 2023 elections present a critical opportunity to include more women in leadership positions in government. Throughout this election season, Mission Nigeria will be working with local organisations specifically to reduce violence against women in politics and during the elections.
Together, we will work to strengthen the capacity of women’s groups to advocate for laws and policies that provide better protections for women. In return, we hope more women will run for office, join a campaign, or serve in the next administration.
Recognising the challenges women face, the United States will continue to support Nigerian women to realise greater productivity, economic diversification, and income equality. We will continue to push for full implementation and enforcement cooperation of laws and regulations already enacted, with emphasis on criminal accountability for those complicit in violations of the law.
And we will continue our long-standing partnership with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, to each do our part to build a more gender-inclusive society, where women and girls are not only safe from gender-based violence but can reach their full potential.

By: Mary Beth Leonard
Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria, wrote from Abuja.

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