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Bille Unveils New King With Glow Of Culture

After over ten years without a king, the people of the ancient kingdom of Bille finally came to a decision on April 4, 2021 as the new Amanyanabo of the kingdom, His Majesty, Igbikingeri Ngowari Cornelius Herbert was coronated.

Since 2009, when the last Amanyanabo, King Justus Henry Igolima-Dappa joined his ancestors, the kingdom of Bille has remained like a ship without captain.

Although Chief Beneth Okpokiye Dokubo Opu Abekene (XVII), an erudite legal practitioner and Chairman of the Bille kingdom chiefs Council, tried to provide leadership as regent of the kingdom, the need for a substantive king was inevitable.

For a kingdom notable for its valiance and noble men, whose kingship succession is not hereditary, the necessity to get a king to lead the development effort of the kingdom became a project that must be realized. And for twelve years, the search was intensified for the person with the suitable qualities to lead the Bille kingdom into the 21st century without rancor, chicanery and debauchery.

On the 12th day of the 12th month of 2020 was a special day of dedication as it was the climax of the great search for the prospective king of Bille when Chief INC Herbert emerged as the Agbaniye-Jike XVII after going through various stages of screening.

To say that the coronation of the new Amanyanabo of Bille kingdom, His Majesty King, Igbikingeri Ngowari Cornelius Herbert was a convergence of humanity in the island, in celebration of an epoch is not an understatement as the history of Bille goes as far as parts of northern Nigeria.

Men and women from various states trooped into this tiny island to partake in the celebration of the coronation but much more to behold the ancient town and culture of the Bille people which was on display in the weeklong event.

At the epochal event that attracted people from all walks of life the Rivers State Governor Chief Nyesom Wike, was represented by the former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austine Opara.

The coronation activities began on Monday, March 29. With cultural displays and processions by various groups.

The entire kingdom was in festive moods as visitors filled the town square. The kings residential building and the Kingdom Council hall wore new looks while sitting arrangements for dignitaries and visitors went into frenzy of decoration.

The coronation proper began with a procession into the town square by the Bille Kingdom Chief’s council led by its Chairman, Chief Beneth Okpokiye Dokubo, the Amanyanabo-elect, INC Herbert was led into the coronation arena, accompanied by over a dozen able-bodied warriors shoulder elephant tusks as the cheering crowd ushered the king into the square.

Decked in royal attire, the Amanyanabo was greeted with loud ovations amidst booming canon salute as he ascended the throne.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who was represented at the event by former Deputy speaker of the House of Representative Chief Austine Opara expressed appreciation to the people of Bille for their resilience and unity of purpose in choosing and coronating their new king.

The governor also announced the upgrading of the Bille kingdom stool to 2nd Class status.

Bille has no doubt set the pace among communities in Kalabari and Rivers State in general by showing that choice of leadership can be made without crises.

Bille kingdom is rich in culture that can be tapped to develop its tourism potentials. The traditional displays including the exciting boat regatta should get the attention of the state and federal authorities.

The land reclamations being carried out also requires expansion and the assistance of the oil companies operating in the area and the state government.

Chairman of the central planning committee for the coronation, Prof. Kontein Trinya emphasized the point as he appealed to the state government and the oil companies to dredge the swamps and link the community to their nearest neighbors Touma.

Elder Ajumoyeowiga Cephas Diri of Logofa Community described the Amanyanabo coronation as a new chapter in Bille kingdom.

He emphasized that the new king will tackle the various challenges of the kingdom and appealed to the Niger Delta Development Commission and the oil companies to assist the community by building roads and sand filling the swamps.

Former youth president of Bille kingdom, Asatubo Oburabi Sanipe Sylavnus spoke of the joy of the people in having a new king in the community.  “A community without a leader is lacking.  We will now get whatever we want. We have lost so much and the community is backward,” the youth leader stated.

On his part, Chief Owei Jacob challenged the state government on the development of the community, stressing that the state government and the visitors at the event would be exposed to the challenges confronting the people of the area.

One of the visitor to the event, Chief Oniminin Batubo Quakers who is the Se-Tombo I of Kalabari kingdom argued that Bille kingdom has set example for others in the peaceful selection and coronation of a king adding that the emergence of the Amanyanabo after twelve years is an indication of his acceptant as the new king. 

It was indeed history made in the ancient kingdom blessed with great roots in various  parts of the South-South and Northern Nigeria.

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CultureFocus

Reinventing The Wheel Of Culture

…As Princess Sekibo Becomes Etem-Ba

It was set to be, as nobles, politicians, friends and well-wishers defied the threat of tempest to witness the evolution of culture with the inauguration of a seat by the chief and people of Etem war-canoe house for Princess Asime George Sekibo,  the wife of the paramount chief, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, CON, DSSRS.

It was unprecedented in the annals of Wakirike tradtion as women were not given any special seat of recognition no matter the quality of their contribution to their respective houses or communities. 

Speaking at the event, the chief of Etem Omu Aru of Ogu Kingdom, Senator George Thompson Sekibo said, the occasion was the first of it’s kind in the war-canoe house and indeed in Ogu Kingdom as no Alabota (chief’s wife) has been so recognised and given this mark of honour.

He said, “no King ascends the throne without a wife and no Chief by the Constitution of the Ogu Divisional Council of Chiefs can be installed to head any Chiefdom in Ogu Kingdom without a wife that is legally married by Yaa marriage. This suggests the importance of the  Chief’s wife as a partner in the management of the Chiefdom especially when receiving dignitaries and colleague Chiefs into their home, the management of the women of the Chiefdom and many more.”

According to him,”these important roles which the wife of the Chief performs are not given the status they deserved, which has made our Alaputa (the wives of our chiefs) directionless with less respect they deserve, even as they come to the Wari meeting with no special chair to sit as they struggle among other women of the chiefdom to grab seats for themselves. This is same even in our community during our town hall meetings of the Kingdom. For us in Etem Omu-aru, this obsolete practice can no longer be practiced”.

The Etem wai-alabo said, we are aware that elsewhere in Nigeria, when an Eze is being installed, he is installed alongside with the wife, giving a distinction of honour to the Eze’s wife among the womenfolk. Some may say it is not part of our culture, custom and tradition, and that it has not been done before. Everything we know today in our way of living started one day and then practiced till date.

The chief who is also the senator representing Rivers East senatorial District asked: “What is culture, custom and tradition? The dictionary.com defines Culture as “the ideas customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society”.

Then the word custom is defined as ” a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place or time”. The third word tradition is defined as “the transmission of custom or beliefs from generation to generation, or fact of being passed on in this way or a long established custom or belief that has been on from one generation to another”.

The three words can jointly been seen as a  people’s practice of a way of life, their behaviour, and beliefs that they have held for long and transmitted from generation to generation. This means that such culture, customs and tradition had their beginnings and evolves and refined with time.

For instance, what were the dressing pattern of the Wakirike people before the advent of the western civilisation and up till 100 years ago. Did our Kings wear gold crowns as it is done today? Did our Chiefs wear the popular ‘don’ as it is worn today? Just recently, our chiefs are putting beads (ikilari) on their necks, meanwhile that was seen as Igbo pattern of dressing some 20 years ago. Ajibulu head gear for chiefs was more popular with the Kalabari and Ibani people but today these have become part of our culture and custom.

My mother told me that young women (teenagers) wore no pants in their days as there were no pants to wear. Parents became uncomfortable with the pubic hairs of their daughters and this made some kind of coverings for them to cover their pubic areas. That was our way of life but today we have moved far beyond that practice as we have learnt better ways of living.

I take the pains to give these explanations not because I am making a particular case for the Etem Omu-aru is inventing but because we don not want our detractors to completely misunderstand us. The inauguration of a special chair for the Alabota is new but is it not befitting that the wife of the Chief of the Chiefdom should be given the status she deserves? The answer is an outright NO.

Declaration: Today  the Etem Omu-aru has decided to inaugurate the Etem-Ba seat and inaugurate the first Etem-Ba. It shall be a custom and tradition of this Chiefdom that after installing the Chief of the Chiefdom by the Ogu divisional council of Chiefs or whatever name it may be called, the seat of the Alabota shall be inaugurated same day or within seven days, and the wife of the chief be so addressed as Etem-Ba second or third as the case me be.

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Focus

Diversification Still Option For Nigeria’s Economy (2)

Nigeria must start looking inwards, investing its resources in designing and funding a green transition strategy. Faced with a pandemic that has shattered the boundaries of what is politically possible, the Buhari government has overcome initial inertia to announce a halt in oil subsidy payments, although whether it will see through that policy is yet to be seen.

If it does, how it uses the savings will be significant. The money could provide support for Nigeria’s renewable sector to counteract the price disparity with fossil fuels and encourage rapid research and development. The Nigerian Ecological Fund — which is 3% of the Federation Account — should be reformed and expanded beyond its current scope of addressing ‘serious ecological problems’ to cover climate change with a strong emphasis on mitigation and resilience. That would increase Nigeria’s climate finance and minimize reliance on multilateral climate funds.

Beyond public investments in green infrastructure, the government can also incentivize the private sector to drive a green economy. As the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, it can leverage purchasing power to green the procurement process. With the release of about $421 million to the Ministry of Works, the 2020 budgetary allocation for road projects has been fully disbursed to the Ministry, making procurement in the construction sector ripe for green reforms. The application of sustainable building techniques and materials could reduce Nigeria’s 17 million housing deficit and create more jobs.

But the task of greening the Nigerian economy is too important to be left to the federal government alone. It also requires mainstreaming climate change and sustainable development into the operations, governance, and budgets of government ministries, departments, and private entities at the sub-national and national levels.

There has been much focus on reviving agriculture, which is laudable, but agrarian practices have radically changed from the 1970s when the sector accounted for 57% of Nigeria’s GDP and generated 64.5% of export earnings. Beset by a loss of biodiversity, drought, and desertification, extreme weather events, rise in sea levels and variable rainfall, it is no longer smart for Nigeria to invest in this area without due regard for the significant climate risks. Any effort to revive agriculture and its export potential must be green-centred and integrate regenerative and climate-smart practices.

The right policy mix combined with aggressive funding can position the country as a renewable energy leader, both on the African continent and globally. And it will reap the benefits in technology development, foreign investment, decreased emissions, poverty reduction, and energy for the 80 million people currently without access to the national grid – all of which could ripple into millions of clean energy jobs in manufacturing and installation across the country.

The road to a green future must be paved with deliberate and consistent policies. Reforms hatched because oil prices have plunged should not be ditched when there is a boom. On the brink of a second recession in four years, Nigeria has learnt that the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 is only the latest warning that pinning economic growth on a boom-bust market and the generosity of foreign donors and creditors is a failing strategy. There is another way and there is an opportunity for Nigeria to lead.

Diversification presents the most competitive and strategic option for Nigeria in light of her development challenges and given her background. Diversification has a lot benefits for Nigeria to maximally utilize her abundant resource-base to re-build the economy and enjoy the benefits of all the linkages, synergy, economics of scale, grow national technology and foreign investment profile, build human capital, exploit new opportunities, lessen averagely operational costs, increase national competitiveness and grow the standard of living and confidence of the citizens for national renaissance.

Diversification does not occur in a vacuum. And, the need to have in place an enabling environment to make diversification possible remains necessary.

Considering Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances and the successes recorded before the advent of oil, for Nigeria to break loose from the problems inherent in a mono-economy, especially are dominated by oil, which is subject to depletion, international price shocks and unfavourable quota arrangement, there is need for diversification.

Concluded.

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Focus

Same Sex Union: The Nigerian Perspective (2)

Proponents have argued that humanism provides a viable moral framework for Nigerians to combat homophobia and establish the human rights of all gays and lesbians in Nigeria. Humanist morality is based on concern for human dignity, happiness and fulfillment. It is not a set of absolutist edicts and commandments handed down as eternal moral truths by some deity, but comprise principles and values discovered and informed by human knowledge and experience. Humanism is a progressive outlook founded on liberal and civilizing values. And one of them is that all human beings are equal in dignity and value.

In most African countries where homosexuality is regarded both as a crime and taboo, it is almost impossible to find anyone who will readily and openly admit to being gay. And few people with human rights credentials are willing to stick out their necks by putting homosexuality on their agenda as they draw a line between morality and law.

Miss Alice Ndegwa, Coordinator of the Forum for Single Women’s Rights in Port Harcourt, says her group cannot champion homosexuality. Lesbian and gay relationships, she says, are against nature and God’s teachings and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

She described homosexuality as awful, a bad behavior and not part of human rights.” It is foolhardy, she stresses, for a person to excuse immoral behavior by simply saying one’s genes demand that one steals, molests children, or commits suicide, for example.

From the arguments above, one discovers that Nigerian society has two views of homosexuality. The traditional or conservative view which holds that homosexuality is an aberration, and the orientation a disorder, and the behavior is pathological, and the opposing liberal view which holds that homosexuality is a normal variant in the human condition, that it is determined before birth, and homosexual behavior is natural for those so oriented.

The gay community has been tremendously successful in gaining acceptance for the second view. This view, however, rests on a number of questionable premises, which if false, lead us back to the traditional view. The burden of proof should be with those who say it is normal and natural.

This is because the only hard evidence that we have–the biological evidence–clearly indicates that it is a disorder, in that homosexuality represents a tendency to want to use body parts for some purpose other than that for which they were designed.

The question that readily comes to mind is; Are people “born gay?” Do they choose to be gay? What causes homosexuality? Some claim that homosexual orientation is biologically determined through genetics or hormones in the same way that eye or hair color is fixed. This claim is used to advance the argument that because homosexuality is caused rather than chosen then it cannot be immoral; instead it is normal and good. Regardless of where you stand on the pleasure-relational aspects of sexuality, man and woman’s sexuality is inextricably associated with reproduction, and two men or two women cannot reproduce. Therefore, homosexuality is a condition that, in a fundamental way, is contrary to nature. Biologically, it is simply not natural or normal. The advocates of acceptance of homosexuality, have put forth a great effort to convince the world that homosexuality is in fact both natural and normal, that it is simply different, and that only because it is the orientation of a minority, do we classify it as a disorder or perversion.

Rt. Rev. Samuel Ibude, Bishop of Diobu Bishopric, Church of God Mission International, in an interview with The Vortex expressed worries over the Pope’s position on the issue of same sex marriage, describing it as total disregard for the scripture.

He said, “The problem we have in Christendom today is the fact people are beginning to explain scriptures with diverse philosophies that do not correlate with what God has commanded. It is worse when preachers, priests and teachers of the Bible who should be custodians of the tenets of Christian faith, now mix the scriptures with worldly philosophies misleading the world and turning many from the truth. The Bible is clear on this. God saw the necessity of creating a woman after creating man.”

“Genesis 2:24 explains it better, “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife (a woman)… God’s directive has been a man to a woman and not the other way round. We cannot be too civilized that we preach what secular humanism preaches.” He added.

In the Nigerian moral context, same sex marriage has been described as an oxymoron, meaning the terms are incompatible upon considering marriage’s inherent nature. Two constituent parts reside within marriage. The first is unitive, when two become one. Homosexuals cannot, by definition, satisfy this requirement. Secondly, marriage includes openness towards procreation. Homosexual sex violates the law of complementarity, whereby male and female, while sexually different, are indeed complementary.

One completes the other and leads toward reproductive potentiality whereby the unitive portion is not being interrupted, halted, nor harmed, but is instead being maximized. Homosexual sex has no procreative value, and thereby negates marriage’s second component. The same logic applies toward the specious claim regarding codifying homosexual unions. Gay “marriage” is a violation against natural law, objective truth, and the law of complementarity.

Marriage is based on the fact that we are male and female – two halves of a complete, life-giving whole – and that this life-giving power is inherent in heterosexual intercourse. This ability to transmit life is what invests marriage with its “transcendent, moral, cultural, and social significance.

These no doubt has made homosexuality morally unacceptable. Nigerian moral context as has communitarian foundation. It is different from the liberal Western morality. It is a communitarian morality. As long as Nigerian moral context remain communitarian, homosexuality as it is been propagated today, will remain an aberration, deviant, unnatural, foreign and unacceptable sexual practice.

Concluded

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FocusFront Page

Same Sex Union: The Nigerian Perspective (1)

Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in a move that looks to further amplify heated divergences on abnormal unions, has given his most clear support to same-sex marriage.


The Pope made the remarkable declaration on “Francesco” a documentary film directed by Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, that premiered at the Rome Film Festival, according to the Catholic News Agency, the CNN reported.
According to the Pope, “homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it,” the Pope reportedly said in the film which also explores his work and views in other issues, including climate change, migration and economic equality, according to the film’s website.


“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the Pope added.


Although the Vatican has said the Popes’ comments were misunderstood and that the comments were not from a new interview as Pope Francis has been subtly throwing support for gay people since he was elected in 2013.


“The key is for the church to welcome, not exclude, and show mercy, not condemnation. If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” the pope said back in 2013.
Even before he became pope, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis had endorsed same-sex union after debates on whether to legalize such arrangement sprung in Argentina. However, his latest comments in the film the producers hoped would be allowed to streamed from homes is the first time Francis as pope would openly endorse same-sex union.


The pope’s conservative opponents were enraged by his statements, according to the Guardian UK, regarding it as part of an effort to shift the church towards progressive values. Some even accusing him of heresy.


His views were a sharp contrast of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who had in a famous remark labelled homosexuality “an intrinsic moral evil.”


The Guardian UK reported that in 2003, a Vatican document “set out why it was necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions because they “obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage”.


Several countries around the world has held contrary views on legalizing gay marriages. Acts of gay sex are illegal in at least 30 countries across Africa where persecution of gay people still prevails.


Even in countries where it is legalized, gay people still face a lot of discriminations and stringent legislations. In June, before Poland’s second round of presidential elections, incumbent Andrzej Duda presented a draft amendment to the constitution that would ban gay couples from adopting children.


Nigeria is among countries yet to legalize Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] unions. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill in 2014 criminalizing same-sex relationships in Nigeria, despite pressure from Western governments to preserve the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.


The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership of gay rights groups with penalties of up to 14 years in prison.


“Many African political and religious leaders argue that decriminalizing homosexuality would be akin to promoting it and that it goes against their traditions and culture,” the report noted.


Meanwhile, in recent times, there has been some growing acceptance of gay men, women and transgender in Nigeria with the likes of “Bob-risky” gaining popularity, even with his gay antics.

A 2017 survey which compared attitudes towards LGBT people in Nigeria against a 2015 poll showed a growing acceptance of such abnormality. One of the contentious issues in the debate over homosexuality and same sex marriage in Nigeria is whether a marriage between persons of the same gender is totally alien to Nigerian culture and tradition. Those opposing same sex marriage have continued to argue that same gender union is foreign to Africa.


Across Africa, homosexuality is often viewed as a violation of cultural and religious values. Gay sex is outlawed in 38 African countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association. In 13 African countries, homosexuality is legal or there are no laws banning it.


In Mauritania, Sudan and Northern Nigeria, homosexuality is punishable by death. Offenders can receive life imprisonment in Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.


In 2013, a legislation was proposed in Nigeria that would ban same-sex blessing or marriage ceremonies, penalize those involved in them, and outlaw, efforts to promote same-sex activity of any kind and through any means, with penalties of five years imprisonment. This proposed legislation has been publicly upheld by the Nigerian moral community.


The Nigerian senate took a strong stand against same sex marriage in Nigeria in an all-in-favor debate on a bill prohibiting same sex marriage in Nigeria.


To be continued

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FocusFront Page

#ENDSARS Protests: So Much To Learn

In 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was set up by the Commissioner for Police to curb a spate of armed robberies in Nigeria. By 2009 it had become a large and powerful unit, and its focus expanded beyond armed robbers to internet fraudsters. It had also become largely uncontrolled.

Members of the unit were allowed to carry guns, drive unmarked cars and operate without badges or uniform. They became known for their violent harassment of innocent young Nigerians. They also forced young Nigerians to withdraw money from ATMS and make transfers under duress.

There are numerous examples of people who have been  raped, harassed, flogged, extorted, injured or killed by the unit. In 2016  a campaign was launched calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad to be disbanded. It became widespread and drew some attention. Within three years the unit had been reformed, overhauled, decentralized and disbanded about three or four times. But without success.

In October the first protests started against the infamous police squad. Mostly young Nigerians gathered in the front of the House of Assembly in Lagos State to demand the end of the unit. Within days, thousands of protesters had gathered in 100 cities around the world, with the #EndSARS trending globally. The government announced on October 11 that, yet again, it was disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. But the protesters have not let up. They are now calling for wider reforms of the police.

The protest is not just about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It’s the result of pent-up anger over the dehumanizing policies of government, maladministration, injustice, hunger as well as high energy and fuel prices.

The cumulative effect of these roll into one. That’s why the protesters have refused to end their action. It seems this is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to address critical national injustices.

This generation of young Nigerians seem to be doing a good job. There is good coordination, arrangements are made for food and water as well as music to keep them busy. Medical personnel on standby, ambulances and mobile toilets for convenience are also provided.  Nigeria is said to be the poverty capital of the world. Yet young Nigerians have been protesting for over a week across the country without looting shops. They have ensured that the streets are cleaned after the day’s protest and that there’s no violence or lawlessness.

Another key factor that makes this protest unique is the use of social media. The way this has helped mobilize protesters is unprecedented. Over 70% of the population is under 30 years of age. Unemployment stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of this.

Young Nigerians are, therefore, most affected by government policies that have led to lack of jobs and meaningful sources for livelihood. Other triggers include the lavish lifestyle of political leaders. The government budgets more money for the members of the National Assembly than for health and education.

One takeaway lesson is that a new social contract is being written. Nigerians are creating a new understanding of how leaders and public servants should relate to citizens. Secondly, the youth are reinventing governance in Nigeria and bringing about a new culture of asserting rights among the citizenry.

The 30% of Nigerian who are adults and have experienced military rule seem to have that etched deep into their psyche. They are afraid of a man in uniform. This has become a part of Nigerians’ conditioning.

However, the youth believe that the men in uniform are meant to serve the citizens and to protect them. It is a different relationship entirely. Young people are more exposed to the fact that things could be better and are ready to take their destiny into their own hands. They want to reinvent the country and to be a better place to live.

Their access to the internet also informs their action. They are able to reach the world from their bedroom.

The history and experience Nigeria had during the military era doesn’t resonate as much with young Nigerians. But, they must have read history and are, therefore, not unfamiliar with the past. But they have proven not to be deterred by the use of force of any kind.

For  years, Nigeria has been ruled by leaders who are quite elderly. These have not succeeded in finding solutions to the nation’s challenges. Corruption and hunger are rife. It is obvious that young Nigerians feel alienated and are now ready to take the bull by the horns and ensure good governance.

Politicians and leaders are waking up to a new politically conscious society. Take the comment from Chairman Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; “various state governments are beginning to see how important it is to have a good relationship with young people. Given the awakening of this new political consciousness, it will not be business as usual for the country’s political leaders”.

The #EndSARS protest started as we might actually be at the threshold of a prolonged agitation that may likely blow the wind of sweeping changes that are long overdue. Should the protest continue, government will require a careful and strategic approach to manage the situation. The spontaneous nature of the protest in many states across the country should get government strategists and handlers thinking.

The most difficult protest to contain or control is a protest without faces or coordinators. Therefore, extreme caution is needed to manage this delicate moment. Employing intimidation, repression or confrontation may escalate the already tensed situation.

Some people are of the opinion that since the government is yielding to the demands of the protesters, they should calm down and allow for the implementation of their demands. But there’s lack of trust and confidence in the government that it will do what it promised. Until evident actions are seen, there may be no end to the protest

Also, the swift change of the name from SARS to SWAT at the peak of the protest is ill-timed, ill-advised and suspicious. The hasty action may the youths longer on the streets as #EndSWAT trends.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration should learn from other countries where similar nationwide protests have rocked their spaces in the past. Our government should study how they managed the situation and successfully navigated their ways through.

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Focus

ATUBOYEDIA: REVIVALIST IN THE ECCLESIASTICAL SEE OF OKRIKA

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered, it is a command to be obeyed.” –        Hudson Taylor

An intercessor, evangelist and revivalist, Enoch Atuboyedia’s foray into the sacred vineyard of the Lord was not an option to be considered. He obeyed the command of the risen Christ to be a vessel for the spread of the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:20). At the age of seven, he made a prophetic statement to his father: “I will be a pastor”. It came to pass.

The 7th of eight surviving children, Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia was born on Friday 10th March 1972 at Okrika in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State. He was well brought up by his parents Pa Enoch Atuboyedia of Amafina House, Ambemebiri and Late Mrs. Silverline Abomake Atuboyedia of Kirikeneabere-Bilogbolo, Gream Ama, who imparted in him the agelong family values of humility, integrity and self-reliance.

Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia was baptised by the Revd. S.P.O Mamah in 1973 and became a Helper at age ten in the Children’s Church of St. Peter’s Church, Okrika in 1982. He gave his life to Christ in 1987 when he was only fifteen years and started teaching in Adult Sunday School at the age of 20. He was confirmed by Late Bishop Samuel O. Elenwo at St. Mary’s Church, Kalio Ama in 1994.

Enoch Atuboyedia attended Boys State School, Okrika from 1978 to 1984 and the famous Okrika Grammar School (OGS), Okrika and obtained the Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) in 1991.He established a successful Laundry and Dry-cleaning enterprise at Okrika from 1991 to 1994, but his pre- destined inclination for God’s Ministry took him to Trinity (Union) Theological College, Umuahia in 1994 where he graduated with a Diploma in Theology in 1997.In his quest for further education Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia, holds the Bachelor of Education Degree (B.Ed.) in Religious Studies of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuelumini, Port Harcourt Rivers State and a Master of Divinity Degree from the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Enoch Atuboyedia was ordained Deacon at St. Peter’s Church, Okrika on 20th July, 1997 by the Rt. Revd. Gabriel H. Pepple, Bishop, Diocese of Niger Delta, his first as a Bishop. He was priested at Bethel Anglican Church, Amadi Ama on 29th November 1998 and installed Canon of St Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika on 26th September 2010. He was preferred and collated Archdeacon at the same Cathedral by the Rt Revd Tubokosemie Robinson Abere (JP)) on 28th December, 2012.

Enoch Atuboyedia left indelible marks in the various churches he served as Curate, Vicar and Archdeacon and inspired hope in the congregations. At St. John’s Anglican Church, Abuloma where he was Curate from 1997 – 1998, he mobilized and gathered materials for the building of the present magnificent Church. At St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Abonnema (1998 – 2000), he supervised the vestry extension project, and at St. Michael’s Anglican Church, Emago-Kugbo (2000 – 2004), he completed the Church building and built a new parsonage. Others are St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ibuluya/Dikibo-Ama (2004 – 2007) – Church and Parsonage building, All Saints Anglican Church, Okochiri Parish (2007 – 2012) – new Church building, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika (as Cathedral Archdeacon 2012 – 2019 – Staff Quarters, mini Estate project and Bethel Anglican Church, Amadi-Ama (2019 – September, 2020) – 100 KVA Generator and completion of interlock works.

A gifted preacher and teacher, Enoch Atuboyedia’s missions and evangelism resulted in revival and establishment of many churches including St. Joseph’s Church, Ogoloma (March 2011), St. Patrick’s Church, Orubo Ama (2009), St. Hilda’s Church, Daka Ama (November 2004), and Church of the Resurrection, Obianime Ama (April 2005.) In addition, he planted three new churches: Christ Church, Okari Ama, St. Michael’s Church, Tamunobie Ama, Okochiri and Christ the King’s Church, Egweme Biri, Okrika between 2004 and 2013.

A man of many firsts, Enoch Atuboyedia was the First Chaplain of Boys Brigade Nigeria, 1st Akuku Toru LGA (Akulga) Company 1998 – 2000, First Chaplain of the Kalabari Group Council of the Boys Brigade 1998 – 2004, First Chaplain of the Rivers State Council of Boys Brigade Nigeria 2002 – 2006., and played pivotal roles in moulding the character of future leaders of this nation.

Similarly, he was First Chaplain of the Council of Knights, Diocese of Okrika from 2004 – 2014, Assistant Coordinator,Anglican Communion Brigade from 2002 to 2004 of Old Province 2 (currently comprising 5 Provinces and 54 Dioceses) and Chaplain/Coordinator of the Prayer Ministry, Diocese of Okrika, where he successfully organized the annual Diocesan Prayer Conferencefrom 2014 to 2020. He served the Rivers State Government as a Member, Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Integrated Medical Industry, 2018/2019.

Enoch Atuboyedia was elected Bishop during the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion in Abuja on 22nd July, 2020. He was consecrated at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp, Gwarimpa, Abuja by the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Anglican Communion,

The Most Revd Henry Chukwudum. Ndukuba on Monday 21st September, 2020 and enthroned as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Okrika on Monday 28th September, 2020.

In the life of Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia the number “3” is significant. He is the 3rd priest from his patrimonial linage. The first two were the late Venerable Harold E. Oriaku and Revd. (Lt.) T.N. Oriaku. In his matrimonial family, he is the number 3 ordained pastor. The others are the late Revd. Wokoma Solomon Harrison and the Venerable Biebele Obuoforibo. Enoch Atuboyedia is also the 3rd Anglican Bishop of Okrika extraction. The first two are the Rt. Revd. Tubokosemie Robinson Abere (JP) and the late Bishop Anga Fred Nyanabo. Biblically, the Number 3 is the number of God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

His ambition is to build on the foundation laid by his predecessor, the Rt. Revd Tubokosemie Abere for continued growth and development of the Diocese spiritually and economically.

Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia is happily married to Mrs Aikiogha E Atuboyedia and they are blessed with children.May God the trinity guide and lead his new assignment.

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A Servant Set Apart For The Ministry

A very significant point of the Bishop Enoch Atuboyedia story occurred during his confirmation as a communicant at St. Mary’s Church Kalio-Ama. The Diocesan, Rt. Rev. Samuel Elenwo had asked him to step back from the group of four persons kneeling for ordination and laid his hands mightily on his head, as a special anointing descended from on high and through the blessed fingers of the Bishop.

The signs were palpable from the very beginning that this child was born for a divine mission and he would climb the ladder fast to be priemely positioned for great tasks in the Lord’s vineyard. His father, Pa Enoch Atuboyedia was well inspired and upon his birth, Pa Atuboyedia named his son after himself, Enoch.

It is a fulfillment of Pa Atuboyedia’s expectation that his son, Enoch has grown through the ranks of priesthood and is now a Rt. Reverend and Bishop of the Diocese of Okrika. Rt. Rev. Enoch Atuboyedia was born on the 10th of March, 1972 at Okrika, in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria. He was baptized in 1973 by Rev. S. P.O. Mamah at St. Peter’s Church, Okrika and confirmed by the Late Bishop Samuel Onyeukwu Elenwo at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kalio-Ama, Okrika on 10th April, 1994.

Like Samuel in the care and nurture of the priest Eli, Rt. Rev. Atuboyedia heard the divine call clearly early in life, such that by the age of 7, he was already outstanding in the Children’s Sunday school classes. He grew fast in the things of God and at the age of 15, he was strong enough to teach in Adult Sunday school classes.

Rt. Rev. Atuboyedia attended Boys School, Okrika from 1978-1984 for his primary education and obtained the First School Leaving Certificate. Thereafter he attended Okrika Grammar School, Okrika from 1984-1991 and obtained the Senior Secondary School certificate. His career path to ministry opened in 1994 as his proceeded to Trinity Theological College, Umuahia where he received a Diploma in Theology in 1997.

Bishop Atuboyedia was ordained a Deacon at St Peter’s Church, Okrika on July 20th, 1997 and priested at Bethel Church, Amadi-Ama in November 29, 1998 by the Bishop of Niger Delta Diocese, Rt. Revd Gabriel H. Pepple. On September 26, 2010, he was installed Canon of St. Peter’s Cathedral and two years later, on December 28th, 2012, collated as Archdeacon at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika by the pioneer Bishop, the Rt. Revd Tubokosemie Abere JP.

Already steeped in ecclessiastical duties and responsibilities, Rt. Rev. Atuboyedia still found time for education and enrolled at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education in 2005.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree in Religious Studies. He continued in his pursuit of theological education by enrolling for graduate work at the Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary in Abeokuta, Ogun State in 2017 and obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2018.

Bishop Atuboyedia loves education. He loves to read and also loves listening to gospel songs and messages. He also loves sports and takes time off pastoral work to play scrabbles. He loves travelling as well. He is a good family man. Married to Mrs. Aikogha Enoch Atuboyedia, he loves to cook for his family including his three lovely children.

His Lordship has the gift of oratory, preaching and teaching. He is also an evangelist with the ministerial gift of prayer, healing and deliverance, youth development as well as management and organizational skills.

Rt. Rev. Atuboyedia started his pastoral duties as a curate at St. John’s Anglican Church, Abuloma in 1997; and continued as curate at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Abonnema from 1998-2000. From 2000 – 2004, he served as Vicar at St Micheal’s Anglican Church, Emago-Kugbo and later Vicar of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ibuluya-Dikibo Ama from 2004-2007.

He was transferred to All Saints Anglican Church, Okochiri, Parish where he had served as a Church Worker before he was priested.  He served as Vicar for five years (2007-2012) at All Saints and was transferred to St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika as Cathedral Archdeacon, from 2012-2019. He became Vicar and superintend at Bethel Church, Amadi-Ama in September 2019 till his election as Bishop, and consequent consecration and enthronement as the second Bishop of Diocese of Okrika. 

Bishop Atuboyedia’s evangelism and crusades have yielded great fruits for Anglican faithful. They include the establishment of St. Joseph’s Church, Ogoloma in March 2011, St. Patrick’s Church, Orubo-Ama in 2009, St Hilda’s Church, Daka-Ama in 2004 and Church of the Restoration, Obianima-Ama in 2003. He also planted Christ Church, Okari-Ama in 2004, St. Michael’s Church, Tamunobie-Ama, Okochiri in 2011 and Christ the King’s Church, Egweme Biri in 2013.

The new Diocesan was at various times, Chaplain of Boy’s Brigade, Chaplain of Council of Knights, and Chaplain of the Diocesan Prayer Ministry.

That he was fore-ordained for the office could be discerned from the general acclaim that greeted his election as Bishop. There was unanimity in his election at the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria. Also a renewed ambience of peace and conviviality has enveloped the clergy and congregation as a new wave of evangelism and spirituality await the Episcopacy of Rt. Rev. Enoch Atuboyedia under the unction of the Holy Spirit.

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COVID-19 VACCINE: FROM RUSSIA WITH HOPE

Hardly can any news be more refreshing to Nigerians in particular and much of the world in general at this time, than that of the prospects of a game changer for the vagaries of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the suddenness of its advent and macabre global toll, with respect to the gory harvests of hundreds of thousands of the sick and dead, the pandemic easily assumed a doomsday dimension which leaves in its wake, trails of grief, sorrow and tears in country after country.

 For most Nigerians in particular, life before COVID-19 was already hellish, considering the daily grind of diminished livelihood and hardship, courtesy of an unfeeling and uncaring government, as well as disheartening tales of the country’s descent into the abyss of emasculation, as aided by its leadership community. The advent of COVID-19 in the country with its complement of privations, simply translated into pushing the citizens deeper into hell.

Hence it was that the news of Russia breaking the backbone of the COVID-19 pandemic with the development of a vaccine which checks the disease, was received with palpable elan in Nigeria, and many other parts of the world. In specific terms, the Russian President Vladimir Putin last week announced the development of the vaccine by his country’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, to a gale of mixed reactions across the world.

The Russians even gave the vaccine the nostalgic name of ‘Sputnik V’, in reference to that country’s pioneering feat in leading the world into space on April 12 1961, when it became the first country to place a man – cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in space. Sputnik which means ‘travelling companion’ in Russian, is the generic name of rockets used by the country for space exploration.

Since the announcement broke, reactions to it have been mixed, and provide a throwback to the ideological rivalry which virtually defined global geopolitics, for a longer span of the twentieth century and into the present order. Hence, while a complement of western countries such as the US, Germany and France debunked the merit of the vaccine as a pioneering relief for the COVID-19 pandemic, on the grounds of undue hastiness by the Russians, some other 20 countries have opted to key into this new drug, with the aim of exploiting whatever potency it offers.

According to some media reports, Israel is even among the countries who have expressed interest in the drug. Just as well, the mercurial President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has not only expressed his country’s interest in the Russian vaccine, but also volunteered to personally serve as one of the early test-patients. Against the backdrop that there are about 150 different initiatives across the globe striving to develop either a vaccine or actual drug for tackling the pandemic, it is not unexpected that so much heat shall trail any early breakthrough like Russia’s.

It needs to be noted that as wide as the COVID-19 has spread across the world, so the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been warning that there is no definitive cure for it, and all affected persons should seek proper medical attention. Just as well have several treatment options been adopted in various territories, with each being touted by its sponsors as capable of curing or slowing down the outrage of the pandemic. Who would blame the WHO which needs to demonstrate utmost care and enforce due protocol before granting approval to any medication for public use. Hence none has been approved so far including the new Russian drug.

Meanwhile the raging debate over curative options for COVID-19, is yet to diminish the merit of the Russian Soyuz V, given the global reputation of Russian medicine. To underscore the integrity of the new vaccine the daughter of President Putin of that country was reported to be among the earliest test patients. This factor will clearly accentuate the acceptance of the new vaccine, the opposition from the ideologically differing Western world notwithstanding.

However, even as the civilized world indulges in the tussle over ideological disparities in the face of a killer pandemic like COVID-19, the scenario offers an interesting backdrop to the response of Nigeria and other African countries to it. While the developed countries are striving to overcome the problem, and are even competing over who delivers the first effective solution, the African situation features a dependence syndrome with the ambience of inertia to develop even home grown solutions. It is as if they are all waiting for the solution to come from the other parts of the world. In fact it will not be surprising that for many African countries, the news of a breakthrough vaccine like Russia’s, is what they have been waiting for, to go back to the pre- COVID-19 days.

In deed if any lessons would come from the COVID-19 dispensation, one of such must be the glaring reluctance by African countries including Nigeria, to change style of governance towards citizen friendliness. Given the scope of emasculation of the world by COVID-19, and the drastic changes it has imposed on the contemporary world, the least that should be expected of governments especially in Nigeria, is to reform the health sector. However, such has so far not happened, while the advent of vaccines like Russia’s  may soon be adopted as alibi for relaxation of COVID related precautions.

As it is, if with the ravages of COVID-19, and the copious flows of resources from both private and public interests, the country has failed to reform its health sector, and may not do so in the foreseeable future, the dividend from new vaccines from foreign sources remains transient. The country need to avoid a situation where new vaccines like Russia’s, may lead to false sense of assurance for the country, and deny it the traction of developing home grown solutions to the pandemic.  

Courtesy  Daily Trust

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NIGERIA: WHAT TIME IS IT? (1) 10th Ojukwu University Convocation Lecture

Pressure from the VC made me hurriedly come up with a title as strange as this! However, it is a title that gives rise to many thoughts, particularly so as we look at our world, and more specifically, our nation, today.

The notion of time is philosophy or sociology. Time naturally means different things to different people. It generates different levels of adrenalin in each of us depending on the occasion. A long time with a loved one can seem so short. A short time with an enemy could seem like eternity. A winning team would wish to bring the time to an end, a losing team on the other hand would wish to borrow more time. Time generates different levels of anxiety for the hanged man or for the man waiting to hear the cry of his first baby.  Perhaps in the end, the greatest definition of time is what the holy Bible said, that for everything, there is a time, a time to live and a time to die (Eccl. 3: 1ff).

Julius Sevilla, a writer says that: Time waits for no one, stops for no one. Excuses will not slow down time. Indecision will not slow down time. Complaints will not stall time. Regret will not turn back time. Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries or hate. Time will not turn around and cry along with you. It’s time to let go of the past and stop worrying about the future. Your only time is now. So, make sure you spend your time with the right purpose, right deeds, right emotions, right thoughts and the right people. Time flies: You can. You will not pass this way again. Do what time does, keep moving.

I believe that a reflection on the concept of Time is pertinent for a gathering such as this. For the graduands, your performance may have much to do with how well you used your time. For those who used it well, stay on that path because the future is waiting for you. For those who may not have done so well, remember that you still have time to re-set your clock if you want a happy life. For those just getting started, you have a chance to reflect on the road that lies ahead of you. How you use and manage your time will largely determine whether the investment being made by your parents pays off or not.

I use the concept of time largely as a metaphor for defining both identity and vision. Players and their team members must have a common sense and understanding of time. Equally so with actors in a film or play. Similarly, Students and the University staff know that all things being equal, if you register for this or that course, both sides know when you should graduate. Imagine what chaos there would be if each Student, Department or Faculty considered time differently from the University authorities. Imagine what would happen if Passengers had a different understanding of time to the managers of the flight or train.

In the drama of life, each and every one of us is allotted time, and our ability to make or not make any contribution in life depends on how we manage this gift, this investment. Every individual, every generation, every society must appreciate what time it is, the challenges of the time, and figure out how to use it well. Today we reflect on what we did with the time of yesterday. Tomorrow will depend on what we make of today’s time. Time is another word for the gift of life, an investment. The bank of time neither grants loans nor cancels debts. So, management of time is so central and critical that literally everything, success or failure in life, depends on its use.

In the next few minutes, I will not dwell on the philosophy of time, but reflect on how our country has used its own time. This of course sounds very ambitious. I wish to briefly look at what has happened to our own time, how is it that our dreams of yesterday seem to have turned into nightmares. I will argue that our inability to manage time efficiently is another word for what Onyeka Onwenu referred to a squandering of riches, akin to what the American intellectual, Lillian Hellman referred to as scoundrel time and Scripture refers to as the years consumed by the locusts (Joel, 2:25). Whether we can salvage something out of all this, pull out a few chestnuts from today’s inferno, remains the challenge for our future.

1. Time, Moments for Nations: How telling Time became difficult in Nigeria

I believe that the first signs of our confusion with time arose from the challenges over the synchronization of our African time with a new clock imposed by colonialism. To be sure, before colonialism, we can argue that we all had different clocks and used them differently as communities. We had no sense of urgency because everyone, individual or community, had their time and managed it as they wished. Traditional societies relied on a crystalisation and interpretation of the intersection between terrestrial elements such as the state and position of the sun, moon, stars, shadows, weather or such neighbours as the cock.

In traditional societies, there were no bells announcing that it was time for the farmer to head to his farm, nor was there a time for any farmer to return home. Communities however had an agreement on the times for the community festivals, market days or meetings at the village square for example. Community cohesion depended on a common understanding of duties and responsibilities of members of the community on the major issues that they had agreed upon.

However, the emergence of the modern state compelled us all to submit to a new sense of time with the emergence of the clock and calendar.  The new clock now became the centre and means of regulating all activities for the individual and his/her community. Metaphorically, and for nation building and progress, to attain a common sense of cohesion and act as a community, our nation’s Constitution, our national Anthem and our common currency could now be referred to as some form of a clock, marking our sense of common purpose.

In other words, the idea of time would be reduced to how a society saw adherence to a set of values or rules that held it together. As we will see, confusion later set in because just after the British left, we all seem to have reacted differently to the concept of time, values and rules.  Goals, vision and a sense of national unity and common purpose began to change as different persons, groups and institutions began to react differently to the dictates of a common clock. Even the titles of our novels would gradually suggest this: Things Fall Apart, My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours, Born without a Silver Spoon, Stillborn, or The Famished Road. In my view, the confusion we find ourselves in now is the visible manifestation of the fact that perhaps we may not all have had, or indeed still have, a common understanding of the clock and time, a set of values to serve as a moral anchor or to serve as a compass to lead our nation.

We have come to refer to the first generation of the political class as founding fathers. I think this reads too much into our history and the notion of founding fathers. In truth, can you found what was already there? You can only found something whose vision only you possess. The British had founded and named what would later become Nigeria, they designed a political, social and economic map for it. What those we call the founding fathers sought to do, and did commendably, was to put pressure on the British to step aside and the British did that on their own terms. They were not conquered in a liberation war. Indeed, as we all know, there was even no agreement among the three ‘founding fathers’ as to when the British should depart. I will return to this towards the end, but for the purpose of this lecture, let me turn to the experience of the United States from where I wish to draw inspiration.

I am turning to the United States largely to explain what we think founding fathers should look like and how their imprint vision and dreams have continued to drive the politics of that country. What today we call, the American Founding fathers were preceded by the Pilgrim Fathers who set out from Europe in search of a new land to practice their faiths and seek a new life a new land away from the oppression and persecution that they had experienced in Europe. In other words, they were looking for a place to feel at home, create their values and live their lives as they believed. The settlers would later decide to bring an end to British colonial rule by way of war.

The same people would still fight another civil war to decide what manner of country they would bring about, to decide whether all should be free or if some would be in servitude. This is why the country would later be known as the land of the brave and the free! These founding fathers were culturally of the same world view. They were White, Anglo Saxon and Protestant. These identities would later coalesce to become the categories of power in America captured in the acronym, White, Anglo Saxon Protestant, WASP. The local Indian populations paid with their lives and would become the victims of the brutality of their conquerors.

If you compare this with our situation, the confusion begins to show very clearly why it is more important for us to be modest in our application of the term founding fathers for our situation in Nigeria. Yes, like the American founding fathers, we were colonised, but unlike them, we did not go out to colonise anyone. Our colonisers had come to find and extract minerals and make profit. Colonialism was an economic adventure that became necessary when slavery ended and Europe had to industrialise. In the American case, the founding fathers raised a superior force, built an army, economy and ideology that would surpass that of their British colonisers. They conquered their oppressors and laid the foundation for a new and free nation based on its own new principles and ideology of freedom.

In our own case, events leading to our own independence would be fraught with the seeds of conflict in perception and expectations, suggesting clearly that even the founding fathers were looking at different clocks. For example, compare some servile aspects of our negotiation for freedom in the famous with the British with the American situation and we can appreciate the decisive difference.

In parts of what came to known as the Self Government Motion by Mr. Tony Enahoro in 1953 for self-government to be granted in 1956, we see highlights of our predicament. Among other things, Mr. Enahoro said: The question in the public mind since the end of the war has been self-government, when? What time, what date?….We do not want to part with the British people with rancor. For many years, they have ruled us. We are not an unreasonable people, and like a good house servant, it is only fair that we give our masters notice of our intention to quit, so that they can effect arrangements either to employ new servants or to serve themselves. We do not wish to take them by surprise. Clearly, we were asking for some form of dependent independence!

The British who had sowed the seeds of our division in the political arrangements would mischievously frame the issues differently. Independence would clearly be a set-up, burying in its womb, the seeds of conflicts the inevitability of instability.  Sir Bryan Sherwood Smith, the Colonial Governor of Northern Nigeria summed it all up when he said: The British were not the enemy. The enemy lay beyond the Niger in the persons of the political leaders and their followers who desired independence for Nigeria before the North was ready, in order, the north was convinced, to dominate the whole. Tragically, till date, attempted handshakes across the Niger, have exacerbated these fears.

These men had no common vision of a country because their views were the views designed and manipulated by the colonial government. Both Nnamdi Azikiwe and Awolowo had been exposed to the secular Democracy of the West whereas Ahmadu Bello had just come out of the womb of feudalism and an Islam inspired by the Arab world. Ahmadu Bello, on the other hand, was a proud Prince of the over one-hundred-year-old caliphate whose overthrow laid the foundation for British rule. He was proud of his ancestry and unwilling to trade its values for the new values espoused by the British. Azikiwe and Awolowo on the other hand looked into a future framed through the lenses of a western liberal worldview of modernity, individualism, progress and freedom. Whereas Ahmadu Bello was no stranger to privilege, having come from an environment of slave holders, his counterparts came from a background that celebrated egalitarianism, individualism, success and struggle.

On a broader note, Chief Awolowo’s exposure to Fabianism and Azikiwe’s exposure to the liberal culture of American Democracy ensured a coincidence in their world view, but the same could not be said of the Sardauna. Hence, according to the famous anecdote, when Azikiwe suggested that they should forget their differences and unite to move the new nation forward towards a liberal western worldview, the Sardauna suggested rather that they should understand these differences. Janus faced, our founding fathers looked in opposite directions for inspiration. The inability of these fathers to synchronise their clocks and agree on what time it was has haunted us and accounts for our seeming immobility.

It has led us to an internecine war and back. It has led us to several Constitutional Conferences with no final Constitution. Despite all these initiatives we remain inundated with the threatening clouds of fear, anxiety, suspicion, self-doubt, self-abnegation, lassitude, ennui, exhaustion and despair. With these twisted hands of the clock, we have been unable to tell what time it is. Today, by whatever name our confusion is called, whether we call it the quest for true federalism, resource control, Sharia, or restructuring, the essence is the same: we have one clock but no common agreement as to what time it is.

2: Lessons from the American Experience

Let me now turn our attention and briefly look at the American experience, with all its imperfections, and see what lessons we can draw from their history today. The American story of  Democracy is not perfect, but I believe no other country in the world has made such great sacrifices to institutionalise this system of governance than that country. They have since outclassed and outlived those from whom they borrowed the system, from the Greeks to the French. They received the statue of Liberty as a present from the French on October 28, 1886. The timeless and most inspiring words of the poet, Emma Lazarus, summoning all to freedom have the power of a sacred text. They still resonate till date. The Poem reads: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door. I know the flood of exhilarating emotions I felt when I climbed the edifice in 1986.

The very successful story of the United States of America illustrates what human beings, collaborating with the grace of God, can achieve when they work together under a common vision, or clock. Do not get me wrong. I am not naïve to think that the United States does not have its own problems. We can remember the history of the struggles for equality of the black race and others for justice and integration till date. We can recall the struggle of women to have their equality as citizens recognized. Time Magazine (March 16-23rd, 2020) has dedicated a two-week edition to the Women struggle in the United States and around the world. We can also afford to quarrel with the new restrictions imposed by the Trump administration today, whether on border walls, immigrants, visas, or how much you need to have to get their visa. But in whichever way we look at things, every struggle there still finds it legitimacy in the vision of the founding fathers of that country against the backdrop of commitment to freedom and human dignity.

In 1776 after they won their war against Britain, the founding fathers set about laying down the moral basis for what they had done. After the holy Bible, the Declaration of Independence can be considered the most powerful source from where the United States has continued to draw its moral authority. The writers (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Robert Sherman) stated very clearly the reason why they had fought a war and what kind of society they wanted to live in.

The Declaration of Independence opened with the following words: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.

Who would imagine that these words, written over two hundred years ago are still so inspiring? They could pass for a text of agitation from any of the angry, frustrated and militant separatist groups spread around every nook and cranny of Nigeria today. So, what time is it for Nigeria? How does it happen that we have not been able to resolve problems whose solutions were offered over two hundred years ago by men and women of vision? How could we have offered to sit for their examination and sixty years later are still unable to graduate?

The founding fathers of America drew their strength from the Christian faith, calling their nation a City on a hill, a Nation under God and God’s country. The inscription on their currency reads, In God we trust.  Today, these appellations have paid off because faith, including today greater respect for all faiths, has remained the rallying cry for the people. Thus, we can all agree that, America may sway, but it remains a worthy reference point for how Democracy should be. This is the price we have had to pay for trying to merely understand our differences rather than hammering them out on an imaginative anvil that would enable us weld these differences together and subordinate them under a Constitution would serve as our secular sacred text?

Apart from the Declaration of Independence, two other speeches are important for understanding why American Democracy has stood the test of time and why honouring the time-tested principles laid down by the founding fathers has conferred a form of secular sacredness to these texts. The first is a speech that has come to be known as the House Divided Speech, delivered on June 16th, 1858, was an acceptance speech which Abraham Lincoln delivered after he accepted the nomination to run for the Senate for the State of Illinois. Although Mr. Lincoln lost that election, the contents of the speech show an ideological consistency that shows the depth of his moral convictions about human dignity. His entire political life would hang around the themes of the speech.

To be continued…

Dr. Kukah, Essayist and commentator is Catholic Bishop, Sokoto Diocese

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